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 7

After five years of literally hiding out from his father, and a couple more before that of walking very carefully around him, it seemed unbelievable to Jon that he could be having a pleasant dinner in his father's apartment. After a while, to Jon's amazement, Pete cleared the dishes from the table, rinsed them off and put them in the dishwasher -- something he'd never been known to do back when Jon had been living at home. They settled in the small living room, and for the most part talked some more about what the family had been doing in Arizona. Both Jon and Tanisha were careful to not let the discussion steer to the secret of Crystal's parentage, but there were plenty of other stories to tell.

The stories eventually drifted to Lambdatron, and here both Jon and Tanisha had to speak a little more carefully since there were official secrets to be avoided -- but that didn't mean their talk couldn't stray to talking about Jennlynn. "I was watching TV last Sunday when it happened," Pete reported. "I knew that Jennlynn was a pilot, of course, but I just thought it was the case of someone with the same name, at least till that news conference. She really has a temper, doesn't she?"

"Oh, yes," Tanisha smiled. "Fortunately we've never been on the receiving end of it. For a long time, especially in the early years, she was about the only friend we had out there."

"I have to ask," he replied, "Are the stories going around about her working at that place in Nevada the truth?"

"I don't know the stories going around about it," Jon told him. "We haven't been watching much TV. But there is a kernel of truth to them. To make things simple, it's how she controls a strong sex drive without the danger of letting it get personal, and she keeps it strictly in that one place in Nevada. Jennlynn is a very private person, she always has been as long as we've known her, and the one thing we know for sure is that there is still a lot that we don't know about her."

"Quite a woman in any case, and I think I'm even more impressed with her than I was before," Pete shook his head. "More than ever, I'd like to see her and thank her again."

Jon exchanged a long glance with Tanisha. There were no words spoken, but there were times that they didn't need words. This was one of them. "Well, if you want," Tanisha said finally. "This still is a huge secret and has to stay that way, but she's in town, staying with a friend of hers and trying to avoid reporters and TV cameras. She wants to do at least a little of this show, and tomorrow is the day."

"We don't know how long it'll last," Jon added. "Because we're pretty damn sure that as soon as word gets out the place will be six deep in the worst kind of sensationalist trash pickers. We're hoping the show security will keep them out, but there's no way of telling what will happen."

"Darn," Pete shook his head. "I really would like to see her, but there's no way I can get free of the shop until along in the afternoon. I suppose I could swing by and see."

"Just don't tell anyone," Tanisha emphasized. "We think there's a good chance it'll blow over in a few days; it's just that we have to get through those few days first."

It was later than they expected when they headed back to the hotel, after an unexpected but thoroughly pleasant evening. "There's no way that could have gone any better," Jon said as he wheeled the rental car down the expressway. "I mean, no way at all."

"My God," Tanisha said, "When I realized he was your father, back at the show this afternoon, I just . . . well, Jon, I didn't know what to do."

"I didn't know what to do when I saw you with him," Jon agreed. "I think for the most part everything worked out. What was the deal you had with Doris? You seemed pretty nervous around her."

"Jon, she looks so much like my mother it's not funny," Tanisha sighed. "It was all I could do to keep from calling her 'Mom' a couple times. She doesn't really act much like my mother; she's much more outgoing and friendly, where my mother was rather submissive and reserved."

She was silent for a moment, and Jon heard a sniff in the darkness of the car. "Tanisha?" he asked.

"I don't know how to say this," Tanisha said. "Doris is almost like what I wished my mother had been like. Warm and friendly, not a cold fish like Mom, who always felt she had to stand in my father's shadow. I mean . . . well, damn."

"I think there was a little of that going both ways," Jon observed. "I think she could see a touch of her daughter in you, although I have no idea what that's all about."

"I got that, too," Tanisha agreed. "Other than the fact she's sad about losing her daughter, but she didn't actually say that. It was one of those things I just understood. I suspect it's something she doesn't want to talk about."

"We could have asked Dad, I suppose," Jon shrugged. "He probably knows. But when you get down to it, it's none of our business. We'll find out if she wants to tell us, I guess."

"It's probably nothing that matters to us, anyway," Tanisha agreed. "It's just, well, Jon, there's a little bit of my mind taking me where I don't want it to go. How things could have been, maybe should have been."

"You're seeing this big hole in my life -- hell, our lives -- getting filled in, and it makes you wish some, right?"

"That's a pretty good way of saying it," Tanisha agreed. She thought for a moment, then added, "On the other hand, it's wishing for what never was, too, so there's no point in making a big deal about it."

