Soldier Mine (Chapter Four: Claudia, page 3 of 4)

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"I think Petr is legit," he offers. "He came to my class and he's all over the internet."

"Hmmm." I stand. I don't know how to admit to my brother that I'm terrified of taking a chance on anything. When I look at him, I see a child still. "I'll think about it."

"Your homework done?"


Picking up his empty chili bowl, I return to the kitchen and place it in the dishwasher before going to the cupboard. I pull out the snowman and count how much I have.

Enough for two one-way bus tickets anywhere … or an iPhone. He has an iPad issued by the school, and I use cheap, disposable phones, swapping them out every two to four weeks or so.

Normal, I tell myself. Glory Glade is supposed to be where we become like everyone else. Normal people don't worry about bus ticket money. Laying the money out on the counter, I recount it then roll it into a wad to tuck into my pants.

When I leave the kitchen, Todd is in his room with the door open so Snickers can go in and out. I turn on the television to help block the phone call I need to make and then seal myself in my room.

I fiddle with the phone for a moment before dialing one of the numbers I have memorized.

"Santiago Law Firm," answers a male voice.

"Simon, please," I say.

He transfers me. Every time I call, my insides twist into knots and I end up needing a bowl of ice cream when it's over.


"Hey, Simon, it's me," I murmur, my back to the wall I share with Todd's room.

"Claudia! I haven't heard from you in weeks. I assumed the worst happened."

"I'm fine," I assure him. He's an old family friend of my father. I can't afford a lawyer, but he's kind to me because of my deceased dad. "Just wanted to check in." I hold my breath for good news.

"The Feds are moving slowly," he reports. "If they mess this up, it won't stick, and we'll be out of cards."

"So no progress?"

"There's progress, just no results."

I know better than to expect a different answer. The man stalking me is under investigation by the federal government for smuggling drugs. The problem: the investigation has one shot to nail his ass and put him in jail for twenty years. If they mess this opportunity up, they can't charge him again for the same crime. I understand that they're treading slowly, but I, too, am tired of running. Restraining orders and thirty-day stints in jail for domestic disturbances are nothing to a man who thinks he owns me - and who somehow figured out I helped the feds build their case against him. I thought escaping was the hardest part. Four years later, I know the truth.

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