Wes Boyd's
Spearfish Lake Tales
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Growing Together
Book Six of the Dawnwalker Cycle
Wes Boyd
2008, 2011

Chapter 16

"Shit," Jon said in their office half an hour later. It was their less comfortable but more familiar office in one of the secure buildings behind the fence on the back of the property. "Tani, I can't believe it can be like that."

"Me either," she shook her head, settling into the comfortable chair. "But if it's even partway correct, it puts the whole problem into a different light."

"Well, I have to say I'm glad Stan stuck his nose into things," Jon said. "I mean, with the security clearance issues he had the right to, but I was just a little touchy about it until this came down. I would never have thought to look at the issue like that. I mean, if they're even partly right, well, maybe it really is a lower-level threat than we were considering."

"It would be nice if it was," she replied. "God, Jon, we've lived under this threat as long as we've been together. It would be nice to find out it's nowhere near as bad as we thought, even though it makes me feel like we may have overdone it."

"I don't think we did," he shook his head. "I think we'd have been in a lot of trouble, both of us, if we hadn't gotten out of St. Louis as quickly as we did. But things have changed a lot since, and maybe it's been for the best. I mean, if we hadn't done it, we wouldn't be at Lambdatron, and we probably wouldn't have been together."

"True," she sighed. "You know, we've talked about my father and my brother and their racial beliefs often enough, but Jim was right about one thing about my father, and I'm actually kind of proud to say it. When someone was in trouble, especially if it even appeared to have racial involvement, he'd go to bat for them first and ask questions later. Now I've learned better, now that you've taught me better, I've come to realize that a lot of his suppositions were wrong, but he wouldn't back down from a fight if someone needed fighting for. Going back to when I was in high school and before, I know he lost a few, lost more than a few, but at least the people he was supporting knew someone was sticking up for them. Sometimes that was all the hope they had."

"Puts me in mind of Stan, when you put it that way," Jon smiled. "If someone tries to cross someone from the company, Stan is going to be in their corner if there's the slightest possibility that they're in the right. I hadn't exactly thought of it in those terms before, but look at the way Stan went to bat for Jennlynn, just as an example."

"Or us, as far as that goes," Tanisha said. "You know, back the first summer we were interns here I thought Stan could have been a little more supportive with us about not going back to Georgia Tech in the face of the troubles we knew we were going to be facing. But since then I've come to realize we weren't really Lambdatron people yet, and he was testing us. We are Lambdatron people now; there's no doubt of it. We've done several pretty good things for the company, and he's making sure the company is good to us."

"Stan may be a hippie at heart, but he values loyalty, and I mean loyalty both ways," Jon agreed. He thought about his statement for a moment, then continued. "I mean, it sort of makes you wonder what would have happened if he had decided Kwame was a high level threat."

"Knowing what we know now . . . well, that really is kind of a scary thought," Tanisha sighed. "But, you know, I honestly can't imagine Kwame standing up for people like that, or like my father did, at least not without calculating the risk first. I mean, it's one thing to say that intellectually, but to know the congregation is down to sixty percent of what it was a few years ago proves it better than any theory I could come up with."

"And that was a year ago," Jon said. "I wonder what it is now. Oh well, we'll know in a few days. Tanisha, while I know I wouldn't have agreed with your father on much more than the color of the sky, and I don't think I would have liked him in the slightest, I do have to comment: like the Marines say, 'No guts, no glory.' While I might not have agreed with him, when I look at it that way I have to admire him a little."

"Yeah, I agree," she smiled. "And that really is a strange thought, isn't it?"

The reason the two of them were in their back office was that the test results they'd been waiting on for over two weeks had finally come in -- it turned out that weather conditions had delayed the test for several days, so that had slowed things down. Now, they had fresh data to work with, and on a quick look, it looked good -- everything was well within mission parameters and the results looked favorable. That meant they weren't going to be lacking for things to do for the next several days, even though they still had personal things to do. "I hate to say this," Tanisha said as the afternoon wore on, "But we're going to have to lock things up and go see about the houses. Your mother, Al, and Jeff are going to be pulling up in front of our place before too long."

"Yeah, I guess we'd better get out of here," Jon agreed. "This jazz has waited long enough already, there's no reason it can't wait till morning."

It took a few minutes to get everything off their desks and locked in the secure file drawers, then they headed up to the main building to check out. "Better watch it," