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“I said we need to leave, NOW,” Victoria snapped.
“We ARE,” Leroy replied, “We just gotta make one more stop.”
“What?” Victoria’s mouth twisted into a scowl that seemed to be her permanent expression when she was around the infuriating boy. “Where?”
“Mind your own business!” he nudged Justin and pointed through the car’s windshield at a grey house on the right side of the street with a large black SUV parked in the driveway. “Right there, burrito.”
“Where should I park?” Justin asked.
“I’m getting tired,” Priscilla yawned and covered her mouth with her hand. “Will this take long?”
“Not long,” Justin promised quickly. “We’ll get you home safe and sound very soon, I promise.”
Priscilla smiled and glanced over at Victoria, “So nice,” she whispered.
Victoria rolled her eyes as Justin pulled the car into the driveway of the baby blue two story Colonial two houses down from the one Leroy had indicated.
“I’ll be back,” Leroy opened the door and slinked into the dark night. Victoria pressed her face close to the glass of the backseat’s window. She watched as he crawled on his gangly arms and knees across the grass like a beetle. Then he disappeared into the bushes near the front of the white house separating the colonial and the grey house.
She grumbled and sat back in her seat, crossing her arms over her chest. She looked up at Justin, who was trying to disguise the fact he was staring at Priscilla in the review mirror by pretending he had something stuck in his eye.
“What is he doing in there?” Victoria asked him in irritation.
“Huh?” Justin sat back hurriedly, face reddening. “Oh,” he cleared his throat. “Uhm… nothing. Just… don’t worry about it.”
Unsatisfied, she looked back out the window and stared at the grey house impatiently.
Priscilla scooted closer to Justin’s back and propped her chin up on the shoulder of his seat. She smiled at him as he turned slightly to blush at her.
“I don’t have my driver’s license,” she admitted. “I’ve never even driven before.”
“Really?” Justin rubbed the side of his neck with his fist. “Uh…. Well you know… I suppose I could maybe teach you… how to drive… if you want?”
Priscilla smiled, “Yeah, I think that’d be super fun. We should do that some night.”
“O-okay,” Justin stammered. The corners of his lips twitched upwards.
“Don’t encourage their sneaking out, Priscilla,” Victoria scolded. “We are supposed to be trying to get them to stay in camp and out of trouble.” She let out an exasperated sigh and looked out the window again, “He’s such an idiot. Why does he have to do stupid things?”
Priscilla rolled her eyes and then leaned closer to Justin to whisper, “I’ve never seen Tori hate an inmate this much. Leroy must be really special,” she giggled.
“Oh he’s somethin’ alright,” Justin answered.
“What is taking him so long?” Victoria grumbled.
Suddenly she noticed a dark figure lurking near the front of the grey house behind a young sycamore tree. She leaned close to the glass again to peer at the figure. She could clearly make out the bill of a baseball cap turned backwards on its head. Leroy. He was climbing out of the house’s window and onto the grass sneakily.
“Hey,” Victoria growled. “Did he break into that house?” She looked back to Justin, “Do you know the people that live there?”
“Uh…” he cleared his throat again. “Well…”
Leroy leapt into the car and slammed the door behind him.
“Okay, time to go, chop, chop muchacho,” he ordered Justin, clapping his hands.
Justin eagerly started the car and backed into the street. He waited to switch his lights on until he was half a mile down the road from the grey house. Leroy grinned at him, “Mission accomplished dude!” He leaned forward and slid a small package under the passenger seat.
“What did you just do?” Victoria asked accusingly, sliding to the edge of her seat and grabbing his headrest as she peered around at him. “Did you just rob those people?”
“I said mind your own business!” Leroy made a face at her and slapped at her fingers that clutched the headrest.
She pulled her hands back and glared icily at him. “I swear, I’m going to kill you if the cops show up at the camp tomorrow. I will literally skin you alive.”
“Oh yeah?” he turned in his seat to face her. “I’d like to see you try, thunder thighs.”
Victoria’s forehead reddened and her eyebrows snapped together, “It’d be easy! Chicken legs!”
“Would not, tree trunk!”
“Would too, noodle arms!”
