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Infiltrate retribution, p.2

Infiltrate_Retribution, page 2

 part  #2 of  Exposed Series

 

Infiltrate_Retribution
 


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  and what I’d seen or almost seen this

  morning—a girl thinking of jumping off

  a bridge to end her life—my tolerance for

  drama was at an all-time low.

  The overhead lights popped on.

  “And here I thought you had ninja

  skills.” Jo’s voice was thick with sleep and

  her usual feisty attitude.

  “I should have known.” Occasionally

  Jo crashed at my place when she needed

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  i n f i l t r a t e

  to keep her head down. Get even further

  off grid than she normally was. Not that

  many could track a girl who’d spent years

  on the streets, learning to blend. To be

  invisible.

  Survive.

  Jo and I had an open-door policy

  now that I’d personally seen to vastly

  improving her previously limited B-and-E

  skills. She would never need a key to open

  a standard deadbolt again.

  “I thought I told you to stop moving

  stuff.” Since Jo was already awake,

  I spent a few seconds putting everything

  back in its proper place. One bonus of

  a liveaboard—small boat equals easy-

  peasy cleanup. Besides the tiny galley

  kitchen, Big Daddy had one narrow

  stateroom and a bench in the cabin that

  pulled out into a berth. Where Jo was

  currently sleeping.

  “ocd much?” Jo snorted, pulling the

  comforter back over her head.

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  j u d i t h g r a v e s

  I immediately yanked it off. “ged

  ever?”

  Jo groaned. “Not this again. I’m not

  going to your stupid school, or Jace’s, or

  any education institution with teachers

  and doors and walls.” She propped herself

  up on an elbow. “You know they practice

  lockdowns in schools and trap everyone

  inside, right?”

  I frowned. “That’s not how it works—”

  “And ged? Please. If I needed it,

  Bentley could hack my way to a doctorate

  in rocket science, and I could forge the

  degree on the wall myself.” Jo slumped

  back under the covers. “I’ll take my

  chances in the real world, thanks.”

  I would have argued about her flawed

  logic and how our rooftop stakeouts,

  chop-shop takedowns and encounters

  with corrupt cops were infinitely more

  dangerous than the public education

  system, but my heart wasn’t in it. All I

  could think about was the bridge.

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  i n f i l t r a t e

  “I don’t know. The real world can be

  pretty overwhelming to some people.”

  “Are you saying you want to skip school

  and binge-watch Netflix? Because I am so

  up for that. What are you in the mood for?

  Funny? Scary?” She gave a knowing grin.

  “How about a police procedural, since

  you’re dating a cop’s son and all.”

  “Ha-ha, I’m so amused.” I crossed my

  arms. I knew my next words would suck

  the funny right out of Jo. “I saw a girl this

  morning. She was about to jump off the

  Burrard Street Bridge.”

  Jo’s face paled. She sat upright. “Are

  you serious?”

  “Not something I’d joke about.

  I interrupted her, but she took off

  before I could get any closer.” I rubbed

  at the knotted muscles in my neck,

  flinching when I skimmed my nape. My

  infinity tattoo had passed the scabbing

  phase, but the skin was still sensitive.

  The entire team had gotten the same ink

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  j u d i t h g r a v e s

  in a show of solidarity and a “screw you”

  to those who’d thought they had control

  over us. We wouldn’t be squashed down.

  The future was ours for the taking.

  I felt more centered just thinking

  about the tattoo and what it stood for.

  What the team meant to me. The girl

  on the bridge probably could have used

  a symbol of hope like that. A few good

  people to stand by her.

  “It’s sticking with me, you know?”

  A quick glance at the microwave’s glowing

  red numbers. “Got to shake it off. I have

  to hustle or I’ll be late for first block.”

  “Raven, this is traumatic stuff. We

  should talk it out.”

  “Ah, no thanks.” I didn’t know why

  I’d said anything to Jo in the first place. I

  had to put the morning behind me.I shot

  a mournful look at my coffeemaker. No

  time for my morning fix. Diesel might

  have made sure I avoided my parents’

  fate, but caffeine was a true addiction.

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  i n f i l t r a t e

  I’d been drinking the stuff since before I’d

  hot-wired my first car.

  “I’m going to grab a shower and head

  to school.”

  “Okaay.” Jo drawled out the word.

  I knew she wanted to keep digging at

  me, and I held my breath for the rush of

  questions that, thankfully, never came.

  “Just don’t use all the hot water,” she

  said.

  Big Daddy’s hot-water tank was

  practically a tall bucket. The water would

  go from steaming to freezing in about

  four minutes, especially if I had the thing

  on full blast.

  I let out an evil laugh.

