No Good Deed
Copyright© 2019 by Lumpy
We got the judge handed off with little problem. For now, at least, it seemed he and his wife would be safe. I promised them we’d do what we could to get the Syndicate out of his life, and mine, as fast as we could.
Any hesitancy he might have had about walking away from his life, even if only for a few days or weeks, pretty much vanished when armed men came into his home and threatened to take his wife with them to ensure he towed the line. Jawarski and I went back to my house and waited, occasionally turning on the news to see if there were any mention of a body found and a missing local judge.
Jawarski said she could check at the precinct with people she knew there, but I nixed that idea. The Syndicate would be trying to find out what happened, and they’d have all their dirty cops and probably other civil servants we didn’t even know about yet, trying to get a line on who took Judge Davis and killed one of their men. Jawarski coming out and asking about it, especially with her known connection to me, would be a big red flag for them.
While they knew I was a pain in their ass, they mostly knew it from my connection to the company and the foiled attempt on my life. While it meant I definitely had their attention, it would be a stretch for them to make the leap to my being actively engaged in a plot against them. They’d figure that part out eventually, but the longer we could delay that, the better.
That didn’t save me from hearing the displeasure of both Mom and the girls, who didn’t like my taking risks, no matter the reason. Aside from that, nothing new happened on the Syndicate front for a week. There was a small story about the mysterious disappearance of Judge Davis, whose home was found locked up, but nothing out of place. No word about the body, or the mess left by both of the two Syndicate men or our confrontation with them, meaning the Syndicate cleaned up after themselves.
Carter had the Judge on lock-down, neither he nor his wife were being allowed outside. I could imagine they were going a little stir crazy, but considering the alternative, it didn’t seem like there was any other choice.
By the end of the week, I had something new to worry about; which, as they always seemed to be, was heralded by a phone call. This time it was Jonathan. He said he needed to come by and talk to me, and wanted to make sure Mom, at the very least, was there. The process of calling Mom away from work somehow ended up as a signal for pretty much everyone from the household - except Judy and Tina - to be present when he showed up.
“Hey, Cas,” Jonathan said when I let him in, “Oh, I wasn’t expecting this many people.”
“Yeah, you asked for me to make sure Mom was here, and that got the rest of them curious. You know how nosy they all are.”
That last part I said staring at the girls, which was promptly ignored.
“So what’s up?”
“We finished up the paperwork with Mrs. Keen this morning, and she is pushing for us to start working with her daughter as soon as possible. I told her I’d have a timetable for her this afternoon.”
“That’s easy. She comes and stays with us, we give her the injection, she gets sick and then kicks the habit. Sure we have to make it look good, convince her what’s happening is more conventional than it is, but I’m not sure what the big deal is.”
“That isn’t going to work,” Mom said.
“Why? We’ll put her through the change, she’ll be clear of the drugs, and we won’t have to worry about her giving anything away.”
“Except, it isn’t that easy. Problem one, we can’t just give her an injection the moment she comes through the door. Even to a twenty-something junkie, that’d seem weird, and there’s the window between injection and when the loyalty part of the change takes effect. Are you suggesting we grab her and tie her down the minute she comes in the door? We need to go through steps to make our ‘procedure’ seem legitimate. You have argued that the change isn’t brainwashing. We agreed we weren’t going to tell her the whole truth, at least not for a while. She might be loyal to you after the change, but she will still have suspicions and, unless you specifically tell her not to talk to anyone about what happened, she’ll probably talk to someone about the suspicions.”
“Okay, I see that, but...”
“Two,” Mom said, rolling over my protest, “is the living conditions, here. How are you going to explain you sleeping in the master bedroom with four girls every night? Of whom two of the girls’ mothers live in the same house. Hell, I love you as my own son, and I know everything; but I still have to try and not think too hard about it, or I start to freak out.”
“Okay,” I said, realizing I wasn’t going to be able to say anything until she was done.
“Three, where the hell are you going to put her? We’re already packed in here pretty tight. So much so that you okayed spending a giant chunk of cash to build a new, much larger home to contain us all.”
I hadn’t considered that last part, and I should have. The first two were problems I thought we could deal with, but Mom was right, there was literally nowhere to put her.
“So what should we do?”
“Rent a place for her,” Vicki said.
