Title: Dark Days in Light City
Disclaimer: Not Universal/no profit
Rome managed to stay silent while Dom zigzagged them all over creation, but when they had zigged over the train tracks on either side of Union station, he finally spat out, “Look are you trying to shake a tail or pick one up?”
Toretto didn’t even look at him, but Rome could see his nostrils flare.
“Place we’re headed doesn’t get a lot of night traffic,” Dom rumbled. “We just gotta be sure.”
“He’s my best friend,” Rome whispered this into the side of his knuckle. He wasn’t even sure he’d said it aloud, but the side of Toretto’s face that he could see in the faint streetlight twisted.
Toretto nodded deeply, but he stayed silent. They cut south suddenly, riding San Pedro down through Little Tokyo. The streetlights got straggly as they moved into canyons of dark, hulking warehouses.
“Where are we?” Rome kept his eyes peeled for humans. This was like where you’d set your film if the script instructions were ‘post-apocalyptic urban dystopia’.
“This is the warehouse district.” Toretto sounded unmoved.
Rome grunted. “LA City Council, buncha fucking literal motherfuckers.”
They pulled up past 5th Street into some alley that didn’t even have a name. Toretto pressed a button on his key fob and the car didn’t beep back at him, it just made some kind of odd pneumatic hiss that freaked what was left of Rome’s fragile nerves right out.
Toretto stood in front of a darker shadow in a cluster of shadows that Rome realized was a door. Rome also realized that he could hear a faint thumping that resolved itself into a bass beat. Toretto tilted his head up as a light came on. Toretto didn’t seem overly alarmed by any of this and Rome rocked his shoulders back and forth, determined to be cool.
There was another buzz, a click and Toretto slid the door sideways. It sounded like it weighed a ton, but Toretto just set his weight and jerked. They shouldered into the dim light together.
The light came up gradually. Rome blinked and made his face blank with what he hoped didn’t look like surprise. They were standing in a large glass box that had to go up the three stories of the building. He glanced upward quickly. Skylight. One side of the glass framed a glass elevator that wouldn’t have looked out of place at the Hilton and the other side was coated with a constant evenflow waterfall. The water gushed into a riverstone-lined pool studded with carefully trained bamboo and a few water lilies. The rest of the foyer was fringed with lace-leaf maples and carefully combed sand. Rome tried to keep from gawking as classy, ultramodern décor and a Zen garden was about the last thing he had expected.
“Dom,” A voice seemed to filter down from the heavens. “Third floor.”
Toretto stepped delicately into the elevator. Rome shrugged and followed on his heels.
The third floor was completely open, loft-style. It was lit by a neon ‘Eat at Joes’ sign at one end and appeared to be decorated with very artful graffiti. The lights were low otherwise, barely illuminating clusters of people who appeared to be grouped at random with the furniture, like a Benetton ad. A rainbow of races and a wide spectrum of genders. Everyone stayed engrossed in their conversations/art projects/Playstations, except for a handsome Asian man who peeled off to greet Toretto somberly. “Dom.”
“Han,” Toretto sounded more-than-average gruff. One of the kids playing with the game console looked over at them, then poked the kid next to him so they could both gawk.
It was almost impossible to guess how old Han was. He wore his hair a bit longer than was considered fashionable and he was munching on something unself-consciously, like a kid or a teenager might. But something about him looked like he’d seen a few things.
Han nodded at Roman, just a quick, acknowledging-type nod. He gestured at a free-standing edifice that was crowded with glowing bottles. Like everything else in this place, the bar was the apex of cool. Toretto refused with a little hand wave, but Roman grabbed a beer to have something to do with his hands. He wasn’t driving and he felt like he’d just mainlined six Red Bull. Adrenaline was pulsing through him fast and hard; it felt like his heart would never beat right again. But somehow, just standing next to Han was…relaxing. Han seemed to radiate calm like a psychic space heater. Rome breathed in Han’s detachment.
“I’m sorry about this,” Han tucked the package of whatever he was eating away neatly. “It didn’t go as smooth as it should. When your guy wasn’t around, we used the B team.”
For a second, Rome felt vaguely dissed that apparently he only rated the stubs on Dom’s amateur surveillance team. Then he snorted at his own ridiculousness.
