Wes Boyd's
Spearfish Lake Tales
Contemporary Mainstream Books and Serials Online

Growing Together
Book Six of the Dawnwalker Cycle
Wes Boyd
2008, 2011



Chapter 5

Because they hadn't managed much sleep the night before, by the time the convention booths closed for the day, Jon and Tanisha were exhausted. They hadn't had much to eat all day, other than one or the other of them sneaking out to the lobby for some snack food. "We could call room service," Jon suggested as they cleaned up the booth and prepared it for the next day.

"I don't think so," Tanisha shook her head. "We'd be asleep when it got there."

"Yeah, that was what I was thinking. I wonder if the dining room is fairly quick."

"It was slower than somewhat last night, with all the convention people around," Angela told them. "If you want something quick, there's a Burger King up the street."

"That's a possibility," Jon replied. "But would you like to have dinner with us?"

"I hadn't planned on it," Angela said. "My friend from KLR Controls is here, we were going to get together."

"Have fun," Jon smiled. It was no secret around Lambdatron that Angela was a lesbian -- in fact, she was very out about it. It was also well known that part of the reason Angela liked to do these shows was the show coordinator from the other company also did girls, and they liked to hook up while on the road. In fact, the connection had brought no little business to Lambdatron from KLR. "Gonna party a little, huh?"

"With any kind of luck, party a lot," Angela grinned. "We may go to her room, but if we don't, then don't be surprised at what you hear from the other half of the suite."

"Enjoy yourself," Tanisha grinned. "At least someone here is going to be awake enough to enjoy themselves."

The Burger King proved to be just about as quick as they were in the mood for. It didn't take them long to eat, toss the trash, and be heading through the Chicago winter cold up to their room.

The room was in a suite; although it was in Lambdatron's name, originally it was to have been Jennlynn's room, with Angela next door. Now, Jennlynn and Will were in rooms registered to Jon and Tanisha in another hotel. That made Jon think: "I suppose we ought to call our room and check in with Jennlynn, just to be on the safe side."

"Call if you want to," Tanisha said, a touch on the irritable side. "I'm tired, I ache, I want a shower, and I want to get to sleep."

"I'll call," Jon replied, recognizing his wife's irritation -- it didn't happen very often, so was a touch notable. While she stripped off her clothes, he sat on the bed, picked the phone up off the stand, and called up the street to Will and Jennlynn's room.

After Will answered the phone Jon said, "I just thought I'd call and let you know we didn't see any press down at the booth today."

"Well, that's good news," Will told him. "I still ain't had the chance to watch the news much, but the hijacking yesterday is still at the top of the charts. It seems the press is a little confused and upset that Miz Swift managed to escape Biloxi without telling a soul, but no one seems to know where she's gone. I saw on CNN that my boss, Lieutenant Maitland, said he thought she'd gone to New Orleans, but he wasn't sure about that. I suspect General Ronstadt told him to say something like that, though."

"Nothing like a little false trail," Jon agreed. "So did you hang around town and watch TV today?"

"A little, not much," Will said. "Miz Swift and I have both always wanted to see the Museum of Science and Industry, so we went there. That's pretty interestin'. It was real neat to go through that U-boat. I can't believe people used to live like that."

"I know what you mean; I went through it as a kid," Jon replied. "I'm surprised Jennlynn went out in public, though."

"Oh, we did a little disguising, nothing out of the way," Will told him. "If you can, imagine Miz Swift with her hair pulled back in a ponytail and wearin' a sweatshirt and glasses, looking kinda sloppy. I didn't even hardly recognize her."

"I can't imagine it," Jon said truthfully. Jennlynn was always nicely dressed, and her spectacular hair was one of the more memorable things about her. "But anyway, glad you had a good time."

"Yeah, pretty good," Will agreed. "It's somethin' a little different for us to get together and do city-type things. Most of the time we've had a chance to do much together there's been horses involved, out in the desert someplace."

"I'm pretty much a city boy," Jon said. "But you know, that almost sounds like fun for a change."

"I've been on Air Force bases so much the last few years, it's a fun change for me, too," Will told him. "I will surely be glad to get back to bein' able to make my life doin' it. You folks had dinner yet?"

"Sort of, we went to the Burger King up the street. We're both exhausted and need to get some sleep."

"Well, we was sort of thinkin' we ought to get together for dinner with you or somethin'," Will told him. "But I don't guess it matters all that much tonight. Why don't you give a call after the show wraps up tomorrow night, and maybe we can get together somewhere. Don't even have to be room service, neither."

