6. Everything Old is New Again
Mia put another plate up on the pass through, more troubled than she was before. Talking to Brian should have eased that, but it hadn’t. It had only deepened her unease, and she hadn’t even heard anything back yet.
Brian had said that he would look into it. Mia had no doubt that he would; he still had a considerable number of contacts with his previous life. Not everyone had agreed with the end of his career, and had kept in touch.
She supposed that it was how seriously he had taken it that had worried her. Normally, he would come to the diner and stay in the kitchen during the small dinner rush but instead he had carefully taken down what little information Mia had given him, hardly saying anything as she spoke.
It wasn’t the first time that Brian had used contacts from his former life to do a little checking, quietly, about someone that cropped up in Dom’s life. But it was one of the only times that Brian had been so completely serious about the matter. She had heard him typing as she spoke to him, and could see him sitting at the kitchen table of their small Yuma home, pecking at the keyboard.
“Honey, I’m going to have to get back to you. I have to go talk to a real face about this.” Only Brian could sound so intense over the phone, and his concern seeped through the line.
Flicking a white bar cloth over her shoulder, she whispered into the phone, caught up in Brian’s serious tone. “Bri, how bad is this? Do I need to tell Dom? Do we have…”
He cut her off quickly, shushing her as he spoke. “No, it doesn’t look anything like that at all.”
Mia wasn’t sure whether that was a good thing or not. It would almost be easier if this was just the latest in a string of attempts by the feds to entrap her brother. Absently, Mia put another plate on the pass through, not even looking at Heather. “But…”
“Mia, I don’t think this is what you think it is.” Brian paused and Mia could hear the tinkle of the keys, muttered words to the babysitter that lived next door. He was walking out to the carport. “Have you seen the house next door?”
Mia blinked, her mouth opening and closing silently; she had no idea where Brian was going with this sudden change in the conversation. “What? It’s right…”
“Yeah, next door, I know. What’s it like for security?” The car door slammed and Mia heard him pull out of the driveway. He never spoke on the phone while he was driving, ever.
“I…I don’t know. What’s going on, what did you find out?” Mia’s concern deepened, and Heather had to ring the small bell on the counter to get her attention again, or Mia would have stood there all night holding the burger plate that went with the next order.
“I don’t want to say just yet. I’d like to find out more first before I say anything else, ok?” The sound of tires crunching over gravel and Brian was slamming the car door closed behind him again. “Listen, I’ll tell you what I can when I pick you up tonight. Keep an eye on her though, ok?”
Mia was a little confused. “Why? Do we need to be worried about her?”
“No.” Brian’s voice hardened on the other side of the line and Mia could picture that hard line between his brows, a sign that he was pissed off. “But she might be in a hell of a lot of trouble, and me putting her name into a search might have made it worse.”
She winced. “Sorry.” The apology was out of her mouth without thought, an automatic response. The last thing she had wanted to do was cause anyone harm.
Brian heard her intake of breath and moved to soothe her immediately. “It’s probably nothing, but I’d like to find out how much damage I might have done. Just get Dom to keep an eye on her house.”
Diners came and went; the tables inside and out filled quickly in a noisy rush with an odd assortment of people. Military personnel from the base in Yuma. Visitors to Desolation; it wasn’t officially a ghost town, but it was pretty close to being one, which put it on the map for at least a few tourists a year. Long haul truckers and a few bikers. If Jim wasn’t back working with Dom, he would be sitting out with a couple of other guys that ran tow trucks in the area.
For a short while, Mia put it all out of her head and concentrated on one bill at a time, not rushing. After a few hours, the evening rush went in the opposite direction, with diners leaving in their two’s and three’s and four’s until there was no one left. She shut off the music and listened to the near silence for a while.
She came out and helped Heather clear all the tables, sweep and mop, and then left her alone to do her cash. Mia knew that Heather would stick around for a while. Dom had never said anything to Mia about it, but Heather wasn’t shy at all about why she often stuck around after her shift, which she was doing now.