  “Ah, come on, Raven…”

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  FOUR

  “I don’t get it. What are we supposed to

  do?” Joel gnawed on the end of his pencil.

  “Read the assignment,” Brooke

  prompted. “Out loud this time.”

  Lucky me. I’d been teamed up with

  these two geniuses for a group history

  project.

  Joel sighed. “Fine. It says, Describe the

  steps that led to Canada achieving autonomy

  from Britain. Then there’s something

  about a line graph and a few dates we

  have to mention.”

  “What’s autonomy again?”

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  i n f i l t r a t e

  Was I the only one who’d done the

  assigned reading? “Autonomy,” I said.

  “Freedom. Independence. You know, how

  Canada became its own country?” Two sets

  of eyes blinked. Clueless. I choked back a

  groan. “I can see how this is going to go.”

  I propped my feet, clad in faded black Doc

  Martens, on one of the empty chairs. “I’ll

  do all the real work, and you guys will

  focus on coloring inside the lines.”

  “Nice! Why not tell us how you really

  feel?” Brooke seemed to give up at that

  point. She flopped back in her chair and

  proceeded to lose herself in her cell phone.

  “We have to color?” Joel skimmed the

  assignment. “It doesn’t say anything here

  about coloring.”

  Completely clueless. Before I could

  lose it on him, Brooke jabbed her cell in

  the air between us.

  “You have to see thi
s. A girl from

  our school just jumped off a bridge, and

  someone posted it online.” She pressed

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  j u d i t h g r a v e s

  Play, squinting at the hazy footage.

  “Oh wow, that’s Kendra Wallace. She’s in

  my chemistry class.”

  Brooke enlarged the narrow image

  flickering across the screen. Whoever

  took the footage had made a quick pass

  along the bridge before focusing on

  the small form perched on the railing.

  My heart sank at the view of Burrard

  Street Bridge in the fog.

  My eyes locked on the screen.

  Almost the exact scene I’d witnessed that

  morning, only this time there were a lot

  of people on the bridge trying to talk

  the girl down. Down she went all right.

  One second she was there. Wavering.

  Leaning forward. Then she was gone.

  “No way.” Joel gasped. “Now that’s

  what I call autonomy. Freedom on your

  own terms, all the way. Play it again.”

  Really? How could they watch a girl do

  that to herself? And how could I have left,

  knowing what she’d tried to do earlier?

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  i n f i l t r a t e

  I should have waited around. Watched to

  see if she came back. This was Supersize

  all over again. The young apprentice I’d

  been training to climb. The kid who’d

  died because I hadn’t been watching out

  for him like I should have.

  Bile flooded the back of my mouth.

  I stood abruptly, knocking Brooke’s cell

  from her hand. It clattered onto her desk.

  “Hey…” she started to complain over

  the loud ringing of the school bell.

  But I was already bolting for the door.

  I squeezed into the hall that was

  crammed with bodies making their way

  to their next class. My cell pulsed in the

  back pocket of my skinny jeans.

  Very few people had my number.

  I moved closer to the lockers and out

  of the direct line of traffic. I checked my

  phone. A text. From Bentley.

  WE GOT A LIVE ONE.

  Not Code Red, since the team had

  declared hatred for the phrase when I

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  j u d i t h g r a v e s

  used it, but someone must have reached

  out to us, needing our particular brand of

  assistance.

  THE BAT CAVE. 9 PM.

  It made my heart lighter to know

  Bentley could make me laugh out loud

  when, seconds before, I had been ready

  to heave up my guts. I fired him a quick

  response, telling him I’d be there with

  nunchucks on. Jo had called me a ninja.

  I tucked my cell back in my pocket and

  started toward the chem lab.

  A sudden solid grip on my arm had

  me whirling in anger.

  “Get off me, creeper, or I’ll…”

  Um, yeah, what would I do? Words

  failed me. The buzzing activity of the

  hallway faded into the background as

  I stared up into the one face I couldn’t

  stop thinking about.

  “That’s the best you can do? Creeper?”

  Laughter edged Emmett’s voice. “You

  must have skipped your morning pot of

  coffee.”

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  i n f i l t r a t e

  I groaned. “Don’t remind me. I’m

  fighting off a killer withdrawal headache.”

  I frowned. “How did you know I can’t

  function without java in the morning?”

  Squinting in mock anger, I guessed, “Are

  you having me watched? Your dad got a

  man on me?”

  Emmett scoffed. “I do my own

  investigating, thanks. No need to tap into

  police resources. I took a sip from the water

  bottle you always drag around. I know

  about the coffee.” He avoided my gaze.

  To my fascination, a flush worked up

  his jaw.

  Only Emmett could blush at having to

  admit he’d swiped a drink without asking.

