The Startling Crimes in Hollyoaks, New York

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Chapter 2: Brooke and Caleb's Playlist

Brooke always loved working at a record shop. It reminded her of that movie she and her mother used to watch when she was a little girl. It's about this man who empowered a boring town with music and ecstasy. Now that she is standing behind the cash register, Brooke wondered if it was Footloose or Grease.

Just then, her boss John Abel interrupted her train of thoughts by setting down the stack of old 50s vinyl records. He tells Brooke to put the price stickers on the back of the album covers. Nodding silently, Brooke takes the price sticker gun and began to work.

The room has a lot of space for people to roam around. It smelled like fresh citrus and ancient glue, which made Brooke sneeze a little. She, John, and other employees arranged the vinyl records based on the decade they originated from.

From Bessie Smith's collection of songs to Notorious B.I.G. Brooke ran her fingers along the shelves containing timeless records. Her dreadlocks touch her shoulders. She wears a locket, a white long-sleeved, buttoned-up top, skinny jeans, and ballet flats.

She had on black eyeliner, small concealer, and strawberry lip gloss, which captivated the attention of a juvenile delinquent named Caleb Wolfe.

He has light pecan skin, acne, and freckles on his nose. Today, Caleb sports a backward Yankees cap, a black bomber jacket, an old Wu-Tang tee, baggy jeans, and brown, heavy Timberlands.

Caleb originally came to Josh's Vinyl City to buy hip hop records and cassettes. But since Brooke started working there, Caleb comes to the shop every day so he can muster the courage to ask her out.

He liked listening to Brooke's nurturing voice; how her eyes stare off into the windows like she is daydreaming. And when the light hits her, Brooke looked like an angel.

After handing the customers plastic bags full of records, Josh whispers something in her ear: "The kid is back again."

Not surprised, Brooke glances to her right to see a young Latino boy browsing through the hip-hop section then flickers her attention to Josh.

"He has a name, you know," she tells him in a stern voice. "Caleb Wolfe."

Josh nearly drops his coffee mug at the sound of that name. Brooke has heard terrifying stories from Vinny and the other mobster kids about this strange boy.

Opposite to the young clairvoyant, the boy is an ordinary telepath. So he not only browses through people's minds, but Caleb can also manipulate those around him.

Nevertheless, Caleb is a relaxed kid. He gets along well with his community and doesn't encourage children to follow in his footsteps.

"Is he your boyfriend or something?" her old employer asks.

"God, no." Brooke flinched. "I already have one."

Technically, she hated Vincent. Brooke didn't like the fact that he constantly uses her to do things she would stay away from. He is also an arrogant piece of shit — just like his old man. But the reason Brooke is pretending to date Vinny because he had murdered her best friend when she was younger.

And she's been planning his death ever since.

"Maybe Caleb likes music," Brooke suggests with a mere shrug. "And besides, he hasn't robbed the place."

"I doubt that," Josh spat. "Anyway, you deal with him."

Brooke dropped her jaw. "Why me?"

"Because I don't want to be in the same room with this kid, okay?"

"Are you serious?" Brooke stops stacking the 70s records on the glass countertop, then flashes her employer a frightened stare.

"You want me to talk to Caleb?" she asked.

"Yes." Josh pleaded. "In the meantime, I am going to my office and do some paperwork."

Brooke knew he was lying; Josh frequently used that excuse to get away from customers he loathes. That doesn't amaze the girl, though; he has always been the type who would rather save his ass than help a friend in need.

There were times when Brooke badly wished that her insensitive boss gets hit by a truck. It left a horrible feeling in her gut, but working with Josh Abel is like hanging around with an obnoxious girl in her class.

Brooke wondered if Veronica Sawyer had ever felt that way around her arch enemy and best friend Heather Chandler.

It would be nice to see something horrible happening to her employer, but she needed this job to pay the bills. As the boy awkwardly walks up to Brooke, she greets him without looking in his direction.

