Tori Hanson sat in the driver's seat of her brother's blue '68 Mustang trying to get it started. It was parked behind the bar she and her friends had just exited. They were waiting outside while she got the engine cranked. She heard a tap on the window which was cracked open about an inch. Without looking up she said, "Hang on a minute! I don't exactly have keys here." The keys were in a bowl on her brother's dresser.
The engine roared to life as she heard another tap. She looked up to see Officer Doug Penhall standing outside, his badge pressed to the window. Shit. Her friends had scattered when they saw him approach the car, badge out. Traitors.
"Out," was all Officer Penhall said. He knew exactly who she was and whose car she was in. He also knew she didn't even have a permit, let alone a license. Not to mention that she was outside a bar at 1am on a Wednesday.
Her hand hovered over the shifter, but before she could put it in gear, Penhall pulled the door open and told her to move over so he could drive her home.
"Now!" he shouted. Tori climbed into the passenger seat. Best not to add eluding a police officer to her growing list of charges.
As he put the car in gear, he asked her, "Do you even know how to drive?"
"Yeah, how do you think we got here. I'm not gonna let one of those retards drive my brother's car." She was pissed that they had deserted her even though she would've done the same thing.
"What are you doing at a bar on a school night? Or ever? How did you even get in? Have you been drinking?"
"Damn, dude, you need a topic for your blog or something?" she asked with contempt. She was not going to spill her guts to some cop especially her brother's partner. He'd probably write up a report on it. She let out a little snort of laughter at that thought.
"Put your seatbelt on and shut up," he replied irritated. No wonder Hanson looks like his head is about to explode all the time.
They drove the rest of the short distance in silence. Doug pulled into what he knew was Tom Hanson's usual spot. He barely had the car in park before Tori jumped out and headed toward the fire escape she had climbed down a few hours ago.
Doug grabbed the collar of her jacket. "Uh, uh. You're coming with me."
He hauled her up the stairs and down the hall to the apartment she shared with her older brother. They stood for a minute in front of the door until Tori reminded him she didn't have any keys. He pounded on the door. He still had Tori by the collar. He had a good nine inches on her so she was nearly on tiptoe. He pounded some more until he heard the deadbolt slide open. Tom Hanson stood in the doorway wrapped in a blanket. He'd obviously been deep asleep and he was not happy about the intrusion.
Doug shoved Tori forward. "I believe this belongs to you," he said. He then brought her inside and deposited her on the couch.
Tom stood looking from Tori to Doug, mouth open. What the hell...
"I found her outside The Panther's Paw with a whole group of underage deviants. They scattered like roaches when I flashed my badge," he said smiling, "but I got the one I was after." He pointed at Tori.
"I wasn't drinking, I just wanted to hear the band," Tori tried to defend herself.
Doug turned his head slowly to look at her. "I'm sorry, but you do not have any lines in this play."
He turned back to Tom who was clenching and unclenching his jaw.
"Anything else I need to know?" Tom asked through gritted teeth.
"Yeah, I need twenty bucks for the cab."
"What cab?" Tom asked confused.
"I only have one helmet," he said by way of explanation. He then looked at Tori and said, "Go to bed."
She scooted off the couch and quickly did as she was told. She wondered why he left out the part where she had "borrowed" Tom's car.
"How did you do that?" Tom asked as he heard Tori's bedroom door close with a small click. If it had just been the two of them, they would have screamed at each other for an hour and then Tori would have stomped off to her bedroom and slammed the door.
"It's my air of mature authority," Doug replied.
Tom looked at his best friend dressed in torn jeans and a concert t-shirt looking barely out of high school himself.
"Yeah," he said, "That must be it."
Tom handed Doug a twenty dollar bill and said, "Do you need a ride? Please say no."
"No, I'm good. Just let me know if you need help burying the body," Doug joked.
Tom smiled, but he was less than amused at the moment.
Doug left and Tom shuffled down the hall. He opened Tori's door. She was dead asleep half in and half out of the blankets. How does she do that? he wondered. He was now wide awake. She could crash anywhere and in seconds. He added that to his ever growing list of things his sister did that annoyed him.
The next morning, Tori stalled in her room as long as possible before going out the door to school. Tom was in the kitchen. He looked tired and she knew he was mad. Not a great combination.
She walked quickly to the front door. Her hand was on the knob when Tom spoke.
"Can you get a ride to the chapel after school?" he asked.
"Probably," she responded. She really didn't want to do that. It was so freaking boring and it took valuable time away from smoking pot behind the equipment shed.
