“No!” I yell when three armed police officers zone in on Dshawn and Aston, yelling at them to get up and hold their hands where they can see them. The street is filled with police cars now, officers jumping out and rushing to us.
“It’s not them!” I’m shrieking. “They were just protecting me!”
It’s useless. Dshawn and Aston aren’t even doing anything to defend themselves when they get tackled to the floor, pushed into the pavement and handled like they’re monsters. Dshawn gets pulled back up to his feet a minute later, his wrists cuffed behind his back.
“Don’t,” he tells me, his eyes hard and cold. Before he can say more, he’s smashed onto the hood of the police car, two officers holding him down even though he’s not trying to get away, not even moving, and cuffed so tightly his wrists must be hurting like hell.
“Fucking assholes!” Hollister yells, fighting the two officers who are trying to cuff him.
The crazy thing is that even in all the confusion and panic, it’s still easy to see that Hollister isn’t treated the way Aston and Dshawn are. Right now there are three man holding down Aston, who isn’t lifting a finger to try and get them off. Sure, he’s built like a fighter, but Hollister is buff as well and he doesn’t get his face smashed into the pavement.
“Get off of him!” I yell, rushing over to Aston. An arm goes around my middle and I get yanked back hard, unable to get to my friend. “He’s not doing anything! Just put him in the car!”
One of the officers looks up at me, his green eyes meeting mine for a moment. His expression softens and he gets up slightly, saying something to his colleagues who nod and pull Aston to his feet. Aston’s face is bloody now, way worse than it was before the police cars showed up. Fucking assholes. Where were they when we needed them? And why the fuck is Melchior still sitting on the ground, leaning against the wall without anyone trying to arrest him?
“Arrest him!” Franny is yelling, pointing at Melchior. “And we need an ambulance over here!” She’s still with Joshua, but I can’t rush over because a cop is still holding me like he’s afraid I will run and mess things up. “His breathing is constricted and I think his leg is broken.”
One of the officers who was holding Aston moves over to help Fran care for Joshua. I trash against the cop restraining me, begging him to let me go. To let me check on my friends. Instead, he pulls my hands behind my back and I feel the cold metal of the cuffs around my wrists.
“NO!” Caroline’s pained shriek is horrifying. “Don’t arrest him! He didn’t do anything wrong!”
I get pushed down, forced to sit on the pavement with my wrists still cuffed behind my back. Giving up my struggles, I just sit there, looking around to find my best friend on the other side of a police car, trying to get Nathan free from the cop that’s cuffing him. Tears are streaming down her face, but Nathan looks eerily calm. He’s not fighting and even holds his wrists behind his back without having to be told to do so. He gets into the back of a cop car on his own, not needing to be shoved and pushed. Dshawn is being hauled into a car as well, but he gets shoves and kicks while the cops push him onto the backseat, even though Dshawn is meeker than Nathan.
What the fuck is happening?
Finally, Melchior gets escorted into a car as well. No cuffs, though. Caroline, Franny and him are the only ones who don’t get cuffed. And Joshua of course, who is being hauled into the ambulance that just pulled up. A cop and a paramedic carefully put him on a gurney. He’s still unconscious, making me worry like fuck. He shouldn’t have been involved in this.
None of us should have.
The only ones who should be in the back of a police car right now are Melchior and Hollister.
And they are, but so am I. The cop who cuffed me helps me to my feet and helps me into his car, not handling me nearly as roughly as some of the others did to my friends. He even takes off my cuffs, allowing me to rub my sore wrists before he shuts the door and locks me in the backseat.
Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine an outcome like this when I headed into Animals with my friends. This is a nightmare.
“I want to see my friends,” I tell the officer behind the desk in the entrance hall for the millionth time. “It’s been hours. I need to see them.”
I’ve been released roughly six hours ago, just like Franny and Caroline, but we stuck around to find out what is going to happen to our men. Francesca is on the phone with the hospital she works at right now, trying to find out what is going on with Joshua. Caroline is in tears, huddled in on herself in the corner on a chair, sobbing uncontrollably. She sometimes manages to stop for about twenty minutes, but then she starts all over again.
I’m the calm one. I don’t know how that happened, but I am. I’ve been bothering the cop behind the reception desk for the full six hours, trying to get him to let me see my friends. Especially Dshawn. I’ve even called my father, asking him to get me a lawyer. I have no idea who is going to need one – not me, since I got out after three rounds of questioning – but some of the guys might. Dad showed up here an hour ago, leaving when it became obvious that the only thing he can do for us is to find the best damn lawyer there is. None of our men can go to jail for this.
I look up when Caroline rushes to the doors that Nathan steps through, looking worn. She throws herself at him, hugging him like she will never let him go. He manages to pull her off of him after kissing her softly. The cop next to him doesn’t stop them from embracing, he just waits until they’re done before he hands Nathan back his shoes, wallet, phone and keys. Nathan thanks the officer politely and puts on his shoes before heading over to where I’m standing, Caroline plastered to his side.
