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Chapter Thirty One

I watched, stunned, as the lead whatever-he-was let the door jingle shut behind him.  That had been, without a doubt, the quickest, most efficient robbery I'd ever seen.  Not that I'd seen many, but still…
I turned to look at the store owner, Chuck, who was staring forlornly at the computers that hadn't survived the encounter.  He looked like a nice guy, if a little out of shape.  Even the way he'd dealt with the G-Nomes had been impressively polite.  With a sigh, he looked at me.
“I'm sorry about all that," he said, trying to put on a brave smile.  He came out from behind the desk, holding a fire extinguisher.  He sprayed both of the smoking computers, apparently giving up any hope of making them work again.  “I hope you don't hold this against me.  I promise, this doesn't happen all the time."
“It's okay," I said hesitantly, wondering how I was going to explain why I was there.
“So, how can I help you?" Chuck asked.  “I specialize in fixing computers, but I also sell used ones."  He gestured around the room, pointedly avoiding looking at the ruined computers.  “I actually dug a lot of these out of the trash, but don't worry- they work better than when they were brand new!"
My stomach twisted into a painful knot.  Chuck seemed like such a nice guy.  He didn't deserve to have to hand over money to people like Zeke and D.K., especially not both of them in the same day.
“Well, um," I paused and took a deep breath.  I may as well get it all out at once.  “D.K. sent me to get his money."
Chuck gave me a startled look, and I noticed that all the kindness in his eyes had already gone.  For a second, he was quiet, but then he said, “You're in the Wolves?"
Judging by the way he'd said it, I doubted he knew I was a werewolf, which made me feel a little better.  Most likely, he thought D.K. and the others were nothing but a street gang.  Still, the disgust in his eyes now was enough to make me feel ashamed of myself just for being associated with them.
Chuck shook his head and went back behind the service desk.  “Could have fooled me," he grumbled.  “You don't look anything like them."
From anyone else, I would have taken this as a compliment.  From him, though, it was an accusation.  You look like you actually know how to dress yourself, he was saying.  Why are you hanging around idiots like them?
“I'm new," I said softly, brushing a strand of hair behind my ear.  I was aware of how awkward I looked standing there, one arm hugging my middle, the other hovering over my ear, unsure of what to do.
He locked eyes with me, and I couldn't meet his gaze.  I looked down, studying the patterns in the carpet.  I was doing that a lot lately, but this time it was for a different reason.  I wasn't being submissive to Chuck, I was flat out ashamed of myself.
“I'm sorry about this," I said in little more than a whisper.
Chuck sighed in frustration and put his hands on the desk in front of himself.  “Well, I don't have the money.  You got here too late.  Those geniuses who just left took it."
“Who were they?" I couldn't stop myself asking.
“The G-Nomes," Chuck spat.  “Your rival gang.  I guess your boss hasn't let you in on them yet, huh?"
I shook my head.
“They're just a bunch of punks, like you and your gang," I flinched at this, but didn't argue.  It was true wasn't it?  “Between you and them, though, I'm more afraid of them.  Look what they did to my computers!"
I did look.  It wasn't pretty.
“I don't know how they do it," Chuck said, shaking his head in anger and bewilderment.  “They must have some way to upload viruses just being close to the computers.  Everything they touch blows up.  And not just the computers- phones, too.  And TVs."
Great.  These guys definitely weren't normal humans, then.  Could they be wizards like Dex and Edgar?  Chuck didn't know any of this, of course.  To him, they were just a strangely high-tech bunch of kids.
“But yeah," he said, bringing the discussion back on topic, “I don't have the money anymore.  If D.K. has a problem with that, tell him to take it up with the G-Nomes.  Now get out!"
Feeling like I was about to puke with shame, I nodded and left, the door jingling behind me.
NEXT TIME: Amber doesn't have D.K.'s money.  How will he react?  My guess is not well...


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