Home > The Spark(8)

The Spark(8)
Author: Vi Keeland

“Your social worker—how long have you been working with her?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know. A couple of years, I guess.”

“Everything good with her?”

Another shrug. “Her ass looks good.”

I pointed a finger at him. “Hey, don’t be disrespectful, you little shit.”

“What, you don’t like her ass? It’s nice and round.”

“First of all, she’s a lady, so you don’t talk like that. Second of all, I’m guessing she’s probably the only good thing you have in your life most of the time, so don’t bite the hand that feeds you. And lastly, you’re twelve.” I left off fourth of all, it isn’t nice and round; it’s more like an upside-down heart.

“Whatever. She’s cool. She can drive a truck.”

My brows furrowed. “Autumn can drive a truck? You mean like a pickup truck?”

Storm shook his head. “Nope. A big eighteen-wheeler.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because once we were at one of those dumb retreats Park House makes us go to upstate. A guy parked his rig blocking the entrance to the place. Him and another guy were talking. She got out of our car and asked him to move it, and he told her he was busy and he’d get to it. That pissed her off. So she asked him if the keys were in it. The guy laughed and told her to help herself if she thought she could drive a truck with eighteen speeds. She told us to stay in the car, and then she drove the truck a block away and parked it and came back.”

I don’t know what type of information I’d been fishing for, but it hadn’t been that. Though I’d take it. “What else do you know about Ms. Wilde?”

He shrugged. “She hates fighting. A couple of times she was around when kids got into it. Those are pretty much the only times I’ve seen her get really mad. She also doesn’t answer her phone when her dad calls most of the time, and she’s got bad taste in music.”

“What kind of music does she listen to?”

The kid made a face. “What, are you writing a book?”

Luckily the guard saved the little pain in the ass from any more interrogation. He opened the door and said, “Let’s go, Storm. Showtime.”

I folded the leather book where I’d jotted down a few things I wanted to remember and stood with my client. “Don’t forget, I don’t care what the judge says to you or about you, you don’t say a word without my permission.”

He frowned, but nodded as he walked out.

Back upstairs, I made a pit stop in the men’s room before heading to room 219, where Storm’s arraignment would be held in about fifteen minutes. I perked up upon finding a certain redheaded social worker sitting on a bench outside the room. Autumn was scribbling on a pad on her lap, so she didn’t see me approach.

“Good morning.”

She blinked her big green eyes up at me. “Oh, hi. I’m glad we got to see each other before the hearing.”

“You missed me, huh?” I grinned.

She laughed. “Actually, after I got home last night, I thought of a few things you might want to tell the judge about Storm. I was just writing them down.”

“Let’s see what you got.” I took the seat next to her and put my hand out for her to pass me the list.

Perusing the notes, I already knew most of what she’d written after talking to my client and pulling his rap sheet. Autumn had listed his prior arrests, his mother’s name, and the name of the shrink he was required to see monthly as part of his last plea deal. She also listed his grades. I lifted the paper closer to make sure I read that last part correctly.

“Is this right? His overall average is a ninety-nine?”

Autumn nodded. “And he’s taking all advanced classes, too. The only reason he doesn’t have a hundred is because he got a ninety in gym.”

My eyebrows shot up. “Gym? Seriously? That’s what’s weighing him down?” Last night she’d mentioned the kid was a good student, and when I’d asked him how things were going in school earlier today, he’d grumbled fine. I assumed that meant he wasn’t failing anything, and his grades were probably low seventies.

“He got in trouble twice in gym for pegging kids with a soccer ball, so the teacher lowered his grade. Otherwise he’d have a hundred.”

I shook my head. “His grades are actually good information to mention to this judge. His wife is a teacher, so he gives a lot of weight to how kids do in school. I’ll use it. Thanks.”

As I went to hand Autumn the paper back, something clicked, and I instead pulled it in for closer inspection. Yep, it was her list.

The afternoon of the day we’d met to exchange luggage, I’d gone through her bag. She’d been so adamant that I not look; how could I not? Inside, there was some pretty damn intriguing shit—huge vibrators and whatnot, which I’d later learned had been props for the bachelorette party she’d just returned from. But I’d also come across some sort of a list—a list of excuses, with some crossed out. I’d forgotten all about it until I found it under my bed the following week. It must’ve slipped under there when I was repacking her bag. I had no idea if she’d written the list or what the meaning of it was, but seeing her handwriting made me remember. She had pretty distinct, slanty cursive.

“Are you a lefty?” I asked.

She nodded and held her hand up to show me the back of her wrist. “Was it the ink I always have on the back of my hand or my terrible handwriting that gave it away?”

“The slantiness. My assistant has it, too.”

It had been a long time since I’d perused the list she’d written, so I couldn’t remember most of what was on it. I knew there were some basic excuses, things like: My phone is about to die. Work is calling on the other line. I’m about to go into a building where the service is terrible. But there were also some pretty strange ones, like my fish is drowning.

Autumn tucked the information about Storm back into a folder on her lap and started to say something when her phone rang. Dad flashed on the screen. Remembering what Storm had told me—that she rarely answered the phone when her father called—the frown on her face as she read the name made sense. While she debated answering, a court officer opened the door next to us.

He looked down at his clipboard and yelled to no one in particular, “Case 5487723-B, Storm!”

Autumn glanced over at me and took a deep breath. “That’s us.”

We stood. Her phone was still in her hand and Dad started to flash again. I wasn’t sure if she noticed, so I pointed my eyes down to it. “Do you need to get that first?”

“No, it’s fine. I’ll call him back later.”

The arraignment went pretty smoothly. I entered a plea on behalf of my client, and Storm was released to the custody of the state as represented by social services. He’d also have to report to a JPO—juvenile probation officer. But we’d have a few months before we needed to build a case. Still, the kid needed to keep out of trouble.

Once we’d collected his things from the property room, I asked Autumn if I could have a few minutes alone with my client.

“Sure. Of course.”

I nodded toward the men’s room a few doors down. “Step into my office, little man.”

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