“I don’t seem to be a flight risk,” he says gruffly, his eyes so dark that they’re not even green anymore. He looks older than he ever has. “If this goes to court… with my criminal record…”
“Fuck!” I curse, kicking the desk where the cop gives me an angry look. I’ve been here so long that he doesn’t even bother telling me off anymore. He seems to have decided that I’m not a threat and that he’s not going to get me to leave anyway.
“You only tried to hold Hollister down,” Caroline reasons, no longer crying. “Surely they’re not going to put you away for that. It’d be stupid to even press charges.”
Nathan shakes his head and grunts. “Shaughna, do the others have records?”
“Yes,” I reply, feeling sick to my stomach. “Aston does. Assault.”
“Then I’m sorry to say this, but he’s fucked,” Nathan says, his fingers digging into Caroline’s side. “I overheard two officers talking and they said that they’re going to do whatever they need to do in order to take those two niggers down. Their words, not mine.”
“Fuck fuck fuck!” I kick the desk again, my earlier inner peace completely gone. I was afraid of this. The way Aston and Dshawn got arrested… This is not right.
I look up to see an officer standing to my right – it’s the one who arrested me.
“Yes?” I snap.
“We’re going to release Mr. Havemeyer in a few minutes. I think it would be wise if you and your friends go home before he gets out.”
“Like hell we are,” I hiss. “We’re not leaving until Aston Johnson and Dshawn Davis are no longer in a fucking cell!”
“Language,” Caroline whispers behind me, probably afraid that I’ll get my ass thrown in jail as well for disrespecting an officer of the law or something.
“They won’t be released for at least another 24 hours,” the officer tells me, his tone gentle. “Their lawyers are coming in soon. There’s nothing you can do for them. Go home, get a shower, their families will be informed the moment they get out.”
“Asia!” I realize, cursing myself. I called my own dad, but not a single atom in my body even considered ringing up Dshawn’s or Aston’s parents. Fucking hell, I’m a dumb bitch. “Okay,” I decide, taking a deep breath. “We’ll leave. Thank you.”
Caroline and Nathan follow me outside, where I realize that none of us have our cars. Luckily, Franny is waiting for us in her car. I didn’t even realize that she’d been gone for a long time already, apparently to get us some transportation. Stupid me thought she was on the phone for hours. Again, me… stupid bitch.
Fuck, I’m angry at myself.
“Where to?” Franny asks when we pile into her tiny car.
“Joshua?” I ask, needing some good news.
She turns to me with a slight smile. “A broken leg and two bruised ribs. Nothing that rest, painkillers and a cast won’t fix. He’s awake. I talked to him for a bit over the phone. He sounds okay. His parents are with him.”
“Good.” I inhale deeply and close my eyes for a moment. “Okay. Start driving. I’ll tell you where to go.”
“Shaughna?” Caroline asks from the backseat. “Where are we going?”
“Asia Davis,” I reply, knowing it’s the only place we can go right now. It’s morning already, so she’ll be awake. “Dshawn’s mother.”
“Oh fuck,” Nathan says from behind me. “Did anyone call Annabel?”
“Yes,” I reply, causing him to sag in relief. “I called her almost three hours ago. I didn’t think to do it sooner. I should have. I’m messing up left and right, I’m sorry. She should be here in a bit. I’ll text her the address.”
“You’re not messing up,” Francesca assures me. “If anyone has a reason to be sobbing on the floor right now, unable to move, it’s you. Yet here you are, still thinking straight. You called your father to get the guys decent lawyers, you thought of calling Annabel when no one is even sure what the hell she is to Aston, and now you’re choosing Aston and Dshawn over waiting for Melchior to get revenge. You’re a fucking hero, Shaughna.”
“Not a hero,” I argue, shutting Caroline’s protests up with an angry look over my shoulder. “I’ve been in panic mode for far too long now, letting that asshole dictate my life for years. No more. I’ll figure a way for all of us to get out of this if it’s the last thing I do.”
“If anyone can do it, it’s you,” Caroline assures me. “You’re not alone, Shaughna. We’re all in this together.”
“Yes,” Nathan agrees, even though he’s got plenty reasons to be upset with me. He’s got more to lose than any of us. He’s the one who’s already spent two whole years in jail. The one with a daughter to raise.
My phone buzzes and I pull it out of my bra where I stored it a while ago, since I lost my purse and wallet somewhere along the way. Of course it’s him.
If you think for even a second this is over, you’re wrong. I can hear his raspy voice saying the words in my ear even though we’re in the car without him anywhere near us. Telling Franny to turn left, I read the rest of the message. Your boyfriend and bodyguard are going to end up behind bars. Or did you forget that my uncle is the chief of police? And that my father donated the money for that police station you just left?
“Fuck,” I whisper to myself, “it’s even worse than I thought.”