Brian leaned against the wall and watched the passing cars. The wall was fucking uncomfortable and so were the pants, but the cars were sometimes hot enough to distract him - the occasional Apollo-modified Audi or tricked-out Impala made up for all the off-the-lot Lexuses, the Beemers, the yuppiemobiles driven by assholes looking for some cock to suck before they raced home to their Mrs. Asshole and 2.5 Assholes in Training.
One of the cars slowed down at the curb. The driver looked at Brian in a way he was all too fucking used to - the long slow sweep down the body, the stutter back up, and finally the glance away before eye contact, the eye contact that said, "How much?" But Mr. Asshole lost his courage or didn't like the look of the goods on offer. He hit the gas on his Prius - fucking Prius - and merged back into the traffic.
"Bri-an." And Brian was yanked out of his zone, out of the passing traffic, to focus on Calls-Himself-Logan-Yeah-Right. Logan was looking skuzzier than usual tonight - a few extra piercings, his shirt ragged and ripped, and he was twitching a little, looking for trouble, looking for some extra cash. And thinking Brian could provide both. Brian looked at the twitching and tried to assess it - had he had Sugar recently? Or was this something else, just some coke or something?
He shifted his gaze away and tried to look a little scared; he couldn't give Logan a cut of his business, not when he wasn't taking any more than he had to, but he needed Logan to think he was scared. "Logan. I told you, I'm not interested."
Logan grinned at him, leaned in. "You stand here, man, you don't got to be interested. You just got to pay me. I'm in charge here, okay? I own this sidewalk, and if you want to stand here, you got to give me some rent."
Brian tried to look nervous. What would a pussy say in this kind of situation? "Why would I do that?"
Logan grimaced, shoved forward, got right into Brian's face. Nice try, dickshit. I've been pushed around by so much better. "You do what I say because I tell you to."
Brian took a beat. And another one. Then he brought his eyes up and looked straight at Logan. "You do not want to bother me, Logan. You don't."
Wasn't that the fucking truth. And maybe Logan knew it was, because he backed down, walked off down Sunset muttering.
Brian turned his eyes back to the traffic and got an instant reward - solid racing-cut Honda, not too rich but some nice money in it and on it, idling at the red light. He skimmed his eyes along it, cataloging the work - looked like something in progress, not finished. But he could see the bones of a damn nice car. He looked into the driver's seat, to see if it was someone who might know what the fuck he was doing or just someone with a lot of money who wanted to look good -
- and Dominic Fucking Toretto looked back at him. It couldn't be him, but it was. Their eyes locked for a long moment, and Brian saw Dom's go wide, saw his mouth start to form a word.
And then guy in the Kia Sportage behind Dom leaned on his horn. Dom broke the stare, saw the green light, and went.
Fuck. One more complication he did not need.
It took him all afternoon to track Mia down. It would have taken longer if he hadn't thought of checking UCLA's student directory. But once he had a number for her, no problem. She picked up on the third ring. "Hello."
Brian held the phone in both hands, trying to think of what he could fucking say. "Look, Mia -"
"Who is this?" Her tone held bright suspicion.
"Brian. It's Brian O'Conner, Brian Spilner." He was just babbling now. God damn it.
"Okay, Brian Whoever the Fuck, try this: I don't want to talk to you. I never want to talk to you again." She sounded four seconds away from hanging up.
Brian took a breath. "Mia, I'm - look, I'm not the enemy. Ask Dom, okay? I helped him out."
There was a pause, just a few seconds too long, but she'd already revealed everything he needed to know just by not slamming down the phone. "I can't ask Dom, you shithead, because thanks to you he's in fucking Mexico."
And then she hung up. Brian knocked the receiver against his head a few times and spoke out loud to the only working pay phone in Los Angeles. "God damn it, Toretto. Why the fuck would you come back?"
But that was it, dead end. He had to assume Dom was hiding well enough not to get picked up by the FBI, which meant an LA cop at a pay phone didn't have much chance. And Brian, God help him, had work to do.
He headed back to the shithole he shared with two shitheads. When he opened the door, Bobby raised his head from his mattress. Jenny was already off somewhere, probably scoring some heroin.
Brian went to his mattress, picked up his backpack, and dug out some working clothes and a towel and soap. The great thing about this place - pretty much the only great thing - was a full (and working) bathroom. He went to take a shower. Wash off the day, wash off the night before, try to wake himself up a little.
At least Bobby got to sleep. And Jenny, if she wasn't too busy screwing her pretty little head with what she got for screwing any number of johns. Brian was running on no sleep these days- he spent five nights a week standing on the street corner on the clock and every day trying to do something back at the stationhouse - help someone make some calls, work some leads, do anything to get his ass off this detail. Fortunately, he didn't need to be awake to hustle.
He showered, shaved, ran some styling gel through his hair and got dressed - tight jeans, tighter wifebeater, fucking Doc Martens. He felt like an ass and looked worse - too old, for one damn thing - but that didn't matter to the assholes who cruised for guys like him. He shoved his wallet into his jeans - had to keep that on him at all times, because one thing he knew for damn sure was that there was no honor between roommates in a place like this - and headed out. Sun had been down for half an hour. Time to do his shift.
Logan was waiting for him, right where he usually stood, and he had friends with him this time. Just fucking great, Brian thought to himself, and walked up. "Hey, Logan. Help you with something?" And he leaned back against the wall, cocked his hips, and put on his come-and-get-me face.
"Yeah, fucker, you can help me with something!" Logan was shaking and red. Looked like withdrawal combined with his usual asshole attitude. Coming down off Sugar wasn't pretty.
Brian knew he wasn't going to able to defuse this one, so he didn't bother to try. "My kind of help you have to pay for, Logan." He paused - long pause - and then said, "For you, fifty dollars if you wanna suck me. But I'll make it forty if you take a shower first."
There was always a certain pleasure in inviting the hit, in knowing exactly when it was going to come, and Logan turned out to be as predictable in this as in everything else. He went for Brian's face right off - well, of course: he spent most of his days beating and terrifying people who had to look good to make a buck.
It was hard, hard to restrain his impulse to fucking throw down, but this time Brian couldn't do that, couldn't risk having people know he could and would fight back. Brian just dodged what he could, took everything else on his shoulders and arms, tried to look a little helpless and on the defensive even as his hands clenched into fists and he could taste how much he wanted to beat Logan's fucking face in. Logan nailed him in the stomach a couple of times, and Brian lost a lot of his ability to dodge along with most of his breath. And then Logan grabbed him, slammed him against the wall, and then fuck he had his fingers around Brian's throat and, shit, this was going a little far, but suddenly acting passive had gotten a whole lot easier and a whole lot more deadly.
