Home > The Spark(9)

The Spark(9)
Author: Vi Keeland

“Can I take a piss while you chew my ear off?”

“You can wait until I’m done. Let’s go.”

Inside the men’s room, I waited until the guy washing his hands was done and out the door. Then I leaned against a sink and folded my arms across my chest.

“I talked to some people. Sugar didn’t just take your bicycle.” I leveled my client with a glare.

He looked away. “Yeah, he did. He stole my bike.”

“Stole implies he took it without properly compensating you. But that’s not what happened, is it, Storm?”

Early this morning I’d reached out to a friend who still lived in the neighborhood Storm hung out in and asked him to do a little digging. Apparently Sugar was a local dealer. I wasn’t sure what had gone down, but I had a pretty good hunch.

“The guy’s a jerk.”

Storm was a big kid for barely twelve, but I was a little over six foot two. I leaned over with my hands on my thighs and spoke to him at eye level. “I already have the truth. So if you try to lie to me, I’ll know,” I bluffed. “I can’t defend you unless you’re honest with me. You might be able to take care of yourself on the street, but trust me, you’ll be in trouble if they transfer you to a place like Wheatley Juvenile Detention Center. I hear you’re a smart kid. Do you know what recidivism is?”

Storm shook his head.

“It’s when someone repeats a behavior—usually it’s something that was done to them. Eighty percent of the kids over at Wheatley were physically abused or sexually abused as kids. Can you put two plus two together and figure out what I’m telling you happens over at Wheatley?”

The muscle in Storm’s jaw flexed, but he held strong.

“Why don’t we start from the beginning? How much did you owe Sugar?”

He mulled over his answer for a minute before looking down. “Forty.”

I knew it. “He took your bike because you didn’t pay him, and you tried to get it back.”

“I didn’t think he was home. I just wanted my bike back.”

“Do you just smoke weed, or do you do other drugs?”

“Just smoke weed.”

I stared into his eyes for a solid thirty seconds. Street kids were way harder to read than suit-wearing assholes who stole millions, but I was pretty sure he was telling the truth.

I stood and nodded. “Alright. I’ll see what I can do with that information. But you’re on thin ice, kid. You can’t do anything wrong—not buy weed, get into another fight, nothing. Hell, don’t even litter.”

He frowned. “Fine.”

I tilted my head toward the door. “Let’s go. Ms. Wilde is waiting.”

As we got to the door to the men’s room, Storm stopped and looked at me. “If you’re my lawyer, we have attorney-client privilege, right?”

The corner of my mouth twitched. Kid was smarter than Mr. Bentley already. “That’s right.”

“So you can’t tell Ms. Wilde I bought weed, right?”

I’d basically told him the place he might get sent was filled with child molesters, and he was more concerned about letting Autumn down. That was my first glimpse of the child still inside that growing body of his.

I put my hand on his shoulder. “You have my word.”

Outside in the hall, Autumn looked between us. “Everything okay?”

I nodded. “All good.”

“The clerk said he has twenty-four hours to register with the juvenile-probation department, but the building is right next door. Do you think it’s okay if we walk over now?”

“I think that’s a good idea.”

Autumn looked at Storm, then me. “Okay, well…say thank you to Mr. Decker.”

The last thing I needed was to be out of the office all morning, but I wasn’t ready to let Autumn walk away again so fast. It wouldn’t be the first time I worked through the night to make up for lost billable hours. “I’ll walk over with you. I know a few of the JPOs. Maybe I can get you in faster.”

“Oh, that would be great, if you don’t mind.”

 

***

 

“I didn’t know you did this type of criminal law,” Autumn said. “I thought you did more white-collar crime.”

Autumn and I were sitting in the hall over at the Probation Department while Storm’s new JPO talked to him alone. I had zero reason to be here anymore, now that he was in—well, zero professional reason.

“I do,” I told her. “Haven’t touched anything but money laundering, insider trading, and embezzlement in at least six years. I was an ADA for a year right out of law school prosecuting Class B felonies. Made the switch to the other side and then a year later traded up from street crimes to Wall Street crimes. But one of the partners at my firm asked me to take Storm’s case as part of our pro bono program. He’s actually the one who does regular street-criminal work, but I’m up for partner, and he knows I need his vote, so he dumped it on me.” I caught Autumn’s eye. “I thought the guy was being his usual asshole self, but I’m thinking I might owe him a thanks now.”

She tried to hide her smile by looking down. “What’s the partner’s name who assigned you?”

“Blake Dickson. We call him The Dick, because he is.”

Autumn nodded.

“How was your friend’s wedding? It must’ve happened by now, right? Did the bride do her dance down to the altar?”

Autumn’s mouth dropped open. “She did, and the wedding was a blast, but I can’t believe you remember that.”

“It’s pretty hard to forget a story about a bride planning to dance down the aisle to ‘Crazy Bitch’ by Buckcherry.”

She laughed. “I guess so.”

“Plus…” I caught her eye. “I remember everything about our weekend together.”

I debated saying anything else, but she’d really rocked me when she pulled her disappearing act, and I felt the need to let her know it. So I ignored the fact that I probably sounded like a desperate wuss and cleared my throat. “I remember that you only ever have one earbud in at a time, never two, so you can be aware of your surroundings. But you alternate the right and left one every Sunday—so the other doesn’t feel neglected. You also speed when you go over bridges, just in case they collapse. And you know a crapload of random facts because you have an incessant need to do a deep dive on anything you hear about that you feel like you don’t have enough knowledge on, which causes you to get lost in Google searches for hours. If I’m not mistaken, it was lottery winners after we watched that movie about a guy who won the lottery and lost all his money. You spent an hour telling me about random things that have better odds than winning the lottery while I made us dinner. Also, you sleep with the covers over your head, and you’re so small, it’s hard to tell if you’re in the bed or it’s just a lump of covers.”

Autumn blinked a few times. “How do you know how I sleep? We never slept in the same room except for a few short naps. I slept in your bed, and you slept on the couch.”

I smiled. “I checked on you. I might’ve pulled the covers back and watched you sleep for a minute or two once.”

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