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“Who are they?”

“My parents. Maximus.”

“Maximus?!” I roared. People on the street looked at me and quickened their pace as they went past. I didn’t care. The rage was almost undeniable. “What the fuck is he doing there?”

“He and Perry are, well I don’t know. He’s a douchecanoe, that’s all that matters. Dex, she’s gone. She’s going. I don’t know what to do. We did a house cleanse and then Maximus turned his back on us and is making it look like Perry is crazy. I’m afraid they’re going to put her away. You know, in a crazy house. But the thing is killing her, Dex, it’s killing her.”

I was vaguely aware of the restaurant door opening and Rebecca coming out of it. She stood beside me but I couldn’t look up at her. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t even process what was going on. Something had Perry and it was killing her. Something so bad that Ada had to call me – of all people – and ask for my help.

“I’ll do whatever I can,” I told her, trying to get the determination in my voice heard over the phone. “You have to promise to keep her safe until I get there.”

“What if I can’t? They don’t listen to me. They’ve got her like an animal...and she is an animal, she’s an animal now!” Ada broke off as her words got clogged by the tears. Ada was one tough teen cookie. Little fifteen. To hear her cry over Perry put the final dagger into my heart.

“Ada, listen to me. I’m going to take care of this, OK? I’m not going to let anything else happen to her, you understand me? I am going to do whatever it takes to make sure she gets out of this. Give me a day, give me a few hours, I will be there and I will fix her. You understand, little fifteen?”

I heard a sniffle and a pause. Finally she said, “OK. But please hurry.”

“I’ll text you when I’m on my way,” I told her.

“Thank you. Thank you, Dex,” she said. “I knew you weren’t as big of an asshole as everyone said.”

Oh, gee thanks.

“Yeah, well, we’ll see. Hold tight, OK?”

“OK, bye.”

I never made out my bye before the line went dead. I looked up at Rebecca who was watching me in horror. I was shaking all over.

“I have to go to Perry,” I told her, voice wavering. “She’s in trouble.”

Her eyes widened and then she helped me to my feet before people started thinking I was a crazy street punk.

“Anything I can do?” she asked. I saw the fright in her face. She cared a lot about Perry too. It suddenly hit me how disappointed Rebecca must have been since Perry and I parted. No wonder she went all the way to Portland when I had asked her not to. She was hurting from it too, from the mistakes I made.

I couldn’t have felt like more of an ass. More of a horrible human being. Not even. A pig, as Rebecca had said. But I couldn’t let myself dwell on it anymore either. I had months of that under my belt. I wanted to better myself. This was the best chance for me to prove myself. It wouldn’t undo anything but...I couldn’t live with myself if I did nothing. Like it or not – and I certainly didn’t like it – Perry was still the most important thing in the world to me. Knowing she was out there was painful enough. But knowing she might not ever be out there again...that was something I couldn’t live with.

I shook my head and took Rebecca’s hand and kissed it. “Thank you for being there for me, through all of this. I’ve got a few phone calls and bribes to make, then I’m out of here.”

“You’ll get her back,” she said, even though she couldn’t have known what trouble Perry was in. “Then when you do, you’re going to bring her here and we’ll all have pizza together.”

I promised her and ran off down the street, into the dusk.

BAILOUT

Rage makes you stupid.

It’s one of the things I learned today, along with “trust your instincts” and “shitting in public is impossible.”

I’m no stranger to anger problems. I try not to let it rule me though fuck if I don’t have a lot of shit to be angry about. But I think I have been pretty good about it. I can blow up on occasion but most of the time I just shove the rage somewhere deep inside. Or I don’t even process it at all. Like water off a duck’s ass. Back. Whatever.

Before I even pulled the car down Perry’s street, I knew the clusterfuckery that lay ahead of us. Not even that, I could hear it. Don’t ask me how, in fact be prepared to not ask me a lot of things. Trust me, I don’t have answers. But I could hear, in my head I guess, Max’s voice telling everyone to calm down. I could sense a gathering of people, authority figures, more than just her family. So when we came to her house and saw the cop cars, I wasn’t all that surprised.

I was just unprepared.

I should have had a better plan than to just get out of the car and walk toward the house, hand in hand with Perry as a show of solidarity. I just wanted her parents, Max, the cops, to see that I hadn’t kidnapped her, she had gone willingly. I selfishly wanted to prove myself to them. And jab them in the eyes a little bit. You know, the whole oooh but look who your daughter chose in the end, muahaha.

Yeah, I’m that petty. You should know this by now.

But I was totally unprepared for the reality of everything. Knowing Max and our fucked-up relationship, I still didn’t think he would so easily turn on me. Or on her. He was supposed to care about her. For fuck’s sake, he stuck his… no, I don’t even want to think about it. I’ll vomit.