  Ever the law-abiding citizen.

  “Only it wasn’t water. Cold coffee

  tastes like…like…” He grimaced. “I don’t

  know, it’s just disgusting.”

  Laughing, I shook my head. “That’s

  what you get for the grabby hands.”

  Emmett’s gaze glittered with interest.

  Now it was my turn to blush.

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  “I’ll take whatever I can get from you,

  Raven.” He stared down at me from his

  substantial height advantage. “You know

  that.”

  I sucked in a breath. He certainly knew

  how to throw me off balance with a few

  smooth lines. Emmett had removed his

  hand from my arm the moment he got my

  attention, and I wanted to drag it back in

  place again. I liked it when he touched me.

  When we connected. Probably too much.

  “But since you mentioned my dad…”

  Emmett shifted on his feet. “He asked

  about you. Wants you to come to the

  house.” His eyes met mine. “He’ll grill up

  some steaks. I can’t promise the food will

  be any good, he usually burns everything,

  but come anyway.”

  This was unexpected. I retreated a

  step. “When?”

  “Tonight.”

  Another strategic retreat. “I can’t.”

  Emmett moved forward, closing in.

  “Why not?”

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  “I have a thing.” I took a step to the

  left.

  Emmett countered. “With Jo and

  the guys? Maybe I can help. I’ve helped

  before.”

  “I know, but it’s no big deal.” I had no

  idea if it was or wasn’t, but I wanted to

  keep Emmett and the team as separate as

  possible. His dad meant well, but he was a

  cop. Sure, he’d been a solid resource in the

  past, but he couldn’t be thrilled that his

  son had taken a shine to a girl who walked

  on the far side of the law. Plus Emmett

  was the one thing I had all to myself. He

  was pure. And clean. And good. I wanted

  him to stay that way.

  “It’s just a thing.” Glancing around,

  I took in the empty hallway. “We’re late

  for class.” I deked around his tense body.

  “I have to go.”

  “Raven…”

  “I can’t, Emmett. I’m sorry.”

  “My dad won’t stop.” He didn’t

  take my arm again—he didn’t have to.

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  His low words had me frozen at his side.

  “He wants answers. I know I said I

  wouldn’t push, that I’d wait until you were

  ready, but I worry about you. Every day.”

  His voice hardened a little. “If you’re such

  a risk taker, why not take a chance on me?

  Why can’t you let me in?” Then he turned

  and walked away, without looking back.

  He didn’t get it.

  I could let him in.
All too easily.

  That’s what I was afraid of.

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  FIVE

  At the back corner of the chem lab,

  I toiled over several beakers, feeling like

  a modern-day Victor Frankenstein—you

  know, without the reanimated corpse.

  Still, the setting was just about right.

  Rows of glass-door cabinets filled with

  ominous-looking jars and metal devices.

  Sterile workstations and double stainless-

  steel sinks. And twenty-two other mad

  scientists hard at work on their creations.

  “All right, folks,” Ms. Scott said from

  behind her own station at the front of

  the class, “let’s get started. Remember

  to take a temperature reading with your

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  thermometer every thirty seconds.”

  She held up her hands. “And whatever

  you do, do not try to cool thermometers

  between uses. If you place a hot

  thermometer in cold water, it will crack,

  and I will not be happy.”

  A few students snickered. I fought a

  grin. The only thing that might crack was

  Scott’s face if she tried to smile. I didn’t

  think the woman was ever happy.

  “Instead,” she continued, “wipe them

  off with the paper towel I’ve provided.”

  Scott glanced at her handheld timer.

  “And…go.”

  The entire class got to work.

  I turned on the Bunsen burners

  and prepared to take notes on the

  different reaction times. The point of the

  experiment was to pinpoint the melting

  and freezing points of various liquids.

  Water. Vegetable oil. And an unknown

  sample that looked and smelled like urine.

  Ugh. I so hoped it wasn’t, because then I

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  i n f i l t r a t e

  wouldn't have to think about who or what

  kind of critter provided the goods.

  The experiment reminded me of

  Team Retribution and how we were

  different, yet the same. We each had our

  own reaction times, some quicker to boil

  than others. There was hotheaded Jo,

  and then Jace, so cool and calculating.

  Bentley, always simmering but never out

  of control. But we all wanted the same

  thing—justice.

  The sharp, unmistakable popping

  sound of shattering glass broke the intense

  silence and the zone I’d slipped into.

  Uh-oh. Someone hadn’t listened to Scott.

  Amateurs.

  The sudden commotion from the

  middle of the room had the entire class and

  Ms. Scott staring in shock. What the…?

  Two guys faced off in the aisle between

  workstations. I recognized the taller one,

 
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