What Lies Ahead
Summer was over, and it was time to get this new year started.
I know that the year starts in January; but when you’re in school, it always feels like it really starts in August, as that’s when school is back in session. Our Caribbean vacation had been ... interesting, but it was now over, and there was a lot to do.
While I had taken a month off for a little R&R, Ronald had been making steady progress on his desalinization project. The initial funding for Evolve had gone through, and the charity was ready to take on projects. Of course, Carter Talmon had also begun sending over messages concerning updates on Emily.
The way this year had started was a pretty clear sign that it would be just as wild as the previous year.
I was going out for my early run; alone, as usual. The girls didn’t mind doing exercise with me, but they still thought my early morning wake-up run was insane, and refused to join me. So the house was silent as normal when I walked out the front door.
That was when I got my first surprise. There was a car sitting in front of my house, across my driveway. Standing at the front fender of it, were two men. The first word that popped into my head when I saw them, was ‘goons’. They were beefy, dressed in suits, and both were giving me hard stares.
I had no idea what they wanted, but people with harmful intentions towards me had become more common than I would have liked. I knew to recognize the signs when I saw them, and these two definitely had negative thoughts towards me in mind.
I headed towards them, trying to look as nonthreatening as possible.
“Can I help you?” I asked.
‘I probably won’t be helping them, but you have to start these situations somewhere, ‘ I thought as I edged closer.
Mostly, what I needed to do was buy time while I got to within arms reach of them. If there was one thing I had learned acutely over the last six months, it was that all the training and enhanced musculature in the world, did little good against guns. So, I needed to stall as I closed the gap, in case they were armed.
“Your name Caspian Grey?” the larger of the two men said.
“Yes,” I replied, edging closer.
“You need to come with us,” the bigger man said.
“Who is us?” I asked, now within arm’s reach.
“People you should listen to,” he said, pulling aside his coat, revealing the butt of a gun.
That seemed particularly stupid. I was now well within arms reach and his gun was holstered. There was absolutely no chance he could pull his weapon before I got hands on him.
“No,” I told him, getting a good balance, ready to move.
I guess he finally realized he was in a bad position. He took half a step back, bumping into his car, and started reaching for his weapon. My right hand snaked out and impacted, knuckle first, with his throat. He dropped towards the ground making gurgling sounds and clutching his neck. I hadn’t hit him hard enough to damage his windpipe, or permanently cut of his air flow, but he would be speaking in a strained voice for several days. I followed that with a left hook, contacting solidly with the side of his head as he went down.
As he went down, his friend started reaching into the side of his jacket. Dollars to donuts said he had a gun in there. I reversed the movement of my right hand, gabbing at his elbow and pulling it towards me. While I was strong, this wasn’t a position for good leverage against him, so I allowed him to pull against my grip. This wasn’t the end of my planned move, however.
It added his body weight to the force I was putting on his arm when I kicked into the side of his right knee. The angle was wrong to break it, but considering the way he started to crumple in my direction, I most likely damaged it quite badly.
I twisted and kept pulling his arm as he dropped to his good knee, ending up between him and the car. My twisting motion and the sudden help from gravity allowed me to pull his arm all the way back. Leading with my knee, I landed on his back, forcing him onto his face. Sliding my grip to his wrist, I continued twisting, bringing his arm behind his back, both immobilizing him, and allowing me to cause pain in his arm if he tried to buck me.
“Who are you,” I said in his ear.
It took a moment for him to answer, and when he did it was with in a pained voice.
“I work for Joe Richards.”
I had no idea who that was, let alone why he would send people to my house looking for me.
“What do you want with me,” I asked.
He didn’t answer me right away, so I twisted his arm a bit further to give him a little nudge. Sweat was starting to collect on his forehead from the pain.
“Mr. Richards wants you to leave. We were supposed to take you to a quiet place, and convince you to leave Texas.”
“I don’t know. You interfered with something that involved him, and he wants you gone.”
I had gotten into a few things since last August. A bunch of those could have been the cause for someone getting pissed at me, although nothing I had done had struck me as notable enough to bump against some kind of organized crime. Which is what these two practically shouted in the way they acted.
