After leaving the Rizzo estate, the gang made an immediate beeline for the skate park, arriving in twenty minutes completely out of breath, heaving and gasping as they searched for their beloved brunette. They spotted her almost immediately, much to their relief. She was perched on top of one of the surprisingly empty ramps, sitting next to a brown haired boy who looked completely out of place in his crisp, green and blue striped polo shirt and khaki trousers paired with clean, white trainers. To anyone else, she would seem completely unaffected, but the gang and the boy she was sitting with knew just how false that charade was. The obvious sign being that she was smoking.
The gang headed straight for Ty and the boy, waving and calling out semi-jokingly, "Ty, you bitch! You ditched us to meet up with Shady and toxify your lungs?"
Ty snapped out of her concentrated daze and smiled, but it faltered faintly as she pulled the cigarette away from her lips, coughing slightly. It had been a while since her last smoke.
"I'll pay you tomorrow, Shady, promise. You're coming back to school right?" Ty asked the brunet next to her.
Shady, real name known only to a selective few (his family making up the majority), nodded, "Yeah, I'll be there and you know you're one of the only ones I accept late payment from." His smile pulled down as he frowned worriedly at her, "But, you sure you're okay, Tyler?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Don't worry about it," she answered but Shady was not convinced. Ty was not one of his usual customers. She has only ever come to him eight times during certain points of the year, the first time being freshman year. Even though he didn't really know Ty very well, he knew something about the time period was a strain on her mind. She was the only customer he ever felt even slightly guilty for selling cigarettes to, but he needed the money. Even with his various part-time jobs at various cafes, college was going to be expensive for him. His other customers consisted of chain-smokers, jocks who thought they were the shit and the usual high school party throwers who needed large supplies of drinks. He earned his name for a reason, though he strictly only distributed cigarettes, alcohol, concert tickets and the occasional forged doctors, teachers' and parents' notes (price depending on quality).
Ty got up and hopped down the ramp, stumbling a bit as she hit the ground but managed to steady herself and stomp out the cigarette, waving to Shady before meeting the gang halfway. "Sorry, I just really needed to get out of there," she apologized and tried another smile, this one still not meeting up to her usual ones.
Grant waved the apology off and slung his arm around Ty's shoulders, "Nah, we get it. So, whose place are we crashing tonight?"
"Mine!" Jimmy quickly volunteered. The gang raised their brows at his eagerness and he shamelessly explained, "I was hoping you guys would help me finish my homework. Group study night or nights, for the win?"
Henry and Fred whacked Jimmy upside the head while the others just laughed. Ty chuckled and shook her head, "Idiot."
At least she's smiling now. Definitely worth the minor abuse. Jimmy grinned over the slight thumping in his head, "So, let's go then. I'm starved and have a passage of what is apparently English and not gibberish to analyze."
"We gotta stop by my place to get our stuff first, Jay," Fred reminded him.
Jimmy shrugged carelessly, "You live literally three houses from me, Red. It won't take too long."
"I'll meet you guys at Jay's. Someone bring my shit to his place?" Ty asked, breaking free of Grant's hold.
They frowned at her in question and she answered without looking at them, knowing they'd protest, "I'm just gonna go grab some stuff from my place. I need to get at least underwear since I'm pretty sure none of you have bras and girl undies unless you have some sort of fetish that I will gladly continue to be oblivious of."
They gave her skeptical looks and she knew they would insist upon going with her, acting like bodyguards, which she did not need. "I'm fine," she added forcefully.
They wanted to argue but a teasing wolf-whistle cut into their conversation. "Great look, Callahan!" another skater called out. Drew just spun around on the spot and mockingly ran one hand through his hair with the other planted firmly on his hip, tilting his head upwards in response. The act got him a round of laughter and teasing comments before everyone went back to their own business.
"Alright, we'll see you at Jay's," Drew agreed, slightly reluctant. "But if you don't show up in twenty minutes, we're going to hunt your ass down."
