What Lies Ahead
I was pretending to be asleep when Zoe, Emily and Tami came into the bedroom. I could hear them whispering to each other for a while, but chose to ignore them.
The way I felt at the moment, I knew if we talked, I would just end up snapping at them. Partly it was because I had made it very clear what I wanted, and they had completely ignored me. I wanted to be pissed at them for being disloyal. This was hurt a bit by the fact that they were trying to do what they, and I guess pretty much everyone else, saw as the right thing to do.
Another part of it was just petulance. I recognized it, but that didn’t keep it from being true. I was angry that they had a point.
They were right, I had been naïve. It was clear that something big was stacking up against us, and we couldn’t hamstring ourselves from the outset.
Deep inside I knew I would end up going along with them; but for now, I wanted to pout and punish them for their disloyalty. Like I said. Petulant.
I got up early and snuck out of the house, letting the girls sleep. They would probably be pissed at me when I got home, but I figured it was better than having another fight.
I had already planned on heading down to the new offices in Houston. Jonathan had the corporation sign all the documents, since I couldn’t do it myself. We were getting the keys to the various buildings.
Jonathan had arranged for the contractor we were hiring to meet me out there, to go over the changes we needed.
Seeing as how things had gone the previous year with the break-ins, we were looking at a fair number of renovations.
Most of them we had already gone over and agreed to, so this was more like a last minute check on everything.
As I had left pretty early, so I didn’t have to talk to the girls in the morning. This meant there was virtually no traffic on the way over, causing me to be more than an hour early.
I pulled through to one of the back buildings, and parked. We had already decided that this would be used as office space, since it was the smallest of the buildings and already set up for that.
Getting out of my car, I started to walk around the property when something caught my eye.
Next to the office was the only building not sold to Evolve. The one Douglas had pointed out. The movement that caught my eye was three men entering the front door.
I was about to shrug it off and continue my walk around the property when the last of the trio turned to look out at the parking lot. I instantly recognized him as one of the two men from the beginning of the year. It wasn’t the one that had done most the talking, but I still remembered him.
I watched him finish looking around the parking lot and then head inside with the other two.
I thought for a moment and then followed them. It seemed like a fair bet these two guys were connected to the same people that went after Vicki’s family, if for nothing else then by the fact they were able to slip out of the system so easily.
The idea of having them involved with a business right next door didn’t sit well with me. I wanted to get a little more information, and see if this other tenant was in their pocket or associated with whoever this guy’s group was.
I cracked the door open, and peeked in. No one was in sight. There was a front desk for a receptionist, but it was empty. I silently entered, closed the door and headed into the building.
A door at the end of the hallway was slightly open, and when I peeked through the opening, I saw it led into a large open area with machinery scattered around.
At the far end, was a room with a window that looked out onto the open area. It was probably used by the manager who oversaw this area of the business.
Through the window I could see a man in a suit and tie standing in front of a desk. In front of him were the three guys I saw enter the building. From his body language, the man in the suit and tie was scared. He had backed up until his butt hit the edge of the desk, and the three guys were crowding him.
I moved along the edge of the warehouse, trying to stay behind machinery as I made my way to the office, eventually stopping just outside the opened door, listening.
“ ... on’t want any trouble.”
“Albert, Mr. Richards has been very patient with you. He gave you a week to think about it. You have an offer from McClellan, and you are going to accept it.”
“But, this company means everything to...”
The man was cut off by a thudding sound, followed by a groan.
“You’re out of time. If you don’t sell out now, you won’t be around to have another chance.”
I’d heard enough to figure out what was going on. The guy who owned this property clearly wasn’t in league with these three guys. More importantly, the two men who tried to grab me at the beginning of the year mentioned someone named Richards.
I stepped around and through the door. The man in the suit and tie was doubled over, holding his stomach.
The guy I recognized was in front of him, leaning down face to face with the man in the suit, his fist still raised. The man on his left was standing back, arms folded across his chest, smirking.
The guy on his right however noticed me, his hand starting to go into his coat.
Not wanting him to have time to come up with a weapon, I opted for power over finesse. Putting all of my enhanced strength behind it, I punched as hard as I could into his chest, just below the sternum.
I felt something give, and if I had to guess, I broke one of his ribs. I also impacted close enough to his diaphragm that all of the air in his lungs pushed out of his body as he flew back, away from the impact.
By the time he hit the wall, he was already sucking for air. All thoughts of his gun were forgotten. My old friend was just starting to get up, having not noticed me until he heard the impact of my fist hitting his friend.
I moved forward and used him as balance, putting my arm around his neck and latching on as I brought my right foot off the ground. This caused two things to happen.
My right foot cut an arc through the air, with the heel of my shoe catching the other thug in the jaw. I hadn’t pulled the kick at all, and his whole body twisted with his head, as he dropped like a wet bag of cement. I continued to twist my body around until my foot was on the floor again.
I had managed a half turn in the air, and since my arm was around the middle thug’s neck, he had my entire body weight plus the momentum of my turn pulling at him.
If he’d been trained and if he’d had a firm stance, he might have put me on my ass. But he didn’t strike me as the kind of guy who would have that type of training, and he was leaning forward and was horribly off balance.
As my body twisted, the guy I was holding onto also began twisting, causing his feet to come off the ground. As I finished my turn and reset my feet I pulled my arm, pushing his upper body in and down, causing him to twist even further.
In an almost cartoon like display, he managed one full rotation before impacting on the concrete floor of the warehouse office, his head bouncing once and then settling down.
I stopped and took survey of the three men. The guy I had punched was still sucking for air in the corner. He would live, but he’d need an ambulance soon. The other two seemed to be breathing, as their chests were moving up and down, but they were both out cold.
