I’ll do whatever it takes to turn this around
I know what’s at stake; I know that I’ve let you down
If you give me a chance, and give me a break…
~ Lifehouse, “Whatever It Takes”
She wanted to talk. I had a bad feeling about it from the start, as soon as she said that. That phrase is capable of striking fear into the hearts of men everywhere, right? We suck at talking, as a general rule. But I couldn’t refuse her when she asked. She was Dom’s, and I owed him so much – the way I saw it – that I didn’t even consider passing up a chance to make things right. Even if it was only by extension.
It was a given that the past would come up, so I braced myself for it in advance. Down the street from the diner that Mia still runs, in a little coffee shop. The afternoon sun glints off the picture window that fronts the place, blinds me for a moment as I look around trying to spot her.
“Over here, snowman.” Her voice sounds quieter. Like the years have settled her somehow. Anchored her into her bones. Some of the attitude and bravado is gone. Maybe it’s the hair that accentuates the changes.
I stop trying to figure it out, and tug on the leg of my baggy jeans before hiking my ass into the barstool chair across from hers. “You look good, Letty.”
She grimaces, eyeing me critically. “You don’t.”
I shrug off the implications of that and give her a smile. The expression stopped reaching my eyes a few years back, but nobody notices anymore. “You said you wanted to talk, but before you get any further I just want you to know that I’m sorry for the way things went down.”
Her shoulders straighten, gaze narrows. But she sits quietly, takes a long sip of her mocha latte. “Mia told me you’re a Fed now. She told me about what you did for Vince, too, and not just the helicopter. And Dom? Dom didn’t talk much. But I saw the Supra, and he told me you gave him the keys. So the way I see it, Brian? You don’t have anything left to apologize for. I know I was a bit of a hard-ass when you first showed up at the garage, but I’ve had a lot of time to think about things. Dom’s not the same man he was. We’ve all changed, I guess.”
Something clenches in my chest at the sound of his name. I do my best to ignore it and brace my elbows on the table, trying to focus on her words. Fold my hands together and stare at my knuckles. But despite my efforts, my eyes burn and sting. And that annoys me. But I can’t make it stop.
“What is it you want, Letty? I’ll do anything and everything in my power to help. Are you in trouble?”
She laughs softly, but the sound lacks humor. “Nothing like that. I want you to help me work a deal. I want Dom to come back, free and clear, record wiped. I’ve been back and forth across the border a few times over the years. Been keeping tabs on the local racers and all, you know? Heard about the new game in town, that boy Braga. I’m thinking you guys probably want a piece of him, yeah? Well, I got an in. You know what I mean?”
I stare across the table. It’s the longest speech I ever heard her give. “Letty, you sure you want to do this sort of thing? What you’re talking about, playing narc? It’s dangerous, really dangerous. You’re by yourself in there. I won’t be able to help you if something goes wrong—”
“Why’d you give him the keys, Brian?” Her words are soft, but she cuts into my ramble as easily as a sharp knife through butter. Which is about all the resistance I have to offer, too.
When I stare at her and remain silent, she continues to push. “Just because Mia didn’t talk to you, don’t mean she didn’t pay attention. There wasn’t much of a hunt for Dom. All the heat was low-profile, content to wait until he showed himself. They were after you with a vengeance though; television, newspapers, live updates on sightings all through the south. That was a fucking manhunt. So tell me why.”
I shrug and look out the window, resting my temple against my fists and seeing nothing.
“Alright. You don’t have to say it, okay? I’m not blind or stupid. I don’t care, you get me? I just want him free and clear. The rest of it doesn’t matter. Dom and I… well, it’s a long story. But whatever you feel for him, I don’t hate you for it.”
Damn her feminine intuition anyways. Maybe it’s a good thing Mia stayed away from me all this time. When I glance back at Letty, she’s watching me with a mild expression on her face, somewhere between pity and sympathy. I want neither and it makes the anger swell up the back of my throat.
“It’s not like that.”
She just smiles around another sip of her latte. “So you gonna do this with me? Work me a deal with the Feds? Braga, for Dom. Think it’s a pretty hefty price to pay for a small-time ex-con, but whatever, you know?”
“This is dangerous. Dom would pop my head like a blueberry if he ever finds out I helped you do this.”
“If it goes down right, it won’t matter. If it goes wrong?” She shrugs. “It won’t matter, either.”
I grimace. “What’s Mia say about this?”
“I didn’t tell her anything. Just that I wanted to talk to you.”
“And how’d she know where to get hold of me?”
“The internet’s a fine thing, Brian O’Connor. So is caller ID. She might not have answered your calls, but she kept your number. Takes a lot to burn bridges with the Toretto’s. They’re good people, you know?”
“Yeah, well… I’m rather confident I succeeded admirably in creating a big enough bonfire.” I don’t manage to keep the cynicism from my voice. Too tired to put much effort into it. “Look, we can do this. I won’t ask again if you’re sure. You want to back out? You do it now because once we start this it has to be finished. One way or another. I won’t be able to help you out if you get stuck, you know?”
“I get you. We’re good.”
“Right. You got my number. Give me twelve hours to touch base with my boss and lay out the deal. I’ll call you.”
One last smile, she got up and walked away. It was the last I saw of her.