Boosted (In The Fast Lane) (4 page)

 

FIVE

Back to Work

 

Brody woke up in a slight panic. How long had he been out?
He looked around the room for a clock but there didn’t seem to be one in view
from the bed. Hannah stirred next to him.

“What’s the matter?” She said sleepily.

“What time is it?”

Hannah reached for her phone on the table next to the bed.
“It’s almost one.”

“Shit,” Brody got out of bed and searched for his clothes.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” he said. “I just had a bunch of stuff to do
today.” Brody dressed quickly. “Sorry to leave like this. But I really do have
to go.”

“It’s okay. I’ve been putting off work a little myself.”

Brody finished dressing and came back to the bed. He leaned
forward and gave her a long, deep kiss. “I want to see you again. Soon.”

Hannah nodded to him. Brody gave her one more kiss and then
headed out the door.

Brody picked up a coffee on the way back to his car. The
caffeine withdrawal was finally starting to hit him. The day was already half
gone and he hadn’t done shit yet.

If what Sergei had said was true, this project would take
him every minute of his available time to pull off. Brody just hoped that
losing half this day wouldn’t come back to bite him in the ass on the back end.

When Brody got back to his car he headed straight for the
address that Sergei had given him. It was a big place out in The Canyons, set
off behind a gate. The house had all the hallmarks of a paranoid criminal
living beyond his means: first rate security, second rate landscaping, and a
couple hired thugs hanging out near the gate.

Was this guy really important enough to need guys protecting
his gate? They weren’t doing much besides smoking and lounging around right
now, but they were surely armed. Well, stealing it from his garage was out of
the question. He’d always known it wouldn’t be that easy though.

Brody continued driving away from the spot. He probably
could have parked right across the street without the so-called guards
noticing, but he didn’t want to wind up all over the security cameras.

Around the bend there was a nice nook where he could park
while avoiding any notice or raising suspicion. He got out of his car and
walked back toward the elbow of the road. There he found a nice hiding spot
among the leafy bushes along the side of the road. Now to wait to see if the
target would make a move.

The hours passed by as he sat in the shady spot. It was a
pleasant enough day, thankfully. Could have been a lot worse. As he waited, his
mind began to wander. He started to think about Hannah.

He drew a picture in his head of who she was, where she had
come from, where she wanted to go. He imagined them together. Not in a sexual
way--well, maybe a little sex was involved--but more as a couple. He thought
about what it would be like to spend time together during a quiet night at
home, where they would eat dinner together, what movie they would pick to watch
from the comfort of his couch.

But it wasn’t all positive thinking. There would be
consequences if they started to see each other. He’d been only semi-honest with
her before. He wasn’t a drug dealer. Never even touched the stuff. But was the
reality really that much better? He was a thief. Plain and simple. No amount of
rationalizing could get around that fact.

There’s no way a sweet girl like that with a good head on
her shoulders and clear path to future success would ever accept his way of
life. And she was too smart to keep in the dark. She would find out eventually.
It was inevitable.

He eventually tilted back in the other direction. Why worry
about the destination as long as the ride was worth it? And he truly believed
that it would be a hell of a ride. It went beyond the fact that she was the
most gorgeous woman he’d ever laid eyes on (and she most definitely was). It
also went beyond the fact that she was smart and easy to talk to. She had some
other indefinable quality about her.

Something ethereal that attracted him toward her. Even now
he was amazed that he was still thinking about her. He’d never been this hung
up on a girl before, especially after one day. He didn’t know how he was
supposed to handle it, how to get her off his mind.

That problem was eventually solved for him when he saw the
gates to the mansion open. Brody snapped to attention. A pair of cars exited,
neither of them of any interest to him. Then the nose of a third car poked out
of the gate.

Just a glimpse of the signature front grill and round
headlights and Brody knew that this was the target. The car pulled out fully
and now there was no doubt about it. Brody ran back to his Impala, started the
engine, and began his pursuit.

He tailed the BMW from a safe distance down the winding
canyon roads. From this distance he couldn’t tell how many people were in the
car. He doubted it could be more than two, unless this was the type of guy who
would cram his bodyguards into the narrow backseat of the two door coupe de
ville. The other cars had gone their separate ways, leaving only the target.

So this guy, who had so much security for his home, was now
driving in an old car without an escort and a maximum of one bodyguard to back
him up (and quite possibly no one at all). There was something about it that
didn’t add up. Brody couldn’t dwell on that for the time being. They were
approaching a series of tight turns and the car could disappear from sight at
any moment.

