The kids are at school and Jake woke up early for once. Aarun takes this as the perfect opportunity to share some of his worries with her.
“I know they’re friends but everytime I see her with that no good criminal I keep thinking of Reina and what happened to her. I wouldn’t be able to handle the guilt that came from failing her as a guardian! How am I supposed to keep them apart?”
Jake hates how he treats all criminal activity as if its the worst thing in the world, and tells him that.
“What do you mean, Jake? Criminals are scum and should all be locked up. I-”
“I’m a criminal.”
His expression says it all. “W-what?”
“Where did you think all the money was coming from, Aarun? I go out every single night with Thaddaeus and the gang. We rob, we cheat, and I don’t feel guilty about it. Without the money we would have lost the girls to social services years ago.”
“I’d... had my suspicions.” He says at last. “But I thought maybe you were just working as a maid or babysitter or something. Something you were embarrassed about. I did consider that you were a petty thief once but I just swept the idea under the rug. I didn’t even want to think about it.”
“I’m not a petty thief.”
“I didn’t mean it as an insult, hunny. I mean its not like you’re a thug or something right?”
“A-actually I’m a con man.” His face goes blank so she continues her confession. “I outrank Thaddaeus these days. I pick the targets, I run the hit, and my people would do anything to protect me. I’ve turned the gang from a bumbling mess of characters to a carefully calculated hit group that I’m quite proud of.”
Aarun seems to finally be understanding her. “You’re the Red Bandit. I can’t believe I never saw it.”
Jake almost smiles. “Seeing as there are only two redheads in town... yeah. I can’t believe it either. And really, Medina’s too much of a pussy to be a thief.”
There’s an awkward silence between them while Aarun sorts out his jumbled thoughts. Eventually Jake can’t stand it anymore and speaks, voice almost breaking. “Are you mad at me?”
He pulls her in for a hug before her tears can start. “No. Never. I understand why you did what you did, and I love you all the more for it. Just promise me from now on, no more secrets.”
When Malinda is doing her homework outside there’s only ever one reason for it. Her aunt and uncle are having some “alone time”.
“Momma and dad are in there?” Nadira asks as she and her sister get off the bus.
Malinda nods. “Yeeep. And they’re being LOUD this time.”
These guys really need to find a new house. One with bedrooms.
Eventually Aarun leaves to go work on a case about some missing apples and Jake takes her pre-work nap. So Malinda is left babysitting the rowdy twins.
Once the twins are in bed she always takes a cab to the library to work on her stories. Fantasy and Sci-fi are her forte. She gets story ideas from everything around her, if she didn’t write them all down she’d blow up!
To ensure she stops breaking curfew, Aarun and Jake buy her a computer. (Yes... the girls do sleep in the living room)
Aarun makes use of it himself during cases to hack data networks and the like.
Speaking of criminal activity...
Nagina brings a friend home from school. Kennis Enmity. He’s a hottie.
On his way home from a particularly vexing case Aarun catches David running into the library and decides to follow him inside.
“Linda’s at home.” He tells the younger boy, startling him. “Jake and I bought her a computer so she can stop breaking curfew.”
“Oh.” David mutters. “I uh... I guess I’ll just go home then.”
He tries to push past but Aarun stops him. “Listen... I think maybe last time we spoke I was a bit hard on you. I don’t care if you’re a criminal. My niece sees something in you worth caring about and I trust her judgement. But if you hurt her I will make you see stars, got it?”
David smiles. “Yes sir. Understood.”
When he gets home he grabs each of his girls and gives them a big hug before sending them off to bed.
And finally Malinda:
“Listen... if you want to be David’s friend or girlfriend or whatever I’m fine with it. Just... please be careful. And talk to me if anything ever happens. I swear I’ll try to be supportive... I’m just new at this whole raising a teenager thing. I don’t want to make my father’s mistake and lose you like he lost my sister.”
Jake’s at work when he gets home, but he’s waiting for her the next morning when she wakes up. “I love you.” He whispers.
“Rough case last night...” He won’t let go of her. “I keep thinking of what would happen if I ever lost you or any of the girls. I’d be a mess. I just can’t handle a pain like that.”
“You won’t lose us.” Jake promises. “Not for a long, long time.”
He smiles and kisses her.
Originally I was going to have a lot more of the "fish kid" case in this chapter but then Buckley mentioned that she hadn't finished that case yet and then I realized other people may not have done it either so I cut that sub plot out and just left Aarun's priority shift. It seems a bit abrupt to me, but eh, he's gone through a lot since being disowned.
They FINALLY have enough money for a new place so I'll be moving them next chapter.
P.I. + Opportunist Lifetime Reward = $$$ (1000 a case, actually)