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Dont be mad at me. You know I cant take it.

David leaned down close to Brandy as they left her father's building. She jerked away from him, her eyes on the crowd that had gathered on the street outside the park.

"I'm not mad at you, David," she said coldly. "You just tried to rape me. Without my consent, I might add."

"I didn't." He put a hand on her shoulder. "Please, I don't want you to be mad at me."

"I said I'm not mad." Brandy shrugged off the hand. She was thinking about her father's stash in the old cookie jar that her grandmother had bought for her when she was a little girl. The cookie jar was one of the few things he'd salvaged from the marriage. The pot was first-class and there was a lot of it.

Brandy never saw him put the stash in the cookie jar because she never saw him do much of anything these days. She hadn't spent one single night in the room he'd had decorated for her over the summer. He was really pissed at her. Really pissed. He hadn't come to see her at camp. He'd told her he had business meetings that weekend. And after she got back he kept breaking dates on her. They'd only been together once, not that she cared that much. He'd been a drag ever since the divorce. The one time they had dinner, he'd raised the subject of the pot. They'd been in a restaurant. He'd ordered a bottle of wine and let her have a glass. Brandy lost herself in the memory of that evening with her father.

"How's your mom?" he'd asked, busy looking around at other people, not at her.

"Great. She's lost about ten pounds, and she's getting her face lifted as soon as the apartment is finished," she'd told him.

He turned to look at her for the first time, his eyes popping with surprise. "Really?"

She nodded. "Do you think she's going to marry Aston?"

His lips went together in a thin tight line, his jaws worked, and she heard the noise he made whenever he was upset. His teeth grinding metal. "Whatever makes her happy," he said. But he didn't look like he meant it.

"Do you have a girlfriend, Dad?"

Seymour Fabman lifted his chin and glanced over at the waitress, a girl with a great body and short black hair. "Nah, would I do that to you, baby? You're my girl." But he wasn't looking at her when he said it. Then, he'd raised the other subject, the thing that was on his mind. The pot.

"Hey Bran, I want to know the truth about something."

"Sure, Dad." She finished her glass of wine. He poured her more, then added some water from the Evian bottle.

"You ever try any drugs?"

She gave him that wide-eyed innocent look she was always perfecting in the mirror. "Me? What kind of drugs do you mean, anti-depressants like Mom takes?"

"Your mother takes anti-depressants?" That was another new one for him. "Really?" He almost fell off the chair. Brandy loved freaking her parents out.

"Yeah, something like that; it makes her calm down."

His face screwed up some more. "I guess your mom isn't doing so well." Then he flashed her a mean smile. "No, I was talking about other kinds of pills, the kind you use to get high, and pot-alcohol, that kind of thing. You ever do it?"

Brandy giggled. "Where would I get something like that, Dad?"

"Maybe your mother," he said slyly.

"Nah, Mom doesn't do that."

"I guess her thing is men," he said bitterly.

"Aston's terrible, Daddy. I hate it there. Can I come and live with you?" She couldn't help herself. The suggestion just came out. A trial balloon to see what he would do.

"What's wrong with him?" Seymour lifted his chin again, the way he did when he was all dressed up, checking himself out in the mirror, and thinking he looked pretty good.

"He's, like, disgusting and Mom is all over him. Dad, do you use those kinds of drugs?" She flapped her eyelashes at him, knowing exactly what was on his mind. The pot in the cookie jar. He was concerned that either his source was shorting him, or she was coming over and stealing it. It wasn't a hard one. But parents were dumb and Brandy was a very good liar. She stole things all the time, and he never knew they were missing.

"I have some friends who do," he said smoothly. "You know what happened? Somebody left stuff at my place, and some of it was missing later. Do you know anything about that?" He didn't exactly ask if she came over on her own when he wasn't there. He'd know for sure if he asked the doorman. If he didn't ask, it wasn't her fault. He was probably afraid to ask. So fucking passive.

"You never invite me over, Dad. Maybe the maid took it."

That got him thinking and shut him up. But that was three weeks ago, the last time she'd seen him until yesterday. And he'd lied to her. He had gotten a girlfriend to replace her. She couldn't believe her eyes last night.

Her dad going down on some blond bimbo almost as young as they were. Really gross. And now David wanted to try it.

Returning to the present Brandy hopped off the sidewalk into the street. "Wow, this is wild," she said about the news vans all around them. "I hope they find him soon. Maybe we should help them look."

Still on the subject of his feelings about her rape contention, David followed her like a big shambling dog. "You know I'm not supposed to get upset."

"Who says?" Brandy muttered, disgusted with him.

"My doctor. Look at me, Brandy, it's just because I love you. You made me like that. You tease me, then I want to be inside you. It's not my fault. You promised."

"So what. Maybe you didn't get the job done. Maybe he's not really dead."

"Oh, Jesus!"

"Well, how do you know? How many dead people have you ever seen?"

"I saw my grandfather."

"In a coffin? That doesn't count. Maybe we should try another one. The first one happened too fast."

"Shut up, Brandy!"

A vaguely familiar-looking woman wheeling a grocery cart full of plastic bags looked inquiringly at Brandy. Brandy gave her the finger.

"You promised after one, Brandy. You got your one," he said angrily. "You're not coming through."

"But I didn't promise today," Brandy snapped.

