Louis wouldn’t have remembered where the Alana mansion was, except he had been invited there once, and it had made quite an impression. For one thing, it was out of the city, in the mountains, in the closest thing Rocheford had to green hills. Driving up, the house was invisible behind an uncommonly thick patch of spruce, and all you could see from the road was the cast iron gate and the beginning of a gravel road after that.
Louis pulled alongside the keypad and microphone and announced his arrival. It sounds very authoritative and confident said that way, but it was actually more like:
Mr. Alana: “May I help you?”
Louis: “It’s Louis.”
Alana: “Louis? Louis…”
Adam: “From school, Dad.”
Alana: “Oh, Louis! Please, come on in!”
The gates opened and Louis drove to the house at the end of the long, rocky, attempted-shade driveway. He knocked on the front door and it opened to Adam.
Adam was standing, but he was stiff and hunched a little. He was in the baggiest of sweatpants and a t-shirt that read, “Kiss me, I’m Polynesian.” Louis would miss Adam’s bad jokes a little. A gash in his forehead had been stitched up. One of his cheeks was purple and cut. He and Louis were a matched set.
“Nice to see you back, buddy,” Adam greeted, moving carefully towards Louis to give him a hug. Louis didn’t have the heart to pull away.
“You look awful,” Louis muttered. “What’s that about?”
“Long story,” was all Adam would say about it. “I’ll tell you some other time. And what about you, Mister Black-and-Blue. Does this have to do with the urgent call from your uncle?”
“Long story, too,” Louis replied. “How did your presentation go?”
“Our presentation, you mean,” Adam corrected. “It went alright. I’m not quite as smart as you, so it lost that feature, but I think we’ll get a good grade.”
They nodded for a while.
“Well,” Adam said, opening the door wider and shuffling out of the way. “Come in. I want to hear about those black eyes. When you left, you only had one.”
The Alana estate was nice. Very fancy, very clean. A little too museum-like for Louis’ tastes, though. This was a place Louis could picture Paul living in. Not that he’d make much use of it. He’d choose one room, probably, for his laboratory, and one for end-of-the-day fancy sitting and sipping wine. The rest of the rooms would just gather dust.
Adam brought Louis into the den, where it seemed he had taken up residence, since his bedroom was probably on the second floor. Adam cleared a spot for him on the couch. Louis noticed the bottles of antibiotics and painkillers. All Louis could think of was how much he was responsible for Adam’s injuries, and how deep Adam had been dragged into the whole thing, just because Louis had been too close to him.
If that was the case, what was Louis doing here now? Did he want his pursuers to find Adam and finish the job? They were all way too deep into all this crap: Adam, Summer… They didn’t know anything at all. And Louis had forced them into a world of terrible danger. Not even danger for a good cause! Rotten winnings for the pursuit of rotten goals.
“Sorry,” Louis muttered into the carpet. “I just remembered something I have to do.” He turned and left the room as quickly as he could limp, hopefully fast enough that Adam wouldn’t be able to catch him.
“What?” Adam called after him. “Remembered what? Louis!”
Louis pulled open the heavy oak door and did his best not to fall on the stone steps. He reached his car and was heading back down the driveway by the time Adam reached the doorway. Adam stood there for a while calling after him, but then someone yelled from inside, and Adam closed the door.
Louis looked straight ahead again and bounced his palms on the steering wheel. There was nothing to think about, so he didn’t think about it.
He pulled to the side of the road a mile or so away from the house and angled the rearview mirror to better see his face. He examined his hair; the style was a good and versatile one. It could be spiked up to look like Countersink, or combed back to look like Louis. Louis took a knife out of the glove compartment and gripped the front of his hair. He scraped the knife carefully across his scalp. Locks of bright red hair fell into his lap until one side of his head was bald. He brushed the middle section back and started on the other side.
Countersink examined his work, the shaggy line of hair down the center of his bald head. He had managed to nick himself only a handful of times. He gathered up the loose hair and put it in one of the cup holders. He fixed his mirror and started the engine.
A/N: What Mr. Alana said: “Oh, Louis! Come in!” What he meant: “Dirty, smelly, sarcastic hooligans like you are the reason my son’s going to end up living under a bridge. Take off your shoes, for the love of Fred Astaire.”
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