And then he heard someone say, from a long way away, "Get. The fuck. Off." The next thing Brian knew, Logan's fingers were off. Brian slid down the wall to land on his ass to the sound of something heavy slamming into something hard. "You fucking try that again, I will beat your ass so hard it's your fucking face, you understand me?"
Brian kept his eyes closed, because he recognized that voice - oh God how he recognized it - and this was a complication he did not fucking need. Dominic Toretto: the gift that keeps on destroying your life. He just sat there, eyes closed, enjoying the feeling of breathing and the sense of everything being out of his control yet again - Dom anywhere near him equaled his life spinning out - and listened. Listened to Logan and his friends running away, shouting back at Dom, who didn't say anything at all.
Listened to Dom's footsteps crunching across the gritty surface of the alley and stopping in front of him.
Listened to Dom's breathing.
And then Dom said, "Brian. What the fuck?" And that was it, game on. Brian opened his eyes, took a deep breath, and started dealing.
"Dom. Hey." He stood up - ouch - and brushed himself off - disgusting, and fuck, these pants were pretty much ruined.
Dom stood there, arms crossed, staring at him, watching. He looked good. Brian couldn't resist looking, resist checking him out, and he was still Dominic Toretto: all muscle, built like a rock, tall and strong and so fucking hot it was hard not to stare. Brian struggled to snap his mind back into the right space, turn himself back into the Brian that Dom knew. That Brian wasn't so obvious about looking. That Brian didn't invite looks back. Right, right. He could do this. "Dom," he said. And then what else could he say?
"What the hell happened to you?" And this was bad, because Dom didn't sound pissed. He sounded ... Brian didn't know. Wounded. Upset. Worried, maybe. You're the fugitive from justice who's supposed to be in another country right now, Dom, Brian thought. I'm the one who's supposed to be worried about you.
And that thought kicked Brian's brain back into gear, because yeah. Yeah, he really should be worried. Dom was still entirely too fucking recognizable. Brian's backup was Petey Martinez, and the odds were good that Martinez had gone digging in Brian's files just for fun, just to find out what exactly Brian had done to get him an assignment this fucked-up. And there were pictures in those files. Which meant that when Martinez swung by for the visual check-in, Brian could not be standing on a goddamn street corner talking to this particular known fugitive from justice.
"Do we have to go into this?"
"You're selling your ass, so, yeah. Yeah, we gotta go into it."
"Not here, then." Brian ran through his extremely limited options in his head and sighed. Bobby would be working, and odds were good Jenny would be out even if she wasn't working. Home it was. "I got a room," he said.
Brian unlocked the door to the room and ducked his head in, and that was the first thing that had gone right tonight: both his roommates were out. Thank fuck. He did not need to mix Dominic Toretto in with Jenny and Bobby. Dom would either want to kill them or try to save them, and it was a fifty-fifty chance. Maybe sixty-forty with Bobby; he was skinny and twitchy and looked a little like Jesse.
Brian waved his hand around the room. "Grab a mattress," he said.
Dom looked around with the same expression he'd once used when looking at a Porsche 928 4.7 some kid had let run dry. "This where you're staying?"
"Yeah, Dom. What, you think hustlers get top accommodation? This is where I'm staying." Brian looked at it with Dom's eyes, saw the squalor, saw what it would look like to a man who had spent every minute since Lompoc making life comfortable and clean for himself and for everyone he knew and loved.
Brian shook it off, reminded himself that it was just a job, just another job, nothing humiliating about doing your fucking job.
"I have money," Dom said. "Don't live like this."
"This is just part of the job." Brian walked over to his mattress and sat down. "Anyway, it's not so bad. No big deal."
"You got roommates?" Dom was frowning at the other mattresses.
"What? Yeah." Brian looked at Dom's expression. "Yeah, they're just roommates. In this business, you don't fuck where you live, okay? They're okay."
Dom nodded, dismissing the roommates. "Brian," he said. "What the hell happened?"
"You got away clean, Toretto. I didn't." Dom's face turned dark, and Brian held up his hands. "That's what I wanted, okay? My life's not so bad right now." Dom looked around the room, looked back at him. "So I live in a shithole for a while. I've lived in worse."
"Dom. You don't know Brian O'Conner. You do not know the things I've done. This is not the worst I've ever had, by a long shot. I'm fine. Just - something to live through, that's all. Just - a job to do. The job."
"The job," Dom repeated, frowning.
"Yeah." And Brian had to say this right up front, because otherwise Dom would do something crazy and stupid - or, given that he was already a fugitive who was hanging out with a cop, something crazier and stupider. "The job I've always had." That was about as close as he could get to saying it out loud around here. He came out and said "cop," the entire building would be clear in fourteen seconds.
Dom narrowed his eyes at him. "Fine. And getting the shit kicked out of you by your pimp?"
"He's not my pimp."
"You used to fight back."
Brian looked down, because, yeah, of course he didn't enjoy looking like a pussy, acting like a pussy, but that was part of the fucking job. "I do what I have to do."
Silence. When Brian finally looked up, Dom was staring at him, and Brian could not read the expression on his face. They locked eyes for a few long seconds, and Brian said, "Dom. Don't fuck this up for me. Please."
Dom nodded, once, and turned and left.
Brian stared at the door for a minute after it closed behind Dom, and then he flopped back on the mattress and pressed the heels of his hands to his eyes. One less complication. That should be a good thing.
The thing was, though - Mia had been right and wrong, way back when. Dom wasn't gravity. He was a fucking drug, and Brian had gotten himself addicted, and just like any addict he'd eventually paid too high for a hit. And then he'd gone clean. And if life had looked a little greyer, a little grimmer without Dom around ... well, every addict lived through that. He'd survived, moved on, adjusted. That was what Brian did.
And then Dom had come through the door and reminded him of what he was missing. And the world had been brighter, and now Brian was going to have to get used to the grimness all over again.
Shake it off, O'Conner. He took a deep breath, hauled himself up off the mattress, and headed back out to the street. Wouldn't want Martinez to think he was slacking off.
A car slowed as it passed - darkened windows, silver right-off-the-lot Mercedes, prime potential customer - and Brian stretched as invitingly as he could. The car pulled in to a parking space half a block away. No one got out.
They did that, sometimes. Just waited - for their courage, for a hard-on, Brian didn't fucking know. But he waited, pretended like he didn't see the car. Had to let them get comfortable. Drawing in gang members was a fuckload easier; you just waited for someone to throw a punch. But this - you had to fucking seduce them, let them come to you, let them think it was their idea. Let them think they weren't doing anything wrong. Kind of like dealers.
