No Good Deed
Copyright© 2019 by Lumpy
I stood stock still for several beats, staring at the phone in her hands, my brain resisting her words. It couldn’t be ... not again. It was the incident with Judy all over again.
“Cas,” Vicki said, prompting me.
I hesitantly reached forward and took the phone from her.
“What happened?” I said into the receiver.
Moms voice came back through the earpiece, comforting me somewhat.
“Everyone’s ok. Tina and Beth are both fine.”
“What happened?” I repeated.
“A man broke into the house. I was at the lab and Beth was here doing some work, waiting for you to get home. One of her people had taken her car, so I think whoever the man was thought Tina and Judy were here alone. He kicked in the back door, carrying a gun. Beth went to see what was happening, but Tina had been in the kitchen, and by the time Beth got there, he had Tina by the arm and was pulling her towards the door. Beth shot him in the chest. The police have taken her in for questioning.”
“But everyone’s ok?”
“Tina’s a little scared, she got a bunch of blood on her, but she’s calming down. Jonathan’s our next call so he can have someone come to be with a Beth. She doesn’t think she needs it of course.”
“I don’t care what she thinks she needs, make sure she has a lawyer.”
“We’re already on it. We have everything under control, and both Carter and Levi are here. I just wanted to let you know what was happening. Just come home, and drive carefully.”
I took a breath to calm down and said, “Sure. We’ll see you in a few hours.”
I handed the phone to Zoe, who talked to her mom for a few minutes while we got the car loaded, and then we were on the way home. I may have been calm on the outside, but inside I was seething.
If I stepped back and considered it, intellectually, I knew the smart move was to just hunker down and wait. Jonathan had made it clear that the feds were closing in, and he made it sound like they’d pounce soon.
I, however, wasn’t able to look at it intellectually. The attempt on Judy was bad, but Tina and I had gotten a lot closer over the last year, and I really cherished my relationship with her. The attempt on her was a step too far. By the time we hit home, I had a plan that I knew Jawarski would tie me to a chair if she knew about it. She, however, was still at the police station being questioned. While it seemed pretty clear it was self-defense, two bodies in less than two months raised all kinds of eyebrows.
I also knew I was going to catch all kinds of hell from both Mom and the girls, but that was something I was willing to accept.
When we pulled up to the house, I pulled out some paperwork from the glove box as they got out, acting as if I were looking for something specific. Zoe stopped when she saw me, and I gave her a wave with one hand.
“Go on, I’ll be right behind you. I needed to find something for Jonathan so the cars can be listed out of the new facilities, or something. He’s been bugging me about it, and I keep forgetting.”
She gave me a look and, for a second, I thought she was going to call me on the lie. Thankfully, after a brief pause, she closed her door and headed towards the house. As soon as she was far enough away, I put the car in reverse and pulled out of the driveway. As the house fell behind me, I could see the look of surprise and confusion on her face.
I felt a pang of guilt over what I was doing, but I pushed that down and ignored it as something I’d deal with later. I also felt bad that I wouldn’t see Charlie or Sandy, since they would have to head back to school almost immediately if they didn’t want to miss classes. I knew I could count on Mom making sure they got on the road, even if everyone was focused on my actions. As bad as I felt though, I’d made a promise to myself to keep my family safe, and I wasn’t going to sit on the sidelines any longer.
Ever since we found out a criminal organization put us in their sights, Carter had been putting together as much info as possible on them. The actual goal was to gather together the information that Jonathan had handed over to the Feds, but along the way, Carter and his people had found a good deal of info on who were the players in the Syndicate and how they operated. This included who seemed to be the group’s leader, Joe Richards.
Carter had the man, and his lieutenants followed for months, getting an idea of their schedules and who they talked to. For a man running a criminal enterprise, Richards kept an incredibly regular schedule, and Carter was now able to predict where he’d be on any given day.
