Off the Beaten TrailMature

Lucy Carter is used to her brother Dave turning up unexpected, and often battered and bruised, at her house. She's always assumed that he's gone on intense hikes with his friends, until she discovers his plans to work with notorious thief and conwoman, Helena Klein. Curious about her brother's line of work, and concerned for his safety, Lucy demands to tag along as he hunts down a valuable treasure. She gets more than she bargained for, but does the taste for the life she gets leave her hungry f

      The first thing Lucy noticed upon returning to her apartment was a sticky note attached to the front of her door, right below the brass room numbers, the words "hope you don't mind" scrawled across it in large, fancy cursive that was instantly recognizable as her brother’s handwriting. She peeled it away, eyebrow raised, checking its back for more writing before crumpling it into a ball in her fist. When she tested it, she was not surprised to find the doorknob turn easily, but let out an exasperated breath with an additional roll of her eyes. She pushed on the light slab of wood, slipping inside and closing it behind her with a loud click.

      With a flick of her wrist, Lucy locked the door. She placed her purse on the stand to the right of the threshold, careful to coil the strap on top so nothing dangled, then tossed the note into the waste bin stowed away underneath.

      "Dave?" she called. There was no way he would get the drop on her, not in her own home.

      The squeak of the sofa in the next room was loud in the empty house, as was the grunt that followed.

      She kicked off her flats before moving towards the den, treading lightly on the balls on her feet as to not cause too much noise. Absently, she fiddled with her necklace, sliding the small owl charm along the golden chain, and looked inside. She noticed a shift of movement, a shoulder peaking over the arm of the couch as the person lying on it turned over. Her nostrils flared, finally aware of a strong scent of dirt partially hidden under deodorant.

      “Dave,” she repeated, folding her arms and leaning her shoulder against the door frame.

      Her little brother grumbled, raising his head just enough to glance at her, taking a moment to focus on her through half closed, pale brown eyes before he sank back down. She sighed, striding forward and draping herself over the back of the sofa, clasping her hands and allowing herself a sly grin. He batted weakly at her fingertips with a dirt caked hand, just barely missing.

      “How was the trip?” she asked.

      “It all sucked,” he said, words slurred together in his exhaustion. “Lucy, can I sleep in peace?” He looked at her, opening his eyes just enough to give her a pleading look. “I’ll tell you about it later.”

      “Promise?”

      He shut his eyes again, offering up a lopsided smile through his scabbed lips, shifting his weight as he prepared to fall back into sleep. “Scout’s honor.”

      Lucy reached down to pat his cheek, careful not to touch any of the new cuts dotting his face. Expression turning gentle, she brushed wavy brown hair off his forehead, slick with sweat and tangled with debris. He shifted for a moment, pressing closer to the warmth of her skin, his breath already slowing into deep, even snores. She gave her head a slight shake, dark curls bouncing in the periphery of her vision, before turning on her heel and trotting to the kitchen.

      Sliding on the slick tiles towards the wall mounted phone, she caught herself on the granite counter. She slipped easily into the bar stool, hooking her feet under the metal rung at the body and positioning herself at the very edge, keeping her back as straight as she possibly could. She leaned forward, plucking the phone from the receiver and tapping out the number to her parents’ house, barely even giving it any thought.

      It was all routine, now. Dave would turn up at her house after being gone for weeks, or even months, at a time, covered in bruises and other assorted minor injuries, and Lucy would call up their parents to let them know that their son was okay.

      As the phone rang, she wrapped the cord around a slender finger, whistling softly to herself until she heard the distinct click of someone answering her call.

      “Hello?” The voice on the other end of the line was deep, strong and booming. It demanded authority and promised wisdom, as well as a good natured disposition. “Lucy, is that you?”

      “Yes, Daddy,” she chirped, twisting her hips to spin the seat on its pivot. “Hey, I was just calling to say that Dave’s at my house, sleeping on the couch.”

      He laughed, a sort of laugh that let out all his worry that struck him as silly in hindsight. It’s what he always did. “Good, good. When he wakes up, tell him that his mother and I say hello, all right?”

      Lucy snorted, nodding out of habit. “Yeah, I’ll tell him. And you tell Mom I said hey.”

      “Will do,” he said. There was a pause, before he added, “Anything else, kiddo?”

She thought for a moment. She wasn’t too fond of just calling her dad, then hanging up, but there was not much else for her to say. Smile fading, she said, “No, there isn’t. I love you, Dad. Have a good night, okay?”

      “You too, hon. Don’t be a stranger.”

      “I won’t.”

      With that, he hung up the phone. Sighing, she hung up hers and placed her hands in her lap, worrying the hem of her shirt as she looked in the direction of the living room. Not much left for her to do than wait. She jumped off the chair and headed towards the bathroom, thinking that a shower would be a nice first course of action.

The End

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