Chapter One

"Hanson!" Captain Fuller bellowed from his office door.

Officer Tom Hanson looked up from the mound of paperwork on his desk. Fuller motioned for him to come into his office. Tom got up and headed in that direction. It's about time for another case, he thought. One more friggin report and I'm gonna shoot myself in the foot just for a day off!

"Hanson, we got a call about Westerly yesterday," the Captain began.

Tori's school. Damn.

"There are allegations of some kind of abuse, but we don't know where it's stemming from. Kids are showing up with bruises, a couple of black eyes, and no one will talk. Now, I know this is Tori's school. Has she mentioned anything to you?"

Tom shook his head no. That was not unusual, however. They had come a long way, but she still wasn't always all that forthcoming.

"Obviously, we can't send you in because you may be recognized."

Tom, of course, knew most of Tori's friends and was a bit more familiar with the principal than he'd like to be. Despite excellent grades, Tori had sat outside that office more than a few times.

"Yeah, I know Principal Stewart pretty well at this point." Tom said with a wry grin.

Captain Fuller gave Tom a nod, "That's what I wanted to talk to you about."

"Sir?" Tom asked, confused.

"It's a bit unorthodox, but I was considering sending in a civilian as eyes and ears on this. I'm short on officers right now, I can't send you in as a student, and Doug is going in as a teacher to cover that side of it."

"Tori?"

"Yes. She seems to, uh, have friends in certain circles that may know something." Fuller said with as much tact as he could.

Tom groaned inwardly. He wondered just how much Captain Fuller knew about Tori's inclination toward trouble.

"We don't suspect drugs or gang type violence, but something is not right. We think it's some kind of underground fight club. Maybe some gambling along with it. As her guardian, it is up to you. Any sign of trouble and she will be pulled out immediately."

"I'll have to ask her first," Tom said. "Can I think about it and get back to you?"

"Absolutely, I know it's a lot to ask, but Tori is smart and we could really use someone on the student side." As a parent, Captain Fuller understood Tom's reservations, but he felt certain Tori could handle herself. She was a Hanson.

"Can you send Penhall in?" Fuller said, dismissing Hanson.

"Yes, Sir." Tom exited the office and motioned his partner in.

Tom sat back down at his desk, but he couldn't concentrate. He honestly didn't know if Tori would agree or laugh in his face when asked. His first reaction was to pull her out of that school today and send her to the all girls academy he threatened every time she got caught doing something image of Tori in the plaid jumper, with her bright red pixie cut and combat boots caused Tom to let out a snort of laughter.

"What's so funny?" Doug Penhall asked as he emerged from Fuller's office, file in hand with his new assignment.

"Tori at Brookside Academy," Tom said with an evil grin.

"What did she do this time?" Doug asked, smiling and shaking his head. He and Tori had an understanding and it was often Doug she went to when she wanted to talk.

"Nothing yet. Fuller wants to use her on this case. I can't go in since the principal and I are now practically dating and he needs someone on the inside with the students."

Doug thought for a minute before offering his opinion, "She'd be good at it. She's smart and observant. She's got enough of a reputation that even the kids she's not friends with would probably talk to her. It's not a terrible idea."

"I'm not exactly thrilled with that reputation," Tom reminded him.

"I'll be there the whole time. You know I'd never let anything happen to her. I love that kid!"

Tom knew this was true. If it weren't for Doug, she'd probably be wearing that plaid uniform right now. Or a prison jumpsuit. It bothered him that she sometimes chose Doug and not him to confide in.

Tom glanced at the clock and seeing that it was after five, he rose from his desk and grabbed his jacket. Doug did the same and they stuck their heads in Fuller's office for a quick goodbye.

As they headed to the door Doug said, "I'd grab a pizza from Morelli's if I were you. It's hard to say no to a bribe like that!"

Tom just shook his head and asked, "Pepperoni, sausage, and mushrooms?"

"I'll meet you there!"

Tom got in his car, pulled out his phone and called in the order. He put the car in gear and headed toward Morelli's to pick up dinner. Or the bribe as Doug had put it.

When he pulled into his parking spot at the back of his apartment building, he saw that Doug had beaten him there. He grabbed the pizza and soda and headed up the stairs. Doug heard him fumbling with the door and opened it quickly shouting, "Hello!" McQuaid brothers style.

Tom smiled. He heard Tori laugh as he handed the soda to Doug. She was grabbing plates from the kitchen as he entered.

"And you think I'm mental," Tori said to her brother.

"He's a bad influence on you," Tom said and put the pizza on the coffee table.

As usual when Doug was over there was a game on the television. Tori's homework was spread out on the breakfast bar. Tom could not understand how a kid this smart could be so dumb sometimes. He knew that overall she was a good kid, but she had a self destructive streak that had definitely given him some sleepless nights.

"So," Tori said grabbing a slice from the box, "Doug's here and you got Morelli's. Whatever it is, I didn't do it."

Tom and Doug exchanged a look. They obviously weren't as subtle as they had thought.

"Although I'm sure there is something I just haven't found out about yet, for once you're not in trouble." Tom replied.

"Confessions are always welcome, though," Doug teased.

"You'll never take me alive, Copper!" Tori yelled and with that the two of them were wrestling around on the carpet, nearly knocking over all the food on the coffee table.

"Are you done?" Tom asked with exasperation. He was treated to two goofy grins.

Doug hauled himself and Tori off the floor and waited for Tom to continue.

"Tori, we've had reports of some kind of abuse, kids showing up with bruises and black eyes at Westerly and no one will talk about it," Tom began. "Have you heard any rumors lately?"

Tori looked thoughtful for a moment debating whether or not to tell what she had heard and wondering what it had to do with her. She was quite capable of taking care of herself and she had the detentions to prove it. Tommy worried too much.

Doug sensed her hesitation and jumped in, "I know you wouldn't keep anything from your brother, so even if it seems small please tell us."

Tori and Tom both shot him a look. She kept stuff from Tom all the time. She'd never see the light of day if he knew everything. And Tom wasn't stupid enough to think otherwise.

"Alright, alright," he conceded, "It's just sometimes things seem insignificant, but are really important."

Tom decided to get right to the point, "Because of my close, personal relationship with your principal, I can't go in as a student."

Tori had to bite her cheek to keep from laughing. Tom was not amused by this and it hadn't been all that long since the last conference. She attempted to look contrite.

"Doug is going in as a teacher and Captain Fuller needs someone to be the eyes and ears on the student side. He suggested you."

"Seriously? You want me to narc out my friends?" She instantly regretted using the word narc. For as much trouble as she seemed to get into, she had great respect for the police and was very proud of her brother.

"We're just trying to figure out what's going on before more kids end up getting hurt."

"Sorry, Tommy, I just mean I still have to go to that school after you guys are done."

"There's always Brookside Academy," Doug quipped. He ducked as Tori threw a pillow at him.

"Can you two stop for just five minutes, please!" The two of them were experts at getting under Tom's skin.

"Listen, Tor, this is totally your decision. You don't really have to do anything other than report anything you see or hear that seems out of place."

"I'll be there the whole time," Doug added.

