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 13

"That's easy," Tanisha said. "I'm getting pretty tired of worrying about what's behind that door. I mean, I know it's not likely to be very good whatever it is, but the knowledge that it could be opened at any time by my brother when I'm least ready just makes things so uncertain. We've built up some pretty good defenses in case something should happen, but who knows what will happen if it does?"

"Let me ask this," Joy replied thoughtfully. "It's been, what, going on five years? Is there any chance he'll start to accept that you're out of his reach?"

"I doubt it," Tanisha shook her head. "He lost a round, hell, a couple rounds. He doesn't like to lose."

"I sometimes wonder," Jon added thoughtfully. "Sometimes, I think he's not looking for us too hard. I know we laid some false trail, but it can't be that good. Maybe I've read too many thrillers; I can't help but think that a halfway decent detective could have turned us up a long time ago."

"Or maybe he did turn you up a long time ago," Ben mused, "But realized that trying to get violent might be counterproductive."

"I can't believe that," Tanisha said. "Yes, it would be counterproductive in many ways, but it would be an enormous pain in the butt for us in the process. We do have security, thin though it is at times, and if he were to drag me off he could get sent up on federal charges. Federal courts aren't as easily intimidated as the local courts in St. Louis. But, would he know that or believe it if he knew it? I'm not sure. He wants what he wants and sometimes doesn't look at the consequences. I'm guessing he doesn't know where I am, and I'd just as soon keep it that way until I'm convinced he's not going to show up at our door with a gang of his thugs."

"But you can't be convinced of that unless you know what's on the other side of the door," Joy nodded. "The thing of it is that this isn't a game, and you don't necessarily have to open the door to get an idea of what's on the other side."

"Joy, what are you saying?" Tanisha frowned.

"Like I said, this isn't a game, it's real life. You can investigate things before you jump in. Like, have you done any research on him on the net? Like what he's up to?"

"Not every day," Tanisha admitted. "I've run search engines on him now and then. He seems about as obnoxious as ever, but I've never come up with anything that seems to point at me. Most of what I get are news stories about him mouthing off about something or other in the St. Louis area. The church doesn't have a real web page, and I can't believe he's that ignorant about the Internet. Even if he did have a web page, I can't believe he would say anything on it that would give any indications of what his intentions toward me are."

"OK, how about another angle on it," Ben said. "Do you have any friends back home you could call discreetly and snoop around a bit? Maybe someone in the church, or something?"

That one caused Tanisha to stop and think for a moment. "Well, not really," she said finally. "I didn't have many friends when I was growing up back home. I was, well, not encouraged to have friends outside the church. There might be one or two people I could call if they were still around, but they wouldn't know anything about him. And, anyone I knew in the church, I couldn't trust to not go blabbing to him as soon as they heard from me."

"You're telling me that you weren't allowed to have any friends that your brother or your father didn't control, right?" Joy asked.

"Well, my father, when I was growing up. My brother is quite a bit older than I am, so yeah, he falls into that, too."

"That's kind of abusive, isn't it?" Ben observed.

"Well . . . yeah, I guess it is," Tanisha sighed. "I never heard my father come out and say it, but his attitude was that women had to be kept under control or else they couldn't be trusted to do what he told them to do." She got a smile on her face and continued, "I guess I'm walking proof that he's right."

Joy shook her head. "I've heard of people like that. I'm amazed they let you go away to college. Most people like that cut their victims off from anyone outside to keep them under control."

"It wasn't easy," Tanisha shook her head. "Looking back on it, I'm surprised I ever managed to go to Georgia Tech instead of some black religious school no one ever heard of before." She gave Jon's hand a squeeze. "It proved to be worth it in so many ways it isn't funny."

Ben watched the two of them for a moment. He was close with Joy, closer than he could have ever imagined, but still he knew the two of them didn't share their lives in the same kind of way their friends did. "I guess that leads me back to the question of what you want to accomplish by getting back in touch with him. It sounds like you're opening yourself up for more problems than you have now."

"Yeah," Tanisha nodded, "When you put it like that, I guess you're right. I don't want to have to put up with that kind of stuff from him again, and I guess I'm worried that if I was in contact with him he'd be trying to run my life again, just like always. I just wish I knew how bad the threat is."

"I don't know," Joy shook her head. "But it still seems to me like there ought to be some way of seeing what's behind the door without opening it. Like I said earlier, this isn't a game, after all. Just to throw out an idea, what would it cost for you to hire a detective to go snooping around to see what he could find out?"

"No idea," Tanisha shook her head. "I don't even know how we'd go about finding a detective."

"The Yellow Pages, maybe?" Joy smiled.

