Authors: Ayla Jones
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales, or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Without Scars © 2015 by Ayla Jones
Cover by Janiel Escueta
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the nonexclusive, nontransferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on-screen.
No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse-engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of the author.
In the totality of your life, may more than your mistakes define who you are.
I was calling the guy who stole my wallet a fucking asshole when I noticed her next to my chair. I thought I was hallucinating. It wouldn’t have been the first time this week. She tilted her head questioningly, probably to mock me for mumbling at the clipboard in my lap. I ripped my ear buds out. “
I just wanted to know if you were done,” she said, pointing to the police station’s binder of seized stolen property photos in the chair next to me.
“Sorry, I wasn’t…I didn’t mean…” I stammered, but she grinned as I handed it to her. Then she sat two chairs over.
“Biscayne Bandit?” she asked and I nodded. “Where’d he get you?”
“Sol Café. On Sixth.”
“Whole Foods parking lot. iPod.” She sighed, curled her legs under her, and flipped through the photos. She was a smoke show. I didn’t stop filling out the claimed property form to stare at her, though; my brain wasn’t
made of dick. But made of dick
that details about her
got filed away: thick, dark brown—almost black—hair wrapped around her fingers, plump lips, really nice legs,
And…almond-shaped, dark brown eyes.
I had complex brain function up there, too, so my gaze did eventually float back to her face. “Wallet,” I said. See? Power of speech.
“Oh. That sucks. Did he at least buy something cool with your credit cards? When someone stole mine a few years ago they went crazy at Whataburger and bought a lot of mini Thomas Jefferson busts off eBay.”
I laughed. “No, just shitty Chinese food from Golden Dragon.”
“Uh, Golden Dragon on Market? That
cool. Golden Dragon—”
“Is the crappiest place to get food.”
Her mouth hung open for a blink. “Wait. Where do
“That hole-in-the-wall with the rude staff?” She tapped on her cellphone screen. “It has two stars on Yelp. From, like, three thousand reviews. Three thousand people and one thief can’t all be wrong.”
I leaned toward her. “You’re there for food not friendship…” She stared at me for a moment, smiling, and shook her head before she turned back to the binder. I wrote a short statement at the bottom of the form and then signed it. I’d replaced all my credit cards already, but the cops put up pictures from their Biscayne Bandit seizure on the station’s website and asked owners to do an in-person identification.
“You mind if I get that back?” I asked the woman, and she nodded and passed the binder to me.
“It’s no help, anyway.”
“Sorry about that.” I took it and the sheet up to the reception window, and pointed out where in the binder the photo of my wallet was. “That’s definitely it. I know because it was more or less that empty
he stole it,” I said. A giggle hit my back. “I won’t need it back ever, obviously.”
“Thanks for coming in, anyway. We’ll call you if we need to follow up. And Mr. Dara…if not for your video we probably wouldn’t have caught the suspect so quickly, but please refrain from chasing down perpetrators in the future.” Laughter erupted behind me again.
“I’ll do my best,” I said with a parting wave, heading for the door.
“I can’t believe he kept your wallet and apparently tossed my iPod…” The footsteps caught up to me before I reached the exit.
going through the trouble of breaking the car window. For a 3rd generation one. You know, with the scroll wheel.” She grinned—it was equal in excitement and rebellion. “She’s wrong, you know. You took down a criminal enterprise. Should’ve demanded keys to the city and your picture in the paper…” She slipped between the door and me, and held it open behind her.
Truth was I’d only gone after the guy because I’d practically put my fucking wallet in his hand when we were in the café. One minute I was sitting at a counter, staring at downtown skyscrapers, and in the next, I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen any creature as beautiful as the polar bear. I should’ve known something was off; I was in Florida…and in general, what the fuck?
I got robbed because I was dead asleep. And it was only after some keen observer yelled that I was startled awake. Because I’d gone three days without sleep at the time. And if I hadn’t stopped to eat, I would’ve been behind the wheel of my car, nodding off.
The woman only walked a few feet before she turned back. “Can I see the video? I’d love to see the guy who cost me my entire Ramones collection.” I passed my cellphone when I reached her, and we watched my profanity-laced short film. “Haha. Listen to you. You were so pissed you went into crotchety old man voice.” A swatch of sunlight washed her golden. I filed away more details: a small gap between her front teeth and a tiny scar on her nose. “I would’ve chased him, too. For Green Day and Bad Religion and The Hives. I would’ve tackled him.”
I laughed. “What else was on your iPod?” I said, finally. Because she was walking away again. My brain was still filtering in pieces of her:
Funny. Has amazing taste in music.
My interest was definitely piqued.
“Everything. Stuff I had on CDs I’ve lost…” She smiled but barely let the corners of her mouth go up. “I’d had that iPod since I was a teenager.”
“They’re still inventorying his stash. Maybe it will turn up in the next batch. They’ve still got to check out the pawnshops, too. He was probably so impressed an iPod that old is still working that he hid it somewhere to keep...”
“Well, my music collection is pretty dope, honestly. He’s probably an old-school hip-hop fan. I have entire discographies on that thing…and I still have to tell my mom about her car window.” Sighing deeply, she shut her eyes. The small amount of amusement from before was gone when she reopened them, only hesitation there now. Only reality. “She’s going to flip her shit when she sees it. I didn’t even have the car that long before he broke in.”
“It wasn’t your fault...” I spotted the vehicle easily. Sharp shards of glass lined the edges of the passenger window, like the teeth of a laughing mouth.
She snickered. “I must’ve left out the part where it was on the seat.”
“On the bright side, at least it’s not the windshield…” I strode toward the damaged window and carefully stuck my head in for a moment. She’d gotten most of the broken pieces out of the interior, but there were a few crystal crumbs still on the seat. My gaze drifted around: shoes and bags from clothing stores. Like most women I knew, she treated cars like closets. “At least you can still drive it safely.”
