Decree of Hope

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I headed to Kailee’s house determined to make Jackson admit to what he did so I could get Kailee back home. I couldn’t believe this jackass. I really thought he cared about her until I found his dog tag at that mosque.

I pulled up to the Hills’ house. Of course, he wasn’t here. Of course. What did I expect? What I decided to do next would guarantee that her dad would never like me, but being liked by my girlfriend’s dad was not as important as getting my girlfriend home. I climbed the fence to let myself in the back door, but it was locked. I took out my pocket knife and picked the lock. When I pushed the door open and stepped in, the alarm started beeping like it was going to go off soon. I punched the stupid thing open and pulled the wires from the wall.

I broke into Kailee’s house to find something that proved her brother burned the mosque and she was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Once again, I had no idea what I was looking for. And I doubted I would get lucky twice.

I sighed and walked up the stairs. Jackson’s room was as good a place to start as any. I really didn’t know what I hoped to find. Most people didn’t keep notes of how they committed a crime. The only thing I had going for me was that Jackson was usually drunk, and even sober he wasn’t that smart.

I opened the door to his room. It was a mess. His blankets hung off his bed. Clothes and bags of potato chips littered the floor. While I didn’t know what I needed to find, I didn’t want to find a rat. Kicking clothes aside, I made my way to his desk where a laptop sat. Please don’t be locked. No such luck. Windows wanted “WhitePDiddy’s” password. The racist thug impersonates a black rapper. People never ceased to amaze me. I clicked on the password hint. “Her.” I’d broke into this house and planned to steal something before I left, and I understood if I got caught my life would never be the same. But I took a minute to laugh, because “WhitePDiddy” walked around like a tough guy, but he was a lovesick punk. Since I met Kailee, I’d done a thousand things I swore a girl would never talk me into—like carrying a six-foot naked guy around. But my Windows hint was still not “Her.”

Under normal circumstances, it wouldn’t take me long to break a password. But I had no idea who “her” was. I looked around his room for a hint. Nothing. There wasn’t even a single picture of this girl that was so important to him. I pulled open the desk drawer and shuffled through it. Tons of half-eaten pens, but not much in the way of a clue.

A dinging noise echoed through the room. Oh shit! I’m busted. I gasped and looked around the room. Get it together, Abrahem. It came from the window. The window in front of his desk was open—obviously not too worried about someone breaking into a second floor window—and his cell phone sat on the window sill.

Jackpot! This redneck was not smart enough to lock his phone. I picked it up. The background was a bunch of jarheads standing around a tank. I turned the phone horizontal and hit the camera button. I clicked the gallery button and went through the pictures. Nothing helpful. But I stumbled on a picture of a girl’s legs from her knees down. Her shoes were too scuffed for it to be Kailee, and other than Kailee she was the only girl I’d found in the phone. This was my “her,” and it was a video.

“You gotta quit callin’ me all the time. It’s not gonna happen. You need to get over it.” Jackson was harsh. He must not have known the phone was recording. The sound was perfect, but the camera stayed on her legs.

“That’s not fair. You said—” She had a serious accent. I couldn’t place it though.

“I know what I said, but that was before I knew what you did. I’m sorry, but I can’t get past it.”

“Well, you’re going to have to. Because, Jackson, we have a—”

“We have what? I wasn’t lying when I told you I love you. I do. I will. You saved my life, and I’ll never love another woman. You know that. But I’m not going to get past what happened that night.”

“Jackson. Please, will you quit cutting me off long enough for me to get it out?”

“My sister’s in the car. I told her this would take ten minutes. She’s not going to keep waiting.”

The image of her legs moved for a minute, almost like her feet were rocking. “Oh Allah! Jackson, that’s smoke!” Fear shook her voice.

Jackson was in love with a Muslim girl, and I had no idea where she was from.

“Calm down,” he said.

“Oh Allah!” she screamed now. “We’ve got to get out of here!”

“Run!” The camera caught an image of Jackson’s sneaker. The only sound now was the whipping of wind. The screen went black. The video stopped.

I didn’t need the password for the laptop anymore. I had everything I needed right here. I would turn his phone in to the police. I wouldn’t leave Austin, unless Kailee was with me. But I wasn’t taking any chances with those jerks either. I popped the memory card out of my phone and put it in his. While I saved the video to my phone, Jackson got a text. “When will I see you again?” Rana.

For good measure, I stored her number on my memory card. Rana was the Muslim girl’s name. I’d known enough Ranas to know. As I popped the memory card out of his phone and back into mine, I noticed the time.

Shit. I should have already been at work. But I couldn’t go now. I had to get Kailee. I called the white kid I had covered for all semester and told him my sister was still missing. It was low, but I needed the time.

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