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 8

So far, so good, Jon thought as he headed for the lobby. The timing was going to be tight; in six minutes his father would be pulling up to the service entrance in the back, and in nine minutes Tanisha would be pulling up in the rental outside. This is really more complicated than it needs to be, Jon thought. There was no reason he couldn't have just walked out with Tanisha, or maybe with Jennlynn and Will, but after the last few days and especially after the joke of an alleged "press conference" there were some things he wanted to say. Whether anyone in the press would pick them up was hard to judge. Probably not, he thought, but someone needed to say it. Jon wasn't an outspoken guy normally, but he'd had enough.

There was a number of people heading out the lobby doors at the same time, and none of the reporters gathered there were paying much attention to him. He probably could have made it out the door without being bothered, but that wasn't his intention. He looked around briefly, spotting the big black dude holding a professional video camera. Perfect, he thought. He walked right up to the guy and said, "Hey, thanks man. You were pretty cool back there."

"That guy is a real asshole," the black guy said. "He can make a real pain of himself. It was good that someone told him to go to hell. I know several people got footage of that, I wouldn't be surprised to see it get on air sometime."

"Good deal, he deserves it," Jon told him. "I don't know why people like him think they can get away with things like that, but I guess they do."

"He does all too much," the guy snorted. "We just have to put up with him."

"Uh, sir," a feminine voice said. Jon looked up and saw a young reporter, probably no older than he was. She was very pretty, with a big chest; Jon couldn't help but wonder if she got her job as the result of her looks or her smarts. If he had to bet, he thought, he'd bet on her bra size. "What's your relationship with Jennlynn Swift?"

"Just a co-worker at Lambdatron," Jon told her, glad that someone had noticed. "We're both representing the company at this show."

"You're not like a boyfriend or anything?" another reporter asked.

"No, no way," Jon smiled. "I'm afraid my wife would have a problem with that."

"What's she like to work with?" a third reporter asked. "Pretty casual?"

"Furthest thing from it," Jon said. "She's very demanding, very intolerant of incompetence. She's been my supervisor on several projects, and I've learned a great deal about engineering from her."

"You don't have any problem with her being a prostitute?" one of the reporters asked.

Jon was finally drawing some attention now. Good, he thought. "It's her business. It's not mine. It doesn't affect her job performance and you really can't ask much more than that."

"Do you have any idea why she does it?" the first reporter asked.

"No idea," Jon replied. "Like I said, it's her business. I don't pry into other people's private lives. Why are you even asking that question?"

"Well," the blonde with the big chest said, "The public has a right to know."

"No," Jon told her, "The public does not have a right to know, any more than they have a right to know what color panties you have on."

"But she's a public figure," the blonde protested. "People have a right to know about public figures."

"You are more of a public figure than she is. What color are your panties?" Jon replied snidely. "Or do you even have any on at all?"

"That's a pretty rude thing of you to ask," she snorted.

"And asking me about someone else's private life isn't?" Jon said. "In fact, that's considerably more rude. You may have forgotten one thing, young lady. Miss Swift is not an elected official, so you don't have that reason to pry. She is not a public employee, or even an employee of a publicly held company, so you have no right to pry into her life using the excuse that the public has a right to know. The public has no such right, no more than they have the right to know the color of your underwear. You especially have no reason to judge Miss Swift for what she does in her private life any more than I have any reason to judge you for what you and your boyfriend did last night. I don't know what you did, I don't want to know, and I couldn't care less. Frankly, people like you trying to make a scandal out of who Miss Swift is and what she does makes me sick. Worse, it makes me ashamed to be an American to think that we have to even put up with you alleged journalists. Less than a week ago she saved hundreds, if not thousands of lives. She didn't do that for personal publicity, she did it because it had to be done and she was the only one who could do it. She would have been just as happy if she could have walked off that airplane without anyone knowing who she was. You just want to drag her through the gutter for the sake of your lousy little rating points. As far as I'm concerned, the whole damn bunch of you can go straight to hell." He smiled and turned to the big black guy, who now was recording the whole thing. "With your exception, of course."

The guy flashed a big grin at him; Jon hoped that he'd gotten a good piece of his rant. He doubted like hell that it would make it on the air but at least there was some hope. He glanced at his watch; about time to be getting out of there. "I have other places to be," he said. "So, again with your exception, sir, I bid you all a truly lousy night." He turned on his heel and headed for the front door at a fast walk.