She would just have to wait a little longer, Mia thought, as she washed and dried her hands, watching Eddie pull out of the driveway. He had stayed later today, which made her uneasy. Usually, Eddie’s departures were as predictable as his arrivals. Today he had stayed until just after seven. It was just another part of everything that had gone so wrong lately.
Jim had stayed back in the garage with Dom the entire time, which probably kept Dom from killing Eddie. It wasn’t a kindness towards Eddie on Jim’s part, she knew; Jim just didn’t want Eddie pushing Dom so far that he would end up in a position where the agent could pressure him. An assault on an agent would be the perfect lever to use against Dom, and if Mia knew anything at all about Eddie, it would end up with Dom back in prison anyway, no matter if he cooperated or not.
She waved to Jim as he left shortly afterwards, and then walked across the scrub yard back to the garage. Dom stood at the back, absently putting some tools away. Not that he had to; everything in the garage was as spotless as could be expected in a garage, so Mia knew that his mind was a million miles away.
She had seen him like that a few times after he had gotten out of prison; he had changed when he went back in. It was even more evident when he got out. He was quieter, darker somehow. Mia had asked him once, after he had first gotten out and he had looked at her, his mouth open as though he wanted to say something. But he hadn’t. Just shook his head. He’d never spoken about it, and Mia could never completely understand, but Dom had changed in the time that he was away.
“Dom…” Mia called out to him twice before he turned around, his eyes softening the moment he saw her.
He smiled as he came forward, hugging her quickly before he pulled back, concerned. “Where’s Brian? Isn’t he supposed to pick you up by now?”
Mia stopped him before he could grab up his keys; clearly intending on driving her home himself. “Brian went to get some more information about Amber.”
Dom turned towards her, his expression serious. It wasn’t hard for Mia to see beyond the crossed arms and hard glare, however. Making a wry face, she crossed her arms over her chest; she could be as stubborn as her brother, and he wasn’t about to make her quiet. He never could.
Dom leaned back against the side of the wreck that Jim had brought in earlier, without uncrossing his arms. Some of the hardness had gone out of his face, replaced by curiosity and something else that Mia couldn’t quite put her finger on. “You spoke to Brian?” The answer obvious, he moved on, “What did he find out about her? Is she…?”
Mia pulled herself up and sat on the edge of the counter at the back of the garage. “He doesn’t know for sure.” She ran down what little she had learned from Brian, making Dom raise an eyebrow at her when she told him how she had found out Amber’s full name. “We still probably should have just asked her, Dom.”
At that point, Dom looked out across the yard between the garage and Amber’s house, his voice distant. “She thinks she got followed home from work.”
All of Mia’s senses yelled at her, at hearing the quiet, worried tone. “Did you see anything? Is she okay?”
Dom continued to stare out at Amber’s house, but Mia couldn’t be sure if he saw it at all. He didn’t answer her, just shook his head. Amber most certainly was not okay; he recounted the conversation that they had had just a few feet from where he stood now. A conversation that had haunted Dom since it had taken place, he couldn’t get it out of his head.
Mia couldn’t miss the way that Dom’s voice caught, just recalling Amber’s plea for help, and that she didn’t have anyone else to call. Hopping down from the counter, she took a step towards him; he was gone again, watching the house. “I know that you had Brian this time, but were you alone the first time, Mia?”
His question was so unexpected, had taken such a strange turn, that Mia wasn’t sure what Dom had asked. It wasn’t really a separate question at all though. Her hand on Dom’s arm, she thought back.
The ‘team’ was supposed to take care of her, but it hadn’t really worked that way. That was when Mia had gotten her first job. Unlike a lot of kids her age, it had nothing to do with buying new clothes or buying a car.
The ‘team’ had taken care of her for maybe a week or so after Dom had been sent to prison, but after that, Mia was on her own. Occasionally one of the others, most often Jesse or Vince, gave her money to help with the mortgage or brought a bag of groceries, but it was sporadic and unreliable. It was something that she had never told Dom; even then she knew what that would do to him.