The Merc's door opened and a middle-aged balding white guy got out. Prime bait, prime target - just what he was looking for. Brian needed to be seen turning a trick soon or people on the street were gonna start to wonder. He kept his eyes off the john but shifted his body so that what goods there were were completely on display.
But he kept right on staring at the traffic, so he was watching when Dom's goddamn Honda double-parked right in front of him. Shit fuck damn. Dom put down the passenger window, leaned across the passenger seat, and called, "Brian."
Brian looked at the Merc - goddamn it, the john was gone. He looked at the traffic backing up behind Dom, the very definition of not a low profile, and what the fuck did Dom think he was doing?
He'd better find out. Somewhere less visible than this. He peeled himself off the wall and slid into the car. Dom pulled out to a chorus of honks.
They drove in silence from Sunset to the 405, heading south. When it looked like they were actually going to leave the fucking town, Brian said, "Dom. What."
"You can't take a break?"
"Hustlers don't clock on, clock off, take a coffee break, hang out around the water cooler talking to Joe from Marketing. And I had a guy on a string out there."
There was a long pause while Dom thought about that, and Brian just stared out the window. He didn't need this shit, didn't need Dom knowing about this, didn't need the complication. "You said this was part of your job. The same job you've always been doing."
"Yeah. I'm still undercover." Brian sighed. "There's a new drug on the streets, Dom. Sugar. It gets people dead. And for some reason a lot of the people who turn up dead are rent boys. We think maybe the dealers are running it through them, using them as mules or something. I'm out there being a rent boy, hoping someone will decide to use me, take a shot at me, whatever the hell's going down."
He could hear Dom gritting his teeth. "How the fuck did you go from investigating hijacking to standing on a street corner?"
Brian shrugged, stared out the window. "I let you escape."
Out of the corner of his eye, he caught Dom's minute flinch and drove it home. "I let you escape, I shot a suspect and left the scene, I screwed up the sting - I'm lucky I'm not holding down a cell in Lompoc getting my ass fucked by a neo-Nazi."
Dom just nodded. "Yeah. Why aren't you?"
"Tanner." Brian still didn't entirely understand it - Tanner just seemed to like him, to want to ... to protect him or some shit, no matter what he did, no matter how badly he fucked up. "My boss, from before. Him and the FBI, but mostly him. The Fibbies were already looking at a PR disaster. They didn't want the blown op to be public knowledge, so they couldn't prosecute me. Tanner knew that and took it one step further - convinced the FBI to let them handle it internally, then convinced the brass to turn a firing into a disciplinary transfer." Tanner'd put his ass on the line for Brian. Again. Brian figured he should be grateful.
After that, Dom just drove. Brian just sat. He'd had this feeling with Dom before - like he'd gotten on a ride and he wasn't in control anymore, just waiting to find out when and how it would end.
Last time, it had ended in a train wreck.
Dom said, "Where you're living. It's not safe."
"It's still where I'm living. Took me for-fucking-ever to find that room, and it's perfect."
"Do you really have to live in a squat four blocks from where you work?"
"It's convenient, okay? And it means people always know where to find me."
"That cuts both ways."
It was true, it did. But living in that shithole felt right - went with the character, Brian figured. He couldn't tell Dom that, though.
"Your backup a good guy?"
Brian laughed. "My 'backup' spends most of his shift sitting in his car watching fight DVDs. He does two visual check-ins a night because he has to."
"So no one's keeping an eye on you."
"I can keep an eye on myself. I don't need a keeper."
"Anything could happen to you out there. It isn't safe."
Brian turned and stared at him. "It isn't supposed to be."
They drove in silence for the next ten minutes, until Dom signaled and pulled into the exit lane. "Where we going?" Brian said. "I have to get back to work."
"You just said they don't check on you. Your backup comes by, he'll assume you're off ..." Dom couldn't say it, that much was obvious.
"Sucking cock?" Brian said; he was pissed off enough to dare Dom to say it, to dare Dom to ask, but he didn't go for it.
"So you can take a break." Dom turned left.
Brian couldn't even figure this out. "You wanna get coffee or something?"
"We're going back to my place."
Brian said, "You're living in LA? Are you fucking crazy? You're supposed to be in Mexico!"
"I went to Mexico. Did you think I'd stay there? My family is here."
"So is everyone who wants to arrest you."
"They want to arrest Dominic Toretto. They don't got shit to say about Dominic Savio."
"You're running under false papers." Brian paused. "You're a fugitive running under false papers and you're confessing this to a cop."
Dom frowned, still looking straight out the window. "No. I'm confessing it to you."
By the time they'd pulled into underground parking - Dom's assigned space - Brian had learned that Dom had a decent apartment in San Pedro. And a job.
"You work on the tracks?"
"I work on the crew for Johnson Racing." Dom shrugged. "Toretto got banned from NIRA for life. Savio didn't." Dom led the way over to an elevator and hit the button.
Brian watched, thinking this over. "So you went illegal to...turn legit?"
Dom grinned at him. "Bet your ass."
They stepped onto the elevator. "Does Mia know?" Dom winced. "Thought so. I called her. She wouldn't tell me shit."
"She doesn't say much to me, either. Just that I'm fucking stupid and she loves me anyway." Dom shrugged.
Dom showed up the next weekend, too. Same routine - double-parking, honking, the whole nine yards. Brian cringed and waved him off. Dom just sat there. "Wait around the corner," Brian finally yelled. At least he could reduce the risk that Dom would get a moving violation.
DeeDee, the Canadian who held down the spot next to Brian's, grinned at him as he walked by. "Found yourself a regular thing, honey?"
Brian stared at her, his mind spinning out on the concept of Dom as some "regular thing."
She patted his shoulder. "Only hot john in all of Los Angeles, honey." Her face got more serious. "He dangerous?"
Brian mentally added up the disasters he'd lived since he'd met Dom: the fists in his face, the boots in his gut, the totaling of his entire fucking life. There was no way to assess the danger factor in Dominic Toretto. He shrugged.
"Take care of yourself. But take care of him, too." She winked. "Lots of boys would be happy to get him away from you."
Brian walked around the corner and slid into Dom's car thoughtfully. Dom pulled into gear and started driving. Looked like they were heading for the 10 this time.
"We aren't going to your place?"
"You couldn't shut up about the risk last time." Dom sounded a little gruff, a little wary.
"The risk is the same if we go for coffee, Dom."