"That's not actually a selling point, Doug," Tori replied. A pillow promptly sailed in her direction.

Tom let out a loud sigh.

"Ok, I'll do it. But here's the deal. I don't want anyone knowing I was involved. I have a reputation to protect." Tori said with pride. She got away with a lot more when Doug was present and she took full advantage of it.

"If anything involving students goes down, you'll be arrested right along with them. That should maintain your rep," Tom said placing air quotes around rep and rolling his eyes.

"That will almost make up for all the times you should have been arrested!" Doug was pushing his luck here, too, and he knew it.

Tori batted her eyes innocently and said, "Moi?"

"Don't you have homework to finish?" Tom snapped, but not like he really meant it.

"Probably. Sorry, Dougie, I can't play anymore. I have homework."

"Five more minutes? Pleeeeaaaaasssseee?"

Tom made a gun with this thumb and forefinger and pulled the trigger at his head.

Doug grabbed one more slice of pizza and headed for the door.

"Don't be late to class tomorrow!" he shouted on his way out.

Tom leaned on the breakfast bar where Tori had resumed her homework.

"You really don't have to do this if you don't want to," he said.

"Eh, why not? It will give me an excuse to go to all my classes for once."

Tom kissed her on the forehead, smiled, and said, "You suck."

"That wasn't very brotherly."

Chapter Two

"You didn't tell me that this little assignment meant getting up in the middle of the night," Tori grumbled. In truth it was already a little past seven and they were late.

"I have to check in at the chapel before I get you to school and Captain Fuller wants to talk to you." Tom was less than sympathetic since he was still stuck doing paperwork for the time being.

"Ms. Sherrill will probably have a heart attack when she sees me in homeroom on time," Tori joked.

"Maybe we should make this a regular thing. That way you're always on time," Tom countered.

"Pass."

Tom knew she was nervous so he let it slide. Plus, he hadn't gotten any tardy notices lately so she was probably just exaggerating. Or maybe not.

Tom hurried in. He hated being late. Tori strolled in behind him. She wasn't aware that they were late and that never really bothered her much anyway.

"Good morning, Hanson, Tori," Captain Fuller greeted them.

"Good morning," Tom replied.

"Good morning, Sir," Tori said. Tom couldn't believe he just heard the word sir come out of her mouth.

"Thank you for helping us out with this, Tori. I'm sure your brother filled you in on what we are looking into at your school."

"Yes, Sir," Tori replied, the very model of a responsible young lady. Tom was both amused and a little proud of her.

"Is there anything you have heard or seen recently that might add to our investigation?"

Tori hesitated. She glanced at Tom. It had all seemed like kind of a game last night. She doubted Captain Fuller would find her nearly as funny as Doug did.

"Well, there is one thing, but I don't know." She stopped.

"It's OK, Tor. We need to look at every possible angle," Tom reassured her.

"It's just," she paused, "It's just it's something I heard about one of the History teachers."

Tom looked surprised, but Captain Fuller simply asked her to continue.

"I'm in AP so I don't have Mr. Parrish," Tori went on, "I mean he seems alright to me, but some kids really don't like him. A couple of my friends ditch his class almost every day. He just doesn't have much patience I guess."

Captain Fuller nodded. "We've arranged for Mr. Parrish to take over your AP class and Officer Penhall will be subbing for him. All I want you to do is keep your eyes and ears open and report anything that seems like it may be related to the injuries that have been reported."

Doug Penhall walked in as Tori replied with, "Yes, Sir."

Yes, Sir? he mouthed to Tom. Tom shrugged his shoulders and grinned.

"Penhall, nice of you to join us. You may as well turn right back around. You're both going to be late if you don't hurry," Captain Fuller admonished Officer Penhall.

The three of them walked out of the chapel together. Tom and Tori were heading to Tom's Mustang while Doug would be taking a loaner car, his motorcycle having been deemed inappropriate for a teacher. Before they separated, Doug stopped Tori with a hand on her shoulder. She had never seen him this serious before.

"I will be there the whole time. I will not let anyone hurt you, got it?" He leaned down so they were face to face as he said this.

Tori nodded and her stomach did a nervous little flip.

"Now get to class before I give you detention!"

"You alright?" Tom asked as they set off.

"Dude, it's just school," Tori replied.

"I know. It's such unfamiliar territory for you," Tom smirked.

Tori raised one eyebrow, "Finally unleashing your inner smartass?"

Satisfied that his sister was back to her usual goofy self, Tom pulled up to the school. He got out to open her door for her. Any other kid would be embarrassed, but Tori always let him do it anyway. It was an unspoken little ritual they had in honor of the father they had lost at far too young an age.

"Be good," he said as he got back in the driver's seat.

She gave him a lopsided grin, "Now what fun would that be?"

He pulled away from the school feeling a bit apprehensive. He was confident that Penhall would take good care of his baby sister if anything went down, but he wished they had a better idea of what the situation was.

The day started out like any other except for the fact that she not only showed up to homeroom, but was on time.

"Good morning, Tori. It's a pleasure to see you. Will this be a recurring role or just a guest appearance?" Ms. Sherrill inquired.

"Well, Ms. Sherrill, you know I never could resist your charm," Tori replied.

Ms. Sherrill chuckled. She was one of the very few teachers that enjoyed Tori's smart alecky sense of humor. She really ought to try to make homeroom more often. It just seemed kind of pointless to her.

Tori took her usual seat near the back. She looked around. Nothing unusual popped out at her, so she pulled out her notebook and began to doodle as she did through all her classes. It seemed like she wasn't paying attention, which was the whole point, but the mindless drawing actually helped her focus on what was being said.

As the day wore on, Tori noticed a whole lot of nothing and was starting to wonder if maybe the rumors were just that. She arrived at her history class just seconds before the bell rang. She was making her way to her seat as it sounded.

"You're late," Mr. Parrish said.

Tori assumed another student was just coming in the door. She didn't realize he was speaking to her.

"Miss?" Mr. Parrish inquired as he tapped her on the shoulder.

"Yeah?"

"You're late."

"I was in here before the bell," Tori protested.

"In my class you are to be in your seat before the bell sounds," Mr. Parrish informed her.

"K," she replied.

"K is not an acceptable response, Miss..."

"Hanson. Duly noted," she replied, annoyed. No wonder Linc and Shane ditched his class all the time.

Tori took out her notebook and began her usual squiggles and lines.

Mr. Parrish was taking roll. When he got to Tori's name she gave a quick, "Yep" without looking up from her notebook.

"Miss Hanson in this class when roll is called you will answer with present."

"Christmas or birthday?" she asked causing the class to erupt with laughter.

"Excuse me?" Mr. Parrish was turning a rather unflattering shade of red as the pencil he had in his hand snapped in two.

"You said present. Christmas or birthday?" Tori asked enjoying the laughter and his discomfort.

"Perhaps that is a question best answered in detention, Miss Hanson," Mr. Parrish replied in the scary calm voice usually associated with psychopaths.

Awesome. Her first day on the job and she already had detention. Tommy would be so thrilled.