"Your family?" Jon said softly.

"Well, yeah," Tanisha said. "Except that my mother and father are both dead, and my brother probably doesn't have a brain tumor unless you call his whole brain a tumor. I don't think there's any fixing that."

"Maybe we'd better not go down that road," Jon suggested, "At least, not tonight."

"Not a bad idea," she replied. "I feel crappy enough as it is."

"Same thing?"

"Pretty much," she said. "I've tried not to admit to it since I know how big a deal tonight has been for you, but I'm still achy in the joints and that pork chop came close to making me barf. If this damn bra fit it would help some, but this is worse than ever. My breasts are both sore from it, and no, don't you dare offer to massage them to make them feel better."

"I don't know," Jon shook his head. "Whatever it is, it's beyond me. If you don't get to feeling better by the first of the week, maybe you ought to see a doctor."

"I'm all right, Jon," she replied. "I'll be fine; I just need to shake this bug. A doctor probably won't do much good."

"Tanisha," he said firmly, "I learned something important today and I hope you did too. Dad knew for years that something was wrong, but he decided to just tough it out. You see what happened with him. Like I said, if you're not feeling better the first of the week you're seeing a doctor even if I have to drag you. I am not going through that horseshit again."

Things started out well the next day, the first for Jennlynn at the Lambdatron booth. She made a point of not wearing a name tag, but that was about all she did to stay anonymous. She was her usual well-turned-out self, and her hair was back to normal, which meant on the inside edge of flamboyant.

Still, she was prepared for the day to go badly, as were Will, Jon, and Tanisha. It being the last day of the show anyway, they'd packed their bags early that morning, loaded them in the rental car, and checked out of the hotel rooms, ready to leave at a moment's notice if they had to.

There were people there who knew her from previous shows, and she didn't ask them to stay quiet about her presence; perhaps a few recognized her from the press conference of almost a week before, or from photos that had been printed. But other than people offering thanks and congratulations, things were surprisingly low key for much of the day. Pete showed up late in the afternoon, and had a nice discussion with her -- Jon and Tanisha had told Jennlynn about the revelation the night before, of course; she was surprised as anyone else, since she'd heard Jon and Tanisha's story long ago. Jennlynn now told Pete that in fact she hadn't had much to do with the controller project, that it had been mostly Jon and Tanisha's work; she'd merely been acting as a contact for Lambdatron.

They were still having a good discussion about the possibilities of additional future work when one of the security people came to the booth and said, "Miss Swift? There are some reporters without convention credentials out in the lobby who would like to talk to you."

"What if I don't want to talk to them?" she shook her head. "Do me a favor and don't let them onto the floor."

"I couldn't let them onto the floor anyway," the man said. "This is supposed to be a closed show. But it's starting to cause a problem out front, and I would appreciate it if you could do something to help out."

"I'll think about it," she replied. "I'd appreciate it if you didn't say anything until I've made up my mind, though."

"How about if I stick around for a few minutes while you think about it?"

"Suit yourself," Jennlynn shook her head. She turned and motioned Will -- who had been near the booth all day with a Lambdatron floor pass -- Jon, Tanisha, and Angela around her, along with Pete. "Well, this is it, folks. What do you think? Fight or flight?"

"I'm supposed to be the expert here," Will shook his head. "And I don't know what to tell you, other than if you feed them puppies they're going to keep begging for more. Don't feed them and sooner or later they'll go somewhere else to look for a hand to feed out of."

"That's how I see it," she sighed. "How about if I go out there and restrict myself to talking about the convention and refuse to talk about anything else?"

"Probably won't work, unless you want a reputation as a real cold bitch," he smiled. "If you feel you have to do it, then that's about the only thing you can do."

"I can do that," she smiled. "In fact, I'm pretty good at it." She turned to the security man. "All right," she said, "If I call a halt and head back onto the show floor, can you have enough security present to keep them from following me?"

"Not outside the front doors," he said. "We're having trouble keeping them back now. There's a conference room off the main floor where we could lock the door to the ballroom if we have to."

"I guess that'll have to do," she sighed. "Will, I can think of a couple good reasons for you to not go with me."

"Probably the same reasons I can," he nodded. "I agree, no one has noticed me yet and it might be just as well if I can stay anonymous. But somebody needs to go in and get things organized, and it needs to be someone who's capable of not taking any shit."

"I guess I'd better do it," Jon sighed. "It probably would be better if I did it, rather than one of the women."

