It was raining buckets and Ty was drenched. The night air wasn’t cold but the rain was. A shiver racked his body as he shuffled through the dark streets, arms crossed tightly over his hunched chest. In spite of being chilled, he could feel heat radiating off of his skin. His throat was sore; when he swallowed it felt like someone was rubbing sandpaper over the rawness. His brain felt too large for his head, pressing painfully against his skull. With every movement he felt an ache in his bones. He was pretty sure he had the flu, maybe even strep throat.
To make matters worse, he hadn’t seen Trish in two days—she had just disappeared. He was really worried about her. And someone had stolen both of their blankets from under the bridge.
With what seemed like the last of his strength, Ty climbed the stairs to the front door of Dani’s apartment building. After ringing the buzzer he collapsed against wall. Some minutes later he roused himself to hit the buzzer again. His befuddled mind registered that Dani wasn’t home. He had no idea what to do next. He wanted to sink to the ground right there and fall asleep, but the doorway was not sheltered. Cold rivulets ran down the back of his neck. He started to shiver uncontrollably.
Dani is probably at Nigel’s for the night. I need to get out of the rain and get warm somewhere.
If he had known where Nigel and Sean lived, he would have tried to make his way there. He was so miserable that he was even willing to pay for a taxi. He went through the short list of people he knew who might take him in. Abe was the first person who came to mind, but the thought of seeing him again brought cold panic. He immediately dismissed him. Off limits!
Kaeden or Tommy? He wasn’t comfortable showing up on their doorstep; he knew what kind of business Sal was running. Besides, she had made it clear that he wasn’t welcome until he turned eighteen. He still had three weeks to go—and even then he wasn’t going to Sal’s.
Who else? Tim? He wasn’t comfortable going to Tim’s either, but he knew where he lived. It wasn’t far. Just then lightening flashed illuminating the torrential rains. It was immediately followed by a gust of chilly wind.
Ty shivered so hard his teeth rattled. Tim’s it is. I hope to God he’s home!
He set off through the rain-drenched streets, focusing only on putting one foot in front of the other. His head throbbed so painfully that he had trouble stringing two thoughts together. He felt like he was high or drunk, but with Trish gone, he hadn’t done anything in days. He was just very sick. At one point he took a wrong turn. It was ten minutes before he figured out he was off and backtracked.
By the time he got to Tim’s apartment building, he was stumbling, barely staying on his feet. He managed to climb the steps, and then he stood numbly looking at the list of names on the wall with codes next to them. They were all last names only, and Ty had no idea what Tim’s last name was. There were fifty or sixty names; Ty didn’t want to start ringing bells randomly in the middle of the night.
He leaned against the wall and closed his eyes, not having the strength to go on. Eventually he let himself sink to the ground. His pants were soaked anyway. He wasn’t going to get any wetter sitting on the damp steps. At least the doorway was in a small alcove; he was somewhat sheltered from the wind and the driving rain.
He wasn’t sure how long he sat there shivering and miserable. When a man went into the apartment building, throwing a glare his way, he thought, I should probably hide before someone calls the police on me. But he didn’t move.
He was roused from his stupor again by someone punching a code into the panel. The answering voice sounded familiar, and when the stranger addressed him as Tim, Ty couldn’t believe it. He staggered to his feet.
The man, who was small and wiry, with long dark hair and dark eyes, glanced at Ty apprehensively but seemed to dismiss him, turning his attention fully to the conversation.
“Tim, it’s Lonnie. I need some more, man.”
“Lonnie, you’re supposed to call me. I don’t want you standing out front talking about shit.”
“Tim, please just let me in, man.
“You got money?”
“I’ll have it Friday. Tim, please let me in.”
“Come back Friday.”
“No, Tim, please! You gotta help me!” The man’s voice held an edge of desperation.
Ty heard a click and the speaker light went out.
Lonnie frantically punched Tim’s code back into the panel. Ty watched carefully but wasn’t sure he’d seen it correctly. 1487?
“What?” Tim sounded really irritated.
“Tim, please help me!”
“No can do, Lonnie. Go home.”
“You gotta give me some Tim. I’m dyin’ here!”
“I don’t gotta give you shit, Lonnie! And if you don’t fucking leave me alone, I ain’t givin’ you shit on Friday either.”
“Fuck, Tim! Please!” The man sounded like he was on the verge of tears.
“Get the hell out of here, you fucking freak!” Tim yelled. The speaker clicked off again.
The man was visibly shaking. He punched Tim’s code in again, and this time Ty was pretty sure it was 1457.
Tim’s angry voice came over the speaker. “Lonnie. If you don’t leave right now, I’m sending Brady down to fuck you up.”
The man took a step back from the panel, stiffening. “Fucking asshole!” he muttered. Without a backward glance, he made his way unsteadily down the stairs.
Ty hesitated, watching the man walk away. Tim sounded angry and Brady was with him. Ty would have preferred to make his way into the alleyway behind Tim’s apartment and pass out in a doorway, but he couldn’t remember ever feeling quite as sick as he felt at that moment. He was swaying on his feet and chills racked his body. He was worried that if he didn’t get dried off and cared for, he’d end up with pneumonia or worse. He waited until the man was out of sight before he stepped up to the panel and punched in Tim’s code.
“Brady’s on his way down already,” Tim said. There was no emotion in his voice.
“Tim!” Ty rasped. His voice was almost gone. He swallowed and was immediately sorry as pain tightened his throat.
“Who the fuck is this?” Tim asked.
“It’s Ty,” Ty whispered.
Just then the door swung open. Ty had been leaning over the key panel, elbows on the wall and head resting on his forearms. Now he looked up, catching a flash of silver in the man’s hand that quickly disappeared. His gaze traveled further up and he found himself gazing into Brady’s cold eyes.
Surprise showed on Brady’s face. “Ty, you’re soaking wet! What the hell happened to you?”
Ty looked at him dumbly, not sure what to say.
“Well, come on in. Tim will want to see you in any case.” He grabbed Ty’s arm and pulled him into the dimly lit hallway.