“That was too close last night, Cancer,” Rayn was telling me off. “It’s not gonna be long before all the fucking cops in Las Vegas have seen our faces.”
“Well you’re alright, you can pretend to be a girl, you usually seem to get away with that shit. It’s still fucking weird, but we pull in more cash when you’re packing a fake pair of tits,” I tried to hide a grimace from him. I didn’t like the gender bending stuff, but this kid stopped growing when he was about eleven; I’m not sure he actually ever hit puberty. His face is feminine enough, his hair goes down to his waist, his body is small enough that it’s what you’d call petite on a woman, and once he’s dressed up in girl’s clothes with makeup, he looks like the real deal. Sometimes I ain’t even sure he’s got a cock.
“That’s not the point, Cancer!” he yelled at me, frustrated.
“Look, Rayn, you’re like my little brother, okay? I’m taking care of you, aren’t I?”
“You’ve had more and more run ins with the cops, they’re going to catch on eventually, even they aren’t that stupid. You need to get us back to Reno.” He didn’t look like he wanted to put any weight behind that last part.
“Reno,” I repeated, arching an eyebrow.
“Yes, Reno. I’ll be fine, it’s safer there than it is here.”
“Have you lost your mind?”
“No,” he looked up at me, eyes wide.
“No, don’t you give me that face. Rayn,” I warned him, but he had that look: a mix of ‘I’m not going to drop this’ and the lost puppy face he gave me when we first met as kids. “No.”
“Please, Cancer,” he crept over to me and wrapped his arms around my waist, his chin poking into my ribs as he looked up at me. “We should just go home. You’re good at cutting and running. We’ll still be able to scam enough to get by.”
“We’ve got a good fucking life here Rayn, that we built from nothing. We were homeless before but now we have a roof over our heads, and enough food to eat. And you want to go back to Reno? You know you’re dad’s still fucking out there, right?” The mention of his dad was... well it didn’t have a good effect on him, it never did. He dropped off me like I’d just thrown acid in his face, eyes to the floor, suddenly trying to make himself as small and inconspicuous as possible. “I’ll put a bullet in his brain if you’ll let me, Rayn, you know I will.”
“No, don’t,” he muttered at the floor.
“What your dad did was fucking wrong,” I spat, angry just from thinking about the cunt.
“I know that,” Rayn shrugged, refusing to say anything else to me about it unless it was to nag me some more. I just kinda sat there and grumbled about it all evening, trying not to think too hard about the whole thing.
See, my parents were assholes. They fought, they dragged me into their shitty arguments and then I ended up in the fucking ER. Rayn, on the other hand, well his dad was a different kind of asshole.
Rayn’s mom died giving birth to him, so his dad always blamed him for it. He got shit for it nearly every day of his life, poor kid. No wonder he’s so fucked up these days. I did the best I could - so did his older brother, Cody, but neither of us could stop what went on behind locked doors.
I did, eventually, get him out of there. By then the damage was done anyway. What can I say? I didn’t get a gun of my own til I was fifteen, I was hardly gonna bust in there with no more than my fists to get him out of there.
But Rayn never let me shoot him. He was still his dad, and Cody’s dad, according to him, and that meant something to him, even if it didn’t to me. I still say the cunt deserved to die. He deserved worse than death, but we couldn’t touch him. He was a cop. And we all know they’re above their own fucking laws, aren’t they? So Rayn just ran away with me when he was fourteen, and buried it all in the drugs, same as me.
You can see why I was confused now, right? Reno was the place all that shit went down, it was our hometown. We’d put at least a hundred miles between us and that place at all times, and I ain’t kidding when I say I’d rather see Rayn behind bars that back in that fucking town.
“It’s not safe in Reno. Just because everyone already knows what we’re like and lets us get on with it, doesn’t mean we have to go there. We could go anywhere. Cali, maybe. I’m sure there’s something for us in LA. C’mon, Rayn,” I hooked a finger under his chin and forced him to look up at me. “Not Reno.”
“I’ll be fine.”
“We’re not gonna run into him, Cancer. Cody says he never leaves the house anymore, not for anything.”
“He will if he hears you’re in town.”
“He won’t hear anything.”
Maybe five days later, Rayn had worn me down. Now me, I’m stubborn as fuck, but Rayn just... never lets something go, and there ain’t no arguing with him when he’s like that. He had his mind set on Reno, and so that’s where we ended up.
We rolled up outside some cheap motel down the road from the IHOP. We could’ve afforded somewhere better, but we were looking for somewhere that would turn a blind eye, not fancy lightings and that sorta shit.
“IHOP for dinner?” Rayn asked. His tone was bright, but it wasn’t quite the same as normal. I sighed, figuring I wouldn’t bring anything up, ‘cause I didn’t want to get him all upset on our first fucking night there. But something was wrong.
“Sure,” I smiled back at him in what I hoped was a reassuring way. He returned it but it was kinda forced. “C’mon,” I steered him out of the room, hoping I could find a way to cheer him up that didn’t involve spiking his food with coke; “I’ll buy you waffles, ‘kay?” he nodded, stopping to hug me. His face was buried in my chest, and what with there being at least a foot between us in height it was a bit awkward, but I returned the hug, patting him on the back.
In the IHOP, the TV was set to the news station in the background, the subtitles on so people that were actually interested could watch. Ain’t much help to me, considering I’m illiterate, but Rayn was watching it with me. Both of us were always watching for any mention of us on there. Not that there ever was. It was always the same old boring crap. Y’know. America’s picked another war with some country I’ve never heard of until now, or some other sort of disaster somewhere else. None of it was relevant, really. But Rayn seemed interested in this one particular piece of news that was on. His eyes were fixed on the words on screen.
“What’s caught your attention, then?” I asked through a mouthful of pie.
“The Centers for Disease Control have fucked up,” he mumbled, still fixated on the news.
“The people that are in control of whether weaponized diseases gets loose or not.”
I looked up at the screen doubtfully. “Well that’s comforting. What’s she saying?” I nodded up at the reporter. She must have been brave, or stupid, to go so close to a building that’s full of deadly diseases, especially if they’ve fucked up. The building was in the background, filling the rest of the screen. She kept gesturing at it, talking about its security, I think. I can’t remember what Rayn told me she was saying anymore, but the gist of the story was that something got out, but they don’t think it’ll be anything to worry about and that they’re dealing with it.
Just like everyone else watching that report, we shrugged it off and thought nothing more of it.