"Put a limit on it," Will said. "Otherwise you'll be there all night. Just make sure you enforce it."

Jennlynn turned to the security man. "All right," she said. "Go ahead and move those people into your conference room, and make sure I can get out of there without being followed."

"I can do that," he agreed. "The sooner we can get this done the less the show will be disrupted.

Jennlynn, Jon, and Will huddled back in the corner of the booth for a moment, to try and get straight what they would be saying. A few minutes later, they walked over to the door to the conference room, where the security man was waiting. "They're pretty packed in there," he said. "That's not all that big a room."

"Just so there's someone here when I leave," Jennlynn said. "We're not going to be long. Sorry to be such a pain in the butt."

"These things happen, Miss Swift," he smiled. "And if I don't get the chance again, thanks for the great job you did on that airliner last Sunday."

"I just happened to be there and knew how to do it," she shrugged. "It really was no big deal."

"Yeah, but you did it. Now don't let these bastards get you down."

"I'm trying not to," she sighed. "Jon, better get in there and prep them. Don't say any more than you have to and make sure you cover my back when I leave."

"You can count on it, Jennlynn."

Jon really didn't want to do this but didn't see any other alternatives. This was not his idea of fun and wished Jennlynn hadn't decided to do this. Taking a deep breath, he walked into the room to a podium near the door. "Can I have your attention please," he said into a hubbub of sound. "Miss Swift has agreed to a brief question and answer session."

"Then where is she?" one loudmouthed reporter called.

"She'll be along in a minute," Jon replied, trying to keep his cool. "Now, everybody settle down and be quiet or this isn't going to happen at all. Is that clear?"

"Who the hell are you to tell us that?" the loudmouth said.

"I'm the guy she asked to make this statement," Jon said. "Who I am other than that is not important. Miss Swift has asked me to say she will take twenty questions and no more, and questions that are rude, prying, personal, or do not pertain to her presence here or the events last Sunday will be ignored but will count against the total.

"Just shut the hell up and get her in here," the loudmouth yelled.

"Miss Swift has also told me that she will not tolerate disorderly conduct out of people who supposedly are professionals," Jon said. "That includes you, whoever you are with no manners. This isn't going to happen while you're here. Thanks for making it easy for all of us."

"You can't fucking say that to me," the man yelled.

"Not only can I, I just did," Jon snorted, turning to go. He stalked out the door and slammed it behind him.

"Wow," Jennlynn said, having listened at the cracked-open door. "That was short and sweet."

"It's time for you to get out of here," Jon said. "That's a fucking zoo in there. If those people can't have enough common courtesy to at least listen to the ground rules, there's no reason you have to put up with it."

"Yeah, I think you're right," Jennlynn agreed. "Maybe Will and I should just grab a cab now and head for the airport. You and Tanisha could come back commercial tomorrow."

Just then the security man came back through the door. "That was actually kind of fun," he smiled. "About a dozen people grabbed that jackass and gave him the bum's rush out of there. They want to know if you'd be willing to try it again."

"Oh, hell," Jennlynn sighed. "I might as well. Jon, you want to do it?"

"Not really," Jon said. "But I will. Same rules, right?"

"Yeah, but make it clear you appreciate them throwing that idiot out."

"All right," he said. "Let's do it."

A minute or so later Jon was at the podium again. "Thank you for restoring some order," he told the crowd, which was a little better behaved than before. "I have no idea who that person was, but if he comes back into the room, this ends that instant, is that clear?"

"Ain't gonna happen," a big black guy called from the door -- he sort of put Jon in mind of Griz.

"Thank you, sir," Jon grinned, noticing a cameraman who was somehow managing two cameras, one on each shoulder. "I knew there had to be some professionals here. All right, same rules as I stated before. Keep it orderly. Twenty questions, dumb, rude, or personal ones that Miss Swift refuses to answer still count. The topic is only last Sunday or why Miss Swift is here today, and I very much doubt that she will allow you to go off topic. It's possible to keep this on a high level, and out of the gutter."

Of course, a storm of questions began to be called out the moment Jennlynn entered the room, but she ignored them as she walked the short distance to the podium. "Good evening," she said. "Let's keep this orderly. First question?"

There was a chorus of yells, but Jennlynn pointed at a reporter in the front row. "Sorry, miss, I didn't hear you through the racket," she said. "What was your question again?"

"Miss Swift, what are you doing here today?"