Han scanned the room and then unsheathed a cell phone. He flipped it open, thumbed a couple of buttons then spoke into it while holding it sideways, like a trucker would have held a CB radio. Another Asian kid popped up from another floor with the twin of the phone, his round face accentuated by his buzzed hair. He looked furtively up at Toretto, abashed down to his eyelashes.
“Your watch?” Toretto grunted.
The kid just nodded. Han raised his eyebrow a little and prompted, “So?”
“Earlier. Down on Kensington. Just past sunset.”
Roman had a moment of confusion since Kensington and Sunset ran parallel to each other, half a mile apart. Then he realized that the kid was talking about a time of day. He’d been at the garage all afternoon and apparently at least two sets of people had been watching. Rome cursed himself for cranking up the Wu-Tang.
The kid continued speaking in mumbled quick-fire bursts. “They cruised up behind the guy in the Camaro. It was like…surgical. Two dudes. Huge.” The kid paused as if waiting for an invitation to elaborate on the hugeness of the dudes.
“What were they driving?” Toretto rumbled.
The kid seemed to relax a little, like he was back on familiar territory. “Late model Lincoln Navigator, 2002. Black with details, stock rims. Windows tinted like Oakleys.”
“Plates?” Rome asked, then felt kind of dumb. Wasn’t like he was a cop.
The kid just looked at him steadily. “LXR 589.”
“Where?” Toretto asked softly.
The kid tried to keep himself from squirming. “Uhm, they got on Glendale. Heading north.”
“Up to the freeway?” Roman surmised. The kid nodded.
“So?” Han prompted again.
“So.” the kid hung his head like a schoolboy. “You know that interchange when Glendale hits the 5?”
Rome shuddered internally. He’d been in LA only two months and he already knew that particular clusterfuck.
“Thought they were taking it,” The kid shook his head sadly. “They were almost off. I was pulling up fast and they’re just gone. They juked me practically on two wheels and stayed on the 2.”
“Fuck,” Rome realized that he’d spoken aloud when they all looked at him. Disappointment and frustration hung in the air like a particularly poisonous fart.
“What’s your name?” Toretto asked unexpectedly.
“Joe,” the kid said after a long pause. He seemed to be shrinking.
“Thanks, Joe,” Toretto said, “It’s something.”
Rome could hear the kid, Joe, take a deep breath even over the techno bass beat. Han gave him the nod and Joe vanished back into the clusters of soft LED lights and beeping consoles. Han shot a vaguely apologetic look at Dom and shrugged as if to say ‘kids these days…’
Toretto turned to Rome, “You said you knew something?”
Rome didn’t hesitate, even though it occurred to him that they were both strangers. Both of them looked at him so intently, two very different sets of black eyes funneling down his words. He gave them a short character sketch of Carter Verone. He told them what happened to his car. Han asked a few questions, but Toretto just looked grave.
“So know we know who. And we know how.” Han spoke very deliberately. “Now all we need to know is where.”
Rome relaxed just a little. Han’s confidence was infectious as a virus.
“Dom,” Han said gently because Toretto seemed lost in very deep thought. “What do you need?”
Toretto seemed to come back to himself, he let the ghost of an embarrassed grin drift over his face. “I was just wondering how much you feel you owe me.”
Han shrugged. “Probably enough.”
“Good,” Toretto nodded. “’Cause I don’t know what I need yet.”
“Let me make a suggestion,” Han continued, serene as still water. “Let’s get all eyes on deck for that Navigator.”
“There’ll be a million of those,” Roman protested.
“Way they were headed cuts off four fifths of the city,” Han countered. “This guy sounds larger than life. He’ll have made some waves.”
Toretto nodded slowly.
“Talk to your people and I’ll try to get a bead on this end.”
“I’m going to talk to everybody,” Toretto raised his eyes and looked full in Han’s face. Rome got the sense that that meant more than it sounded like. It almost sounded like a challenge. Han quirked an eyebrow and nodded.
Toretto turned to go and Rome followed, clinking his beer bottle back down on the bar. All the kids watched them leave surreptitiously. It wasn’t unfriendly. But all the eyes still made Rome uneasy. He was first out of the elevator.
“Who is that guy?” Rome shifted from foot to foot, waiting for Toretto to unlock the car.
Toretto waited until they were both inside the Honda before saying, “Old friend. Really knows what he’s doing. I always go to him when things get…complicated.”
“Maybe he should come with us then?” Rome tried to hold his leg down so it wouldn’t jitter uncontrollably.
