Home > Hidden Seams(3)

Hidden Seams(3)
Author: Alessandra Torre


* * *


I unwrap the McMuffin, steam rising, and hold it in front of the air vent, managing the tight turn with one hand. I glance down at the breakfast sandwich and almost hit the two men that step out from the shadows, their guns raised, a spike strip thrown out.

I groan, and hit the brakes, skidding to a stop, and think of the money in the bumper. A man, one big enough to squash a small horse, walks up to SUV.

I crack the window and glare at the man. “Seriously?”

He lifts his AK in response, as if that will scare me. I’ve got bulletproof windows in this baby. Steel reinforced doors. A front grill guard that a battering ram would have trouble working through. I look forward, at the three thugs standing in front of my car. I should just gas it. Run over them and continue on my way. Let them try to shoot me. But that would cause a scene. Even in this part of Detroit, dead bodies in the street attract police. Police … and questions. Plus, there are the spike strips. I’d make it a mile before I’d be on the side of the road, trying to explain that to someone.

I rev my engine and the three guns ahead of me raise their scopes in warning. Oooh. Scary.

The muzzle knocks on my window and I sigh, looking over at him. He lifts a gloved hand and points toward my steering wheel. “Turn off the car.”

He’s white. That’s my first hint. No accent, which is my second hint. I’m on the edge of downtown, smack in the middle of Italian territory, which is my third. I roll the window down a bit more and dare him to fucking shoot me. “Call Tony.”

I’m sure there are a lot of Tony’s in the world, probably a thousand in this zip code. But in this neighborhood, there’s only one who doesn’t need a last name. Tony Bruno. There’s a moment of hesitation in the man’s face, and his eyes dart to one of his friends. I lift the McMuffin to my mouth, test the temperature with my tongue, then take a bite.

“You want me to call him?” I offer, a speck of McMuffin flying out and hitting the steering wheel. I watch his finger move along the AK’s slide and I press the phone icon on my steering wheel, the voice assistance tone sounding. “Call Tony B,” I call out. He steps closer and holds up a hand to his friends, telling them to wait.

“Ave. What’s up?” Tony’s voice comes through the speakers and I turn up the volume so that my new best friend can hear him.

“Your boys are trying to buy my car.”

“They aren’t my boys.”

“Mmmhmmm.” I trace my fingers over the stitching on the steering wheel. “Call them off.”

“Let me talk to them.”

I reach for my phone and turn off the Bluetooth, rolling the window further down and passing the cell through it.

The guy takes it with a snarl. “Hello?”

His eyes dart to me and he jerks his head at his goons. There is a lot of scowling, words exchanged, and whatever Tony says causes him to hand the phone back, the gun dropping out of sight. “Go on.”

“What’s your name?” I lean forward and give him my best smile, the one that used to earn me black eyes from prep school bullies.

He ignores the question, and I’m willing to bet he was the sort that used to deliver those black eyes.

“I’m Avery.” I hold the phone to my ear, moving the mouthpiece away from my mouth. “I come through here a lot. So, we good?”

He gives an irritated nod and waves me forward as if he’s a cop directing traffic and not a carjacker anxious for his next victim. I glance in the rearview mirror and take my foot off the brake.

Tony clears his throat. “I’m sorry about that. It’s just business. You understand?”

I don’t understand, the profit margin on boosting cars not worth the trouble and risk. But I’m not about to question one of my best clients. He pays his bills on time and keeps his mouth shut. If he wants to run his business like a thug, whatever. “I understand.” Reaching up, I flip down my visor and touch my fingers to the most valuable piece of this car, reassuring myself of its presence. It’s a photo, one taken three decades ago, a worn crease running down the middle and almost cutting my mom in half.

In the photo, she’s seventeen and at a LiveAid concert. The weekend it was taken, she’d danced to Bono, fucked some hippie, then scampered back home, unaware of the tiny fetus growing in her tummy. Six months later, her parents shipped her off to a discrete facility in West Virginia, and—three months later—signed off on her adoption papers while she was still doped up from my birth. I was a cute baby. It didn’t take long before I was bundled up, driven north, and handed off to an attorney and his pretty little wife.

Kirk and Bridget McKenna had wanted to round out their perfect life and had envisioned a dutiful daughter fitting nicely into it. I’d been the right race, the right gender, the right age. Everything else about me had been wrong. Had they known what they were getting, they would have probably sent me back, a neatly written note pinned to the front of my bib. No, thank you. Please find us someone else. Instead, they kept me. Showered me with love and pink dresses and private tutors. When I ran away at twelve, they found me and brought me back. At thirteen, I found better places to hide but got caught by an Iranian stealing candy bars and snacks from a 7-11. He pulled a shotgun from under the counter and I tried to run. He chambered a round and I stopped. The cops gave me back to the McKennas and they sent me off to a private school, the sort with nuns and plaid, the place where rich girls snort coke and bitch about politics and speak Latin like it is their second tongue. When I ran away from there, I didn’t hear from the McKennas. I hitchhiked across two states and when I finally turned my phone on, my voicemail was empty and my phone never rang. My credit cards worked for a month, then stopped. I used my debit card, watched the balance dwindle and then empty, with no replenishments made. I started to check my phone weekly, then monthly. Finally, in one drunk moment on the edge of the Ambassador Bridge, I dumped all of it—my prep school license, my credit cards, my phone—over the side. Goodbye, old life. Goodbye, Kirk and Bridget.

I look from my young mother to the man beside her, examining his face, memorizing it for the hundredth time.

The light changes and I close the visor. Pressing on the gas, the powerful engine jumps to life. I flip on the radio and skip past a news story about fashion mogul Vince Horace, stopping on some music with a beat.

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