What Lies Ahead
Chapter 16

Jonathan showed up shortly after my meeting with the contractors broke up.

“So, how much trouble are you in?” He asked, getting out of his car.

“So little faith. None. They were a little suspicious of a few things, and I left out my history with one of the guys, but since my story matched with Arnold’s, and the guys were armed, it was pretty open and shut.”

“Arnold?”

“Arnold Petti. He’s the guy who owns that business that wouldn’t sell. Turns out this group has been pressuring him hard to sell his import/export business to them.”

“I’ll still go by the police station and make sure there isn’t something that might come back and bite you in the ass.”

“Well, that is the part you are paid to cover.”

I reached into my pocket and pulled out a card, which I handed to Jonathan.

“This is the card the officer gave me, if I had any other questions. Since you’re here, there’s something I need you to do for me.”

“Ok.”

“Have Carter look into Mr. Petti. He seems like a good guy, and if possible I would feel better if we could work out a deal where his building could be inside the perimeter we are setting up.”

“Are you sure that’s a good idea.”

“Yes, but I want you, Carter and Ted to look into it and make sure I’m not wrong. We know we are starting to butt heads with someone out there, and it seems Mr. Petti is part of that.”

“That kind of coincidence makes me think it’s anything but.”

“I know, but if he is who he seems to be, I want to help him out.”

“One day that kind of thinking is going to get you into serious trouble.”

“Probably. It’s a good thing I have a hot shot attorney to bail me out.”

He gave a snort and shook his head, “Anything else?”

“No. I talked to the contractors. They seem to have everything under control, and should start Monday. I already told them I was considering having the wall contain Mr. Petti’s area too, and that you or Ted would call them next week to confirm. If we do that, you guys need to work out the details with both the contractor and Mr. Petti. He doesn’t know what I am thinking, but I am certain he would be happy for it.”

“We’ll take care of it.”

“That’s what I like. I get to be the idea man and you guys get to take care of all the details.”

“Yeah, it works great for us too,” he said sarcastically.

“Well, good,” I said, ignoring the sarcasm. “I’m headed back home, unless you have anything else for me?”

“No, I’ll sort this out and talk to you on Monday.”

I headed back home and was surprised to find Tami and Judy sitting on the couch inside, bracketed by Zoe and Tina, who were each hugging their respective friend.

While it wasn’t unusual to have Tami around the house, and occasionally Judy over to see Tina, it was rare that they were there at the same time and even more rare that they were together when at our house.

They also had both been crying.

“What happened?” I asked, setting down my stuff and going to them.

“Their parents kicked them out,” Mom said from her seat across the room.

“They went to church,” Tami said in between gulps of air as she tried to compose herself. “When they got home, they said we were no longer welcome in their house. Dad said as far as he cared, he had no children.”

“What?” I asked, shocked.

“Dad said we had pushed too far, and that they did not want us in the house tainting them with our corrupted lifestyles. He said we could pack one bag each of clothes, and take our school bags, and that was it. He watched us pack.”

“Mom gave me some money when Dad wasn’t watching,” Judy said, still sobbing, “and said that she was sorry. I asked her to talk to Dad, get him to change his mind, but she said that she wouldn’t.”

“I’m so sorry. This is my fault. I went after the preacher too hard,” I said.

“No!” both Tami and Judy said together.

“Cas, they were getting very close to handing Judy over to that pervert. If you hadn’t done anything, she would have...” Tami said, and then stopped; her voice failing her, and the tears starting.

“You can, of course, stay here. We are running a little short on room again. I guess you can share Judy’s room with Zoe, and Tami can share with Emily,” Mom said.

Of course, saying Judy would room with Zoe was just part of the façade she put up. It mostly meant that there were two beds in that room, and some of Zoe’s stuff would be stored there, even though Zoe wouldn’t be spending very many nights as Judy’s roommate.

Both girls ran over to Mom and hugged her tightly. I saw Vicki’s mom also come across the room and hug the girls. She had started coming back out of the shell she built around herself following her husband’s death.

It would do both Tami and Judy good to have the extra maternal guidance and love that they clearly missed at home.

Mom was right about one thing. We had just bought this house, and it was already at max capacity. We had seven bedrooms and nine people living permanently in the house.

On paper, it would be Emily and Tami sharing a room, Judy and Tina sharing a room, and everyone else getting their own room.

In reality, we still had five rooms occupied, and two just holding stuff. But we needed that fiction of the girls sleeping in their own room, especially with the noise we were hearing about concerns over custody arrangements.

Everyone settled in for the night and things seemed to calm down. I knew it would be an adjustment period for them, and the best thing I could do was just be supportive.

I pondered their situation for most of my morning run before school on Monday.

Inside, I was actually happy they were separated from their parents now. Those two had made some atrocious decisions and clearly didn’t have the well-being of their kids in mind.

Living with us meant they were safe from the preacher. And that’s what I really cared about.

Not that I didn’t feel bad for them. Rejection hurts, and while Margret and I weren’t exactly close, I knew having your family reject you hurt even more. I knew the girls were hurting and it would take time to cope with it.

When I got back home, I found Mom and Mrs. Hollabrand making breakfast.

I went and hugged mom from behind, and hugged Mrs. Hollabrand the same way. She froze for a second looking surprised, then relaxed.

“Thanks for making breakfast,” I said to both of them.

“You stink,” Mrs. Hollabrand said, “go take a shower, wake up all the slugabeds, and get breakfast before you have to go to school.”

“Sure thing,” I said, and turned to head upstairs.

I looked back and saw Mom and Mrs. Hollabrand look at each other, Mom with a smirk and Mrs. Hollabrand with a warm smile.

