No Good Deed
Copyright© 2019 by Lumpy
Two days passed with no word from Josh. Amanda and Josh’s parents went to the cops after the ‘waiting’ period to report a missing person, but the cops didn’t seem concerned. Considering Josh’s behavior lately - especially the steroid use - they seemed to not take it very seriously. According to Amanda, they made hints that they thought he had perhaps gotten into other drugs, or just run away. They’d promised to look for him, but no one was taking that seriously.
More worryingly, Jawarski and Carter weren’t having any luck either. They were able to track his last movements after he talked to Amanda and said he was on his way. They’d gotten surveillance video from the business that showed Josh pulling up to a pump and walking off camera. The car sat there for almost twenty minutes, with Josh never returning to put gas in the car.
In one top corner of the video, you could see what looked to be Josh’s legs, identified by the shoes he was wearing, next to another set. From the small frame, it seemed to show Josh and the other person, apparently a man from the stance and style of clothing, but that wasn’t certain, talking for ten minutes. Then the two sets of feet walk away, disappearing off screen.
Ten minutes after that, two unknown men walked up to Josh’s car. One got in the passenger’s seat, and the other filled the car with gas. Then he joined his buddy, and they drove off in Josh’s car. That was the last Jawarski had been able to find of the vehicle. They’d had people talking to witnesses near the gas station and in all directions away from it, as well as talking their way into a video that pointed in the direction of the street, but they hadn’t found anything. The car, and Josh, just vanished.
Carter talked to the clerk in the convenience store, but he’d burned himself out on who knows what over the years and had wasn’t able to remember anyone who’d stopped at the station that day, let alone Josh. Both Levi and Jawarski agreed that the two people that left with Josh’s car had been in the military, and both kept the style after the service, with modern style combat boots currently used by the military, and the prototypical GI haircuts. They said it went beyond that to the way the two guys carried themselves.
Of course, that didn’t say what military they’d been in, or how long they’d been out. Both agreed that the men looked to be armed. They also both agreed these were not the same types of people we’d encountered so far, when dealing with the Syndicate. That didn’t mean the Syndicate wasn’t involved of course, since they could have easily hired outside contractors; but it also left the door open to other possibilities, which wasn’t helpful.
Carter had started searches for the two men from the surveillance video pictures of them, but so far they’d had no luck.
I’d talked to Amanda, who was still distraught, and told her some of what we’d found. That he’d been seen at the gas station after talking to her on the phone and two men had been seen driving off in his car. We also shared the information with the police, who once again found reasons to brush it off. After talking to the girls, we all agreed to not tell her about the men who’d left in Josh’s car. We showed the police of course, but Amanda spent most days on the verge of a breakdown. Knowing about the men would open up new paths of thought for her that were much more ominous, and might have pushed her over the edge.
Thankfully, not everything we’d been looking into had stalled. Two days after we hit a brick wall into looking for Josh, Jawarski had shown up at my house with Carter in tow.
“Where are we?” I asked as soon as they sat down.
“Nowhere,” Jawarski said bluntly. “Both he and his car are in the wind.”
“So what’s our next step?”
“We wait,” Carter said.
“Pretty much. Sometimes you just have to wait until something changes.”
“Well, that’s great. I’m surprised cases ever get solved by the police, if part of their strategy is just ‘wait until something changes’.”
I knew I was snotty, but I felt responsible for what happened to Josh.
“A lot of cases don’t get solved,” Carter said. “Think of investigations as trying to read a story when you only have a few pages in the book which have writing on them. In this case, we just see part of the front cover. We are missing a lot of information, and even the information that would lead us to the information we need to understand what’s happening. Without context, we could forever be looking in the wrong place. It’s why cases go cold. Eventually, something new will pop up, and we’ll see a little more of the story, and be able to make new guesses. We’ll find his car, or he’ll pop up on a surveillance tape, or one of a million things, and we’ll know a little bit more. Maybe that little bit more will be the key to cracking the whole thing.”
“But we already know a lot. I mean, it seems impossible that this isn’t connected to us. Considering everything we’ve been up against, it has to be. If I wasn’t here, and more likely if we weren’t poking at the Syndicate, this wouldn’t have happened.”
“We have no way to know that,” Jawarski said. “As much as you like to think so, the world doesn’t revolve around you. People go missing every single day, and Josh was already in the vulnerable category. He’s been taking drugs, alienating himself from friends and family, cut off from the things that he valued the most. It’s just as likely his disappearance would have happened, had you never stepped foot in this town.”
“So that’s it, we just do nothing?”
“We aren’t doing nothing.”
