Hotshot (Buchanan-Renard #11)

Hotshot (Buchanan-Renard #11) Page 1
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Hotshot (Buchanan-Renard #11) Page 1


On the night of May 11 at precisely eight forty-five in the evening, Finn MacBain stopped being a colossal pain in the ass and grew up. He also became a hero.

Until that Saturday evening, he and his twin brothers, Beck and Tristan, had caused all sorts of mischief. They were daredevils and loved to play pranks.

Neighbors cringed when they saw them coming. The brothers weren’t bad boys. They were just idiots . . . according to their father, anyway. Smart as whips, but still idiots. Over the years they had built up quite a repertoire of stunts, like the time they strung a zip line from the roof of their house to a huge walnut tree in the wooded area behind the backyard. There was just enough of a downward slope to send them flying. Unfortunately, they didn’t anticipate the impact of reaching the tree at the bottom, and they were lucky they didn’t break any bones. And then there was the time they tried to build a trampoline. Their parents couldn’t even think about that one without shuddering. That was the day they got rid of their chain saw.

The boys especially enjoyed playing jokes on one another. Setting alarm clocks to sound off in the middle of the night, making all sorts of ridiculous things fall when their victim opened his closet door, or wrapping their prey in his bed with Saran Wrap while he slept—their imaginations worked overtime.

The boys didn’t limit their tricks just to the family. They had fun with the neighbors as well. When their neighbors the Hillmans returned from their week-long vacation, they found yellow crime-scene tape circling their house and a chalk outline of a body—compliments of Beck—drawn on their sidewalk. The Hillmans weren’t amused.

The MacBain brothers were also shockingly ungraceful. It was a fact that the three of them couldn’t seem to walk through a room without tripping over their own feet and crashing into a wall or a table. They were growing so fast, it simply wasn’t possible to be agile. They were rambunctious, loud, and loved to laugh. Even though they were constantly told to “take it outside,” they still got into push-and-shove fights inside the house. Heads and shoulders went through drywall too many times to count, and their home was in a perpetual state of repair. Their parents, Devin and Laura MacBain, put the contractor’s phone number on speed dial.

The boys were handsome devils, all approaching six feet, though barely in their teens. Finn, the oldest of the siblings and the ringleader in most of their schemes, was fourteen and still hadn’t shown the least inclination to stop growing. Like his brothers, he attended an all-boys Jesuit high school and was an honor student. He aced every test thrown at him, had a phenomenal memory, and according to his frustrated teachers, wasn’t living up to his potential. He breezed through advanced classes and didn’t challenge himself because he didn’t have to. He was lazy in that respect. He was also easily bored, and there were times when he actually fell asleep in American History class. Finn didn’t have much passion for anything but girls, swimming, football, and having a good time. A school counselor told his parents that their son was too smart for his own good, which didn’t make a lick of sense to them. How could anyone be too smart? Several teachers called Finn arrogant, which Finn’s father decided was code for smart-ass.

Everything about Finn was a contradiction. His IQ was in the genius range, and on paper he was the perfect 4.0 student, but he also had been in more fights than Muhammad Ali. He couldn’t seem to walk from one end of the block to the other without punching one or more of the Benson boys.

Finn had a rascal’s grin and a sparkle in his eyes. He also had a powerful fist and a right hook that was lightning quick. Though he really didn’t have much of a temper—it took a lot to get him riled—he couldn’t abide a bully, and each of the seven Benson boys was exactly that. They preyed on the younger boys and girls in the neighborhood and got a real kick out of making them cry. All the kids knew they could go to Finn for help if they were being tormented. He wasn’t afraid to stand up to the bullies, no matter how many of them there were.

When Devin saw his son’s latest black eye, he remarked to his wife that Finn had many fine qualities, but he was lacking in common sense. How else could he explain why his son would take on seven Bensons at the same time?

Fortunately, Finn had never been arrested—none of the boys had—and Devin determined that the only way to save his sons from getting into real trouble was to keep them busy from early morning until late at night, especially now that school would soon be over for the summer.