I’d read every report Carter had written up, or more likely had one of his guys write up since Carter wasn’t really the report writing type. That meant I knew exactly where to find the man. He’d gone after my family twice now, and it was time he learned there were consequences.
Alice’s downtown was more of the main street than an actual downtown, covering about a half of a mile line with a scattering of storefronts mixed with three to five-story office type buildings, with the courthouse at one end of that section. Near the opposite end, in one of those storefront sections, was a small Italian restaurant. According to Carter’s reporters, Richards could be found there every afternoon for a very long lunch.
Carter had dug up some old filings that suggested that Richards was a part owner in the restaurant, and it was clear he did a good percentage of his business out of it. It was well after lunch; and, according to Carter’s notes, the restaurant was never particularly busy. Mostly, it was living off of handouts from Richards rather than paying customers, so there was plenty of parking up front.
I walked in straight past a stammering hostess, who I ignored completely, making a beeline for a table in the back corner. The hostess was hot on my heels, demanding that I stop.
Richards was at the table by himself, reading something, no food in sight, with two bodyguard types standing near him. Over the last year, Levi had given me a wide rundown of how bodyguards worked. At first, it was to help me understand better what to expect from the people Jawarski assigned to me, but once we got started, I got really interested and talked him into going through the basic training he’d given to soldiers assigned as guards during his days in Israeli intelligence.
While I wasn’t in any way qualified to be a bodyguard, it had given me an appreciation for what they did, and it told me that these two weren’t very good at the job. That was to be expected, actually. This was a small east Texas town, not Gambino era New York or Meyer Lansky era Vegas. It seemed hard to fathom these guys had actually done much in the way of body guarding.
For starters, neither was very attentive. They seemed oblivious to my approach until I was almost on top of the table. Considering I had a yammering hostess right behind me and the restaurant was empty, there wasn’t much more I could have done to announce my approach. Once they did seem to notice me, both men moved away from their boss towards me. One should have kept his distance, while the other approached me. Instead, they came towards me shoulder to shoulder. It meant that, as long as I could come to grips with both men, once they were down there weren’t any threats beyond them save Richards himself.
“Hold it,” the guard on my left said, putting his hand up inches from my chest.
In reply, I exploded into action. Grabbing the man’s hand in a joint lock, I twisted hard, applying more force than Levi would have approved of. While I’m sure it wasn’t actually audible, I thought I could almost hear the sound of the brittle bones in the man’s hand snapping as I twisted.
Instead of going for a weapon, which he should have done, he had the normal human reaction, reaching for the cause of his pain, trying to get me to release. I was able to ignore that for a second and, thanks to my dropping into the flow, I was able to divide my attention between the two attackers.
The second guard was clearly better trained, his hand moving towards what I was sure was a weapon as soon as I started my attack. Unfortunately for him, I was significantly faster. I slammed my flat palm into his diaphragm with a burst of power, causing him to double over slightly as I pushed all the air out of his lungs.
The hand continued its movement, snaking around the man’s head that was dropping as he doubled over and grabbing him by the hair. Just as he started regaining some composure to fight against my grip, I pushed his head down hard while bringing my knee up, smashing into his jaw, which gave way to the impact. I released my grip on his hair as the man’s body slumped like a marionette with its strings cut. I turned my attention to his friend who was trying to pry my hand loose.
Using the leg that was still returning from kneeing his friend, I smashed into the side of his leg as I pulled him in my direction by his injured hand, the impact caused his knee joint to pop out of place. The combination of the dislocated knee and the jerk I gave his hand caused the man to pull sideways, off balance. As he started to topple, I used the hand now freed from dealing with his friend to smash his face into the side of a table. Like his friend, his body went limp on impact.
Releasing his hair, I let him slump down next to his partner.
“That wasn’t necessary,” Richards said, surprisingly nonplussed by the sudden eruption of violence. “They were simply going to check you for weapons.”
“Your men have a bad habit of trying to hurt my family and me,” I said, glaring down at him from across the table.
