She found the building easily and wondered how she’d never noticed it before. Granted, they were in an industrial area. The building was mixed in between older homes and empty buildings. The outside was clean—no, spotless. The parking lot tidy, including the area near the chain-link fence that surrounded the property. Ari opened the car door and said to the boy in the passenger seat, “Grab your stuff.”
The full extent of Curtis’s belongings fit into a manila envelope and the clothing he wore when he’d been arrested. Ari hadn’t had time to go by his home to see if there were any personal items he could have used. That would have been doubtful anyway. Odds were, the minute he got locked up, his clothing spread throughout the rest of the family.
“I’m supposed to live here?” he asked. Curtis was only fifteen, but carried himself like he was older, like so many of these kids. They were forced to grow up fast. Lean and fit, Curtis was very big for his age. Ari knew before he’d started skipping school he’d been active in sports. The police had documented more than once that he was a skilled runner. He just needed to learn how to use that power for good and not evil.
“I’ve never been here,” Ari told him in a stern voice. “But this is a last-chance stop. Whatever it is, it’s better than detention, which is where you’re headed next.”
Curtis slipped behind his case manager as she walked into the building.
“Oh, wow,” she said, knocked in the face by the overpowering smell. Soon though, even the rank stench was eclipsed by the sounds.
The boy stepped in front of Ari with his eyes wide and said, “No fucking way.”
Ari’s head snapped in his direction, but she didn’t scold him as she normally would have. She felt just as stunned. Her senses were assaulted by sweat and rubber, combined with a muggy, damp heat. And the sounds. Well, it sounded like someone was getting beaten to death.
“What the hell is this?” Curtis said, pushing Ari’s limit on foul language.
“Cut the cussing, Curtis,” she said. “A gym, I suppose?” But it was more than a gym. There were four boxing rings in the center of the building and rows of weights and cardio machines along each side. Near the front door, a huge trophy case held dozens of gold trophies, each with a tiny boxer or fighter on the top. Ari saw a dozen or so guys of various ages working out around the gym.
A long countertop ran along the barrier between the gym and the entry area. Hanging on the wall was a large sign with the letters GYC, and the name: Glory Youth Center. Ari spotted a young man folding towels and placing them in a stack.
“Come on,” she said to Curtis. They approached the counter and she introduced herself to the kid.
“I’m Ari Grant. I’m here to meet a—” she pulled the note out of her pocket. “Mr. Davis. We have an appointment at eleven.”
“Yes, ma’am,” the boy replied. “Let me tell him you’re here.” He looked a little older than Curtis, maybe seventeen or so. Broad shouldered and muscular. He had a bandage over his eye and quickly disappeared around the corner, away from the gym floor.
Curtis studied a row of photographs behind the counter. He glanced at Ari. “So you want me to come work out or something? I thought this was a home.”
Before Ari could answer, or not answer since she had no idea, the boy came back followed by a handsome man. His dark hair was shaved close to his head and when his eyes met Ari’s everything went from normal to very, very awkward.