Justin rolled his eyes. Those two reverted into toddlers when they were together. He glanced in the review mirror to see what Priscilla was doing, but something else caught his eye. Two lights out the back windshield. A large vehicle was just down the road and gaining on them quickly.
“Uh…” he said, raising his voice to reach over Victoria’s and Leroy’s childish taunts, “We have company.”
“What?” Victoria spun around and looked through the back window.
“Is it those people?” Priscilla wondered, smoothing her hands over her long blonde curls. “The ones Leroy robbed?”
“Leroy…” Justin glanced at the boy.
“Ah it’s probably nobody,” he waved his hand dismissively. “Some drunks comin’ home from the bars or somethin’. Don’t get your man panties in a bunch.”
“I dunno…” Justin looked at the vehicle in the mirror again. “It looks big, like an SUV. Like the one that was parked in the driveway.”
The vehicle drove in close, its lights blinding Justin through the rearview mirror. There was a loud ‘CLACK!’ and teenagers all jerked forward violently.
“They’re ramming us!” Priscilla screamed.
“Oh snap!” Leroy laughed, “It IS them!”
“What did you DO?” Victoria’s brown eyes burned.
“Relax!” he scoffed. “We heard them talking in the club about a ‘huge shipment’ they just got, and I thought maybe they’d like to share. It’s no big deal.”
“Drugs?” Victoria leaned forward and slapped the back of his head. “You idiot!”
Three loud cracks reverberated in the air and Priscilla screamed again, covering her head.
“They’re shooting at us!” she whimpered.
“Stay down Priscilla!” Justin increased the speed of the car.
“Who did you get us mixed up with?” Victoria grabbed the hair at the nape of Leroy’s neck.
“They’re just some gangsters! Drug dealers!” he jerked his head away from her and pulled a glock from his pants. He rolled down the window just as the big, black SUV swerved around to the right of them. He aimed and shot three times at the side of the vehicle.
“What’re you doing?” Victoria shrieked. “Put that gun away!”
“They’re shooting at us first!” Leroy yelled at her. “They’re just some random thugs! No one will miss them!”
A gunshot shattered Victoria’s door window and she screamed, covering her ears with her hands.
Leroy scrambled over the back of his seat, long legs flailing. One of his feet kicked Justin in the shoulder, causing him to swerve to the left and nearly take out a mailbox.
“Dude!” he protested as Leroy’s body slid into the backseat. He crammed himself in between Victoria and the door with the newly broken window. He put his hand roughly against her cheek and shoved her down on the car floor.
“Move witch!” he commanded. “I can’t see up there!”
“Ugh!” Victoria crawled over to Priscilla, kicking him in the back in the process. “You’re such a jerk!” All three of them knelt on the floor, keeping their heads below the window for protection.
Justin glanced over and out the passenger side window. He had a clear view of the SUV and the thugs inside with the guns, even from across the car in the driver’s seat. He threw a look into the backseat at the Leroy. He expected to see a look of gleeful pleasure on his face, since standoffs with thugs were right up the hoodlum’s alley. But instead, his dark eyebrows were pulled low over his green eyes, which blazed like a bonfire. His jaw clenched and he met Justin’s gaze for a split second before turning away.
“Where are you going?” Victoria asked Justin. “We’re headed out of town! Shouldn’t we go by the police station?”
“Ha, good idea,” Leroy snorted sarcastically. He took two more shots out of the window and then hid behind the door as he emptied the glock’s clip and reloaded. “Let’s go visit the police, me and Justin being convicted criminals and what not.”
“You’d rather be dead?” Victoria punched him in the shoulder blade as he turned and shot at the black SUV again.
“But Victoria,” Priscilla winced as bullets glanced off of the car from the barrels of the enemy guns. “If your dad finds out Leroy has been sneaking out at night, his sentence will be added on to and you’ll have to deal with him for another year or even longer!”
Victoria sighed. It was an age old tale. She, the daughter of the warden of the prestigious prison camp, Camp Retribution, met and fell head over heels in hate with Leroy, the biggest troublemaker the camp had ever known. Because of her intense hatred burning inside, instead of turning him in to her father every time he broke the rules, she covered them up to prevent his sentence from being doubled or even tripled, forcing her to associate with the fiend longer than she could possibly tolerate.
