“Hi Zach,” Devin said, nervously stepping forward. There was an awkward silence as they all surveyed one another.
“What are you doing here?” Zach asked tentatively, shooting a confused glance to Nova.
It was then that Devin noticed her, standing off to the side and his heart fell at the sight of his crush with someone else. The thought of Nova getting everything he’d wanted, everything he’d worked for wasn’t fair. Nothing was fair.
“Devin?” Nova prodded.
“Right, sorry,” he cleared his throat, turning away from this girl he’d begun to despise. He would just have to pretend she wasn’t there. “I have a question.”
“Why didn’t you just send a text?” Nova asked, suspiciously.
“I needed to see you,” he said quietly, staring straight at Zach. There was something desperate about the boy, something about the dark circles under his eyes. The edges in his face were dulled, his blue eyes empty, all the things that made him attractive were lost underneath a weary gaze and gaunt cheekbones.
Nova only knew Devin as the shy boy who sat behind her in homeroom, never really paying attention or talking to others. She had never seen him hanging out with Zach before, and they seemed to run with completely different crowds. His current presence in Zach’s house unsettled her.
“Okay, come in,” Zach stepped back and Devin caught Nova’s eye quickly before walking inside, his hands stuffed inside of his jacket pockets. Zach gestured to the table, inviting him to sit beside their discarded chips. Nova lingered by the doorway as Zach offered the boy a drink.
“Is everything okay? You look sick,” Nova pointed out, sharing yet another private look with Zach. Devin followed the movement and stiffened, unnerved by the sort of silent conversation between the two, and turned to fully address Nova for the first time.
“I’m fine. This is just important and it’s not really your business.”
Nova straightened, approaching the table. “What?”
Devin’s cheeks burned but he continued on. “I meant that it’s about Zach and his family so I don’t want to share something he doesn’t feel comfortable sharing with you.”
“I didn’t know that you two were so close,” she added curiously, not entirely keeping the edge out of her voice.
Zach shifted towards Nova, bumping his shoulder against hers. “We’re not, and don’t worry Devin, I trust her.”
“I don’t think you want her involved in this,” Devin said standing up, urgency in his tone. “It’s about your dad.”
Zach blanched. “What about my dad?”
Before Devin could respond, Nova cut in, instantly understanding. “Don’t worry about it Zach. I can leave if you don’t want me here,” she said, taking a step back towards the door. She understood how sensitive of a subject it was, and just because he’d shown her a picture of him in some pink overalls didn’t mean she should be a part of this conversation.
“Wait!” Zach said, grabbing her hand.”You’re a suspect too, Nova. You should hear this.”
Devin could see her blush as Zach’s hand lingered a little longer than necessary. “Well, if you insist,” he added bitterly.
“So what’s this about my dad?”
“I know information about the murderer.”
Zach’s heart stopped dead in his chest. “How?”
Devin faltered, and leaned against the counter as the blood and panic rushed into his brain. “It’s really hard to explain, but there’s a group that tends to go after billionaires, like your dad, who they think have exploited their workers and screwed one too many people over to get where they are.”
“My dad wouldn’t do any of that, he is- was an honest person,” Zach fiercely countered.
Devin shrugged. “What billionaire do you know that is? I get that he was your dad, but you have to understand that people are different with their families. He was a ruthless businessman, and more importantly, he was next on their hit list.”
Zach was silent for a long while, unsure of what to say, what to think.
“I’m not really sure what you want,” from Zach, Nova wanted to say, although she left the words unspoken. “How do you know all this?”
“Because my mother is an ex-member of the group.”
It was partially true, thought Devin. His mother did used to work for them.
Zach shot forward and grabbed Devin by the collar. “What can you tell me?”
Devin cringed and Nova could see panic in his eyes. “I can’t tell you who did it, but I can help you find the head of the organization.”
“We only have 22 hours left,” Nova pointed out.
“What do you mean?” Devin asked.
Zach sighed, running a tired hand through his hair. “We don’t really have much of a choice, Nova. We’re running out of time, and if this leads to something…”
“What do you mean?” Devin prodded again, not quite sure if the two heard him or were just ignoring him, yet again in the middle of one of their silent conversations.
Nova turned to face Devin. “The police think that we are the prime suspects, and they gave us a day to find something that exonerates us.”
Devin’s stomach sank. He knew that the two were innocent, and here he was, the real murderer, pretending that he was innocent too. Suddenly, he wondered if it was a mistake to turn against Oculus, but he was too far gone now. He was weak, his mother had always told him that, and he knew the consequences if he couldn't pull this off. But it was worth it, worth it if Zach could have some closure and Devin could finally, maybe be free of this burden and his service.
“I have a car outside,” he said finally. “Are you coming or what?”