Mr. Parrish turned toward the blackboard to begin the lesson. He smiled to himself. He may not be well liked among the students, but he ran an orderly classroom and most of his students did quite well.

When the bell rang, Tori bolted out of Mr. Parrish's class and straight into Doug Penhall.

"Whoa, where's the fire, young lady?" Doug, or Mr. Bennett as he was known at Westerly, asked.

"I just don't want to be late for my next class," Tori replied like he was any other teacher at the school.

"Slow it down a bit. You don't want to end up in detention," Doug was messing with her now.

Tori looked up at him and said, "Too late."

Doug suppressed a laugh and gave what he hoped was a stern teacher-y look and told her to get to class.

Tori trudged toward her last class of the day. At least it was her favorite. After the last bell rang, Tori went to her locker to retrieve what she would need for that night's homework and made her way to room 238 where detention was held. It had, fortunately, been a while since she had gotten detention so she was surprised to see a teacher she didn't know at the front of the room. She had seen him in the halls, of course, but had never been in one of his classes.

"Where's Mrs. Lisle?" Tori asked. She liked Mrs. Lisle. She usually let them out early since she didn't want to be there any more than they did.

"She is in charge of an after school tutoring program, so I am now the lucky recipient of detention duty. Mr. Brody at your service. And you are?" he said extending his hand.

"Tori Hanson," she said as she shook his hand, "And believe me the pleasure is all mine."

"I take it you are not a first timer?" Mr. Brody asked as he checked her name off his list.

"Uh, no," she said and offered up a sheepish grin.

He nodded and gestured for her to take a seat. A few more degenerates like herself began to trickle in several of whom were friends or at least acquaintances.

"Lincoln Graves, three for three this week are we?"

"I'm going for a record," Linc replied lightly.

"Let's not," Mr. Brody chided him gently.

Linc took a seat next to Tori. He gave her a wide smile and a nod of approval. The Christmas or birthday present remark had already made it's way around the school. Tori pulled out her books and got started on her homework. Mr. Brody seemed alright and at least she would have her homework done before she got home.

Tori finished with about five minutes still left in detention. Linc had his chin propped in his hands staring into space. She kicked him under the desk. He turned toward her and winked.

Without looking up from the papers he was grading, Mr. Brody asked if there was a problem.

"Nope, we're good, Mr. Brody!" Linc responded cheerfully.

"Well, then, let's get out of here, shall we?" Mr. Brody stood and slipped the papers into his briefcase.

"Lincoln could you stay for a moment please? Miss Hanson, no offense, but let's not do this again," Mr. Brody smiled at her.

"I make no guarantees, Mr. Brody. Besides I rather enjoyed your fine company today."

"Later, Linc!"

Chapter Three

Tori reported to the chapel as she had been instructed. The fact that she was over an hour late did not escape Tom's attention.

"Anything you'd like to tell me?" he asked, a less than pleased look on his face.

Doug looked up from the pile of papers on his desk.

"All part of the plan, Big Brother," Tori replied.

Captain Fuller emerged from his office before Tom could start in on her.

"Tori, Penhall tells me you managed to get detention today. Good job, you're on the radar now. Keep me posted on anything unusual." He returned to his office.

Doug looked like he was about to explode and Tom just stood there with his mouth hanging open. Captain Fuller had no idea that this was just a regular day at school for her.

Doug and Tori ran out the back door so the Captain wouldn't hear them howling. They were doubled over and barely breathing as Tom emerged with Tori's jacket and backpack. As Doug wiped the tears from his eyes Tom told them they were both idiots and headed toward the parking lot. That just got them started all over again.

"You better go or you'll be walking," Doug choked out between snorts.

Tori headed to the car still giggling. Tom was leaned up against the Mustang waiting for her. He found himself smiling as she struggled to control herself. She was impossible.

They were about half way home before she had finally regained her composure.

"So how exactly did you manage a detention this time?" Tom asked. He wasn't angry anymore, just curious.

"Mr. Parrish has no sense of humor."

Her mouth. He should have known.

"When he called my name for roll I said Yep. He said, in this class we answer with present," Tori imitated the teacher's smug tone.

"So I said, Christmas or birthday?"

Tom glanced at her then turned his attention back to the road.

"Not my best work, I know," Tori admitted.

"So Mr. Parrish didn't find this nearly as amusing as I'm guessing the rest of the class did," Tom correctly surmised.

"He thought it was a question best answered during detention. But, hey, I got all my homework done!" Tori reported triumphantly.

"Great. You have plenty of time for laundry now."

Tori pulled a face and muttered, "Fabulous."

Chapter Three

The next day was more of the same, although Tori managed to avoid detention. She noticed that Linc and one of the other boys from detention were not in class today, but that wasn't all that unusual. Linc had an attendance record even more dismal than her own.

By Friday, she had already ruined her streak of being on time to homeroom. She scooted into the classroom just after the sound of the bell faded away. All was well, until she looked up to see Mr. Parrish instead of Ms. Sherrill at the head of the class.

"Miss Hanson are you chronically late or have I offended you in some manner?" Mr. Parrish inquired.

"You just happened to get lucky twice, Mr. Parrish," Tori gave him her best impish grin.

He was not very receptive.

"Detention it is, Miss Hanson."

She opened her mouth, but before she could speak, Mr. Parrish broke in with, "Save it, Miss Hanson, I'm sure we've all had enough of your witty banter this morning."

She shrugged her shoulders and proceeded to take her seat. Shane leaned over and whispered, "I can never have enough of your witty banter."

"Miss O'Connell why don't you accompany Miss Hanson to detention this afternoon? If you are all quite done let's get started. Where did Ms. Sherrill leave off?"

The girls were not exactly enthused about detention on a Friday, but at least they were stuck there together.

Doug caught up with Tori after lunch. "I see you didn't even make it through homeroom today," he said clearly finding that fact hilarious.

"Another personal record," Tori said, "A girl's gotta have goals."

"We had a pool going," Doug informed her. "I may have swayed the odds in my favor by getting Mr. Parrish to cover your homeroom."

"Nice," she said, "What did Tommy have to say about this pool?"

"He took second period."

"His faith in me is overwhelming."

"I knew you could do better than that."

"Not what I meant."

The bell rang and Doug instantly became Mr. Bennett, substitute teacher.

"Aren't you expected in someone's class about now?" he asked with stern disapproval.

"I imagine so," Tori replied in her best sarcastic troublemaker tone.

"If you need help finding your classroom, I'm sure Principal Stewart would be happy to arrange something for you. Shall we go see him?"

"Nah, I got GPS!"

Tori sauntered off unhurriedly to her next class. Mr. Parrish had overheard the last bit of their exchange.

"They never should have done away with corporal punishment," he said to Doug and entered his classroom without waiting for a reply.

This guy really is a hardass, thought Doug.

The rest of the day continued uneventfully. At the final bell, Tori found herself once again headed to room 238. She met Shane at her locker and together they walked slowly toward detention.

Mr. Brody greeted the pair at the door, "Miss Hanson, so good to see you again and I see you brought a friend."

"It was such a blast last time, I couldn't resist," Tori replied.