“You’re right, Priscilla,” Victoria threw her hands into the air. “Let’s get killed instead. That’s a MUCH better fate than having to put up with THIS stupid idiot,” she lifted her foot and drove it against Leroy’s rear in irritation.
“I dunno,” he scowled at her, “Death IS sounding pretty attractive when you compare it to being around YOU.”
“You’re the biggest idiot in the universe!” Victoria shouted.
“Your butt is gigantic and you smell like burnt chimichangas!” Leroy countered.
“I hate you!”
“I hate you more!”
“Uh,” Justin gulped, “Leroy? Tell me where to go man!”
Leroy glared icily at Victoria as he answered, “Keep driving. Away from town.” He turned back to the window and proceeded to shoot.
Justin let out a breath and stomped on the gas. The car leapt off of the paved road and plummeted into the woods. He concentrated on dodging trees, stumps, bushes, and holes. He didn’t worry about the threat of the trigger happy thugs giving chase through the wilderness. He trusted Leroy would keep him safe. That was what friends did. They trusted and protected each other. Right?
“This is ridiculous!” Victoria protested. “Turn around!” She sat up on her knees and reached out to Justin. A sudden sting on the right side of her head froze her. “Ah!” she fell back against the seat and touched her fingers to the blood dripping down the side of her face. A bullet had grazed her temple and the cartilage of her ear.
“Victoria!” Priscilla grabbed her arm. “Are you okay?”
“It’s fine,” Victoria’s voice shook. “It’s just a scratch…”
Leroy hid behind the door and grabbed the hem of his shirt. He jerked it roughly, ripping it straight across the middle. He tore off a large strip and thrust it at Victoria.
“I thought this was your favorite sh—” she began, but he interrupted.
“Shut up, if you bleed in my car I’ll beat your face!”
“Oh,” Victoria wadded up the shirt and pressed it to her bleeding skin and then kicked him in the hip. “You mean THIS car? The one with a hundred bullet holes in it? And the shattered window? You don’t want me to get blood on THIS car?”
“You see any other cars around?” he pushed her away and then turned to the van. “Hold her steady Justin. These guys have lived long enough.” His voice had taken on a hardened edge. He sat up and thrust the gun out into the cool night air. He shot three times. A man in the backseat of the SUV fell over with three bullets in his skull.
“Oh my God,” Priscilla covered her mouth with her hand.
“It’s fine Pris,” Victoria murmured. “It’s… self defense.”
Leroy grunted, sliding backwards slightly on his knees. He sat straighter and shot once. His bullet blew the front left tire of the SUV. It skidded on the loose dirt of the forest floor and then ran headlong into a thick fallen tree. The SUV flipped bumper over bumper, emitting the screech of crashing steel that Victoria had only ever heard on the movies. The SUV slammed down onto its roof and came to rest.
“Stop the car!” Leroy ordered Justin. He slammed on the brakes, fishtailing in the dirt and leaves. “No survivors!” Leroy exclaimed and reached for the door handle.
That was when Victoria noticed the blood trickling down his bare stomach.
“Stop!” she grabbed his arm. “You’re bleeding!”
“Unhand me harpie!” he shoved her away and escaped into the night.
“Are you shot?” Victoria shrieked as she followed.
“Shot?” Justin squeaked.
Priscilla climbed out of the car and Justin gulped.
“Get away from there!” Victoria chased Leroy around the toppled SUV. “It could blow!”
“Wouldn’t that just solve ALL of your problems?” Leroy yelled back. “Victoria would be SO happy if troublemaker Leroy freaking Dawes just exploded into millions of pieces with the evidence of his crimes! Poof! You’d probably win a Congressional Medal of Honor!”
Victoria let out a growl and threw herself at the boy. Her body slammed into his back and they both sprawled onto the ground, sending dead leaves and pine needles soaring into the air.
She shoved Leroy’s face into the dirt and then jumped up quickly. She wrapped her hands around his ankles and dragged him away from the SUV, panting heavily at the effort.
