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Savage Lover: Chapter 22


Planning a job is like building a Rube Goldberg machine. One where you only get a single chance to move the ball from point A to point B. You set up all your pulleys and ramps, your levers and wheels. And then finally, when you’re certain that every part of the machine is perfect, down to the tiniest angle, then you set your ball rolling. If it makes it all the way to the end, you get away with the money. If it falls short, you and all your friends are spending the rest of your life in prison. As a best-case scenario.

I never really focused on the consequences before.

Having Camille involved changes that. I can’t let her down. I just can’t. She won’t take money from me. But we can steal it, together.

I’ve got Mason fabricating the equipment we need, using his uncle’s shop. Jonesy is back on his meds—or so he swears—and back to researching the alarm system of the Alliance Bank, instead of obsessively researching QAnon conspiracy theories like he’s been doing the last four months.

I’ll be the one doing the actual safe-cracking. I built myself a scale-model of the mag-lock door system and the electrical grid, which I’ve been practicing on blind-folded so I can do it by touch alone. And I’m figuring out exactly where Camille should be the night of the heist, to lead our friend Schultz on a merry chase, with enough time left over so she can pick us all up afterward.

The only thing I don’t have is muscle. Dante is still uninterested in the job, though at least he hasn’t ratted me out to Papa about it. I could get someone else, but I don’t trust anybody else outside the little circle. And it probably won’t matter in the end. If all goes to plan, there won’t be any bullets exchanged, or any blows either.

If there is, I’ll just have to handle it myself.

So there’s one last thing to sort out. One little mystery that I want to put to bed once and for all.

I have to take a road trip to do it. I was planning to go alone. At the last minute, I ask my little brother if he wants to come along.

Sebastian has always been on the periphery of the family business. He made it clear that he had no interest in running poker rings or shaking down developers for cash. He wanted the straight life—college education, college athletics, maybe even a professional career.

Then he went from basketball star to barely walking in one night.

He doesn’t hold a grudge against Callum or Aida—the feud between our families is water under the bridge. But it changed him. He went from gentle and dreamy to silent and unpredictable.

He’s still attending classes at the U—in fact, he took them all summer long, staying on campus instead of coming home for a few months like he usually does. He barely ever comes home on the weekend anymore, either. When he does, he looks hungover.

I know what it’s like to have one night change your life. To have a demon crawl inside of you and take up residence.

I call Seb up and ask him if he wants to drive out to Braidwood with me.

There’s a long silence on the other end of the line, then Seb says, “Yeah. Why not.”

I take Dante’s Escalade so that Seb will have more room to stretch his legs out. He’s the youngest boy in the family, but the lanky bastard is near 6’7”, taller even than Dante. And actually, he’s not as lanky as he used to be, either.

“You been lifting?” I ask him.

“Yeah.” He nods. “I was doing it for physical therapy on my knee. Then I figured I might as well keep up with it. Since I’m not on the team anymore, I’ve got time on my hands.”

He looks out the window, not smiling. His boyish face is filling out, his jaw widening. He used to have soft features and long, wavy hair, almost as curly as Aida’s. Now his face looks sharper, with a dark shadow along his jaw.

“You haven’t been coming home much,” I say. “You seeing somebody?”

Seb shakes his head.

“I don’t have to ask you that question,” he says.

“Actually,” I say, “I am.”

“No shit?” Seb looks over at me, a bit of the old smile on his face. “What, did you meet Taylor Swift?”

“Nah,” I grin. “You know Camille Rivera?”

Seb shakes his head.

“Her dad owns that auto shop on Wells.”

“Oh . . .” recognition dawns on his face. “You mean the Grease—”

“Don’t call her that!” I bark.

“Sorry!” Seb holds up his hands. “That’s just what some kids called her. I always thought she was cool. Kinda badass.”

“She is,” I say.

My heart is racing and I’m gripping the steering wheel too hard. I know Seb didn’t mean anything by it—he doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. Or at least, he never did before. But the thought of somebody talking shit on Camille makes me want to track down every single kid we went to high school with and wring their fucking necks.

“Is it serious?” Seb asks.

I want to say yes. But I’m not sure I can answer for Camille.

“To me it is,” I tell him.

Sebastian nods slowly. “I’m happy for you, man,” he says.

“She’s helping me with a bank job in a week.”

“Oh yeah? What bank?”


Sebastian lets out a low chuckle. “You’re not fucking around, huh? Does Papa know?”

“No, so keep it quiet. Dante does, but he’s not coming along.”

“You want another hand?” Seb asks.

I look at him in surprise.

“You serious?”

Seb shrugs. “Why not?”

“You know . . . I just thought you wanted the straight life.”

Sebastian frowns. “Yeah, well, that was a fantasy, obviously. I’m not Michael Jordan. It was stupid to think that.”

“Seb, you were really good. With some more therapy—”

“FUCK therapy!” he barks. “It doesn’t fix it. Before the accident, I was playing nine hours a day, training constantly. I had to get better and better every game, always pushing. Now I can barely get back to where I used to be. And all the guys I was playing with have had months to keep moving forward. They passed me by. It’s over.”

I’ve never heard him admit that before. We all thought he’d keep trying, at least through graduation.

Before, I wouldn’t have known what to say to him.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my time with Camille, it’s that you can’t say anything to fix a situation like this. And you don’t have to try. You just have to be there for the other person.