During the school year, his sons stayed occupied with part-time jobs and sports. They played football, lacrosse, basketball, and soccer. Those were seasonal sports, however. Swimming, on the other hand, could be an all-year sport. This was a revelation that came to him when he heard from a neighbor that there was a brand-new fifty-meter pool only a few miles away at the just-opened Lee Center, where it was believed Olympic hopefuls would start training. He also found out that tryouts for a competitive team were in one week.

That night in bed Devin discussed his plan with his wife. He told her about the Lee Center and the Olympic-size pool. “I want the boys to try out for the team. I think Finn has a good chance of making it.”

“Who does this team compete against?” Laura asked.

“I don’t know and I don’t care. If Finn makes the team, he’ll have to be at the center by four forty-five. He’ll swim from five until six thirty. Practice is every day but Sunday,” he added, grinning. “It’s year-round, too. Even if Beck and Tristan don’t make the team, they can do laps with Finn. That ought to wear them out.”

Laura didn’t see any harm in letting the boys try out. She agreed that they needed to channel their energy into something wholesome and exhausting, and swimming laps at the crack of dawn just might be the answer.

Her husband was just drifting off to sleep when a thought struck her. She poked him in his shoulder and said, “Wait a minute. Who’s going to be driving them to practice every morning?”

His snore was her answer.

Without mentioning his plan to his sons, Devin filled out the forms, paid the fee for a family membership, and signed up all three boys for time trials. That evening he broached the subject at dinner. He sat at the head of the table and watched his sons inhale their food. They were good-looking boys, he thought. Their hair was thick and dark, like his used to be before he had children. It was streaked with gray now. Beck and Tristan were identical twins. The only way Devin had been able to tell them apart when they were babies was by a small birthmark on the side of Beck’s neck. They were exactly eleven months younger than Finn, and for a few weeks each year, all three were the same age. Their personalities were different, though. Beck lived to have fun and had recently become quite the ladies’ man. He was just now beginning to show signs of having a little sense. Of the three brothers, he was the sweetest and most compassionate, and he definitely didn’t hide what he was thinking. Tristan, on the other hand, was the analytical one. He reasoned through everything, no matter how insignificant, and yet he still let Finn talk him into doing the most outrageous stunts. He was generous by nature and would always put his brothers first, but he also took things to heart, and Devin worried he would end up with ulcers if he didn’t learn to relax. As idiotic as they sometimes acted, Devin loved the fact that all three boys protected one another. Their loyalty was absolute.

Finn was pushing away from the table and asking to be excused when his mother nodded to her husband and said, “Didn’t you want to speak to the boys about . . .”

“Yes, that’s right. Now, boys . . .”

“Sir?” his sons responded in unison.

“Did you know there’s an Olympic-size pool over at the new Lee Center? Boys and girls will be training there every day.”

Before he could continue his explanation, Beck asked, “Girls? How many girls?”

Devin held his patience. “I don’t know how many girls.”

Tristan frowned as he asked, “What are they training for?” He slouched in his chair, and his hair hung down over his eyes.

“Sit up straight,” his father ordered before answering. “The team. They’re training to be on the team.”

“What does the team do?” Beck asked.

“Compete against other teams,” Finn said. “Fastest swimmers end up competing to be on the Olympic team. Right, Dad?”

“Yes, that sounds about right. I’m not sure how it works or how many levels there are.”

“You boys love to swim,” their mother reminded.

“I like to swim,” Beck said. “I don’t know that I love it the way Finn does.”

“Finn, you practically lived in the pool next door last summer,” Tristan said.

“Yes, I did swim a lot when Justin lived there. We did laps all the time. Then his father got transferred. It’s a great pool,” he added enthusiastically. “Twenty-five meters, I’ll bet. Biggest backyard pool I’ve ever seen.”

“It’s not twenty-five meters,” Tristan argued. “It’s not even close.”

“You’re fast, Finn. Real fast,” Beck said. He decided he wasn’t quite finished eating and reached for the bowl of mashed potatoes.

“Did you ever get timed to find out how fast you are?” Tristan asked.

“No. Why would I?” Finn asked.

“We sure can’t swim next door anymore,” Tristan said.

