What Lies Ahead
When we had got home the family was equally sad for Vicki, freaked out about what happened, and pissed at me for being in danger again.
Zoe had given up her room to Vicki’s mom, and both she and Vicki would spend the night with me. Vicki’s mom was emotionally drained and went right to bed.
I put in a call to Jonathan, gave him a brief sketch of what had happened and asked him to meet us at home early in the morning. I wanted him there when I talked to Jawarski. It took a while, but I was able to convince Mom and Tina that I was ok, and I finally got them both to head off to bed.
Zoe had called Tami to let her know Vicki was alright, but that things were pretty bad, and she asked Tami to come over tomorrow as well.
Vicki was still a wreck when we finally got her into bed, sandwiched between me and Zoe, with Emily on the other side of Zoe, her arm stretched over to hold Vicki’s hand. She cried for what seemed like hours as we petted her hair, stroked her back, and whispered our love to her over and over.
“I can’t believe he’s gone,” she finally said as the sobs died away.
“I’m so sorry, baby,” I said, hugging her tighter.
“I hate him.”
“This is his fault. I heard the guys when they broke into the house. He did something to screw them over.”
“He wouldn’t have done it on purpose. He loved you and your mom. He wouldn’t want anything to happen to you.”
There was a long silence before she spoke again.
“Was he a bad guy?”
“I don’t think so,” Zoe said, “I think he was just mixed up with the wrong people.”
“But why was he even involved with them.”
“We don’t know, yet,” I said. “I’m sure we’ll find out, but I would bet he was just trying to do the best for you and your mom.”
She was silent again. I knew it would be a while before she got over this. Eventually we all drifted off to sleep.
She wasn’t crying the next morning, but was more like a zombie. I heard the doorbell and knew that I needed to get up and start dealing with this, but I didn’t want to leave Vicki.
“Go,” Emily said, seeing I was torn. “We will stay with her.”
“It’s ok,” she said taking my hand. The look of hate that had filled her eyes since our disastrous date was gone. “Go take care of this.”
I gave her hand a squeeze, got dressed, and went downstairs. Jonathan was sitting at the kitchen table with Mom.
I sat down and talked Mom and Jonathan through what had happened the previous day, starting with Zoe being worried about getting hold of Vicki, right up until we got home.
Jawarski showed up a few minutes later, and we went over the events. She was a lot friendlier with Mom and Jonathan, and at moments I could see that if it weren’t for whatever genetic thing made her hate me, we might have even been friends.
She told us what her statement was and with Jonathan’s input, we agreed on what the official story was.
We would say that she was a family friend. I had been worried about Vicki, and I had asked her to go by some places where I thought her family might be.
I was to say I had heard her father mention the address before. We went inside and were jumped by the three guys in the lobby. The police were already aware of my dust-ups in the past, so we would let the stuff in the building more or less play out like it had, although we toned it down a bit in the step by step, heartbeat moments to make it seem less fantastic.
Since we had been jumped as we went inside, that would explain why she didn’t call it in right away. We were just going to ask if they had seen Vicki’s father, and had no reason to suspect anything bad was going to happen.
“Now,” Jawarski said once the story was all straight, “explain to me what the hell you did yesterday.”
Mom looked at me, concerned. We hadn’t really discussed the moment by moment details of the fight itself.
“Cas,” she said in a warning voice.
“When those guys pulled their guns, I didn’t think. I just reacted. I didn’t hold anything back.”
Mom looked from me to Jawarski.
“She already knows something’s up. We are going to have to tell her.”
“Cas, I don’t think...” Jonathan started.
“I know why you’re concerned, Jonathan, but I think we can actually trust her. She’s a good person. It’s just the genetic allergy or whatever, that causes her to act that way towards me.”
“Genetic allergy?” Jawarski said, confused.
“But that report after your fight,” Jonathan replied, ignoring her.
“Yeah, I know, but I think it will be ok. We can’t put the cat back in the bag after yesterday.”
“Will someone tell me what the hell you are talking about?” Jawarski said, getting frustrated.
I explained it to her. Everything. As with everyone we had talked to before, she didn’t believe me at first, even with what she had seen the previous day.
I’m not sure if I would have been able to convince her without Mom and Jonathan there. But the three of us together managed to make her believe our story about what I really was.
