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Infiltrate retribution, p.4

Infiltrate_Retribution, page 4

 part  #2 of  Exposed Series

 

Infiltrate_Retribution
 


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  i n f i l t r a t e

  making pretzels of my insides. At least Jo

  would have keen spidey senses if anything

  out of the ordinary happened on our

  recon mission.

  After making short work of the

  teacher-access lock and the deadbolt on

  Chappet’s door, we settled into rooting

  through a few five-drawer filing cabinets.

  The counselor was a true hoarder.

  There were articles from various medical

  and psychiatric magazines dating all the

  way back to the ’80s.

  Zero files regarding students. I found

  myself growling in frustration as I opened

  yet another drawer of folders filled with

  clippings. “Argh…still nothing. It’s like

  she’s deliberately messing with us.”

  Jo groaned. “I know, right? Wait,

  what’s this?” She pointed to an empty

  space among all the paper stacks and

  clutter on Chappet’s desk, one about the

  size of a laptop. “I guess she’s not so old

  school after all. She’s probably got the

  student files on her laptop and takes it

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  j u d i t h g r a v e s

  home every night. You’ll have to wait

  until tomorrow and sneak back in here.”

  I bit back a curse and slammed the

  filing-cabinet drawer shut. The force

  jarred a few items off the top.

  A sticky note fluttered to the floor at

  my feet.

  Harborview Anxiety Treatment Center

  Student referrals only.

  Then two names, underlined.

  Kendra

  Cody

  “Gotcha.” I turned the note over in

  my hands. “Both of them were referred

  to this place. Both dead in the same

  week. I have to go and check it out.”

  Jo waved a few pages under my nose.

  “And I just found their referral letters—

  handwritten, as Jace predicted.” She

  moved to the small photocopier in the

  corner of the office. “I can forge the

  shrink’s handwriting and create a letter

  for you.” Her grin was evil. “I knew

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  i n f i l t r a t e

  that ocd of yours would come in handy

  someday.”

  I frowned. “What do you mean?”

  “Your neat-freak impulses, the minor

  case of obsessive-compulsive disorder

  you’re sporting. ocd is all part of anxiety,

  Raven.” She smiled. “Unless you end up

  dead, this just might be good for you.”

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  NINE

  The Harborview Anxiety Treatment

  Center was located close enough to the

  business district to have a sheen of clout,

  but still on the fringe of things, so rent

  would be decent. Several businessman

  types exited the Italian restaurant across

  the street. Among them I spied a familiar

  face. One of the suits was somebody

  Diesel used to meet with at the chop

  shop. Yeah, the area was definitely surface

  kosher with a side of sketchy.

  I covered my hair with my hoodie

  and kept my head low as I approached the

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  i n f i l t r a t e

  center’s double-door entrance. A woman

  pushed through the doors, almost taking

  me out. She was hissing into her phone.

  I caught a bit of the conversation “…I

  just left. I told her I can't be a part of it

  anymore…”

  Hmm…Someone didn't seem too

  happy. I grabbed the handle and pulled,

  scanning the street with a quick look over

  my shoulder. The suits weren’t paying the

  woman or me, any attention. Good while

  Diesel was safely behind bars, his cronies

  weren’t. It wasn’t like I’d gone into hiding

  after his chop shop had been abandoned

  and later dismantled by the cops. No one

  from my former life of crime had sought

  me out. But I wasn’t taking any chances.

  I stepped inside.

  Classical music piped through the

  empty reception area. For anyone else,

  the hushed cellos and violins probably

  created an instant feeling of calmness,

  which made sense in this kind of place.

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  But the droning strings just grated on my

  nerves. Now a grungy classic-rock tune?

  That could lull me to sleep anytime.

  “Welcome to Harborview. May I help

  you?”

  I spun around. A woman was now

  standing behind the counter, her arms

  crossed, her gaze hard.

  “Sure, yeah…” I stammered, not even

  faking my unease. Heights didn’t bother

  me a smidge, but the thought of a medical

  professional digging at me for insights

  into my character had me quaking in

  my Docs. “My name’s Raven. The school

  counselor sent me.” I handed her the

  referral letter Jo had whipped up.

  The woman stared at me for another

  long, uncomfortable moment, and then

  her eyes darted to the letter. “Ah, you’re

  from Laurier Secondary. Mrs. Chappet

  has sent several other students our

  way lately. I’m happy to report we’ve

  been the key factor in eliminating their

  suffering.”

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  i n f i l t r a t e

  I choked back a snort. That was one

  way to spin the facts. Oh, I so wanted to

  get the dirt on these medical monsters.