"You guys wouldn't be you if you didn't," Ty smiled as the group headed out of the skate park, giving parting waves to Shady who soon began packing up to head back to his own home after another transaction of a mediocre doctor's note. They split off soon, the boys once again threatening to hunt Ty down if she was late and Ty responding with an eye-roll. She loved them to bits, but sometimes she wished they'd quit being so overprotective. I'm not some little girl who can't take care of herself. Fuck, I'm older than all of them!
A short while later as Ty was walking steadily down the relatively busy sidewalk, carefully keeping her mind away from a certain pressing topic, she felt as though she was being followed. She had felt the burning gaze for a little while now, only minutes after she had split from the gang, and now she was getting increasingly irritated. At first she thought she was just being paranoid seeing as other city walkers surrounded her, but the gaze was definitely trained on her back.
I just can't seem to get a break, can I? she thought wearily, too tired of the repetitive situation to be more than annoyed. To run or not to run? Who the fuck is stalking me now is the better question actually.
Instead of trying to lose her pursuer in the crowd or even just ignore it and continue to walk steadily, Ty stopped in her tracks and spun around quickly, calling out, "Alright, who the fuck are you and how long do you plan on following me?"
She stood still, planting a hand on her hip and tapped her foot impatiently. Other civilians gave her weird looks, walking around her as she stared down the way she had just travelled. Finally, her stalker stepped out of hiding from behind a bus stand.
"Hey there, Ty. Long time no see," Fred sheepishly grinned. Ty rolled her eyes and turned back around to continue walking, though at a slightly slower pace until Fred caught up to her.
"You've got some mad ninja skills there, Red," Ty sarcastically commented.
Fred nudged her with his shoulder, "Oh come on, I wasn't that bad."
Ty looked at him skeptically, "Red, I noticed someone following me while my head was completely fucked."
"Was? Meaning I succeeded at unfucking your head and therefore am indeed a successful ninja since I accomplished my mission?" he asked teasingly, nudging her again and wiggling his eyebrows, though there was a glint of seriousness in his light brown eyes.
Ty smiled at that and nudged him back with a laugh, "Alright, oh accomplished and almighty Master Fox, I'll give you that one."
Fred grinned mischievously as they neared the entrance to Ty's apartment building and Ty only noticed a bit too late.
"Aagh!" she shrieked in surprise as Fred launched himself onto her back, one arm slung around Ty's neck while the other pointed forward as he cheerfully shouted, "Onward then, my young disciple!"
"Redward Fox, get off!" Ty laughed as she tried to regain her balance but did not try very hard to shake the giggling red head off her back.
"First off, that's what she said! And it's Master Redward Fox or Master Foxie-Fred to you, little Jackie-Tyler," Fred laughed, tightening his legs around Ty and readjusting himself so he could sit more comfortably on her back. They acquired all sort of looks, most of amusement or annoyance at their exuberance as they continued. They both grinned at the doorman of Ty's apartment building who nodded and smiled softly in acknowledgement as he held open the door for them. This one was the day doorman of the building, his shift coming to an end very soon and he was much more companionable than the older man who took his place for the nights.
"Good evening, Ms. Jackson, Mr. Fox," he bowed slightly.
"Oh come on, Gordon, we've told you countless times to call us by our first names," Fred rolled his eyes at the man's formal behaviour.
Gordon smiled apologetically, "Sorry, Mr. Fox, but I do want to keep my job. Oh and Ms. Jackson, a package was delivered for you, would you like me to send it up after you?"
Ty frowned slightly, "Uh, I'll just take it now. Is it for me or my parents?" The Jacksons rarely received deliveries. Gifts were hand given during social events, snail mail was sent directly to her father's office, her mother's only form of communication was through cellphone, and none of them ever shopped via the Internet. Ty never even called up home deliveries for fast food, preferring to order take-out in person as it gave her less time to spend in her glorified place of residence.
