Decree of Hope

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I lay on Kailee’s couch as she paced back and forth in front of me. “He wouldn’t tell me anything. Nothing.” She threw up her hands. “He had a guard take him back to his cell. To the cell. He’d rather be locked up than tell me the truth.”

“You told me,” I said.

She sighed and threw herself down beside me. I wanted to reach out and touch her, but after yesterday I didn’t know if I was supposed to. “Why would he rather be locked up than tell me the truth? And he freaked out when I said that girl’s name. Totally freaked out. Started asking me what I knew about her and if she wanted money.”

I frowned. “Like hush money? Kailee, are you sure your brother didn’t do it?”

“Yes. We’ve got to find this girl.”

“Well, without a last name I have no idea how. Even with a last name, there are a lot of really common names.”

“She’s our only hope.”

I sighed. “Go get me Jackson’s laptop.”


“To see what we can find about his mystery girl.”

“You think he would have kept something about her on his laptop? Like what?”

“I think her name is his email password.”

“How do you know?”

“Because it’s his computer password.”

She glared at me. “Something else you found out when you stole his phone.”

“And got his sister out of jail.”

“Jerk.” But she brought me the laptop.

Our fingers touched as she passed it to me, and it was torture. I wanted to take her in my arms and kiss her, but I couldn’t count the number of times she’d broken up with me in the last week. And she was so worried about finding this girl it made me nervous. “Kailee, your dad doesn’t think he can get Jackson off without Rana, does he?”

She sighed. “He was discharged from the military early. He says he was medically discharged for the PTSD, but Dad thinks he was dishonorably discharged for violence. He requested the paperwork, but we don’t know yet. Jackson’s never been a real straight and arrow kind of guy, and the evidence is pretty damning so… ”

So Rana was our last chance, because if Jackson didn’t get out of jail, Kailee was going to blame me for this for the rest of our lives.

I powered up the laptop and typed Rana’s name in. The laptop came to life and a girl stared at us from the screen. She wore a salwar with the shawl pulled over her head and a tiny ring in her nose.

Kailee pointed to the screen. “That’s her! That’s the girl!”

Way to state the obvious. “Yeah, it’s Rana.”

“No! Well, maybe, but the Mid-Eastern girl that was here the day the cops dropped by but missed me. That’s her!”

“Kailee, she’s not Mid-Eastern.”

“She’s not?”


“She looks Mid-Eastern.”

I laughed. “Only to a white person.”

“So what is she?”

“A girl.”

Kailee laughed. “I’m sorry. What nationality is she?”

I shook my head. “I don’t know. I think she’s Pakistani, but I guess there are Muslims in India.”

I hacked his email. I planned to search through his contacts and find her name, but I didn’t have to. I typed the letters “ra” into the “to” line of an email and her name popped up. I hit enter and stared typing.


You’re right. We need to talk. I’m sorry. Can you come to my house, soon?

I love you,


I felt like a jerk for playing with this girl’s emotions. She was obviously not over Jackson, but I had to do something to get her here, because I had no idea how else to find her. And my girl was not going to speak to me if I didn’t get her brother out of jail.

The computer dinged before I could shut it.

Don’t tell me you love me. We ran away from a fire and you didn’t even bother to ask if I was okay. But we do need to talk. Can’t you come here? I’ll have to borrow a car.

“How are we going to do this?” Kailee asked.

“We’re going to get her here and refuse to let her leave until she talks.”

“She ran off the last time she saw me.”

“Tell her she can come in and go to Jackson’s room. Then lock the door and we’ll corner her.”

I broke my leg. I can’t drive right now. I’m sorry. I’ll pay for the gas. Can you come before six? I have to work tonight.

Kailee looked at me.

“I don’t know who this girl is, but she’s involved in something she shouldn’t be. I do have to work tonight, and I want her gone before I leave.”

Kailee smiled. “You have to protect me from a skinny girl now?”

I nodded. “She plays with soldiers and survived a war zone. She’s meaner than she looks. You’re not.”

Her smile didn’t fade, and the look in her eyes made me think we would be okay. Eventually.

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