"Good. I'll see you at 3:45."
"I can hardly wait," she muttered under her breath, but loudly enough that she knew Tom had heard her.
Tori arrived at school in no mood for the traitors formerly known as her friends. At least, Tommy hadn't insisted on giving her a ride.
"You out on bail or what?" Shane asked.
Tori shot her a dirty look, then decided that it might be fun to add to her already dubious reputation, "Something like that."
"Did you spend the night in jail?" She felt kind of bad for deserting her.
"Nah. They don't put kids in jail. Just a holding cell." Tori didn't actually know if that was true or not, but she knew there was a holding cell at Jump Street.
Tori let the story build on its own by neither confirming nor denying anything other than stealing the car. She was proud of that and it was probably the only part of the story that was still true. There were a few people who didn't believe her. Since she needed a ride anyway, she proved it. Unfortunately for the guy she proved it to, she took off in his car. She came back to pick him up and since he thought it was a riot he let her drive to the chapel.
Tori arrived at the chapel at 3:45 as promised in a hotwired car with a very impressed senior who had just lost his status as resident badass to a fourteen year old girl. She didn't even bother to say hello to her brother and she certainly didn't mention how she got there. She found an empty desk and pulled out her books to start on her homework. There was nothing else to do. Besides, you get away with a lot more if you get good grades.
Doug sauntered over to the desk Tori had commandeered.
"You could say thank you," he said.
"Yeah, thanks. It was super awesome of you to haul me in through the front door and wake Tommy up. Way better than coming quietly back in through the window." She flashed him two thumbs up.
Doug leaned over the desk about an inch from her face. "I put people in jail for stealing cars," he said in a low, menacing voice. He had made kids cry with less.
Tori held his stare without flinching, and said, "Well, I guess I'm scared straight now." She immediately went back to her homework, dismissing him. Doug made a mental note to remember that line the next time he went in as a McQuaid brother. It occured to him that she could be an actual McQuaid. Poor Hanson. He stood back up as Tom arrived to collect Tori.
"Let's go," he said gruffly. He was exhausted. He didn't even feel like yelling at Tori. He just wanted to eat and zone in front of the television.
Tori followed him without comment for once. He opened the door for her and she slumped in the seat, arms crossed. It drove Tom nuts that she never put her seatbelt on. He reached over and put it on for her. For some reason that made Tori feel like crying. But she didn't really do that anymore. She looked over at her brother. He had dark circles under his eyes and he just looked weary. And it was all her fault. All of it. Why did her idiot mother have to crash her car? Life was so much easier when no one gave a shit where she was or what she was doing.
Tom caught her looking at him and cocked one eyebrow. Out of nowhere this struck Tori as totally hilarious. She burst out laughing and soon Tom was laughing, too. It was always one extreme or the other lately.
"You know, one of these days I'm going to drop you off at the bus station," he said with a grin.
"I would have put my money on smothering me in my sleep," Tori grinned back at him.
"Will you at least come visit me after I end up in a mental instituion?" he teased some more.
"If, and only if, you share your jello," she said in a very serious voice.
"Shoot, at this rate, we'll have adjoining rooms." he concluded.
Tom pulled into his spot at the back of their apartment building. He came around to open the door for Tori. He slung his arm over her shoulder as they walked toward the entrance. He looked down at her and said, "You know you're totally grounded, right?"
She sighed and said, "Yeah, I figured." And at that moment she didn't even care. Plus, she was just going to ignore it anyway.
Tom decided to take the night off from being her guardian. He wanted to just be her brother for a little while. He called Captain Fuller to inform him he may be late the next day. They filled the evening with everything they had loved when they were younger - bad food, bad movies, bad jokes and staying up too late. They fell asleep with the TV on, Tori curled up in a chair, Tom sprawled out on the couch.
Tori woke from the dream with a lurch and a small gasp. She looked at Tom on the couch, but he didn't move. Her heart was pounding. She needed to get out for a little while. She stood to retrieve her shoes. She didn't know or care what time it was, she just needed someplace without walls right now.
She was almost to the door when she heard Tom's voice and froze.
"Where are you going?"
She thought about saying school, but it was still pitch black out.
"Walk," she said fingers crossed that this would not turn into another fight.
Tom looked around for his shoes and said, "Hang on I'll come with you." He glanced at his phone as he slipped into the pocket of his jacket and saw it was a little after 4am. Is she part vampire?