“Call the police, and tell them to send an ambulance. We can talk while we wait for them,” I told the stunned man in the suit.
He stared for another minute before shaking himself and going to the phone. He walked the operator through what was going on, and asked for police and an ambulance.
While he did that, I pulled out my cellphone and called Jonathan.
“We have a situation,” I said when he picked up.
“Who’d you beat up, now,” he said with a laugh.
“Why does everyone assume I beat someone up when I call?”
There was a long silence from the other end of the line.
“Ok, it was three guys. One of them I recognize, he’s one of the guys who tried to grab me earlier in the year. They were trying to beat the guy who owns the property next to us into selling to them. You need to get down here.”
“I will make some calls and then head that way. You always keep things interesting, Cas.”
“I try,” I said and hung up.
“My lawyer is on the way,” I said, turning to the guy in the suit, “but things are going to get confused when the cops show up. Just tell them what happened, and try and stay calm.”
“Who the hell are you,” he asked, sounding anything but calm.
“Ohh, right, sorry. I got distracted. My name’s Caspian Grey. We are the people that bought the rest of the complex.”
“But...” he said, looking confused.
“Yeah, I’m young. But it’s still true. I am the CEO of Evolve. We’re your new neighbor.”
“But how... ?”
“Let’s sit down,” I suggested. “Just take some deep breaths.”
As we sat down I looked over the three men again. Wheezy was starting to have some real problems. There was a chance I punctured his lung when the rib broke. It may sound heartless; but the ambulance was on its way, and I didn’t feel a lot of remorse for a guy who was planning on shooting me, just moments before.
His friends were both still out cold.
“Are you ok?” I asked as he sat down in one of the chairs across from the desk.
“Yes. And thank you.”
“What are neighbors for?” I said with a smile. “What did they want?”
“There has been this group of investors that’ve been pressuring me for months to sell my company to them. Over the last few weeks, they have gotten a lot more insistent, and guys like this have started showing up.”
“Why do they want your company so badly? What is it you do, exactly?”
“That’s the thing I never understood. We don’t really do much, at least not stuff that would cause someone to threaten me to sell my company. We are an import company, and focus on small runs of hand crafted products. If you’ve seen those small stores that sell a chair made by a Argentinian craftsman or blown glass vases from a small village in Spain, that’s the kind of stuff we bring in.”
“Doesn’t sound like it’s a big money business.”
“It isn’t, we mostly...”
He was interrupted by shouts out on the factory floor. Looking through the window, I could see a couple of police officers.
“We’re in here,” I shouted to the cops, then turned to my new friend. “When they get here, just keep your hands in the open and be still. Don’t reach for anything. Just stay calm.”
“You two, don’t move,” the first office said when he came through the door.
He didn’t have his gun out, but his hand was on the butt and his holster was unsnapped.
“What happened ... GUN!” he started to say before shouting to his partner.
The last guy I knocked out was coming to, and he hadn’t really registered who was in the room yet. He had started reaching in his coat and pulling out a weapon.
Both cops fell on him, one driving a knee in his stomach, the other pinning his hands to the floor. The guy must have gotten his wits about himself, because he stopped struggling and let them get their handcuffs on him.
More officers showed up, along with some paramedics, and they split everyone up, getting the basic story down.
I only really changed two parts of my story. I didn’t tell the police about recognizing one of the thugs. Having recognized a guy that they pulled a gun off would have automatically put me in the questionable category. Plus, the story of having been accosted by him in Alice, and his being arrested without there being any report on that arrest any more, would add unneeded complexity to the situation.
It was enough to say I noticed that one of them had a gun.
The other thing I changed, was the fact that I stood outside the door listening. While I had good reason to listen to the conversation for a minute to find out if my neighbor was involved with whatever organization we were starting to butt heads with, there was no easy way to explain that to the police. Or at least not one that made any sense.
Instead I just stated that I’d walked into the office, subdued the men, and called the police.
That of course had issues all of its own. Why didn’t I call the police when I saw the men with guns? Why did I wait until after attacking the men? How was I able to subdue three armed men?
But since the man in the suit was going to tell them about what happened inside the office, there wasn’t any way to avoid that part of the story. I did manage to talk myself out of having to go with them to the station to answer more questions, thankfully.
The fact that I was essentially a Good Samaritan, at least on the face of it, made it harder for them; but the clincher might have been my mentioning that my lawyer was on the way.
Plus, they had three guys, all armed, and a statement from two witnesses. Cops love to close cases, and usually avoid adding complexity if they don’t have to.
Still, I would need to get Jonathan to go to the precinct when he got here, and do some damage control. Detectives were sometimes less willing to take the easy answer when all the pieces didn’t fit.
I was confident that Jonathan would get it figured out.
Once the police and ambulances started making their way out I went and found the guy in the suit.
“I never got your name,” I said.
I didn’t want to keep thinking of him as ‘the guy in the suit’, and given what I already knew, it seemed pretty obvious that we would be dealing with each other from time to time. At least until we settled the issue with the as yet unnamed group that kept cropping up.
“Arnold. Arnold Petti.”
“Nice to meet you, Arnold; like I said before, I’m Caspian.”
“You said you ran the company that bought up all the other property around here?”
“Yep. We did. I was just down here looking over the property, and meeting with some contractors to go over changes my team had decided on.”
“That must have been a pretty big chunk of money. Aren’t you a little young to be running a company that can manage that.”
“I get that a lot, I promise. Yeah, I’m young, but if it works, it works. My partners are well seasoned. I sometimes say they’re old when they are within earshot, just to get under their skin. Anyway, they seem to have faith in me.”
“Well, you certainly know how to handle yourself.”
“Years of training,” I said, trying to brush it off.
“I’ll bet, but that wasn’t what I was talking about.”
“Really?” I said, curious.
Coming of Age /