I laughed to myself.
He tried to get inside the gas station, but he couldn’t. The doors were locked. Ben and Kate stood inside and watched him. He kept trying, but when he heard the sirens, he started running.
He wouldn’t get far enough. I heard him yell, “FUCK!”
I turned and started walking now. The need to run had left me. I wanted to savor this. He’d gone after Mason. He’d gone after Logan, put Nate in the hospital, and terrorized way too many others. Budd Broudou was going to jail. I knew it, and he knew it. It was a day that I would enjoy for a long time. Maybe Mason was right. Maybe taking control into your own hands was the best way to serve justice?
I remembered Kate’s whimpers and my conscience was clear. I did more for her than she had done for me. It was good enough for me.
Three Months Later …
Budd had been arrested for trying to rape Kate. Her uncle was first on scene, and they arrested him right away. He hadn’t gotten far down the road, and there was enough evidence to send him to prison. As for Kate, she moved in with her uncle. Heather heard through the rumor mill that he hadn’t been happy with her parents for years, and with so many problems happening at the same time, he had her move in with him and his wife. Her mom and dad never fought the decision so as everyone else was finishing up their spring semester, Kate was working on getting her GED through the alternative school.
I was just happy that I never saw her again. I was also happy that no one knew who set Budd’s truck on fire. Ben and Kate kept quiet. I was relieved, and I wasn’t going to start questioning her motives. If she talked, I’d set her truck on fire, too. I was done dealing with her.
“You got a visitor.”
I glanced up from the register. Heather had a tense smile on her face. She was standing with her back to where the guys were. Mason, Logan, Channing, and Gus were all lined up on barstools in front of Brandon. A baseball game was on the television, and Logan was goading Gus into betting against his favorite team.
“Ssh.” She leaned closer and rolled her eyes to the back of her head. “You have a visitor.”
There was a message in there somewhere, but I couldn’t decipher it. Mason was leaving in a few months, and I was already dreading his graduation in a week. All emotional energy was spent towards that, not figuring out cryptic messages from my friend.
“Spell the name,” I said instead of guessing. I wasn’t going to go and see. It could be Kate, or worse, one of her friends trying to apologize again. I wasn’t having any of it.
“Just go,” she hissed before expelling a frustrated sound and grabbing my hand. She pulled me through the side door, and announced as she passed the bar, “Smoke break. No boys allowed.” No one moved, but then we were through the doors before anyone had the chance. Before the screen door could slam shut, she caught it and reached inside for the main door. Both were pulled shut.
I glanced around the alley, but no one was there.
Heather dropped down in a chair and pulled out her cigarettes. I started to sit as well, but she waved me away. “No. Go.”
“Oh.” She glanced around and frowned. “Where’d he go?” Then her eyes lit up, and she pointed to the back end of Manny’s, right next to her house. “There. I see him.”
Uh … I was putting my trust in my friend as I started to the back. When I got there, I relaxed. Slightly. “Brett.”
He was leaning against a tree with his hands stuffed inside his front pockets. As he stood, his goliath-sized body unfolded and grew again in front of me. If he hadn’t asked me out and if he hadn’t protected me from Budd, I would’ve been pissing my pants. All I did was wipe my hands off on my pants and give him a relieved grin.
He grinned back, but grimaced. “I’m sorry for not doing this earlier.”
Oh whoa. That wasn’t what I expected to hear. “Do what?”
“Come to apologize.”
“Apologize? For what?”
“For my brother and what he must’ve put you through. For me too.” He glanced down as his shoulders lifted when he took in a deep breath. “I should’ve stopped him a long time ago, but I didn’t. I never had incentive to, and I guess it was easier to let Shannon get in his ear. This all started because my sister told us Mason Kade used her for sex. I know what she did wasn’t right.”
“She lied all those years ago.”
Oh, whoa again. “You knew?”
“Not then, but I found out the truth a few months ago. I never told Budd.” He shrugged, reaching up to scratch his face. As he did, his arm doubled in size, and I gulped again. It was the size of a tree trunk. Then he added, “My brother doesn’t work like that. Once he hears something, it’s it in his mind. Your man knows that, too.”
I flushed at the memory. The image of Kate writhing on top of Mason had my stomach churning, but I shrugged it off. It was over and done. He had his revenge. She got her due. I helped her out in the end. My conscience was clear when it came to Kate.
I cleared my throat. “What do you want, Brett?”
“Just to extend an olive branch, I suppose.” His jaw hardened, and he glanced to the side. Lifting his arms, he folded them across his chest. If it was possible, it made him look even bigger. “And to let you know that the beef is over between my town and this one. As far as I’m concerned, we got no problem with Fallen Crest folk anymore.”