5. If We Were to Run
"Hello?" I called out, knocking in Mr. Mikhail Caruso's door. Ellie stood shivering next to me. It was summertime, but the fact that we were standing alone in the most dangerous part of the city certainly did give one chills.
After a minute or so of knocking and calling, I shrugged. "I guess we have to go back," I said, trying to ignore stares that rough-looking men were giving me. "I knew better than to take you out here, Ellie. Let's head back home." If our apartment could even be called a home.
The door swung open, just as we were turning to leave. "Katrina?"
I whirled around, relief overcoming me. "Caruso, may I talk with you for a few minutes?"
Caruso opened the door more widely in answer.
Ellie followed me inside Caruso's shabby apartment. The smell of strong liquor assailed my nose, and I wrinkled it in disgust. Yet despite the pungent odor, everything in Caruso's home was in perfect order. I supposed it was the result of his secret career. Shuddering, I looked around.
"Well, what're you here for? Just to stand there?"
I jammed my hands in my pockets and looked away.
The only reason I knew about Caruso's illegal profession was because I'd been snooping around his house one time. His daughter had lived with him until running off with some man who was practically twice her age, and I'd been somewhat of friends with her. Once, when she and I were nine, we'd been playing hide-and-go-seek in their house. I'd hidden in one of the closets when my elbow bumped into a briefcase. Out had poured dozens of false ID's. I'd thought them interesting and grabbed one to examine it more closely. It was then that Caruso's daughter had found me and told me everything.
Ever since, Caruso knew that I knew about his secret career.
Now, I looked Caruso in the eyes. "If I were to tell you that I'm taking Ellie away from here and need your help, what would you say?"
Caruso didn't so much as flinch. "I'd say I've been predicting it for a long time."
I let out a long breath. "Do you think you could?"
"Help you? If you were older, yes. But I'm not about to send an eighteen-year-old out into the world by herself."
Stomping my foot on the ground, I shook my head. "If you think I'm going to stand by and watch my little sister get slapped on the face for wiping her nose on her sleeve, then you're not only wrong, but stupid!"
"Hold it, Katrina. I already told you: I'm not going to help you."
Shaking my head, I pulled a face. "You're just as nasty as Geena."
Caruso shrugged. "I'm sorry. I really am. But I can't be a part of all this." He sighed.
I sighed, too. Angrily. "Caruso, my little sister is in danger. Just this morning, a gunman came to our door, threatening us unless Geena gave him the drugs she owed him! I'm not going to let Ellie live in that kind of environment!"
Next to me, Ellie began to cry softly.
At the sight of her tears, Caruso hesitated. Finally, he nodded. "Okay. I have an idea. Come here tomorrow. Same time. We'll talk about it." He held up his hand. "I'm not saying it's happening - I'm just saying I'll consider it."
Those words changed the course of the future entirely.