Fortunately, Tanisha was waiting outside with the rental car, arguing with a doorman who wanted her to move it for someone important, but she wasn't buying. Jon opened the right door, jumped in and said, "Let's go."

Tanisha immediately punched the accelerator, leaving the doorman standing there with an exasperated look on his face. Jon swung around in the seat, wondering if anyone was charging out the door after them, but didn't see anyone in pursuit. "How'd it go?" Tanisha asked.

"I said what I had to say," Jon sighed. "Nothing much about Jennlynn, though."

It took more than an hour to make the meet outside of Pete's condo, and for the five of them to drive down to the Joliet Park District Airport, where Songbird had been sitting for several days. "If we're just going to get out of here," Will said not far from the airport, "Maybe we ought to think about getting something to take with us on the plane. Fast food, a sub, something like that."

"Not a bad idea," Jennlynn agreed. "I've been thinking about it. Originally we were just going to head for home and drop Jon and Tanisha off in Flagstaff, but I'm thinking now that we might just as well stop in Phoenix."

"There could be reporters waiting for you there, especially after the fracas tonight," Jon pointed out.

"Well, yeah," Jennlynn said, "But I've been thinking about it. I need some stuff from my apartment if Will and I are going home this time of year, and we'd be dropping you two off awful early in Flag to not have a car there. Besides, if we just make a quick pit stop in Oklahoma City, we should be pulling into Phoenix about four in the morning. If anyone is crazy enough to be staking out my hangar at that hour, I just might be willing to talk to them."

"Are you sure you want to fly the 310 all night?" Tanisha asked. "That's a long haul for this late."

"Between Will and I, we can handle it," Jennlynn smiled. "I'm used to staying up late, and he's a pilot, too."

"Good grief, Will," Tanisha shook her head. "Is there anything you can't do?"

"Well, technically I'm not a multi-engine pilot, but I can always use some time in my logbook," Will grinned, "'Specially if it doesn't cost me anything."

"I didn't think the Air Force let enlisted men fly," Jon commented.

"They don't," Will told him. "But they do have flying clubs with instruction and everything, and those are open to enlisted men at a real good rate. Miz Swift taught me years ago just how useful a plane can be around a ranch, so I've been picking it up."

It still took a while to get Songbird pre-flighted in the low light of the end of the day; while Will and Jennlynn were doing that, Jon and Tanisha took the time to have a word with Pete. "Dad, it's been real good to see you again," Jon said. "I'm sorry it couldn't have been longer, but you see how things are."

"Good to see you again," Pete replied. "And it's especially good to know things are working so well with you. Let's try to not let it be so long next time."

"We'll probably be back this way sooner or later," Jon told him. "Probably not until after this mess dies down, but it should blow over pretty soon."

"Couldn't be helped," Pete shrugged. "I'm just glad we were able to get together at all, and it's good to know everyone is doing fine out there. Give my best regards to everyone, especially your mother, will you?"

"Yeah, Dad," Jon said, "Sure thing."

Pete turned to Tanisha, "I'm even more happy to have met you," he smiled. "I somehow used to have difficulty imagining Jon with a woman at all, but to have him marry such an intelligent and good-looking one as you is even more surprising. You take care of him for me, will you?"

"I'll try," Tanisha smiled, still not quite believing how this had turned out. After all the stories she'd heard about Pete over the years, to have him turn out like this was more than a little overwhelming. "You take care of yourself too, Mr. Chladek. It's been a huge pleasure meeting you, a lot different than I ever dreamed it would be."

"I imagine so," he smiled. "Tanisha, you've probably heard more stories about me than you would like, and most of them are probably true. But they're mostly in the past, too. I'm not the ogre I once was."

"I believe it," she smiled. This was harder than she'd thought it would be.

"Jon, Tanisha," Jennlynn said from next to them. "We'd better get you two saddled up."

"Coming, Jennlynn," Jon told her. "Dad, see you next time."

"See you again too, son," Pete smiled. "Hopefully it won't be quite as long next time."

"Well, I hope it won't be, too," Jon said, shaking his head, still a little surprised within himself that he could be saying such a thing after the way he'd had to leave five years before. "I guess we'd better get on board."

Jon let Tanisha climb up the step and into the cabin of the 310 before him, while Jennlynn waited and talked with Pete for a moment. "Thanks, Pete," she told him. "You've been a big help on this."

