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~ 34 ~

The Tell

It’s funny how the mind works. How you can live your whole life remembering only what your heart wants you to, but in one second, your brain can take over and have all that change. The second Roger walked in that door, my mind went into overdrive. It’s like someone hit the rewind button in my brain and forced me back to that dark place.

Roger used to kick and hit me a lot. I found myself just cringing at the thought. If I was too close to him he’d push me out of the way. If I tried to talk to him, he’d backhand me and yell at his wife to get me the hell away from him. All I wanted was for him to like me. I didn’t know who he was or why I was with him, but while we were together I wanted to make the best of it. I wanted him to love me like my dad loved me. Even though I was only a toddler, I figured out after a while that it was a bad idea.

Once I got the hint that he wanted nothing to do with me, I tried my best to stay away from him but that didn’t always happen. I once accidentally ran over his foot with one of my toy trucks so he took that truck and flung it right threw the window, breaking the glass into a million pieces. Nicole ran into the room when she heard the crash and she was met instantly with a punch to her face and a demand to clean up the mess that I had caused.

I sat there crying and clinging to my pig as I watched her clean up the small shards of glass all around me. “It’s okay Andrew…don’t cry. Mommy is going to fix this, you’ll see.” She said in her sing song voice. She always made things seem so much better. She made me feel safe.

After that happened, she scooped me up in her arms and took me outside to play. I had a huge playground out there all to myself. She put me on a swing and would sing to me as she gently pushed me.

“I want to go home.” I remember saying to her.

“You are home my darling little boy.” She answered.

“Nick?” I looked up at the sound of Brian’s voice. “Is everything okay?”

My heart was still racing so I took a second to calm myself down before answering, “Yeah, why?”

“You just zoned out on us.”

“I did? Sorry, I must be tired.” I smiled at him but I could tell he saw right through that.

“That’s understandable; you’ve been through a lot.” Max added, patting me on the shoulder and leading me towards the couch.

“So, Nick…is there anything else that kid told you that might help us track down your father or your friend?” Roger asked as I sat down. He and Max both walked towards the table and sat on the chairs while the rest of the guys joined me on the couch.

I didn’t want to answer this man. I couldn’t even look him in the eyes. All I wanted to do was run out of the room and hide. “Nicky?” I felt Howie’s arm on my back. They all knew something was wrong. I was doing a terrible job at acting otherwise. I couldn’t help it. How do I pretend that this man sitting before me wasn’t a monster? How do I act like everything is fine when this guy has caused me and my family so much pain? “Maybe we should let Nicky rest.” He was looking at Max when he said that.

Max looked over at Roger. Neither of them was pleased with the idea but I was kind of hoping I’d get the okay, just to get away for a little while. I needed to get the hell out of this room and recollect my thoughts before I totally blew it!

“Do you need to go lay down for a little bit or are you just eager to get things over with?” Max cleverly worded that in a way that would make it seem douchey of me to take the easy way out.

“No one will be mad at you if you need to rest Nick.” AJ said. “It’s not like an hour or so will change anything anyway.” He directed that at Max.

“Thanks” I smiled at AJ and then looked up at both Max and Roger, “I wish I could help but I really don’t remember him saying anything at all. I wasn’t really with him long enough for that.”

I felt Brian’s eyes staring at me. He knew I was lying because I had told them all about the warehouse. “Are you sure?” He asked confirming my thoughts.

I looked over at him, “Yeah.”

“Nick, is there anything else?” Max asked taking Brian’s cue.

I shook my head, “Nope, nothing I can think of at the moment, sorry.” I shrugged at him.

My father told me after I lied to his face, to watch Max’s facial expressions. I needed to find his ‘tell’. He then explained to me what a ‘tell’ was and how important it was to be able to know when Max was lying and when he was telling the truth.

“It takes people years and years of training to be able to do this effectively son, so all I can ask is that you do your best.”

I looked at Kevin and Nickolas totally baffled by all the things my father was trying to teach me in such a short amount of time. I was the kid who could barely remember my history lesson ten minutes after it was taught to me. Now, I was suddenly supposed to read Max well enough to know when he was lying.

“So, does that mean that you can always tell when I lie to you?” I asked my father after the lesson.

He smiled, laughed and walked away.

“Everyone can tell when you are lying, Nick. You basically wear it like a huge neon sign across your forehead.” You gotta love Kevin.

“Doesn’t that mean the guys will be able to tell that I’m lying?”

