What Lies Ahead
I went for a run early the next morning, floating on cloud nine. First, I had been allowed back into my normal bed. It was decided that, for now, Emily would stay with Mom. Since we would be moving into the new house in the next week or so, Mom was ok with it. The new house would have enough rooms for each of us, including me.
That was something she had commented on over the summer. She felt that, even though she had allowed some of our goings on around the house, she still felt it would be better if we kept different rooms. She might turn a blind eye to me and the girls, but she felt me and Zoe sharing a room was a bit much.
At the time it felt like that wouldn’t really change anything, considering the limited space, but with the new house, her rules would go into effect. Not that I begrudged her, her insistence. While she had made it clear she knew what we kids were going to do, and she felt it was better we were safe than sneaking around; she never agreed to, or probably even envisioned, the way things had ended up.
She had been fairly tolerant up to this point, so it was the least I could do to move into my own room and let Zoe have her own room.
Not that I didn’t plan on sneaking over from time to time. And I’m certain Mom knew that would happen, but I had already made up my mind we would treat it as if she didn’t allow it at all, to keep from shoving our activity in her face.
But even the enforced separation looming on the horizon couldn’t keep me down. All those sitcom jokes about the guy having to ‘sleep on the couch’ now hit home for me, and I was determined never to end up in that position again! A couch just isn’t a great place to get a good night’s sleep.
More than that, Emily was starting to come back to us. She was still angry and would even snap at me from time to time, but I could see her pull back from that almost instantly as she realized she was taking her anger out on me. Truthfully, I would take hostility over the previous avoidance, every time.
We were talking again, and had even sat on the couch and watched TV last night. I knew the road wasn’t over, but I was thrilled we had made progress.
I was ruminating over my good fortune when a sound pulled me out of my head. I hadn’t been paying attention, but it was an echoed report. I had only heard it a few times, but to my untrained ear, it sounded like gunshots. My suspicion was reinforced a moment later when a couple of others rang out.
It was an echoed sound, bouncing off the houses, but close enough to be loud. I’m not sure why, but I quickened my pace towards where I thought the sound had come from.
I was on the edge of the subdivision, and one street over - the neighborhood backed into some open fields. It seemed like the shots had come from that direction.
Even as I turned the corner I heard three more shots ring out. To me they all sounded the same, and I couldn’t tell if it was from one gun or three. But by this point there had been six gunshots over about twenty seconds, meaning something bad was happening.
On the field side of the road was a patrol car, with another car stopped in front of it. A police officer was behind the patrol car, braced against the bumper, while a man was standing next to the opened door of the other car, firing into the police car. As I watched, a stream of glass shards shot out of the front windshield as a bullet hit it.
I ran up and slid next to the officer. I had kept hunched over and moved at my top speed, so I wasn’t sure if the guy shooting had fired at me as I made my move or not. Either way, nothing terrible had happened to me, so that part of my unformed plan worked out at least.
Now that I was close, I could see the officer wasn’t using the back bumper as cover, but was rather slumped against it. Now that I was up close, I could see that the officer was a woman.
Propping her off the bumper, I eased her to the ground. I could see a long gash down her neck where a bullet had ripped through. Thankfully it was on the side, and so not fatal. There was also a hole in the front of her uniform. But the two bullet wounds are not what instantly grabbed my attention. What did hold my focus for a second was that I recognized this officer. It was my old nemesis, Officer Jawarski.
She locked eyes with me when I eased her onto the ground, and got a sudden angry and concerned look.
“I’m going to help,” I told her, hoping she didn’t try to start fighting me as I tried to get her out of this.
She tried to sit up, but struggled and flopped back down.
“You,” she said in a wheeze.
“Don’t move. I don’t know how bad it is, but you took a round to the chest.”
Metal thumps sounded as the gunman fired two more rounds into the car.
While I wanted to check on Jawarski and make sure she was alright, I couldn’t ignore the guy shooting at us. Reaching down, I picked up the gun lying nearby that she had at some point dropped. Her eyes followed me the whole time.
Kneeling up quickly, I fired two shots toward the front of the patrol car. For some reason, I couldn’t drop into slow motion as I had done in times before. Maybe I was surprised at finding Jawarski or maybe it was just because of the whole situation, but my focus was off.
