We rode in silence for several miles, winding along a stream that would take us back to Fannett Meadow. As we passed Cameron Industries, we both looked at the main gate, hating the place for different reasons. To Dusty, the ornate bars, topped with points like spears, were there for one purpose, to keep him out. For me, the bars formed a prison of family loyalty and expectation set firmly in place to keep me in.

I rearranged my grip on the wheel, eyes darting between Dusty and the road ahead. After cutting brush for six hours, neither of us felt like talking, but this was as good a time as any. It was an issue that had smoldered between us all week. And now, one look at that gate had stirred the embers into little flames that would soon engulf us.

“He called,” I said.

Dusty plucked an ebony plug from his earlobe, inspected it for a moment and worked it back into place. He glanced at me and looked down.

“Job offer?”

“Not this time. I smell an ultimatum.”

I opened the window a crack, letting the cool autumn air sweep across my face.

“I wish he’d offer me a job,” Dusty said and we fell silent for a moment.

That was never going to happen. I said nothing and felt guilty not responding.

“If he cuts you out, you’ll understand—working shit jobs, no family . . .”

“Maybe that’s not a bad thing,” I said.

I dropped my speed from fifty to thirty-five as we entered Fannett Meadow, a sleepy little village tucked in among the rolling hills of Pennsylvania.

“Anyway,” I said, “I’ll find out tomorrow. He wants to have lunch. He sounded different. No anger.”

I turned left on Fifth Street.

“If you want, I’ll ask him about a job . . .”

I glanced into my rear view mirror and let my head fall back against the headrest. A squad car nuzzled my bumper. The low profile light bar flashed, followed by a quick “whoop-whoop.” Dusty jumped, swiveled his head around, and then tried to melt into the seat at rigid attention.

“Great,” I said and pulled over in front of a long string of row homes. My place sat at the end of the block.

The officer in the cruiser seemed to ignore us as he relayed information to his dispatcher. I used the time get my registration and insurance card from the glove compartment and dug into my back pocket for my wallet. It wasn’t there.


Dusty shifted his eyes in my direction without moving his head. I checked the rear view mirror again. The officer looked up and his features came into focus. Lenny DiNuccio. Double crap.

I blew out a breath. “Brace yourself.”

Lenny approached my car and positioned himself behind my window so I had to twist my neck out of joint to see him.

“License and registration,” he said in that raspy voice of his. He held out his hand, palm up, just beyond my reach.

“Sir, do you know how fast you were going?”

Sir? This was not going to go well.

“Lenny, I slowed to thirty-five . . .”

“It’s Officer DiNuccio, and I have you at forty-seven when you came into town.”

“I was slowing down . . .”

“And your insurance card,” he cut me off.

I handed over my registration and insurance card. No sense putting it off. “I don’t have my wallet,” I added.

Lenny studied my papers while his dyslexia kicked in, pursing his lips like he was solving a cryptogram.

“Says here the car is registered to Mark Cameron. That you?”

I nodded. “Lenny, we went to school together. I graduated fourth, and you were . . . let me think . . . How many were in our class?”

I twisted around to see his face. He was shaking his head slowly, still studying my registration. “I did go to school with a Mark Cameron, but he drove around in a Corvette he got for his sixteenth birthday. Red—with black leather interior. Wouldn’t be caught dead in this piece of shit.”

“That was then, this is . . . things change.”

Lenny shook his head again. “Some things don’t. The law still says you need a driver’s license to operate a motor vehicle—at a safe speed. What’s the big hurry?”

“I’m going home,” I said and pointed my chin toward the end of the block. “Then I’m going to work . . .” I paused before giving Officer DiNuccio his ego boost for the day, “At McDonald’s.”

I didn’t have to turn around to see his reaction. I felt it in the long pause that followed. I cut the silence with more good news for Officer DiNuccio. “And I just finished clearing brush. I need a shower, could use a nap, and would appreciate a break . . .”

“The Mark Cameron I knew wouldn’t need a job. His Daddy would give him . . .”

“Fuck you, Lenny. Just give me the ticket.”

Dusty let out a soft moan. I expected Lenny to drag me out of the car, but he stooped down to peek at my passenger.

“Who’s that?”

“My brother.”

“You have a brother?”

The news snapped Lenny out of his little game. “Like I said, things change.”

Lenny recovered quickly, but he was no longer in ball-busting mode. He was Officer DiNuccio, on duty, fully alert, and unsure what was going on.

“I’m going to need some identification,” he said to Dusty. Then he looked at me. “I’ll take the keys.”

Dusty lifted his right ass cheek to get his wallet and pried his license out of the plastic window. Officer DiNuccio took the keys and license back to the squad car and settled in. Dusty reached up and adjusted the mirror so he could watch. He let out a breath. “We may have a problem,” he said, giving me a serious look.

“Don’t tell me—you have a warrant.”

“I don’t know.”

“How could you not know?”

“Because I don’t.” Dusty sat forward studying the rear view mirror. “I smell trouble, I leave. You think I’m going to hang around to see if there’s a warrant?”

We sat for five minutes without speaking, Dusty unable to take his eyes off the mirror.

“What’s he doing?”

Dusty frowned. “Not sure. He’s bobbing his head. I think he’s listening to Lady Gaga or something. Jerking our chain some more—gonna make us late for work.”

There was another long silence.

“If there’s a warrant, what would it be for?”

“Chicken shit. They rounded up some buyers and sellers in a sweep. We’re going to find out if I was a target soon enough—real soon. Here he comes.”

I turned in time to see Lenny close the door of his cruiser.

“I’m okay,” Dusty announced. “He’s relaxed. Gun still snapped in. Life is good.”

Lenny approached my window tapping Dusty’s license with my keys. He gave the license a little Frisbee toss and it landed in Dusty’s lap. I held out my hand for the keys, but Lenny snapped his fist around them.

