Wake, p.12
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       Wake, p.12

         Part #1 of Wake series by Lisa McMann
 
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  “Yessss?”

  “Stu’s here too.” Janie can feel Carrie cringing through the phone.

  Janie closes her eyes and runs her fingers through her hair. She sighs again. “I’ll be there in thirty minutes. Stop crying.”

  Carrie gushes her thanks, and Janie cuts it short by hanging up.

  Janie scrambles into her clothes and finds her stash of money that is waiting to be deposited into her college fund. She’s twenty bucks short. “Shit,” she mutters. She goes out of her room and runs into her mother, of all people.

  “Was that the phone?” Her mother is bleary-eyed.

  “Yeah . . . ” Janie hesitates. “I gotta go get Carrie. She’s in jail. Any chance . . . any chance you have twenty bucks to spare, Ma? I’ll pay you back tomorrow.”

  Janie’s mother looks at her. “Of course,” she says. She goes into her room and comes out with a twenty. “You don’t have to pay me back, honey.”

  If Janie had an extra hour to think about that little exchange, she might have come to the conclusion that there are one or two things more bizarre than falling into people’s dreams.

  3:28 a.m.

  Janie climbs the steps to the front entrance of the police station and gets blown in through the door. It’s snowing furiously. She looks around, and an officer waves her into the metal-detector area and through the security checkpoint. She recognizes him. It’s Rabinowitz. She smiles, knowing he doesn’t have a clue who she is.

  “Through the doors. Cash or credit card payments only. No checks,” he says, as if he’s said it a billion times before.

  Janie hears them before she pushes open the doors. There is a short line of sleepy-angry parents in front of her. Some of them are carrying on more pathetically than Carrie did on the phone. She peers around the corner and sees the bars of a holding cell.

  She wonders if this is it. The bust. And then she sees Melinda, being escorted by a cop and her father. Her face is smudged in mascara and tears, and she looks terrible. Her father grabs her angrily by the arm and marches her out. Janie looks at the floor as Melinda goes past. She feels sorry for her.

  The next three students she knows as well, and she can see their humiliation. Finally Janie is the last person standing at the desk. She sets one thousand dollars cash on the counter.

  “Who you here for?” barks the guard.

  “Carrie Brandt and Stu, ah . . . ” She Googles her memory for his last name. “Gardner.”

  “I.D., please.”

  Janie pulls out her driver’s license and hands it to the guard, who checks it closely.

  He looks up at her for the first time.

  “You’re not eighteen.”

  Janie’s stomach thuds. “No—not for another month,” she says.

  “Sorry, kid. Gotta be eighteen.”

  “But—” Shit.

  The guard ignores her. She stands there. Thinking of all the things she knows but cannot reveal. She sighs and sits down in the chairs to think. She puts her head in her hands. Does she dare try to approach Rabinowitz, see if he’ll vouch for her? But, no . . . Captain said not a word to anyone. That didn’t exclude other cops.

  “Can I at least go back there so she knows I tried?” Janie pleads.

  The guard looks up. “You still here? All right, fine,” he says. “Two minutes.” Janie smiles gratefully and walks to the holding cell.

  And she sees them. Sitting or lying on the benches.

  Carrie and Stu. Huddled.

  Shay Wilder and her brother. Looking extremely pissed, drunk, high, wasted, whatever.

  Mr. Wilder. Looking fucked up in more ways than one.

  And Cabe. Who is lounging on the bench like he lives there. And Shay, Janie notices gleefully, is as far away from Cabel as she can get.

  She bites her lip.

  Carrie rushes to the bars.

  Janie looks at Carrie. “Honey,” she whispers. “They won’t let me. I’m not eighteen till next month. I’m working on it, though, okay? I promise. I’ll figure something out, if I have to drag my own mother down here.”

  Carrie starts bawling. “Oh, it’s so horrible being locked up in here,” she whines.

  Janie, who ran out of sympathy about a minute after the phone rang, just glares at Carrie. “Jeez, Carrie. Shut up already. Or I’m liable to leave you stranded.”

  “No!” chime the drunken voices of Shay, her brother, and Stu. Stu and Carrie start fighting.

  Janie steals a glance at Cabel, who is watching her, the slyest of smiles on his face. He winks, and then nods, ever so slightly, in the direction of Mr. Wilder.