Brody deftly maneuvered the Impala through tight turns and blind
spots, always able to maintain a glimpse of the BMW just when it seemed like it
would disappear into the maze of streets. He didn’t think the target was being
purposely evasive, but he had to be careful.

If he was spotted now the whole game could be up before it
had really begun. Brody didn’t want to think about how Sergei would react if
that was the case. Better to err on the side of caution for the time being.

Where the hell was this guy going anyway?

The BMW finally slowed down and pulled off the road. Brody
was too far away to see exactly where it had gone. He slowed down. The plan was
to do a slow drive by, hook around the block, and find a place to keep a lookout.
But the plan didn’t last long. It’s always important to be able to call an
audible when circumstances change.

As Brody rolled slowly down the street he saw just how much
the circumstances had changed. The BMW had pulled into a car wash. A fucking
car wash. The car was on the conveyor track and the driver was heading inside.

Come to think of it, the Impala was getting a little dusty
too. Brody pulled his car onto the track behind the BMW. He got his ticket from
an attendant and went inside. He headed straight for the register, where the
driver was just finishing his transaction. So far Brody hadn’t seemed to have
aroused any suspicion.

The fee came to thirty dollars. Jesus Christ. Thirty bucks
for a five minute spray with a hose. This fucking town, man.

The driver had gone outside to meet his prized automobile on
the other end. Brody lingered for a moment inside before following his quarry.
The BMW was just emerging from the tunnel. It glistened in the bright
California sun. When it came to the end of the conveyor track a wave of
towel-bearing attendants pounced on it, drying it by hand quickly but
carefully.

The driver looked on like a proud father. It was the first
time that Brody got a really good look at him. He was an older man who looked
to be in his late forties but had  to have actually been on this earth a decade
more than that. His thinning hair was pulled back in a ponytail. A thick,
well-trimmed beard covered the olive skin of his face. He wore silk shirt
unbuttoned to the middle of his chest and several thin chains of white gold. A
pair of gold plated sunglasses covered his eyes.

When the attendants had finished, Brody saw the owner palm a
hundred dollar bill to one of them. “See you next week,” he said, before
getting in his car and taking off.

Brody, not wanting to risk being made by hurrying after him
with a wet car, decided that he had done enough for one day. It was getting
late and he hadn’t eaten all day. Might as well pack it in and get to bed
early. He’d pick up the trail again tomorrow.

 

SIX

A Chance Encounter

 

Despite having other things on her mind, Hannah was able to
spend the rest of the weekend studying and getting her errands done. She didn’t
hear from Brody in that time. Then again, she also had not tried to contact him
either. It was probably for the best, at least for the moment.

Had he been around she wouldn’t have gotten anything done.
Not only would her studies have been neglected, but she was sure that she would
forget to clean or go to the grocery store if he was around to have sex with
her like they had the other day.

She of course began to wonder if he felt the same way. It
was certainly possible that he had just used her for sex in stereotypical male
fashion. It was possible that the whole thing had been an act. He could have
used the “I’ll be there in forty-five” minutes line with any number of girls in
the past. But as hard as she tried to be pessimistic, it just never stuck. She
had looked into his eyes. And the eyes never lie.

She met her friends for a Sunday night dinner. She knew that
it was probably a bad idea, but she would have to face them eventually. Might
as well get it over with. Perhaps they would even defy the odds and give her
some good advice on the matter instead of condemning her.

Besides, it had been too long since she’d had good Korean
food. No matter how annoying her friends were there’s no way they could ruin a
bowlful of kimchi and a plate of savory bulgogi.

Her friends, however, never ceased to amaze.

They pecked at her with constant questions.

“So who was that guy?” Julia asked.

“What’s his name?” Marissa chimed in.

“What does he do?” Kelly inquired.

“How big is he?” Julia asked, with a sly grin.

“So when are you guys getting married?” Marissa asked,
taking a sip of her pinot grigio.

The questions went on and on. They started in a playful way
but eventually became more invasive and even malicious.

“Why would you go home with a strange guy without telling
us?” Kelly accused. “Were you trying to get yourself raped? Or killed?”

“How do you know this guy’s not just some weirdo?” Julia cut
her off, before Hannah had to chance to answer.

Hannah endured their barbs. She assumed by their tone that
they had all gone home alone that night despite the attention lavished upon
them by many of the subpar beta-males at the club. It was also clear that they
had spent the remainder of the weekend talking about her amongst themselves.