"I'm representing my primary employer, Lambdatron Corporation of Phoenix, Arizona, at the convention of the National Society of Mechanical Engineers. Next question."

Again there was a hubbub, and Jennlynn pointed out another reporter. "Miss Swift, what connection does Lambdatron have with the Redlite Ranch?"

"That's barely on topic but I'll give you the benefit of the doubt this once. The answer is, none whatsoever. Third question?"

The third through seventh questions all got answers from Jennlynn of "off topic," or "none of your business," and another of "You got told to keep it out of the gutter." The eighth question however, was legitimate: "Miss Swift, what does Lambdatron Corporation do?"

"I'm quite willing to talk about Lambdatron," she smiled. "We are primarily a research and development corporation focusing on computer and mechanical interfaces, although we work in a number of different areas. Lambdatron is totally employee owned and the stock is not publicly traded. Later this year I will have been there for ten years. Ninth question?"

It was the sixteenth question before Jennlynn got another one she would answer: "What's the position of Lambdatron on your off-time activities?"

"That's on the edge but I'll give you that one," Jennlynn said. "Our company's senior shareholder, which equates to CEO, said in a statement earlier this week, 'The management has always respected the right of their employees to pursue their own off-time activities.' Number 17."

Despite everything, that was the last question that got any sort of a positive answer. "And that was number twenty," Jennlynn finished up. "Good evening." She turned and headed for the door, Jon right at her back, leaving a yelling mob of reporters behind them. A pair of security guards stepped to the side to let them through, then closed in to keep the mob from charging through the doors.

Will had a huge grin on his face as she stepped back onto the main show floor. "Talk about not giving 'em anything," he smiled. "It ain't gonna shut 'em up but you kept your word."

"Yeah," she sighed. "Will, I think it's time we blew this pop stand, and yeah, the cabin is sounding pretty damn good right now."

"The problem is now them puppies are on the loose again with a hot trail to follow. We're gonna have a hell of a time getting you out through the lobby now. They're gonna be waiting for you now that they know you're here, and there could be more of them. We're gonna have a hell of a time sneaking out of here."

"Yeah, we should have done it when Jon told that guy off the last time," Jennlynn agreed. "We might have been able to do it if we'd been quick, but I guess I had to get cute. Sorry I screwed it up, Will."

Will shook his head and looked at the security guy. "Is there some way we can sneak her out of here without going through the lobby?" he asked.

"Yeah, I can take you out through a service hall, and out the back," the guy said. "But then what are you going to do? Call a taxi?"

"No, we have a rental, but we'd have to go get it," Will shook his head.

"Tell you what," Pete piped up. "I'm parked in the parking structure down the street. If you could take me out that service entrance, I could go get my car and meet you out back."

"That'd work," Will said. "Mr. Chladek, we'd surely appreciate your help on this."

"Just count it as a favor returned, and I still owe you a lot," Pete said. "Where do you want to go? It strikes me you'd have a chance of getting spotted at O'Hare, especially if they know you're in town."

"No way," Jennlynn smiled. "We've got a plane stashed out at the airport in Joliet. I doubt anyone would be looking there."

"Jon, Tanisha," Angela said, "You were planning on flying back with Jennlynn and Will, weren't you?"

"Yeah, but that's secondary," Jon said. "The primary thing is to get her out of here."

"It would be nice if we had something to divert the media while we did it," Will suggested. "I'm worried that someone could be waiting out back."

"Tell you what," Jon said. "Let's get this thing set up, and then I'll go out in the lobby and hope someone recognizes me from earlier. I can say a few things without really saying anything. I can also be a little obnoxious and it won't matter. Tanisha, you go get the rental, and then I'll just charge out the door, hop in the car, and we'll leave, right about the same time Jennlynn does. The problem is I don't know where the plane is."

"Somebody has to stay here while the show is still on," Angela protested. "And I really should be here right afterward to tear things down."

"No problem," Pete said. "We'll just meet up at my place, Jon knows how to find it, it's not close and no one would think of looking for Jennlynn there. I'll take everybody out to the airport, and then have Doris help me shuffle cars around afterwards. Just so you know, it's going to take a couple hours since Joliet is not real easy to get to in the kind of traffic we get this time of day."

"That's fine," Angela said. "It's going to take me a couple hours here after the show closes before I'll be ready to leave."

"Sounds like it'll work," Jennlynn said. "Let's get moving. The sooner we're out of here, the sooner we're heading back to Phoenix. Mr. Chladek, I guess you're the one who has to go first."

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To be continued . . .

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