"I don't know how much I'd want to trust some guy right out of the Yellow Pages," Jon pointed out. "Maybe someone from Hollister could fill us in."

"Hollister?" Ben asked.

"That's the company that provides security guards for Lambdatron," Jon explained. "I've never looked into the details much, but I know they do some background investigations, too. I don't know if they could actually do an investigation for us, but somebody from there probably could give us a lead on who could."

"That might not be a real bad idea," Tanisha admitted. "We could go and talk to Molly tomorrow to get a better idea." She turned to Ben and Joy and explained, "Molly is the girl in human resources who does a lot of the security administration for Lambdatron."

"It's going to cost some money," Jon said. "But it strikes me as money well spent."

"Yeah, me too," Tanisha admitted. "It doesn't settle the issue but at least it gives us a chance to know what we're dealing with."

"I don't know any more about it than what I've watched on TV, and we all know what that's worth," Ben said. "But you probably ought to figure out what it is you would want a detective to find out, such as assess the threat level, and like that. I'd guess you'd really rather your brother didn't know he was under investigation, or if he does figure it out, that it's not you who's doing the investigating."

"You're probably right," Tanisha nodded. "Those are good points. I guess we're getting to where we need to be talking to a professional."

"Yeah, from this point on we might as well be talking about TV shows," Joy agreed. "But does that help?"

"Yeah, I think it does," Tanisha said. "It doesn't really solve anything, but at least gets us on the road to finding out just how bad a problem we're facing, gives us somewhere to start, which we didn't have before we talked to you. It feels better to know we're doing something, rather than just waiting around hoping something doesn't happen. Thanks, you two. We sort of thought that a fresh look at the problem would bring an idea or two. Maybe that'll help me feel better. It doesn't quite shake this bug or whatever it is I have, but it's got to help."

"Worrying about something can get you down," Joy smiled. "Would you like some coffee?"

"I could stand some," Jon replied.

"I'll . . . no, I guess not," Tanisha frowned. "It sounded good till I got to thinking about it, and I'm not so sure coffee would sit that well with me right now. My stomach has been kind of rocky the last few days, even before this thing with Kwame came up. Like I said, it's some kind of bug I can't quite seem to shake."

"What is it?" Ben asked, "A cold, or something?"

"I don't know," Tanisha said. "It's not a cold, at least I don't think it is. I don't have the sniffles or anything. If it was a cold I think I'd know it by now. I've just been feeling generally crappy the last few days, even before we went to Chicago."

"Anything besides an upset stomach and feeling generally crappy?" Ben asked.

"Well, yeah," Tanisha said. "I've been feeling bloated. My pants are tight, and my bras are all tight. It doesn't make sense. When I checked the scales this morning I saw that I've put on a couple pounds. I guess I understand why since I haven't done much exercising this week other than standing around being a booth bunny. I've been achy and irritable, too. Like I said, I don't know what it is, but I wish I could shake it."

"Well," Joy giggled, "Maybe you're pregnant and don't know it."

"Wouldn't that take the prize?" Tanisha laughed. "No, there's no way I could be pregnant. I get my shots every three months, just like clockwork, and they don't fail."

"Don't be too damn sure," Ben replied, feeling like teasing her a bit. "My sister said something like that, and then, one day, all of a sudden, guess what? It turned out she was something like four months along. That was a real quick wedding."

"It can't be," Tanisha protested, not liking the sound of what Ben was saying and trying to shrug it off. "Jon and I have always been very careful about baby proofing."

"Well, not always," Jon laughed, trying to put a light touch on things, even though Ben's words gave him a strange feeling as well. "I don't think either of us thought about it the first time we got together, but we got pretty careful after that. It really would have been a disaster back then."

"Oh, yeah, would it ever have been," Tanisha agreed. "That was right after we both had to leave home, and getting pregnant would have been just about the worst thing that could have happened."

"Have you guys ever thought about having kids?" Joy asked.

"Well, yeah," Tanisha agreed. "Jon and I have talked it over quite a bit, and we pretty much have agreed that we want to have kids sooner or later. I mean, it's sort of like taking the next step. The problem is that my brother had big ideas about me running the church day-care center, and I'll be the first to admit that it put a damper on my enthusiasm. I mean, I know darn well I could never be a stay-at-home mom. I really hate the idea. I worked too hard to get where I am now to want to give it up just to wipe asses and snotty noses."

"Yeah, I can see how that could be important to you," Joy nodded. "I wouldn't want to be a stay-at-home mother, either. I'm not as tied to my career as you are, but it would get awful dull. On the other hand, I'm not getting any younger, either."

"So, are the two of you thinking about having kids, then?"