The jealousy oozed out of them. It was incredibly unbecoming
and by far the worst she had ever seen them act toward her. They expected her
to be their boring plaything, the one they could criticize for not being any
fun when they themselves made irresponsible decisions. But now that she had
made a rash choice of her own they could not let her live it down. By outdoing
them she had proven how trivial they really were.

“You really think he’s going to call you again?” Marissa
questioned.

"Yes, and he already has called me since as a matter of
fact." Hannah said defensively.

“I saw his tattoos. They look like prison tattoos,"
declared Kelly, "do you think he’s been to jail?”

“Do you think he even lives here?” Julia added.

Their cruelty was incredible. Still, Hannah tried her best
not to let it bother her. This wasn’t her normal mode. Part of the reason that
her friends kept harping on her is because they were used to getting a reaction
out of her. Today, however, she was feeling secure.

She didn’t care what they thought of her new fling. They
could run their mouths all they wanted (and they weren’t afraid to do so). On
this day, nothing they said could hurt her. She calmly ate her food and looked
each of them in the eye as they interrogated her. Do your worst, she thought to
herself each time one of them opened their mouth.

When the dinner came to its conclusion Hannah bid them
goodbye in the warmest tone she could muster. She wanted to make absolutely
certain that they knew that they were no longer capable of hurting her. She had
grown beyond any criticism they could hurl at her.

They could deny her those twelve hours about as easy as they
could deny the sun from rising the next morning. Even if she never saw him
again, she wouldn't trade the magic of her time with Brody for their approval
nor for anything else in the world.

***

The next morning she struggled to make it through class. How
could she concentrate on tort reform with Brody on her mind? How many words
could her professor spew before realizing that they were having no impact on
her?

She would have been better off just staying at home today.
If she didn’t get to see Brody again soon she was sure that she would lose her
mind. Yet she still didn’t call him. They were at a strange stalemate now,
waiting for the other to be the first one to break. She was sure that he would
feel equally relieved when he finally spoke to her again. It was just a matter
of who would be the one to pick up the phone.

That afternoon she had a meeting with her adviser where she
was supposed to discuss her future. The adviser would surely want to discuss
her job prospects and networking opportunities. But the only thing in her
future that Hannah could think about was Brody. She could hardly tell that to
her adviser though. Every question brought a new flood of thoughts into her
mind.

“Where do you see yourself in five years,” the adviser asked
her.

On a ranch far away from the nearest semblance of
civilization where she and Brody could live in peace. No more pressure, no more
cares. No one to tell them that they couldn’t be together. Just the two of them
off on their own.
She thought.

But she actually said, “I’d like to be preparing to leave a
private firm for a permanent position at a corporate entity.” She was more
disgusted with herself after each passing word. It was not about to improve
either.

“So you want to work at a firm first?”

No! She didn’t want to work anywhere. She didn’t want to
play that game anymore. It was all such a con. “I think it would be the most
valuable use of my first few years out of school. It would also provide me with
much need versatility and firsthand experience.”

“True. Have you thought about the architecture of your
future going forward?”

Yes, in fact, she had. Finally, a good question! The first
thing in her future would be to call Brody. Somebody had to give in and it might
as well be her. She would call him and tell him to come pick her up and never
bring her back. She didn’t care where they went. She would just drive with him,
drive off into the unknown, drive off into the wide expanse of America or
Canada or Mexico or straight on south to Patagonia. Anywhere.

Anywhere that he wanted to take her. She would follow him to
the top of the Himalayas and the bottom of the Marianas Trench. She would
endure extremes of heat and cold.

“Obviously networking is a huge part of finding the right
opportunities. But I also have a strong resume to back that up.” Hannah said.

“You certainly do. That’s actually one of the things that I
wanted to talk about with you today.” Her adviser’s words all blurred into each
other. Hannah could barely focus enough to hear them. “I’m glad that you
mentioned working for a law firm before dashing off into the corporate world.
An old colleague of mine is recruiting for her firm and I think that the two of
you should meet. I didn’t want to push you in that direction, but since it’s
something that you’re interested in I’d love to help set up a meeting.”

Apparently her adviser wasn’t very skilled at reading Hannah
or else she would have picked up on the fact that this meeting was just about
the last thing that she was interested in right now.

“That would be great." Hannah forced a smile. "I
can’t tell you how much I appreciate this.” Of course she couldn’t tell her how
much she appreciated it because the amount was nonexistent.

“Actually, I’m supposed to have lunch with her tomorrow. You
should join us. Have you been to Remy’s?”

Hannah shook her head. She had not been to Remy’s, but she
was also trying to subtly hint that she didn't want to attend this lunch date
either.