"Not if we, uh." Dom rubbed his neck. "Not if we go to a hotel. That's where you go, right?"
Brian nodded, a little dazed. "That's where I go," he agreed.
"So we can convince everyone I'm your client," Dom said.
Brian almost laughed at his word choice, and again at the concept. "Funny you should say that," he said. "They kind of already think so."
"Right. So, no risk." Dom sounded like he'd solved the whole problem. But that was really fucking wrong, because there was risk all over the place. Martinez only had to spot Dom on one of his drive-bys to completely fuck up everything. The risk was mostly to Dom - though Brian would come in for his share of the fallout - but that didn't make it any less stupid.
Just made it something he couldn't argue with Dom about. God damn the fucker.
"So, where do we go?" Dom gestured out the window. "You get frequent stayer points somewhere?"
"Trick's choice," Brian told him. "I let them go where they feel safe."
Dom laughed. They passed a motel, the Sunrise, and Dom gestured. "There good?"
Brian shrugged. "Sheets are pretty clean."
The silence that greeted that remark stayed with them all the way through check-in.
They fell into a pattern. It was stupid. Brian knew damn well it was stupid. He was a cop. He was hanging out with a wanted fugitive and felon. Hanging out on the job. But being around Dom - he'd fallen into that trap before, and he could feel himself doing it again.
He just couldn't manage to care.
Dom showed up every Thursday or Friday, caught his eye, and then pulled around the corner to wait for him. They drove for a while, and then they went somewhere. They didn't go back to Dom's place very often. They went to motels, where Dom insisted on paying - sometimes for a few hours, sometimes for the whole night - and they hung out.
Sometimes they talked. Mostly they didn't. They watched whatever they could get on the motel's TV - it was a good place if it got ESPN and they weren't afraid to sit down on the bed - and ordered pizza or Chinese. Dom usually brought beer.
Their third break night - Brian had started thinking of them that way, as his breaks from his undercover job - Dom told him a little bit about NIRA, about what he was doing on with Johnson Racing. Brian listened, envious and entranced. He missed cars. He missed driving, real driving, but he missed the pieces of cars a lot more. Tuning an engine, cutting up a frame, tweaking the chassis, trying to drag every last second out of a car. He missed the smell, too, the oil and metal smell you lived in when you were working on a car.
Dom watched his face the first time he talked about cutting down a NIRA frame. After that, they talked about Dom's day job a lot more.
The fifth week, Logan came back around.
"Hey, Brian." He had three friends with him and fading bruises around his neck. Brian looked at his feet. Passive, he reminded himself. The key is passive. He needed to look helpless, like a person they'd want to use for something. "Brian, I think you owe me a little something."
"Don't owe you anything, Logan." Brian didn't look at him; it was the easiest way to keep from hitting someone.
"Well, I've been making a bill, here. And seems to me you owe me rent for these fine accommodations. And a tip for my understanding nature. And interest for all the time I've been waiting for you to pay. And a little something on top for my trouble. Unless you want some trouble, Brian."
"Don't want any trouble, Logan." Logan made him fucking crazy. If he'd just say he wanted a fraction of Brian's earnings, or anything up front for letting him work the streets, Brian'd have him in cuffs before he could count the fingers of one hand. Instead, he kept fucking talking about accommodation, and that shit would not stand up in court.
"Let me make this real clear for you, since you seem to have some trouble understanding how things work out here." Logan stepped forward and grabbed Brian's shirt. "Either you pay me or you damn well will have some trouble." Logan reached out and ran his fingers through Brian's hair. "Don't know how well you'd work with all this pretty hair gone." He dropped his hand to Brian's face. "Don't know how well you'd work with this nice pretty face fucked up." He moved his hand lower, down, across Brian's chest and towards his stomach.
Brian looked up at him. "Fuck you, Logan." And then he kneed him in the balls.
After, Brian should have called Martinez and reported the beating - Martinez didn't cover his ass worth a damn, but he'd have had to get out of his fucking patrol car for this. Instead, he called Dom.
Middle of the week. Not a night for Dom to show up, and for all Brian knew, he did something else with the rest of his time. Dom was there in 25 minutes, minutes that Brian spent sitting in an alley because he didn't want to risk walking down the street - some do-gooder might have tried to do something. Like call the cops.
Dom walked into the alley and just looked at him for a long minute, cataloging the bruises and blood on his face, on his knuckles, on his shirt, on his boots. "You're crazy. I forgot that about you."
Brian laughed, couldn't help it. "A little, maybe. Felt good, though." The world went just slightly tilted, and Brian reached out and grabbed for a wall that wasn't there.
Dom caught him. "Okay, O'Conner. Let's just take a little walk." Dom half-carried him back to the Honda, packed him into the passenger seat, and walked around the car.
"You should probably go to the hospital," he said as he started the engine.
"Yeah, no," Brian said.
Dom shrugged and turned the car south.
Brian didn't spend much time at Dom's apartment. It was beyond stupid for him even to know where it was, but Dom made him do stupid things. No, he'd always done them. Dom made him like it.
Dom towed him through the apartment to the bathroom and closed the lid on the toilet. "Sit," he said, pointing, and Brian sat.
Brian didn't mind losing fights. He didn't love the cleanup, though. He sat on the toilet, trying to not to fade in and out, trying to hold himself in a position that wouldn't involve any slouching.
Eventually - time was passing kind of funny - Dom came back with a beer and a medical kit. He handed Brian two pills and the beer and said, "Take that." While Brian was swallowing - the beer tasted fabulous, even if his mouth still had a little of that leftover metal flavor - Dom unpacked some kind of medical supplies. Brian didn't bother to see what.
Dom said, "Your clothes are pretty much trashed, right?"
"Sure are." Brian laughed again. "But you should see the other guy's jacket."
"Yeah, right." Dom left for a second and came back with a pair of scissors. "Hold still."
Dom cut his shirt off carefully and whistled at the red marks and bootprints along his ribs. "Anything broken?" he asked.
"Fuck should I know?" Brian could feel the last tension of the fight leaving him, the tension that had carried him here. He just wanted to sink into bed and sleep and skip all this stupid fucking cleanup. "Listen, Dom. I can just go to bed. Throw out the sheets tomorrow."
Dom pulled back. "Or we could take care of this tonight." He turned on the hot water in the sink and reached for a washcloth, and when the water was hot, he soaked one and began cleaning the blood off Brian's face. "How much of this is yours?"
"Uh." Brian tried to think. "No clue."
"So you finally decided to fight back, huh?" Dom was stroking the washcloth along Brian's hairline now, and it fucking hurt.