Tori usually took these little jaunts by herself. It was the only time she felt like she could really breathe. She loved the dark and the silence. There was no pressure to be anything. Even being a juvenile delinquent took work. She didn't even know why she did half the things she did. The rush maybe. To piss her brother off. To see just how far she could push it before it all rained back down on her. So far, she'd only nearly been arrested. And how could she have known that she and Doug Penhall liked the same band? She smiled at that thought. The rumors at school were awesome. She'd have to ditch in a couple of days just to see what else they could come up with.
Tom saw a brief smile cross Tori's face and wondered what she was thinking. He never knew. She never told him. He wondered when that door had closed. When she was little she told him everything. Sometimes she would climb in bed with him in the middle of the night and they would talk and laugh and sometimes get in trouble for waking up their parents. Although, now that he thought about it, they never seemed all that mad.
They walked on for some time. Tom let Tori set the pace. She had the hood of her sweatshirt pulled up and her hands jammed deep in the pockets. She never thought about things like the weather and it was fairly chilly. Tom touched her shoulder, but she jerked away. He didn't know if he had startled her or if she just didn't want to be touched. He felt way out of his depth and he wished his dad were here. Of course, if he were, they wouldn't be wandering the streets in the middle of the night. Well, Tori still might. She had always been headstrong, stubborn, and fiercly independent. She believed punishment was just the price of her fun and she'd take it just for a good time. All the things Tom admired about her were the very things that made him want to strangle her sometimes.
Tori stopped at the gate to a small playground. It was locked so she climbed over the fence without even a backward glance. Tom followed her over, but not before looking around quickly to see if anybody could see them. Tori scrambled up the side of a dome shaped climbing structure and sat on top. She wondered what Tom would do if she lit a smoke right now. She didn't have any on her so it didn't really matter and she didn't really want to fight anyway. Tom sat on a nearby bench watching her and hoping she didn't fall just like he had when she was six. After a few minutes, she climbed down.
Tori liked this park best because the ground was covered in a spongy rubber material. She kicked up into a handstand. She fell into a bridge then kicked her legs back over. She missed gymnastics. It was one of the few things that had been just hers and she was pretty good at it. She did a running roundoff followed by two perfect back handsprings. She wondered if she still had her back tuck. She went for it. The landing was a little wobbly, but not bad. She was in jeans in a park in the middle of the night, afterall. She had all but forgotten Tom was there. She kicked up into another handstand and suddenly she remembered she wasn't alone. She came down in a lunge. She finished with a flourish, bent to accept her imaginary gold medal, and plopped down on the bench next to her brother. "And the crowd goes wild," she said as she pulled her hood back up and jammed her hands back in her pockets.
Tori looked at her brother, "Dude, you need some sleep. You look like shit."
"Yeah, I get that a lot lately. Can't imagine why," he shook his head at her.
They rose to leave and he added, "And don't say shit in front of your brother."
It was a long running joke with them. Tommy had had a brief flirtation with words of the four letter variety when he was about thirteen. Their parents were constantly yelling at him not to say whatever word it was in front of his sister.
Tori and Tom arrived home a little before 6am. Tom flopped back down on the couch. Tori headed to her room and, Tom presumed, bed. She emerged around 7:30, showered and dressed.
She looked over the back of the couch and said softly, "Sleep tight, Big Brother."
For the second time that morning she heard, "Where are you going?"
"School. I have to catch a bus cuz my ride is asleep."
"Gimme a minute, I'll take you."
"Don't worry about it. And yes, I'll get there," she assured him, "I have a test first period. I might even go to every class today. You know, try something new!"
Tom was too tired to comment on that and simply said, "Chapel. 3:45."
"Hell, I might even be there at 3:44," she replied.
"Don't say hell in front of your brother," he said as she walked out the door.
After Tori left, Tom debated whether or not to move to the comfort of his bed. He fell back asleep before he reached a decision.
Tom woke around 10:30 wishing he could take the day off. He had told Fuller he'd be in at noon, so he got hImself up and ready to go. Stalling, he checked his email on his phone. He had two from the school. Great.
The first was standard issue - Your child will be serving detention today for the following reason: Sleeping in class. At least I know she sleeps sometime.
The second was from Tori's English teacher:
Unfortunately, I had to give Tori detention today. She fell asleep in my class. It was the second time this week and has happened in the past, as well. I hesitated only because she is doing so well academically. She has quite a way with words.
I know this has been a difficult time for the both of you. I am concerned about her.
