Vincent's eyes slid sideways, falling on a figure who stood with his back to the brick wall just beside the entrance to his favorite café. The man was one he'd seen before - he recognized the designer sunglasses, close cropped dark hair, and slender frame outfitted in an expensive dark suit. He wouldn't have thought designer - the suit was very subtle - but it fit too perfectly to be anything but an extremely expensive label.
Unless, of course, the man had hired a personal tailor outfitted with the same fabrics common to Armani suits.
The man looked like he belonged on a runway, and Vincent had to smile to himself at that thought; the guy was probably macho enough that he wouldn't know to take that thought as a compliment.
Trying hard not to allow his eyes to linger, Vincent pulled open the door to the café, stepped inside, and tried to push away the nagging, paranoid voice in the back of his head that told him he was being followed.
Of course, it didn't help that as the door swung shut behind Vincent, another hand - attached to Mr. Armani Suit himself - grabbed the door and swung it back open, stepping inside of the café with a small smirk tugging at the corner of his lips.
Vincent ignored him on general principles.
He felt the hair on the back of his neck stand at attention, but he wasn't going to give his paranoia the satisfaction of looking back. He knew the guy was there. So, what?
Vincent pulled the hood of his sweater over his hat, knowing that he was probably making himself look like a hoodlum. He felt the need to be slightly less visible, despite the fact that making himself look like "a kid on the wrong side of the railroad tracks" - a saying that referred to the kids on the other side of town, most of whom grew up in poor housing and joined gangs before they were twelve - was slightly counter-intuitive given the general atmosphere of the upscale café from which he was intent on ordering coffee.
The hood-over-beanie look might have gotten him some generally disgusted looks from the generally ritzy clients, but he was pretty confident that the guy who had followed him in - at least, he thought that's what the guy had been doing - wouldn't want to draw attention to himself by talking to a hoodlum. He decided it would probably be in his best interest to ostracize himself from the other patrons.
Mr. Armani would have to mind his own business.
Vincent approached the counter with his head down, eyes trailing on the dark, warm colored carpeting. He silently wondered who came up with the patterns for coffee shop floors and if they got them from people in a psychiatric ward, because the patterns had never quite made sense to him. He was pretty sure, however, that they'd make sense to a crazy person.
When he reached the counter, he was greeted with the familiar, "What can I get for you?" and let out a sigh.
Without a second thought, he lowered his hood and smiled at the girl across the counter. She was cute. She was very, very cute.
He named his drink and smiled at her, silently annoyed with himself. It wasn't that having his hood up and looking like he thought he was some kind of hard ass would have helped him in the first place, but it had been worth a shot - and he'd just blown it.
Of course, with that being said, it came as no surprise to him when Mr. Armani leaned over, added his own drink to Vincent's bill, and handed a plastic card over to the cute girl on the other side of the counter.
"How very … subtle … of you," Vincent said, fighting like hell to keep his voice calm and uninterested, despite the fact that his heart was trying to hammer its way out of his chest and he felt like he'd just been slapped in the face. "Is there something I can help you with?"
"Maybe," the guy replied ambiguously. He had a deep, rich voice, and though he didn't sound as though he had an accent, Vincent couldn't help but think that he was working to keep it that way.
Annoyed, Vincent reached for the plastic card that the coffee shop girl was handing back, but Mr. Armani grabbed it first and chuckled.
"Tricky, but not going to work." The guy stuck the card in his pocket and smiled before walking to the other side of the counter to wait for his drink.
Vincent went to follow him, bumped into him, and then stopped. He looked down at what was in his hand and then back up at the guy in the dark suit who waiting patiently for his drink. He felt a little annoyed.
The man reached up and pulled off his sunglasses, his eyes dark and full of humor. He didn't say anything, just watched the blonde haired, blue eyed boy and waited.
"There's no name on this." Vincent waved the card in the air.
"It's a gift card," replied Mr. Armani.
Vincent stalked over to where the man stood, feeling uneasy. "What do you want?" He wiped sweaty palms on his jeans, feeling distinctly uncomfortable and out of place. He wondered why he'd let his younger brother talk him into wearing such tight pants - which belonged to his younger brother - instead of wearing a dirty pair of his own.
He felt, at that moment, as though he was wearing someone else's skin. The jeans weren't helping.
The man in the suit didn't reply; he reached into his pocket, took out a wallet that, unlike his wonderfully tailored suit, looked well-used and more than a little old, removed a card, and handed it to the boy.
It wasn't anything special; nothing more than a plain white business card. In fact, it was so plain that all it had on it was a name and a number.
"Fancy," Vincent said flatly. He tapped the card on the countertop. "I've… seen you around." He gave the guy a sideways glance.
The guy gave a charming half smile to his sunglasses and put them back on. "You're very perceptive."
Vincent looked at down. "I don't have anything." He didn't know why he said that. Feeling stupid, he looked back up, baffled. "Really. What do you want?"
Toma smiled. "Wanna tell me how you got that black eye?" Vincent bit back a nasty comment. He'd almost forgotten about that. It was mostly healed, but it'd been there for a while, so he didn't give it much thought. That, however, did not mean he wanted to talk about it.
"Tell you what," he said as he grabbed his freshly made drink off the counter. "You show me yours and I'll show you mine." With that, he started to walk away, toward the door, his legs taking him there as quickly as he could manage to go without actually running.
"My card?" The guy, Toma, called after him.
Vincent stopped in his tracks and then cursed himself. So what? It was a gift card. He should have kept going, but by the time he'd half made up his mind - give the card back or run like hell and don't look back - the man had already caught up to him.