"Yeah. Martinez'll be pissed off when he finds out."
"I'm supposed to be passive. I'm supposed to be making people think I'm a pushover."
"'Like they tell me. All I know is, we need to find out what's happened with Sugar and the rent boys. I've got to get in on the action. And to do that, I've got to act like a rent boy."
Dom said, "Cops." It sounded like a curse. And then he smoothed some antibiotic ointment over a patch of Brian's face - from how much it hurt, it had to be a fair-sized cut, and Brian just hoped no shit from the street had gotten into it - and carefully taped a gauze pad over that.
Brian laughed. "You realize I'm a cop, right?"
Dom's hands, working through Brian's hair, looking for more cuts, stilled. "Yeah. Yeah, I know that." Dom's face was close to Brian's, close enough to feel him breathing, and Brian was not going to go down this road with Toretto. He just was not. That was all part of the cover, and he'd keep it balled up in the back of his head when he wasn't working.
Dom took the washcloth to a part of Brian's head, and then he started wiping down Brian's chest. Brian gasped, involuntarily, and Dom looked up. Their eyes locked for a second, and then a second more, and then a second too long before Brian could look away.
Dom nodded to himself like he was getting an answer he'd already known. And then he went back to the cleanup.
Brian slept in Dom's bed, more comfortable than he'd been in seven months. When he woke up, it was still dark out; he stumbled to the bathroom, took a piss, took more painkillers, and drank another glass of water. He barely made it back to bed before he was asleep again.
The next time Brian woke up, the sun was high in the sky and Dom was at work. He limped to the living room to call in beaten up, then to the kitchen to find something to eat. As he made breakfast, Brian took ten minutes to forget about the night before.
Normal. Nothing going on here. Brian could do that.
"Radner's putting me in charge of building a short-trial car," Dom told him on their fifth break night. "I hit him with some plans of the stuff we talked about last time, and he said we should give it a try. We run short trials in Tijuana in two weeks, and we'll use the car there. Should give us a few extra seconds."
Brian tried not to let his jealousy show in his voice. "Let me know how it does."
"Thought you might like to come by and see it. Before we run it."
"You want to bring me by Johnson Racing?"
"No reason you can't come by HQ. We don't have a lot of visitors -" and they wouldn't; pro racers were paranoid about spies "- but I can get you in, no problem."
Brian blinked at him. "Uh, when?"
Brian didn't really have to think about it. "I'm in."
Johnson Racing was a wet dream. Maybe the rich boys in NASCAR wouldn't think so - for all Brian knew, they had gold-plated urinals and their taps ran pure tequila. But Brian's car experience had happened in garages attached to people's houses. To him, Johnson Racing HQ was a fucking palace.
Dom didn't introduce to him to anyone except Radner ("This is O'Conner. Used to work at my last place."), but he sure as fuck introduced him to all the cars.
"This is our road racer." Dom slid his hand over the beast, stroking the hood, and ten minutes later they were head to head under the car, checking out the suspension and the chassis - fucking beauty. Brian was in love, he'd found his one and only, he was ready to propose to this thing's shocks.
And then Dom introduced him to their number-one track car, and Brian realized he might have to go for bigamy.
And then they looked at the short-trial Dom had modded, and Brian thought maybe he wouldn't wait for marriage.
Dom left him at the back of the garage, drooling over the short-trial car, so he could stop some guy from adjusting the torque on the road car. Brian checked out everything he could, and then he looked up and saw - someone who wasn't supposed to be there.
Alonzo Harris. Motherfucker.
Dom drove Brian all the way back to his room, and Brian didn't say anything. Maybe Johnson Racing was buying some fell-off-the-truck motor oil. Maybe Harris had turned clean and gone into business.
And maybe he hadn't. Brian didn't go to the station house very often - he was undercover - but for this, he risked it.
He still had a desk, after all. And the desk still had a computer. One he even knew how to use.
It took him ten minutes to pull way more information than he wanted on Alonzo Harris.
Brian waited until Friday. The cars had to be on the trucks by Thursday night, but the races didn't start until Saturday afternoon, so crew like Dom, people who didn't travel with the cars, had Friday mostly off. Dom would have to leave for Tijuana Friday night, but the day was as close as he'd get to a weekend.
Brian suggested they take a drive.
Dom shrugged. "Sure." He tossed Brian the keys to his car. "You take it."
Brian hit the 405 and started north. The Honda was a sweet-ass drive, even if it was 100% street legal, and he was in no hurry to have this conversation. Somewhere near the 10 interchange, Dom started talking about the engine tuning for the Tijuana race. Brian just listened. Eventually, around the time they merged onto the 101, Brian started to argue, just for the sake of it.
Brian got off the freeway, drove around for a while, and pulled over outside a diner called Mom's Eats, somewhere near Ventura.
Dom waited until their food came. Then he said, "You're acting crazy. So tell me."
"Yeah." Brian dragged a fry through ketchup and shoved it into his mouth. "Alonzo Harris. Remember him? From the racing circuit?"
Dom looked at him. "Merchant. Good tats, bad brain. Good lawyer, maybe - he always seemed to get out of the trouble he got into." Dom sat back in his chair. "I never let any of my people deal with him."
"Saw him in the back office at Johnson Racing."
Dom stared at him, eyes narrow. "What the fuck?"
"I figure he remembers you well enough to keep out of your sight, but maybe he doesn't remember me. Anyway, he was there." Brian looked down at his plate, away from Dom. "Talking to Radner. Something about a shipment."
Dom's jaw clenched. "You don't know that's a problem."
"I ran a background check on him. He's hot. FBI, LAPD, fuck, probably the Sheriff of Podunk County - every law enforcement agency he's ever met likes to keep a nice close eye on him." Brian took a bite of his burger, chewed, swallowed. "And we're looking at him extra careful right now. He's a person of interest in the Sugar investigation."
Brian tried to catch Dom's eye. "If there's an investigation, your paper -"
Dom wouldn't look at him. "It's good, but it's not that good. If there's an investigation, I am fucked three ways to Sunday."
"Then you have to quit." Brian didn't want to think about it - Dom would have to quit, probably leave town, and Brian couldn't, and - well. It was for the best.
Dom just stared out the window next to their table, and Brian got a sinking feeling in his stomach. This was Dom preparing to be difficult. "You know, Saturdays used to be the best days of my life. When I was a kid, we'd wake up early and Mom would pack a lunch and she'd take us out to see Dad's car run. We'd get there before the track opened and Mia and me would get a tour, and then we'd stake out a good spot in the stands and we'd cheer our fucking lungs out for Dad." Dom paused. "After Mom died, it was about the only time we were all together. Mia and me would wake up earlier to make our own lunches, and we'd go out, and it was ... it was good, Brian. The happiest times in my life, they were all at the track."