  “I’m so pleased to meet you, Raven.

  I’m Dr. Millie,” the woman continued.

  She glanced around the reception area.

  “I hope you weren’t waiting long. Our

  receptionist has stepped out for lunch.”

  I bit back a laugh. Is that what

  you're calling it when staff quits on you?

  Stepping out for lunch?

  “Now, if you’ll follow me,” Dr. Millie

  said over her shoulder as she led the way

  down the hall, “we can chat in one of our

  meeting rooms.”

  I followed her into a tiny office

  consisting of a table, several chairs and

  a noticeable lack of windows. The walls

  were painted a deep mustard yellow,

  which was probably supposed to reflect

  sunshine and happiness. To me it looked

  like the inside of a submarine.

  Dr. Millie started to close the door

  behind us, but I blocked the slab with

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  my foot. “Do you mind?” I gave a

  sheepish shrug. “I’m not so good with

  small spaces.” Jo had said to throw

  down any and all anxiety issues I could

  think of. Claustrophobia seemed like a

  no-brainer in a place like this.

  “Whatever you need, Raven. Quite

  a common request from our clients,

  I assure you.”

  Even though I was faking it, deliberately

  choosing a basic fear experienced by a ton

  of people, I still hated Millie’s smug smile.

  Three
minutes into my infiltration and I

  wanted to bail. Not a good sign. But there

  was more than my pride at stake. Kids

  were dying, and the fine, educated folk at

  this center were likely responsible.

  I just had to prove it.

  Millie sat down behind the desk, two

  water bottles in her hands. She offered

  me one.

  “Water? Oh, no thanks.” I waved a

  hand. “I’m trying to cut back.” The doctor

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  didn’t so much as blink at my joke. “I’d

  kill for a cup of coffee though.”

  “We don’t have sodas here, or coffee.

  You should know that caffeine can

  exacerbate anxiety symptoms. And you

  should definitely avoid any type of energy

  drink.”

  I’d never been a fan of energy drinks

  and ignored the inadvertent dig at my

  drug of choice. “In that case, sure, lay one

  on me.” I twisted the lid and took a long

  swig of the lukewarm water, wishing it

  was a mug full of the finest, darkest roast

  at my favorite café. I dropped into the

  other chair.

  “I can sense you’re unsure,” Millie said,

  setting her water aside and studying me

  carefully. “Being nervous is a completely

  rational response. You’re taking a huge

  step toward your recovery. Remember,

  we’re here as a resource for you, to help

  you get better. Knowing your triggers will

  go a long way.”

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  “So what do we do now? Talk? About

  my feelings?” Again, I wasn’t faking

  the tremor in my voice. I hated touchy-

  feely sharing and caring. “Or do you

  want to know my every random weird

  thought, like how I’m wondering if the

  walls in here are yellow for a reason?

  And you mentioned triggers. What do

  you do if the color yellow is a trigger for

  someone?” Thankfully, the doctor didn’t

  seem interested in my awkward babble,

  just paperwork.

  “If you would please take a moment

  to fill out this form, that would be great.”

  The doctor slid a piece of paper and a

  pen across the desk. “Don’t worry, it’s

  nothing in-depth at this point,” she added

  as I began reading and scratching in a few

  one-word responses. “We’re interested

  in your medical history, any known

  allergies…and are you currently on any

  medication? Anti-depressants? Anything

  for your anxiety?”

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  I shook my head, casually feeding

  the doctor the backstory Jo and I had

  created. “My parents are a fan of the ‘let’s

  try exercise and a change of diet and see

  if that helps’ approach. But Counselor

  Chappet convinced them, and me, that

  this was worth a shot.”

  “Wonderful. Having little previous

  exposure to other medications makes

  you an especially good candidate for

  our treatments. AL28-9, or ALLY, as we

  affectionately call it, because it will be

  your ally in defeating your anxiety, has

  been successful for 97 percent of our

  drug-trial participants.”

  Ah, so it was a drug trial, and

  obviously floating under the radar. Too

  bad the kids who’d signed up had had

  the misfortune to trust the adults around

  them. Like our school counselor, who was

  supposed to be looking out for them, not

  peddling a cure-all that hadn’t been fully

  investigated.

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  “Those are very good odds for you.”

  Millie’s eyes narrowed. “And your parents

  couldn’t make it today?”

  “Nope.” I shrugged. Fielding questions

  about my parents was another no-brainer.

  I’d been doing it for years. “Mom said it

  was time I took some responsibility for

  myself and my issues. She was just glad

  the counselor knew of this option for kids

  like me.”

