☠ Chapter Forty-Nine ☠
➳ ARIELLE'S POV
I cross my arms across my chest nervously. I'm standing in a parking lot near the beach, impatiently waiting for Langley's arrival. After messaging him yesterday and telling him that we needed to meet, we ended up agreeing to meet somewhere local. Frankly, I didn't want to meet anywhere private with him, in a fear that he'd kill me if he had the chance, and I'm sure he didn't want to risk meeting in private either for his own reasons.
I watch a woman play with her young daughter in the sand. They're building a sandcastle together, with the mother teaching her little girl how to pack the sand into the pail. It makes my heart ache. It's horrible for me to see such love when I've never experienced it. It's almost like a slap in the face. I'm jealous of a five year old.
I tear my gaze away from the family.
My stomach is twisted in tight, uncomfortable knots and I know it's because of how nervous I am to meet with Langley. Truly, I don't know anything about him other than his name and the fact that he works with Zayn, for a man who goes by the name of Sullivan. As it is, when I first met him, he lied and said his name was Ryder in an attempt to hide his own identity, so who's to say that Langley is even his true name? Maybe it's just some nickname that's stuck over the years he's worked with criminals.
I don't know what Langley's done in his criminal career. I've been running scenarios in my head of him killing people, or harming people to get further ahead in the hierarchy of people he works with and just the thought of it has me wanting to vomit.
Why am I even here? Why am I risking my life by meeting with this dangerous stranger? And I'm doing it all in the hopes that I'll learn something about Zayn's attacker. There's absolutely no guarantee that Langley will tell me anything. Hell, he could say nothing to me when he gets here. And if that happens, it'll all be a waste. I'll have wasted both of our time for absolutely nothing.
I hope it doesn't come to that.
The thought runs through my mind that maybe this entire venture is a waste of time. I know that finding Zayn's attacker will be difficult–seeing as how we both have enemies firing at us from every angle–but what if it wasn't Sullivan that ordered the attack on Zayn? What if someone else hurt him? It could literally be anyone and in all honesty, I haven't a clue where to begin looking, but knowing that he worked both with and for such dangerous people has me looking at the most obvious suspects first.
But the obvious suspects aren't always the correct ones.
Maybe I'm just overreacting, but when I see an old looking muscle car pulling into the parking lot, I begin to panic. My heart rate increases tenfold, my palms instantly become sweaty, and my breathing begins to stagger.
I realize that I don't even have any sort of means to escape. I took a cab here, and when I want to leave, I'll have to call a cab and wait for it to come. There's no rushing out of here in a hurry for me and that's scary as shit.
He pulls the car into a parking spot, looking at me through the tinted driver's side window as he shuts the vehicle off. The sound of the engine alone has garnered some attention, and I nervously look around at the witnesses, praying that they stick around in case something goes wrong. He wouldn't be stupid enough to try anything in public, would he?
He approaches me, lifting a cigarette out of his pocket and putting it in his mouth. He's wearing dark jeans with rips in them, a black leather jacket, and boots on his feet. It occurs to me that he's dressed very similar to how Zayn often dresses and it just reminds me of the whole reason why I'm even here.
He runs a hand through his light brown hair. He doesn't greet me when he stands before me, he just glances at me with his blue eyes as he lights up the cigarette.
"Hello Langley," I greet.
He doesn't respond to the greeting, he nods his head and then looks around at the people on the beach. After a minute or two, he inadvertently blows smoke in my face before asking, "so what are we doing here?"
I knew it'd get to the intense shit, I just didn't think it'd be this quick. My anxiety level rises at the utter of his question knowing that this is it. This will either go well or horribly wrong.
I stand there, debating how exactly to word my questions, or even where to begin. I don't know where to begin when it comes to such a complicated topic, and one that I really know little to nothing about. What's even worse is that the way I word everything could either make me or break me.
"This has to do with your boy, right? Zayn?"
I avert my gaze from his eyes because uttering the next few words out loud hurt me. They bring pain to my chest that I'm sure radiates across my face, and I don't want it to be seen. "He's not my boyfriend. We're not together."
"How depressing," he replies sarcastically. "So what the fuck does this have to do with me?" Louis was right, he's an asshole.
"Look," I say, gaining some confidence. I'm slowly getting angry, and that's the only reason I can even talk to him right now without stuttering or wavering in my tone. "Zayn was beaten up, and I want to know who the fuck did it to him. I–"
"Am I supposed to give a fuck about that little kiss-ass?"