"Tomorrow night sounds good," Jon replied. "Right now I'm just hoping I can stay awake long enough to get out of the shower."

"Well, give us a call if you hear somethin'," Will said. "I'd expect that we'll be out and around somewhere tomorrow. You have a good night and a quiet day tomorrow now, hear?"

"You too, Will. See you tomorrow, maybe."

Jon hung up the phone, just a little amused. Will could talk in good English -- they'd heard him on the plane early in the morning, and they knew from their discussion that he had an extension degree from the University of Maryland. But, this discussion showed that either his default way of speaking was cowboy, or he just liked to talk the way he'd learned growing up on a ranch in the middle of nowhere in Nevada.

By the time Jon was done talking with Will, Tanisha was getting out of the shower; Jon thought she must have been serious about wanting to get to bed since she'd done it that quickly. For that matter, he wasn't in the mood to waste time himself, so he stripped off his clothes and headed off for his turn under the shower head.

Tanisha was drying her hair in the nude when he walked into the bathroom. For once the sight of her nude body didn't instantly turn his thoughts to sex, since he was tired himself. "Good God, what a day," he said over the sound of the hair dryer.

"No fooling," she said. "I've felt achy and crappy all day, and that burger isn't setting too well with me. I hope I feel better in the morning."

"Me, too," he agreed, heading for the shower.

Tanisha was gone from the bathroom by the time he got out, and was in bed by the time he made it out of the bathroom. "Well, I guess the best you can say about this day was it worked out," he said as he got in the other side of the bed. "Boy, this has been a tough one, and it might have gone better if I hadn't sat up jawing with Mike from Phoenix to Biloxi."

"It's your own fault, then," she said, looking at him from under the covers. "You know, this is the first chance we've had all day to talk without anyone else around, but can you believe Jennlynn with a boyfriend?"

"I sure can't," he yawned. "I mean, I saw him with my own two eyes, but still! Jennlynn? This is our Jennlynn?"

"I guess it just goes to prove she's still a mystery, no matter how well we think we know her," Tanisha smiled. "I mean, will wonders ever cease?"

"Well, after the last couple days, we ought to know that surprises happen," Jon replied philosophically. "We've sure had enough of them. Well, one down, four to go."

"Yeah," Tanisha agreed. "I hadn't really planned on coming to this show, and I'm going to be glad to have it over with. It takes me a little time to get psyched up for these things and I didn't have it."

"Plus watching over our shoulders all the time," Jon agreed. "At least we didn't have any sign of the press bothering us, or any sign of Dad showing up, so that's about all we could ask for. I talked to Will; he doesn't have a lot of information, but I got the impression he's not real worried about the press finding them, at least yet. Now, what happens if Jennlynn comes and does the show and someone passes that word along, that's another story."

"Yeah," Tanisha agreed. "I really wish she'd just headed out to that cabin she has with Will and got away from everything for a few days to give this a chance to blow over."

"You know Jennlynn; she has her own agenda," Jon sighed. "Always has had, too. My guess is she thinks she at least needs to do it a little, so she can make herself think the world is what it always used to be. I don't think it is, and it wouldn't surprise me if she has a hard time getting used to the idea."

"It wouldn't surprise me," Tanisha agreed. "Usually when a major change comes on you quickly, it takes a while to come to grips with it and get used to it. Ask me, I've been there, and I know."

Twelve hours later Jon felt better when the travel alarm went off. Not perfect, but better. Human, anyway, which was a big improvement over the night before. It was tempting to ignore the alarm, roll right over and get some more sleep, but he knew he'd set the alarm to give them enough time to get up and get around, so there was no choice but to cave in to reality and get up.

First things first, though: a good morning kiss. He rolled over, to see Tanisha lying there, still out like a light, with the covers thrown back. "Hey babe," he said more cheerfully than he felt, "Time to rise and greet the dawn."

"And the hell with you, too," she mumbled. "What a miserable night."

"Didn't sleep well?" he asked conversationally.

"Not particularly," she said, a little more clearly now. "For whatever reason, I had to get up and pee what seemed like every fifteen minutes. And then, half the time I was drenched in sweat. God, I could use another few hours of quality sleep. I must be coming down with something."

"I hope not," he said. He knew well it was no fun being sick, especially sick out on the road. Fortunately, neither he nor Tanisha were the kind of people who got sick very often.

"Well, I hope not, too," she sighed. "This week is going to be tough enough, without being sick on top of it. Well, I guess there's nothing to do but do it."

"Works that way sometimes," he agreed. "Go ahead, use the can, I can wait."

"Don't have to right now," she sighed. "I was up and used it a few minutes ago."