"It was her witty banter that brought me in," Shane chimed in.

"Yes, I heard. You didn't even make it out of homeroom today. Let's not make this a habit, hmm?" Mr. Brody chastised the girls with a smile.

Shane was making her way to the row of desks in the back with Tori right behind her when Mr. Brody grabbed Tori's arm. She stopped as he squeezed. It wasn't hard, but maybe a little rougher than a teacher should handle a student.

"Your brother must not be too happy with you right now," he said quietly in her ear. Tori looked at him, trying to hide the shock on her face. How did he know she lived with her brother? It wasn't a secret, but she didn't exactly advertise it either and this was a teacher she barely knew.

"I wasn't really planning on letting him know about our little rendezvous," she tried to joke.

Mr. Brody was no longer smiling as he said, "There are consequences for your actions. You don't want to end up like some of the losers here, do you?"

Tori shook her head and sat down next to Shane. Tori rubbed her arm where Mr. Brody's hand had been. The losers comment disturbed her. And wasn't detention the consequence?

Tori opened her book to start on a reading assignment, but couldn't seem to comprehend the words. After re-reading the same paragraph three times, she closed the book and rested her chin in her hands. Shane had long ago given up on schoolwork and was absently braiding her hair. They only had about fifteen minutes left.

Finally, Mr. Brody dismissed them wishing them all a good weekend. Shane, as usual, was slow putting her stuff together.

What the hell are you waiting on? Tori thought impatiently.

"Big weekend plans?" Mr. Brody asked as Shane got her stuff in her bag. "I imagine you're probably grounded, Tori? Twice in one week is not good."

It was kind of a weird question, Tori thought and replied, "Nah. The detention notices are mailed out and guess who checks the mail?" She gave a mischievous grin. That was only half true. Prinicpal Stewart also sent an email notice the same day detention was received. She wasn't sure why she lied and she hoped Mr. Brody wasn't aware of the email procedure.

"Well, enjoy then," Mr. Brody's smile seemed forced.

Geez, does he get off on getting kids grounded or something? Tori wondered.

Shane was oblivious to the whole conversation and gave a quick wave as they walked toward the door. Outside the front of the school, Tori spotted Tom leaned up against his Mustang, arms crossed, waiting for her. She couldn't read his face from this distance and hoped he was in a good mood.

Tom opened the passenger door as Tori approached. As she slid in the seat he leaned in and said, "Homeroom?" She gave him her best aww shucks face and he shook his head as he closed the door and walked around to the other side of the car.

They drove home without speaking. Captain Fuller had left at noon, so there was no reason to check in at the chapel. Tori was still mulling over what Mr. Brody had said to her. She also made a mental note to text Linc when she got home. It was then that it occurred to her that she may actually be grounded. She glanced at Tom, but he was deep in his own thoughts drumming his fingers on the steering wheel to the beat of the song on the radio.

Tom threw his arm around her shoulder as they walked toward the apartment. She smiled.

Not grounded! Score!

Tom opened the door and Tori went straight to her room. She shrugged off her backpack and jacket and grabbed her phone. She texted Linc.

U alive?

Mostly lol

Parrish is an asshat!

Lol no kidding

Det 2x! Homeroom, WTF?

Careful with det, T

?

Linc ignored the question.

Grinds l8r?

K

She wondered what he meant about being careful with detention. They'd been serving detention together since middle school. A knock on her bedroom door interrupted her thoughts.

Tom opened the door and poked his head in, "I'm taking off." Friday was his bowling night. Long live The Kingpins!

"Alright," Tori answered distractedly.

Tom was about to leave, thought better of it and turned around. "Are you ok?"

Tori looked up with a small frown, "Yeah, I'm fine."

"Did something happen today? Other than detention?" Tom said with concern.

Not wanting her brother to worry, Tori put on an indignant pout and protested, "Hey, that was Doug's fault! And I heard you took second period in the pool. Way to support your baby sister, Tommy!"

Tom shrugged his shoulders innocently with palms up. He wasn't entirely convinced she was alright, but he let it go. It had been a long, strange week.

"Be home by midnight because," Tom began.

"You'll be home at 11:59." She finished for him.

"You are not right."

"But I'm fun at parties!"

Tom made a face at her and left for the bowling alley. Tori picked up her phone and texted Shane.

Grinds?

OTW. B ready.

She hoped Shane wasn't texting and driving. Then she laughed at herself. She really was a cop's kid.

Chapter Four

Tori and Shane arrived at Grinds and found Linc already at a table. He had thoughtfully gotten both girls a coffee.

"Ladies," he stood up as he greeted the girls.

Tori pretended to look around for the "ladies".

"Oh you mean us?" she said with mock surprise.

This was still hilarious to them even after the millionth time and all three were laughing.

Tori looked over the top of her coffee at Linc. She noticed the yellow color of a healing bruise on his left cheekbone.

"You run into a door or something?" she asked. It was a running joke between them. Linc was no stranger to a fight, but all adults ever got out of him was that he ran into a door.

"Something like that," Linc said, reluctant to answer.

Since he usually liked to give every embellished detail of a fight, Tori knew something was up.

"You haven't been at school for two days. You get suspended?" she asked. She knew he hadn't been. Anything that juicy and she would most likely have been involved.

"Well ain't that the big ol' truant pot calling the kettle black!" he shot back.

"Oh, no," Shane piped up, "She's been in school all week. She got us both detention today with her witty banter."

At the mention of witty banter, the girls dissolved into laughter. They told Linc what had happened in homeroom with Mr. Parrish and witty banter became the theme of the evening.

After a couple of hours, Tori's phone buzzed. She had a text. She glanced down and saw the number 263. Apparently, Tommy had had a good night. It was a not so subtle reminder that curfew was coming up.

"I gotta get home," Tori said, "I better not poke the bear anymore or my days of witty banter will be numbered!"

That had all three of them cracking up again. Shane and Tori rose to leave.

"I'm gonna hang here a little while longer," Linc informed them. He was the last of five back to back pregnancies and his parents hadn't been all that interested in the first four. His curfew was left up to him. Before her mother had been killed in a drunk driving accident, Tori had the same curfew. They often came home with the sun and occasionally not at all. They didn't do much other than drink too much coffee and smoke too many cigarettes, but they both loved the feeling of freedom that wandering the streets at 3am brought. Tori missed it, but it wasn't worth all the fighting with her brother. And she could get in plenty of trouble before midnight as she had often proved.

As they made their way toward the door, Tori spotted Mr. Brody at a table. He nodded at them as they passed and remarked, "Getting late isn't it, Girls?"

Suddenly, Linc was behind them, a hand on each of their shoulders.

"On second thought, can I get a ride?" he asked as he rapidly steered the girls out of the popular hangout.

"What a freak!" Shane exclaimed when they got outside.

"I know. Doesn't he know that's a witty banter protected zone?" Tori responded.

The girls were giggling again, but Linc remained straight faced as he ushered them quickly into the car.

"Geez, Linc! Got a hot date or something?" Tori teased.

"I'm just sick of coffee for once, ok?" he snapped.