Kiss-ass? He could've died, and here Langley is, mocking Zayn for being better behind the wheel than he is! It's sad, really, that his ego and self-confidence weighs so heavily on his ability in a car.
"Sullivan's little fucking pet. What'd he do, piss the man off? And now the old man's gone and tried offing him?" He drags on his cigarette again.
Is that what happened? Zayn did something stupid, or didn't perform to Sullivan's standards and ended up angering the man, resulting in Sullivan ordering a hit on Zayn? I don't like the way that sounds, especially coming from another one of his 'employees.' That means that's two of his racers that have randomly suggested that maybe Sullivan wanted to kill Zayn.
What's that they say? Two's a coincidence, but three's a pattern?
"I don't care about whatever's gone on between the two of you," I say. I'm not sure why I've suddenly become so defiant, especially when I haven't a clue as to how dangerous he is, but I stand up straighter. "I don't care if he's better at racing than you are. I want to meet Sullivan."
That clearly pisses Langley off because he takes a big drag, intentionally blowing the smoke straight into my face. "Wow, you're crossing a bit of a line there. Do you think because Zayn used to fuck you that you suddenly hold some sort of power over me?" He takes a step forward, towering over me, but I don't back down. The adrenaline in my veins has caused me to be recklessly unafraid all of the sudden.
"I'm sorry to tell you sweetheart, but Zayn's dick has been in a lot of women, you're not fucking special. Now, watch your fucking tone with me, before I show you just how angry I can really get."
"I–" I start, but am rendered speechless. Why'd I have to push him? Maybe if I would've shut up and pretended to be some weak, helpless woman he would've told me what I needed to know. I might've just possibly fucked things up by not playing the part.
"What's a matter? Cat suddenly got your tongue?" He teases.
I take a deep breath, trying to regain some of that confidence I had earlier. "Is Sullivan the one that ordered the attack on Zayn?"
Langley is quiet for a moment, as if to tease me or tempt me. He knows that my only reason for meeting with him is to learn the answer to that question, and he wants to use that to his advantage. And so he purposefully drags out his answer to raise the anticipation I'm feeling. "I don't know what Sullivan does, Arielle. I'm not his boss. He can do whatever the fuck he wants."
I sigh, frustrated.
"Don't forget, sweetheart," he adds, "that I work for Sullivan."
He says it as if it's a hint, and I'm quick to catch on. "Are you saying that he did order for Zayn to be beaten up, and that you're the one who attacked him?" I ball my fists at my sides, feeling the need to punch him.
When Louis said that Langley was an asshole, I really didn't expect him to be like this.
"I'm not saying anything, Arielle. I don't know who you think you are coming in here and attempting to force your way into a meeting with Sullivan, but I'm sorry to tell you it isn't going to happen. No matter how hot you are, or how much you bat your eyelashes, or who's fucked you, you'll never get to meet Sullivan because he isn't stupid enough to do that. So stop trying. Just fucking give it up."
"Never," I spit. Because I will not give up that easily. I believe Zayn deserves to know who caused him this much pain, and I feel determined as ever to do it. If Langley won't give me what I need, I'm sure I can find another way to reach Sullivan. There's always another way.
"You won't last long," he says vaguely, and I'm not entirely sure if it's a death threat or not, but for some reason it feels like it. Is he really threatening my life when all I've done is ask to meet with someone? How serious exactly is this Sullivan guy? "Now, are we done here?"
I open my mouth to interject—to yell at him that this isn't over, and to demand for information, but he turns from me and takes the few steps to his car. He opens the driver's side door and looks at me. "Don't ever contact me again, or I might just be tempted to tell Sullivan about you."
When he gets into his car, I've already decided that I hate the bastard, and I know for a fact that if I ever see him again, I will punch him in his stupidly attractive face.
I sigh and run a hand through my hair, calling up a taxi and deciding that it's time for my last resort.
* * *
I wait impatiently in the little sitting space while the receptionist types away on her keyboard. I've been waiting for probably a half hour, and in all honesty, I'm much more nervous for what's about to possibly happen now, compared to what just happened with Langley.
I play some games on my phone while I wait, but it's almost unbearable. When the receptionist finally says, "she will see you now," I nearly jump out of my seat. She leads me down a few hallways until we reach a door with a nameplate on it.