“We want them to figure that out.” Nickolas said nodding at me reassuringly.

“But what about Max?”

“We’re going to set it up so that he already knows your lying. It’s all about finding his tell, not yours.”

I made sure to watch Max’s next movements very carefully. Knowing I wasn’t being truthful with him but having to keep it to himself was the way to identify any tells he might have.

He rubbed at his chin and licked his lips. They were two very quick and subtle moves but put together they could be his tell. He smiled at me. I knew it wasn’t a genuine one. “It’s okay. Maybe something will come to you later.”

I nodded, “Maybe.”

“Can I go lay down now?” I asked, wanting more than anything for a time out.

“Sure, go ahead. We’ll try to think up a plan, but there’s really not much we can do without a little more information.”

“Sorry, I really am trying. If I remember anything at all, I’ll tell you.”

Max did it once again. Moved his hand to his chin and licked his lips. “Not a problem.”

I got you! I thought as I got up and walked into the bedroom.

I knew one of them was going to follow me I just wasn’t sure which one. Turns out it was Brian. I sat down on the bed when the door opened.



“Mind telling me what that was all about?” He asked.

I realized at that moment, I would never be able to work for the FBI, CIA or anything else with three capital letters. I give my dad credit. All the deceit that goes along with working at one of those agencies is a little much for me. How many times did my dad have to lie to my mother about things he was doing in order to protect us? This was killing me, but I had to do it.

“What are you talking about?” I asked innocently.

“How come you didn’t tell your uncle about the warehouse?”


“Yeah, that’s a pretty big oh, don’t you think?”

“He told me not to tell anyone.”



“But who would you tell?” He had that look on his face. He wasn’t buying any of this but he wasn’t really supposed to. Come on figure it out Brian…

“Just in case I were to escape, he told me I couldn’t tell anyone or he’d kill them.”

“What? You didn’t tell us that part.”

“I just said I wasn’t supposed to tell you anything.”

“Nick, you’re not making any sense.”

“Do I ever?”

I looked up at him with almost pleading eyes.

“Are you sure you’re feeling okay?”

I shrugged at him. “I had a really long night and I’m just tired.”

“I still think we should tell Max and Curtis about the warehouse.”

“But he said…”

“I know what he said, but he’s not here and you told us, so what difference does it make?”

It didn’t even matter if they found out about the warehouse now because I am pretty sure I found Max’s tell and that was the whole purpose behind the lie to begin with, but I didn’t want my so called uncle to be able to take the easy way out. I’m not sure why I said the next part, but I did. It was unplanned and unscripted.

“Nickolas also told me that Max killed my mother.”

There, let him have some fun with that one.


“He said that Max shot her.”

“You have to know he’s lying to you! Max was her brother. He would never hurt her.”

“How do we know that for sure?”

Brian looked at me funny. I could tell that he actually believed me that time.

“I guess we don’t.” He finally said, looking down at his hands and scratching away at the dryness.

I looked around my room, trying to figure out where the bugs were in here. This was the other way to let Brian know what was going on without actually telling him, just showing him would be enough. I knew they weren’t listening in on our conversation at the moment because they were in the next room with Howie and AJ, but I’m also sure this would be the one thing they’d go back and listen to once they left us so I had to be extra careful.

“I mean, I trust Max. He’s a good guy but sometimes people aren’t always what they seem to be, you know?” When I said that, I walked over to the lamp and looked under the shade. There was a bug. I took the shade off as slowly as possible and showed it to Brian, putting my finger to my lips to keep him quiet.


I put my fingers to my lips again and he instantly stopped. “Max has done so much for us,” I said pointing to the bug, and then the door to let him see it was Max who put the bug there. “I feel bad thinking this way, but when you hear something like that, what are you supposed to do?”

Brian mouthed the word “Max?” And I nodded at him.

I placed the shade back on the lamp and then walked over to the desk and wrote on the hotel stationary,

He’s listening to every word we say and has been the entire time. He’s not my uncle. I haven’t been telling you the truth since I got back.

Brian took the paper and read the note just as the door opened and Max and Roger both walked inside. I gave Brian a panicked look and he quickly put the note into his pocket. I hope they didn’t notice.

“I thought you were going to get some sleep.” Max said looking at the two of us suspiciously.

“I was, but then Bri came in and offered to play some video games with me to get my mind off things. I was just about to set it up.

I was hoping my neon sign wasn’t blinking.