"OK, calm down, Tiger," Tori said.

"Sorry, Tor," he said and squeezed her shoulder from the backseat. Something was definitely on his mind.

"No worries," she said. She'd text him when she got home so they could meet up tomorrow. He would spill once they were alone. You get pretty close when you share as many 3am's and cigarettes as they had.

"Punch it, Chewie!" she yelled to Shane.

Shane dropped Tori off at the back of the apartment building. Linc got out to get in the front seat. Tori cocked her head to the side and gave him a quizzical look. He hugged her quickly and slid into the front seat.

Tori walked in with fifteen minutes to spare. Tom was on the couch channel surfing. Tori plopped down next to him.

"Good night?" she inquired, holding out her phone with the 263 text on the screen.

"Not bad, You?" he asked without looking up from the television.

"We ran into a teacher at Grinds," she told him.

He looked at her in mock horror, "Creepy!"

"You have no idea," she said with an exaggerated shake of her head. She was still puzzled by Linc's reaction. Oh well, she'd get the scoop tomorrow.

Tom finally settled on a channel showing 'On the Waterfront'. They looked at each other and at the same time said, "I coulda been a contender."

Tori settled into a corner of the sofa with her legs curled under her.

Chapter Five

She must have fallen asleep at some point because she awoke on the couch, a blanket tucked around her, and a pillow under her head. She lay there a moment more not quite ready to be fully conscious yet. She cracked open one eye and saw Tommy standing over her with a cup of coffee in his hand. She sat up, stretched, and accepted the steaming mug. She was so not a morning person. You would think after nearly sixteen years, her brother would have picked up on that.

"Why am I awake so early on a friggin Saturday," Tori asked her brother accusingly.

"It's 9:30 and don't say friggin," Tom replied cheerfully. Ah, payback, he thought, 'tis a beautiful thing!

"I've got a bunch of errands to run. Do you want to come along?"

Tom had this insane need to be productive every day. Tori did not share his obsession. He reminded her of a puppy begging for attention. A very annoying puppy that she would like to kick until it yelped.

"Have you met me?" she growled, "I'm not really an errand kind of gal."

"C'mon! I'll buy you breakfast at Louie's," he cajoled.

That might almost be worth it. She'd have to leave her little couch nest, though. And she probably ought to brush her teeth, too.

"Alright, gimme ten minutes" she relented. It might be nice to spend some time not fighting with her brother.

Tori got herself ready and followed Tommy out to the parking lot. She was still not quite ready for conversation, but she was trying to reign in her usual morning crabbiness.

"How does it feel to finally use your powers for good?" he asked Tori with a smile.

Tori managed a smiled in return, "I do have mad detention getting skills."

"Before homeroom even started. I mean, that's gotta be some kind of record!"

"I'm like a detention guru. I could write a self help book."

"More like a self destruct book."

"Hurtful," she looked up at him with her bottom lip jutted out.

Tom was glad to see his sister seemed to have shaken off whatever was bothering her yesterday. He knew it had something to do with the case his partner was working on, but he also knew better than to push her too hard for information. She could go from chatterbox to mute faster than his Mustang went from 0-60.

Tom knocked out a few of his errands before heading to Louie's. He had been coming to this diner since he was a kid. It had been a Saturday morning tradition his dad started when he was three and they had included Tori when she was born. It took years after his father's death before Tom could eat here again and it was once again a favorite place for him to take Tori. He missed the days when he was just her brother. Because of their large age difference, and especially after the death of their father, Tori had always regarded him with some authority, but now that the entire responsibility was on him it could get rather overwhelming. She wouldn't talk much about the two years between when he moved out and when their mother died. He did know she had way too much freedom way too young and had a hard time with rules. Of course, the rules thing had been a rather gray area for her pretty much from birth. Tom smiled to himself.

"What are you so grinny about?" Tori said around a mouthful of eggs.

"Do you remember coming here with Dad?" he asked.

She was only seven when he died, so her memories were few and most were fuzzy at best. This, however, she did remember.

"Yeah," she said with a smile.

"Do you remember that time we came here at two in the morning?"

She did remember. She was five and had had a bad dream. She had climbed in bed with Tommy like she often did. She had been wide awake and she had woken him up, too. They both realized they were hungry. She forgot why her mom wasn't home, but it was just the three of them that weekend. Tommy had sent her in to their parents' room and told her to tell Dad that she'd had a bad dream. He said it wasn't a lie since it was the reason she'd woken up in the first place. She woke her dad and told him about her dream. She remembered her dad having a lot of patience. Way more than Tommy. Then she told him she wanted pancakes. He tried to convince her to go back to bed because they would go in a few hours. 'But I'm hungry now,' she remembered saying. Then Tommy gave himself away in the hall snorting because he thought it was funny. 'Thomas,' their father bellowed. He stopped laughing immediately. 'Yes, Sir?' he had said quietly from the doorway. 'Get yourself and your sister dressed. We're going to Louie's.'

"I almost peed my pants when he yelled out 'Thomas!," Tom was laughing now, "I thought I'd just gotten us both in so much trouble."

"I know !" Tori exclaimed, "Although to be fair, I was totally prepared to blame it all on you!"

"Gee, thanks."

"Any time. And I truly mean that," Tori was giggling.

They ate some more. Without looking up from her plate, Tori said, "Linc and I used to come here in the middle of the night sometimes."

"Yeah?" Tom knew not to ask too many questions. She would only share bits and pieces at a time.

"You used to be able to smoke in here from midnight until 5," she said still not looking up.

He didn't know if she had mentioned that to get a reaction to the smoking or because it was one of the more benign things she'd been up to at that time. Or maybe it was just because it was something that separated then from now.

Tom had been prepared to dislike Linc. He was, after all, the one taking his baby sister all over town in the middle of the night. That was until the day he heard Linc in the background of a call reaming her for some remark she had just made to Tom on the phone. She had actually apologized for it. He almost felt bad for her. Linc was pretty harsh. At least Tom had one person on his side. Doug had defected to Team Tori almost immediately.

"I gotta pee."

She knew he hated it when she said that. He gave her a disapproving look and she blew him a kiss. He paid the check and was waiting for her by the door when she came out. He held the door open for her and Tori heard her dad's voice in her head telling Tommy he should always open a door for a lady. She smiled at the memory.

"Hey, Tom," she started.

"Mmm?" he was looking down at his phone.

"Nothing."

He looked up as she looked away. "Me, too, Tor," he said.

They were both quiet for a little while. Tori started fiddling with the radio dial. More to give herself something to do rather than any real desire to find a certain song.

"Driver controls the music," Tom informed her.

"Then I should drive because I have better taste," she retorted.

"No, I'd like to arrive home in one piece, thank you."

"Dude, I'm a better driver than you," she said with annoyance.

"You don't even have your license," he reminded her.

"Let's race and I'll show you I'm a better driver!"

"I rest my case. And as much as I enjoy getting pulled over, I think I'll pass."

"You are just simply no fun anymore, Big Brother!" Tori said settling on a song she was pretty sure Tom would hate.