My palms become sweaty again, and I have to swallow the lump that's formed. When the receptionist leaves, and I knock on the door, I watch as Ms. Malik's head slowly looks up. She adjusts the glasses perched on her nose before waving me in.
I step inside carefully, as she tightens the ponytail that's holding up her hair messily. "Yes?" She asks without a proper greeting. She looks me up and down, and I can't help but feel a little exposed.
What am I supposed to say to her? Hello, I'm in love with your son!
"Hi," I say nervously. "My name is Arielle, and I'd like to speak to you about your son, Zayn."
She purses her lips for a moment as she looks me up and down again. "Please, come in. Have a seat," she says as she points to the two chairs opposite her. I take in the fact that she's swamped with paperwork, and her phone is lit up with people on hold, and the wrinkles are deeply set in her face . . . she looks maybe ten years older than she should, and it's a shame. She's a beautiful looking woman but she appears so invested in her work, that it's rendered her face to be old and worn.
I quickly fall under the assumption that Zayn probably doesn't quite get along well with his mother. If I were to guess, at this exact moment, I'd guess that she works a little too hard at her job, and not enough at being a mother.
I make bad comparisons about Ms. Malik and my own mother, but I know that nobody can possibly be as bad as Vivien.
I do as I'm told, looking at her nervously. God, she's so intimidating, just like her son.
"So you're the infamous Arielle," she starts.
I wipe my hands against my jeans. Zayn's obviously mentioned me before, but why doesn't it seem like she's very happy about it? "Excuse me?" I respond, unsure of what exactly she's talking about.
"You're dating my son, correct?" She adjusts some papers as she talks, pushing them off to the side and preparing a fresh piece of paper to write on, if she needs to take notes.
I sigh before responding, "I did date your son, yes."
She nods her head and purses her lips, but she doesn't press it. I wonder why . . .
"Alright, so what is it you need my help with?"
I feel so intimidated by her that it's hard not to fidget. I end up picking nervously at my nails that are rested in my lap. "Well, as I'm sure you're aware, when Zayn was attacked, he suffered from memory loss, and it's really–" I stumble over my words because I'm unsure of how to word it.
I watch Ms. Malik as she straightens in her seat, furrowing her eyebrows and cocking her head to the side. It almost seems as if she's surprised by the news, but I can't be sure.
"I want justice to be served. I want to find out who his attacker was," I say with the utmost confidence.
She stares off into space for a moment as she seemingly sorts out her thoughts. Tapping her pen against the pad of paper, she responds, "look, Arielle, I've helped Zayn a lot over my career, but I'm just not sure I can do this."
What? Her son was injured by someone and she doesn't want to help? What the hell! Maybe this woman is just as bad as my mother . . .
"May I ask why not, Lieutenant?"
"It's too dangerous for me to help him anymore. I've had to protect him a lot, and it's damaged my career . . . to say the least."
"But, Ms. Malik, this isn't for him, this is for me." I explain. She purses her lips as she ponders my response. "I know we just met, and I know it's a lot to ask from you, but I love your son, and I want to find out who did this to him."
She glares at me with confusion, and I wonder if it's because of my admission of love towards Zayn. But the moment passes, and she reaches for her papers and begins shuffling through them. Eventually she falls on one that interests her and she stops to read it for a second. "I might be able to help you, Arielle, but in return, I need a favour."
I don't like where this is going.
"A favour?" I ask. I instantly worry, because she's a cop, and she could be asking anything of me.
She clears her throat. "Yes, do you know who it is exactly you're looking for?" She looks back at the paper she chose from the pile again, waiting for my response.
"A man who goes by the name Sullivan."
"Ah," she says quietly. She quickly jots something down on her page. "I am familiar with the man."
I perk up in my seat. "Can you get me to him?" I say, a little too excited.
She chuckles a little. "I can. But like I said, I need you to do something in return."
"I'll do anything," I utter without thinking.
"I can get you in with Sullivan, but I'll need you to wear a wire."
"Wear a wire?" My heart races with the thought. What if I get caught? From everything I've heard about this man, he isn't exactly understanding, so I don't imagine he'd spare my life if he found out I was working with the police.
"If you do this, Arielle, we can catch a long running criminal. I will also make sure to clear Zayn's record, and you can get the justice you're looking for."
Why does this sound almost too good to be true?
"What's the catch?" I ask. I mean, I'm happy that she can easily get me in with Sullivan, but why did she add in clearing Zayn's record? It's not that I don't want that, but it just seems like she's overcompensating for something.