"All right," he replied. "I guess I'd better be the one to face the music."

Jon was the kind of guy who managed to get in and out of the bathroom in the morning fairly quickly. It always took Tanisha a little longer, but he figured that went with being a woman. He was out of the bathroom in perhaps five minutes, and found Tanisha sitting on the bed, only partly dressed, and looking a little glum. "Still not with it, huh?" he asked.

"Not really," she sighed. "I guess we must have really thrown things together when we left home, though."

"Oh?" he asked, while thinking more about what pants he wanted to wear.

"We packed in a hell of a hurry," she shook her head. "I must have grabbed some older bras or something. Every one I have feels uncomfortable, sort of tight."

"Well, make it through the day," he suggested. "We might manage to have some time tonight to find some place to get you some new ones."

"No, I'll struggle through," she shook her head. "You men don't realize just how lucky you have it. Breaking in a new bra is about as uncomfortable as wearing an old one that doesn't fit quite right. There's nothing I can do about it now but wait it out till I can get home. I'll tell you what, though, the sooner this week is over with the more I'll like it."

"Well, I'm with you on that one," he agreed. "I know I'm going to be watching over my shoulder all week long, either for a herd of reporters looking for Jennlynn, or for Dad. I was glad to see Chicago in the rear view mirror the last time I was here, and I'm not going to be any less happy to see it there this time."

"If we head back in the 310 there's no rear view mirror," she teased, which made him feel a little better considering how irritable she'd seemed this morning.

"Same difference," he said, "As long as we're pointing away."

After that rough start the day went better. Whatever bug Tanisha may have had, it seemed to have disappeared as they got started in the booth. Angela showed up not long before the displays opened, looking very laid back, indicating to them that things must have gone about as planned although they didn't say anything other than comment that she must have had a good time, which she admitted to.

The convention booths tended to be a little busier than the previous day. They ran hot and cold, though, and the lectures and other presentations going on continually elsewhere at the convention, and some were more popular than others. They spent a good part of the morning talking with a guy about automated machining operations; he was back in the afternoon, bringing a couple co-workers with him. It seemed they had a specific problem with making some finely detailed parts, something that Jon and Tanisha had a fair amount of experience with and could speak on with some expertise. It didn't have much to do with their current main project, which was classified to the point they couldn't even admit to its existence but similar enough to other projects they'd worked on that they could be convincing to the ones asking the questions. What it came down to was that they'd made a pretty good sales presentation, and it looked like it was going to turn into a site visit, although probably not for them -- in other words, it looked like there was going to be some serious business coming out of it.

Even though they were nowhere near as tired as they had been the day before, they were glad to have the day behind them. Knowing they were talking about something that had the potential to turn into real business had been more stressful than just standing around and giving the same old spiel about how Lambdatron could help with research and development needs. Once again as soon as the booth was cleaned up for the night, Angela took off with her friend from KLR Controls, while Jon and Tanisha headed up to their room to call Jennlynn and Will.

Tanisha made the call, and, as expected, they were invited to dinner. "I'm figuring we might as well go someplace midrange," Jennlynn said. "We might be less likely to be noticed there."

"I don't know a thing about the restaurants here," Tanisha admitted. "And I'd just as soon not try for anything too exotic, anyway. My stomach has felt a little rocky all day, and I don't think I could handle much of anything spicy."

"We don't have to get something that's real exotic," Jennlynn told her. "I'm not really in the mood for it myself. Do you have some kind of bug or something?"

"I don't know," Tanisha sighed. "Let's just say I've felt better. I haven't had a good night's sleep for a couple days now, but whatever it is, I don't seem to be shaking it."

"Maybe what we'd better do is stick to the idea of having room service here," Jennlynn suggested. "That way we can talk a little more freely anyway."

"That sounds like a good idea," Tanisha agreed. "I guess I'm not really ready for a big night on the town, anyway. I know both Jon and I would love to spend some quality time with you and Will, but after everything today I'd just as soon it was around some peace and quiet."

There was still no hint of reporters haunting the Lambdatron booth on Wednesday, which went about like the two days before. After some discussion among them, including Angela but eventually going all the way to Stan, it was decided that Jennlynn would try working the booth on Friday. If she was discovered, it would still be easy to get out of town in the Cessna 310, which Joe Brockway had flown in on Tuesday and parked at a small airport on the edge of town. Angela would deal with the rental car after they left, whenever they did, since she was staying behind to deal with the booth and ship the display back to Phoenix. In any case, the media circus seemed to be dying down, at least judging by the continuing decrease in the number of calls Griz was taking at Lambdatron.