Tom reached over and turned the dial. She turned it back. They continued to have a proper brother and sister fight over the dial until they pulled into the parking lot in the back of their apartment. They continued in the parking lot playfully shoving each other until Tommy scooped Tori up and threw her over his shoulder. It was then that Tom noticed Doug leaning up against his motorcycle laughing at the two of them.

He walked over to where Doug stood with Tori still over his shoulder.

"You want in on this? I have to warn you though, she's a detention genius!"

Tori kicked at him without much success and he finally put her down.

"Thanks for rushing to my rescue, Doug!" Tori complained.

"You looked like you had it under control," he replied with a shrug.

"What's up, man? Your cable out again?" Doug wasn't all that great with remembering to pay bills on time.

"No. I need to talk to Tori, but you should be there, too," Doug said, all traces of amusement at Tom and Tori's antics gone.

Up until that point Tom and Tori had still been jostling each other back and forth. They stopped immediately and Tom put a protective hand on Tori's shoulder.

Doug followed the siblings up the stairs to their apartment dreading the conversation they were about to have.

As Tom opened the door he asked, "You want anything?"

"No, I'm good."

Tori took a seat on the couch with Tom next to her. Doug sat in the chair to the left of the couch. He scooted to the end of the chair so he was facing Tori.

"Did you know Brian Digby?" Tori immediately caught the did. Past tense.

"Yes," she replied cautiously.

"How well did you know him?" Doug continued.

She looked sideways at Tom, not sure how to answer. They hung out with the same people, went to the same parties. She knew him well enough to share smokes underneath the bleachers and a couple of joints behind the equipment shed. That was not information she was willing to share with two cops.

"Well enough. We know a lot of the same people." She hoped that answer was sufficient.

Tom had heard the past tense 'did', too.

"Get to the point, Penhall," he said a little more rudely than he had intended.

Doug ignored it. Tom wanted him to hurry for the same reason he was stalling.

"He was found dead of a self inflicted gunshot wound this morning."

Tori's eyes went wide for an instant and then her face went blank. Tom noticed immediately. It was the same look she had the night their mother died. Tom put his arm around her, but she shrugged out from under it.

"But that's not why I'm here. There were marks on his body that were definitely not self inflicted."

Tom looked at Doug and Tori was looking down at her lap. They were now talking around rather than to her.

"What's the connection?" Tom asked. He'd gone into cop mode.

"We're checking out what teachers these kids have had in common, what clubs, if any, etc."

Their conversation continued along those lines, then Tori heard Tom ask, "Are you pulling Tori out?"

"It's up to you."

The cop in him knew they had a better chance with her in. The protective brother in him wanted to grab her and run.

Tori looked up and said, "No."

They both turned in her direction.

"I can do it," Tori stood up abruptly, "I gotta go."

She grabbed her jacket and phone and took off. She was out the door and down the hall before either man had time to react.

"You want me to go get her?" Doug asked.

"No. She's going to find Linc," Tom replied.

"How do you know?"

"I don't. But if not, he'll know where to find her."

Doug nodded, "Well I'm here if you guys need anything."

"Thanks. What do you think is really going on?" Tom knew Doug would have a theory.

"I think it's a teacher. I'm not sure who yet. I've got my eye on Parrish. What I can't figure out is what is keeping these kids from telling someone. I mean, a teacher would lose their job immediately so what is it they're all so afraid of?"

Tom shook his head, "I never should have let her do this."

"Tom, I swear on my life, I'll protect her," Doug assured his best friend.

Chapter Six

Tom was right. Tori had gone to find Linc. She texted him a couple of times, but got no response. She figured he was probably at the skate park and that's exactly where she found him. She sat in the grassy area watching him and waiting for him to look up so she get his attention. It didn't take long. As soon as he saw her, he knew something was wrong. He sat down and pulled her in a tight hug. She tried to pull away, but he wouldn't let her. Linc was the only person that she allowed to do that. They sat like that for a few minutes before Tori spoke.

"Brian Digby shot himself this morning."

"I know," Linc said, finally letting her go.

Neither of them had been particularly close to Brian, but he was a pretty nice guy and was always happy to share his weed. Tori didn't indulge much anymore. She was afraid her brother would stroke out if she got caught with drugs. He could really use a joint, though,she thought.

Tori giggled out loud.

"You have a really warped sense of humor, Tor," Linc said in the parental tone she hated.

"It's not that," she said with a roll of her eyes. "Can you imagine Tommy lighting up a big ol' doob?"

Linc laughed, "I don't know what's funnier - him smoking pot or that you just said doob!"

"Brian and weed kind of go hand in hand," she pointed out.

Tori frowned debating whether or not to tell him what else she knew. She decided instead to ask him again about the bruise on his face.

"Drop it, Tori," Linc warned.

"Oh come on! I want to hear all about the door you ran into," Tori said, trying to coax it out of him.

Linc stood up and started walking away. Tori had to scramble to catch up to him. She put her hand on his arm and he whipped around to face her. She took a step back when she saw the scowl on his face. He hadn't meant to scare her. He was trying to protect her.

"I just don't want to talk about it ok?" he said hoping she would leave it alone.

She did, but in typical Tori fashion, she shut down completely. She turned and stormed away from him. Linc went after her. She didn't slow down, but she didn't speed up, either. Eventually, he caught up to her. He knew something else was wrong, but he also knew he couldn't force it out of her.

"Are you and Tom fighting?" They were always fighting so that was a safe question.

"No."

"Is he pissed about the detentions?"

"No. Well, yeah, but not like grounded pissed."

"Tori, for all our sakes, can you just try to avoid getting detention for awhile?" Linc implored of her.

"I can't help it if my brand of humor doesn't translate to all audiences," she said with a wink.

And she's back, he thought.

"Besides, somebody needs to keep you company, Mr. I'm Going for a Record!"

Had he known what would happen next, Linc would never have said that.

"I didn't mean it as a challenge for you, Tor," he was trying to keep it light, but a worried look flickered in his eyes.

"That's just cuz you'd lose to the master! One word - homeroom!" Tori reminded him proudly.

Linc had lost his patience with her. "Geez, Tori, what is so hard about keeping your mouth shut? If Tom won't do anything about it maybe I should!"

"Sorry, Dad, please don't ground me," Tori said, her tone dripping with sarcasm. "It's not like anybody ever died from serving detention!"

"Yeah, tell that to Brian!" He hadn't meant to say that and immediately wished he could take it back.

Tori stared at him, eyes wide with shock. And suddenly she knew where he had gotten the bruise. Linc nodded as if she had asked the question aloud.

"You can't tell anyone," Linc pleaded with her, "Just stay out of trouble for a while, ok? I can handle it."

Tori didn't understand, "But why? We can go tell Tommy right now. Let the cops deal with this douche."

"Because he'll claim self defense or some shit. He knows my parents don't give a fuck and no one will believe a loser like me. I'll get expelled."

Tori winced at the word loser. That's what he had said. That she didn't want to end up like the losers here. It was beginning to make more sense now. Mr. Brody was trying to guage her home life. She was glad she had trusted her gut and made like Tommy was clueless and didn't care about her getting in trouble. Lying may actually work for her for once.

