18: Tyler

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18: Tyler

The bar is only moderately filled when I walk in. I can feel my back sweating under my coat, and a little panicky jump in my chest. All eyes are glued to the large flat-screen TVs, watching the football game. I glance at it briefly and then shake my head, looking away. The sounds of glasses clanking together and people conversing fill the room. My eyes search the room as I shrug off my coat, hooking it over one arm.

My eyes catch the bartender's and the tall man looks back at me with a shake of his head and a small smile. I walk over and put my coat on the back of the stool before sitting on it. Brad wipes down a pint glass and places it on the counter behind him with the rest. Everyone else at the bar is preoccupied so Brad walks over to me and leans forward.

"What are you doing here, kid?" he asks.

His dark skin shines from the glow of light glinting off his sweat.

"You gonna get me a beer?" I ask.

"Try again in three years," Brad scoffs. "Why are you here? Some of these guys are willing to tear your limbs off right now."

"I need to talk to Carl," I say.

Brad's expression turns to one of surprise and he sighs, bracing his hands on the countertop and leaning further over so no one can overhear.

"Are you after a death wish?"

"I need to talk to him," I say again. "Please, I need to."

"What the hell could you possibly need to say to the guy that wants your head on a damn pike?"

"It wasn't me."

Brad eyes me for a moment. "You saying that a lot lately? That's how it starts. You say 'it wasn't me,' and then half way through you're switching and pleading for your fucking life."

"It's wasn't," I glare at him. "Brad . . . just trust me. You've known me for a year now. You know you can trust me."

"Kid, a whole raid of cops came running into this place," he says. "They only just managed to get out downstairs. Just. What if they'd found them? We'd all be out of a job. Hell, we'd all be in prison."

"I didn't call the cops," I say. "I was at Ethan's race the whole night. I was at school during the day. Why would I try and get everyone in jail knowing that I could go down with them?"

Brad frowns in confusion. "But you wouldn't go down with them."

Now I'm the one confused. "What do you mean? My records . . . Carl has everyone's fights on record. He could just pull them out to the cops and have me done for."

Brad raises his eyebrows. "Jesus. I didn't realize he records every single fight."

I nod. "Each one. Written down and locked up in his office downstairs."

Brad suddenly has a little glint to his eyes. "Written down?" he asks, and I nod. "So there isn't a computer copy?"

"Not that I know of."

"So if those records suddenly disappeared then you wouldn't have a link?" he asks. "It would just be Carl's word against yours?"

I frown. "Brad you're not asking that I . . . "

"Think about it," he says. "Everyone already thinks you're guilty. What's so wrong with snapping the rules a bit? Carl's downstairs. Alone."

I look at the back of Brad's head as he walks away and gives drinks to other people. My eyes then flicker over to the door leading down to the basement. I feel like everyone is looking at me as I get up and walk over to the door. They aren't, I realize as I glance back to look at them. But the feeling is still there.

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