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I'm telling you, Mark, it's a sorry idea.'
Mark Flaherty turned from his bedroom window and glanced back at Daniel. His best friend still wore his church clothes from this morning---a button-down blue shirt neatly tucked into khakis. The clothes made Daniel look older than fifteen as he stood with his arms at his sides, preparing to fight him if he tried to push past. 'You always think my ideas are sorry.'
'You've already been arrested once,' Daniel said.
Mark turned back toward the window with a clear view of Cedar Circle, in full summer bloom. His mother was next door, revving up for the wedding shower the neighbors were giving her. Brenda Dodd and Tory Sullivan had been talking about it for weeks, and Sylvia Bryan had come all the way back from her mission work in Nicaragua to host it in her home. It griped him that his mom had insisted on the men in her life being there. Showers were for women, and he had better things to do. It was only early June, and the wedding wasn't until July 4th. The shower was just a lot of trouble for nothing, in his opinion.
'I'll be back before anybody knows I'm gone,' Mark said. 'I'd have to be crazy not to do this. It's easy money.' He turned back to his friend and reached for the small bag of marijuana he'd bought from a friend at the baseball park last night. 'Chill out. I won't get caught, okay?'
The words sent a little jolt of memory through him, for he had said them before. Just over a year ago---months after his mother had freaked and got Miss Brenda to home-school him. He had sneaked out of his dad's house in Knoxville and gone joyriding with a kid---in a car he didn't know was stolen. They'd been caught spray-painting graffiti on the side of a school building. Mark had been charged with car theft and vandalism, both in one night. The judge, who'd had a fourteen-year-old kid of his own, had let him off with probation.
But this time was different. He had turned fifteen last week, and he wasn't following the crowd anymore. He was in control here. He had this figured out.
'You're just mad because you won't be able to buy a concert ticket,' Mark said. 'But I'll be there in the front row. I'll buy you a T-shirt.'
'Your mom will go ballistic,' Daniel said. 'She won't even let you go to that stupid concert, and you know it.'
'She won't know,' Mark said, stuffing the bag into his pocket. He heard a horn honk and looked out the window. Ham Carter and some other guy waited in his jeep at the end of the driveway. 'Gotta go. He's here.'
Daniel's cheeks were blotched pink as he tried to block the way. 'Man, I'm telling you, you're making a mistake.'
'I have to go,' Mark said. Though Daniel was a little taller, Mark knew he could take him if he had to. 'Move!'
Daniel stood there for a moment, then finally moved aside. Mark pushed past him to the stairs and bolted down, Daniel right behind him.
Eighteen-year-old Annie stood in front of the wall mirror at the bottom of the stairs, dressed like Barbie's evil brunette twin. Rick, his twenty-year-old brother, waited by the front door, tugging at his collar.
'Mom said to wear a tie,' Annie told Mark. 'Hurry up and get ready, or we'll be late.'
'I have to go somewhere,' he said. 'I'll just be gone a few minutes.'
'Gone where? We're supposed to be there!'
'I have to run an errand,' Mark said.
'What kind of errand?' Rick asked with that tone he got when he tried to be the man of the house.
Daniel didn't wait for Mark's answer. He shot out of the house, leaving the screen door to bounce shut behind him. Mark watched him cross the street, ignoring the two guys in the jeep. That was just as well.
'If I'm not back in fifteen minutes,' Mark said, 'go on without me. Just tell Mom I'm coming.'
'No way!' Annie cried. 'Mark, you're going to get her mad at all of us. I was counting on her being in a good mood later when I hit her up for concert money---'
Mark grinned. He didn't have to hit her up. 'She will be,' he said, pushing open the screen door. He took off down the driveway, smiling at Ham and his friend. As he jumped into the backseat, he patted his pocket.
'Hey, guys. I'm kinda in a hurry, okay?'
Mark grinned as they pulled out of Cedar Circle. This would be the easiest money he'd ever made.