"I don't think it specified, but let me just check," Gordon held up a hand and quickly but gracefully walked towards the polished counter in the main lobby. He greeted the receptionist who had always had a dislike for Ty and her friends since they were "overzealously troublesome miscreants". They traded quick words before Gordon returned to Ty and Fred with a medium sized cardboard box.
Gordon handed the box to Fred who balanced it on Ty's head as he observed the parcel, noting that the only form of writing on it was "Jackson Residence" and the address of the apartment building. No names or even a specific apartment number.
Ty rolled her eyes upward, as if she'd be able to see through her skull to observe the box but gave up and thanked Gordon before taking the elevator up to the penthouse.
"Whaddya think is in it, Ty?" Fred asked, putting his ear to the box as they waited for the lift to reach Ty's floor.
"How should I know, Red? It doesn't feel too heavy though, kinda light."
"Well I don't think it's a bomb, I don't hear any ticking. And there's probably not a dead corpse inside since I don't smell dead things." To prove his point, he sniffed the box exaggeratedly causing Ty to let loose a few chuckles.
The elevator tinged, indicating their arrival and the two – well, technically only Ty – stepped out and pulled her key out of its special hole in the wall, unlocking the door as Fred finally hopped off, taking the box with him. They entered the dark flat and Ty mindlessly flipped on the lights as she made a beeline for her room upstairs. Fred followed quietly, not at all distracted by the fine furnishing as he had seen it many times in its pristine condition.
They got to Ty's simple room after a quick stop to the upstairs bathroom so Ty could pick up her necessary toiletries. The only thing that would make anyone doubt the room was hers was how clean it was. The toxic green bed was made like it was part of a five star hotel, the floor was free was junk food wrappers, clothes and video game cases and controllers. The skateboarding posters, stack of video games and other video game oriented items, complete lack of female clothes save for underwear, and the array of somewhat stolen comic books were the verifications of Ty's belonging in the room.
Fred sat down on her bed, placing the package beside him as Ty went through her closet and tossed a black duffle bag to the floor behind her. She then started stuffing the bag with various t-shirts, jeans, shorts, underwear and the toiletries before moving to her desk to grab her required school gear. She called back to Fred, "Red, be useful and grab my laptop and crap. I wanna get out of here as soon as possible."
"Sure thing, what about the package?" he asked, getting up and gathering her phone and laptop chargers before digging through her closet for the laptop bag that frequently contained all her electronics when she was going on indefinite sleepovers.
Ty turned around, holding her remaining notebooks and textbooks, and eyed the seemingly innocent box lying on her bed. She pursed her lips in thought before quickly putting down the books back on her desk, scavenging for the yellow boxcutter knife that never appeared when she needed it. She found it under a pile of returned quizzes and assessments, all inked with more red than wanted, and went to the unsuspecting box.
"Let's see what Mr. or Ms. Mystery Person has sent," Ty muttered. She pushed about a centimeter of the blade out and stabbed the box along the taped over opening, dragging it down to the end, instantly releasing the cardboard flaps. She put away the knife and opened the flaps completely, then frowned in puzzlement at the contents.
Fred saw and put away her packed away laptop and chargers, and then walked to her, "What's wrong? Holy shit, is it hash? Coke? Other drugs? Deeds to the underground alien research center in DC?"
"No, you idiot," Ty rolled her eyes at his exaggeration. She reached into the box with one hand and showed him, "It's a teddy bear."
Fred furrowed his brow and took the small white bear from Ty, turning it around in his hands to observe it, "Why the fuck did someone send you a teddy bear? Look! It's even from freaking Build-a-Bear!"
"I have no idea," Ty answered. She dug through the box again to see if there was anything else, but the only thing the package contained was the fluffy bear. It truly astounded her because she highly doubted that someone would send her parents a stuffed animal and Ty herself hadn't received a teddy bear since she was six. Even then, the teddy bears were never uniquely made at the well-known store, dressed in a deep purple dress with white stars, and they definitely did not have a silver necklace with a red garnet pendant the size of a pebble hanging around their artificially furry neck.