"Well, yeah," Joy smiled. "Maybe not real, real soon. I think it'd be best if Ben and I had a little more time together one on one before we go down that road, but I don't want to put it off until we're well into our thirties, either."

"We haven't gotten that specific in our planning," Jon replied. "But in general terms, I don't think we want to put it off too long, either."

"I think that's part of why we're thinking about getting a house," Ben submitted. "This apartment is small for the two of us; what would it be like to have a kid and be living here? Moving to a bigger place is one of those things we need to get taken care of before we get serious about it."

"It wouldn't be any fun where we're at, either," Jon agreed. "Despite some other things, the idea of getting a house isn't a bad one, and getting ones close to each other would mean that we could maybe trade off child care from time to time."

"Let's not get our cart too far in front of the horse," Joy said. "I'm not that anxious to get pregnant, but maybe sometime in the next year or two."

The afternoon was dwindling down by the time Jon and Tanisha got to heading back home; the day was starting to cool off, and the sun was getting low on this winter day. It wasn't a long walk, but again they had to go out of their way to make a safe crossing of the busy highway. "So," Jon asked as they walked briskly along, "What did you think of the idea of buying a house?"

"Actually, the more I think about it, the more I kind of like it," Tanisha admitted. "It's really getting a little silly for us to be living where we are. We can afford a lot better place, something that would be a little more comfortable. We've got the money to do it, Jon, and I wouldn't mind having a little more elbow room. The one advantage we have now is that if Kwame comes looking for us, it wouldn't be that big a deal for us to move on."

"Move on where?" Jon snorted. "We're still tied to Lambdatron, and we have to face up to that fact. There's no moving on from there, not for us. If nothing else, we've got better security through the company than we would have anywhere else. And what would we do? Go up and run rafts with Mom and Al? I don't think so, we're not cut out for that life, and where would there be any security?"

"Yeah, I suppose you're right," she sighed. "I just dread the thought of him coming and making trouble."

"If he comes and makes trouble, we're better off here in Phoenix than we would be anywhere else," Jon pointed out. "Again, the company security has something to do with it. I have to say, though, that I really like the idea of getting a detective to check things out. I don't know if it'll solve anything, but it at least might give us an idea of what we could be facing."

"It might work," she sighed. "But then again, it might not. How would some detective be able to get any idea of what my brother has in mind?"

"Don't know," Jon admitted, "But I think that we have to tell whoever gets sent there what we're concerned about so they'll at least have some idea of what to look for."

"No question about it," she shook her head. "I will say I like the idea of a detective checking things out without revealing that we're the ones behind it."

"Right," Jon agreed. "It might at least give us some idea of what course of action we need to take, if we need to take one at all. No point in putting it off, either. Let's talk to Molly tomorrow and get things rolling."

"So soon?"

"No point in putting it off. It might have some bearing on if we decide to get a house, and I'll tell you what, Ben and Joy are ready to go on it."

"Yeah, that they are," she agreed. "But then, they've got a lease pushing them, and we're not all that far behind them, so maybe we need to be getting serious about it, too. I kind of like the idea of being close to them. At least we're friends with them already."

"That has its points," Jon said thoughtfully. "I don't suppose we can think about it too much more until we see what they've come up with. If we do much more we're just kicking it around blindly without much information to go on."

"True," she sighed. "I'm kind of looking forward to tomorrow night to see what they've found. I don't think we have to be in quite as big a rush about it, though. "

"Well," he grinned, "If you're pregnant, it might move the priorities up a little."

"Jon," she shook her head, "I'm not pregnant. There's no way I can be pregnant. I haven't missed my shots or anything. I've just got some kind of bug, that's all."

A few minutes later they were back at their apartment. "So, what do you have in mind for the rest of the day?" he asked.

"I don't know," she sighed. "I think I'll go lay down for a while, if you don't mind. I feel tired right now, and I think I'm up for a little nap."

"I can't say as I blame you, after the week we've had. I think I'll give it a pass for right now, maybe go get online for a bit. If we're going to go house shopping, I think I want to know a little more about what real estate prices are doing around here right now."

"That's probably not a bad idea," she replied. "Maybe I'll feel better in an hour or two and we can consider playing around a little."

"I'm ready for it when you're ready," Jon told her. "But if you're feeling crappy, it's probably best if you got some rest."

