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Savage Lover: Chapter 3


When I wake up in the morning, the sun is streaming through the rattan blinds in the little glassed-in porch I call a bedroom. Its brightness fills me with relief, like it’s going to wash away the nightmares of the night before.

Then reality crashes down on me. Those were no nightmares. I was absolutely pulled over on Goethe Street by a cop, who now has a backpack full of evidence in his trunk.

It’s 7:22 a.m. Vic is supposed to be at work by 8:00.

I stomp into his room, ripping the blanket off of him.

“Hey . . .” he groans, too hungover to even protest.

“Get in the shower,” I order.

He tries to roll over and put the pillow over his head. I snatch that away, too.

“If you don’t get up right now, I’m coming back with a pitcher of ice-water to dump on your head,” I tell him.

“Alright, alright.”

He rolls out of bed onto the floor, then stumbles out to our one and only bathroom.

I head out to the kitchen to make coffee.

There are only two bedrooms in our cramped little apartment. My dad has one and Vic has the other, which is tiny, windowless, and closet-less—probably meant to be an office, really. I sleep on the porch. My dad tried to weather-proof it, but it’s hotter than Hades in the summertime, and freezing in the winter. If it rains, my clothes get damp and my books swell up from the humidity.

Still, I like my room. I like the way the rain and sleet beat against the glass. On clear nights I can open the blinds and see stars mixed with city lights, all the way around.

I hear the shower sputter into life. Vic better actually be washing up and not just letting the water run while he brushes his teeth.

The coffee maker starts hissing as blessed dark brown wake-up juice dribbles down into the pot.

By the time Vic stumbles into the kitchen, hair damp and shoes untied, I’ve got toast and a poached egg waiting for him.

“Eat up,” I say.

“I don’t think I can,” he says, giving the food a nauseated look.

“Eat the toast at least.”

He takes half a piece, crunching it unenthusiastically.

He slumps in his chair, running a hand through his thick, messy hair.

“Hey, Mill,” he says, looking down at my feet. “I’m really sorry about last night.”

“Where did you get that shit?” I demand.

He squirms in his chair. “From Levi,” he mumbles.

Levi Cargill is the flash-ass drug dealer who owns the house we were at last night. He went to the same high school as me. Like most of the assholes at the party.

“You’re dealing for him?” I hiss, keeping my voice down because my dad is still sleeping, and I don’t want him to overhear.

“Sometimes,” Vic mumbles.

For what?” I demand furiously. “To buy a bunch of bullshit expensive sneakers? To keep up with that idiot Andrew? That’s what you’re going to throw your future away for?”

Vic can’t even look at me. He’s staring down at our dingy linoleum, miserable and ashamed.

It’s not even his future he threw away. It’s mine. That cop is coming for me today. There’s no way he’s just gonna write me a ticket.

Despite my fury at my brother, I don’t regret what I did last night. Vic is smart, even if he’s not acting like it right now. He gets top marks in biology, chemistry, math, and physics. If he buckles down and studies this year, and quits missing assignments, he could get into a great school. Get some scholarships, even.

I love my little brother more than anything in the world. I’ll go to prison before I watch him incinerate his life before it’s even begun.

“Get to work,” I tell him. “And no fucking around with Andrew and Tito afterwards. I want you to come back here and sign up for those summer AP courses like you said you were going to.”

Vic grimaces, but he doesn’t argue. He knows he’s getting off light with me. He grabs the other half of his toast and heads for the door.

I finish my coffee, then eat the poached egg Vic didn’t want. It’s overcooked. I was too distracted to pay attention to the timer.

My dad’s still sleeping. I wonder if I should put a couple more eggs on for him. He never used to sleep in, but lately he’s been crashing ten or eleven hours at night. He says he’s getting old.

I decide to let him sleep a little longer. I grab a fresh pair of coveralls and head down to the shop. I’ve got to finish up with that transmission, then get to work changing the brake pads on Mr. Bridger’s Accord.

It’s nearly ten o’clock by the time my dad finally joins me. He looks pale and tired, his hair standing up in wispy strands over his half-bald head.

“Morning, mija,” he says.

“Hey, Dad,” I say, fitting fresh seals into the transmission. “You get your coffee?”

“Yes,” he says. “Thank you.”

My dad is only forty-six, but he looks a lot older. He’s medium height, with a round, friendly face, and big, thick-fingered hands that look like they could barely hold a wrench, and yet can manipulate the tiniest little bits and bolts with ease.

When he was young, he had thick black hair and he roared around on a Norton Commando, giving girls rides to school on the back of his bike. That’s how he met my mom. He was a senior, she was a sophomore. She got pregnant two months later.

They never married, but they lived together for a couple of years in my grandmother’s basement. My dad was crazy about my mom. She really was gorgeous, and smart. He told her to keep going to school while he worked days as a mechanic and took care of me at night.

Money was tight. My mom and grandmother didn’t get along. My dad started getting chubby because he didn’t have time to play soccer anymore, and he was living off the same peanut-butter sandwiches and chicken nuggets I was eating.