“The driver lives!” Leroy roared as he saw the thug moving around inside the cab through the passenger side window. He took aim, holding his glock with both hands as Victoria continued to drag him. He shot once, and the bullet disappeared into the driver’s forehead.
“Yes,” he hissed triumphantly, pumping his fist. He glanced over his shoulder at Victoria, “Drop me, woman! There might be more!”
“Shut up!” she snapped back at him breathlessly. “I’ve had enough of your… your… tomfoolery!”
“You suck!” he shouted. “I’m gonna—”
He was cut off by the explosion. The SUV’s gas tank ignited and the entire thing combusted, shooting hubcaps and other miscellaneous car parts in every direction. Victoria was knocked backwards onto her back by the wave of heat that struck her.
Leroy sat up on his knees excitedly. The blaze of the fire lit up his green eyes. “Well whaddya know,” he hollered. “It DID explode!” he laughed boisterously.
Victoria pulled herself up and then grabbed his shoulder, shoving him back into the dirt. “You are the most idiotic! Irresponsible! Stupid! Reckless—” her eyes caught sight of the massive blood stain around his collarbone and her mouth gaped open. “YOU DID GET SHOT!”
“Ah back off it!” he shoved her, but she swatted his hands away and pinned him to the ground.
“Don’t move!” she ordered him. She grabbed the remnants of his shirt and ripped it off.
“Stop it!” he protested, kicking his legs and swinging his arms. “This is my favorite shirt!”
“Shut up,” she used the few dry pieces of the cloth to wipe at his collar and the sticky blood. Her eyes went wide. “Leroy! There’s a bullet hole!” she pointed at the slimy, oozing hole directly above his collarbone on the left side of his body.
“’Tis but a flesh wound,” he replied in a nonchalant, British accent, relaxing his furious limbs.
“Leroy’s shot?” Justin and Priscilla ran up. His large blue eyes widened, “Oh no! Oh no! Leroy! You can’t die! You can’t—”
“I ain’t dyin’,” Leroy interrupted. His voice turned soothing. “It’s no big thing. Just a little scratch.”
“Ha,” Victoria snorted. “Yeah, except for the fact that there’s a BULLET inside your neck!”
“It didn’t go all the way through?” he cocked a dark eyebrow. “Well then… that could be a dilemma.”
“We’re getting you to the hospital,” Victoria decided. She grabbed his arm and started to stand up, but he shook her off of him.
“No way,” he replied. “No way am I paying to have someone do something like this. I can fish it out on my own.”
“Oh yeah? How do you expect to do that?” she snapped.
“Oh, God,” Justin whimpered, fingers knotted in his blonde hair. “Oh God, oh God, oh God…”
“Easy,” Leroy answered. “All I need are some tweezers, some alcohol, and something to wrap it up with. Easy peasy, lemon freaking squeezy.”
“There’s vodka in the car,” Priscilla said. “And I have some tweezers in my purse.”
“Priscilla,” Victoria glared at her. “You aren’t helping.”
“Yeah she is,” Leroy sat up, “That’s perfect.” He stood and headed for the car. “I’ll do that and then we can just be on our merry way back to the camp. Warden will never know. No problem.”
Priscilla fetched the tweezers from her purse while Leroy popped the mangled trunk of the car. It took some tugging and shaking, but it finally opened enough that he could reach in and grab the vodka. He called it some kind of miracle that it hadn’t shattered from the impact from the SUV and took a swig of the drink first before pouring it over the bullet hole in his chest. He sat on the ground and motioned for Priscilla’s tweezers. She handed them over and he felt around with his fingers for the bullet hole since he couldn’t twist his head around far enough to see it with his own eyes.
He whistled, actually whistled, as he stuck the tweezers inside the hole and began rummaging around. Blood oozed out and dripped down his chest. Priscilla paled.
“You can go ahead and keep those tweezers,” she murmured.
Leroy stuck his tongue out of the corner of his mouth in concentration, but there was too much blood and it was making his fingers slick and slip. He sighed and wiped them off with the rag before trying again.
“This is impossible to watch,” Victoria grumbled. “You can’t do it yourself.”
“I ain’t going to no hospital,” he said cheerfully as he poked and prodded.