The second time, she did have Brian, that much was true, but Brian had a few problems of his own that he had to take care of. Mostly related to Dom and what had happened with the team. With her. He was never away from her for long, but there were times when she didn’t see him for a while. The rest of the team scattered for good that time, and she never saw them. Brian came back; the others hadn’t.
So yes, she knew what Dom was asking her, and too much time had passed for her to gloss over what had happened. That, and Dom wasn’t the same person he had been, he deserved to know. “Yeah, I was alone for most of it.”
He looked at the ground and then over at her, that same indefinable something in his eyes. “I’m sorry, Mia. Never meant to leave you with no one.”
Mia looked at Amber’s house, not missing how he had phrased it. “You’re going to watch out for her?”
“She has the number here.” His head dropped again before he continued, in a quieter tone. “Her bedroom is right across from my window. Told her to yell if she needs anything…You’ll tell me what you find out?”
The wariness came back and Mia let out a silent sigh. He would never fully trust; there was always going to be that part of him that doubted. She wondered how long that would stay with him; if it was seared into his makeup now as surely as anything else about him.
“Of course.” Mia leaned against his side, resting her head on his shoulder. His arm automatically came around her shoulder, pulling her a little tighter, and Mia continued. “Heather’s still here. ‘Doing the cash.’”
Mia laughed a little, but Dom just got quieter, if that was possible. It was a joke between them, despite the fact that Dom never spoke about Heather. Maybe it was just her joke. She stayed until the cash was done, and then Mia left to drop the money off at the bank. Sometimes Heather would stay, not all the time, and Mia didn’t think that she stayed overnight, but she stayed sometimes. Again, it wasn’t something Dom talked about.
Dom still hadn’t answered, and she could feel the tension roll off him in waves. Not that anyone else would ever notice. Mia sighed. “Should I …?”
Dom snorted, the corner of his lip pulling up in that telltale smirk. “No, you shouldn’t. I’ll handle it, Mia.” He squeezed her a little harder before letting her go. “Don’t look at me like that.”
“What?” Mia said sarcastically, she trailed after him as he walked out of the garage, “What look?”
He leaned up against the side of the garage, looking up the driveway as Brian pulled in. “I’ll deal with Heather, Mia, so don’t give me that look.” He pointed towards Brian’s car, but Mia didn’t move.
“Should I let her go?” Mia could deal with Heather, but she wouldn’t look past an opportunity to let her go, if she could find a good one. As a waitress, she would be pretty hard to replace though.
Dom knew this, even if Mia hadn’t ever said anything about it. “Doesn’t really seem fair, does it?” He smiled when Mia flinched a little; it wasn’t in her to do it either, to be unfair. Dom’s voice softened as it only did when he spoke to his little sister, and he kissed her on the head, reassuring her. “I’ll take care of it.”
Brian and Mia passed each other on the scrabble yard of the driveway. Dom watched them hug, kiss, and chatter in that way they both had. Telling each other in some sort of married shorthand what they had done that day.
Dom had gotten used to watching people; it was another one of those things that he had picked up in prison. Brian kissed her forehead, and nodded back at the car. When both Mia and Brian looked back at him, Dom knew that they were talking about him, and went to sit on the steps that led up to the office in his garage, to wait for Brian.
Brian quickly pulled Dom to him, slapping his back once before he sat comfortably on the step beside him. Dom hadn’t taken Brian seriously when he had first met him; there was something about his face that had white-bread surfer boy written all over it, and Dom had dismissed him at first.
At first. There was an intensity to Brian that had only deepened with the years, and with the adversities he had faced. “What did you find out, Bri.”
Eddie slammed his fist into the dashboard, the sudden anger clouding his vision in a red haze. He hated this assignment. Hated the desert. Hated his shitty little apartment in Yuma. Hated the lack of privacy. Hated the garage and the grease under his nails that he could never get out no matter how much he scrubbed. He hated being looked at as nothing but a damned mechanic, having to dress and act like a dirtbag.
The FBI had leapt at the opportunity, once they had taken note of the short time that he had served as a mechanic in Gulf War 1. And now here he was, back in the fucking sand.