Tori put her arms around him. "You're not a loser, Linc. You just got dealt a shit hand. We're going to graduate in a couple of years and who will be the loser, then?"

"You. Cuz I'll be too busy with all the sorority babes to save your sorry ass anymore!"

"I guess I'll just have to get a couple of frat boys to hold me over the keg then!"

"You seriously want to give your brother a heart attack before he's 30, don't you?" Linc shook his head in mock disapproval.

"30? I'm shooting for 25!"

Tori's phone started playing a sax solo. Tommy's ears must have been burning. She ignored it. She wasn't ready to talk to him yet. Linc pulled his phone out as the sound of the sax died out and began tapping out a text.

"Who are you texting?" she asked, even though she was pretty sure she knew the answer.

"Your brother to let him know you're fine," he said as he hit send.

She hated it when he did that. She also loved him for it.

Chapter Seven

Doug wasn't sure if Tom wanted him to stay or go, so he opted to stay until they heard from Tori. Tom grabbed a couple of beers and turned the tv on. He flipped through the channels until he found a suitable sporting event and he tried to relax. His phone vibrated on the table and Doug tossed it to him. It was a text from Linc.

"She's fine. She's with Linc," he informed Doug.

"Damn he's a better guardian than you!" Doug remarked.

"She listens better to him, too. It's annoying," he replied.

"Maybe you should try some reverse psychology. Tell her it's ok to get detention and come home at 3am." Doug was joking.

"Yeah, right. She'd finally do what she was told. Then what?" Tom laughed.

"You just can't win."

"Nope, but at least I get to take my frustration out pretending to be a degenerate teenager."

They exchanged a look then yelled, "The McQuaid Brothers! Heh!"

They watched the game for a while, then Doug looked at his watch and rose to leave.

"I gotta go. Big date tonight!" he explained.

"I remember dating," Tom lamented.

"You can still date. Lots of ladies think a guy with a kid is cute," Doug said.

"A fifteen year old with a bad attitude?" Tom said doubtfully.

"Yeah, probably not. But you can still date. You two might get along better if you got out more."

"Just what she needs, Penhall, more unsupervised free time. Have you met her?" Tom was kidding, but he really did find it harder to get out now.

Doug laughed, but he also understood where Tori was coming from. He had a much better idea what those two years were probably like than Tom did. Hell, he was in his 20's and still had issues with authority.

Doug left and not really caring who won the game, Tom channel surfed until he found a movie with explosions and not much of a plot. Maybe Doug's right, he thought. He felt like the oldest twenty three year old on the planet.

It was Tom's turn to crash on the couch. He woke when he heard the front door creak open. He glanced at his phone and saw 2:27. Upon closer inspection it was 12:27, but she was still late. Tori saw him asleep on the couch and tried to quietly slip into her room. He was about to say something, but figured she could use one little victory about now. He waited until he heard her bedroom door close and made his way to his own bedroom.

Tom was up at seven which for him was sleeping in. Tori finally surfaced around eleven. She made herself comfortable on the couch and grabbed the remote. Tom left her to it. He went down to the corner bakery and grabbed coffee and pastries for the both of them. When he got home he handed her a large coffee and a bear claw. She grunted out a thanks. An image of his mom putting a still half asleep six year old Tori on the bus for school popped into his head. She and mornings had never seen eye to eye.

The caffeine and sugar were working their magic and he decided to take his chances addressing her.

"You got plans for the day?" he asked

"You're looking at it," she replied without looking up.

"You are positively brimming with ambition. How do you do it?" he taunted.

"I am exercising great restraint right now by not throwing anything at you," Tori warned.

"Really? Restrain this!" He yanked her off the couch , but not before she grabbed a pillow to whack him with. It was on!

Soon they were out of breath and laughing.

"I thought you were supposed to be the adult, Tommy," Tori teased when she caught her breath.

"I guess I brought my work home again."

"You know you're half a retard, right?"

"Yeah, well you're the other half!"

It was an insult from when Tori was about eight. It used to make their mom so mad. Which of course made it their absolute favorite thing to say to each other.

"You better get back on the couch. The TV is not going to watch itself."

"Care to join me? The family that slacks together..."

"Don't mind if I do."

They spent the rest of the day doing a whole lot of nothing.

Chapter Eight

Monday morning came bright and early as they tend to do. "Good morning, Sunshine," Tom said addressing his less than thrilled to be awake sister.

She responded by wiping imaginary sleep out of her eye with her middle finger.

"Nice. And after I slaved over breakfast and everything." He handed her a Poptart and a cup of coffee.

"Positively gourmet," Tori said after a healthy sip of coffee.

"Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You want a ride?"

"Why not? My witty banter kind of got Shane busted."

Tom raised an eyebrow. She forgot she hadn't told him why she got detention last Friday.

"Long story and her parents just aren't as cool as you."

"I'm not that cool with it," he warned.

"You're just not that cool. I guess that goes to the second child."

"So does this," he said and pulled her into a headlock.

"It is seriously too early for this." Tori complained.

As they pulled up in front of the school, Tori felt a small wave of apprehension. She really hoped she could avoid detention today, but she knew she needed to check out Mr. Brody. Tom opened her door and told her he would be picking her up that afternoon.

"Make sure to check your email first," Tori said, then waved and ran toward the school before he could respond.

"Just can't wait to get to homeroom or what?" Linc inquired as he caught up with Tori.

"Nope. In fact we can just skip it if you want," Tori looked at him hopefully.

"Are you serious?" Does she ever learn?

"Oh, come on. It's Monday. It's way too early for all this," Tori tried to convince him.

"You're giving me a headache," Linc said as he steered her toward her classroom.

"How about skipping fifth and taking three lunches? I'm thinking tacos."

"No."

"Pizza?"

"No."

"So I have to go to all my classes?"

"Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner!"

"You and Tommy are determined to ruin all my fun aren't you?"

"Yes, we have secret meetings about it all the time. Now get in there. I'll see you at lunch."

"All three? Tacos?"

"Go."

Linc was still outside the door when Tori stuck her head back out.

"How did you know?"

"I'm psychic."

She smiled at him and returned to her classroom. He is no fun anymore.

They met up at lunch and Tori began pestering him to skip the rest of the day. She didn't really care one way or the other, she just felt like bugging him.

"How does Tom put up with you?" Linc finally asked, exasperated.

"He grounds me, I ignore it. It's kind of a thing we have," she responded.

"The thing you have is called pain in the ass-itis."

"So no skipping?"

"What do you think?"

"I think I'll have to make a break for it on my own."

"I dare you, seriously," he warned.

"Oh, a dare, huh?" She kept on.

"Tor, I'm not kidding now,"

"Me, either."

"So you're just going to skip then?" He was mad now.

"No."

And just then she was literally saved by the bell. She planted a quick kiss on his cheek and rushed off to her locker

Tori was about to walk into her history class when Doug came up to her and quietly said, "Follow my lead. Ask to be excused fifteen minutes into class."

He grabbed her arm and said, "Give me the cigarettes."

