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An hour later, AJ and Kevin's house was quiet as Rachel slept peacefully in AJ's room. Kevin and Brian sat watching TV in the den.

"I'm glad Howie and Nick went home." Brian said. "Howie was not saying anything right! I was surprised he didn't get smacked!"

"Yeah." Kevin replied. "I've spent enough time with Nick in the past year than anyone should humanely be allowed."

They laughed, as AJ paced into the room, and plopped sleepily into a recliner opposite Kevin. He reclined the chair and closed his eyes.

"So?" Kevin asked.

AJ opened one eye. "What?"

"How's the girl? I mean Rachel?" Brian asked. He leaned forward and grabbed the remote, which he used to reduce the volume on the TV.

"She's real messed up." AJ said. "Man, if I could just get my hands on the freak who, ugh!" He pretended to pound someone's head in.

"How messed up?" Brian asked, missing the point.

"Well, she has bruises all over her back and shoulders, and she's lost all trust." AJ said. "It was all I could do to get her to relax enough to fall asleep. She kept sayin' 'he'll kill me, he'll kill me.' "

"Geez!" Kevin said. "Did she say who he was?"

"No, she wouldn't." AJ said. "It's as if she's protecting him."
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