“Nah, he’ll be better working this his own way.” Toretto put the car in drive and again pulled out with no headlights. “He’ll have resources that he won’t want me to know about and vice versa.”
“So you’re saying Han works solo?” Roman couldn’t resist.
Toretto growled at him, wordlessly.
Carter Verone smiled. It almost made it to his eyes, which reassured Brian not at all. "Officer Brian O'Connor. We meet again."
"You're in prison," Brian said, knowing it was stupid, and wrong, but he hadn't quite wrapped his brain around it yet.
Verone lifted his hands and spread them. "Obviously not. I didn't like the accommodations. Thought a little holiday was in order. Take the time to visit some old friends before I settle someplace more my style."
Brian swallowed, still tasting blood and bile. "You shouldn't have, man. A phone call would have been fine."
Verone smiled and rocked back. "No, I don’t think so. I owed you so much O'Connor. I wanted to make sure you know how much I owe you. Up close and personal."
His smile sent a sickening shiver up Brian’s spine. "So, you like my place? It's looking a little rough right now," Verone said stepping back, looking around. "I got a great price. I've always liked L.A. I thought maybe I should bring a little Miami spice and Southern hospitality to the West Coast."
"What do you want?"
Verone wandered around testing the sinks, water sputtered and ran, echoing loudly against the metal and tile. He shut it off. Tested the stoves. There was a click of ignition but no flame. Verone cut the gas and pulled out a lighter, tried again. This time the burner caught, blue-white flames burning off dust and grime and not a few dead bugs. He turned it off again. "I told you. I owe you. I always pay my debts. I'd have been here sooner but you left Miami without dropping me a note. That's not very friendly."
"We weren't exactly friends."
Verone came back to the table, reached underneath it and wrenched a drawer open. Brian couldn't see anything but he heard metal scraping, the rattle of utensils against each other. "No. no, I guess not. Colleagues, maybe. Briefly."
"You know they're looking for you." Christ, how had Verone gotten away? Out of prison. Busted out or what? He'd been convicted. Brian had stayed in Miami long enough to know that. Monica had told him, called him when the trial was over.
"Oh, I know they are. In fact, I'm counting on it."
Verone chuckled and Brian felt a quick bubble of nausea burst in the back of his throat.
Toretto didn’t bother with an elaborate route back out of the warehouse district. He drove with purpose through the broad arcs of street light, up to Cesar Chavez and then west. Sunset Boulevard, back up toward Echo Park. He turned onto Glendale, Highway 2. Rome thought he was going to retrace the route Brian’s kidnappers had taken, but then for some reason Dom pulled to the side in the underpass of the Hollywood Freeway. Rome had been here before, passed through about a dozen times a day it seemed, but he’d never really noticed the street art. The sides of the underpass were blazoned with enormous stylized portraits.
Rome cursed under his breath when Toretto actually got out of the car. It was an hour past midnight now, traffic had eased somewhat, but it was never truly gone around here. Toretto stood in front of the car, looking around at the underpass like it was the fucking Louvre.
“What’re we doing?” Rome tried not to lose his temper. He had to stay chill for Brian, but really he was pretty frayed.
Toretto didn’t say anything. He cracked his knuckles; the sound was washed away by traffic.
“So what’s the plan?” Roman bounced on the balls of his feet a little. The night air was growing a deeper chill. “What’re we doing here?”
There was a long pause, fringed by a distant siren and the whoosh of a row of cars.
“Brian shot a guy right….there,” Toretto gestured at the curb about ten feet from where he was standing.
“Guessing he never told you that,” Toretto looked up at the underside of the Hollywood freeway.
“I bet he had reasons.” Rome said sharply. “Truth, justice, the American way and all.”
Toretto raised one shoulder dubiously.
“Why’s this got your panties in a bunch?” Rome snapped. “We need to go, man.”
Toretto kicked at the curb, the yellow lights of the tunnel made him sallow.
“For me,” Toretto muttered. “He did it for me.”
Rome folded his arms. He was tempted to call bullshit, but Toretto looked a bit over-sincere. Rome tried to imagine the set of circumstances that would make Brian do something like that, but found that he couldn’t. It was like Toretto was talking about a completely different person.
Toretto rolled his shoulder back and then looked up at Rome. A passing set of headlights caught his eyes and they gleamed like a coyote’s. “Let’s go.”