"What?"

"You heard me!"

"I don't know what you're talking about!"

"I saw you, so don't play games with me, young lady!" He grabbed her backpack, opened the front pocket, and pulled out a pack of Marlboros.

They were making quite a commotion which drew several students and Mr. Parrish from his classroom to see what was going on.

He had Tori backed up against the lockers and still squeezing her arm held the cigarette pack in front of her face.

"Still don't know what I'm talking about?"

Mr. Parrish broke in, "Mr. Bennett, that is not how we handle students in this school! Let her go!"

He then turned to Tori, "Miss Hanson, please go take your seat."

Doug let her go. "Hanson is it? Plan on having your name on the detention list."

"Everyone to your classrooms, please," Mr. Parrish directed.

As the students made their way to their classrooms, Doug addressed Mr. Parrish, "These kids just think they can get away with anything these days. I think I agree with you on corporal punishment."

"Mr. Bennett, you may want to consider another career if that's how you feel. Manhandling them will not result in better behavior and it will get you fired."

Mr. Parrish entered the classroom and gave Tori a small nod.

Maybe he's not so bad, Tori thought. She raised her hand fifteen minutes into the period as instructed and asked to use the restroom. Mr. Parrish handed her a pass and she made her way down the hall.

Doug was around the corner so they couldn't be seen by Mr. Parrish.

"Nice job," he said, "Sorry I had to get you a detention."

"I must be off my game, if I had to stage one," she said.

"Tori, we think it might be a teacher. I wanted to see what kind of reaction I would get."

Tori debated whether or not to tell him what she suspected. If she told him it was Mr. Brody, he might not want her in detention today. She knew Linc would be there for skipping Friday.

"I better get a pass next time from Tommy for serving this one," Tori told him.

"Just think of all the things you should have been busted for and weren't," Doug replied.

"Hey, Doug?"

"Yeah?"

"You know I smoke Camels, right?"

"I'll try to be more authentic next time and that better be a joke. Back to class."

Tori grinned at him and returned to her class.

Tori was dreading detention. It wasn't like she ever looked forward to it, but it was not that big of a deal and she usually got her homework done before going home which was kind of a bonus. Even Tommy didn't make that much of it as long as it wasn't for ditching or tardies. Because she was in no mood for a lecture, she decided not to meet Linc at his locker. By the time he got there all he would be able to do is give her a disapproving look. She was used to those.

As Tori entered the room, Mr. Brody said, "Miss Hanson, I see we've decided to make this a habit."

Not wanting to seem out of character, Tori answered with a flip, "It's just so irresistable."

"It's supposed to be a deterrant. Perhaps this is not the best solution for you."

"Probably not," she said, "But, hey, whadya gonna do?"

She took her seat as Linc walked in the door. He quickly made his way toward Tori. She could see he was angry.

"What now? Really? Did we not just talk about this?" he whispered to her.

"Relax, Dad,it's just detention," Tori was still trying to believe that.

"This conversation is not over," he told her.

"Actually, Mr. Graves, it is. Detention has started. Silence please," said Mr. Brody.

Tori pulled her homework out, but was having trouble concentrating. She managed to finish most of it, but she knew she would have to go back and check it later. She began to pack up her things.

Mr. Brody asked Linc, Tori, and Luke, another kid they hung out with to stay as he dismissed the rest of the students.

"I have to go," Tori said and started for the door.

Mr. Brody grabbed her and slammed her against the desk. "I think you'll be staying for a while. I told you you didn't want to make this a habit."

"It's over, Mr. Brody, you can't keep doing this," she said.

Linc grabbed him from behind as he tried to push her again.

"Luke, go get Mr. Bennett," she said. He hesitated and she shouted, "Now!"

Mr. Brody shifted on Linc and drove a fist into his stomach.

"What do you think he's going to do for you? I saw what happened in the hall. Finally, somebody who isn't willing to take shit from you kids anymore. If your parents won't bother to train you right, it's up to me!"

He backhanded Tori across the face. Linc grabbed him again and got him with a right to the jaw.

"That's all I need to claim self defense. Thanks." He sneered.

He went for Tori again, but Linc was quicker and he got between them. "Go!" he yelled to her.

Tori went for the door, but Mr. Brody grabbed her by the collar and pulled her back. They heard the sound of running footsteps in the hall. Mr. Brody quickly moved away from the two of them as Penhall burst through the door.

"Thank, God!" Mr. Brody exclaimed, "These two attacked me out of nowhere. We need to call the police!"

"I got news for you, I am the police," Penhall pulled out his badge, "You're under arrest for assault." He handcuffed him and began to read him his rights.

Tori and Linc were in the hall as two uniformed officers made their way toward the classroom with Tom right behind them.

"I'm fine," Tori said as Tom approached her. She tried to turn away so he wouldn't see the bruise starting to form on her cheek, but it was too late.

"Damn, Tor," he said as he got a better look. He was furious.

"Linc got the worst of it," she said, "He got me out of the way." She squeezed Linc's hand.

Before Tom could reply, Doug exited the classroom followed by the officers escorting Mr. Brody out of the school.

Mr. Brody glanced back at Tori and Linc in the hallway and said with disdain, "You're both still just a couple of losers."

Tori exploded. "You son of a bitch!" she screamed. She lunged at him, but Tom caught her around the waist.

"Let go of me!" She kicked and tried to pull away from Tom. "Put me down!"

As soon as she stopped struggling, Tom let her go and she stormed down the hall toward the exit door. On the way out she pushed over a garbage can and gave it a few good kicks. When she reached the door she shoved it open as hard as she could. She sat down on the first step wishing she had a cigarette.

Tom, Doug, and Linc stared after her in shocked silence for a moment.

Doug spoke first, "I'll get her. She's going to need to give a statement. I'll need one from you, too, Linc, so stay put."

Tori was still seated on the step as Doug walked out the door. He sat next to her in silence trying to guage her emotions.

After a moment he said, "You did a good job, Tori."

She continued to stare angrily into the distance.

"I'm going to need to get a statement from you. We can do it at the chapel. It's your choice on how you get there. I'll even get a black and white if you want. You know for your rep." Doug tried to joke.

Tori gave him a small half smile and briefly considered it.

"Can I go with Tommy?"

"Yeah, sure. Whatever you want," Doug said a little surprised that she had actually asked for her brother.

They made their way back into the school where Tom and Linc were waiting. Tori's adrenaline had receded and she was suddenly exhausted.

"She asked for you," Doug informed Tom as they approached.

Tom looked at his baby sister. The bruise was in full bloom now and she looked so tired. He wrapped his arms around her in a tight hug and for the first time in months, she didn't pull away. Doug motioned for Linc to follow him so they could give them some privacy.

"I am so sorry, Tori," Tom said as he held her close. He knew that bruise had to hurt.

Tori looked up at him, smiled and said, "Don't be retarded, Tommy."

He shook as head as they both laughed. "Tori, you are one of a kind."

"I'm pretty sure that's a good thing," Tori concluded.

"It is, but I love you anyway."

"I love you, too, Tommy."

He hugged her again. It was good to have her back.