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(Catch up, here)

“So Barrett,” I say, eyein’ the boy who’s been sittin’ in the chair—stone quiet—for the past ten minutes. “Whad’ya think about all this?” “I think June can pull it off. I think she has more strength than she gives herself credit for.” I nod. “Yeah, that’s true. But what do you think about all we’ve said about the organization? You don’t seem at all surprised.” “Surprised a group that sounds awfully similar to the mafia exists? No, I guess I’m not.” “Aren’t you afraid you’re in danger?” This boy’s a little too cavalier for my likin’. “I haven’t done anything wrong,” he says. Keepin’ his cool. “No, but you know about us,” I say. “And the organization can’t have that.” Barrett shrugs his shoulders and seems to lift the entire room, he’s so large. “I can hold my own.” “I think you’re underestimatin’ who we’re going up against.” He shrugs his eyebrows, like he’s tellin’ me, we’ll see. “Barrett, I think we started off on the wrong foot at Emerald Isle,” I say with a deep breath. “It’s obvious you care—on some level—about my Junebug.” The boy starts to say somethin’ but I keep talkin’. “You’ve stuck with her this entire time. Even though there have been plenty of times for you to bail. But you haven’t. And I respect that. But I have to know; why?” “You’re my patient. I promised the Admin I’d bring you back safe. Besides, June has grown on me. I’d like to make sure she gets through this safe, too.” “Hmm.” Don’t know how I feel about that. “Can I ask you something?” He leans forward, restin’ his elbows on the insides of his knees. “Shoot.” I mimic him, but it’s not as suave. My back creeks and pops. It’s the pits getting’ old. Barrett tries to hide his smile. “Why does the organization want you so badly? And don’t try to give me the answer you gave your granddaughter. I know it’s more than that.” I frown. Maybe I don’t like this kid after all. He’s too nosey. Knows too much. Catches too much. Almost like….I shake my head. I don’t need to be thinkin’ about that possibility right now. “I have a formula in my head and they want it.” His eyes don’t give anythin’ away. “Why don’t they just get it from somewhere else?” “I’m the only one with it. Top secret. They gave it to me to keep it safe.” “They never thought they’d have to worry about you leaving the fold, huh?” “No, they didn’t,” I say. “I guess you could say my move was a bit of a betrayal in their eyes.” Barrett nods. “This formula, it’s not dangerous enough to put June in jeopardy, is it?” I take another deep breath. Secrets only hurt people, in the end. I should’ve packed a bag long ago, with nothing but some water and my photo of Ruthy and gone to live in the woods. Will this secret hurt Junebug? “I hope not,” I say.

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