Tanisha still felt a little off pace when she got up on both Wednesday and Thursday mornings, but for the most part she managed to shake it off by the time she and Jon got down to the display floor.

It wasn't necessary for both Jon and Tanisha to spend every minute in the booth; especially during the slow periods, one of them was plenty, which gave the other one some time to go out and explore the displays. There were some good ideas out there, and it always fascinated them to see some of the ingenuity involved in some of the pieces on display. The afternoon was winding down on Thursday and things were slow indeed when Jon decided to head out for the bathroom for a minute, going the long way to check out a few more booths. Due to their habit of staying together most of the time it always felt a little strange for either of them to take off alone, and they never let it go too long.

Tanisha was having a discussion with a sales rep from the next booth, both of them mostly complaining about the way so much new technology seemed to be making its way to China without benefit of observance of any patents or royalties. The two weren't complaining at each other, in fact they were mostly agreeing, but they had plenty to say about the arrogance of the Chinese, especially the government, and how the Feds ought to do something about it but seemed too gutless to care. Both agreed that it wasn't going to do American business any good, but they seemed to differ a little on just how bad they thought the effects were going to be.

About that time Tanisha happened to notice an older gentleman talking with Angela, and it seemed like Angela was trying to give her the high sign to come over and talk with this guy. Tanisha told the sales rep from the next booth that they'd have to continue their talk later, and headed over to the guy, who was about Jon's size, a little heavier, and nearly bald, with short-cropped gray hair. "I don't usually come onto the display floor," the guy said, "But I thought I'd drop by and see if by any chance Jennlynn Swift had shown up this time."

The plan currently was for Jennlynn to be present the next day, the closing day of the show, but that was still about as secret as anything at Lambdatron. "No, sir," Tanisha said respectfully. "She wasn't planning on being here today."

"That's a shame," the guy said. "I worked with her on a project she did for our company a few years ago. She and Lambdatron did a really terrific job on it, and it's led to a whole new generation of machinery for us. I can look back now and see we were sliding downhill badly, but you people at Lambdatron totally turned things around for us. I just can't thank you enough. Jennlynn was the project manager, so I'd hoped to see her again to thank her."

"We're always glad to have the testimonial, sir," she replied. "It's always nice to know we've been able to do some good for someone. What was the project?"

"It was a command unit for a laser-controlled die cutter," the man said. "I was part of a team that built the original unit thirty years ago, but through our own stupidity we'd let it get behind the technology curve. You Lambdatron people yanked us at Hadley-Monroe ahead thirty years in only a few months. Like I said, it really turned the company around. You also redesigned the control units for us for some related machinery over the next few months."

Oh. My. God! Tanisha thought, taking a hard look at the man as he talked about some of the new applications they'd been able to get out of the laser die cutter. The only way this guy could not be Jon's father was if he worked in the same office with Jon's father, and there was a lot about him that seemed familiar . . . Now just what the hell do I do? The only thing was that this guy seemed a lot calmer and friendlier than every story she'd ever heard about Pete Chladek . . .

Thoughts were going through her mind at a furious pace as she tried to keep up a conversation and figure out what to do. Really, there was no way out but straight ahead. Maybe it was best, right now, that Jon wasn't there. "That's really a neat little unit," she told him finally, when she could get a word in edgewise. "I can't say anything about the actual application because it's classified, but I can tell you that now some things can be done with that controller on a laser die cutter that push the accuracy of the system beyond what anyone thought was attainable."

"You've worked on the Hadley-Monroe projects?" he said, looking a little surprised. "You look a little young to be doing that kind of thing."

She took a deep breath. "I've been involved with them since the beginning, some projects more than others. The laser die cutter controller was one of the first projects that my husband and I worked on when we came to Lambdatron," she explained. "Jennlynn was the project manager, but she was primarily involved with a classified project at the time, while my husband and I didn't have security clearances, so we wound up doing most of the basic design of the die cutter controller, and most of the follow-up projects build on that."

"You did?" he smiled. "Let me tell you, I'm very impressed. That was masterful work, so I'm really pleased to have met you. You must really know your stuff. Where did you go to school?"

"Georgia Tech, sir," she said. "I graduated in '97. I'm now working on my doctorate at Arizona State."

"Georgia Tech, '97, huh?" the man smiled. "Did you ever run into a Jon Chladek down there?"

"Yes, sir," she smiled, and decided she had no choice but to throw caution to the wind and hope for the best, "I married him. He's my husband."

"I always knew he had good taste," the man smiled. "He's my son."


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To be continued . . .

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