  Janie looks.

  He’s leaning.

  Falling.

  Asleep.

  She feels a rush of adrenaline. “I, uh, I gotta go back up to the chairs, Carrie, but I’ll get you out as soon as I can, okay?” Janie doesn’t chance another look at Cabe.

  She sits in the chairs nearest the holding cell, out of view of the guy at the front desk. She can just barely see Cabel’s feet on the bench. His legs are crossed at the ankles. And she remembers him back when his jeans were too short, standing alone and greasy at the bus stop, less than two years ago.

  She can hear Carrie and Stu arguing, and Shay and her brother raising their voices, telling her to get over herself and shut up—

  And then she’s whirling and blind, gripping the chair, hoping nobody walks by. She doesn’t see Cabel stand up in the midst of the Carrie distraction and come to the edge of the cell bars, trying to catch her eye. Trying to tell her something.

  She only sees what is in Mr. Wilder’s hopes and fears. Or are they memories?

  The dream intensifies and turns nightmarish. Janie is whipped around inside it.

  Beaten, and blasted.

  And she’s trying to see everything. Everything. From the eyes and the mind of a criminal.

  She doesn’t see Cabel at all during that two-hour dream, pacing, burying his head in his hands. She doesn’t see him watching her, horrified, as she’s falling sideways off the chair, deadweight. Slamming her face on the corner of the coffee cart.

  6:01 a.m.

  Her head is pounding.

  She’s clammy. Cold.

  Her face slides in blood on a cold tile floor.

  She thinks her eyes are open, but her vision is taking a long time to return.

  She can’t move her body.

  In the distance, she hears Cabel, calling her name, calling the guard.

  Carrie is screaming.

  For Janie, everything is black as night.

  6:08 a.m.

  Janie is being lifted onto a stretcher. She concentrates. Tries to wake up. Her head pounds.

  They wheel her out into the hallway of the police station.

  “Stop,” she croaks.

  Clears her voice, and says it again.

  “Stop.”

  Two paramedics look down at her. She opens her eyes. Only one wants to. But she can see shadows.

  “I’m fine,” she says, and struggles to sit up. “I get seizures now and then. I’m fine. See?”

  She holds her hands out to show them how fine she is.

  And sees the blood.

  Her eyes grow wide as she strains for her vision to return in full.

  She feels her face. The blood is dripping, streaming, from her eyebrow onto her lashes.

  “Aw, fuck,” she says. “Listen, don’t you just have some Steri-Strips? Seriously.”

  The paramedics look at each other, and back at her.

  She tries a different tactic. “I don’t have any insurance, guys. I can’t afford this. Please.”

  One of the medics wavers. “It’s Janie, right? Listen, you were in a complete spasm on the floor. Rigid. Unconscious. You smacked your head on the corner of a rusty metal coffee cart.”

  Janie wheedles them. “I’m up-to-date on my tetanus shot. Look, I’ve got a math exam in—soon, and my college future rides on it. I’m telling you, I’m refusing treatment. Now let me off of here.”
/>
  Slowly, the paramedics back off so she can get down. She swings her heavy, unfeeling legs over the side of the stretcher just as Captain Komisky breezes through the security check.

  “What the hell is going on down here?” she asks brightly. “Why, hello, Ms. Hannagan. Are you coming or going?”

  Janie looks around on the stretcher and grabs a hunk of gauze, trying to find the source of the blood. “I’m working my way off this thing any second now,” Janie mutters.

  She takes a deep breath.

  Hops off the edge.

  Sticks the landing like ol’ what’s her name in the Olympics.

  Captain is watching her, an amused look on her face. She offers Janie her arm. “Come, dear,” she says. “Looks like you’ve been busy tonight.” She waves the paramedics away with a sweeping gesture, and they go like lightning.

  Janie smiles gratefully and holds the gauze to her eye. Her sweatshirt is stained with blood. She feels like she’s wearing cement shoes, and her head feels like a balloon.

  “I called on my way in, got the scoop,” she explains when the paramedics are gone. “I wonder if we need to have a chat in my office?”

  “I—sure. Um, what time is it?” Janie forgot to put her watch on when she left the house, and she’s lost without it.

