The Emerald Truth: Three

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They’d shut the door, but Noelle could still hear from inside. “She stays here or the deal is off,” Kyle said, puffing his chest towards Santos, whom was unfazed by his bravado.

“She‘ll Have world-class care.”

“No deal,” Kyle said, starting back towards the room, before he was seized by Santos.

“Eh, amigo, don’t forget, I own your Black ass. One phone call and your little girl will have a lot more to worry about. This isn’t a discussion,” Santos growled into Kyle’s face, before releasing him and straightening his jacket.

“My daughter is staying here. You need me,” Kyle said, unwilling to back down. Santos smiled, his gold molar shining against his weathered skin. “Fine. I’ll have a patrol car sit out front. Just in case,” he said, pulling out his phone. At least, in the motel room, she’d have the option to escape. Santos dialed a number and Kyle took the opportunity to go and prepare her for the worst.

“Dad…”

“We don’t have time. If I’m not back by midnight, I want you to go out the bathroom window.”

“What?”

“I don’t have time to explain. If I’m not through that door, you need to leave. Go as far as you can with what’s in your bag and I’ll find you. I promise,” he said, planting a kiss on top of her head. As much as she wanted to believe him, she couldn’t find the words to say as he walked out the door. The empty feeling that settled over her was familiar, since she’d been abandoned before.

Noelle stepped backwards into the shadows as the door across the street opened and ejected the new girlfriend. Her hair, once neatly coifed into a French twist, was now wild and sexed as it flowed behind her. Noelle took a breath to swallow the bile of jealousy that formed in her throat. Noelle shook her head and focused; this visit wasn’t personal. Once the woman had gotten into her blue sedan and left, Noelle slipped across the street and into Dorian’s building.

His heart pounded in his chest as he listened to the turn of the lock. He’d been waiting for her to show up. He flipped on the kitchen light as Noelle pushed the door open, startling her.

“Your tan’s gone. That must mean business is booming,” she said. Dorian took a large bite out of the apple in his hand, his face not budging from its stagnant expression. Noelle couldn’t help notice he hasn’t bothered to redress fully, and he’d been working out.

”What are you doing here?”

“Can’t a girl visit an old friend?”

“Not when that girl is wanted in 3 countries and we’re not friends.”

“I can see that.” They were silent for a moment. Dorian wanted her visit to be brief; he didn’t know how long he could keep the distance between them.

“Listen, I’m not here to talk about us or you and your…”

“Girlfriend,” Dorian said. Noelle huffed at the word.

“I have no right to ask you this, or even be in the same room with you, but you were the only one I could think of that can help me.”

“Help you? You mean drag me back into some more career-threatening bullshit?”

“People are dying. My father is missing.”

Dorian chewed the inside of his jaw. “What is it? Another pissed off mobster or someone else you two screwed over?”

“Listen, I get it, you’re pissed…”

“I’m sorry about your father, I really am, but I can’t get sucked into any more of your drama,” Dorian said, shaking his head.

“This isn’t what you think.”

“Honestly, I couldn’t care less. I’m done.”

He was angry, rightfully so, yet, she still found herself surprised at his response. She turned the key over between her fingers before placing it on the counter. “Not like I ever needed it,” she said with a wink before leaving.

Noelle didn’t rush back to their hideaway, however, when she arrived, she could tell Maverick had been waiting for her.

“Well, what did he say?” She said, rushing Noelle at the door. Noelle could only muster the energy to shake her head. Maverick lost her energy, briefly, before dragging Noelle to her laptop.

“Doesn’t matter, because I found a lead,” she said, pulling up a message board. “I’ve been all over the dark web, looking for anyone with info on the murders and who might be looking for us. The universe must love me because I found this guy. Dr. Dimitri Ivanov.”

“Who the hell is Dimitri Ivanov?”

“Mihai’s handler.”

“Handler?”

“Talent agent, manager, he’s the guy who puts you in contact with Mihai when you need a job. Apparently, Dr. Dimitri scheduled a meeting for Mihai 45 minutes before his place went up.”

“That’s not evidence. That’s a coincidence,” Noelle said, going into the fridge.

“It’s the closest thing we have. This guy is scared and he’s willing to give us the contact’s info.”

Noelle sighed. Her brain still hadn’t left Dorian. She’d wished she’d just apologized, but she knew hollow words wouldn’t change his mind, no matter how much she’d meant them. At this point, they were out of options.

“Where do we have to go?”

The ride was silent, 2 hours to the small city of Cienaga Springs. Maverick had filled Noelle in on how Dr. Dimitri’s operation worked, basically as a criminal matchmaker of sorts, while serving as a general practitioner during the day.

“You’d be surprised how many criminals have regular day jobs,” Maverick said, unbuckling her seatbelt. They’d arrived to the doctor’s office, which seemed to be dark and abandoned.

“Does the good doctor even know we’re coming?” Noelle asked as she followed the girl out of the car.

“Of course, he does. Look, the door is open…” Maverick said, swinging open the glass door. In a split second, gunfire rang out from inside the building. Noelle jumped and knocked Maverick into the grass as she saw the shadow moving out of the darkness. When the gun clicked empty, Noelle peered around the building in time to see the assailant drop a lighter and ignite the alcohol on the floor before running out the adjacent door. Noelle rounded the building quickly, just to see them peel away on a motorcycle.

“El!” Maverick yelled from inside the building.

Noelle rushed back to find Maverick standing over the deceased man. He’d been badly tortured before he was shot in the temple.

“I’m guessing this is the doctor,” Noelle said, shielding her face from the growing flames around them.

“This is proof! That had to be whoever Mihai met with before he died!”

“This isn’t proof of shit! We need to go!”

“Wait! We have to find the contact!”

“Look around! It’s gone and we need to go now!” Noelle said, grabbing the girl. As a career criminal, she knew that nothing brought the authorities around faster than fire. She dragged the girl back to the car and smashed the keys into her hand.

“We need to split up.”

“What?! Hell no!”

“We cannot both get caught! Just meet me back at the cul-de-sac,” Noelle said, opening the driver’s door for her.

“What will you do?”

“What I do best- survive.” The girl hugged Noelle before climbing into the car and starting the engine. Noelle pointed her away from the growing sounds of the fire trucks and waited until she was on the street to take off in the opposite direction. She crossed the plaza parking lot and began walking down the dark side street when she heard the tires skidding from behind her. She could see the red lights from Maverick’s car surrounded by blue police lights. “No!” Noelle said, before stopping herself as they instructed the girl out of the car. At least she’d be safe.

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