"Uh, hi." he welcomes awkwardly.

Brooke nods.

"Is there anything you would like to buy?" she asks. "We have got Prince, Bad Brains, The Stooges, Run D.M.C., and other greatest hits."

"What about N.W.A ?" he suggested.

Brooke furrowed her eyebrows as if he asked her a troublesome mathematical term. The shoppers were entertained by Bob Dylan and Tupac Shakur.

"I never heard of that band," she asks. "What do the initials stand for?"

"Newbies With Attitudes," Caleb answers with a smile "They are a rap group with Ice Cube, Easy E, and Dr. Dre in it."

"Oh." Brooke points her finger in the south direction. "It's right down the hall, but if you need any help, please let me know."

However, Caleb shakes his head slowly.

"I know where N.W.A. is," the boy responds quietly. "I am just curious if you ever listen to their music."

A puzzled Brooke tilts her head to the side. "Is it because I'm black?"

Caleb's face matches the shade of Brooke's lip gloss. He struggled to get Brooke to like him that Caleb unintentionally belittled her with a racial stereotype.

"What? No!" he blurted. "I just think you have great taste in music, that's all!"

She gave him a strange look. "Not every black person loves rap and hip-hop. That's like saying every white person in America loves soccer."

Caleb laughs a little. "White people don't give a fuck about soccer."

"Exactly." Brooke nods. "So, what type of records are you buying for your collection?"

"You know, that Soul Train shit you listen to."

Brooke couldn't help but lift her left eyebrow at his unusual statement. "That Soul Train shit?"

Caleb slyly bows his head and scratches the swelling acne on his chin. "Yeah, you would sing those songs at that crappy karaoke bar sometimes."

Dumbfounded, the girl's attentive gaze slowly slithers away from the register and onto the juvenile's face. "The karaoke bar?"

"Yeah," Caleb smirked. "I can't remember the name, though. Anyway, my friend Enrique and I would see you in the snack bar, hanging out with that asshole Vincent Maroni. How is he, by the way?"

"He has seen better days."

During the weekends, Vinny had Brooke call a couple of her girlfriends so they can grab some beers, laugh, and sing at the local karaoke bar. Caleb frequently goes there with his best friend Enrique to hit the arcade and score tickets to win prizes.

Suddenly, when Brooke came on stage, Caleb observed her from the pinball machine. She had long hair, a pastel orange tube top, soft bell-bottom jeans, lovely rings, and brown heels.

Swaying her hips to the side, Brooke shut her eyes and produced a strong, soulful voice, which made every boy in the room stop what they were doing and listen. But whenever she is finished singing, Brooke quickly gets off stage, then disappears like a ghost. Since that night, it has taken Caleb four days to find the song Brooke was singing in the bar.

"You are a great singer." Caleb praised. "But you tend to close your eyes a lot."

Brooke sighed, "I close my eyes because I have stage fright."

"Oh." he gnawed on his bottom lip. "I see."

"So anyway, I listen to hip-hop," she admits, changing the subject. "Like, RUN D.M.C.—"

"RUN D.M.C.?" Caleb scoffed a laugh. "Their shit is overrated!"

Brooke rolls her eyes. "Gee, I never took you as a music critic."

Caleb grins shyly. "Maybe you don't know me very well."

That's when Brooke's face begins to change.

Is this guy flirting with me? she thought. Or is he being friendly?

"So, is your boss doing okay?" asked Caleb.

"Probably," she sighed. "I don't know."

"Are you sure?" Caleb frowned. "Because every time I come here, your boss always disappears."

Brooke did a sigh. Dissimilar to most of her co-workers, she was honest. "Well, that's because you are a criminal."

"What?" Caleb sputters a laugh. He looks at the room once more, catching a glimpse of the blinds covering the windows. "Is that why your boss is playing chicken?"

"I am sorry, but it's the truth. He always goes to his room and pretends he's doing shit, so he can avoid people like you."