“Wouldn’t that also seem strange, putting her up by herself? Also, if we’re going to put in sometime between when we take her in and when we ‘treat’ her, to make it seem real, we’d be leaving a junkie by herself, completely unsupervised.”
“I wasn’t suggesting renting a one bedroom apartment. You’re right, she can’t be left alone, so we rent a two bedroom apartment and someone stays with her, or we take turns or something.”
“That might work. Could we rent a place quick?” I asked Jonathan.
“Sure, we’d have to pay a bit upfront, but I don’t see why not. We’d have to rent under either Next Step or Evolve since no one would rent to a minor.”
“We do it under Next Step, since, if this works, it might be something we end up doing again. Maybe. So who stays with her? It can’t be me. I have too many balls in the air right now with the Syndicate and some of the stuff at work for me to play babysitter. Probably not Zoe either, since she’s in charge of the building going on at the new center.”
“I’ll do it,” Mrs. Hollabrand said.
“Really?” I asked, surprised.
“Yeah. I’ve been living here, just kind of doing nothing since ... since we moved in. I haven’t really been carrying my weight.”
“Mom,” Vicki said, in a concerned voice.
“Nora,” I said, waving Vicki back into her seat and sitting down next to her mom. I don’t think I’d ever used her first name before, but I hoped it would get her attention. “You aren’t expected to do anything but what you need to do. You are part of our family.”
“I know,” she said, patting my hand. “I appreciate it. You and everyone else have been so kind to Vicki and me since Richard passed. I’m not sure that if I’d known then what I know now I would have let you date Vicki, but I can honestly say I’m happy about how things are, even as strange as it is. I’m really happy to see my daughter with a purpose in her life, and I actually want a little bit of that. I can’t just sit around, I need to get life going again. I’ve been a rich housewife for so long, I’m not sure I could go out and get a job again. But this, I can help take care of a troubled girl. That I know how to do. And, it would be nice to feel like I’m contributing to something again.”
“I think it’s a great idea,” Mom said.
“Okay, so that’s the plan. We rent a two bedroom apartment, and Nora goes and stays with her. I’d like, as much as possible, for someone to be there with her. No telling where in her recovery Celia is. It might be more than one person can handle.”
“Do you think we should put someone on them, for safety’s sake?” Jawarski asked.
“Do you think that’s necessary?”
“Not really. Just make sure anyone who’s staying with this girl has Levi’s and my numbers, and know to call us if anything goes wrong. It should only be for a couple of days. Once the change takes hold, the only trouble would be external, which is true every time any of us leave the house.”
“Okay, so let’s not put anyone armed with them. It might bring questions why a non-profit helping with drug rehabilitation needs armed security. So, how long until we can get her in for the change, to make it look good?”
“A few days. It’s not all for appearance’s sake. We will need at least two days to bring her in, draw some blood, and run some tests to make sure she’s not a genetic negative. The last thing we want is to put her through the change and drive her insane. That will also work for appearance’s sake since anything like this would need at least a standard physical and some blood work. Depending on what time she’s dropped off we’ll get her in that first day, or the next if it’s late. We’ll be able to put her through the change two days after that. Another day for her body to process the change, when she’ll be down sick and not able to do much, and then we’ll be on the other side of it.”
“I hadn’t thought about checking her for being a negative. Okay, I think we’re set. Jonathan, can you get one of your people onto renting an apartment? Tami, would you and Emily mind doing some shopping, getting food and whatnot needed for the apartment for a couple of days, plus bedding and whatnot? Let’s plan on them not doing cooking there, at least not right away, someone will drop off their meals.”
“We’re on it.”
“Okay. I guess as soon as you have the apartment arranged for her to join us. Make sure my schedule is clear when she shows up. I want to meet her.”
Two days later I was meeting Jonathan at an apartment a mile and a half away from the house, to meet Celia, who was supposed to arrive anytime.
“So, that happened fast,” I said to Jonathan as we stood in the apartment complex parking lot.
“Yeah. Her grandmother has basically been keeping the girl locked up for a week and is pretty desperate. She’s been pushing for us to go faster since your meeting.”