“This is still pretty unbelievable,” she said.
“This also explains why you hate me,” I said.
“How?” she asked. “I didn’t even know about it.”
“We aren’t sure of the how or why, yet; but, there are some people who have some kind of genetic reaction to me. It makes them antagonistic toward me.”
“Well that tracks. I’ve never liked you.”
“I know, and this is why.”
“I don’t know. I still think you’re an asshole.”
“Well, I won’t deny that, but consider all the people around me.”
“But you have them brainwashed or whatever.”
“It’s not exactly like that. Think of it like this. They are having an opposite genetic reaction to you. My genetics make them feel positive towards me, just like they make you hate me.”
“If they like you as much as I don’t, they must really really like you, then.”
“I’m going to have to think about this.”
“I know. All I ask is that you give me your promise you won’t tell anyone. I have a sense about what kind of person you are. I know that if you promise me you won’t tell anyone, then I can trust that.”
“Alright, I promise. Well, let’s go to the station and take care of this. Just don’t screw it up. I don’t want you to mess up my career. And you’re going to drive separately. I don’t want to have to bring you home.”
She turned and walked out the door, and I couldn’t help but smile as I followed her out.
Things at the station actually went pretty well. They took my statement, asked a few questions, thanked me, and I left.
Jonathan said he thought it went well, but he would follow up with the detectives. He’d let me know if anything was wrong, or if I needed to do anything else.
I thought about stopping to ask Jawarski if we were in the clear, but the glare she gave me made it pretty obvious I should leave her alone.
I went straight back home and upstairs to find Vicki. Tami had showed up while I was out and she, Zoe and Emily were all sitting around Vicki, who was propped up in my bed.
There was a nasty bruise starting to grow on one cheek, but otherwise she looked ok ... at least physically.
Emily slid back to make room for me next to Vicki as I joined them on the bed.
“How are you?”
“I don’t know,” she said with a sniff. “I keep going from mad as hell that he got us into this, to so very sad. I can’t help it.”
“It’s going to take time. You’ve gone through something pretty scary, and you lost your father in the process. No matter what he did, that’s going to hurt for a while.”
“You mom has made an appointment for her with Dr. Snyder,” Emily said.
“Good, only time can heal this, but it helps to have someone neutral to talk to.”
“She’s pretty good at helping people who’ve been screwed up by their parents,” Emily said with a smirk.
“Emily, that’s not...” I started to say until she interrupted me.
“I’m just saying,” she said.
I, and all the girls, had missed a day of school. Mom had called and let them know that we had a family tragedy. I’m not sure if Tami’s parents called in sick for her, too, or if she just skipped; but she was planning on staying with us all day.
I sat with Vicki for a few hours, just holding her until she finally fell asleep.
Coming downstairs, I found Vicki’s mom sitting at the dining room table, just staring at her hands. She jumped a little bit when I slid in the chair across from her.
“How are you doing, Mrs. Hollabrand?”
It was a dumb question, but I wanted to comfort her and it was the only thing I could think of.
“I knew,” she said. “I knew he was into something, and I just pretended I didn’t. When Richard first graduated we lived in this tiny apartment while he was an intern and then junior accountant. I thought when he set up his own firm we would be living the high life. We had just had Vicki, moved to Alice in a nice house, not that monstrosity we live in now, but one in a small subdivision. But, I was greedy.”
“You can’t...” I tried to say, but she kept talking.
“I was. I always pushed Richard to do more, to make more. I had a dream that we would be rich and take fabulous trips and mingle with the pretty people. I pushed him into it. The money started coming in and I was happy. I didn’t care what he did to make the money, as long as I could keep shopping and spending time with vacuous people who liked me because I was rich.”
Tears were rolling down her cheeks as she wallowed in her guilt.
“He made his own choices,” I said. “Everyone has people pushing them to do things, but it’s still up to each of us to choose for ourselves. You can’t blame yourself for what happened, and even if you could, it wouldn’t do any good. Things are as they are. All you can do is move forward, and do what’s best for you and Vicki.”
“He’s right Janet,” I heard a voice say behind me.
Mom was standing in the doorway.
“I don’t know what we are going to do. I haven’t worked or done anything but spend money in more than a decade.”