He paused, fiddling with the label on the bottle of beer. "And then Dad died and everything went to shit. I got crazy, got stupid." He looked at Brian. "And now I've got a second chance."
Brian just stared at him, running the argument over in his head and knowing it was hopeless.
"And I will quit. If things look bad. I can always go back to Mexico. Just ..." Dom trailed off, and Brian knew he wouldn't quit until they had him in cuffs.
Dom showed up on the Monday after he got back from Tijuana, idled his car until he caught Brian's eye and then waited around the corner. Brian slid into the passenger seat frowning. "Not your usual day," he said.
"We have to talk." Dom put the car in gear and headed for Wilshire. Three blocks away from Brian's corner, they stopped at a red light, and Dom tossed a paper bag onto Brian's lap. "You were right. Radner's smuggling."
Brian opened the bag and found a plastic-wrapped lump of white powder. He opened it, tasted, and swore. "Pure Sugar."
"Fucking trailer's full of it; there's gotta be at least fifty kilos in there. I saw him make the goddamn meet in Tijuana, and then I found that in one of the used oil barrels. I don't know how long he's been doing it."
Brian said, "Dom. You have to quit, get out of NIRA now. If you do, you can probably stay in LA as long as they can't find you."
"I'm not letting that fucker drive me out of racing."
"If you don't get out now, you're letting him drive you straight to jail."
Dom just turned the car back around.
Brian watched him for a while. "You have to tell Mia," he finally said. Mia could beat some sense into his head if anyone could.
Brian's cell phone rang, and he stared at the number blankly; wasn't one he recognized. Technically, this phone was so that he'd have a number to give anyone who wanted to get in touch with him about a job, maybe something involving running some Sugar. So far, only Dom had the number, and he'd never used it. The thing never rang. Brian was sort of surprised it was charged.
"Hello?" he said.
"Meet me at two o'clock tomorrow at the Denny's on Gaffney in West LA."
"Mia," Brian said, and then he didn't know what else to say. She'd apparently shot her bolt; she just waited. "I'll be there," he finally said.
He showed up ten minutes early, but she was already there, at a booth in the back with a cup of coffee in front of her. She looked up when he slid in; her eyes were a little red, and he couldn't tell if she'd been crying or if she was just that mad.
Brian waited until the waitress had taken his order and poured him some coffee, and then he said, "Dom told you."
"Yes, he told me. He told me over the phone, the coward, so I couldn't hit him until he saw sense."
Brian said, "Yeah. He seemed - yeah. Pretty stubborn." He shifted uncomfortably on the vinyl seat.
Mia ran her fingers through her hair. "Brian, I think we both know you owe me." She looked over at him. "Do you need me to list off everything you owe me for?"
Brian shook his head, because he knew the list as well as she did.
"I'm calling it in. I'm calling it all in. My brother's my whole family, Brian. I lost him once when he went to prison. I lost him again when he went to Mexico. Now, it's stupid that he's here, but he is, and I don't want to lose him again. I sure don't want to lose him forever, and that's what it would be if they caught him here." She paused. "Get him out of this."
"Mia, I -" I would if I could. I would if there was any way. I want to, too. Brian didn't say any of it, because she had to know. "Mia, the thing that can save Dom right now is getting out of here. I can't make him go."
"Right. And neither can I, so that's out." Mia folded her arms. "Find another way."
"Dom's a fugitive. As soon as any law enforcement agency starts taking a good hard look at NIRA and his race team, he's screwed. I can't change that."
"Brian, you can do this. You can save him. I know there's something - something that you think is too risky, or too stupid, or too dangerous. Something you're afraid to do, maybe. I don't care. I'm just telling you: figure out how. Do it. Because I am not losing him again. I can't." She got up and threw some money on the table. "Start thinking, Brian. You know how to find me if you need me."
Brian heard her walk away, but he didn't move. He just sat there, staring into his coffee.
Save Dom. Nothing he'd like better. The problem was, nothing could save Dom. Radner was dealing with Alonzo. Anywhere that Alonzo went, someone was sure to follow - LAPD, FBI, someone. So Radner was going to go down. Maybe not this time, but soon. He'd get caught. And Dom would get caught right after him.
There was basically one chance, and it was the kind of odds Brian wouldn't normally take. But he'd played long odds for Dom before. He went to find Dom's cell phone. He had to call Hector.
Hector said, "You're looking for work, now?"
"I'm looking to help Dom." Brian didn't know everything between Hector and Dom, but he knew Hector would help Dom as long as it didn't bring him too much risk; Hector'd gone legal, he had a little girl now. He wouldn't go to jail for Dom. But he'd do what he could.
"I can get you in as security on the LA track if you want, but that's just the weekend: the races and the night."
Brian ran his hand over his face, thinking it out. "That'll work."
"Okay, bro. Two days. That's gonna help Dom?"
"If anything can."
"Tell that crazy fucker next time I'm getting him hired on my team. Car #8 is fifteen points ahead of us in the standing."
"You let someone else hire Dom as a mechanic and you're calling him crazy?"
"Yeah, bro, good point." Hector paused. "Hey, take care of yourself, okay?"
Brian agreed and hung up. He was now a certified moonlighter.
The LA NIRA track, the Los Angeles Speedway, had seen better days - a little gritty, a little peeling. The NIRA circuit ran up and down the West Coast, mostly - out east as far as Texas, north as far as east Washington, south as far as Tijuana - and LA had one of the biggest tracks. One of the oldest, too. They could never get permits to renovate it.
Brian learned all this from Earl during his Security Officer Orientation. Brian also learned some of the history of the Speedway, all the permutations of parking and traffic control, the codes for major security incidents ("And then we have something we like to call a Check Code. That's just basically a real popular driver stuck in the middle of his fans."), and the policies for key-handling.
Earl spent the most time on the traffic control, followed by key-handling. The most useful thing Brian got out of the training was the very detailed map that showed all the potential in-track configurations and all the back buildings and alleys. Brian also got a special chat with Earl after the orientation was over.
"You look to me like you might be some trouble, son." Earl was about five-five and grizzled and he was looking at Brian like he wanted to send him back where he came from.
Why did every boss he'd ever had say that? "No, sir."
Earl leaned into him a little. "You just do your job and keep your nose clean, you understand?"
Earl paused. "And sometimes you off-duty cops - well, you got to understand that you are off duty, is all."