  “That’s fine. We do have a consent form

  for them to sign, but for now your signature

  will do.” Millie whisked that form away

  the moment I’d scrawled my signature at

  the bottom. I’d barely had time to read the

  heading, Authorization for Medical Treatment.

  I watched as the doctor made a show of

  putting my newly created file, containing

  the forms I’d just filled out, into a drawer.

  The doctor’s satisfied smile was chilling.

  “There. Now you’re officially one of ours.”

  62

  TEN

  “She called it ALLY but let the real name

  slip—AL28-9.”

  “Got it. I’ll see what I can find in

  the usual medical journals and various

  other sources that might actually offer

  me a challenge.” Bentley’s fingers flew

  over his keyboard. “You know…” His

  tone switched from confident hacker to

  pestering pester. “This could be a good

  thing. There’s nothing quite like bonding

  over a family barbecue.”

  Ugh. I never should have told him

  about Emmett’s invite. And why was

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  everyone suddenly so worried about what

  was good for me? This was one of the

  problems with getting close to people—

  they felt entitled to have opinions

  about how you ran your life. Well, that

  worked both ways. “I’m sure there were

  plenty of greasy burgers grilled at your

  place,” I said. “Your parents really seem

  the type.”

  Bentley snorted. “Mother would have

  fainted at the carbs in the buns alone.” He

  shot me a sideways glance, fingers still

  tapping out code. “All right, so I have no

  idea what occurs at such events. But look

  at it this way—your thing with Emmett

  aside, his dad is an asset we need to

  retain. We take out the trash and then he

  puts it away, making the streets of our fair

  city that much safer.”

  “That’s not the problem.” I groaned.

  He’d hit the nail on the head of the other

  major issue I had with letting people in.

  “The more I get to know Emmett, the

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  worse I feel about all the lying—to him

  and his dad. I’m using him. Them. We

  are. And I hate it.”

  Bentley spun in his chair. “Now wait

  a minute. This arrangement we have isn’t

  all one-sided. Emmett’s dad is getting

  noticed in the force. I’ve been monitoring

  his emails and—”

  I gripped one arm of his swivel chair

  and spun him hard.

  It took a few seconds before Bentley

  could touch the floor with his feet and

  stop his momentum. “Not nice, Raven.”<
br />
  “And spying on someone who’s trying

  to help us is?”

  “It’s called due diligence. You think

  Jo’s going to blindly trust a cop after what

  one did to her family? Or that Jace would

  walk into any situation without covering

  all the bases?”

  I bit my lip. Bentley was right. That

  Jo had allowed Emmett and his dad in

  as much as she had was pretty much

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  a miracle, considering all she’d been

  through. And Jace was the ultimate

  strategist, not willing to move a pawn on

  the board without working through every

  contingency.

  “You know about our parents, Jo’s and

  all she lost…” Bentley paused. “But you

  never talk about yours.”

  “My losses?”

  “Your parents, Raven. Unless you

  were dropped into that chop shop by a

  car-thieving, egg-laying stork?”

  I swallowed back a lump of emotion.

  “There’s not much to tell. It’s the usual

  story. My folks were addicts, they left

  me to fend for myself, and then Diesel

  offered me a way off the streets.”

  “Hmm…”

  “Don’t hmm me, Bent. I’m not in the

  mood.”

  “There’s got to be more. How old

  were you when Diesel found you? Where

  were you living?”

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  “Well, I wasn’t hanging out in the

  Wayne Manor, that’s for sure. What’s

  with all the questions? Why do you even

  care?”

  I regretted my harsh words the

  moment I spoke them, but I’d been on

  edge for days. Bentley’s prodding was the

  last straw. Things I hadn’t told anyone

  else began spewing out of my mouth.

  “I was about six, okay? Just a stupid

  little kid. I had to feed myself, dress

  myself and, most of all, I had to keep

  myself safe. From them. When Diesel

  took me in, he was like a god to me.

  I never looked back. But he knew,

  somehow, that I’d always wonder. He

  kept tabs on them for me in case I ever

  asked about them. Which I did, a few

  times. But a year ago he told me his leads

  had dried up. He tried to locate them but

  couldn’t. Suspected they’d finally gone

  too far. od’d. But now I don’t know—was

  he telling the truth? Or was everything

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  he said and did a lie right from the very

  beginning?”

  Bentley was quiet for a long time.

  Then he stunned me with an offer that

  had my stomach dropping to the floor. “I

  could find them for you.”

 
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