Toretto made two very terse phone calls after they got in the car. This time, about thirty seconds after Toretto flicked the ignition, Rome pulled on his seatbelt. When Toretto decided he wanted to move, he was fucking seismic.
“Here,” Toretto shoved a cell phone at him. One of the cheaper Nokias, probably retailed for about thirty bucks. “Call that cop, that G-man, give him the Navigator and the plates.”
Rome opened his mouth and then just called information. After a little telephonic maneuvering, he left a message with a person at the Federal building who he figured must be pretty plugged in. When he dropped Bilkins’ name, she tried her damndest to keep him on the line.
“Now what?” Rome beeped the phone off. Toretto frowned at him, snatched the phone back and threw it out the window.
“Good play,” Rome grinned despite himself.
“He can do more with that than we can,” Toretto growled, almost to himself.
Rome relaxed a little, content that Toretto’s priorities were in the right place. The stop light changed and Toretto brought it to redline in a nanosecond, but he didn’t lay any rubber. Vrooming, but no screeching. Rome found himself admiring Toretto’s control.
“You think we can do this?” Rome challenged.
Toretto rocked his head to the side. He tightened his hand on the wheel and muttered, “I’m gonna give it a good 110%, how about you?”
Rome ducked his head. “You know, Brian was almost my only friend growing up. He had that fire, you know? Like me. Wanting to get out.” Rome looked at the horizon, fringed with lights and palms. “I mean…I know it might sound funny coming from me, but shit. The people we grew up with were like cows in a field. Com-placent motherfuckers. You get me?”
Toretto raised one shoulder. “There were some brighter lights where I grew up, but yeah, I get you.”
“Where’d you grow up?”
Toretto jerked his thumb back the way they’d come. “About two miles that way. Born and bred.”
“Hunh,” Rome leaned back and scratched his chin. “A native Angeleno. Hear that’s pretty rare, don’t most folks here come from somewhere else?”
Rome rolled his head against the window and said straight, “Nah, but I see how it could be tough, competing with all the talent pouring in from Iowa and Wisconsin and…”
“Barstow?” Dom finished sweetly.
Rome did a double take, “Oh, so that’s how it’s rolling?”
Toretto gave him a look that said quite clearly, don’t bust my balls. “I don’t feel like talking, sorry.” Toretto shrugged again, “I’m nervous.”
“And I’m all good with the Lord over here?” Rome started, then fell silent himself.
“Where are we headed?” Rome asked after a long pause.
“Maybe better if you don’t know.” Toretto leaned down to check a street sign.
“Nah, that don’t play,” Rome knocked Dom’s shoulder with the edges of his knuckles. “I ain’t flying blind with you. I barely know you.”
Toretto sighed. “We’re going to see a guy named Roberto Rivera.”
“See, how hard was that?” Rome relaxed back into his seat. After two lights, he stiffened up again. “I know that name. Why do I know that name?”
Toretto sighed more deeply. “He’s relatively senior…” Dom turned off of Cesar Chavez and the lights muted a little. “With the 18’s.”
Roman blinked. “And by ‘18’s’ you mean 18th Street?”
Rome continued softly, “The biggest gang of Mexican Mafia in East L.A.?”
Toretto nodded again.
Rome swallowed the excess of saliva in his mouth. He breathed deeply through his nose and tried to relax his suddenly tense arms, hands and fingers. “They call him ‘Revolver’ Rivera?”
“Bingo,” Toretto said quietly. He glanced at Roman with new respect. “Keep your ears open don’t you?”
“Yeah, well,” Rome wet his lips. “I got good survival instincts.”
Toretto didn’t smile and didn’t look his way. “Let’s hope so.”
“You know, I always liked you,” Verone had pulled out one of his ubiquitous cigars. He patted his pockets and pulled out a handful of cigar accoutrement.
Brian tried not to let his eye be drawn by the silver disk of Verone’s cutter. He didn’t want to put ideas in Verone’s head. Verone clicked his lighter on and Brian watched him draw a red glow out of the blue flame. He puffed for a few moments, appreciatively.
“Yeah?” Brian practically drawled. Getting out of this was going to require extra special helpings of bravado. Brian knew he couldn’t let Verone scent the slightest hint of fear on him. Fear would give Verone just the opening he wanted, just a little crack and Verone would poison him like rust ate metal.