“Yeah, and it’s your fault, Finn,” Beck said, waving his fork at him.

“You were told not to play baseball in the street,” their mother snapped. Thinking about the incident still made her angry. “Breaking a window isn’t a great way to meet the new neighbors. They’d only just moved in,” she added. “John Lockhart was quite irritated.”

“They were eating dinner,” Devin said. “The baseball landed in the middle of the table in the salad bowl.”

Beck nudged Tristan. “I’ll bet lettuce went flying everywhere.”

“This isn’t funny,” Laura scolded. “One of the parents or one of the girls could have gotten hit in the head.”

All three boys leaned forward. “The Lockharts have daughters?” Tristan asked.

“Why didn’t you tell us, Finn?” Beck asked.

“I didn’t know. Mr. Lockhart stormed out of the house, and I apologized and promised to pay for a new window. He’s the only one I saw. Mom and Dad went over later to talk to him.”

“Did you see the daughters?” Beck wanted to know. “How many are there?”

“Three,” Devin answered.

“What do they look like?”

“That’s a shallow question,” his father said.

“I’m thirteen, Dad. I’m supposed to be shallow,” Beck told him cheerfully.

Devin decided to have a little fun with his sons. “As a matter of fact, I did see the daughters. They’re beautiful. Aren’t they, Laura?” he asked his wife.

“Oh my, yes. They certainly are.”

Tristan was suspicious. “Beautiful on the inside or the outside?”

“Both,” Laura answered.

What their parents failed to mention was the age of the daughters.

“May I be excused?” Finn asked again.

“No, you may not,” his father said, his voice a bit sharper than he’d intended. “I want to talk to you about this competitive swimming.”

“Okay,” Finn agreed, dropping down into the chair again. “What about it?”

“I’d like you to try out for the team.”

“Sir, I’d rather not. I won’t have time. I’ve got plans for the summer.”

His father rubbed his temples. He could feel a headache coming on. “And what might those plans be?”

“I’m going to work at the Iron Horse Country Club.”

“Oh? Doing what?” Devin asked.

“Lifeguarding. I’ve already done the Red Cross safety thing, and I’m certified in CPR.”

“We’re all certified in CPR,” Beck reminded. “Dad made us take the course.”

“You can’t be a lifeguard until you’re fifteen or sixteen,” Tristan said.

“I’ll bet they’ll make an exception,” Finn said.

Devin closed his eyes and prayed for patience.

“I’ll bet they won’t,” Tristan countered. He reached for another chicken breast with his fork and put it on his plate. Beck took another one, too.

Laura looked at all the empty bowls. There hadn’t been any leftovers since Finn had started eating solid food.

“They need lifeguards, and I’m qualified, except for my age, so I’ll already be in a pool every day,” Finn explained.

“Have they hired you?” Devin asked.

“Not yet. I was going to take my application over, but then I got grounded for fighting.”

“Finn, you’re not going to work at the country club,” Devin said. “Maybe next year,” he added to soften the disappointment. “And since you’re not going to lifeguard, you might as well try out for the team at the center. Aren’t you curious to know if you could make it?”

Finn shrugged. “I guess.”

“I’ll try out for the swim team if you will,” Beck said. “It’s a great way to build muscle, and girls like muscles.”

“Girls? Is that all you think about?” his mother asked, exasperated.

“Pretty much,” Beck admitted.

His brother nodded. “Yeah, we all do, pretty much all the time,” Finn said. He turned to his father. “I’m grounded for another week, remember? How can I go to the Lee Center—”

“I’ll lift your grounding Sunday. You’re home until then.”

“If I try out.”

“Yes, that’s right.”

Finn didn’t have to think about it. “Okay, sure. I’ll do it.”

“Do you think the Lockharts will ever let us swim in their pool?” Tristan asked.

“No.” Laura was appalled. “Absolutely not. They think you’re all delinquents.”

“What did we do?” Beck asked. “Tristan and I weren’t even home when Finn broke their window.”

“You’re related to him,” she explained. “Delinquents by association.”

“That’s not fair,” Beck complained.

“Life isn’t fair. Get used to it,” his father said.

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