“Carter just said...”
“That we wait, and that’s what we are going to do. That doesn’t mean we’re doing nothing. We will continue to monitor for him, look for his car, and search for anything connected to him.”
“Fine, we’re ‘monitoring’ the situation. If that’s it, then why are you here? We seem to be exactly where we were two days ago.”
“We’re here because we do have something in other areas,” Carter said.
“What other areas?”
“The Syndicate. We’ve finished going over everything we got from Damion, and cross-referencing it with what we got from the Ledger you and Beth recovered, along with stuff publicly available.”
“Ohh,” I said, moving to the edge of my seat.
I was still upset about Josh, but this was also big news. The faster we got rid of the Syndicate, the better since it’d make everyone around me instantly safer.
“We’ve nailed down a huge number of payoffs, and we’ve identified several public figures and members of several police departments on their payroll. We’re certain what we can identify is only a fraction of what they’ve bought off, but it’s still enough to create a major scandal. Beyond that, we’ve also identified dozens of financial crimes, and millions of dollars in graft and straight out theft. Less certain, we’ve also identified what we think are several connected murders, although those are a bit murkier.”
“Ok. And what do we do with all that? How do we use that to take them down? Do we just slip it to that reporter Deep Throat style?”
“No,” Carter said with a head shake. “At least not now. That would generate scandal and public attention, but isn’t guaranteed to sweep the operation up. Once we pull the trigger on this, we want to make sure we take them down. Wounding an organization like this but not taking them down for good would make them more dangerous to you than if we’d just left them alone.”
“To that end,” Jawarski said, picking up the explanation. “We’ve talked to Jonathan, and he has a contact at the FBI. From everything we can find, the Syndicate’s influence is limited. They’ve completely infested the local and county governments, and have a lot of hooks into the state government, but have limited infiltration at the federal levels. From what we can find, their work at getting control of MilTech was an early attempt at moving into bigger ponds. The VP they’d used as a primary contact was apparently corrupted by them much earlier, and they just got lucky he’d gotten an offer for a management position at a defense contractor. That’s part of why they have such a hate on for you. It seems you’re interference with that, basically shutting them out of Miltech altogether, has stymied their attempts to get the real money that comes from feeding off of bigger fish. For right now at least, it seems we’re clearly going to the FBI.”
“So we pass the info to the FBI, and then what?”
“There seems to be a lot of that.”
“This is different,” Carter said. “We’re handing over what will be a career-making case for someone running a field office. It’s enough corruption with just enough murders, to be national news when it breaks. We’ve already done a lot of the groundwork for them, identifying a lot of the players in the organizations, and obtained original documents from that group. This is a no-brainer, and they’ll move fast to build a case and make arrests. No, this won’t be like Josh. We might not see anything in a few weeks or even a month, but in a few months, there will definitely be a big movement. We just have to keep out of sight, and more specifically, keep your head down, till that happens.”
“So, what do we do?”
“We don’t do anything. You keep avoiding them, and let us get the info into the right hands. If they take the case, and we think they will, you’ll need to stay as far from them as you can. The last thing we need is the FBI to start poking around us as well. We might not be dirty, but we do have things we want to hide from them.”
“Fine, I’ll be a good boy and keep my head down. Please keep looking for Josh, but I appreciate the hard work. Good job both of you.”
Carter gave me a nod, and Jarwarski an eye roll, but I could tell they both liked hearing compliments on their work, despite how little they showed.
Of course, now I had to do the thing I was the worst at: waiting.
There were some distractions, at least. We’d been keeping most of what was happening with the Syndicate away from Tina and Judy, trying to let the girls have as normal of a high school life as they could. We still weren’t sure what we were going to do about them when we moved.
The girls and I could test out and graduate early, no problem, but Tina and Judy still needed to go to school. While the normal change, which both girls had been through, increased intelligence, it did so to a much smaller degree than what the girls, who went through the more advanced form of the change, got.
Tina and Judy would have advantages that would help them in school, and would ensure that they’d graduate at the top of their class, but it was unlikely they’d be able to graduate multiple years early. Also, considering they were a couple of years behind us, we’d need to figure out something for next year. Mom was working on that, but so far we hadn’t figured anything out.
This all, however, meant that both girls were doing all the normal high school things. To help that, we’d also limited how much they were allowed to be involved in the various other projects the family had going. They were aware of them, of course, but we all agreed it was better for them to enjoy high school. I might not have had the experience the girls all did, and they all thought the younger two would regret giving up those experiences later.
