Decree of Hope

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Kill your brother unless he tells me what he knows. “Don’t worry about it. They said I can’t come see you again until Wednesday. If you’re not home by then, I’ll be back.”

She sighed. “I really don’t think I’ll be out by then.”

I think you will. “Then I’ll be here. I’ll see you either way.”


I stood to leave.


I looked at the girl behind the glass. I would get her home today if it killed me.

“Don’t do anything stupid. Be careful.”

More than words, I heard what was laced in her voice: “I love you, but I’m still too mad to say it.” That was fine. We could talk about it once she was home, when she was safe.

I used my smartphone to Google mosque burnings in Austin, and that was how I found my destination. I clicked the maps and followed the navi to what was left of a mosque. Remnants of a building stood in one place, and in front of it laid a pile of charred boards and stone. I exhaled and smiled. It had been so long since she first mentioned the police calling her I thought for sure they would have started rebuilding by now. But I got lucky. I parked on the curb and walked up to the rubble. I had no idea what I was looking for. Anything the police might have missed. Something to offer a clue of who did this. I didn’t think Jackson burnt the mosque, but I did think he knew something. And I needed something concrete to approach him with, so he couldn’t lie to me. Because I wouldn’t let Kailee rot in jail.

The pile of stone and charred board was daunting. I didn’t know where to begin. I leaned down and started moving ash and boards around. The pile was massive and not knowing what I was looking for didn’t help. I pushed things around and threw things to the side for almost an hour, but so far all I had found was ash, charred board, and smoked stone. I had to get to work soon. I had called in for three days now. I gave up and stomped past the structural fragment still standing. I was so frustrated I kicked the ground like I would a soccer ball. It threw up a chunk of dirt and ash, but something glimmered in the sun before it hit the ground. It landed in the grass with a bit of a sound, more than dirt alone would make. I hunted the ground for the spot my mystery object fell and caught a glimpse of the same glimmering under some ash. Two steps later, I spotted a silver shimmer and knelt to the ground. Brushing the dirt and ash away with my hand, I spotted a silver rectangle on a chain. I found a leaf on the ground to pick it up with. There was something engraved on the other side. I flipped it over. My girl’s name stared up at me, but amateur fashion bloggers didn’t wear dog tags. Jarheads did.

I clenched my teeth together so hard it felt like I would lose one. I wanted to beat the shit out of that jackass. I thought he knew more than he let on, but I never guessed he would let his little sister take the fall for him. For his crime. A guy letting his little sister take the fall for him would piss me off on its own. But I happened to love the girl sitting in jail for him, and that made it a million times worse.

I took the phone out of my pocket, searched for the Austin Police Department’s phone and pressed call. The dispatcher said she would send someone out.

Five minutes later, a cop car showed up, and an old guy and an Arabic kid got out of the car.

“McGarrett,” the old guy said, offering his hand.

I shook it.

“What’s the problem here?” he asked.

“You arrested the wrong person.”

“What makes you think that?”

I shrugged. “The girl in jail wouldn’t be caught dead wearing this.” I dangled the dog tag in my hand.

“It’s her name.”

“It’s her brother’s name. She’d never wear a silver tag used only for dogs and grunts. It would clash with her clothes. She’s a fashion blogger.”

“You know a lot about her.” The young guy moved forward.

“I do.”

The old guy sighed. “Her brother’s dog tags don’t prove she’s innocent. If anything it convinces me she was here.”

I shook my head. “It means her brother was here.”

They exchanged a look; then the Arabic guy shook his head. “I don’t care what McGarrett says. Whether it was her brother or not, she was here. A witness put her running away from the mosque while smoke filled the air, and she plated the car. Why are you kissing this white girl’s ass? Don’t you have any pride?”

“Hey, jerk, I’m not Muslim. My only concern with who burned down your little temple—”


“Whatever—is that it wasn’t my girlfriend, and I’d like you to do your job and find who did do it so my girl is home in time to blog the summer trends. And I don’t know if you’ve ever been to the part of the world your people come from, but when you’re not Muslim they can be a pain in the ass to live with. So while it annoys the hell out of me that I have to say twenty times a day ‘I’m not Muslim,’ and I’ve known many, many good Muslims who I would fight for, my sympathies for the hell you face here are pretty limited. I’m more annoyed I’m guilty by association, even though Christians were there first.”

The guy’s mouth dropped. “Screw it. McGarret, you’re on your own.” He stomped back to the car.

I looked at the old guy and smiled. “That went well. Did you ever even talk to her brother?”

He shook his head. “No, and the witness said someone pulled up and let her in the getaway car.”

“It wasn’t a ‘getaway’ car. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He told her he needed the car.

“If she was driving, how did he pick her up?”

“I don’t know. I wasn’t here.”

“We’ll check into it.”

Why am I not confident in that?

He held out his hand again. “Son, I need that. We’ll have to tag it as evidence.”

Without thinking, I handed him the dog tag. Abe, you’re stupid as hell. That’s the only way to help Kailee. I grabbed my phone and snapped a picture of this sixty-year-old cop standing in front of me holding Jackson’s dog tag.

“What was that about?”

“Call me crazy, but I don’t exactly trust American authority.”

He glared at me.

I shrugged. “Hey, I ended up here after a bunch of guys in cammis showed up in tanks. One killed my dad then aimed at my little sister and accidentally took down another white guy in the process. Can you really blame me for not trusting the cops here?”

He cocked his head to the side like he was considering it.

“Google it. You can watch his confession on YouTube. Actually don’t. I don’t recommend it.” I walked to my car.

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