“Well then you should definitely attend. Come for the
arugula salad, stay for the professional networking.”

They shared a false laugh. What a grand time they were
having! Hannah couldn’t wait to be out of that office. The atmosphere was
crushing and suffocating her as if she were on a dense moon of Saturn.

The next day she dutifully set out to the lunch meeting that
would doom her to a life of legal drudgery. When she arrived she found that she
was overdressed in her conservative skirt, black jacket, and hair twisted into
a tight bun. Her adviser and possible future-employer were dressed as if they
were just coming back from the beach. This may have been a business lunch, but
it was still a Los Angeles business lunch.

She sat and listened to their lawyer banter, chiming in
half-heartedly only when she felt like she absolutely had to do so. Her mind
still wandered throughout the entirety of the meeting. It was the usual subject
that had been plaguing her these last few days. Brody.

She hadn’t called him like she promised herself that she
would. She tried to convince herself that things were tapering off between
them. But the amount that she was thinking about him proved that this was not
the case, at least on her end. She even imagined that she saw him sitting
across the restaurant. Now she was sure that she was going crazy.

She tried to shake off the hallucination. She looked away
and took generous sips from her glass of water. Still he was there. She closed
her eyes and took deep breaths. Still he was there. She even went so far as to
engage in conversation with the two casually dressed power brokers across from
her. Still he was there. It was only at that moment that Hannah realized that
she wasn’t hallucinating at all. Brody really was there, live and in the flesh.

He didn’t seem to notice that she was there and was gazing
intently out the window, barely paying attention to the salmon filet in front
of him. What the hell was he doing here? He didn’t seem like the type to come
to a hip, trendy restaurant like Remy’s to grab lunch by himself.

She wondered if he would look over at her, and what his face
would look like when he recognized her. Then again, he was closer to the exit
than she was. It was entirely possible that he could get up and walk out
without ever having seen her there. She couldn’t stand that possibility. Now
that he was so close, she had to speak to him. She had to feel his skin against
hers, even if just the tips of their fingers. She could no longer resist the
urge. She was boiling over.

“Excuse me,” she said to prospective mentors. “I just
recognized an old friend of mine. I need to quickly say hello. I’ll be back in
just a moment.”

Before they could respond she was up and practically dashing
across the restaurant. She dodged past chairs and waiters like a halfback in
the open field. When she reached Brody’s table she didn’t tap him on the
shoulder or say his name. She simply sat across from him as if it were the most
natural thing in the world.

Brody did a double take when he saw her sitting there.
“Hannah,” he said through a suddenly dry mouth. “What are you doing here?”

“I got invited to a law school lunch. What are you doing
here? This doesn’t seem like your type of place.”

“It’s not,” he said, as he returned his gaze to the window.
“I’m kind of here for a work thing.”

“What kind of work thing?”

But Brody was not interested in answering that question.
“I’m sorry that I haven’t been in touch in a couple days. I need to finish this
project before I can think about anything else.”

“That’s okay,” she said. “I’ve been busy with some stuff
too.”

“After this week, I promise.”

“You don’t have to convince me,” Hannah said. She reached
out for his hand and took hold of it. “I believe you.”

“I’m not trying to convince you of anything.” He turned his
eyes back toward her. “You mean a lot to me. More than I’ve let on.”

She smiled. “You mean a lot to me too.”

They looked into each other’s eyes and for a few moments
everything was perfect. They were together again and nothing else around them
existed. The sound went mute, the lights went dark, the people around them
vanished. It was a moment that couldn’t last. It was too fragile, too perfect.
And it didn’t.

Brody saw something out of the corner of his eye. He broke
his gaze and looked back out the window. “Shit!”

Hannah followed his eyes out toward the street but she
didn’t see anything particularly alarming. “What is it?”

“I have to go. I’m sorry.” Brody stood up and tossed a
hundred dollar bill on the table.

“Wait.” But it was no good, he had already turned his back
on her and was hurrying out of the restaurant.

He was leaving her once again. And worse, she was letting
him get away. She looked over at the table where she was supposed to be
sitting. They seemed to like her despite her aloofness during lunch. Maybe she
was putting on a better front than she had given herself credit for. If she
went back it was possible that she could secure a job and set off on the path
toward the future that she had always thought that she had wanted.

But today was not the day for that. She was determined to go
down a different path, no matter what the consequences. She didn’t have time to
explain the circumstances or come up with an excuse. She had to leave right
then. She got up and walked out of the restaurant in Brody’s footsteps, leaving
the certainty of a comfortable future behind.

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