“You ready for this, Baby?” Krystal asked, rubbing his back. They'd just pulled up at the cemetery for the funeral and were taking a moment to collect themselves in the car.
“Yeah, I'm good,” Justin looked at her, forcing a smile at her concern, “You ready?” She nodded and they got out, heading over towards where a group of people were congregating around James' casket. The grave-side service hadn't started yet, so Justin took her hand, leading her over to who she assumed to be James' mother. He dropped her hand for a moment as Justin took the older lady into his arms and she sobbed on his shoulder.
“I'm so glad you're here, Justin,” MaryAnn whispered.
“I'm so sorry, Mama M,” He pulled away and looked into her eyes, “I was hoping it would never come to this.” Krystal noted that his eyes were glossed over with tears.
“You know as well as I do that everything happens the way it's meant to,” She brushed some imaginary dust off of his shoulder, doing her best to comfort him, “He stayed in because he loved you and he felt that this is where he belonged. I can never be mad at that when his life's work was based on keeping someone he loved safe.” Justin reached up and non-nonchalantly wiped away a few tears that had escaped, “Who's this beautiful lady?” She finally noticed Krystal's presence.
“This is my girlfriend, Krystal. Baby, this is James' Mom, MaryAnn,” Justin reached for Krystal's hand and she took it, stepping up beside him.
“It's lovely to meet you, Dear,” MaryAnn took Krystal's free hand in her own.
“I'm so very sorry for your loss,” Krystal spoke, a look of sympathy on her face.
“Thank you,” MaryAnn nodded once, “Now you take care of this one, you hear? He's been like a son to me for most of his life and he deserves a good woman.”
“I will,” Krystal smiled, “I promise.”
“Now,” MaryAnn turned to them as the service was about to start, “You meet me back at the house afterwards. I've got something for you.”
“Okay, Mama,” Justin nodded, “We'll be there.” Krystal let Justin lead her to the back of the group of people, about 5 rows back from where MaryAnn was seated as the service started. They didn't speak for a few moments as the service continued on. She glanced over after a few moments and noticed he was observing the crowd as he clenched and unclenched his jaw. Krystal followed his gaze and noticed that a group of about 5 men had walked up to the group. She frowned as he tightened his grip on her hand. He let go of her hand for a moment and reached down, pulling something out of his sock.
“Jay?” She whispered when he stood back up.
He secretively handed her the item he'd pulled out of his sock, “Put this in your purse and keep your hand on the trigger,” He whispered to her, his eyes never leaving the group of unknown men, “If I tell you, don't hesitate to shoot at one of them. Just do it and don't ask questions.” She nodded nervously and watched him remove something from behind him, tucked into his belt. He slid the item to his right side, under his suit jacket and within perfect arms reach if he needed it. She swallowed the lump in her throat as the service continued; Justin's eyes continuing to stay on the 5 men. Thankfully, the service ended without a hitch and Justin held her by his side as everyone cleared out. Once he was sure MaryAnn and her family were safely inside the limousine, only then did he lead her quickly to the car.
“What's going on, Jay?” She asked once they'd returned safely to the car. Justin was checking all around him as he slid on his seat-belt.
“Nothing! Don't fucking worry about it!” He snapped at her, causing her to be taken aback by his tone.
“Justin,” She warned, his eyes immediately falling to her as realization adorned his face.
“I'm sorry, Baby,” He breathed, “I didn't mean to snap at you. It's just,” He trailed off for a moment, “I don't know why they'd come here. Unless it's to get to me or MaryAnn. I'm sorry I put you in the middle of this,” He shook his head in disbelief of the fact that he'd put her in this situation, “I shouldn't have brought you here.”
“In case you didn't notice,” She spoke, “I'm fine. I can handle myself, Justin. I wanted to be here with you through this,” They pulled out of the cemetery and onto the street, heading to a destination that was unknown to Krystal, “Now, what do you want me to do with this?” She held her purse up with the gun inside.
“I'm gonna drop you off at the hotel before I go back to MaryAnn's,” Justin spoke, “I don't need you in anymore danger.”
“No, you're not,” She argued, “I'm fine, Jay. I can handle this.”
He took a deep breath and closed his eyes for a minute, trying not to snap at her, “Baby, I have to go make sure James' family is safe. I can't bring you into that. I can't keep you safe while I'm trying to keep me and them safe and I don't need you there if something happens.”
“Will you just stop?” She grew exasperated, “I'm not going back to the hotel without you. I can handle myself. You don't have to treat me like some meek little girl.”
He didn't speak for a moment and she noticed that he continued to check his rear-view mirrors, “Shit,” he said under his breath.
“What?” She asked, glancing in her side mirror as well.
“We're being followed,” He was clenching his jaw tightly, “Put your seat belt on.” He commanded. She frowned, wondering how he even knew she wasn't wearing it as he hadn't glanced in her direction or taken his eyes off of the car that was following them. She did as told and he glanced at her quickly to make sure it was on as he weaved his way through traffic, trying to lose the car behind them. After a few moments, he turned off of the main road and sped down a side-street. She held tightly onto the handle above her as he took turns quickly and maneuvered the vehicle perfectly. He slid into an alleyway and squealed the tires as he pulled the car to a stop amongst a group of other cars, attempting to hide it the best way he could amongst the other vehicles. He let out a deep breath and hit the steering wheel, hard before rubbing his forehead with his hand.
“Babe, it's okay,” She said softly, placing her hand on his shoulder.
He let out a sigh and met her gaze, “I never wanted to put you in this situation. I'm sorry.”
She shrugged, “It was bound to happen eventually if we kept seeing each other. Better that it's happening now, at least.”
