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(Catch up, here)

I might as well be in the Twilight zone right now, with some alien Doctor Who hybrids fighting with light sabers. That’s how wrong everything feels. “What?!” I yell. “Barrett, what the hell’s going on?” “Sis,” Jack says in a low voice, “I suggest not talking to the boss like that.” I’ve been talking to him this way the entire time. I’m not going to stop now. “You’re the boss?” I say to Barrett. “You don’t have to say it like it’s a completely ridiculous idea,” Barrett says, slightly offended. But there’s a smile behind the words, I can feel it. “I’m more like the second in command. The boss has been…out…so the organization has seconds set up in case this sort of thing happens. We don’t like the possibility, but we’d rather be prepared.” Grampy snorts. “The organization must be scrapin’ the bottom of the barrel if they’re puttin’ a young pup like you in charge of the outfit.” “The guy before me was much older,” Barrett says, unfazed. “Besides, I’ve proven myself over the years to be the right person for the job.” “Wait,” I say, rubbing at my forehead. “The guy before you? How many stand-ins have there been?” “Well,” Barrett says, thinking. “We’ve had to have stand-ins for the past sixty or so years, so, six, maybe seven? Dunno for sure, though. It was before my time so it could be less. Abel would probably know. I doubt that he hasn’t been keeping track of the organization, despite him being retired.” My mind starts processing everything. There have been seconds in command for about sixty years. The organization’s been looking for Grampy. Then something clicks in my brain. I look up at Grampy, shocked. He’s already staring at me, like he’s been waiting for me to put something together. I scoot back, bumping into Jack. “You’re the head honcho,” I say, barely above a whisper. “And they want you back.” Grampy’s eyes are the saddest I’ve ever seen. He hangs his head and Ruthy wraps her withered arm around his shoulders. After a moment, he pulls his head back up and looks at Jack and I. “It’s true,” he says. “I was the head of the organization. A long time ago. But I left.” “There is no was, Abel,” Barrett says. “Unless you’re dead.” “Which he isn’t!” I say quickly. “Grampy, why didn’t you just tell us?” “Because I thought I could keep you and Jack from all this. The organization takes everything from you, and it’s nobody’s fault but my own. I started it, so I thought I could finish it.” “But the organization got too big,” Jack says. Grampy nods. “So the only thing I could do was walk away and pray that I could stay lost.” “Which you couldn’t do,” Barrett says. “Which I couldn’t do,” Grampy agrees. “But I kept it on its toes for sixty years.” “A lot has changed in that time,” Barrett says. “We need you back. We want you back.” Grampy shakes his head so emphatically, I swear it’s going to come off. “I can’t. The organization doesn’t stand for what it did when I started it. I’m too old for all that now.” “That’s why you need to come back.” Barrett sits on the coffee table. “The organization wants to go in a new direction. Something far more lucrative. And we need a man with your smarts and knowhow to get it done right.” “What has more money than the back alley deals the organization deals in?” my brother says. Barrett gets a wicked grin on his face and his eyes spark. “Reality television.”

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