Murder By Design

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Chapter 13

As soon as both Agent and Mrs. Leone - she refused to call her by her first name any longer, after the betrayal that her husband had caused - had left the room, River started to search the room for anything to help her escape. It was bad enough to come here and admit that she needed help when she had thought that he had just… she didn’t even know what she had thought. But now that she knew the truth - that he had just forgotten about her?

There was no way she was hanging around any longer.

Luckily, escaping from here was already looking like it was going to be ten times easier than her escape from her last foster house had been. All it took was a quick glance out the window and she had her plan.

Carefully, making sure that she made as little noise as possible, River pulled the window up. Once it was up as far as it could go, she undid the latches on the screen, carefully popping it out of place and resting it against the outside of the house. She ducked back into the room for a moment to grab the rest of the clothing that Scarlett - Mrs. Leone - had brought for her to try on and shoved it in her bag, before slinging that over her shoulder and climbing out of the window. Once she was safely on the rooftop, she slid the window back down, before carefully popping the screen back into place. She wouldn’t be able to re-latch it, but oh well.

Once she had taken care of that part, she climbed up onto the highest part of the roof to assess her options in how to get down. The awning that she had originally been on wouldn’t be the best choice - it was on the second floor, and had a sidewalk right beneath it. A drop from even half that height could quite possibly end with her fracturing her legs, even with her enhanced strength.

“Try the back of the house.” A voice suggested.

River nearly lost her balance in surprise, but managed to steady herself after a couple of seconds. “Who said that?” she asked, then repeated the question, louder, when she got no answer the first time.

“I did.” came the voice again. “Down here.”

River looked over to where the voice was coming from, and saw a boy standing in the driveway with a basketball. He was on the shorter side for a guy - around five foot five - and looked to be only a few years older than she was.

“What are you waiting for?” the guy asked. “Go on, the back of the house is the easiest way down, trust me on this.”

“Why are you helping me?” River asked suspiciously.

The guy just laughed. “Because you don’t look all that fond of heights.” he told her.

He was right, though, she had to admit. She had always hated heights, ever since she was a little kid. It was something that He had tried to train out of her, to no avail. So she did as she was told, for the first time in a long time.

After she had taken that piece of advice, it only took River another minute before she was back on solid ground.

“See, I told you it would work.” said the voice. “I’m Daniel, by the way. Who’re you?”

River turned around to get a better look at her ‘savior’. He was several years older than her, and taller than her original estimate had marked him - probably closer to 5’10 than 5’5. With close-cropped dark brown hair and sweat-stained workout clothes, he looked like the poster ad for the ‘All-American kid’.

“River.” was all that she would say in response to his question.

“Ok then. So, River, do you mind telling me why you were trying to escape my house by using the roof?” he asked her.

River crossed her arms defensively. “Because your dad is a lying, manipulative bastard.” she said sharply.

That got Daniel mad. “Hey! I don’t know what the hell my dad could’ve possibly done to you, but there is no way that he did… whatever it is that you think he did!” he finished lamely.

“Oh really?” she countered. “So he didn’t abandon me to the foster care system? He didn’t promise me that he would always be there if I needed him, and then not follow through?”

He looked sheepish as he rubbed at the back of his neck. “Well… okay, maybe he did. But I’m sure that there was a reason for it.”

River snorted as she started to head down the driveway. “Yeah, sure there was. Look, while your blind faith in the man is touching, why don’t you just keep it to yourself, alright?”

She was just about to turn onto the sidewalk when Daniel Leone spoke again.

“It’s not blind faith.”

She turned around, confused. “Sorry, what was that?”

“I said, it’s not blind faith.” This time his words were just a bit stronger.

“Oh really? Prove it.” she challenged.

Daniel Leone raised his chin, staring her down for a moment before giving in.

“The Leones adopted me when I was four.” he admitted. “They took me out of hell and showed me how to live again, made it so I didn’t feel like I had to be looking over my shoulder constantly. And everytime I was overwhelmed by the world, or was about to break down, they were there.”

“I’m calling bullshit.” River said.

Daniel actually looked hurt. “What? Why?”

“Because, if that really happened to you, why in the hell would you be telling a complete and utter stranger your life story?” She told him. “I mean, I’ve seen some dog-awful shit in my life, more than you’d ever believe. And there’s no way in hell that I’d share most of those stories with anyone. So why would you share yours with me?”

Daniel Leone actually smiled at that. “Because,” he said. “If there’s one thing that I’ve learned in my life, it’s how to read people. And if I had to wager a guess, I’d say that what I just told you about my past is what is going to make you want to stay here.”

And when River Johnson actually took a moment to think about it, she realized something.

He was right.

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