“We will figure something out,” I said.
“And we can’t go home. I’m scared. I don’t want to put Vicki in any more danger.”
“Then stay here,” I offered.
“Can we,” she said looking hopeful.
“Yes. I’m not sure how we will make this work, but we will figure out something. You can stay here as long as you need to. Right, Mom?”
“Of course,” Mom said, although her tone didn’t sound as certain as her words.
“Thank you. You really are a good boy,” she said gripping my hands before standing up. “I need to go be with Vicki for a little bit.”
“She’s in my room sleeping. Zoe and the other girls are with her. I think it might do her some good to be with her mom for a while.”
She gave my hands one last squeeze, and headed upstairs.
“Things are going to be really crowded around here,” Mom said.
“I know. But what could we do. They’re both a wreck.”
“I know Cas, and I’m not mad. I knew I couldn’t stop you from swinging in to the rescue. But we need to sit down and figure out how this is going to work.”
“Thanks, Mom,” I said giving her a hug. “You’re the best.”
I started to also head upstairs when the phone rang, pulling me up short. “Hello,” I said, picking it up.
“Cas, it’s Ted. Jonathan told us what happened to your friend’s father. I’m so sorry. Is there anything I can do to help?”
“Not really. She just needs time to deal with her grief. She is going to talk to a professional this week, hopefully that will help.”
“Ok. Please let us know if there is anything else we can do”
“I will. Thanks, Ted.”
“Cas, I really hate to add on to the stuff you are going through at home, but I actually called because we need something. I need to get you to head to Houston tomorrow, if you can. If you can’t, just tell me; but there is some property down there for our new solar factory, and we have to close on it pretty quickly if we want it. I’m tied up, and so are Jonathan and Marcus. We really wanted one of the partners to go with Douglas. He’s a great engineer, but he has a tendency to get tunnel vision, and miss some of the ‘big picture’ stuff.”
“I think I can go. Mom is here, the girls are here, and they are seeing Dr. Snyder tomorrow. There isn’t much I can actually do to help. But if Vicki wants me to stay then I’m gonna have to say no and stay here.”
“I understand. Please let me know as soon as you can.
“Sure thing,” I said.
I hung up and headed upstairs. Vicki was awake when I got up there, hugging her mom. She smiled at me when I came in, and I gave her a small kiss just to remind her that I loved her.
Standing back, I leaned against the wall and watched them. No one was talking, just hugging each other. The crying had mostly stopped, but I think both Vicki and her mom wanted people close, just for the comfort.
The more I watched them, the more determined I became that I should stay here with them. Vicki was my priority here.
“What?” Vicki asked looking up at me.
“No, you have a look on your face. Something’s wrong.”
“Nothing’s actually wrong but ... umm ... Ted called. He wants me to go to Houston tomorrow, with Douglas, and look at some property. I am going to call him back and tell him I’m needed here.”
“No. You should go,” she said, then paused. “Actually, Zoe. You should go with him and stop and talk to Mr. Henderson on the way back.”
“It’s something Vicki and I had been working on before ... this,” Zoe said. “He has a pretty big farm outside of Liberty. We had been in talks with him to buy his reject food.”
“This is for New Life, right?” I asked.
“Yes. We had a meeting scheduled, but I was going to call and cancel. Just, with everything that has happened, I hadn’t been able to yet.”
“You should go with him and stop on the way back,” Vicki said.
“You need us here,” I argued.
“No. We will be fine. Mom is here. Ms. Bell is here. We have Tami and Emily and Tina. We are sad, and we are going to grieve. But we are safe, and we are surrounded by people who love us. It will be at least a few days until we can have the funeral. Mom talked to the Medical Examiner this morning and they are going to require a full ... workup ... because of how everything happened.”
“Are you sure?” I asked, feeling guilty.
“She’s right,” Zoe said.
“Ok. But call us if there is anything you need, or if anything happens. It’s just a day trip and we can turn around and be back within a few hours.”
I was reluctant to leave them so soon after everything that had happened, but everyone else seemed to think it was ok, so I went with it.
I called Douglas and he agreed to pick us up in the morning, and drive over. I know it was still an adjustment for him to be working for a kid, and I am not sure he felt one hundred percent comfortable letting me drive.
Coming of Age /