Fred whistled lowly as he carefully handled the necklace, "Dayum, girl. Looks like someone's got one helluv an admirer."
Ty gave him a skeptical look and Fred huffed, but not really that offended, "What?"
"Dayum, girl? Really, Red?" Ty quirked an eyebrow and bit her lip to prevent laughing. Her jaw no longer hurt as much as before but she still winced slightly.
Fred rolled his eyes at her and gave her the teddy bear back, "Oh shut your face. Something wrong with trying out a phrase?"
"Not usually, but you're just too cute," Ty teased.
"I am not cute," he denied immediately. Fred absolutely abhorred being called "cute", "adorable" or anything similar. It's been a major pet peeve since his he was a kid, though it got worse during middle school when puberty struck and he just became cuter rather than what he considered sexy or attractive.
Ty just laughed and put the teddy bear back on her bed, deciding to deal with it and the necklace later. She went back to finish packing when a thought came to her head and she couldn't resist asking, "Hey, Fred?"
"Hm?" Fred frowned, slightly apprehensive. Ty never called him by name unless she had something important to say to him. Usually it was something he wouldn't like since it was almost the equivalent of his parents calling him by his full name which indicated he was in for some deep shit.
"If, hypothetically, you realized something that is pretty life changing, would you tell us?" she asked as she zipped up her duffle and moved it to the foot of her bed.
Fred was almost afraid to ask, "Life changing as in...?"
"Life changing as in you wanted to bang or be banged by someone with a dick," Ty offhandedly explained.
Fred stared at her, completely and utterly dumbstruck. Ty, worried that she may have short-circuited the red head's brain, stood up and cautiously reached out, "Red? Did I break you?"
"What the fuck kind of random ass question was that?" Fred finally exclaimed, completely taken by surprise by her question.
"Hey, I was just wondering," Ty held her hands up in defense. I promised Carlos I wouldn't tell. "I just, maybe, kind of noticed a guy checking you out..."
Fred's eyes widened before he groaned, "What? Not again! Why the hell is it always me?"
Now it was Ty's turn to be surprised, "Wait what?"
"What, what?" Fred questioned back.
"What?" Ty repeated.
They stopped for a moment, staring one another in the eyes before simultaneously going, "What the fuck just happened?" and then bursting into uncontrollable laughter.
After regaining control of their bodies, Ty tried again, "You said something about something always happening to you?"
Fred winced and looked away, "Well...let's just say it's not the first time some guy tried to...you know." He was blushing madly and Ty could barely restrain her second round of laughter.
"You mean..." she began, biting down on her lip, "You've been hit on...by other guys?"
Fred rolled his eyes at her and punched Ty's shoulder to try and get her to stop laughing at him, "Oh shut up, you hoe."
"Why have I not known this before now?" she demanded, sitting on her bed and failing to glare because her lips were stretched into a highly amused grin.
Fred groaned and grabbed her duffle bag from the floor, preparing to leave as he answered reluctantly, "Because I'm only hit on by other guys when I'm alone. And shut up! It's not funny! It's just not fair that people think I'm cute and adorable and all that crap. I don't really care about being hit on by another dude, it's flattering and all but they all say the same damn thing! I'm. Not. Cute!"
Fred was completely out of breath by the end of his rant and Ty refrained from teasing him further along that vein, "Sorry, Red. Anyway, since you're a big strong man, mind carrying everything then?"
Fred rolled his eyes at her, his flushed face slowly returning to its almost faint tan but still a pretty pasty white and his freckles began fading. "I've already got the duffle and you're not some twig-armed baby. Carry your other shit on your own."
Ty stuck her tongue out at his retreating back, "Fine...jerk." She then picked up her laptop bag and closed the door behind her with a resounding thud, completely forgetting about the mysterious albino teddy bear and extravagant necklace.