Toma gave him a smile that revealed perfect white teeth, and Vincent wanted to roll his eyes.
"They pick you out of an Armani magazine?" he asked, handing the guy back his card.
"And what do I want with this?" he waved the business card with the guy's name and number on it.
With an easy smile, Toma said, "It would seem we have a common enemy. You run into any trouble with this enemy of ours, you give me a call."
Vincent stilled. The hair on the back of his neck had been standing at attention before, but right then he was pretty sure it was trying to pull free so it could pack up and leave. "Oh, no you don't," he said.
He didn't need to be told who this common enemy was.
When trying to hand back the business card failed, he threw it at the guy.
"You are not getting me involved in this." He took in a shaky breath. "I run into him, I give you a call? Are you out of your mind?!"
Vincent took a couple of steps back.
Toma extended the card. "Take it, kid; you're going to need it."
"No." Vincent turned around and about took off as fast as his legs could carry him when an arm grabbed his and held on tight.
He could try to wiggle free, pull away, or throw himself on the ground and make a fuss, but he was too disturbed to think clearly. Instead of doing any of that, he merely turned to the guy and stared.
"What. Do. You. Want." He sounded each word out, but his voice sounded strangely far away and defeated.
Toma frowned. "He really did do a number on you, didn't he?" With a nod in the direction of Vincent's left eye, he asked, "Did he do that?"
The blonde haired boy just stared at him.
Toma sighed. "Let me walk you back to your car… See that no incidences happen along the way." He paused. "You read the card, I know you did. I also know you have a photographic memory. And I know you're going to call me when things go bad. I'm your only option."
Toma hopped into the driver's side of a dark SUV and frowned as he watched the blonde haired teenager drive away.
"Did you really have to scare the fuck out of him like that?" asked someone from the passenger side.
Toma shrugged, his eyes on the boy's retreating car. "I want him on his toes; he's the only person in his whole damn household with half a brain."
"Did you even ask him anything?" The man sounded impatient and outright annoyed.
Toma shook his head as he put the SUV in reverse and backed out of his parking space. "No," he said. "He'll see us tomorrow."
An angry sigh came from the direction of the passenger seat. "You get off on terrifying little boys?"
Toma didn't answer, but put the SUV in drive and set off down the road. After a few minutes, he said, "We won't get anything out of him, not ever." A pause. "When I asked him about how he got that black eye - which, by the way, wasn't from you-know-who - he went … blank."
"Blank?" The man's voice was flat, but Toma knew he was interested to hear the rest.
"He's too smart; he's not going to tell us anything." Toma tapped his fingers on the steering wheel impatiently. "I don't know what he did. He recoiled a bit, like I'd hit him, and then … nothing. I couldn't read anything on the damned kid."
Toma let out an annoyed sigh. "He was giving me so much - nervous, in the beginning. He kept glancing around the room, wiping his hands on his jeans, and then I ask about that and suddenly nothing. No more useful body language."
"Nothing… Or no more useful body language?"
Toma smiled. He was half sure his partner had dozed off, or at least wasn't paying attention.
"The only thing I could read after that was 'Don't hit me.' Kind of kills whatever I could have gotten on our perp."
His partner looked out the window for a long moment. "We're… going the wrong way," he said finally. "The hotel is quite definitely in the exact opposite direction." Toma smiled. "Well, you see, my friend, we happen to be tailing a pretty blue car; you'll have to blame him for our route."
Irritation nearly bubbled up and over onto Toma's side of the car. "And why, exactly, are we tailing a blue car?" "Because it's got a blue-eyed boy named Vincent inside of it, and I'd like to see what Vincent is up to tonight." Toma shrugged. "You know," he said as he tapped his fingers rhythmically against the steering wheel, "we don't actually know that much about Vincent's relationship with him. He could decide to go and tell him that people are asking questions."
His partner straightened up in his seat and looked over incredulously. "You do remember the things that man was supposed to have done to him?"
"Yes, but still…"
"There are medical records, Toma," the man said. "And medical records can't lie. Do you suppose his mother or one of his brothers managed to do those things to him?"
Toma let out an annoyed huff. "No, I don't." He let out another annoyed huff. "But that doesn't mean he won't tell him. I've worked these cases; fear does fucked up things to people's judgment."
"You mean like make a twenty six year old man follow a sixteen year old home?"
When they pulled up to a red light near Vincent's house, Toma hung back in the SUV a little, glancing around the deserted street. He half expected a tumble weed to roll in front of their path, driven by some unseen wind. Some towns were just dead after dark, and having grown up in a big city, it gave him the creeps to see a place so still.
They followed the little blue car to its home and then drove around the block once before settling across the street. Toma's partner growled his disapproval - parking so close to the house you were observing in a neighborhood like this one was a stupid idea; they'd be caught.
But Toma just shrugged, sipped his coffee, and watched.
"I did mention that we'll be here tomorrow, didn't I?"
"Just want to make sure they don't get any strange visitors tonight."
His partner paused. "Excluding us?" he said with a hint of humor.
"Excluding us." Toma glanced at him. "Get some sleep."
Toma had been lucky when he'd parked on the side of the house that had Vincent's room. He hadn't known it at the time, but a smile crossed his face when he saw a dark figure crawl out of a second story window and into a tree that was positioned just right to allow a teenage boy to climb out of his window, into the tree, and down its branches with minimal trouble.
If only he'd had such a perfect escape route in his teenage years.