Before Everything Changes

From Tom Seeks, Ginger Fines, Book 2

“Oh, s***!” Tom threw his door open and leaned out as he sprayed a thick stream of beer and energy drink onto the passing pavement. Ginger caught hold of his arm at the last second and may have saved him from following his puke out of the car.

Throwing up was a bad sign. But, then again, he would be better off getting the alcohol out of his system. Now that the high was gone, it was just pure poison, a bellyful of aldehyde. And man, that grape stink was crushing her!

“You OK?”

“Holy s***. My head is killing me.”

“Oh, God!” Ginger used the buttons to open their windows, gagging. “Should I be worried?”

“No, it was that cough medicine crap. But water and a bed would be nice.”

She got him energy drink but didn’t think to rehydrate him? Duh.

Ginger looked at her boy. His d*** was out, limp. Tom’s eyes were teary. But he seemed like the guy she had blown the night of the solstice. The guy who had surprised both Marcus and her when he should have been down for the count. The guy who was now smiling at her like an idiot.

“OK, soon, I promise…Put your d*** away and buckle up!…You’re a frickin’ disaster, dude!” They both laughed. This little adventure had distracted Ginger from what should have been a bad mood. “Try to get the next one all the way out of the car!”

She had gotten turned around in the South Station area, which hadn’t helped Tom’s nausea. But at least he was now alert and trying to figure out where they were. With a minimum of attitude, he guided her onto Summer Street through a tricky series of turns that might have taken a few attempts to figure out without a navigator.

“I’m fine. No more throwing up…OK, we don’t have to turn until after that bridge over the Reserve Channel.”

“Huh?”

“Where the Boston Edison plant is. Like a mile. Straight…You’ll see it in a minute. It’s pink!”

“…How close can we get in the car? You’re not tired now?”

“Nope…We can get right up to the door, I think. It’s totally run down. I think there’s like, a Fed Ex building maybe a quarter mile away? But you can’t see it…There were a few cars parked on the side street, nothing after the last turn except…two…in the big parking lot.”

“Let me scout it first.”

“Right up there, then that first left, and it’s fifty yards in front of us.” Tom cocked his head and looked at her. “…What are you, Ginger?”

She knew what he meant.

“Your f***ing owner, bitch.”

He laughed and tried again. “Seriously.”

“A Leo. Seriously. You knew that.”

“You’re playing, so, therefore, I’m going to keep asking…”

“If I told you…”

“Oh, God…You’d have to kill me…All the s*** I put up with, you can’t answer a simple question? F***in’ tracking our phones?…Up there. I think, maybe, pull over about twenty feet past the turn, kill the lights, and roll until we can see the building…”

Ginger did as instructed, and realized that she did so because it may as well have been Marcus telling her what to do. Tom suddenly didn’t sound like an angry, drunk, dumbass with a concussion. Rather, he prioritized critical information because he realized that they might not be playing.

There weren’t any other cars around, which made them stand out. It felt post-apocalyptic for being not far off Summer Street.

“…Tom, there’s not an easy answer to that question. I’m sure you have a few ideas. But for now, all you need to know is that I’m your boss and all the rules apply…I don’t want any more attitude. Understood?”

“…She did go upstairs. I couldn’t tell from over there,” he said, pointing to where he had watched Stella disappear. The lights to the left of the door seemed to outline an open, two-story loft on the second and third floors. He leaned over and lay his head on her shoulder for a moment. “Understood, Master.”

Without thinking, she gave his head a quick kiss. “My good boy…Let’s watch it for a few minutes,” Ginger said.

No sooner did the words leave her mouth than she regretted them. He must have forgotten who was in charge. Lucky for Tom, Ginger was feeling indulgent since she realized it was rotten of her not to trust him after this summer. And getting angrier by the minute at Stella for bullying her boy.

“How about you keep watch and I’ll…”

Eww, Ralph…Get off me!”

“Come on!…Can I finish jerking off at least?”