"...not some twig-armed baby. Carry your other shit on your own."
After that, no other sound except for some shuffling due to movement and finally a door shut closed came through the headset. After a moment, the person wearing the headset threw it across the room, bellowing in disbelief, "She didn't take it?"
The man slumped in his beat-up recliner and ran a pudgy, calloused hand through his greasy blond locks in frustration. "Goddammit, why didn't that girl take the necklace? Girls love expensive jewelry!" he exclaimed.
The two other men in the room stood nervously on end off to the side of the old, dusty office desk littered with old cigarettes, undistinguishable stains from no one knew (nor wanted to know) where, a laptop, papers with alcohol and coffee splotches, and the machine from which the blond haired man was listening in on the conversation that had just taken place. The taller of the two uneasy men hesitantly tried to calm the more powerful man down, "Er, boss? At least you know her name now, right?"
The other underling nodded furiously, "Yeah, and since she managed to escape from the Rizzos she not really a normal little girl, right?"
The blond glared at his two minions with heated dark brown eyes, his anger making them blacken until they swallowed his pupils. "Get out!" he barked menacingly. Without another word the two quickly saluted and tripped over themselves and one another to leave the small office, hurriedly closing the creaking door behind them in their haste so as to not further enrage their boss.
The stout man stood up from his recliner and began to pace the stifling room that's only solace was an overhead fan about to spin out of control. He needed to think. After the embarrassment the weekend before at the park, his few remaining men returned with news he was not expecting. They had had a witness. An innocent teenaged girl, at the time thought to be a boy for some odd reason, who was soon captured by the Rizzos. He never would have thought that the random stranger might play a part in his private schemes.
As he continued to wear out the grungy and discolored carpeted flooring, he muttered to himself, "She somehow escaped the Rizzos after being caught, with only a few minor scratches...Daughter of Heather and John Jackson, two very high-ranked individuals...No known relations to any mafia or group..."
The sharp, head-jerking, shrill ring of his cellphone disrupted his ruminations. Cursing at being disturbed, he pulled his phone out, not bothering with checking the caller ID.
"What do you want?" he snarled into the phone.
The caller tsked in a way that indicated he was shaking his head, "Maurice, Maurice, Maurice. I may be much younger, but I'm still infinitely more powerful than you." His tone acquired a hard edge as he added warningly, "Watch your words, Bellini."
Maurice pinched the bridge of his crooked nose and returned to his recliner. He took a deep, calming breath and asked again but with his irritation mostly contained, "What do I owe the pleasure of this call for?" He didn't bother with trying to sound sincerely polite or even mildly happy since it was quite obvious that he was not at all in a good mood.
"Don't you want to know what my plans are for the removal of the Rizzo family?" the caller's smirk could be heard from his arrogant and mockingly child-like tone.
I have my own plans as well, you cocky brat. Still, he didn't want to make an enemy of his temporary partner. "What do you have in mind?" Maurice pressed slightly, acting only somewhat interested.
"Do you have any men that the Rizzos will not recognize as yours?" the caller inquired, dodging Maurice's question.
Maurice frowned, his annoyance slowly rising once again, "Why?"
"There's another party being hosted this weekend, this one by the Castellas. The Rizzos will definitely attend and I have no doubts that they will bring their little fiancée. Send a scout, but keep to our deal. None of your men can know you're working with my father and me. I'll send you the rest of the details the night before the party so keep your oh so busy schedule clear. Understood?"
Maurice gritted his teeth and dug his fingers into the arm rest of his recliner, "Yes, boy."
The caller chuckled, "Good night, Maurice."
Maurice muttered a goodbye and snapped his phone shut. He wished he could drive a bullet through the brat's head but he had to restrain himself. Just have to hold on until the plans succeed. Then...haha. Then that brat is going to die slowly, painfully slowly.
The thought brought a malicious grin to Maurice's lips.