No Good Deed
Copyright© 2019 by Lumpy
We returned late Saturday night from our outing to Houston. Rachel offered to ride with Jawarski, so I could ride with the girls on the way back. She said she was curious as to what being a cop was like, and wanted to ask Jawarski questions on the way back; but I was pretty sure one of the girls convinced her to switch, so I could ride back with them. Which suited me fine.
The harder part was convincing Jawarski that it was ok for me to ride back with them. Eventually, it was Rachel who won Jawarski over. She really did seem enthusiastic about getting to ride with my shadow, so maybe it wasn’t a sham after all. We had to promise to stay right with Jawarski the whole time, and not lose her, which we agreed to ... although at that point, I would have agreed to just about anything to be able to ride home with the girls.
Zoe drove and I rode next to her, with Tami and Vicki in the back. We chatted about all kinds of things, but the lion’s share was taken by the three of them excitedly filling me in on their plans for New Life. They hadn’t been hiding anything, but even I had to admit my attention had been pulled in so many directions over the last five months - what with all the stuff the company was up to, and the whole business with the CPS - that they hadn’t wanted to bother me until they were further along.
They had taken my idea of making local locations for things like food distribution and clinics and had run with it. Beyond planting the idea, I hadn’t been overly specific, and I don’t think they understood I had imagined separate, much smaller facilities, and not some massive branded center. But Zoe had a point that if one of the goals of New Life was to foster goodwill among the general populace as a bulwark against the day the truth of us came out. When that finally happened, this type of branding would be invaluable.
Tami was breaking down some of the thing’s she’d been working out in Houston, over the food distribution, when Zoe spoke up.
“Uh-oh,” she said, looking in the mirror behind her.
I twisted in my seat to try and see what she was looking for and said, “What?”
I couldn’t see anything behind us, which I hadn’t been thinking about, but she realized there was a problem.
“I lost Rachel and Beth,” she said, continuing to look behind her.
I twisted around again and, sure enough, there were still no cars following us.
“She’s going to be so pissed at me when they catch up,” I said as we turned off into our neighborhood.
“I’m the one driving,” Zoe pointed out.
“I know, but she likes you guys. Hell, she likes pretty much everyone but me. She’ll definitely pin the blame on this squarely on me.”
“That’s not her fault though,” Tami pointed out from the back seat.
I made a grimace as we pulled into the driveway.
“I know, and I’ll just take my ass chewing like a good boy, but knowing why it’s happening doesn’t make me like it anymore.”
I slid out of the car and let Vicki out while Zoe did the same on her side.
“Think of all the benefits you get from your... ‘condition’ though,” Zoe said, grabbing my hand to console me.
“I guess those almost...” I started to say, and then stopped at a rustling coming from the side of my house.
I pulled Zoe around behind me, blocking her body with my own while I tried to see through the inky darkness on that side of the house. I was shocked to see the preacher burst past the shrubs next to the house and come storming towards us.
“What the hell?”
“Hell is right,” he said, stopping right in front of me, finger shaking in my face. “That is where you come from, devil spawn. I know what you are doing in this house of sin, corrupting the minds of these girls.”
“As opposed to convincing their parents to allow you to rape them you wrinkly old...” Tami yelled out from my left shoulder and then stopped in surprise as the preacher lurched for her.
My reaction was automatic. I pressed out with both hands square on his chest and pushed with every ounce of force I could muster. All my previous fights had been controlled, precise, thanks to Levi’s training. This was the first time I had acted out with raw force against someone since the change, and the effect shocked me.
The preacher lifted off his feet and sailed in a fifteen-foot arc through the air before landing with a rough thump, skidding across the grass. I surged forward, ready to do what I should have from the beginning, and damn the consequences when a pair of hands grabbed me from behind in a vice-like grip.
“Back off, Caspian,” Jawarski’s voice sounded from over my shoulder.
I didn’t know when she got there, but that was enough to get me to pull back. She released me and stormed over to the preacher.
“I’m going to sue,” he yelled as he got up.
“The hell you will,” Jawarski said. “I saw everything. You were attacking a minor, and he stepped in to defend her. We, however, will be filing for assault in the morning. If you try anything else, I won’t stop him from making jail a moot point.”
The preacher grumbled but backed away from Jawarski’s fiery grip. He made a few more choice comments, comparing me with the Devil and then ran to a car parked a few houses down.
“Thanks,” I said as Jawarski walked back. “Do you think an assault charge would stick? He didn’t even lay a hand on her.”
“I told you to ride with me,” she said angrily, not answering my question. “Go get in the house before you get into any more fights.”