“Fine,” she replied. “But at least let someone else do it. You are causing more damage than anything.”
“Fine, Justin?” he held the tweezers out to his friend. His hand was drenched in slimy, dark blood. The tweezers were completely covered in the stuff, with tiny bits of flesh sticking to the sharp prongs. Justin’s face turned grey and he plummeted to the ground in a dead faint. Leroy frowned and then looked at Priscilla. “You wanna take a whack at it Blondie?”
Her blue eyes glazed over and she quickly turned away to vomit into a bush.
“Oh give it here,” Victoria snatched the tweezers from his fingers and pushed him down on his back.
“I’d rather do it myself than let you do it!” Leroy fought her, long arms flailing.
“Quit it, you think I WANT to do it?” she poured more vodka over the wound and then the tweezers. She tore off her over shirt and dried both. “Hold still,” she ordered him.
Leroy sighed and lay back, “Fine. Get it over with then.”
“Maybe when I’m done I’ll tweeze your stupid unibrow,” she muttered. Leroy reached up and rubbed the unruly hairs between his bushy eyebrows lovingly. Victoria gently slipped the tweezers into the bullet hole and steadily lowered them farther and farther. Blood was pumping out religiously, but the sight did nothing to deter her.
While she was hunting around inside of him, Leroy stared at her face. He had hoped she would be completely green and ready to spew. Unfortunately, her complexion was as rosy as usual. Her eyebrows were knit together over her dark eyes in determination as she leaned in close to carry out the task. Her full lips were pressed together and she didn’t seem the least bit bothered by his gore. Leroy sighed. He decided he could at least whine a little to annoy her.
“Oooowwwwwww,” he cried out, squeezing his eyes shut. “OW OW OW OW OW, IT HURTS SO BAD. OW! YOU’RE KILLING ME! I’VE NEVER FELT SO MUCH PAIN BEFORE! CAREFUL! CAREFUL! OWWWW!”
“Hey idiot,” Victoria slapped him on the head. He opened his eyes. Her bloody hand and tweezers were in front of his face. The small bullet was in between the two prongs of the tweezers. “Give it a rest, will ya? You big faker.”
“Neat!” Leroy snatched the bullet from her and held it up to his face. He sat up, “I’m gonna keep it forever! Souvenir! I’ll drill a hole in it and wear it around my neck! I’ll melt it down and make a tongue ring!”
“Disgusting,” she mumbled, spilling vodka over her hands.
“You’re disgusting!” he countered with a glare.
“Whatever,” she stood up. “You owe me now you worm.”
“You’re so brave Tori,” Priscilla said, coming to stand by her friend. “I could never do that. You are so strong.”
“We should probably wake up Justin,” Victoria said wearily, wiping her hands on her jeans.
“I’ll do it!” Priscilla pranced over to Justin and knelt down beside him.
“Okay, okay,” Leroy appeared next to Victoria, leaning up against a nearby tree nonchalantly. “I owe you. If you really want me to, I suppose I can take some Dramamine and put some Marvin Gaye on to get the mood right and—”
Victoria gagged, “Yugh, don’t make me hurl. I’d rather dig out a thousand bullets than do THAT. No, I want a different favor.”
Leroy waved his hand, “Justin handles all of my boring IOU’s, so talk to him.” He started to walk away, but Victoria grabbed his left ear.
She turned him back to face her as she said, “I want one… no, two weeks of peace. That means, no sneaking out. No causing trouble. No fights. You understand that? You owe me Leroy. You owe me for never telling dad that you sneak out at night. You owe me for not convincing Justin to drive by the police station. You owe me for not taking you to the hospital. You OWE me for reaching inside of your body and pulling out a freaking bullet.”
“Two weeks of no tomfoolery?” he scowled. “Not on your life!”
“You have to!” she shouted.
“And what’ll you do if I don’t?” he yelled back, throwing his arms out wide. “Huh? What? You gonna tell your daddy? I already told you! That threat doesn’t scare me!”
“You wanna know what I’ll do?” she crossed her arms over her chest. “It doesn’t matter what I WILL do. It matters what I WON’T do.”