Maybe it was connected to the MilTech thing, last year. But the owner had seemed pretty stand-up, and it didn’t seem likely that one of the now fired VPs who had set up the hit on me and my partners would have had that kind of backing without it touching the CEO. But then, there was the hired muscle he sent. That had to come from somewhere. It’s not like you could just take an ad out in the paper for that kind of thing.
At that moment the front door opened and Mom stuck her head out. We hadn’t made that much commotion, but a glance out the front window would have been enough. And most school mornings she would keep an eye out for me to return from my run so she could wake up the girls and cook breakfast.
“Call 911,” I said. “These guys jumped me, and are armed.”
She looked surprised, but didn’t say anything. She just turned and disappeared into the house to make the call. She left the front door open, and after a few moments, the girls came pouring out of the house in t-shirts and shorts. Vicki brought some kind of rope, although who knows where she got it. They trussed up both men, allowing me to get off the guy I was holding down.
A patrol car showed up a few minutes later.
“Where are the guys with guns?” the first officer asked as he stepped out of his car.
He was on the other side of the two goon’s car, and since they were tied up on the ground he couldn’t see them.
“Right down here, officers,” I said, pointing down and stepping back.
The two cops came around the car and found our prisoners.
“Well, that makes this easier,” he said.
“We didn’t do nothin,” the guy who had been unconscious said.
“Yeah, yeah,” the cop said as he patted the guy down, “what do we have here.”
He pulled a gun out of the guy’s suit jacket, and after a little more checking did the same with the other goon.
“I hope you two are licensed to carry these,” he said as he started to handcuff, and then untie the first one.
“Lawyer,” the goon told him.
They handcuffed and freed the second goon and stuck both in the back of their patrol car.
“What happened here,” the police officer asked after the guys were secured.
“I was coming out for my morning run, and these two guys were waiting outside for me. They told me I had to go with them. When I declined, they started to go for their weapons, so I put them down.”
“You put them down?” the officer asked a bit incredulously.
“Bill, this is that kid who was in all those fights and that shootout last year,” the other officer said.
“Ohh, yeah, ok,” he said to his partner before turning back to me. “You are going to have to come with us, give us a statement, and file charges on the attempted abduction.”
“Can he give you his statement now, and then come down to the station and do the rest of the stuff this afternoon. He has the first day of school today,” Mom said.
She had made it very clear, earlier in the week, that school was still my priority. I couldn’t just get by on my genetically super-charged brain. If she thought I wasn’t trying, she was going to bring the hammer down. I guess that included letting little things like an attempted kidnapping distract me.
I know most teenagers would have chafed at that kind of thing; but after so long without a real family, having a parent lay down the law felt nice. I had gone so far as to call up Ted, Marcus, Carter and everyone else the previous week, telling them I would be getting back to the grind after I got the new school year started. I had also reminded them they had done a pretty good job of keeping things running before a pushy teenager came into their lives, and I was confident they would be able to live without me for a while.
“Yeah, fine,” he said. “Just write out your statement, and make sure to come down to the station. We can hold them at least until then, on a firearms charge.”
I filled out the statement, and the cops left with their prisoners. With all that taken care of, we went in to change for school. Thanks to the morning’s adventure, we needed to skip breakfast. It was annoying, but what can you do?
One area where we didn’t have any trouble was how to get to school. Near the end of our trip, Vicki had turned sixteen. Her dad had a car waiting for her when she came home. What that meant was our transportation woes were at an end, although it created a new problem. The year before, we all rode to school together. I knew the girls wanted to keep doing that, but there would be many days I would need to go to the office right after school, while they were still in cheerleader practice.
So we ended with a compromise. Vicki picked up Tami while Zoe rode with me. I figured the days I’d have to head out, Zoe could catch a ride back with Vicki and Tami. On the other days, Zoe and Tami could switch. Plus, it’s not like we didn’t see a lot of each other.
The first stop that morning was a meeting with Mrs. Polaski and Mrs. Runkle, about our accelerated classes program.