I saw the tail lights brighten as the preacher’s car turned on and watched him drive away before turning and heading into the house.
Mom was waiting by the front window when we came inside. I went to dump my back pack in my room while Mom got the rundown on what had just happened from Jawarski, and was contemplating just going to bed when she yelled for me to come back downstairs.
“This is the last straw, Cas. I agree with Beth, we need to move somewhere more secure. Between that guy and the Syndicate, not even having your own bodyguard is working.”
“He wouldn’t have been able to lay a finger on Tami. We were never in danger.”
“What if he’d had a gun, and decided it was worth jail time to kill you? You’re able to heal fast, but we’ve already clearly seen that you aren’t invincible. What if he’d decided to shoot Tami instead? What if Beth hadn’t stopped you from beating him to death? No, I just can’t take this anymore.”
I opened my mouth to protest again and stopped when Zoe put a hand on my elbow. When I looked at her, she gave a slight shake of her head.
“Ok, fine,” I said, defeat in my voice. “We can look for a place to build this compound Jawarski wants. We’re going to have to figure out what to do about school and everything, though.”
“We have a little time for that,” Mom said. “I’ll go down next week and talk to the principal. We’ll find out what our options are. It takes probably until the end of the school year to build what Beth is talking about, so we have time to figure it out.”
“Ok. You win. I agree. I’m going to bed.”
Mom looked at me with an expression of sympathy as I walked upstairs. It wasn’t that I had anything specific against moving somewhere, even out of town. I’d miss the friends we’d made, of course. But we would be within driving distance so they would have the chance to come visit. Mom had custody of me, Tina, Tami and Judy in addition to Zoe, so we’d all remain together. And it was a safe bet Vicki and her mom would end up moving with us. Her mom wasn’t working yet, although we’d talked about finding a place for her in the company; but it felt like we were being run out of town, and that didn’t sit well with me. Not even a little bit.
I got up fairly early the next morning but wasn’t allowed to go for a run. Jawarski had one of Carter’s guys sitting in the living room drinking a cup of coffee so she could get some sleep, and he definitely didn’t seem like the running type. And it was pretty clear Mom wasn’t going to let me go out and run by myself.
I was a little disappointed. I’d grown to enjoy the runs after something like last night happened, so I could clear my head and think. I found the morning runs a great way to reflect. But I understood her point.
I sat down at Zoe’s computer and logged into my email account, just killing time while I waited for everyone else to get up and our day to get started. I was surprised to see an email from a sender that I didn’t recognize. The subject just said ‘Here’s what you asked for’ and the email contained the name and an address.
That had to be the judge coming through with the name of a low-level member of the syndicate that I asked for. I went to the house phone and dialed Jawarski.
“Ya,” came a sleepy voice when she answered.
“Hey, It’s Cas, I got...”
“What the hell do you want?”
“The judge came through with the name of a guy. We need to talk about how to change him and get him on our side.”
“Fine. Great. I’ll be there in a few hours.”
The connection broke suddenly. She may have said it was great, but her voice sounded more like ‘I don’t care.’ I would say it’s probably because Jawarski isn’t a morning person, but it just as well might have been her hatred for me.
Either way, after last night, I didn’t want to go out gallivanting on my own after this guy just to suffer the wrath of both Jawarski and Mom, who would almost certainly back up the ex-cop. Better to cool my heels and let them do the planning, and save the battles for when something important came up.
True to her word, Jawarski showed in just under an hour. I was sitting with Mom when she let herself in. Considering she was now responsible for the entire family’s safety, she didn’t really need to go around knocking anymore.
“Shut up and let me talk to Angela about this,” she said to me as I started to stand up and greet her. “So Angela, has Cas told you his latest reckless idea?”
“We were just discussing it. In this case, I’m going to have to side with Caspian. We do need to get a better handle on who’s messing with us, and this seems like the only valid option. I’m fine with it as long as he’s not involved in any personal way.”
“I’m going to have to be involved once he’s changed,” I protested.
“Yes, fine, although not by yourself. But everything else needs to be done by someone else.”
“I was thinking about that,” Jawarski interjected. “The deal last time of using one of his friends was extremely risky. Between Carter and me, we can work out a way to get him infected. He knows what’s going on, now; so between the two of us, we’ll be able to make this work.”
“That works for me,” Mom said happily. “Although you please be careful too.”
“I also need you guys to look into this guy’s life. Once he’s changed, I’ll need an in. There has to be something about his life that isn’t shit. I’ll need some kind of leverage on him. Some reason to convince him to do the right thing.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Jawarski said, giving mom a slight smile before shooting a glare at me and heading back out, presumably to talk to Carter.