Without the benefit I usually get from the altering of my perception, my skills with a firearm took a dramatic hit. I’m not even sure I hit the car.
Either way, it made the guy react. He dove into his car and sped off. There wasn’t much I could do about that, since I needed to see to Jawarski. I was just glad he wasn’t shooting at us anymore.
“I need to check and see what damage the bullet did, ok?” I asked her.
She nodded, a look of pain sweeping across her face.
The hole in her shirt was towards the center of her body, a little down and over from her heart. Unbuttoning her uniform I could see a bullet proof vest, which was good. Pulling back the uniform, I could see the flattened bullet stuck into the vest material. It hadn’t penetrated.
Of course, that didn’t mean she was totally safe. An impact like could break ribs or cause other damage, but at least the vest kept it from becoming fatal.
“Your vest stopped the bullet, but you’re bleeding pretty badly from the neck,” I said.
Now that I knew she didn’t have a bullet hole in her chest, I started trying to do something about the wound to her neck.
I checked her car and, after a minute of searching, found the first aid kit I was pretty certain was there. It was one of those random memories from my youth when a police officer visited my elementary school, and they mentioned police officers carried first aid kits to help injured people.
Of course, that isn’t really why the kits are there, but it probably sounded good to a bunch of little kids. Either way, it stuck with me, and thankfully so. My other alternative was to use my sweaty shirt to staunch her bleeding, which isn’t the most sanitary option.
And considering the reaction that Margaret had to my DNA, the last thing I wanted to do is cause some kind of contamination from me to Jawarski. I didn’t know if sweat would cause an issue or not, but I didn’t want to risk it.
I pulled a large gauze bandage out of the kit and pressed it against the gash in Jawarski’s neck, applying pressure, causing her to wince.
I was about to try and figure out her radio and call for help when I heard sirens in the distance that became louder as they closed in on us, meaning one of the neighbors had, indeed, call 911.
“Help should be here in a minute. You probably hurt badly, but you’re not that banged up.”
“Thanks,” she said through clenched teeth.
“Plus, I don’t think a bullet could actually take you down for long. You’re too mean for that,” I said with a smile, trying to cheer her up and keep her mind off the pain.
She actually growled at me, but then let out a half cough that might have been a laugh.
Patrol cars came screaming around the corner down the street, pulling up behind Jawarski’s car, leaving a good deal of room between us and them.
I looked over my shoulder as the guys in the lead car hopped out, guns drawn.
“Hands up,” one of them yelled.
“Back up from the officer,” the other one added.
I put my hands up in the air, and started scooting back on my knees, not wanting to lower my hands and make it seem like I was doing anything that might get me shot. A cop down on the ground and a guy kneeling over her would give these guys itchy fingers.
And I did not want to get shot again.
“Stop. Lay on the ground, put your arms out, palms up,” the first guy shouted.
I did as instructed. I couldn’t see them anymore, but could hear their feet shuffling towards me. After a moment a knee drove into my back like a sledge hammer. Another moment my arms were wrenched back and handcuffs were latched on.
I was pulled roughly up by my elbows. That amount of weight pulling on one arm twisted around your back hurts like hell. The officer then roughly pulled me towards his cruiser, slamming me down on the hood, my head bouncing off the sheet metal.
These guys were pissed. I hoped everything got sorted out before anyone decided I needed to be taught some kind of lesson. Police have little patience over injuring one of their own. Considering how dangerous their jobs could be, I could sympathize, but from my position I wanted this cleared up sooner rather than later.
The upside of this position was my head was now pointed back in Jawarski’s direction. As the officer started going through my pockets I saw Jawarski’s jaw moving. The cop with her leaned down, listening.
After a moment he stood up and hollered, “Phil, hold up. Jawarski says the kid’s a bystander. The shooter took off.”
“Ohh,” he said.
After another minute when I heard keys fumbling behind me, the handcuffs were unlocked and he helped me stand up straight.
“Sorry about that,” he said.
“No problem,” I said.
Not that I was happy about being bounced off a car hood, but this wasn’t the time and place to start mouthing off about anything. These guys were still keyed up, plus there was the little thing of a criminal who just shot a police officer on the loose.