"What do you think I cut school for, huh? Why do you think I did that?" He tugged on the edge of her fuzzy sweater. She tugged back. He punched her lightly in the arm. She recoiled.

"Ow! Don't piss me off. You hate school. You wanted to see what would happen. It has nothing to do with me." She was getting really annoyed at him, wasn't sure she wanted to fuck him at all. She rubbed her arm, oblivious to the people looking at them.

"Fuck you, Brandy. This whole thing was your idea. If my mom found out, I'd never get the Beamer."

"You'd go to fucking jail," she muttered under her breath, skirting a bunch of people who had stopped to gab in the middle of the blocked-off street.

"What for?" he whined.

"What fucking for? I'm only fifteen," she reminded him.

"Hey! I'm not supposed to get upset. My ulcer will start bleeding, and I'll have to go to the hospital again. I don't want to get mad at you, okay?" His face was red and his hand was bunched into a fist. He looked a little scary.

"Okay, okay, don't be upset," Brandy placated him.

"You do this to me. This is your fault. You wiggle around, and I can't help myself."

"I don't wiggle." She shut out his whining, then cheered up as they headed north. "Look at this. The whole world is watching that asshole dog running around the park. He's got to be one shit tracker. Isn't this great?" she said excitedly.

"Yeah, it's pretty good," David had to admit.

"We should do this again. Really." Near the park, entrance, they merged with the crowd of bystanders and media gathered outside the park wall. One video team was set up and doing an interview with a woman in a leather jacket. Brandy thought she recognized the interviewer and admired the cut of the jacket.

"My mom would look great in that," she remarked.

"Yeah, right. Your mom."

Brandy walked around the video camera to get a better look. She was distracted by a man talking into a tape recorder. He pulled a cigarette pack out of his pocket, extracted a cigarette, and lit up with a Zippo. Brandy knew from the Zippo, the rich smoke, and distinctive blue wrapper that the man was French and the cigarette was an unfiltered Gauloise. She considered asking him for one in his native language and blowing him away with her French.

"You're too cocky. You're going to get us in trouble." David took her arm roughly and trapped it against his side. Once again she dodged him, pulling hard to get away.

"Don't be such a dick."

"Hey, kids! What-are you blind or something? That's a police line." A big cop swung around suddenly, waving his night stick at Brandy as she casually stepped between two police barriers with a pair of cops at each end.

"What's the problem?" She stopped immediately, cocked her head to one side, and flashed him one of her bright innocent smiles that always brought male attention down to her chest level.

"What's the matter with you? Don't you know when you see one of those you don't go there?" The cop sounded angry. He was big and heavy but looked pretty young. Brandy pegged him right away as someone who hated kids. She also noticed that his blue eyes slid down to her chest before turning to David.

"Where do you think you're going?" he demanded.

Brandy piped up. "What's happening? I live up there." She pointed toward her dad's pink building down in the next block. "We saw all the activity and wondered what was going on. Is that a crime?" she smiled some more, clicking her tongue pierce against her teeth. The cop's interest excited her.

He looked at David and asked the question again. "Where do you think you're going?"

David shifted his feet, moving closer to Brandy. "If you're looking for someone maybe we can help you," he offered timidly. If she could be daring, he could be daring. He smiled at her to show he had balls.

"You want to help us?" The tall cop poked the short cop next to him with the nightstick. The two had been talking, watched the crowd. Now they had something to focus on. They grinned.

"Yeah, maybe we could, like, help out," Brandy said.

"That's very nice of you. Do you guys hang around here a lot?" The short cop joined the conversation. He seemed nicer than the first one.

Brandy jutted a hip in his direction. "Uh-huh."

"No kidding." He smiled in a friendly sort of way.

"I bet we know everything that goes on here," Brandy bragged, basking in the cop's smile.

"No kidding." The tall cop aped the short cop.

"Well, we do." Brandy thought he was mocking her and plunged into motor-mouth mode. "I see a lot from that window. David and I both do. Just like in that old movie, the one my dad likes because the wife gets offed-you know which one I mean. Hitchcock, very noir. The guy sees a murder from the window, and it turns out"


"He was a filmmaker," Brandy explained. "He really revolutionized the whole suspense thing in moviemaking, but you're from that time so I bet you already know that."

"Oh yeah, you think I'm that old?" The cop looked over at the pink brick building she indicated, then at the trees in the park, very leafy and green. "Did you see something from your window you'd like to tell us about?"

David chose this moment to intervene. "We sss-ssaw a tracking dog, and we're good at finding things."

"Yeah, what are you looking for?" Brandy asked.

"Nice sweater," the second cop said. He was short, had a crew cut. "What color would you say that sweater is?"

"Pink," Brandy piped up quickly, pleased that he'd noticed.

"Pink. It's really nice."

"Thanks. Pink is really in this season."

"Why don't you come along with me? There are some people you can talk to-how about that?"

"Why can't I talk to you right here?" Brandy gave him a big smile. David gave her a little punch. Maybe they were getting too daring.

"Because, I'm not in charge of the investigation." The big cop was serious now. He wasn't looking at her right. Brandy didn't like that.

"Whatever," she muttered. "Do I get to see the dog?"

"Maybe when it's done working."

Brandy bounced on the soles of her expensive Nike Airs. "Cool," she said. She felt up now, way up, and starved to death from the pot. She didn't care that David was getting anxious, and she had no idea that her eyes gave her away.

Seventeen | Tracking Time | Nineteen