“Ahh, you’re the kid,” he said, his eyes lighting up with recognition. “What can I do for you, Mr. Gray?”
“You can stop having your men come after my family and me.”
“I’m not sure what you’re talking about,” he said, the slight upturn of his mouth putting lie to his statement.
Maybe he thought I was wearing a wire or maybe he just liked being cagey, but I wasn’t in the mood for games.
“I’m sure you don’t. Let’s say - hypothetically, if you prefer - someone who works for you comes after my family again, I want you to be clear on the consequences.”
“Consequences?” he asked, his tone making it clear he thought that was funny.
“I will burn your whole organization down around you! I don’t care if I spend the rest of my life in jail, as long as my family’s safe. I can live with you taking shots at me. I clearly screwed up a lot of your plans, and you have it in for me. That’s life. But you’ve taken two shots at my people, in the last two months. I’m not going to let a third happen.”
“Two...” he started and stopped, seeming genuinely surprised.
I had no doubt he could feign innocence with the best of them, but he hadn’t even tried to hide his guilt up to this point, so it made no sense for him to start now.
“First my girlfriend’s sister, and now my sister. I’m giving you fair warning, besides the two dead men you sent, of course.”
“I don’t... , “ he started, still confused, and then composed himself. “Son, I think you have me confused with someone else. I don’t have ‘people’ and certainly didn’t send anyone.”
The denial I expected, but the shift in attitude - even after he recovered from the shock, which I also couldn’t tell if it was feigned or not - bothered me. I heard a grunt as one of his men, the one without the broken jaw, started to stir.
He hadn’t called the cops, but I didn’t want to push my luck any longer.
“This is your only warning,” I said, backing away.
“Thank you,” he said, the smile finally returning. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
I didn’t get quite back out of the restaurant, but I made sure he and his slowly waking guard were in my sight until I exited the building.
Once I was on the way home, I let my mind wander. That exchange went very different than what I’d expected, and I was having trouble wrapping my mind around it. He went from a mocking denial to fairly convincing surprise, back to mocking denials. The switch didn’t make sense, and I just couldn’t wrap my brain around it.
My confusion quickly abated when I pulled into my driveway, and a storm of angry women rushed out of the house before I even got my door open. I did notice, as they approached, that Jawarski wasn’t among them, which was probably for the best. As soon as I stepped out, the flood of words rushed over me as they all tried to yell at me at once, blocking me from moving away from the car.
“Hey. Hey. STOP!” I said, getting progressively louder with each shout so I could be heard over the din.
Thankfully, the torrent stopped with the last word, which came out as more of a guttural shout than actual words.
“Let’s take this inside, where you can all yell at me to your heart’s content.”
I pushed past them and headed through the front door and into the living room, where I sat on the couch, knowing this would take a while. As soon as I sat down, the screaming started again. Eventually, Mom took control of the group, seeing the mass of screaming wasn’t getting anywhere.
“What the hell were you thinking?” she said as they all settled down.
“I was thinking I wasn’t going to sit back and wait for another attack on one of you. I’m done being passive.”
“Do you realize what would have happened if you were killed?” Zoe said, still in a near panic.
“That’s not an easy thing to do.”
“You’re not invulnerable kiddo,” Mom said.
“I’m aware of that. I’m also not an easy target. Was it risky? Sure, but it needed to be done. We can’t just sit here and wait until the FBI finally decides to make their move. They’ve taken shots at us. We can’t just sit back and let that happen.”
“We have to be smart about this,” Vicki said.
“I was. I didn’t do anything, well ... not really. I just made it clear to him that there would be repercussions if he did it again.”
“And how did that work?” Emily said folding her arms.
“I didn’t expect it to actually work, but I wanted him to know that we were done sitting back. Next time, I won’t go and just talk.”
“Cas, I talked to Jonathan. We’re close. We just have to wait a little longer.” Mom said.