Brian frowned. "Sir?"
"You can't go arresting everyone you see with a drink. Or a smoke. Or a bet. You're here to keep order, break up fights, and keep everyone parked where they're supposed to be parked. Any other trouble, you come talk to me."
Brian nodded. "I'll do that."
Earl clapped him on the shoulder. "Then you'll do fine." And he walked off, leaving Brian wondering if Earl knew just what was going on at his track.
The Speedway Security Team uniform was designed to look as much like a real cop uniform as possible. Brian stared at the one they'd found for him that was nearly in his size, feeling uncomfortable flashbacks to his time driving a patrol car. He'd hated it, hated pulling over out-of-date registrations and harassing kids skateboarding at strip malls.
But he wasn't really working as security. He was undercover. Undercover, which made the job easier.
He got dressed while he was going over what he knew from Dom.
The Sugar came from somewhere in Mexico. Radner picked it up during their morning at the Tijuana track and packed it in the trailers. Then they transported it over the border with the cars. Dom didn't know when distribution occurred, but he knew the goods were still there at the LA track. The real question was, was the exchange with Alonzo supposed to happen in LA? If it was, Dom might still be screwed. Brian had asked him to call in for the race.
"No fucking way. I'm not sending you in alone."
"Just investigating, Dom."
"I've seen how you investigate. Usually ends up with someone wanting to beat the shit out of you. Usually ends up with someone actually beating the shit out of you. No." And that was the end of that story. So Dom would be there, and Brian couldn't get him to see that that was one more complication he just didn't need.
Brian shrugged, finished belting up his uniform - it had the same kind of utility belt as a real cop uniform, but no holster for his gun, so he shoved that in his waistband and then buttoned the uniform shirt over it - and headed down to the garage.
He spent the morning actually doing security stuff, which mostly amounted to breaking up arguments between people who'd had too much to drink - he was starting to feel like he was back on Sunset, or maybe back at home - and telling people where to find the bathrooms or the security office. He called in a lost kid; that was pretty much the most intense thing he did all morning.
But he spent the whole day with the Johnson Team trailers and garage in sight, and at one o'clock, during the first race, Dom appeared in the doorway of the garage and just stood there. Brian headed in.
Dom hauled him into the back of the garage. "He's in the office," Dom whispered. Brian knew from security orientation that the garages had little dinky offices squirreled away upstairs in them; sometimes team heads used them. "He's with Alonzo now."
"You get the oil barrels on film?"
Dom nodded and passed him the disposable camera.
"Okay, then we're all set." This was going to be the hard part, selling Dom on the plan. "You're my backup, you wait here. I'm going to go record the meetup and then I'll arrest Radner. If he fights, you call it in and come help me out, okay?"
"Dom. You can't be a part of this, not from the beginning. Trust me, I'm the new expert in making things look good on paper, and this is sketchy enough as it is." Plus, Brian didn't add, if Dom was involved in any serious way, he'd be a witness. Which meant interviewing. And investigation by some lawyer. Which led, inevitably, to Dom in prison and Brian drunk alone in Dom's apartment. Probably with a broken jaw because that's what Mia would leave him with.
Dom managed to make a whisper feel like a shout. "You go in there alone, Radner will take your ass."
"Then you come stop him when that happens, not before." Brian hesitated, then pulled out the big guns. "Anything goes wrong here today and it looks like you're involved, and you're out of NIRA even if you're not in prison. You come in after things go wrong, you save the day, you're a hero, you stay in even if the team goes down."
Dom went still next to him, and Brian could feel him arguing it out, could feel the war inside him: his need to protect against his need to stay in NIRA, pretend that the last few years hadn't happened, that everything about his life that had fucked up was righted somehow. "Okay," he said. "Okay. But I'm watching you."
Brian took a deep breath, made sure his gun was still lodged in his waistband, yanked out his shirttails so he could get to the gun in a hurry, and pulled out his own camera - digital, with video. He figured that'd be enough in the evidence department. Dom pointed toward the stairs that led to the office part of the garage, and Brian went.
He paused at the foot of the stairs, trying to figure out a way up that didn't leave him totally exposed. Radner and Alonzo were up there, and they were clearly already pretty riled up. Radner was yelling. "You bring me the fucking money up front, that was the deal." Brian started creeping up the stairs, inching his way into position.
"I got half." Alonzo had the same sedated sound he'd had back on the race circuit; he always sounded like he'd had a couple shots of Novocain. "But I'm not some idiot here, going to give you the money for nothing." Brian was close enough to the top. He flattened himself against the stairs and looked up into the hallway that led to the office. Clear.
"I don't see any money. I see a stupid fucking spic with no fucking money who expects to see my goods. You know what I see? I see a fucking spy!" Brian moved fast into the hallway and looked into the office. They were standing there arguing, and they didn't notice him. He eased out the camera and started shooting video.
"Hey, man. Chill out." Alonzo still sounded sedated, remote, and he wasn't responding at all to Radner's obvious worry. Brian tensed; this was likely to get ugly. He had the camera in his hands, which meant he couldn't have the gun out. He aimed the camera, waiting for an exchange of money or of goods.
Radner was screaming now. "You won't get a fucking thing from me! I don't even have anything to give you! You're a plant, you're a motherfucking plant!"
"Dude," Alonzo said, and he didn't get any farther, because a voice from behind said, "Hey, guys? What's going on?"
Both men whirled around to see what happened, and Brian yanked the camera out of sight before he turned around, too. Next to him was a young guy in a Johnson Racing uniform that said "Ralph" on the chest, and he was looking at them, confused. "I heard shouting," he said. "Is everything okay?"
Brian opened his mouth, but it was way too late. Radner had panicked for real. He shoved Alonzo hard into the wall of the office, ran out, hitting Brian with an elbow on the way, and down the stairs. Brian ran after him, trying to see where he was going. Shit. Radner was running for one of the cars.
"Dom," Brian yelled. He's getting away. Radner had run to the car Kurt Johnson was supposed to be driving later today, and he was already in the car, already starting it, and Dom was all the way across the garage, couldn't possibly get to him in time.
By the time Brian got to the bottom of the stairs, Dom was moving to one of the other cars. He shouted at Brian, "You take the backup car. I'll take the short trial car." Dom was already at the door of one of the cars, and Brian scrambled to the other. Radner's wheels screeched as he hit the alley outside the garage.