The assignment had gone on long enough, but still he had to stay. There had been a rash of daring truck hijackings all across the Southern California-Mexico border, coinciding with the time of Toretto’s release from prison. They continued, sporadically, with the hauls becoming larger as time went on.
The similarities between the current thefts and those perpetrated by Toretto and his team in the past were unmistakable, and the FBI began sending agents in to conduct surveillance on Toretto’s garage, certain that he was at the center of the thefts, or at least knew who was behind them.
Eddie was the only agent that Toretto hadn’t gotten rid of within a week, and his superiors believed, wrongly, that this was a sign that he had infiltrated successfully. Eddie wasn’t stupid; he knew that Dom would never trust him. This wasn’t going to be some repeat of the Spilner operation, no matter how hard his superiors wanted it to be so.
In fact, Eddie had the sneaking suspicion that Toretto had nothing at all to do with the current spree. Not that anything he said would sway his superiors, and Eddie had made a point of making that opinion clear, on the record. Not out of any notion of nobility, but purely as a way to ensure that, if, no when, everything went wrong, Eddie had covered his ass.
In time, Eddie came to the realization that the only way he’d get out of the hell of his current assignment would be if he found something, anything, that could be hung around Toretto’s neck, at least for a while.
No matter how it worked out for Toretto, Eddie would be free of the case and could go back to LA. If Dom went away and the thefts stopped, the FBI would ensure that it was hung on him. If Dom went away and the thefts continued, then Eddie’s repeated reports to his superiors that Toretto showed no involvement would be a career boost. It was win win for him.
Eddie pulled his truck into the parking space in front of the crappy apartment the FBI had set up for him on the outskirts of Yuma’s military base. Inside, he quickly stripped off the greasy jeans and filthy tee shirt and opened up his laptop, navigating easily through several hoops to reach the FBI’s database.
Dom hadn’t done a thing, he hadn’t gotten violent, not once, no matter how hard Eddie had pushed, and he had pushed hard on a few occasions. But he had very nearly gotten a reaction out of him today. First, when he had approached the house next door, and again, when he had tried to start a conversation after the woman, Amber, had left.
After months of pressing, Eddie had finally found something that had nearly pushed Toretto to violence. He had stayed later, hoping to discover something else about the woman, but she hadn’t come back out of her house.
Eddie hadn’t been stupid enough to mess with Mia, no matter how often his superiors had hinted that it would be the thing that could push Toretto over the edge. He was sure that it would, but he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life as a vegetable just so that his bosses could score a victory. There was also the fact that Mia hated him.
Then there was Heather, but Dom didn’t seem to give a damn about her, at least beyond fucking her, and made it plain. Heather didn’t see it quite that way, which Eddie had used to his advantage, but it didn’t mean anything as far as the investigation went.
But this new woman had struck some sort of a nerve, and Eddie was determined to not only find out who she was, but to find a way to use her against Dom and get off this case or resolve it somehow.
Amber and Dom, Alan Brightman and the private detective. None of them had access to the databases that Eddie had access to as an FBI agent, so it took him no time at all to find out who had bought the house next to the garage.
Beyond that was where it got more interesting.
Everything was planned down to the smallest detail. The road had been dry for weeks, hard and fast, which led to the choice of cars and the makeup of the team. The selection of target had come from a large pool, selected randomly and they never hit the same place twice. Never hit the same company twice. Never used the same car twice.
That had been the mistake previously; there was too much pride involved. Pride had led to a signature, which had led to a downfall. Things were different now.
The semi had been tracked for miles now, using a GPS device that had been attached at the last weigh station. The team wouldn’t have to chase the truck, laden this time with car parts headed to Japan, for miles through the desert, giving the driver time to call for help.
No, they just had to lay in wait; following the blip through the desert until it arrived at a spot prearranged shortly before. A small rise, after which the road would even out, then falling again towards the Mexican border. The semi would have to slow as it took the hill. They would strike then, and be gone before anyone knew what had happened.
Letty idled, half hidden behind the rise, watching the blip on the screen. “Twenty seconds. Let’s move.”
Copyright © august 2007 xxx evilgrin xxx