"Just doing something nice for a friend," Pete smiled. "Jennlynn, I thought highly of you even before all this came down and before I knew you were involved with Jon and Tanisha. I really appreciate all you've done for them, and driving you out here was the least I could do in thanks."

"Well, it's very appreciated," Jennlynn said. "And I'm really glad you could get together with Jon and Tanisha. They're both real good people, and a real asset to the company. Hey, if you ever make it out to Phoenix, I'm sure we'd like to show you through our little shop. We probably couldn't show you anything classified, but there's stuff that isn't, and I expect Stan will be willing to bend the rules just a little, anyway."

"If Jon has ever told you much about me, he's told you I've never been much of one to travel, especially not the last few years," Pete said. "But I'm not opposed to traveling if there's a good reason, so there's always a chance I might make it out there. This thing I'm working on now could very likely turn into more work for Lambdatron, anyway."

"I'm sure Stan will be glad to hear that," she told him. "Hey, we need to get going. It's going to be a long night."

"Sure, you have to do what you have to do," he said. "Jennlynn, hang in there, ride this stuff out, and don't let it get you down."

"That's what I'm trying to do, Pete," she sighed. "Fortunately I've got a few friends who will stand by me, and I'm glad that you're one of them."

Jennlynn sat in the right seat and let Will do the flying as he turned it to the southwest and climbed for altitude. Songbird didn't have the raw power of Skyhook, but it still was as noisy in the cabin, if not noisier. There was a headset arrangement here that let the four of them talk back and forth without having to yell over all the cabin noise. All Jon and Tanisha heard over it for the first few minutes of the flight was Will and Jennlynn talking about flying the plane or talking on the radio; Jon pretty well tuned it out. His backside was toward Chicago, and right at the moment that was about all he could ask for.

The last time he left Chicago, he reflected, he'd had mixed emotions, wanting to be out of there and hating to leave at the same time. This time was no different, but just about everything that had happened had been about as different as it could be. A lot had happened in the past few days, things had changed mightily, and about all he wanted to do was get back to Phoenix, get some good sleep, and try to get stuff together in his own mind.

He couldn't help but wonder what was going to happen with Jennlynn -- and with Will, for that matter. As long as he and Tanisha had known Jennlynn, they'd known she had a mostly anonymous life that she'd been happy with. Oh, sure, she was "Learjet Jenn" up at the Redlite Ranch, and she was a little notorious about that -- but only with a small percentage of the population who knew and understood what she was doing, anyway. Now, that anonymity was gone, maybe forever, and it seemed likely to him that she was going to have some trouble building a life that she was as happy with.

If the truth be told -- and he'd only hinted about it to Tanisha, but had the feeling she felt the same way -- he actually was a little uncomfortable with what Jennlynn did up there at the Redlite Ranch. Knowing her had lent more than a touch of the exotic to what really for the most part was the rather humdrum life he had with Tanisha.

He and Tanisha had come as close as they could to experiencing what Jennlynn's life as a prostitute had to have been like and still be outsiders, but when he came right down to it, it was still a case of "whatever winds your clock." They had a wonderful sex life and it was fun to play at things, but it was play and they both knew it. Jon suspected that at least part of the reason Jennlynn clung to the title of "prostitute" was to spite her parents -- something really bad had happened between them years before, that was no secret, but as well as he knew Jennlynn he still had no idea what it was. At one point Jon had thought he could understand that, at least partly because of his own estrangement from his father, but now that was in the past, much to his surprise.

What was that going to mean with his dad? Obviously they were going to be more friendly than in the past, but it was still a long way between Chicago and Phoenix, so his father wasn't going to be playing a big part in his life, leaving that question still up in the air. What was clear, though, was that there were some things that needed to be done up in Flagstaff, and the sooner, the better.

As expected, the pit stop at Oklahoma City was little more than that -- a chance to fill Songbird's tanks, and a visit to the restroom for all of them to empty some others. The 310 flew a lot lower than Skyhook, so there wasn't that "hovering in space" feeling that came with a night flight in the Learjet, at least east of the fuel stop. West of that, though, things were a lot emptier on the ground, and some of the feeling began to return, at least until they were close to Phoenix, which seemed to appear rather quickly from the limited view out the side of the Cessna.