“It’s not what you think,” she said. Her face was red when I turned to her. She gestured at an uncovered box on the backseat with six bottles of liquor inside. I hadn’t given it much attention until she pointed it out, but she was mortified, like I’d stumbled upon her fresh crop of body parts. “They’re all unopened. It’s so early I would never—”
“Wasn’t thinking anything,” I said, shrugging. I’d bought alcohol earlier in the day than this before. Even though she nodded, the look of distress didn’t fade, so I changed the subject. “I wouldn’t worry too much about the window. It’s an easy replacement.” Actually, I had no idea, but I hated seeing a pretty girl upset.
“You know cars?”
“Not really, but…I spend a lot of time with someone who does. My roommate’s brother, who is one of my best friends, works at an auto shop.”
“Oh! This is a long shot, but I’m going to ask, anyway. Are they open today? Would they be able to work on it?” Her look turned hopeful, and my weak heart melted.
“Yeah. They’re open. It’s called Las Olas Auto. They do good work,” I said. She reached in for a pen and paper, and I jotted down the address. “Just make sure you ask to see Ghost before you talk to anyone else. Tell him to call me and I’ll explain.”
“Ghost?” Her eyebrows went up. “Is he not alive because now I’m
I laughed. “His last name’s Specter. First name’s Gabe…somehow we made the connection with the ‘G.’ He became Ghost.” I stuck my hand out. “Oh! By the way, I’m—”
“Charlie…” She gestured at the upper right part of my chest before shaking my hand. “You’re wearing a nametag.” I looked away to peel it off my shirt. “I’m Nicole—Nikki, which everyone now uses as my real first name.” She grasped my hand a moment longer before dropping it. “I have somewhere to be...I can’t get to the auto place before the afternoon. Hope that’s okay…”
She aimed her chin at the sheet I was still holding. I flipped it and gave it a glance. It was a printout for a dance audition with the address, time, and attire information. “Oh…yeah…the guy from YouTube who landed that record deal, right? The ass song guy.”
“Yup. Audition to the audition for his first music video. This is the first hoop to jump through to get to the one that’ll show on…Vevo? Because MTV doesn’t do that anymore, right? Not a hip-hop dancer by any means, though. I’ve really only done classical ballet and some modern dance. Who knows what kind of choreography will go with those lyrics. Something my future children will surely need therapy for when it’s all over the Internet, and they can’t ride the school bus in peace anymore.” She hid her face in her palm. “Oh God. I’m giving you my entire rambling life story. A life that hasn’t even happened yet. Geez. In case you can’t tell, I’m
nervous about it.”
I shrugged. “No worries.
are my favorite part. I hope it goes well.”
“Me too. It’s getting harder and harder to convince the people in my life that I can make a living out of this again,” she mumbled, eyes shifting away from me for a moment. Even with the doubt in her voice, though, determination burned in her expression.
“I don’t expect Ghost to give you trouble about the time thing, but I’ll text him,” I said as I backed away toward my car.
“I don’t know what the rest of your day is like, but if you’re still in the crime-solving mood, I’d love my iPod back.” She was frozen at the driver-side door, one foot inside the car, one out. “And thank you for the repair lead.”
“Yeah, no problem.” Hands shoved in my pockets, I turned and walked away, but the farther I got, the more inadequate the goodbye felt. I should’ve asked for her number or given her mine.
As I flew down the highway a few minutes later, I was still regretting that I’d done neither. Glints of sunshine bounced across the towering condominiums that lined the beaches on this side of town. I grew up around here—son of a doctor and lawyer and all—but I preferred where my roommates and I lived now: the food was better, we couldn’t really see the water, and we could mostly avoid tourists stopping abruptly to take pictures of things.
I turned into the Biscayne Heights gated condo community and sent a text to my friend, Fallon Gregory. She was waiting outside her building—in a robe and pajamas—and directing me to the nearest visitor parking space.
She slid into the passenger seat once I cut the engine off. “Before I forget…” she said. Fallon pulled a script I’d written called
Confessions of a High School Dealer
from her bag and tossed it to my lap. Her bag was enormous, big enough to house a small village, and worth enough to feed it, too.
“This was for you. I insist,” I said.
She held up her hands when I offered it back. “I want more.
I sighed. “I don’t know if there is more.”
That’s the…pilot, right?”
“Yeah, hypothetically speaking.” I did love the story though—drug-dealing anti-heroine falls for prep school golden boy and thinks she’ll ruin him. So far it was just a pet project, which meant I could write it without insecurity and crippling anxiety. I had written a third of episode two already at the screenwriting workshop I went to this morning at Miami-Dade Community College. It was worth the sacrifice of not sleeping in on Saturdays—not that I slept. When I was there, I felt like I could write anything; it always came easy when there weren’t deadlines or pressure. I felt fearless.
“Write another episode, please, especially because I’m way more awesome in fictional form as Tara. I
would’ve thought of dealing through a tutoring business and hiding in plain sight. The tutoring rates as code for pill and weed prices? And then Cody, the guy she likes, actually signs up for
tutoring? I’m so in love with it.” She snatched the script from me and flipped to a page where she’d bent the corner, and spread it between us, pointing to a line of text. “
Audience hears TARA’s voiceover as CODY BLAKE approaches her table from the lunch line: (
) Cody always smiles at me. It’s because he doesn’t
yet. He doesn’t suspect that the princess of Century High is also its dragon. God help him when he finds out. God help
I interrupted any further reading with a groan and tipped my head back against the headrest. “Jesus, don’t do that.” I took the script from her because Fallon didn’t actually listen to anyone…except Fallon. “I was really just messing around when I wrote—”