“Your names are different.”

“He’s my half-brother, I explained and closed my eyes. “Different fathers, different names.”

Three months ago, I thought I was an only child. Then Dusty wandered into town searching for his roots and found me. I am blonde and clean-cut—like my father. Dusty is dark, like our mother, and looks like he crawled out of a head-on collision between Tim’s Tattoo Parlor and the Piercing Palace.

Lenny was quiet for a moment and then nodded.

“I’m going to give you a warning, Mr. Cameron. It’s going to save you about a week’s wages at McDonald’s.” The last three words slid out of his mouth slimy with sarcasm and he smiled. “And the next time I see you driving, you better have your license. For now, you can leave it here and walk home, or let Stanley drive.”

I looked over at Dusty and he ran his middle finger along a row of rings piercing his eyebrow. Lenny dangled the keys in my face and I handed them over to Dusty.

“Thank you, Officer DiNuccio,” I said, dripping a little sarcasm of my own.

Lenny returned to his cruiser and waited as Dusty and I traded places. We closed our doors simultaneously, and the cruiser moved on.

“Stanley?” I said as Dusty poked around trying to get the key in the ignition. “Really? You gave him a fake license?”

“It’s not too fake. I paid a lot of money for it—first time I used it.”

“Does Stanley have any warrants?”

Dusty gave me a wise-assed smile. “Apparently not.”

He turned the key and got a series of little clicks. “I thought you were going to get that fixed.”

“I will when I get paid.”

“So we’re walking to work?”

“It’ll start. Give it a minute or two.”

Dusty drummed his fingers along the top of the steering wheel, keeping rhythm to a song that only he could hear. I thought about Lenny DiNuccio and how he hadn’t changed in almost ten years—still pissed at me because my father was rich. Asshole. I was not looking forward to dodging him all weekend. I turned to Dusty.

“Let’s go back to Jonah’s to get my wallet. Keep Lenny off my ass.”

“We’re going to be late.” He checked his watch. “Cash will be pissed.”

“He’s always pissed.”

Dusty grunted in agreement and pulled out his phone. His thumbs flashed around the keyboard. “I’ll see if Phil and Dex can cover for us.” His thumbs never stopped. He looked up briefly. “Keep Cash off our ass, too.”

He finished and dropped his phone into the breast pocket of his flannel shirt. “Give it a try?”

I nodded, and my Saturn started right up.

As we drove back down Route 212, Cameron Industry came looming around a curve. I thought about my father, wondering if Dusty was right about us ending up in the same boat—without a family, drifting about from place to place, working crappy jobs like McDonald’s or cutting brush for a blind farmer. I caught myself grinding my teeth as we passed the rest of Cameron property—campus they call it, like it’s a freaking’ university or something.

At the top of Jonah’s lane, Dusty had to wait for Morgan’s fuel truck to pull out. The driver gave us a thumbs-up and we turned into his cloud of dust. The narrow road was a quarter mile downhill run into a little valley where Jonah’s stone farmhouse sat on the right just beyond a wooden bridge. The dirt track looped around an oval of crabgrass before heading back toward the main road.

When we got to the bridge, I saw that Jonah's banged-up F150 wasn’t in its usual place next to the house. At lunch, he had talked about an appointment. He was gone—to the dentist, maybe the bank—out on the road somewhere, squinting through lenses that looked like shot glasses in frames. Dusty parked next to the empty patch of dead grass.

We got out of my car and climbed three wooden steps to his back porch and I knocked on the door without any real hope that he was home. Unless Jonah came back within the next few minutes, I’d have to give it up for the day—go without money and a license until Monday. Christ.

Dusty checked his watch. “You know where your wallet is?”

“On the counter by the sink. I tossed it there when we sat down for lunch.”

“The door’s open,” Dusty said reaching around me and twisting the knob. “Go get it.”

I hesitated—unsure.

He placed the toe of his shoe at the base of the door and gave it a push. It swung open, and we looked down the narrow mudroom, a hallway where Jonah shucked off his boots before entering his kitchen. Technically, this was little more than a closed-in porch, so entering did not seem like trespassing. That feeling kicked in when we got to the door to the kitchen. I knocked.

“He’s not home,” Dusty said with some annoyance.

I poked my head into the kitchen. “Jonah?” I called. “Anyone home?” I caught Dusty rolling his eyes.

“I’ll get it for you . . . Christ,” he said, nudging me aside. With a few quick steps he was by the sink looking down at the counter, feeling his way around the shadows near the breadbox. “I can’t find it,” he complained.

It was my turn to roll my eyes, and joined him, looking down at the spot where my wallet should have been. Jonah must have found it.

A door closed somewhere above us.

Dusty’s eyes grew wide. “Somebody’s home.”

“Hey, Jonah,” I called and stepped into the den with two stuffed chairs angled at the fireplace.

A roar cascaded down the stairwell. “Who’s down there?”

It was not a question, but an accusation—God catching Adam and Eve mid-bite. The voice, tight with anger, was barely recognizable as Jonah’s. “Who’s down there?” he bellowed again, louder this time, with more ferocity.

We turned toward the stairwell with its sharply curved spiral of steps spilling into the den.

“Jonah, it’s us,” I called—and all hell broke loose.

A footfall, heavy and deliberate, clomped down the first step followed by a grunt and a gunshot, like a grenade at the top of the stairs. Plaster exploded from the wall at the bottom of the steps, and a thumping avalanche of noise came rumbling down the stairwell as if someone had pushed a refrigerator from the top landing. Jonah tumbled into the pale shaft of light from the front door, landing with his feet still on the stairs and his arms splayed out. His pistol landed next to him and spun once on its side before coming to a halt a few feet from his outstretched hand.

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