"Sullivan is a very dangerous man, Arielle. If you get caught with the wire and make it out alive, that'd be a miracle. That's the catch." She adjusts in her seat, staring at me as if to show just how serious she is about the subject. "If you need time to think about it, then by all means."
I sit there and actually think about it. If I do this, I'll finally get to meet Sullivan. I'll be able to ask him about the attack, and hopefully get an answer as to whether or not he was the one who initiated it. I'll get to meet the asshole in the flesh, and question him like he's on trial. Meeting him would help me gain a sense of closure, knowing whether or not he is of harm to Zayn. Also, meeting with him will erase Zayn's record, and knowing how lengthy it probably is, this is a once in a lifetime chance. If his mother knows about Sullivan, it's quite obvious that she must know what her son does for a living, and so she'd know all of the illegal things he's done. Doing this helps almost everyone involved–Zayn, his mother, the police, and myself.
But doing this is also life threatening. Doing this means that I'm putting my own life in danger just to find out some information. I could possibly die by the hands of Sullivan, only to learn that he didn't instigate an attack on Zayn, and then it'd all be an entire waste.
The pros greatly outweigh the cons, and so I reply, "No, I'll do it." I'll risk my life to protect Zayn, and to get that tiny bit of closure.
"That's great, but are you sure you've thoroughly thought it over? I mean, you will be risking your life."
"Yes," I say confidently. I fidget with my hands again because deep down I'm not so sure about this. I worry just how horrifically wrong this can actually go. "What is it exactly I'll have to do?"
"Well, in the simplest form, wear a wire." She chuckles. "We're not expecting him to confess to his life of crime, but even if you could get some sort of indication of crime, we could use it against him in any future charges."
"That's it?" I ask, because it almost seems too easy. "Are you planning on arresting him soon?" I worry that arresting the boss, or leader, or whatever he is, would result in Zayn going to jail too, and suddenly I'm hesitant about the whole thing. I mean, she said she'd erase his record, but is that entirely true? Will doing this mean for certain that he won't end up in jail, especially if they plan on arresting Sullivan?
God, I have so many questions.
"That's not for you to worry about, Arielle. Let me handle that."
"But if you're arresting Sullivan, will that lead to Zayn being arrested too?"
"Arielle, I promised you that if you did this for the police force that I'd clear his record. I don't go back on promises."
I wonder how exactly she's able to do all of this without raising suspicion. Zayn's her son, and he's a criminal, how can she be the one clearing his record without breaking some sort of police code. Isn't that like a conflict of interest or something?
"So when do we do this?"
"I'd like to do this as soon as possible," she replies. She pulls out a different piece of paper and begins scribbling some notes on it. From where I'm sitting, I can't see what she's writing, but I can only assume it's something about me becoming an informant for them.
"Are you thinking by the end of the week?"
"Actually, I was thinking more like tomorrow." She absentmindedly bites on the end of her pen as she looks at me, eyes just as caramel coloured as Zayn's.
"Alright," I say hesitantly. I figured I'd have a week to mentally prepare for what's about to happen, but I guess I won't, and that's making me all that much more nervous. My stomach is twisted in knots like earlier, but this time it's even worse. I know this is ten times more dangerous than meeting with Langley.
But I can't help but feel a little pride. Louis told me I wouldn't do it. Langley told me I couldn't do it. Everyone said I'd never get to meet with Sullivan, and here I am, about to meet him in less than twenty-four hours. I'm about to meet a well known boss of a car trafficking operation.
I just hope and pray that tomorrow turns out well. That I'll be able to get enough dirt on him to put him away for good, and get him to confess to Zayn's attack, if he was the one who instigated it. If those two things happen tomorrow—without me dying—then it'll have been an extremely successful venture. I know that internally it'll really help with my lack of closure, even if he's not the one who harmed Zayn.
If he's not the person I'm looking for, then that's one less person I need to look at. And I know the list is long. Zayn and I have many enemies; everyone from my mother, and Chef Wilson, to Sullivan, and Langley, but there are so many other people out there that worry me, that I have my doubts about, as well as my own little suspicions.
I know it's going to be hard finding who did this, but I'm determined. If I can get some sort of justice for Zayn, then I know I'll have done good. He needs to know who did this to him, who caused him this pain, so that he can deal with it as he sees fit. Whether that be forgiveness, or a hard punch to the face, it doesn't matter, but he does need this, probably just as much as I do.