Jon stopped at the refrigerator to get a Diet Coke, then headed upstairs to the computer room, noticing Tanisha lying sprawled on the bed as he passed by the bedroom door. It wasn't fun to be sick and feel crappy, and he knew it. He hoped she was right, that this was just some sort of bug, but she'd been showing signs of it for a week or more now, and it was starting to worry him a little. The lesson he'd gotten from his father a few days before was still on him -- it was possible to tough stuff out too long and run the risk of some real damage happening. Last week he'd promised Tanisha that if she didn't snap out of whatever this was by the first of the week he was going to make sure she went to a doctor if he had to drag her, and tomorrow was the first of the week. She clearly hadn't snapped out of it, and now it was time to be thinking about it.

They didn't have a regular doctor, but then, they hadn't needed one. One of the things that Lambdatron had was a very high quality and expensive HMO provider, and he knew it, although he hadn't had call to use it. However, he knew from talking around the shop that, if you needed to see a doctor there, it wasn't a case of "Take two aspirin and show up for an appointment three weeks from next Tuesday." Medical urgencies sometimes couldn't wait that long, and Stan didn't want Lambdatron people to have to wait. The talk around the office was that if the HMO was busy it might take a wait of an hour or two, but routine clinic stuff was quick. Tanisha had her routine birth control shots every three months, and in the time they'd been at Lambdatron they'd been in and out of the office for them in fifteen minutes almost every time. Tomorrow morning, he thought, before things got busy, they were going to have a visit.

That settled in his mind, he brought up his main Internet computer, got a search engine going, and started looking through real estate listings in the south Phoenix area. Whatever they decided to do about a house, Jon was sure that he wanted it to be fairly close to Lambdatron. Walking distance would be nice but not necessary, and he didn't feel like he wanted to commute that far when there seemed to be perfectly decent housing affordable to them available within a few miles of the shop. A fairly big house, he thought, three or four bedrooms, at least one of which would be a computer room. A pool would be nice, he thought; there were a lot of houses with pools in the area. There was a pool in the apartment complex, but it wasn't close, and they didn't use it very often, at least partly because it always seemed to be filled with screaming, rambunctious kids running wild without much supervision.

Though Jon was looking at the house listings, his mind really wasn't on them. Those kids at the pool had his mind running in a different channel. It was natural for kids to be a little wild, but some of them were really obnoxious. If Tanisha really were pregnant, he thought, he hoped that they would be able to do a better job of raising a kid than some of those kids got. Jon was no great fan of little kids; he'd been one once and had been glad to grow out of it. But still, he was pretty sure his father hadn't been a big fan of little kids either. But when you got right down to it, at least until he'd come down with his brain tumor, Pete had done a pretty good job of being a father even though Jon suspected he really didn't want to be one in the first place.

Could it be?

Jon had never spent a great deal of time around a pregnant woman, and didn't really know any details. He remembered hearing at one time or another that women tended to get barfy in the mornings for part of the pregnancy. To the best of his knowledge Tanisha hadn't actually thrown up in the morning, but she'd complained about her stomach being queasy a number of times and then felt better later. He knew that pregnancy shut down a woman's periods, but the birth control injections that Tanisha was taking pretty well shut them down, anyway, so that proved exactly nothing.

Feeling that somehow he was crossing a personal Rubicon, Jon brought up another browser window, went to a search engine and typed in "symptoms of pregnancy."

Tanisha was just stirring as Jon came up the stairs. He hadn't wanted to leave, since there was always the possibility, however distant, that Kwame or some of his cohorts could show up while he was gone, especially if they'd been watching the place. But really, it was a long shot, and even though Jon was nervous about it, he went ahead and did his errand. Now he was back and things seemed all right as he headed into the bedroom.

"You feeling better?" he asked as he sat down on the bed.

"Maybe a little," she replied. "I'm not awake enough to tell. Let me up, Jon. I've got to go pee again."

"When you do, take a urine sample," he said, handing the opened box to her.

"Jon," she said, "This is a pregnancy test kit. I'm not pregnant. There's no way I can be pregnant."

"Tanisha," he said solemnly, "You have to consider the possibility. While you've been asleep, I did some research. I looked at a web site that gives a list of twelve pregnancy symptoms. You've exhibited nine of them in the past week. The other three either don't apply or you can't tell about, like darkened nipples. I don't know how you would know they're any darker than normal. There's alternate explanations for all of the symptoms, but when you're nine for twelve I think it's worth checking it out just to be sure."

"But Jon," she protested, "The birth control injections don't miss. They're the safest thing out there."

"I checked," he said. "There's a 99.7 percent success rate. That's not a hundred percent, Tanisha. You know that. I've always said you're one in a million, so there's a chance you could be one in three thirty-three."

"Are you sure?"

"No, I'm not sure, but reading that page made me curious enough to run out and get this test kit."

"Well, all right," she sighed, taking the box from him. "I suppose it can't hurt to prove you're wrong."

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To be continued . . .

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