A black town car pulled up, and a man in a suit got out, coming around to open the rear passenger door. Out stepped Celia, who somehow managed to look styled and fancy, and like a complete mess, all at once. Her clothes, which even I could tell was probably pretty expensive, were neat and looked freshly pressed, with sharp creases down the pants legs and her hair was clean and neatly cut to shoulder level
But looking past the superficial things it was impossible to miss the signs of someone with a serious problem. There were bags under her eyes, which overall seemed almost sunken and her skin was grayish and sickly. On top of that were small lesions on her neck and the back of her hand. If she weren’t wearing pants and a long sleeve shirt, I’d bet money she had more of those. Her grandmother had tried her hardest to hide the signs of serious drug use, but all the makeup in the world wasn’t going to do the trick.
“Hi, Celia, I’m Caspi...”
“Wow, she must really be getting desperate. We’ve gone from the fancy, fenced in country club, to some skank apartment in East Bumblef•©k. It’s cute you guys thought that sending someone’s kid to greet me would put me at ease, or whatever, but I couldn’t give a crap. Just show me where you’re locking me up.”
“We’re not planning on locking you up,” I said, trying to smile.
“Whatever. Just show me where I’m staying. I feel like shit and wanna lie down.”
I stepped aside and gestured up the stairs. Jonathan, thinking prudently, had gotten a third floor apartment. Odds were, if she could get out, this girl would make a try to get a fix. He’d pointed out we couldn’t very well put bars over windows without getting some questions asked, so a third-floor apartment would have to do as a deterrent from trying to go out a window.
I was already thinking about the fact that we’d probably have to get a third person to stay in the apartment, so someone was always there to block the front door as an exit when I was tapped on the shoulder.
“Megan,” I said in surprise. “How did you...”
“I followed their car. I know you said Vicki’s mom would stay and watch Celia, but I figured she could use some help. I have three weeks until classes start again. It’s my fault you’re in this fix, so I thought I could come out and help.”
“Well ... great. That solves a problem I was just thinking about. It’s only a two bedroom, though.”
“I can sleep on the couch. It can’t be more uncomfortable than the bed in my dorm.”
“You know if you wanted to stay somewhere off campus...”
“I know, Mr. Moneybags, but I want to spend my first year in the dorms, get the whole college experience. Plus, I already take advantage of you too much.”
“Megan, you’re part of the family. All you have to do is ask. Plus, what high school kid doesn’t want to be able to say he’s keeping older women in an apartment out of town?”
“The high school kid whose girlfriends, plural, would neuter him with hedge clippers if they thought he was serious.”
“Psh ... them. Seriously, though, if you need to get out of the dorm, just tell me.”
“What would I do without my little buddy,” she said, putting an arm around me.
“I’m taller than you, ya know?”
“Details, details. Anyway, you should head home. I’m betting Celia stays locked in her room as much as possible, but between Mrs. Hollabrand and me, we’ll make sure she gets settled and gets to the lab tomorrow to get blood drawn. We got this, Boss man.”
“Alright, well ... call me if you guys need anything.”
I headed back to Jonathan’s car since I’d ridden over with him, working over what, if anything, we needed to get set to put Celia through the change when he broke through my train of thought.
“That’s something you need to get better at,” he said.
“Delegating,” he said as we got into his car, “It’s something most of us learn as we work our way up. You learn that if you try and do everything yourself, you burn out. You also learn that if you put good people into managing things for you, and then you step over them to do their job yourself, even if your intention is just to help, you make them feel unneeded and chase them away.”
“And you’re saying I’m bad at delegating?”
“Sometimes. Sometimes you pass off a project and let the other person run with it, but other times you have to double-check everything. You have to find a balance.”
“I guess,” I said, looking out the window.
“It’s not a criticism, Cas, just some helpful advice from someone who’s been through the trenches. You’ve been blessed, and your abilities have helped you move faster than maybe anyone ever has before, but there are downsides. You missed the learning and failing that most of us have to go through.”
“If you think I’ve skipped over the failing part, you haven’t been paying attention the last year.”
“Sure, you’ve had some stumbles, but you’ve always managed to pull things out, for the most part at least. You haven’t landed flat on your ass, at least not yet. Nothing teaches you better than abject failure. I honestly don’t want you to ever have to learn lessons like that, but until you do, you’re going to have to settle for lectures from those of us who have.”
“So you’re saying I should hand people tasks and walk away?”