My mom missed her friends and the fun she used to have. She started staying out later and later, not for school but to go to parties. Eventually she dropped out. She didn’t come home any more often. In fact, we wouldn’t see her for days at a time.

I remember that part, just a little. My mom would drop in once every week or two, and I’d run to see her, this glamorous lady who always smelled like fancy perfume and wore tight dresses in bright colors, just like my Barbie dolls. She didn’t like to pick me up or have me sit on her lap. As soon as my dad asked her too many questions, or my grandma sniped at her about something, she’d leave again. And I’d stand by the window and cry, until my dad picked me up and made me a dish of ice cream or took me out to the garage to show me something on his bike.

Eventually, my dad saved up enough to set up Axel Auto. We moved out of grandma’s house into the little apartment above the shop. My mom never visited us there. I didn’t think she even knew where it was.

Then one night, when I was ten years old, somebody rang our doorbell. We didn’t hear it at first, because of the rain. I was watching ER with my dad, eating popcorn out of a giant bowl set on the couch between us.

When the bell buzzed again, I jumped up, knocking over the bowl of popcorn. My dad stopped to pick it up, and I ran to the door. I opened it up. There was a lady standing there, not wearing any coat. Her dark hair was soaked, and so was her blouse. It clung to her skin, so I could see how skinny she was.

Neither of us recognized each other for a minute. Then she said, “Camille?”

I stared at her, mouth open. Maybe she thought I was angry. Maybe she heard my dad walking toward the door, calling out, “Who is it?” Either way, she turned around and hurried back down the stairs. She left Vic behind.

He’d been hiding behind her leg. He was two years old, small for his age, with huge dark eyes and hair that was almost blond then. For a second, I wasn’t sure if he was a boy or a girl, because of those lashes and because his hair hadn’t been cut in a while. He had his thumb in his mouth, and he was clutching that Spider-Man toy.

We brought him in the house. My dad tried to call any friends of my mother that he knew, plus her parents and cousins. Nobody knew where she was. He offered to bring the kid over to her parents’ house, but they said they’d call the cops if he did. They still hadn’t forgiven my mother for getting pregnant with me in the first place.

So Vic stayed with us for a while. That turned into him staying with us forever. Actually, we don’t even know what his name was to start with. He didn’t talk back then. I picked “Vic” because I was way into Law and Order, and I thought the Crown Vic cop cars were cool as shit.

Later, when I was in high school, we heard that my mom was working at Exotica. I never went to see her. I think my dad did, to try to figure out what the hell was going on with her. I don’t think he got any answers. He just said Vic would be staying with us permanently. By that time Vic was seven years old, firmly ensconced in second grade and t-ball. He didn’t remember our mother at all.

So we’ve all lived here ever since. It’s my home and I love it. I love the smell of oil and gasoline and industrial-strength detergent down in the shop. I love the worn-in feeling of my coveralls, and the perfect arrangement of my tools, where I can grab the right ratchet without even looking.

My dad zips up his own favorite coveralls, which used to be navy blue but have been washed so many times that they’re barely gray anymore. They’re hanging off his shoulders. He’s lost weight.

“You on a diet or something?” I say, poking him playfully in the side.

“No,” he says. “Just don’t have time to eat. I’m lookin’ good, huh?”

He grins, striking an Atlas pose like Arnold. He’s got no muscle, so his sleeves just hang off his arms.

I smile weakly in return. “Yeah,” I say. “Lookin’ great, Dad.”

My dad helps me finish up the transmission, so we can fit it back into place in the truck. It’s much faster with two people. He’s so quick and deft with his hands that it puts me at ease again. He certainly hasn’t lost his touch.

Still, I notice he’s breathing a little heavier than usual, and sweating in the heat of the garage.

“You want me to get the fan?” I ask him,

“Nah,” he says. “It’s like a free sauna in here. If it’s good for the Swedes, it’s good for us.”

Still, I grab us both a soda from the upstairs fridge.

While we’re drinking them, I hear the bell chime at the front of the shop. New customer.

“I’ll get it,” I tell my dad.

I hurry up front, setting my soda down on the reception desk. We don’t have a receptionist—the desk is just there for show, and for when my dad tries to sit down and muddle through all the bills and receipts we should have organized as soon as we got them.

I see a man in a tight white t-shirt and a Cubbies cap, looking through our stack of classic car magazines.

He glances up when he hears me. I see that square jaw and tanned face, and the friendly smile.


It’s Officer Schultz. I was so distracted with the truck and my dad that I totally forgot about him.

“Camille,” he says. “Nice to see you again.”

Wish I could say the same.

“Officer Schultz.”

“Call me Logan.”

I don’t really want to, so I just nod stiffly.

“You and your dad own this place?” he says, looking around.


There’s nothing fancy about our shop. It’s cramped, dingy, decorated in the saddest way possible with a couple old posters and a single ficus tree we never remember to water. Still, I don’t like his condescending tone or the way he’s shown up here like he’s marking territory in the only place in the world that belongs to me.

“You live in that apartment up above?”