You and me both, Ms. Huntley.
Tom hurried into the chapel just before noon. He knew he had a lot to do and as usual not enough time to do it. He was constantly behind these days. Captain Fuller had been very patient with him. It had only been a few months since he had lost his mother and become Tori's guardian. He wondered if his mom had spent as much time at the school as he had. He didn't think so, but he also didn't think that his sister's behavior was something new. And Tori wasn't talking. Tom sighed without realizing it.
"Yo, Hanson! Noon? Tsk, tsk!" Penhall said launching a wad of paper in Tom's direction. He loved to point out any time Hanson was late, which was almost never. He had a rather flexible concept of time himself.
Tom threw the wad back in Doug's general direction and proceeded to ignore him. He had to get to work.
"Geez, who peed in your Cheerios?" Penhall said a little irked.
"I just have a lot to do. I'd like to get an actual case sometime this century," Tom complained.
Doug nodded in sympathy. He knew it couldn't be easy. And he knew because he had pulled all the same stunts when he was a teenager. He never stole a car, though. He couldn't help being slightly impressed. He didn't learn to drive until he was fifteen and he didn't learn how to hotwire a car until he had his license.
"I'm going to grab lunch. You want anything?" Doug offered.
Tom hadn't even thought about food in his rush to arrive by the agreed time.
"Yeah. Get me whatever. I'm starving," he said and grabbed his wallet.
"Don't worry about it. You can buy next time."
Tom realized he had given his last ten to Tori anyway and replied with a grateful, "Thanks, man."
Tom was so focused on what he was doing, he lost all track of time. When he finally looked up, stretching, he saw that it was already 4:15. Damn.
"Penhall, you busy?" he inquired of his partner who was leaned back in his chair, boots up on his desk. "I need a big favor and you can drive my car." He never let anyone drive his car.
"I might be interested. Do I get paid?" Doug replied.
"I will owe you one. Maybe three. Will you pick Tori up at school?"
"How'd she get here yesterday?" he asked as he caught the keys Tom had thrown.
"It's school policy that students be picked up at the school after detention," Tom said with a frown. "You don't have to sign her out or anything and they ought to recognize my car by now."
Doug shook his head, "Are you sure you two are related?"
"It's not my fault. I asked for a brother."
Tori stood outside the school far enough away from both the builiding and the curb that she wouldn't get caught smoking. She saw her brother's Mustang approaching, threw the cigarette down and crushed it.
The car pulled to a stop as she approached. She wondered who was driving. Tommy always got out and opened the door for her. She opened the door and saw Doug. Deja vu.
She slid in, looked over at him and asked, "You bust any car thieves today?"
Doug wanted to be annoyed with her, but he actually thought she was kind of funny.
"Not yet, but you only just got here."
Tori smiled, "I see you also speak smartass as a second language."
"Fluent in fact." Maybe Penhall wasn't so bad after all.
"How'd you get detention?"
"Fell asleep in English. Again."
"You're rubbing off on you brother. He didn't show his slacker face til noon."
She actually felt kind of bad about that.
"He always did look up to me."
"I'm sure. Put your seatbelt on."
They walked through the door of the chapel chatting about bands and who they'd like to see live. Tori headed over to Tom's desk.
"Did you sleep well, Tommy?" she asked.
"Yes, did you?" He did not find her as entertaining as Doug did.
"Forty seven minutes is just not enough," she replied, referring to the length of the class periods.
Tom shot her a look, "Make yourself comfortable. I'm going to be here a while. Do you have homework?"
"As it turns out, I had extra time at school to complete it." She was really pushing her luck.
Doug had to supress a laugh and made a slashing motion across his neck at her. She crossed her eyes at him. She then pulled out her phone, plugged in some headphones, and kicked her legs up on the empty desk she was beginning to think of as hers. She zoned out for a while.
The chair Tori had been leaning back in hit the floor with a loud bang as Tom swept her legs off the desk. She nearly fell out. She pulled the earbuds out as she stood up.
"You awake?" Tom asked obviously pleased with himself for startling her.
"I am now!" She tried to sound irritated, but really she enjoyed the stupid games they played.
"You know, I could hear your music all the way over at my desk. You're going to be deaf before you graduate high school."
"If it's too loud, you're too old, dude."
"Let me just grab my cane, then and we can go."
"I knew there was a smartass somewhere in there."
"Don't say ass in front of your brother." Tom pulled her into a quick headlock.
A whole day without fighting, Tom thought, Hallelujah.
