"McKenna, this is Alfonzo," Luke introduced McKenna to the driver as they sped away from the quiet, unknowing neighborhood. McKenna nodded at him, recognizing him as the shady newspaper man from the Paris train station. Swallowing her sudden discomfort and fear, she shifted her attention to the female, redheaded occupant of the passenger seat. "And this is my sister, Jewel."
This introduction caught McKenna off guard. She had expected Jewel to be missing or held hostage by the mafia, the way Luke began his story about her in the greenhouse just a few minutes before. But he never did finish the story, so obviously the ending couldn't be too tragic with Luke's sister sitting right in front of her.
Alfonzo's cell phone rang, and soon he was quietly muttering to some unseen person. After a few awkward and quiet moments, Jewel turned herself so she could see the back seat. "Well, McKenna, it's a pleasure to meet you." McKenna couldn't help but notice the slightly sarcastic tone wrapped in Jewel's voice. "However wonderful the occasion is, it doesn't mean you can ride around town without a seat belt on."
McKenna quickly fastened her safety belt, shifted in her seat, and began to regret ever getting into the car.
"Pardon her hostility," Luke chimed in. "We just try our hardest not to get pulled over in small towns with merciless cops. Plus, Jewel can get pretty ornery when she hasn't eaten lunch." Jewel rolled her eyes and faced forward again.
Luke was quiet again as he listened to Alfonzo's one-ended phone conversation, which contained the words "pager", "tickets", and "golf course", but McKenna didn't pay much attention. More and more the situation at hand wrapped itself around her stomach. After all those years of her mother telling her not to get into strangers' cars, no matter how many Snickers candy bars they offered her, there she was in a stranger's car. And nobody even had to bribe her with chocolate to get her into the vehicle.
But then she was reminded of why she climbed into the car in the first place. Luke turned to her and asked, "So, how about I give you those answers you're wanting?"
After all those long minutes in the car without McKenna saying a single word, she finally took a deep breath and said, "Answers would definitely be appreciated."
"Okay, then. Where did I leave off?"
McKenna didn't miss a beat. "The wharf. The boats. Matthias."
"Right. Well, I was following Matthias, as I said. And I was trying to keep up with him without blowing my cover. He was pacing back and forth on the wharf for a while, so I just stood behind a shack and watched him. Finally, a motorboat pulled up, and a man got off and walked up to Matthias. I couldn't hear anything they said, but they talked for a few minutes. Then the guy gave Matthias an envelope and a lunch sack."
All regret evaporated from the car when McKenna heard this. Anxiously, she asked, "What was in it?"
Amused at her urgency, Luke gave her a crooked smile. "Can't tell yet. It wouldn't make sense to tell the story out of order."
McKenna bit her lip and inhaled deeply. Would she ever know what was in the paper sack?
"So anyway," Luke continued, ignoring McKenna's impatience, "the guy left after he gave him the sack. And I didn't hide fast enough. Matthias started heading the way he came, and he saw me. It caught me off guard, so I didn't even try to run away or anything. I just stood there and he walked up to me. He basically threw some death threats at my face. I guess he thought I heard the whole conversation between him and the boat guy. I didn't, but he kept saying that he would go to France, and that Paris isn't too big for him to find Jewel; that 'they' would be able to track her down. That he would get that stuff to the train station, to 'The Professor', as he referred to him, and that Jewel wouldn't ever be able to turn them in.
"And that's when I went to Alfonzo. He's my uncle. He's a genius, and I always went to him with my problems. Turned out that he had just sent Jewel on a plane to France the day before because she told him she had interfered with Matthias' drug-dealing team. They threatened her, so she went to Alfonzo. Fonz was always getting deals on plane tickets."
"And how did you end up in France?" McKenna was more and more intrigued with every detail of the story.
"Well, I told Alfonzo about Matthias saying all that about Jewel and France, so we headed to Europe. Told my parents it was just for a last-minute summer trip. Anyone else would've thought we were crazy. Alfonzo's close to Jewel. And so am I. But cops never listen, and we didn't have much time. And Alfonzo thought having a twelve year-old helping out would be an advantage, or something."
The thought of the pair was almost humorous; A middle-age man and a twelve year-old child roaming around Paris, trying to catch a bad guy. But McKenna didn't state her opinion on how dangerous and idiotic she thought it was to not tell the cops about death threats and drug dealings.
"So we hung out at the train station in Paris for a few days. We just waited. I watched out for Matthias, and I watched for the paper sack. We had no idea where Jewel was, at that point. It was all a little risky, but I was twelve, and I didn't really care. Alfonzo never really cared about his own welfare, anyway. So the risk didn't matter to either of us.
"A few days into the search I wanted to give up and go back home to my parents. But I finally saw it--the paper bag--and it was just sitting on a chair next to a little girl." His dark eyes brightened and McKenna gave a small smile. "It was next to you. I thought you'd opened it. I had no idea what was in it, so I was worried. So I walked up to you and grabbed it before you had the chance to open it, if you hadn't already."
"I remember," McKenna said, sifting through her memories. "And then you ran away, into that cab."
Luke nodded. "That's when me and Alfonzo opened the bag."
"And what was in it?" Excitement was brimming in McKenna's voice.
Hesitantly, Luke said, "There was a gun. It was a gun, along with a note. It had a name on it, and a message saying what time Jewel's train was leaving."
McKenna's eyes were wide. Alfonzo was calmly driving, his focus on the road. Jewel's eyes were closed and she was leaning her head back on the headrest of the seat. "Seriously? You intercepted a gun? You intercepted a murder? Your own sister's murder? Did you tell the cops?"
"We don't deal with cops," Alfonzo stated flatly. It was the first time he had spoken to McKenna the whole time she had been in the car. "Not until it's all figured out with unbreakable evidence."
"A gun in a paper sack seems like pretty unbreakable evidence to me," replied McKenna. "Especially one with a note saying where a person's going to be and when. And you said the note had a name on it? Whose name?"
Jewel opened her eyes and glanced at Luke, and Alfonzo scratched his head awkwardly. Slowly, Luke began, "Well, that's kind of the thing. It was who Matthias was talking about that day at the wharf; 'The Professor'."
"Did it have his actual name, though?"
"Yeah. It said the name Ron." He studied McKenna's eyes as she thought, and then he looked down. "McKenna, that sack was left for your dad to find. He was supposed to kill Jewel."