“Just wanted to check back with you one more time before heading back to my room, are you sure there’s nothing else you know?” He put his hand to his chin and licked his lips again.

“I’m sure.”

“Okay, I’ll check back in a little bit.”

“Nice to meet you, Nickolas,” Roger added. He gave me another one of those sinister smiles of his. It made me anxious.

“Same.” I sounded like a robot.

Just before he left the room he looked at Brian, “You dropped something son.”

He smiled at me before closing the door. I didn’t like it.

There on the floor lying right beside Brian was the note I had written him. there was no way Roger would be able to tell from that distance what it said because it was small and folded but even still, he knew something was up.

“Shit!” Brian yelled uncharacteristically, “it fell out of my pocket.”

I put my fingers to my mouth again. Maybe that’s why Roger mentioned the note. To see if he’d get a reaction about it after he left. Crap!

I took the note from Brian after he finished reading it and then ripped it into a billion little pieces. I wasn’t about to leave any evidence behind.

Brian gave me a look. I could tell he wanted to ask me a thousand questions but there was no way. I wasn’t sure which rooms were bugged. I’m pretty sure they all were. Maybe the balcony would be safe, but even still. They might be able to hear us from their room without the use of a bug there. We were pretty much trapped, but at least Brian knew now.

He walked over to the desk and grabbed more stationary,

You found Kevin?

I was very grateful to be able to nod and smile at him and added on the paper,

And my mom and dad.

He smiled at me and gave me a hug. “So, what game do you want to play?” He asked me after a few minutes.

I nodded. It seemed Brian was much better at this than I was. “Doesn’t matter, what about Super Mario?”

As I was talking, he was writing,

Do we tell Howie and AJ about this? Does that mean Nickolas is a good guy? Is he really your brother? What about Curtis, you know who he is, don’t you?

“Super Mario sounds good to me. Let me set it up.” He shrugged at me expectantly.

It’s best Howie and AJ don’t know for now. Yes he’s a good guy and yes he’s my brother. Curtis is the bad guy. He’s the one who was married to Nicole.

I took the pieces of paper and repeated the ritual of ripping and chucking.

We put the video game on and basically had it playing manually as we both just sat there, wanting to say so much but not saying one word. Howie and AJ came in about thirty minutes later as we were both sitting on the floor staring at each other.

“What are you guys doing in here?” D asked looking at the game playing itself.

“Just finished playing Mario,” Brian was quick to answer.

“I thought you were coming in to take a nap.”

“I changed my mind, AJ. I’m prone to do that.”

“No shit.”

“So how come you didn’t mention the warehouse to Max?” Howie asked, sounding as annoyed as Brian did when he brought it up.

I opened my mouth to speak but then turned my attention to the knock on the door. I looked over at Brian and nodded. Giving him a heads up that we needed to keep this information to ourselves.

Howie let both Roger and Max in. “Hey boys, I thought I’d give you guys some dinner along with some good news.” Max said handing a bag of food to AJ.

“Really, what news,” I asked, trying to sound happy and excited when all I felt was dread and anxiety.

“I think I found a lead.”

I glanced over at Brian before looking back at Max, “Really?”

“Yeah, we did some searching and it seems that the kid who called himself your brother was last seen at a warehouse in Brooklyn.”

“Oh, that’s great.” I answered, hoping that Howie and AJ wouldn’t say anything at all. “Where did you find that information?”

Max moved his hand to his chin and licked at his lips. “I had someone in the area working on it and they just happened to see him.”

“That’s quite a coincidence.” Howie said. I could tell D wasn’t buying it. This was good news.

“Yeah, talk about right place, right time. Anyway we think we’re going to check it out, but we’d like you to go as well.” Max said this to me.

“You want me to go with you?”

“Actually just you and I.” Roger said. “Max thinks its best if he stays with your friends to, you know…keep them safe.”

My heart began to beat really fast again as I looked over at Max. “Yeah and besides, he won’t recognize Curtis but he’ll know who I am.” He rubbed his chin and licked his lips again.

“But he’ll also recognize me.”

“You’ll be staying in the car. Don’t worry you’ll be perfectly safe.” Roger assured as he put his hand on my shoulder. I couldn’t help it. I moved away and cringed. He smiled.

“What’s the matter Nick? I’m not going to bite you or anything.”

I glanced over at Max, “Go with him, he’ll keep you safe and I’ll keep your friend safe. I promise.”

He rubbed at his chin and licked his lips.
Chapter End Notes:
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