And when Perry’s father came roaring for me, Mr. Fists O’ Fury, I didn’t expect him to be so nuts. Did I deserve the punch? Yes. God, yes. For the way I acted with Perry, after, you know…I totally deserved it. I deserved a thousand of them and under any other circumstance I would have gladly stood in line for a firing squad of fat Italian knuckles. But this wasn’t just for that. It was for assuming I had stolen their daughter away, abducted her into the night so I could do all sorts of hellish things to her. In an ideal world I could do hellish things to her and she’d love it but in this world I came to save Perry. No one else seemed to give a shit.

So, stupid me, even though one of my worst case scenarios involved some police action, I figured I’d be able to talk to them like they were rational human beings. You know, funny story but this is all a BIG misunderstanding and then we’d all laugh about it. I did not expect them to come after me like I’d just assassinated the mayor of Portland.

Click. Click. Two cold, metal handcuffs around the wrist.

I’d never been arrested before but I thought maybe they’d just tell me to come with them or they’d at least place those plastic cuffs on. I mean, I wasn’t a menace to society. But the click, click, was preceded by my arms being grabbed and yanked roughly behind me and followed by a cop reading me my rights.

Part of me felt like laughing at the absurdity of it all and I was this close to telling them to shut up, I’d watched Law & Order enough times, I knew my rights. But it was not being arrested that kept the humor sucked out of me. It was feeling utterly helpless as Maximus appeared and went straight for Perry, holding her back with his stupid GI Joe arms.

In that moment time did its funny slow-down dance and all three of us were communicating soundlessly. Both Perry and Max were looking at me and I was torn between trying to figure out what the fuck Max really wanted and letting Perry know she was going to be OK.

The problem was, I was in handcuffs and being shoved toward the cop car. I wasn’t even sure if I was going to be OK, how was I going to be sure about her? I was already breaking the promise I made to myself earlier, that I would do absolutely everything in my power to protect her. As if I had some bloody powers, as if I was some kind of hero. All it took was stepping out of the crunched-up Highlander for me to get punched in the face and put in police custody.

Max, never taking his hawk eyes off me, leaned into Perry and whispered into her ear “Don’t fight it Perry, do as I say. I won’t let them take you anywhere but you have to play nice and play fair. Calm down.” I felt my blood boil hot, my face flushing, burning. He was trying to take my role again, AGAIN! The nerve of that ginger bastard telling Perry, my Perry, to calm down, while she was struggling against him.

Perry wasn’t having any of it though and I could feel her thoughts slamming at me. She was more worried about me than about herself. Her eyes were wet with unshed tears and vibrant with the same sort of anger that was seething through me.

I’ll be fine, I thought hard trying to get the message across the yard with just my eyes. Whether she got the message or not, I didn’t know, and it didn’t matter because it was suddenly no longer about me.

A tall man with a patronizing tilt of the head and a falsely distinguished style, like a little kid wearing grown-up clothes, came out of the house and calmly walked toward Perry and Max. It was Perry’s shrink, Doctor Freebody or whoever. I never met the man but I had met enough shrinks to pick them out in a crowd. This was the enemy and he was here for her.

I must have grunted or cried out and I was trying to get to her but the cops kept me under control. For now.

They pushed me toward the car and shoved me in the back seat. I yelped, twisting in my seat, fighting them, only to see Perry being engulfed by the doctor’s shadow. My heart felt shadowed too, a giant eclipse that squeezed the life out of me.

I had lost her once before. I couldn’t lose her again.

I thrashed in the seat as the car lurched and roared away from the house and down the street. I was screaming, yelling, the cops were threatening me with things I didn’t understand. English was a language I no longer understood. The only thing I heard, the only thing I responded to, was rage.

And rage makes you stupid.

I knew it was nearly impossible to escape out of a moving police car. I knew that if I attempted to kick out the side window with both my hands behind me, my feet would either do nothing, or if I was shit-out-of-lucky, I would get one foot stuck in the glass. And then what? Somehow squeeze out of the window while the car is moving at 20 miles an hour?

I knew all these things. But rage doesn’t. The power of the anger flowing through me, the urge to get back to Perry while I could, had raised me into another level of consciousness. In other words, I was bat-shit crazy.

Therefore, what happened next was a blur.

With a roar that was neither internal nor external I leaned back in the seat and then propelled my legs forward. My boots met the glass and shattered it with an explosion of light and glitter that filled the car like a snowstorm.

The brakes screeched but the car didn’t stop. I didn’t have much time. I don’t know how I broke the glass so easily and I don’t know how I shimmied myself out of the car legs first. I don’t know how I was airborn for a few seconds before my shoulder hit the grass at the side of the road and I tumbled along like a rag doll. I don’t know how I immediately got to my feet, shaking broken glass out of my hair, and started running back the way we came, not even giving a backward glance to the cop car.

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