Their cease fire did not last long. Tom gave Tori a ride to school the next day. As he opened the door for her, he reminded her to be at the chapel at 3:45.
"Seriously? It's Friday!" Tori griped.
"You're grounded, remember?" Tom was not in the mood and he was dreading the weekend. It occured to him that he was basically grounded, too.
"Whatever." Tori walked toward the school without bothering to say goodbye.
How long until she graduates?
She arrived at the chapel on time per Tom's instructions. She gave her brother a murderous look and sat at her usual desk, headphones already on. She almost wished she had homework just for something to do.
Doug Penhall walked in as the time was closing in on six. Tori pulled her headphones out and still ignoring her brother said, "Hey, man. Just heard they're gonna announce the lineup for Valley Fest next week."
"Yeah, should be a great show. No detention today?"
"Nope! And I went to almost every class, too!" The last part was added for her brother's benefit.
"Almost every one? Impressive." He wasn't above trying to get under Hanson's skin, either.
"Well, had to make the rounds and my weekend plans, ya know."
"Had to let everyone know you were spending Friday night at the bowling alley?" Tom piped up from his desk. Leaving her home was not an option and he was not about to cancel his plans.
"I'll take Things That are Never Gonna Happen for $1200, Alex," Tori responded.
"Hate to break it to you, kiddo, but you're going."
"Don't they drug test cops? Cuz I'm pretty sure you're on crack if you think I'm hanging out in a frigging bowling alley on a Friday night."
"I'm thinking no way."
It escalated from there until they were both yelling at each other not caring that they were in the middle of the common area. The sound of it sent Fuller barrelling out of his office.
"Both of you! My office now!"
It had been many years since the two of them had been in trouble together. Tom had to resist the urge to shove her in the doorway. Mostly because she would shove him back. And he was supposedly the adult, although he felt about twelve at the moment.
"Hanson, care to explain this?" Fuller asked clearly not happy with him.
"We have a difference of opinion on tonight's activity," he replied trying not to sound like a sullen teenager. He felt a little ridiculous now.
"I am not hanging out in a bowling alley on a Friday. It's retarded."
"What she left out is that she's grounded and can't be trusted alone," Tom gave her an I'm going to kill you look.
"I see," Fuller said. He knew Tom was under a great deal of stress trying to navigate being both parent and brother. Brother was obviously winning tonight judging by the looks they were exchanging.
Fuller stuck his head out of his office door, "Penhall, do you have any plans this evening?"
"Not really. What do you need?"
"Why don't you take Tori off Hanson's hands for tonight. I think they might need a break from each other."
Tori was furious, "Uh, I don't need a babysitter."
"Apparently you do!" Tom shot back.
"Enough!" Fuller shouted at the two of them. "Tom, go bowling. Tori, get to know Penhall. You might need him to save your butt from your brother someday."
Tom shot her the "ha, ha" look that only a sibling can give.
"Hey, Captain, I only have one helmet." Doug informed them.
"Hanson, give him your keys. You two get out of here. I'll drop you at the bowling alley, Hanson. Call Penhall when you're done."
Tom reluctantly handed over his keys. Tori shot him one last dirty look and followed Doug out of the office.
Tori started heading toward the door until Doug spoke. "Where are you going?" God, she was sick of that question. For over two years no one ever asked and this week it was every day.
"I'm letting you off the hook," she said.
"Yeah, that's not really how this is going to work."
Tori looked at him curiously.
"I'm not going to lie to my best friend and my Captain. Seriously bad karma," he advised her with a shake of his head.
Tori glanced at Fuller's closed office door. Tom was still inside.
"Let's get out of here before Fuller has any more great ideas," Doug grabbed his jacket and they quickly exited the chapel.
"You hungry?" Doug asked.
In fact, she was starving. It was already past seven. "Yeah, starving."
"Alright." At least she was getting a decent meal out of it.
Morelli's was packed, but a two top opened up pretty quickly. They sat and Doug immediately ordered a beer. Tori smiled at him hopefully.
"Yeah, no," he said.
Tori pretended to pout. She didn't really drink anyway, but it kind of went with her reputation.
"So what would you be up to if you weren't stuck here with me?" Doug asked.
She thought about their little incident at The Panther's Paw and answered, "Bar hopping."
Doug laughed and Tori said, "See you think that's funny. Tommy wouldn't think so."
"Why do you like driving him insane?" Doug wanted to know.
Oh, great, hear it comes, she thought.