Brian slammed open the door of the backup car and hopped in. NIRA cars were "modified street cars," which in practice meant they had more mods than a fucking drag car and were no fucking way street legal. Luckily, you didn't have to pull the wheels out of these guys to get in or out. Brian didn't bother with the five-point restraint, just triggered the ignition - no keys for these cars. He checked on Dom - his car had been parked in one of the back bays, and he was having to do some tight maneuvering to get it pointed toward the exit, but Brian's was already in position. He peeled out of the garage.
He didn't have a visual on Radner. Brian actually had a pretty decent memory for maps, and he knew from the one he'd gotten at orientation that there was only one way out of the garage - one way that led out of the Speedway, that is. There was the road to the track, too, but Radner wasn't stupid enough to have turned the wrong way. So Brian made a left, and another left, and drove into the tunnel that led under the track to the street outside.
As soon as he hit the tunnel, he remembered: no headlights on these cars. Shit. The race cars weren't ever supposed to come this way; this route was solely for the trailers and semis that carried the cars. And it wasn't real well lit. Brian had to slow down; his eyes were adjusted to the outside still and he couldn't see for shit.
Brian could hear Dom's car behind him, hear the rumble of an engine held way back from its usual speed. He could just make out the vague shape of the tunnel wall, and he followed it moving a little faster than he should, not as fast as he wanted to, and there was the bright exit up ahead. He hit the gas.
The tunnel exit led onto one of the back streets near the track, and thank God for LA traffic - Radner was stopped a light waiting to get onto the 405. Brian floored his car, ran the tail end of a red, dodged a couple cars. One spun out. Brian shrugged it off; just meant that even if Dom hadn't managed to call it in before they took off after Radner, they'd still get police presence. CHP was as effective backup as the LAPD.
He stopped thinking about the messes he was leaving behind him and just drove. Saturday afternoon traffic on the 405 - not exactly light, but not so packed that Brian couldn't gain on Radner's car by dodging and weaving. Fortunately, the race car ahead of him stood out like a neon sign, even on an LA freeway; next to the real cars, it looked like something from a comic book, sculpted and lithe and low to the ground. Radner was maintaining the distance between them, pushing forward, fighting the traffic in ways that just made more problems for Brian to get through. Radner must know they were on his tail. Well, they were driving three cars that looked almost identical and like nothing else on the freeway. Of course he knew they were there.
In his hip pocket, Brian's cell phone rang. He yanked it out and wedged it under his shoulder while keeping his eyes locked on the road.
"Careful. He's good." Dom's voice was low and throaty, the way it always was while he was driving.
"He'd be driving his own car in the races if he wasn't so big."
"Fuck." Brian let his cellphone drop next to him, still turned on and connected to Dom, and concentrated on catching up to Radner.
Radner led them south towards Orange County, and Brian was tempted to let the chase go until CHP could pick it up. But he had no idea how much fuel was in his car, and Dom's was a fucking trial car, almost certain to be short on fuel. They couldn't risk letting Radner drop out of sight before CHP came in, which meant they had to take him soon. He muscled forward, forcing a Volvo station wagon out of the way. The driver flipped him off.
"Love you, too," Brian called to him, and he could hear Dom laugh through the open cell phone.
Dom pulled up in the lane next to him, yanking into a space that didn't really exist, forcing a Hyundai to slam on its brakes. Brian heard the crash of metal on metal and winced, but maintained his focus.
Through the cell phone, he could hear Dom yelling, "Flank. Flank." Brian looked ahead - they'd gained some on Radner, but Radner was in the left lane, and there was no shoulder to flank him on. Then he remembered that the diamond lane started about a quarter mile ahead. He squeezed into the fast lane ahead of a Chevy Impala and waited. Dom moved into and out of the middle lane, passing vehicles, gaining on Radner. It was Dom's kind of driving, the kind of driving Dom was born to do - tight and fast and precise - and Brian wished he could spare the focus to watch. But even though most of the drivers on the road were now trying like hell to get out of their way, he couldn't let his attention drift at this kind of speed and pressure.
The diamond lane opened up ahead. Brian cut in and slammed on the gas, and the car shot forward, the engine screaming with pleasure. He pulled next to Radner and he could see Dom pull up, too. He watched Dom, watched him, pacing Radner's car, holding the space. And then he could hear Dom's shout, and Brian nudged his car over the line into Radner's. Dom slammed on his brakes, dropping back, clearing a space across the freeway, and Radner spun out, across, across - and slotted perfectly into an offramp, where he slammed into a retaining wall.
Brian yanked on his steering wheel and shot across the freeway, turning around so that he could get back to where Radner was. He slammed on the brakes and jumped out of the car. Radner was still fucking with the release belt - he looked a little dazed, but he'd put on the restraint system and the helmet, and the car hadn't even rolled, they'd popped it out so perfectly. "Get out of the vehicle and put your hands up," Brian shouted. "You're under arrest!"
He could hear sirens in the distance and the sound of a helicopter heading for the freeway. By the time the CHP arrived, though, he had Radner spread-eagled against the retaining wall and was reading him his rights.
It took him a few minutes to get them to drop their weapons and look at his badge. When Brian could spare a second, he took a quick look around to make sure. Dom was gone.
Tanner looked up from the report. "A solid paper trail," he said, smiling. "You're learning."
Brian grinned at him. "I can be taught."
"This is going to be enough to get you that detective's badge."
"Look, it could be better." Brian leaned across the desk. "There was another witness."
Tanner sat back, eyebrows raised. "Really."
"Yeah. He saw the transaction in Mexico, he saw the Sugar on the trailers there, he told me about it. He can testify to the whole thing."
"And yet his name isn't in your report."
"Protecting my witness. But if you can make it safe for him to come forward, you've got the conviction pretty much in the bag. And in return, all you have to do is vacate a warrant for a crime you can't prosecute anymore."
Tanner tilted his head thoughtfully. "And the name of this witness?"
Brian's heart was pounding. "Dominic Toretto."
"They'll never go for it."
"Think of all the bodies we have in this case, all the press we're going to get. Fifty million in drugs. Think of how bad it will look if we don't get this conviction home." Brian took a deep breath. "He can give it to you. But you have to make it so he can testify."
Tanner stared at the report in front of him for a long time. Eventually, he looked up. "I'll talk to the DA. See what I can do."
Brian nodded his thanks.
"You're back on next week, O'Conner. Come talk to me first." Brian nodded one more time, stood up, and walked out of the station house, down the street, and around the corner.
Dom was pretending to read the paper behind the wheel of the Honda, and he looked about as natural at it as he would if he'd been standing on his head. Brian grinned to himself, popped the passenger door, and slid in.
Dom looked up. "We good?"
"We're good," Brian said, and Dom drove them home.