“So now that they are out of the way...“ Winston said while Taylor still stared hard at the floor. Taylor looked up and Winston was beamed, unaffected. “we can decide what we're really going to do about all this, right?“ Taylor felt a brief spark inside his chest, he wanted desperately to have Winston's irrepressible hope, but as he looked at the girls, it appeared to be Winston alone. Winston saw this himself as he looked around. His smile slid slowly off his face, until he was frowning. It was off-putting like watching a cat bark.
Izzy slowly shook her head at Winston, fixed her stare on the wall behind him. Myth was chewed her bottom lip. Possibly she was on the fence, torn, but there was no way to be sure, perhaps it was just her crush on Winston asserting itself. Lou was stone-faced as usual, her jaw twitching every couple of seconds like a cursor. Another slow drawn and painful minute passed in quiet, Winston's head swinging from face to face, frowning and incredulous, searching for a glimmer of hope.
Winston was about to plead further, attempt to wear the others down, when Taylor, almost overtaken by guilt, had a hot surge of anger. We're all supposed to be friends, and friends were loyal to one another, don't turn their backs when one made a mistake, when things get hard, isn't that how friendship is supposed to be? That's how it is on TV, in the movies, in Harry Potter. Taylor was sure that must mean something. His anger flooded over his guilt and he decided loyalty was more important.
“I agree with Winston.“ Taylor said. With seriousness, as though he had given it a lot of thought and it was the obvious conclusion.
He looked at Myth, imploringly, his eyes asking a silent question of her. Remember Tania? Remember how you felt when she made fun of you? Taylor didn't realize he had spoken aloud until Myth sat back, like she had just been slapped between the eyes. She blinked rapidly at Taylor, her face even more torn. But she said nothing. Izzy's head was tilted to the side in a manner so eerily reminiscent of Philomena and Phaedra Behrstable, that with her blond hair done different she might have been their sister. Lou's face had not changed at all, her stare was focused and unwavering, unnervingly so.
Myth spoke, suddenly. “I'm in.“ she said. Lou's facial control dropped for a second into surprise. Izzy's head whipped around to Myth. “
“The boys are right. We can't let this go. I'm in.“ Lou said.
Izzy looked like someone had just shot her dog. Her face dropped and, she spluttered, making little shocked sounds, grunts really.
Winston was now beaming. Lou's word carried more weight than his, Taylor and Myth's combined. They all knew she was patient, cautious and above all mindful of Sue-Ann and Isabel, women she worshiped from what Taylor knew of Lou. Everyone turned to look at Izzy now, who was still stunned with disbelief, mainly at Lou. She seemed on the verge of something, an explosion, a cry of anger or denial, but she wasn't given the chance.
“That's him!“ Lou growled. She pointed at the muted television behind where Sue-Ann and Isabel had been seated. A handsome, windblown man with a torn-up wounded face stood behind a microphone crowded podium in front of a large mansion, flanked by a silver-haired, very tall man, a short bespectacled man and another who could have been his twin, without the busted face. The man Lou indicated was just behind and to the right. Both wore identical expressions of slack-jawed blankness. Taylor tried to back away the minute he saw those slack-jawed faces, forgetting he was sitting down on a sofa and there was no where to back into. If he hadn't been so frightened he would have laughed when he noticed Winston doing the same thing. But looking at Lou, he was even more frightened. He had never seen her afraid and she was now, she shook softly.
Myth rubbed Lou's arm and Izzy murmured something soothing. It was only then Taylor noticed something off about Lou. She's wearing makeup! He had never seen her wearing makeup before and it was quite obvious now he had noticed. What's going on? Is Lou somehow connected with one of these men? Who are they? Taylor had hardly had the thought before Winston voiced it aloud.
“What's going on, Lou? You've seen those guys with the Mayor, before? That looks like the guy that killed the town car driver last night!“ Winston squawked. Heads swiveled towards him, Lou stopped shaking and was stone-faced anger again, if possible more intense than ever.
Izzy looked on the edge of saying something, but Lou tapped the other girl on the leg and spoke first. “I was attacked in the subway the other day. By one of those men, I can't tell which one. They look like twins. But it was definitely one of them. The blazer, the glasses, the funny way his jaw hangs down, it was him. One of them.“
Her voice caught a bit, but it was enough to daunt Taylor even more. Lou attacked? Lou was a consummate fighter, Taylor had heard she had KO'd boys older and larger than herself, but from the way she was acting this guy had beaten her. The makeup made sense. She's covering up bruises!
Taylor was annoyed and hurt, the realization Lou had kept this back from, if not from the girls, stung. He quickly realized how foolish that hurt was, after what he and Winston had done, what they themselves had kept back. I won't hold back from them again!
“So, wait...“ Myth said, “The Mayor's security guard? He KILLED the town car driver last night AND he beat up Lou?“ Her voice was incredulous. "No one beats Lou up! What is going on?“
Izzy trembled. She spoke, “This is bad. People are getting killed, attacked, chased! We're not talking about Denial-Of-Service attacks anymore, or hacked bank accounts, or people stealing corporate patents...“ Strangely Winston seemed on the verge of laughing. Maybe it was seeing Izzy lose her poise. People's lives are being ended! It could have been one of us, all of us! They attacked Lou, maybe he meant to kill her... and would have killed both of you if he could. It's not like people will leave us alone because we're teenagers.“ Taylor felt buoyed by her use of the word us it was a good sign, but at the same time the way she said, they was odd. Like she knew something and didn't want to reveal it. "And Isabel and Sue-Ann know what's best for us.“
She paused, “We'd be going against their express command.“
Strangely it was Lou who scoffed at Izzy. “And Isadore Chatham always does what she's commanded.“ Taylor had never heard Lou express scorn of Izzy. Whatever the depth of their friendship it was clear the comment cut Izzy to the bone. Izzy's eyes narrowed in anger but she regained her composure, leveled a coolly stern gaze at Lou. She tossed her hair over her shoulder, in overly feminine gesture. Lou's face was as unreadable as ever, but her jaw twitched.
Myth blurted out, “Stop you two!“
Lou gave a tiny shrug.
Izzy said, “You don't know half what you think you know!“ But she said it to everyone and no one. Her tone had an emptiness which said she was just lashing out, not that she knew something the others didn't. Quietly she said, “But I'm in.“
Winston's fist pumped into the air. “Yes!“ he shouted.