"Relax, I'm not going to lecture you. Number one it's pointless and number two he does make it kind of easy." Doug also correctly assumed she'd been pushing his buttons pretty much since birth.
"I don't even know why I do it half the time," Tori admitted, "He's just constantly in my business, you know? I can take care of myself. I kind of had to for a while."
Doug understood and his suspicion that she had pretty much been on her own after Tom moved out was just confirmed. He'd been there. He did know.
"I get it, but you know that's not normal right? You were what, twelve, when he moved out?"
She nodded. She so did not want to have this conversation. She wouldn't even tell Tommy what had gone on in those two years. The only person who really knew was her best friend, Linc, and even he didn't know everything.
"Did Tom ever tell you anything about my parents?" Doug was treading carefully here. He knew how alone she probably felt. Tom was a good guy and she was lucky, but he was sure she didn't feel that way right now.
Tori shook her head no, "We don't really talk. It would take valuable time away from fighting." She tried to give him a little smile.
"My mom killed herself when I was six. My dad couldn't handle it. He finally drank himself to death when I was seventeen."
Tori raised an eyebrow at the beer on the table. She had noted he was on number three.
"I know, I know, but a couple beers on a Friday is a lot different from being wasted pretty much every day. And unlike someone I could mention, I am of age."
Tori opened her mouth to protest, but Doug broke in, "Don't bother. I know what I was up to when I was fourteen. Plus didn't I just catch you outside a bar like three days ago?"
"I don't drink and drive. Ever." Tori said vehemently.
"Stealing a car is perfectably acceptable, though?" Doug was trying to lighten it up a bit.
"I just borrowed that car, Officer," Tori played along.
"What I'm trying to say is I was on my own a lot. I ended up living with my aunt and uncle and it was an adjustment to say the least."
"So how did you handle it?"
Doug smiled and told her truthfully, "I got in trouble. A lot. Sound familiar?"
"Vaguely," she smiled back.
Doug paid the check and they headed out to the parking lot. This kid's alright, he thought, She'll come around. I did. Kind of.
"I'm going to need those keys, Doug. You've been drinking," Tori said.
"I am the adult here, you know. I ought to know if I can drive or not," Doug informed her.
My mother was an adult, too, and she ended up wrapped around a telephone pole.
"C'mon. You know I can drive. Do you really want me to tell my brother that you drove his car after drinking? With his baby sister in it?"
"You don't even have a permit," he protested.
"Only a problem if I get pulled over," she countered. "Plus, I'm not getting in unless I'm driving and I promise even you can't make me."
Doug suddenly felt like the biggest idiot. Her mother, duh.
He handed her the keys. He was kind of curious to see how well a fourteen year old could drive.
"You better not be lying about being able to drive this thing. If you hit anything he'll kill us both. Slowly. With pain."
She smiled, got in, and adjusted the mirrors.
She was actually a pretty good driver. It was a needed skill as she had occasionally had to drive her mother home.
They stopped at a red light next to an older model Camaro with a couple of teenage boys inside. They looked at the Mustang and Tori both with appreciation. The driver inclined his head at her and mouthed, "Wanna go?"
Tori glanced at Doug, but he wasn't paying attention. She gave a slight nod.
As soon as the light turned green, she was off, tires squealing. Doug was pushed back into his seat. Tori expertly shifted through the gears. She looked straight ahead seeming not to even notice the car she was racing. The Camaro was straining to keep up and as Tori surged ahead, it made an abrupt left. Doug and Tori looked in the rearview mirror at the same time as soon as they heard the sirens.
"Fuck," Tori muttered under her breath. Please be a cop I know, she silently pleaded.
Doug was fumbling for his badge. Tom was going to kill him. And her. But not if he got her first.
Officer Healy, who had known Tori since she was born, walked up to the Mustang. Thank you, Jesus. Healy. Tori could handle him. She hoped.
"License and insurance card please," he stated.
Tori turned toward him and put her best innocent face on. "Officer Healy, it's Tori Hanson. I don't have my permit with me." And I don't actually have one.
"Tori Hanson? Tom Hanson's kid? Geez you've grown up so much. Do you have any idea how fast you were going?" he admonished her.
"I'm kind of new at this," she lied.
"Who's your friend?" he asked. He was starting to get a little suspicious. He knew this was her brother's car now. He remembered when her father had bought it.
Doug held up his badge, "Officer Doug Penhall, Sir. I'm Tom Jr's partner. I think she just misread the guage."
