Alex won the fight. Apparently. I wasn't there for it. Pete found me outside sitting on the floor with an unlit cigarette hanging from my lips and my phone still in my hand. I'd put the cigarette there and forgotten that I'd thrown my lighter across the road when I'd hung up on Hadley, and then I'd not bothered to put it in the packet.
"Alex won!" Pete cries happily as he sails past me, preceding most of the crowd out.
"Oh, yay," I mutter. I suck in a deep breath and spit out my cigarette, picking myself up off the floor. I push back through into the venue, making my way to Alex's room. He's standing in front of an old mirror, inspecting his lip, probably about to complain about it to Caleb, who's sat down on the battered sofa at the back of the room.
"Alex, where's the car key?" I ask, hovering in the doorway.
"In my pocket"
"Good. I need it," I say, holding out my hand in a silent demand for it.
"Why?" He says, looking curious.
"I called Hadley in the interval, asking where he was. He lied. I'm going to go and look for him."
"He probably just wants to be on his own."
"He didn't sound like it. Key." I flex my fingers and lay them flat again, repeating my demand. He hesitates for a second.
"I'm coming with you then." Oh, Christ. Really?
"Fine, whatever." I turn to Alex, "Up for another brawl, champ? I'm sure John'll be easier to beat than whoever it is split your pretty lip." Caleb giggles and Alex looks thoughtful for a moment.
"John... John... he's the one who split you and Cayden up, right?" I nod. "I'll throw on a shirt and be down in a sec," he smiles. I smile back weakly and walk back down the corridor, not really waiting for Caleb. If he wants to tag along, I'm not going to wait for him or let him slow me down. After all, John's managed to take one person I care about away from me, he's not about to take another.
He jogs after me, tailing me down to the car, and Alex follows a moment later, wearing just his shorts and the promised shirt. I stick my hand out for the key again and this time, Caleb actually gives it to me.
To say that I drove safely would have been a bit of a lie, to be honest. But we got back quick enough. I park down the end of the road from the Smith's place and glance at Caleb.
"Where's John's place again?"
"That one there, three doors down from the Smith's. Why're we going to John's?" he points at the place and I can't help glaring a little at it.
"Well, I'm hardly a detective, but there're a couple of reasons." Caleb frowns and I sigh, figuring I might as well tell him what they are. "A couple of days ago, we ran into John and he was, well, less than friendly. He tried to forcibly take Hadley home. On the phone, Hadley told me that he ran into John again and that he'd changed his tune, that he hadn't dragged him home. And then he said he'd gone home by himself and sorted stuff out but up til today, he'd refused to even think about it. Does any of that not scream suspicious?"
"The guy changes his mind a lot," he shrugs.
"Mmm, but what about John? Does he go from being a dick one day to not being a dick the next?"
"Cayden might've asked him to help sort things out..."
"Sort things out by forcibly dragging the kid home?" Alex snorts a laugh, "sure, ‘cause that'd sort everything out just fine."
Caleb runs a hand through his hair, "Look, Hadley has a weird way of thinking. Maybe he just..." he turns to me and I can't help but think that what's about to come out of his mouth isn't going to be something I want to hear. "Maybe he got fed up of you keeping on at him. Maybe he got tired of not being able to go anywhere because people kept trying to drag him back. Or maybe he just wanted to go home." Keeping on at him?
"Do people usually say ‘I... It's nice to hear from you' for no reason, when you only saw them that morning?"
"Think about what they found out that morning," he says glaring a little and I hold up my hands defensively.
"He hardly ran off and locked himself in a room, refusing to come out." Okay, Max, no need to sound like a spiteful bitch. He clenches his jaw and I hear Alex heave a sigh. He gets out of the car and sets off down the road without a word to either of us. Caleb crosses his arms sulkily, and I can't be bothered to keep arguing with a moody teenager.
So I follow Alex. Who's knocking on the door, loudly and insistently. I jog over and stand next to him.