"Oh." Caleb slumped his shoulders up and down as if it didn't bother him. "I guess he has a point. So, what kind of girl are you?"

Brooke stops counting the cash from the register. "I'm a nobody."

The boy seems truly invested in her response.

He presses his arms against the countertop, leaning towards the distracted girl. "How come?"

Brooke stuffs the cash inside the registry and slams it shut. "Because in my world, no one gives a damn about you when you're dead."

Just then, a loud ring came from the landline phone behind Brooke. She answers it as if she has been expecting the call for a long time.

"What now?" she asked in a bored manner.

"I need you to do something for me," Vinny instructed.

A puzzled Caleb scrunched his face when the girl turns her back towards him. Then all of a sudden, a black limousine pulled up near the shop. An insufficient number of customers abandoned their purchases and approached the window, questioning who the owner was.

But Caleb knew it belonged to Vincent. No one in his neighborhood could afford a car like that.

"Why?" Brooke scoffed. "Are you still using me to do your stupid shit? Besides, I am working right now—"

"Then make an excuse and get the fuck out of there." After that, Vinny hangs up the phone, leaving Brooke visibly upset.

A bewildered Caleb attempts to ask her what was wrong when Brooke hoists her green backpack over her shoulders.

"Tell Mr. Abel I am taking a lunch break," she instructs a bored female employee, who is holding a Blondie album in her hands.

"Hey, where are you going?" an inquisitive Caleb asked, abandoning the countertop.

Brooke barely glances in his way. "Look, help yourself with any of the records as long as you don't steal them."

Caleb deciphers her problematic thoughts and discovered that the girl is withholding something dangerous. But the only problem is he doesn't know what she is hiding.

"Is everything okay?" he whispered.

"Yes."

"Who was that on the phone?"

The young girl storms near the door then put her hair up in a disheveled, knotted bun.

"My idiot boyfriend, okay?" she groaned.

Caleb's heart fractured even more as Brooke pushed the doors out of her way and stormed towards the shiny black limousine, where Vinny sat in the back waiting for her.

"What the fuck took you so long?" Vincent demanded. "I told you that we need to go right now."

"I am here, aren't I?" Brooke screamed. "And besides, what the fuck is the issue?"

Vincent tries to grab her by the wrist, but an irritated Brooke viciously yanks it away.

"Tell me what the problem is," Brooke growled. "Or I will walk back inside that fucking store."

Vinny clenched his hands into angry fists. He desired to punch her in the face, Brooke's cool demeanor astonished him.

"If you want to hit me, do it." she snarls. "I'm a damn good actress."

"Alright," Vinny growled. "I'll tell you on the way, but don't tell anyone."

"Like who?" Brooke snorts, hopping in the empty seat next to him. "The police?"

"Good one."

Minutes after Brooke shuts the door, the limo took off, leaving a bewildered Caleb in the dust. Stop thinking about the girl, Caleb told himself. He should be focusing on the drug deal occurring in Hollyoaks Avenue.

His buddies have been paging him for weeks, informing him about a meet that should have begun less than a minute. Caleb just hopes that everything will turn out smoothly.

After leaving the record shop, the boy was picked up by his friend Jordan. His black hair is in a square-shaped Afro. He slipped into a red-letter jacket, a white T-shirt uncovering his beer gut, thick jeans, and used sneakers.

"First things first," he began. "Hand over the suitcase to Sermon Sal, snatch the case full of cash, shake hands, and leave."

"Cool." Caleb nods. "That sounds like a great idea. And what if reverend batshit disobeys one of the Ten Commandments?"

Jordan grips his heavy shotgun in his right hand. An arrogant smile smeared his lopsided face. Ever since they were foster kids, Jordan always reassured Caleb that everything is going to be okay. No matter how risky the situation is.

But the second Jordan steered into the abandoned church, a symphony of cocked revolvers paralyzed them in their seats.

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