“Now that we are all here,” Mrs. Runkle said when the girls and I walked in.
We had tried our best to make up for lost time in getting ready, but were still five minutes late for the meeting. The girls were already annoyed because they had planned on looking put together and ready for their first day, and now it was pony tails and casual clothes. I didn’t mind, since t-shirt and jeans was my preferred dress, but I knew better than to point that out.
“Sorry, Mrs. Runkle,” I said.
“Yes, well, please try to be more punctual next time, Caspian,” she said with a half grin. She had always been really nice to me, so I knew she was just messing with me.
“So,” she continued, “last year you all managed to finish off all of your freshman and sophomore math and science classes, as well as the rest of your freshman requirements. The plan for this year is to take what are normally junior level math and science courses. We’ll double up on your English and History classes, like we did for math and science last year. That means, at the end of this year, with the exception of electives, you will have finished off all the classes for your junior year, leaving us a lot of options for both AP and college level courses in your final two years here at Truman.”
“Now, you all did excellently last year. Mrs. Polaski and I were very happy with your performance; but I will warn you, this year will be harder. Doubling up on English and History courses means you will be writing a lot of papers and essays this year. You will find your workload this year will be greater that it was last year. But I think you can handle it.”
Mrs. Polaski stood up and said, “I want to add to what Mrs. Runkle just said. You have been excellent students this last year, and I have every confidence you will be able to do us proud. The school board has been evaluating this pilot program and several other districts have been making inquiries into our program, and seeing if it is viable for their schools. So, keep working hard.”
“Your schedules are all up with the secretary. Please get them on the way out.”
Mrs. Runkle wasn’t kidding about how aggressive our schedule was going to be this year. They had streamlined the classes so that basically, each class was just the group of us in the advanced program. We had grown at this point to thirteen students, including Sarah who had tested into the program. The girls had the most to do with that. Sarah was very bright, but had mostly kept to herself in school before joining our group. The girls had decided she could handle the work and spent a lot of time over the summer break working with her so she would be ready.
There were also a few other kids I did not know particularly well, but they all seemed focused and smart. I was glad there were people not connected to us in the program now. Having my people make up the bulk of the program stood out too much for me. Maybe I was paranoid, but it was always something little that gave away the big secrets.
In each class we got our syllabuses and went over what was going to happen this year, and it became readily apparent what was going to happen was writing. Lots of it. To make up for the accelerated program, instead of a lot of little assignments, History and English classes were pretty much tests and essay papers, and that was it; besides, the tests themselves would be largely essay based as well.
While I wasn’t worried about being able to do the work, papers take time to write, and this year was already looking to be a lot busier than the previous year. I wanted to take a bigger hand at the office, getting more projects shepherded through. The close call with the drone project had shown me we had too many eggs in one basket. I needed to get more projects in the works. My long term goals would require money. Lots of it, and this was the best way I could see to getting that.
After school, the girls all planned on riding back with Zoe after their practice was over. That was a benefit of not being involved in a school sport anymore, it freed up a lot of my afternoons. Vicki wasn’t involved either, but she liked to go to the girls practices. The three of them were practically attached at the hip, and it was rare to see them not together any more. It wasn’t something I had really spent time thinking about, but I made a mental note to talk to Alex about it at some point. While each was still her own woman, they were becoming more and more in sync, every day. It was a little unnerving, actually.
First, I needed to head to the police station and fill out the paperwork, and to file charges against the goons.
“Hi, I am supposed to come in this afternoon and file a charge against the two guys that tried to grab me this morning,” I said.
After getting all the details, and typing a few things in the computer, the desk sergeant said, “I don’t see anything like that in here. Normally, the patrol officer will open a case in the system with the suspected party’s name and information, and mark it as waiting for the complainant. But I see nothing with your name in here. Do you know the names of the guys who were brought in?”
“No, but he said they were going to hold them on a weapons charge. They were carrying guns this morning.”
He typed some more and said, “No, I have nothing on that, either.”
I was starting to get frustrated by the bureaucracy, when one of the two officers walked through the squad room behind the desk sergeant.