So I say, “I’m really sorry, Seb. It’s a shit situation, and you didn’t deserve that happening to you.”

Seb is quiet for a minute. Then he says, “Thanks, brother.”

“If you want to do this job with me . . . I’d be glad to have you.”


“Definitely,” I say.

But first, our little late-night visit . . .

We pull into Braidwood about ten o’clock at night. It’s a tiny town, maybe six thousand people. Most of them work at the nuclear plant. So does the man we’ve come to see. Eric Edwards is a security guard, preventing acts of industrial espionage for the princely sum of $12 an hour.

It’s a step down from the days when he was patrolling the city streets for the Chicago PD. He was discharged with no pension after he broke some kid’s arm during a routine shoplifting arrest. Turns out that kid was the fourteen-year-old son of the Fire Commissioner, so that little act of aggression didn’t get swept under the rug like the twenty-two complaints Edwards had received before.

But I’m not here about any kid.

I’m here because Edwards was one of the two officers who found Matthew Schultz outside Rosenblum Park on April 18th, 2005.

Now he lives in a tiny salt-box house on the outskirts of town, between the Dollar General and Hicks Gas and Propane.

I’ve seen photos from his policing days, when he had a thick black mustache and relatively trim physique. I hardly recognize the fat fuck sitting by his fire pit, dressed in a pair of striped pajama pants and a Ghostbusters t-shirt that doesn’t even come close to cover his hairy belly. He’s roasting a hot dog on a stick, the first of many if the amount of buns he’s got laid out on his plate is any indication.

He looks up as our car pulls into his drive. He doesn’t move from the beat-up lawn chair that barely looks capable of supporting his bulk.

Seb and I get out of the car. We approach him from two sides, as Papa always taught us. Flanking like wolves.

“Whadda ya want?” Edwards demands, squinting up at us.

“Just a moment of your time,” I say, quietly. “I’ve got three questions for you. If you answer honestly, we can be on our way.”

Edwards’ piggy little eyes narrow even further as he looks between Seb and me.

“Who are you?” he says. “You work for Flores?”

I don’t know who Flores is, and I don’t care.

“That’s not how the game works,” I remind him. “I ask the questions. You answer.”

“I don’t have to play your fucking game, kid,”

Edwards nods toward his old service pistol, slung over the arm of his chair in its holster. I raise an eyebrow, pretending to be impressed.

“You see that Seb? He’s got a gun.”

Sebastian and I lock eyes. Then, at the same instant, Seb uses his good leg to kick out the straining struts of the lawn chair, while I knock the gun and holster out of Edwards’ reach.

The chair collapses beneath him and he tumbles backward. He flails his arm, trying to grab his gun. I bring my boot down on his hand, pinning it in place.

Sebastian does the same with Edwards’ other arm. Now he’s laying on the grass, looking up at us, howling with fury.

“Quiet,” I snap, “Or I’ll stuff one of those filthy socks in your mouth.

Edwards is wearing a pair of rancid wool socks under his sandals. He immediately quiets, knowing better than I do how disgusting that would taste.

“What do you want?” Edwards snarls.

“I told you,” I say. “Three questions. First, who shot Matthew Schultz?”

“How the fuck should I know?” Edwards says.

“Wrong answer.” I nod to Sebastian. He puts his other shoe on Edwards’ throat and starts to bear down.

Edwards chokes and gurgles, his face turning a congested red. Seb lets up just a little and Edwards cries, “I don’t know! Nobody knows!”

Seb starts to push down on his throat again and Edwards sputters something I can’t make out.

“Ease off,” I say to Seb. Then to Edwards, “Last chance. What were you saying?”

Edwards gasps and chokes, giving a phlegmy cough.

“He had a lot of enemies,” he says.


“Everybody. People said he was working with internal affairs, turning in other cops.”

“So who wanted him dead?”

“I don’t KNOW!” Edwards howls. Seb raises his foot again and Edwards cries, “All I know is that we were supposed to be by the park that night. To answer the call.”

“What call?”

“About the shooting. Only I didn’t know it was gonna be a shooting ‘till we got there.”

“Who told you to be there?”

Edwards squirms, trying to wrench his wrists out from under our feet. He clamps his mouth shut and shakes his head side to side, like a toddler trying to refuse food.

“Who?” I demand, pressing down on his wrist until I hear the tendons pop.

“Owww!” Edwards howls. Then as Seb starts to press down on his neck for the last time, he gasps, “Brodie! It was Brodie!”

I nod at Seb to let him be.

Then I take my weight off Edwards’ arm so he can sit up and rub his wrists with a sulky expression.

“Brodie told you to be there that night?” I say.


“Did you get the security footage that showed the shooting?”

“Yeah. But I never watched it. I gave it to my partner. Coop was supposed to log it. Instead it disappeared.”

“Convenient,” I say.

“What do you care?” Edwards mutters, glaring at Seb and me. “You’re not cops. Who the fuck are you, anyway?”

“I’m the guy who’s not gonna kill you tonight,” I tell him. “You’re welcome.”

Kicking his gun further out of reach, I nod to Seb and we head back to the SUV.

As we climb inside, Seb says, “Did you know who he was talking about? This Brodie guy?”

“Yeah,” I nod. “I know who that is.”

I saw a picture of him pinning a medal on Logan Schultz.


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