“And your brother Victor, too?”


“He goes to Oakmont?”

“Yeah. This’ll be his last year.”

“I went there,” Schultz says, stuffing his hands in the pockets of his jeans. The movement flexes his pecs under the tight white T. He didn’t wear his uniform to come see me. Maybe he’s trying to put me at ease. It’s not gonna work, and neither is his small talk.

“Yeah, me too,” I say.

“What year did you graduate?”


“Ah. I was ‘08. We just missed each other.”

“Guess so.”

My dad pokes his head out of the garage. “Need any help?” he says.

“No!” I say, quickly. “I’ve got it covered.”

“Alright. Call me if you need anything.” My dad gives a friendly nod to Schultz, not knowing that this dude is here to royally fuck with his kids’ lives. Schultz gives him a little salute in return.

I wait for my dad to leave, then I turn my unfriendly attention back onto Schultz.

“Let’s cut to the chase,” I say.

“Sure,” Schultz says, smiling easily. “Let’s do that. You were in possession of 114 tablets of MDMA.”


“I’ve logged the traffic stop and the acquisition, but the Chicago PD has some flexibility in making arrests.”

“What does that mean?”

He fixes me with those bright blue eyes, smiling pleasantly.

“Well, think of your drug charge as a debt. You owe the State of Illinois four years. But you’re not going to do anybody any good sitting in prison. In fact, you’ll cost the taxpayers a lot of money. So it benefits the good people of this state if you work off your debt another way.”

I don’t like the way he’s standing so close, looking down at me.

“How am I supposed to do that?” I say.

“Well . . . have you ever heard of a CI?”

Yeah. Like I said, I watched a lot of Law and Order growing up. I know about Confidential Informants.

“You want me to rat,” I say flatly.

“I prefer to call it ‘assisting the police in apprehending dangerous criminals.’ ”

Dangerous criminals who will slit my throat if they know I’m talking to the police.

“You ever heard the phrase ‘Snitches Get Stitches?’ ” I ask him.

He cocks his head to the side, looking me up and down though he can’t see shit through my coveralls.

“You ever heard the phrase ‘Don’t Drop the Soap?’ ” he says, his voice low and mocking. “I don’t think you’d like federal prison, Camille. The women there are just as brutal as the men. Worse, sometimes. They love when a pretty young girl gets thrown inside. It’s like chum in the water. They don’t even want to take turns.”

My skin crawls. I hate being threatened. And I’m especially pissed that he’s doing it over some baggie of bullshit party drugs. There are people murdering each other every day in this city. He’s gonna rake me over the coals because a bunch of rich kids like to get high and dance around to shitty music?

“What do you expect me to do?” I say, through gritted teeth. “Wear a wire or something? I don’t know any serious criminals. Just a bunch of idiots who like to get high. And we’re not even friends.”

“Where did the Ex come from?”

“Levi Cargill,” I say without hesitation. I’ve got no problem throwing that guy under the bus after he recruited my underage brother to sell drugs for him. “He lives on—”

“I know where he lives,” Schultz says.

“If you already know who he is, what do you expect me to do?”

“Get close to him,” Schultz says. “Find out where he gets his product. Find the names of all his dealers and suppliers. Report back to me.”

“I’m not Inspector Poirot!” I cry. “I don’t know how to do any of that!”

“You’ll figure it out,” Schultz says with zero sympathy. He hands me a business card. On the back he’s written his personal cell number.

“Memorize that number. Get used to calling it,” he says. “We’re going to be seeing a lot of each other.”

I stifle a groan. I would like this to be the most I ever see of Schultz. Or Levi either, for that matter.

“And what if I can’t get any more information?” I ask him.

“Then you go to prison,” Schultz says coldly. “And your brother, too. Don’t forget, he had product in his pocket. He’s old enough to be charged as an adult.”

I press my lips together to keep from snapping at Schultz. Vic and I are just tools to him. He doesn’t care if he destroys us, as long as he gets another tally in his arrest book.

“Memorize that number,” Schultz tells me again.

“I’ll put it in my phone,” I say. So I can make sure never to pick up when you call.

“Perfect. You got any more of those sodas?” Schultz says, nodding to the half-empty can on the reception desk.

“No,” I lie. “Fresh out.”

Schultz chuckles. He knows I’m lying.

“Nice to see you, Camille,” he says. “Let’s do this again real soon.”

I stand there with my arms folded until he leaves.

When I head back into the garage, my dad says, “What did he want?”

“Nothing,” I say. “Directions.”

My father shakes his head. “Tourists.”


“At least he was a Cub’s fan.”

“That’s the only reason I talked to him.”

My dad laughs, which turns into a cough. The cough goes on a while, long enough that when he straightens up, his lips look a bit blue.

“You okay, Dad?” I ask him.

“Of course,” he says. “I might go lay down a while though. If you’ve got these brakes covered.”

“Sure,” I say. “I’ll handle it.”

“Thanks, sweetie.”

He shuffles up the stairs to our apartment.

I watch him go, my heart full of dread.


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