“There, he’s one of the officers who arrested them, this morning,” I said, pointing at the man.
“Ok, take a seat,” he said, getting up and heading over to the officer.
I sat down, but could still see them from where I was. The two men were talking for a moment, and then headed to an open desk, where they did more computer work. After a few minutes the officer from this morning looked confused, and both men headed for a doorway and disappeared.
Almost twenty minutes went by with me just sitting and waiting. Once, another police officer came through with someone in handcuffs, but that was it. Finally, the officer and the desk sergeant both returned.
“I don’t know what happened,” the officer said. “There is no record of the arrest this morning. The paperwork my partner filed is not there, and no one down in the holding area can remember seeing them. It’s like it never happened.”
“What the hell. What about their guns, you guys probably took those?”
“Nope,” the desk sergeant said, “there is nothing in ‘Property’. If Taylor, here, was not confirming your story, I would have just assumed you were confused. Because other than you and him saying it happened, there is no record of anything.”
“What can we do? I don’t want those guys just showing up at my house, again.”
“I’m going to talk to my Lieutenant,” the officer said. “I will call you when I find out more. Trust me, I am as concerned about this as you are.”
And to his credit, he did seem concerned. I’m just glad he was there, otherwise I would have been blown off by the desk sergeant, as a crank.
I was annoyed by what happened at the station, but it pushed me into doing something I had been thinking about. The way things had been going, both during the previous year and on the cruise over the summer, I felt we needed to keep in contact more. With the events this morning, and then what happened at the police station, I believed this more than ever. So my next stop was to pick up some cell phones.
I was a little concerned over the cost, as the rate per minute charge on these things could rack up a bill pretty fast. A kid at school the year before had convinced her parents to get her a cell phone ‘for emergencies’ and managed to end up with a three thousand dollar phone bill at the end of the first month. Of course, considering how my finances had grown over the last year, worrying about what the phones might cost seemed silly. Even if all the girls did that kind of damage every month, it still wouldn’t put much of a dent in our finances.
I didn’t go fancy. I just picked up the base model phones for me, the girls, Tina, and Alex. I had actually picked up one more without thinking about it until it occurred to me I was still counting Emily among our number. She was still on my mind, and all through the summer she had crept up, in little ways like that. My subconscious was having a hard time letting her go. I bought all the phones, along with the chargers and various accessories we would need. The guy in the phone store was particularly dubious about a teenager walking in and dropping a bunch of money on cell phones. He even went so far as to call the bank and verify that my credit card was good.
But, I was able to get the phones, and I headed back home.
My afternoon had been busy enough that I was the last one home. I called everyone together and told them about what happened at the police station.
“So there are two thugs out there who not only want to scare you into leaving town, but are probably pissed that you beat them up?” Mom asked, sounding scared.
“Yes, but I am less worried about them, than about the implications of what this means,” I said.
“What implications?” Tina asked.
“That these guys were just let go, and any record of their arrest was erased. That means they are connected, big time. Put that with the fact that they were just hired muscle for someone else, someone I apparently upset; and it can mean real, serious, trouble. These two guys are just the tip of the problem.”
“What are we going to do about it?” Zoe asked.
“There’s nothing we can do, right now, but just be careful,” I told her. “To that end, I bought everyone a cellphone.”
I reached into the bag I was carrying and started handing them out.
“Please keep these with you at all times. I want us all to be able to reach each other as needed, in case of emergency. These things are expensive, so these aren’t for just chatting with friends; but if you need to use them, use them. Hopefully they can help keep us safe until we figure out what’s going on, and what we can do about it.”
The conversation about the men dwindled after a few more questions, since really there was nothing we could do about it at the moment. They also had their new phones to keep them entertained. Except for the cruise this summer, and a reasonable car for me, there had been little change in our lives since I came into money. Mom still worked. She loved her job, and didn’t want to give it up. Plus, her lab gave us access to run tests on me and the girls as needed.
While the conversation about what had happened might have come to an end, I was more concerned than ever. This felt like the start of something, and I just knew it was going to get worse before it got better.