She had just started coming out of the shell she had built around herself following her husband’s death, and Mom had suggested that we make sure to include her and make her feel accepted.

That was one of the first smiles I had seen her give since she moved in with us.

It was heartening.

School was the same as it always is, except today all the girls headed out, even skipping cheerleader practice, to pick up Tina and Judy. They were headed to buy supplies for Tami and Judy to replace stuff they hadn’t been able to take with them.

I noticed they had made sure to grab my credit card on the way out, so there was a good chance it would be more than that.

Not that I would complain.

I had mentioned to Levi that I was going to come in for some practice this afternoon and headed that way. Stuff with the new property was moving along, and I figured the office could make it through not having me come in one day.

I was surprised to find Jawarski waiting inside the dojo when I showed up. I hadn’t talked to her in a little while, so I wasn’t even sure how she knew I would be there.

“I’m surprised to see you,” I said.

“Angela mentioned you would be here. I thought over some of the things you told me, and what I saw at that office where your girlfriend was being held, and I had some ideas for you.”

“You talked to Mom?”

“I talk to her, Alex, and even some of your girlfriends pretty regularly.”

“Really? I’m surprised. We haven’t even spoken much in the last few weeks.”

“That’s cause I like them more than you.”

“Thanks.”

“Look, I believe in what you guys are doing. You are legitimately trying to make the World a better place. I see the stuff your charity is working on. Angela and Alex have walked me through what they are working on using your blood as a starting point. I just don’t like spending time around you if I don’t have to.”

“So what was this idea you had,” I asked, changing the subject.

I knew why she felt that way, but it always sucks to hear you make people’s skin crawl.

“I saw you in action, and you are fast. Amazingly fast. I know part of that is your training, and part of that is the slow down thing you told me about. When you are working out, you probably are just doing normal work out stuff. Right? Practicing forms, maybe some sparring, that kind of thing. Right?”

“Yeah, pretty much.”

“Do you ever do the slow motion thing in practice?”

“Not really. It’s hard to control. I’ve only been able to do it on purpose a few times. Every other time, it’s happened when I started getting really amped up.”

“Do you think it’s adrenaline based? Maybe something Alex could test for?”

“Maybe. But I have only been able to do it proactively a few times. So maybe not.”

“Have you ever practiced trying to make it happen?”

“No, but now I’m thinking I probably should have.”

“That’s cause you’re only half way incompetent.”

I frowned at her, “I know you don’t like me, and I know why. But could you please keep the insults down to a low roar? It kinda sucks.”

“I’ll try,” she said, “but no promises. Let’s go inside. I already talked to your teacher, and he agreed to let me work with you in one corner.”

That wasn’t much, but it was probably the best I was going to get. I followed her in and gave a nod hello to Levi, who was working with a small group in one section of the dojo.

“Ok, explain to me what it was like the two times you were able to make it happen.”

“It’s kinda hard to explain. I sort of focused and felt something click in my head right before the slow motion thing started. Saying something clicked isn’t quite right, I just felt somewhat different. Kind of like that moment when you are thinking hard on something you forgot, that’s just on the tip of your tongue, and then you remember.”

“Try it for me now.”

I took a deep breath and started to focus, straining, but nothing happened.

“Nope, nothing.”

“Try again.”

I tried again. And again and again and again. We kept it up for almost twenty minutes and all I managed to get was a massive headache.

“Ok,” she said after my latest failed attempt, “When you got it to work the first time, were you straining so much? Were you physically trying to focus?”

“I don’t know, honestly. There was always a lot going on.”

“So these other times, you were also focused on other things too?”

“I guess so.”

“Did you feel panicked or worried?”

“No. I guess I felt calm. I knew something needed to happen and I just focused on that and it happened.”

“Ok, try clearing your mind, and ease into it. Don’t try to push it.”

I did as she suggested and at first nothing seemed to happen, and then, for just a second, time seemed to slow.

“Ohh,” I said, stumbling.

“I take it that was something?”

“Yeah. It was only for a second, but it happened.”

“Alex described to me she thought it was an acceleration of your neural synapses. Actually, her description was a lot longer than that, and I didn’t really understand it, but when I asked her to slow down and give me the ‘for dummies’ description that’s what she said.”

“We haven’t been able to study it in the lab, because I was never able to reproduce it, but that was her hypothesis, that I wasn’t actually changing the speed of time, but experiencing everything on a faster, mental level. I don’t actually move any faster than I can without it, I just have more time to consider those moves.”

I noticed Levi heading towards us and everyone else leaving.

“I asked Levi to work with us when he finished with that group,” she said as he got close.

“Jawarski,” I said in a warning tone.

“Caspian,” she said, sounding both serious and condescending, “he has done this kind of thing for decades, and in real life and death situations. Do you think you’ve been coming here since your change, or whatever, and he hasn’t noticed the physical differences?”

“I tried to play it down.”

“Not enough. He noticed. I didn’t really explain it other than to ask him not to talk about it.”

“I still don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“We can trust him,” she said with a smirk. “He was a little under the weather earlier this week.”

It took a second for me to realize exactly what that meant.

“God Damnit,” I said loudly, “I told them...”

“Don’t be mad at your mother,” Levi said, having heard the last little bit of our conversation. “She explained some of what was happening and asked for my permission. She explained what the effects would be, and I agreed. She also explained that you would be upset. I take it you’ve been struggling with some of what your condition is doing.”

“I’m struggling with people going behind my back.”

“Don’t worry; this time at least, no one went behind your back, and I feel better than I have in years.”

“Ok, so you know. That makes things easier.”

“I’ve known since before then. You have always been a good student, but you’ve never had the natural skills you seem to have developed suddenly over the last year.”

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Story tagged with:
Coming of Age /