So it wasn’t terribly unsurprising when Tina came downstairs on Friday night and announced a boy was coming by to pick her up. I remembered the boy she’d dated the previous year, and how badly that’d gone, so to say I was worried was an understatement.
“A what?” I asked when she blurted out her announcement.
“A date. For a guy with, like, ten girlfriends, I’d assumed you knew what one of those was.”
“Smartass,” I said, giving a side-eye to Tami, who was chuckling. “Who is this kid?”
“His name’s Rick. He’s in my English class.”
“And you’re just telling us now?” I asked.
“I told Mrs. Bell a couple of days ago, she said it was ok.”
“You didn’t tell me?” I said petulantly.
“Well, you’re not my parent or my guardian. I don’t have to get your permission. I’m just telling you now so you won’t freak out when he comes to pick me up. I figured you could get your freak out done now instead.”
“She’s got your number,” Tami said off-handedly.
“Sure, you don’t need my permission,” I said, ignoring Tami. “I just thought, considering how things went last time...”
“He isn’t Steven,” she said, cutting me off. “I know you mean well Cas, but sometimes you think you’re responsible for everyone around you, and you aren’t. I do care what you think of the boy I choose to date, but I still have the right to choose, preferably without a lecture.”
“Fine,” I said, sitting back, “no lecture from me. If he turns out to be another jackass though, I’m not gonna hold my tongue.”
“Yes, ‘Dad.’ He should be here any minute. I’ll let you meet him if you promise to be nice.”
“Scouts honor,” I said holding up a hand.
“I don’t think that’s how that goes,” Tami said again, looking up from her book with a smirk.
I stuck my tongue out at her. As if on cue, the doorbell rang, and Tina bounced out of the room. I waited as she answered the door, although maybe not patiently since Tami had to reach out a hand to stop my knee from bouncing nervously.
I didn’t actually care who Tina dated really, as long as she was happy. I just had flashes of the jackass from last year, and really wanted to avoid a repeat.
The boy who followed Tina into the den wasn’t what I expected. He had sandy blond hair, was only a few inches taller than her, and the only word I could think of to describe him was nerdy. He wasn’t wearing broken glasses with tape holding the bridge together, but he wasn’t far from that either.
I don’t know why I should be surprised, since Tina had said she’d met him in English class, and both Judy and her were taking advanced classes. He had to be a little nerdy to be in the class with her, especially since he didn’t have the benefit of the change to fall back on.
“Cas, this is Rick. Rick, this is my brother Cas and our friend Tami,” she said, making introductions.
Until that moment, I hadn’t thought of how Tina was going to introduce Tami. Considering it was general knowledge that I was dating Zoe at school, with whispers that I was also dating some other girls at the same time, outside of our immediate friend group the actual details weren’t common knowledge, or at least not in any acknowledged way.
The odds were good that someone a few years behind us wouldn’t know the deal. Thankfully, Tina had thought about it, and sidestepped the issue.
“Nice to meet you, Rick,” I said, sticking out my hand.
His handshake was a little timid, but not weak, and to his credit, he met my gaze directly.
“Yeah,” he said awkwardly.
“What are you guys doing tonight?”
“Uhh,” he said, glancing at Tina and then looking back towards me. “We were going to go see a movie.”
“Then you’ll get her right home, right?”
“Ignore him,” Tina said, pulling Ricks hand out of mine. “He’s just trying to intimidate you. He’s ok, but he can be a bully sometimes.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I said a bit too defensively, and heard another snort from Tami. “Fine, maybe I was. Just take care of my little sister, and you have no problems.”
“Sure, I promise,” Rick said, stepping back.
“Good. You guys have a ride?”
“My Mom’s waiting outside,” he said.
“Good,” I said before turning to Tina. “Be home by eleven.”
“Bite me,” she said with a grin.
I rolled my eyes, and went back to sit down with Tina laughing, as Tami walked them back out.
“You’ve got no game,” Tami said when she came back in and sat next to me.
“Enough game for you,” I said, suddenly lunging at her, my fingers digging into her ribs.
We continued horseplaying until Mom came in and told us to get a room. Which we did.
Tina didn’t have much interest in talking to me about her date, but according to Zoe, who she did talk to, she had lots of fun on her date and Tim had been a complete gentleman. Tami had also done a bit of checking, which mostly amounted to asking Judy about him, and by all accounts, Tim was a good guy. That, I was happy to hear about, since I didn’t want a repeat of her previous go at dating.
We were actually discussing that on the way into school the next Monday when Mrs. Polaski stopped us and asked us to come to her office. It wasn’t just me, but all of us, and we found Alison Hauge waiting in her office as well.