“No, dumbass! I’m letting you get away with murder because you’re injured. But I will hurt you!…If she’s here, Tom…I can’t see any good reason. Something’s funny. Still could be nothing and you’re just…f***ed…Would you stop?”

“You got me all turned on! You were like, ‘I want you inside me…’ That’s just mean.”

“You just barfed! Doesn’t your breath bother you? Nasty!”

“Better out than in!”

“Just stop, or I’m knocking you out!”

“You got a frying pan in the back seat?…Bone breaker…” he grumbled.

They sat in the quiet for a few minutes looking for signs of life. Tom yawned a lot. By the time Ginger spoke again, his eyes were heavy.

“OK. Listen…Hey! Are you listening to me?”

“Mmm-hmm…”

“Try to stay awake, Tom! I’m going to go have a look around. We have no reason to think she’s here. But someone is. This feels weird. Just stay here, I’ll be back in five…Stay, boy!”

Tom was tuned out again. Jokey to dopey in under three minutes? Ginger was being irresponsible. But now she needed questions answered. As soon as she collected the petite pain in the ass, she would tend to Tom. Reluctantly, she added, to be fair, One way or another.

Ginger switched off the overhead light and reached back to get the rear one. She had to get halfway out of her seat and Tom was pleased to feel her leaning on him to steady herself, probably more than was necessary. Then she quietly opened and closed the door and crept toward the building. He could tell that she was looking for cameras or anything else that might alert the owners to her presence. He tried to keep watching the windows, still hoping to see some movement inside. But he soon stopped paying attention and started zoning out. Tom tried to jolt himself awake…

…Where was Ginger? He didn’t care. He was aware that that was a problem. He should care. It was his master, after all…

Tom started moving every part of his body in the seat. He had to shake this off. Had it been five minutes? Maybe. He hadn’t looked at his watch when she left but it was a little before one now. It was about twelve-thirty when they were driving around South Station. And they had sat in silence for a few minutes, just watching. Tom faded…

No! Wake up! He tapped on his head wound through the t-shirt, hoping a sharp pain might jolt him into coherence. But it was less painful than nauseating. Puking again wasn’t out of the question, but he thought he could gut it for at least a little while. His stomach settled and he felt pretty good, slipping into the comfort of…

Wake up! His eyes weren’t focused on anything. Ginger was out of sight. Tom was cold. He fidgeted. He opened the glove box. The light startled him and he closed it immediately. No use giving away their position if someone was watching. Good. Thinking logically again…

Tom started bouncing his feet, shaking the whole car. He opened the center console just enough to reach in and push the button that turned the light off, in the process bumping his hand into cold metal. What was that? He closed the lid onto his arm to contain the light and tried to work it free. It was a gun! Was it the one Ginger had on her thigh that night?…That was f***ing great!…Tom studied it in the darkness. Did it have a safety? Yes, it did. He could see the little orange dot even in the dim. But did that mean it was on or off? Only an idiot would leave it with the safety off, he figured. How could he tell if it was loaded? It didn’t weigh much and bullets were heavy…Anyway, where would they even go? He fingered the end of the barrel…There were two identical holes not much bigger than an air rifle. Two barrels? Two shots, like in the old west? What good was a gun like this if it wasn’t loaded? It had to be…

…And how f***ing dumb was Ginger, or Jacqueline, leaving this in the center console? But then he imagined either of them getting pulled over. Unless it was a female officer—and an angry one at that—they’d get off with a verbal warning as long as no one was hurt. He laughed. They were hot…And anyway, he’d be the a****** driving.

…The gun felt good in his hand, though it was toy-sized. Wait, was it a toy? Of course not. Hard to believe something so tiny could be lethal. He puzzled over that for a few minutes. And why would Ginger need a gun in the car? Why would she have had it strapped to her thigh, for that matter? ’Cause it was f***ing sexyGod, she was sexy

…Tom looked at his watch. One-twenty! Ginger!

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