“Maybe Mark was right,” He reached over and caressed her cheek, “What if I can't keep you safe?”
“I'm fine, Jay,” She frowned, afraid he was ready to throw in the towel already, “I'm not gonna walk away just because of this.”
“But you should,” His voice grew soft, “I don't want you to get hurt, Baby.”
“I can handle myself, Justin,” She studied him. His eyes looking as if his heart was breaking at this precise moment, “I can handle this.”
“What if you can't? What if I can't protect you?” He had tears glistening in his eyes and she was unsure why.
“I can,” She urged, “You want me to shoot somebody to prove it?” She held up her purse, her hand laying still on the gun inside.
That made him chuckle, “No, but hold onto that until I get you safely back to LA. Once I get you outta here, I'm never gonna put you in a situation like this again.”
“I'm sure this isn't the last time we'll be here, Babe,” She shook her head, “Unless you're already ready to walk away.”
“No,” He shook his head, trying his best to reassure her, “I'm not ever gonna walk away from this.”
“Good,” She smiled, “Me neither. Now, let's get in there.” He nodded and got out of the car, going to her side immediately to open her door. He let her out and made sure it was locked as they walked through a back walk-way into a house that Krystal assumed was MaryAnn's. Justin didn't bother knocking as they entered a kitchen area. Krystal took in the site around her and noted MaryAnn leaning against the counter, having a conversation with a black man.
Justin let out a breath and approached her, throwing an arm around her shoulders, “Hey Mama M.”
“Oh, I'm glad you're here, Justin,” She immediately forgot the conversation she was having with the black man, “I'll be back in a moment, Za.” Za nodded and glanced towards Krystal as MaryAnn pulled Justin away.
“I'll be right back, Baby,” Justin glanced at Krystal, sending her a secret look. She nodded and watched as he disappeared behind one of the doors.
“So, you Bieber's girl?” Za asked, looking at her.
“I guess you could say that,” She smiled warmly, keeping her hand on the gun in her purse.
“I gotta say, I'm surprised that he'd bring you around here. A lot of people want his head here,” Za took a drink of the beer that was sitting on the counter in front of him.
“Are you one of the people that want his head?” She questioned.
“Nah,” He shook his head, “I'm on the same side as him. James was our leader here.”
“I'm sorry for your loss,” Krystal commented.
Za shrugged, “It was bound to happen eventually. They were tryna get Bieber here to kill him. There's just sacrifices on the way to getting what they want.”
“Why do they want to kill him?” She wondered, a frown crossing her features.
“Because they want his money,” Za smiled, “Besides that, it doesn't look good for us to have a gang leader that's such a part of the public eye. It's never been done before and people don't like change. They feel like he's too much of a liability being a public figure. If he ever wanted to, he could bring down the whole gang world, just by telling the public our secrets. He's in the position to do that.”
“He wouldn't though,” Krystal spoke in his defense, “I mean, I haven't known him all that long yet, but he knows that there's consequences to his actions and telling the world wouldn't only bring everyone else down, but him as well and then even more people would want him dead.”
“He's already on the hit-list of many other leaders,” Za shook his head, “He never shoulda signed that record contract and got famous. He shoulda just stayed where he was and continued doing what he was doing. I'm surprised that he didn't think before bringing you around. He should be worrying about keeping his own ass safe. By you being with him, you're being put in the direct line of fire too cause if he has feelings for you, you'll end up a target.”
“I can handle myself,” She said quickly.
“I bet,” Za gave her a smirk, telling her that he didn't think she was anything more than some weak little girl. She felt anger start to rise in her, but took a deep breath to let it out as Justin returned to the kitchen.
“You ready, Baby?” He asked. She nodded and they both sent a small waive in Za's direction as they headed out of the house. They made their way to the car and got in, pulling out onto the street after Justin had checked all the perimeters. Neither spoke for a few moments until Krystal broke the silence between them.
“I know you haven't known me very long, so you can take what I'm about to say or leave it,” She stared at his profile as he drove, “But I don't think Za is very trustworthy. I'd be careful with him if I were you.”
A smile appeared on Justin's face, “Why you say that?”
“Because not only did he not hesitate to tell me exactly why people around here want you dead, but he kept saying that you never should've gotten famous and that you being in the public eye could be detrimental to every gang member out there,” She shrugged, “I mean, if he was so willing to just reveal all this to me, who knows who else he's running his mouth to.”
“You're amazing, you know that?” He glanced quickly at her, the smile never wavering from his face, “I know all about Za and the problem he has with running his mouth. I really appreciate you telling me though, Baby. Thank you.”
“If you know, why is he still allowed to know things? I mean, it could really end up hurting you if he talked to the wrong people, Jay,” She frowned.
“Za knows what I want him to know and nothing more. We're all well aware of the part he plays in this whole situation. His time is coming, Baby. He'll be dealt with accordingly when the time is right,” He reached over and took her hand, linking his fingers with hers. She noticed that he was wearing a necklace with dog-tags that he hadn't had on before.
“Were those James'?” She wondered.
He looked down and then back up to the road in front of him, “Yeah. We got matching ones when we were kids and these are his set.”
“I'm glad you got something to remember him by, Babe,” She sighed, rubbing the hand he was holding hers with. Whether he admitted it or not, she could see the sadness in his eyes at losing James and she wanted to comfort him to the best of her abilities.
“I just gotta stop and talk to Mark before we leave and then we can head to the airport. I can't wait to get back home,” he ignored her comforting, not wanting to admit how much this was effecting him.
“Okay,” She nodded, “I can't wait either.”