Now, of course, we were left with the waiting. Surprisingly, everything then turned back to normal for a few days; or at least, as normal as anything gets. No more visits by the preacher, and his protesters had dwindled to the point where they no longer even bothered showing up.
Of course, Josh had to go and screw the two-day peaceful streak up.
I was standing at my car talking to Zoe before she had to go to practice and I had to go to the office when I saw Josh making a beeline for me, Amanda in tow.
“Shit,” I said under my breath, causing Zoe to turn and see them coming towards us.
“What does he want?”
“Probably to follow up on the threats, he made at Thanksgiving.”
“What threats?” Zoe said, alarmed.
There was, however, no time to actually answer her, as he had made his way to us by then.
“I promised we would finish our conversation,” he said menacingly.
“Josh!” Amanda warned, catching up to them finally.
“No. You know what he’s doing. It’s bullshit. If I had even half of what he gave Zoe here, I’d be all-state this year.”
“I’ve told you, Josh, there’s no way...”
“That’s bullshit, and we both know it. Did you forget Ted’s my uncle? Who got you that job in the first place? I’ve seen him. He’s healthier than he’s ever been. You know he was on his way to needing a bypass, and now he’s totally clear? Mom says it’s a miracle. Are you trying to tell me you slept with Uncle Ted?”
To be honest, I’d completely forgotten that Josh was related to Ted. Most of the people that had been changed other than the girls didn’t intersect with school, so I never thought about other connection points.
“He’s lost a lot of the pressure he was under, since I bought out most of his company last year. Do you know how hard he worked before, and how much stress he was under? He’s just able to lead a healthier life now.”
“You have to be kidding me! Do you think I would ever believe that? Working less doesn’t fix a heart that’s already damaged.”
“Look, Josh, I don’t know what to tell you.”
He started making a move towards me until Amanda tugged him on the back of the arm. Which was probably good for him, since Jawarski, who up to this point had been seemingly uninterested, leaning against the car waiting for me to get in, pushed herself off and started to move to intercept him.
Josh was as strong as an ox, but I somehow doubted he was ready to tangle with the former Marine.
“Josh, teachers are watching. You’re already on your last warning. Come on.”
He growled and turned to glare at Amanda before stomping off. She gave Zoe a look and headed after him.
“Maybe you should just take him. It will give you enough control to be able and get him to fix his life.”
“No it won’t,” I said.
“Why? It worked with the Judge.”
“The Judge already wanted out of what he was doing. It was eating him up inside, and he felt trapped. I was just able to offer him a lifeline. Zoe, you’ve seen how everyone’s reacted who’s been changed. It’s not mind control. I can’t just go tell someone who’s been changed ‘go do this ‘, and they listen like a robot. It just engenders an incredible bond of trust and loyalty between me and the person. I have to find a way to use that and convince them.”
“And, what Josh has, deep down, is a desire to find a shortcut. He’s a good guy, don’t get me wrong; but he just wants the easiest path to anything. Cheating in classes, steroids, his wanting to be changed. It’s all from the same problem. He doesn’t want to do the work. Josh already trusted me the first time I told him no. He’s only lost that as I’ve refused to give him what he wants. A hardwired trust isn’t going to make that attitude go away.”
“I’m right, Zoe. Imagine him smarter, stronger, faster and still the drive to cheat his way to get what he wants. It’d be a disaster.”
“Ok. You’re right. I’m sorry I pushed you.”
“It’s ok, I get it. Amanda’s been your friend for a long time, and Josh was your friend before you met me. You don’t like seeing him pull away from us, and take Amanda with him. I totally get it. But we have to think long-term.”
She nodded, kissed me on the cheek and headed off towards practice. I watched Josh disappear back into the school and worried what Josh would do long term. Shaking my head I got in the car, followed by Jawarski, who was also looking towards the school.
“He’s going to be a problem,” she said.
“Ok. Also, I got word from Carter just before you came out. They were successful in infecting the syndicate guy, so now we just have to wait a day or so for it to take effect, assuming it doesn’t drive him crazy.”
“Any word from Carter on finding me some leverage to use on him?”
And the conversation ended there. Mom had started an antibody treatment on Jawarski, to try and mitigate the effects of being near me, but so far her chilly nature hadn’t changed. Unless she had something specific she needed to talk to me about, she tended to ignore me.
The next evening after I got home from work, I found Carter sitting with Mom.
“Is everything alright?”
It was a question we seemed to ask too often.