“Yeah, I did,” Verone looked up at the industrial strength lights, almost like he was musing. “I liked your attitude. You had, as my people say, cojones.”
Enrique, one of Verone’s thugs, had said that too, near the end. I like you, but I still have to kill you. Verone’s use of the past tense was also something to chew on.
“Hey man, I really appreciate that.” Brian flexed his hands as much as he could. “So’re we done here? I gotta be at work in the morning.”
Verone laughed aloud. His eyes sparkled with amusement. He looked so handsome and normal, but still not too hard to see past the veneer to the psychopath.
“Not done here,” He patted Brian’s thigh like he would’ve slapped him on the back. “Not quite yet.”
“What’re you doing then, Verone?” Brian asked flatly, willing his voice to stay even. “What’s the plan?”
“You know, I had this whole…life back in Miami,” Verone was still moseying around the table, circling him, shark-like. “I was really enjoying myself.”
“Drug-trafficking,” Brian shot back. “Blackmailing, extorting.”
Verone raised his hands and shrugged like it was a fair point. “Keeping a lot of people employed.”
“Doing your dirty work,” Brian countered.
“Hey, it’s all dirty work,” Verone stopped and grinned down at him. “Don’t you feel like that sometimes? You know, I heard that they had to use a little blackmail to get you to play ball, too.”
Brian swallowed all his questions with a mouthful of acid saliva.
“Anyway,” Verone continued after the pause had gotten lengthy. “Point is. You took that life from me, Brian O’Connor…I’m here to take a little something from you.”
Brian held his eyes, just locked them tight onto Verone’s. Verone stared back at him for a while, then grinned. When a cell phone blared out into the quiet, they both flinched. Verone looked up at his associate in the shadows. They seemed to have a tacit conversation, then Verone patted Brian once more and made to leave.
“Hurry back,” Brian said, so facetious that it probably sounded sincere.
Brian felt the pressure first, then an intense pain flaring out from his hand to his elbow. He clamped down on his yelp and looked up into Verone’s cold blue eyes. Verone tossed the cigar that he had just stubbed out on Brian’s wrist onto the floor.
“I will,” he said simply.
Dom pulled to a halt outside one of the anonymous single-story houses that spread out around the Evergreen cemetery south of Cesar Chavez. Rome shook his head in disbelief when Dom tucked his piece carefully underneath his seat. Dom stared at him until Rome got the message that it was more dangerous to bring it than to leave it.
He got out of the car and looked over the hood at Roman dubiously. Just having the homeboy along complicated things to a factor of ten. Just getting out of the car and walking up the drive would have to be a cautious exercise now. At least he didn’t have to tell Rome to be cool. Rome had already slumped into a studied casual slouch, full of jailhouse insouciance. They both kept their hands visible and didn’t walk favoring a side. Rome stayed a little bit behind Dom all the way up the walk.
Behind a chain link fence, a Rottweiler regarded them balefully, but it didn’t bark. It looked like it didn’t often bother.
The door was open by the time they got to the stoop. Like most of the little bungalows it opened right into living space with just one slab of pasteboard paneling instead of a foyer. A teen-aged Latino boy, just on the edge of his full size and weight nodded them through into the living room.
‘Revolver’ Rivera was an average looking man. Average height, average coloring, the kind of person you could easily walk past and never notice and witnesses would find it hard to point him out of a crowd photo. He was sitting on a couch like a golden Buddha in a shrine. But instead of being surrounded by incense and seed cakes, he was surrounded by a small arsenal of light arms. He was carefully cleaning a classic .45, so he didn’t stand up to greet them.
He looked relaxed, Dom noted gratefully.
“Dominic,” Revolver said softly. “Como has estado?”
“Bien,” Dom lied easily, “Hope you’re well. And your family.”
“Quien es el? Tu amigo?”
“This is Roman Pearce,” Dom muttered. Rome was playing it right. Rome didn’t reach out for a handshake, he just nodded at Rivera with his hands clasped in front of him. Dom continued. “El no vive acqui, solo esta de visita.”
Surprisingly, Roman agreed. “Solo estamos de paso.”
Rivera smiled, whether at Rome’s Spanish facility or his acknowledgment that they were just passing through, Dom couldn’t tell.
“De donde eres?” Rivera probed gently. “Excuseme, no se mucho ingles.”
“Barstow,” Roman said flatly. “De nada.”