"OK," he said, "Well, slow it down some, huh? And you really shouldn't drive without your permit. Hey, say hello to your brother for me, would ya? I can't believe how big you kids are now," he said with a shake of his head.
"I will, Sir," she said. Please go, please go.
He nodded at Doug, "Officer."
"Have a good night, Sir," Doug said. Please go, please go.
He turned toward his patrol car. Finally!
He turned back around and said, "Tori, you might want to consider NASCAR when you're older."
Tori and Doug exchanged a look as Officer Healy got back in his black and white and pulled out.
Tori let out a breath she hadn't realized she was holding. She became aware of the death glare coming from Doug. Oh. Shit.
"What. The fuck. Was that?" Doug didn't yell like her brother. It was low and controlled. And, she realized, way scarier.
"I told you I was a good driver," she said lamely.
"Did you learn at a racetrack?" He was still trying to process that this had actually happened.
"Yes, actually," she answered, "A friend of mine's dad races at the speedway. He taught me."
"Is this something you do on a regular basis?"
"Not on a regular basis, no," she said. And not with a cop sitting next to me. I am an idiot.
"I'm pretty sure I'm sober enough to drive now."
Tori wisely switched seats without arguing.
Before he pulled out, Doug turned to her and asked, "So what exactly was your plan if it was an officer you didn't know?"
"I heard you say 'Thank Jesus it's Healy'. So? Plan b was?"
"Phoebe Caulfield," she answered.
"That's the name I give when it's a cop I don't know," she explained.
"So does that make Tom Holden Caulfield, then?" he asked.
She looked at him in surprise.
"I can read, you know. It's one of my favorites."
He had left her speechless. Probably for the first time in her life, he noted with amusement.
It was only about nine, so Doug figured Tom would probably be a couple more hours. He pulled into the parking lot of his loft.
As the walked to the entrance Doug looked over at Tori and said, "Let's not tell Tom about this."
"Also, if you could not do that ever again, I would really appreciate it."
"No prob. I won't ever race with you in the car again." She knew what he meant, but she couldn't resist.
"You are seriously impossible, you know that?"
"But I keep life interesting."
"True. I'm getting more and more comfortable with boring, though."
"That would be my brother's influence."
"How is it you share the same DNA?"
"One of life's little mysteries." She was giggling now.
They entered his loft. Tori looked around taking in the huge space. One thing she definitely had in common with her brother was neatness. Doug was less than tidy. It fit his personality, though, she concluded.
"This place is huge," she said, "I bet I could do at least three back handsprings across it."
"Three back what what's?" Doug asked.
She eyed the space and kicked a pile of clothes out of the way. She was a little rusty, but she completed all three.
"Damn! Are you a cheerleader or something?" he was impressed.
She looked at him with disgust, "Competitive gymnast."
"Sorry, my mistake."
"A cheerleader couldn't do that on a beam," she informed him.
"You can do one of those things on a balance beam?"
"Yup," she replied proudly.
"When do you compete?" He was surprised Hanson had never mentioned it.
"I quit a couple of years ago," she said with a shrug.
"You ever think about going back to it?"
She shrugged again and Doug sensed he was on a sensitive topic.
"Why did you quit? It seems like you must have been pretty good."
Tori looked at him debating what to say. Then she told him something she'd never told anyone.
"My mom would get drunk and forget to pick me up. Or worse, she'd get drunk and would remember. And sometimes she was drunk when she dropped me off just to mix things up a bit."
Doug remembered how embarrassing it was when his dad would show up somewhere hammered.
"I had to learn to drive so she wouldn't kill us both," Tori went on, "She was a lousy driver anyway and getting plastered really didn't help."
Tori looked up at him trying to judge whether or not she should say any more. Doug stayed silent, afraid if he started asking questions she would stop. He had a feeling she needed to let it out.
She looked down as she continued. "I guess she probably drank when Tommy still lived at home. I just didn't notice or I was too little or something. I don't know. Even right after Tommy moved out, it didn't seem so bad. Then there was this night I thought she didn't come home. She was passed out in her car in the driveway." She paused for a moment.
"She used to tell me she wished I was never born and that Tommy was the only one worth a shit. Once she told me that it was my fault that my dad got shot. That he wouldn't have been on duty that night, but we needed the extra money because of me."
Doug knew for a fact that wasn't true. Tom had told him all about what happened. Lots of cops picked up extra hours, but he had been on his regular shift that night.
"Gymnastics is expensive," she explained, "She told me that she was wasting her time and money on that, too. She said I wasn't even that good."