  “Six fifteen, or thereabouts,” Captain says. “I imagine Mr. Strumheller has had enough by now, don’t you?”

  Janie is having trouble concentrating. She knows she needs to eat. She gives a shaky laugh. “I suppose that’s up to you, sir,” she murmurs.

  And then she remembers.

  Carrie and Stu.

  “Captain,” she says nervously. “I came down here a few hours ago trying to spring my friend and her boyfriend. I’ve got the bail money, but I’m not eighteen until next month. Any chance you can—”

  “Of course.”

  Janie sighs, relieved. “Thank you.”

  “Before we go in,” Captain says, “let’s remember that you don’t know me. Right?”

  “Yes, sir,” she says.

  “Good girl. Go get your friends.”

  6:30 a.m.

  Carrie rushes out of the holding cell like it’s filling up with poison gas. Stu follows. Carrie sees Janie covered with blood and nearly passes out, but both Stu and Janie ignore her dramatics.

  “You guys are gonna have to walk. I’m sorry,” Janie says firmly. “I have to fill out some dumb paperwork for an incident report or something.” She points to her eye and makes like it’s the last thing she wants to do. She shakes her head, pretending to be pissed. “Stupid cops.”

  Stu squeezes Janie’s shoulder. “Thank you, Janie.” He gives her a grateful look. “You’re a good friend. To both of us.”

  Janie smiles, and Carrie looks abashed. “Thanks, Janers,” she says.

  “I’m glad you called me, Carrie,” Janie says. Now, go away.

  6:34 a.m.

  Janie heads to the restroom, bloodying gauze pressed against her rapidly swelling eyebrow. She checks the mirror. The cut is beautiful in its own right. It lies just below her brow line, from the arch to where the brow tapers, and is straight and clean. One day, she might wish she’d gotten stitches. But as scars go, it’s in a perfectly sexy spot.

  She turns her sweatshirt inside out to hide the ridiculous amount of blood that oozed from the inch-long gash, and washes her face and hands. She takes a handful of brown paper towels, wets them, and puts the pressure back on it. Then she slurps water from the faucet.

  6:47 a.m.

  Janie leaves the restroom, and Cabel is there, pulling her into the cloakroom area. He looks tired. And relieved to see her.

  “Let me see,” he says.

  She pulls the paper towels away and shows him her war wound.

  “It’s very impressive,” he says, and then grows serious, his deep brown eyes betraying his concern. “When I saw you about to go down, I—” He stops and sighs. “I watched you. Most of that two hours, whenever I could pull it off without looking suspicious. It made me crazy that I couldn’t get to you.”

  Janie, who is now shivering and getting very light-headed, just leans against him.

  He strokes her back, rests his chin on her head. “You sure you’re up for a chat with the boss?” he asks.

  Janie nods against his chest.

  “I’ll get you something to eat just as soon as we get out of here, okay?”

  She smiles. “Thanks, Cabe.”

  “Meet me at the back entrance, okay? You remember which door? We need to split up.”

  “Yeah, okay, good thinking,” she murmurs. Cabel walks nonchalantly to a staircase and goes down. Janie heads out the front entrance and walks half a block through the blizzard to get around to the back of the shops and buildings. When she gets to the unmarked door, she’s in a cold sweat. She knocks lightly. It opens, and she follows Cabel down the stairs.

  The place is buzzing, and Cabel takes a few slaps on the back and swipes upside the head for his overnight work. “We’re still not there yet,” he says modestly.

  He knocks on the captain’s door, and she hollers, “Come.” Cabel and Janie slip inside.

  “You two have exams today, no? Do we have time for this right now?”

  “Ten thirty, Captain. We’ve got plenty of time.”

  Captain looks at Janie closely. “Jesus, Mary, and Joseph,” she says. “You’re gonna have a heck of a shiner by the time the day’s over. Did you black out?”

  “I . . . uh . . . ” Janie shrugs. “I really have no idea.”

  “Yes, I think she did.” Cabel cuts in. “I’m going to need to watch her all day. And probably all night, too,” he adds. Very, very seriously.

