“Dad told us we couldn’t go into law enforcement. Mom didn’t want it!”
Thomas sighed. “Says the guy who’s majoring in criminal justice. You’re wasting time, Travis. Abby will be awake soon.”
“You fucked us all! You son of a bitch!” Travis screamed, punching at the air.
“Are you finished?” Thomas asked, his voice even.
“I won’t lie to Abby. If I have to lie to her, it’s a deal-breaker.”
Travis laced his hands on top of his head, looking distraught. “I can’t lie to my wife.” His arms fell to his sides, and his eyes glossed over. “Please don’t make me do this, Tommy.” His bottom lip quivered. “You’re my brother.”
Thomas stared him in the eyes, speechless.
I shifted to my other leg, keeping a confident stare. “Then, maybe you shouldn’t have engaged in an illegal activity that caused the deaths of a hundred and thirty-two college kids.”
Travis’s face crumbled, and then his head fell forward. After a full minute, he rubbed the back of his neck and looked at me. “I’ll think about it,” he said, walking toward the door.
“I said I’ll think about it.”
I touched Thomas’s arm and then startled when the door slammed.
Thomas grabbed his knees, gasping for air, and then he collapsed onto the floor. I sat on the floor beside him, tightly holding him, while he quietly sobbed.
I nodded to Anthony again, insisting that he pour Thomas another drink. He hadn’t spoken after Travis agreed to recruitment or when we drove from the hotel to the airport. He hadn’t spoken a word during the plane ride. He’d merely gestured that we share a cab for the short ride to our building.
I hadn’t asked, but I’d told him that we were going to Cutter’s. It had been easy to convince him of things when he refused to protest.
“Jesus,” Val said quietly as she maneuvered her purse off her shoulder. She sat down. “He looks like hell.”
Marks sat on the other side of Thomas, allowing his friend to get drunk in peace. He popped a few peanuts into his mouth and stared at the television.
“Really?” I deadpanned. “Are you really going to try to lie to me?”
She glared at the back of Thomas’s head. “Maddox told you?” she hissed.
“Yes, and he’s had a shitty weekend, so you can’t be mad at him. I, however, can be extremely pissed at you for holding back something so monumental when you’ve insisted on knowing every morsel of information about me.”
Val pouted. “I’m sorry. I didn’t want you to know. I don’t want anyone to know. I wish it never happened.”
“It might help you to forget if you didn’t live with him,” I said.
“He won’t sign the divorce papers, and if I move out, I lose the condo.”
“Move in with me,” I said.
“Really?” she asked, her eyes softening. “You would do that for me?”
“Yes. What a nightmare. And besides, it would be nice to share the bills. I could buy a car, and until then, ride with you to work.”
“I appreciate that,” Val said, tilting her head to the side. “I really do, but I’m not losing the condo. It’s mine, and his ass is moving, not me.”
“Why don’t you want to ride to work with me anymore?” Thomas slurred.
It was the first time he’d spoken in hours, and the sound of his voice surprised me as if he’d just shown up.
“I do,” I said. “I just meant that if Val moved in, it would be a good trade.”
His shirtsleeves were rolled almost to his elbows, and his tie was loose and hanging haphazardly from his neck. He’d had so much to drink that his eyes were half closed.
“You’re moving in with Liis?” Marks asked, leaning backward to look at Val.
“Why not?” Marks asked. “She offered, and you said no? Why would you say no?”
“Because it’s my condo, and I’m not giving it to Charlie!”
Before he could say anything, Thomas leaned closer to me. “You’re too good for my carpool now?”
I rolled my eyes. “No.” I looked to Val. “Who is Charlie?”
“Oh, I think you are,” Thomas said. “I think you think you’re too good for a lot of things.”
“Okay,” I snipped, my voice dripping with sarcasm. I used to do that to my mother, and it had driven her absolutely insane. She would cuss at me in Japanese, which she never, ever did, unless it was in response to that single two-syllable word. In her eyes, nothing was more disrespectful. “Just get drunk, Thomas, so we can take you home, and Marks can tuck you in.”
“Fine. I’ll call you that when you’re not slobbering drunk.”
“You forget you brought me here,” he said before taking a gulp.
“Would you like another drink?” I asked Thomas.
He looked offended. “No. It’s time for us to go home.”
I raised an eyebrow. “You mean, it’s time for you to go home.”
“So, everything you said this weekend was bullshit?” he asked.
His nose wrinkled. “You came home with me the last time we had drinks here together.”
“No, you came home with me,” I said, trying very hard not to get defensive.
“What does that even mean?” Thomas asked. “Speak English!”
The disgusted look on his face only grew more severe. “That’s not even funny.” He looked at Marks. “She’s not even funny. And that’s bad because I’m drunk,” he said, pointing at himself. “I think everything’s funny.”
Anthony held up his hand, a blue rag hanging from it. “I don’t mean to poke the bear, but I’ve got one nerve left, and Maddox is dry-humping it. So, could you all move it along?”
Thomas threw back his head and laughed, and then he pointed at Anthony. “Now, that’s funny!”
I touched Thomas’s arm. “He’s right. C’mon. I’ll walk you to your condo.”
“No!” he said, pulling his arm away.
I held out my hands. “Do you want me to walk you or not?”
“I’m asking my girlfriend to come home with me!”
Val’s mouth fell open, and Marks’s eyes bounced between Thomas and me.
I slightly shook my head. “Thomas, we’re back in San Diego. The assignment is over.”
“So, that’s it then?” He stood up, weaving.
Marks stood with him, readying his hands to catch Thomas if he fell.
I stood up, too, motioning to Anthony that we needed the check. He had already printed it out, so he grabbed it from beside the register and placed it on the counter.