"I used to hide her keys before I left the house. She liked bars close to home, but she always drove. Sometimes I'd get her and drive her home. But that night I just was sick of it. I went out with my friends. I didn't plan on going home either. She wouldn't have noticed anyway. I should've gone and gotten her." She stopped. She wished she hadn't said anything.
She looked up at Doug tentatively. He pulled her in for a hug. She stiffened and pulled back. He knew she would and he held her closer. When he let her go and she wandered over to his CDs. She was done and Doug knew she was going to move on like it hadn't happened. That's what he would do.
"You want a Coke or something?"
"Sure. Hey this is one of my favorite bands!" She held up a CD.
"Yeah, me, too."
"What's your favorite song? Mine is definitely Bloodbath at Burger King. Frigging hilarious!"
"Yeah, but I think I'd have to go with In the Pit just cuz of the first line."
They both sang, "Welcome to the land where the retards dwell!"
"Great song. Tommy hates it," Tori said. "He's a lot more PC than I am. I like the word retard. Like a lot. I'm probably retarded I like it so much."
Doug was cracking up. She was seriously funny. "How about In the Basement? Of course, your theme song is Repeat Offender."
"They're all awesome. I'd really like to see them sometime."
"If you can manage to stay ungrounded for five minutes, I'll take you."
"Seriously? Are you sure you're not my real brother? Maybe you guys were switched at birth or something."
"Be glad I'm not."
"Why? I'm sure Tommy would love it. Then he could get rid of me."
"If you were my sister I'd lock you in your room til you were thirty five," Doug answered her question and added,"And he doesn't want to get rid of you. Most of the time."
"You don't know, do you?" Doug was surprised Tommy hadn't told her how she ended up with him.
"What's there to know? He got stuck with me."
"He didn't get stuck with you, he fought for you. They don't just give fourteen year olds to their twenty two year old brothers. Especially one who doesn't exactly have a regular nine to five job. He had to go to court and prove he was a fit guardian. I was a character witness. He didn't tell you?"
She shook her head. They only had each other. Both of their parents were only children and their grandparents were all long gone. She knew foster care was a possibility, but she had moved in with Tommy immediately and it was never brought up again. At least not to her.
"Well, he must have had a reason," Doug said. "You know, you could try talking instead of yelling. I heard in some cultures that's how they do it."
Tori gave him a half smile. It was a lot to process.
"Have you ever told him what you just told me?"
"No. It wouldn't be fair to him."
Seeing the puzzled expression on Doug's face she explained further, "It's like we had two different mothers. He's got all these memories like with my dad and stuff that I don't. My mom wasn't always like that. Even I remember that. And I don't want him to feel bad about moving out. He was twenty. It's normal. I missed him, but I don't blame him or anything. That's just dumb."
Doug didn't know what to say to that. It was not at all what he expected to hear.
"Please don't tell him any of that stuff, OK? I really don't want to talk about it anymore."
"OK," he agreed, "but you really need to talk to him eventually."
"You wanna crank some Teenage Bottlerocket?"
He put in a CD and they sang all the words to every song at the top of their lungs, dancing around like idiots on stage. When they were both out of breath, Doug pushed pause to grab some more Cokes. They heard pounding on the door. It was Tommy.
"Uh, you know you can hear everything in the hall, right? I've been out here for ten minutes." He looked more amused than annoyed.
"Hey, you should have called. I would've picked you up." Doug said remembering that that had been the arrangement.
"I did, but neither one of you punk rock gods answered."
"Answering the phone isn't punk, so we ignored it. And we couldn't hear it. Because we're punk," Tori told him.
"Thanks for clearing that up for me. You ready?"
"Yep," she said and glanced over at Doug before telling her brother, "By the way, Officer Healy says hello."
Tom looked a little confused and said, "OK, that was random."
Doug was biting his cheek to keep from laughing. He would get her back for that one.
"Thanks, Doug. I hope she didn't drive you too nuts."
"Nah, I was already half nuts anyway," Doug pushed Tori playfully in the back of the head.
"See ya, Doug. I'm holding you to that concert promise!"
"Try to stay out of trouble, Phoebe. Later, Hanson." Doug closed the door.
Tom raised an eyebrow at Tori, "Phoebe? Do I even want to know?"
"You kind of had to be there," Tori smiled.
"You know you're a pain in the ass, right?" Tom slung his arm around her shoulder and steered her toward the car.
"Don't say ass in front of your sister."