Dom took a deep breath. So far everything seemed to be going okay. But Revolver Rivera had been known to smile while his face was getting splashed by arterial blood, so that didn’t mean much.
Dom enquired gently about the car he’d restored. Rivera tinged his reply with the affection that most people reserved for children and animals. Rome was trying to watch them without watching, letting his eyes track on everything and catch on nothing.
“So Dom?” Rivera always spoke with a quaint kind of politeness, as if for some reason the irony appealed to him. “¿En que puedo servirle?” How can I help you?
“There’s a man in town.” Dom paused when the boy came back with a small tray full of drinks. Rome took two long-necked bottles and passed one to Dom. Rivera waited until everyone was served before pausing in a silent toast. Dom continued. “Name of Verone. Carter Verone.”
“Ese nombre me suena.” Rivera nodded to himself. “Lo he oido antes” I know that name, I’ve heard it before.
“Broke out of prison on the East Coast a little while ago. He’s from Miami. Trata en droges,” Dom continued seriously. “But that’s not our problem. Our problem is that he’s kidnapped one of ours.”
Rivera paused while stroking the barrels of his pistolas. The corners of his eyes crinkled with regret. “Si se trata de dinero, yo no puedo ayudar.” If it is a question of money, I can’t help.
“It’s not ransom he’s after,” Rome piped up. “He ain’t after money.”
Rivera cocked his head doubtfully at Rome. “Well that is a problem, yes? If he doesn’t want money, then what he does want except for making a point?”
Out of the corner of his eye, Dom could see Rome’s Adam’s apple bob. “This person he’s got is our friend.” He bit down hard on his own helpless fear. “We can’t let him make this particular point.”
Rivera spread his hands, but didn’t shrug, “What do you think I can do?”
“Just…if you should happen to hear anything,” Dom tried to smile a little, it didn’t feel like it came out quite right. “…I know you hear a lot of things. I would just like a call. One phone call.”
Revolver Rivera cocked his head. This time he did shrug and Dom felt the very tenuous hold he had on this man vibrate in his fingers. Rivera owed him nothing. Maybe less than nothing. And it wasn’t like Dom could appeal to his better nature. He didn’t have one.
Roman said softly, “Lo que sucede es que no podemos hacerlo sin tu ayuda.” The fact is, we can’t do it without your help.
Rivera seemed to swell slightly and Dom tried not to stiffen. Then he realized that Roman had played it just right. You couldn’t appeal to Rivera’s better nature, but you could still make a bid for his ego.
Rome continued. “I’m new here in town, but Dom here, he knows the score and when he heard about this problem…you were the first person he thought of. We came straight here.”
Rivera leaned back against his couch and spread his hands expansively across the tops of the cushions. Dom shifted his weight a little and hoped Roman hadn’t overplayed it.
“You know something,” Revolver Rivera leaned forward and looked very, very grave. “I like you.”
He smiled then and after a second Rome grinned back at him. Dom felt like he was going to puke, but Rome just continued grinning and half-chuckling along with this man who had killed six people this year and it was only October. “I like this one, Dominic, you should bring him to visit more. I will call you, if I hear anything.”
Then it was all nods and smiles while the teenager ushered them out the door.
“Román,” Rivera stopped Roman on his way out of the door. It was funny how the smaller man just needed to raise a finger and they were both suddenly all ears. Rivera said simply, “Hay un refran que dice, “ Hombre prevenido vale por dos.”
“Verdad,” Rome replied uncertainly.
“Here, ese, take this,” Rivera picked up one of the guns he had just cleaned and handed it, grip first to Roman. “I notice you are traveling light. Es bueno para todo fin.” It is good for many purposes.
After the door slammed shut, Brian relaxed marginally. His neck complained until he found a good spot to rest his head. He sucked a dozen deep breaths in through his nose.
Center. Focus. Man, he was so fucked.
Brian blinked rapidly trying to settle deep into himself so he wouldn’t have a hysterical screaming freakout that would end with Carter Verone putting a bullet in him just to shut him up. He made his mind blank. There was nothing in his current situation that was safe to think about.
After a few minutes of doing nothing but breathe, he sighed and worked his sore, tired head up to where he could gnaw on the plastic binding his wrist. He found the groove he’d made earlier with his tongue.
One hand free. That’s all he allowed himself to think. Just one hand free.