  The captain throws a rubber eraser at him and sends him out for coffee. “And get this poor girl some rations, while you’re at it, before she breaks in half.” She opens her desk drawer and fishes around in it. Pulls out a first-aid kit and tosses a bag of airline peanuts on the desk as well. “Slide in over here, will you?” she says. Janie scoots her chair around the side of the desk.

  “Jesus,” Captain mutters again, and spreads a liberal amount of antibiotic cream over the cut. She rips open a package of Steri-Strips and neatly and quickly closes the cut. “That’s better,” she says. “If your mother and/or father have any questions about what happened to you, have them give me a call. I’d appreciate a heads-up if you think they’re likely to sue.” She slides the bag of peanuts across the desk to Janie. “Eat.”

  “Yes, sir,” she says gratefully, ripping open the package. “You won’t hear from anyone.”

  Cabel returns with three coffees, a small cup of milk, and a bag full of muffins and doughnuts. He casually sets the milk and bran muffin in front of Janie and pours three creams and three sugars into her coffee.

  She drinks the milk, her hand shaking, and feels the ice-cold goodness of it going all the way down. “Excellent,” she says, and takes a deep breath.

  “So,” begins Captain. “You have a report for me, Cabel?”

  “Yes, sir. We arrived at the party at nineteen-ten hours, marijuana already in progress, and by twenty-three-thirty, the coke was on the glass. Five minors and several adults snorted lines. Mr. Wilder took me aside, and we discussed our partnership, he being rather pleased at the turnout. He was semicoherent but stoned, and he told me he had a stash he was ready to quote ‘put on the market’—his words. Apparently that was enough for Baker and Cobb, though I’m pissed we don’t have the actual location of the stash. They arrived within three minutes and broke the place up, taking only those who were too stupid to go peacefully. And, of course, Mr. Wilder and his two children. Mrs. Wilder wasn’t present. And I really don’t think she’s mixed up in it.” He glances sideways at Janie and shrugs an apology. “Carrie was really toasted and put up a huge fight. Sorry about that.”

  Janie smiles. “Maybe the experience will knock some sense into her,” she says.

  “By two a.m., we were all in what I like to call my little hom
e away from home,” Cabel continues. “Janie here came in to try to bail Carrie and her boyfriend out, and as luck would have it, Mr. Wilder was fucked up enough to fall asleep in the din. Janie settled in for the ride.” He sits back, finished with his report.

  Captain nods. “Good work, Cabe, as always.” She turns to Janie. “Janie. A disclosure. You weren’t hired by us, and we didn’t ask you to help in this investigation. You have no obligation to share what happened before you creamed your face on our lovely piece of shit coffee cart, which I’m tossing in the Dumpster right after this meeting. But if you wish to, and you feel you have anything pertinent to add, I’d welcome it.” She scribbles something on a notepad and puts it in her pocket, and then she continues. “Sounds like Cabe’s a little perturbed that we don’t have the location of the cake, and I personally would like to have that piece of information so we can go for the maximum sentence. Any chance you picked up something along those lines?” She chuckles quietly at her own pun. “Take your time, dear.”

  Janie, thinking more clearly now, runs through Mr. Wilder’s nightmare in her head. She closes her eyes at one point and shakes her head, puzzled. Then looks up.

  “This might sound silly, but do the Wilders own a yacht?”

  “Yes,” Cabel says slowly. “It’s in storage someplace for the winter. Why?”

  She is quiet for a long time. She doesn’t quite trust her intuition enough to say it, even though she knows she has nothing to lose.

  “Orange life jackets?” she says hesitantly.

  Captain leans forward, intrigued, and her voice is less harsh than usual. “Don’t be afraid to be wrong, Janie. A lead’s a lead. Most of them turn out wrong, but no crime gets solved without ’em.”

  Janie nods. “I’ll spare you the endless dream unless you want to hear it all. But the major part that sticks out to me, and kept repeating, is this:

  “We’re on a yacht, and it’s sunny and beautiful on the ocean. What looks like a gorgeous tropical island is in the distance, and Mr. Wilder is heading for it. Mrs. Wilder is sunning herself on the deck of the yacht—at the front end, you know? And then suddenly, the weather turns cloudy and windy, and a storm hits, slamming into the boat, I mean hard, like a hurricane, with the wind . . . ”

 
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LISA MCMANN SERIES:

  • Wake
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