“I saw the guy,” I said.
“What did you see,” he asked, hooking his handcuffs back on his belt and pulling out a small pad and a pen.
“He was a white guy, older but not really old, maybe about forty years old. He was driving a red four door mid-sized car, not sure but it might have been a Honda or a Mazda. I think there might have been a bullet hole in it from Jawarski.”
“Ok. I’m just gonna sit you down in the backseat of my car while we get this sorted out. It might take a little while,” he said as an ambulance came around the corner.
“When I can, I’d like to call my mom and let her know I’m alright.”
“We’ll let you do that soon,” he said, opening the back door of his car.
I slid into the seat and he shut the door on me. Even with Jawarski backing me up, they weren’t taking any chances.
The guy walked off, probably to call it in, while the ambulance pulled up next to Jawarski’s squad car and the paramedics jumped out and got to business.
Within a few minutes she had been loaded up into the ambulance and she was gone. It still took almost an hour, over which time a series of people came by and asked me the same questions about what I saw.
Eventually, they had a patrol car drop me off at my house. It had been almost two hours since I first went running, and mom was in a near panic by the time I got home.
“Are you ok?” she asked as soon as I walked in the door.
I walked her through everything that had happened with Jawarski. To say she was unhappy would be an understatement.
“I swear you’re no longer allowed out of this house to go running. Every time you do it seems you end up in trouble, in the hospital, or both.”
“If you remember, the last two incidents ended with me helping people, so even if my runs are cursed, I still think it’s worth it.”
“Maybe,” she said, unconvinced.
“I want to go visit Jawarski in the hospital later today,” I said, trying to get her off being pissed at me.
“Because I want to make sure she’s ok.”
“Cas, that woman has been horrible to you. She’s done her best to get you thrown in jail a couple of times now.”
“That’s not her fault. I’m certain she’s one of those people with a negative genetic reaction to me. That shouldn’t stop me from caring. Plus, she had the chance to put the shooting on me, but made a point of telling the other officers I wasn’t involved. That’s progress.”
“Well, if you’re going to be all noble about it, who am I to say no.”
“We have that bio-med student coming in today, so I’m gonna head to the office and then to the hospital after that.”
“Be careful,” she said, looking serious. “These close calls are happening way too often.”
It was nice that she cared about me, but it wasn’t like I went out of my way to invite these situations. Still, arguing with her didn’t seem that productive.
I showered, changed, made a point of saying bye to Zoe and Emily, who were planning on hanging out with Tami today, and headed out to the office.
Thanks to my morning adventure I was the last one to show up at the meeting. Besides Ted, Marcus, Ronald and Douglas, there was a girl I didn’t recognize that I assumed was our guest.
“Hi, I’m Caspian Grey,” I said walking up and offering my hand.
After a brief moment of staring she took it and said, “Joan Morgan.”
“I know, I’m younger than you expected. I get that a lot,” I told her as I took my seat. “So, while we have our guest here, let’s talk about the Astraea.”
Since we couldn’t just keep calling it “the desalination project” now that we were looking to build a small scale plant in Houston before ramping up to a full sized test plant in an as yet undetermined location, I had asked Ronald to give the project a name. He came back to me with the name of the Greek god of purity. A little clever, but it was his project, so who was I to complain?
“We’re pretty excited about this,” Ronald said, pulling up some slides on a monitor mounted on the wall. “Joan and I have been going back and forth on this for a few weeks now, and it all seems to check out. Her ideas are really the key to making this technology scale up. The process I had already developed will still work, but to get it to filter large volumes of water, we cross the threshold for how much power it would take. For any water with contamination in solution, be it sewage or salt water, it’s hard to simply filter out the contaminates. You can clean out about ninety-nine percent of the contamination through a combination of carbon filtering and reverse osmosis, which is what we’ve been using, but that last one percent, when we are talking about salt water and sewage, is still too much. That’s where Joan comes in. I’ll let her explain how it works.”
“It’s like this. We have taken E. coli bacteria and inserted new gene coding into it that activates the region of OPH production as well as genes associated with desulfitobacteria that...”
“Joan, we don’t need to get into the exact science. Let’s stick to the highlights level,” Marcus said, interrupting her.
Coming of Age /