It was very early in the morning as they swept low over the muted lights of the city, illuminating the fact that there was very little activity on the ground. The city was asleep, as Jon and Tanisha had been much of the time. Jon had only rarely flown as a passenger in Songbird, much less often than in Skyhook, and this had been a long flight that he was glad to have over. It was a relief for them to stop in front of the Skyhook Aviation hangar, to hear whoever it was up in front shut the engines down. Jon was happy to get out and be able to stretch some tired and achy muscles, and he suspected that Tanisha felt the same way.

"God, it feels good to be back," Jennlynn said as they got out of the plane into the merely cool air of a Phoenix February night, rather than the bitter cold it would have been this hour in Chicago. "We're not going to be here long," she said as she closed the cabin door. "Will is going to go over and tank up again while I go get my stuff, and then we'll be home for a few days. We don't even have cell service out there, so it'll be good to be away from everything. Will you guys tell Stan it'll be another few days before I can make it in?"

"Sure, no problem," Jon told her. "What if someone needs to get hold of you?"

"No one better be able to," she shook her head. "That's the point of our home being literally out in the middle of nowhere. Look, if a real emergency comes up, like maybe Stan drops dead or something, call Shirley at the Redlite. She'll know how to get hold of Will's folks, and they could drive out there. There's really no other way to find us, and I want to keep it that way."

"We won't tell," Tanisha said tiredly. "We know how much you value your privacy."

"I know, and I appreciate it, you two. I'm just sorry I had to put you through all this shit the last few days."

"Couldn't be helped," Jon said, more than a little tired himself. "And as things worked out, it proved to be for the best for us."

"Your father?" Jennlynn asked.

"Yeah," Jon told her, "That really was a surprise, and it proved to be a good one. It's one hell of a weight off my shoulders, Jennlynn, one that's been there as long as I've known you."

"It's good that this all happened, then," she smiled. "Hey, look, I know it's not a long drive home for you, but take care and don't fall asleep on the way."

"Same thing for you, Jennlynn," he shook his head.

"It's going to be a while for us yet; we're going to have to kill some time till there's enough light to land at home. But one thing about my other business, you get used to being up all night."

"I suppose," Jon sighed. "You know, I was thinking about that on the way back. Are you going to want to keep doing that after this episode? This could really take some of the fun out of it for you."

"I know," she sighed. "That's something I need to think about over the next few days. There are several angles to the question and I haven't worked them all out yet. Maybe I'll have to take a break from it for a while till this whole thing dies down. I just don't know."

"Well, whatever you decide, we're with you," Tanisha said. "Take care, Jennlynn. I hope we'll be seeing you again in a few days."

"I hope so, too," she replied soberly. "I could give up the Redlite if I absolutely had to, but I don't want to have to give up Lambdatron. You can tell Stan that for me, if you would."

"We sure will, Jennlynn," Jon nodded. "Hang in there, this shit will pass eventually."

"I sure hope so," she sighed.

It only took a couple minutes for Jon and Tanisha to throw their bags into the back of their car and be heading toward home. The streets were silent and empty at this predawn hour; they were exhausted, and even the thought of their own comfortable bed seemed like the height of luxury. "She may be able to go all night," Tanisha said as she settled into the comfortable seat of the Monte Carlo. "But I can't. I hope I can stay awake till we get home."

"I should be able to manage that far," Jon yawned. "I feel like I could sleep for a week, too, but I don't think we can."

"What now?"

"Well," Jon shrugged. "There's no point in being totally out of it, but I think we should at least sleep for a while, then we need to get loaded and head up to Flagstaff. I don't think we should put off telling everyone about Dad."

"I guess you're right," she sighed. "We really shouldn't put that off, but God, I don't even want to think about it right now. Jon, do you realize it's been three days since we've made love? I can't tell you the last time that happened."

"Right," he said. "Either you've been feeling crappy or we haven't had the chance since there's been so much else that had to get done. How are you feeling now, anyway?"

"Besides achy and crappy and exhausted?" she snorted. "Don't get me wrong, I wouldn't mind doing it, but I'm afraid I might fall asleep on you."

"Well, me too," he said. "And I suspect I feel about as achy, crappy, and exhausted as you do. But there's no reason we can't sleep for a while and then have a little morning delight to get the day going before we head up to Flag."

"That'll probably turn into an overnighter, too," she yawned, "Especially if we leave that late. But there's no reason we can't have a little fun before we head up there."

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To be continued . . .

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