Leroy straightened and regarded her warily with his bright green eyes. “What’s that supposed to mean?” he asked suspiciously.
“If you don’t give me peace for two weeks,” she examined her fingernails casually. “Then I’m definitely not going to stitch that up,” she gestured at the bullet hole.
“It doesn’t need to be stitched up,” he snorted.
“Oh yeah?” her brown eyes flicked up at him, “Then why hasn’t the bleeding stopped or slowed down since you got it? Hm? What’re you gonna do about that? Oh, and what are you going to do about cleaning it? You wouldn’t want to get an infection now, would you? Or would you rather go to the hospital for that kind of stuff? I suppose you don’t NEED me when there are perfectly capable, EXPENSIVE, doctors nearby.”
Leroy’s scowl deepened so much that it seemed to become a permanent part of his face.
Victoria smirked when she realized she had him. “I suppose all I would have to do is tell Justin that you are dying and he’d drag you off to the hospital, wouldn’t he?”
Leroy’s eyes glanced over to Justin, who was sitting up in the dirt with Priscilla at his side, fanning him with a large stiff leaf. He looked back to Victoria and then stuck his tongue out at her and blew air.
Spit flew all over her face but after what she had been through that night, it did little to bother her.
“You suck!” he stuck his fingers under his eyes and pulled the flesh down to make a monster face. “Make it one week!”
“One and a half, and you stop wearing the hat,” Victoria countered with ease.
“Never! That’s asking too much!” Leroy covered his red baseball cap with his hands protectively. It had somehow managed to stay glued to his head for the entire ordeal.
“One and a half and you stop wearing the hat around Dad,” she amended.
Leroy gritted his teeth and then sighed exaggeratedly. “FINE! YOU WIN YOU YELLOW-BELLIED TREE TRUNK!”
“WHO ARE YOU CALLING A TREE TRUNK YOU STRAW-FACED SCARECROW?” Victoria shrieked.
Priscilla sighed as she fanned Justin’s green face, “I thought maybe they were having a moment over there. Guess not.”
“A moment?” Justin opened his eyes and gazed at the two toddlers shouting immature insults at each other.
“Yeah,” she said. “Like, a romantic moment.”
Justin laughed outright, “You do know that’s LEROY over there, right?”
“Don’t tell me you can’t feel it, Justin,” Priscilla looked back at him. “There’s some kind of… connection between the two. I’ve known Victoria my whole life, and I’ve never seen her act this way.”
“What way?” he rubbed his hands together nervously. He HAD felt what she was talking about. Justin hadn’t known Leroy for very long, but he knew when the boy was acting strange. He remembered the expression he saw on his friend’s face after the bullet had shattered Victoria’s window and nearly ended her. He had never seen the boy so angry in his life.
“Victoria is usually so… sophisticated and mature,” Priscilla mused. “She can be really… serious. But whenever she is around that guy, she reverts to this,” she motioned across the forest to where Victoria was now holding Leroy in a headlock and sticking her moistened finger into his ear as his gangly arms and legs fluttered about clumsily. “She is childish and seems to actually have fun, though she tries to disguise it by being angry and yelling at Leroy all of the time.” Priscilla shrugged and tossed the leaf to the ground. “I dunno. It’s just… Tori doesn’t have to deal with Leroy. I think if she really hated him as much as she claims to, she would avoid him. It’s a big prison camp, Justin. And yet somehow, she always seems to be caught around him.”
She sighed and looked at Justin again, “I dunno. What do you think? Do you think Leroy acts differently around her?”
Justin gulped, “Uh… I’m not sure. Leroy is so unpredictable… it’s hard to tell what he’s thinking. Or feeling.”
“Yeah, that’s true I guess. Besides… even if they did have feelings for each other, they’d never in a million years admit to it.” Priscilla stood and offered her hand, “Come on. It’s time to get home.”
Justin’s heart skipped a beat as he stared up into her crystalline blue eyes. His face grew hot and he took her hand. She pulled him to his feet and released his fingers, but after she gave them a long squeeze first.
Priscilla turned to the quarreling teenagers and shouted, “That’s enough! Quit your fighting! I’m tired and want to go home!”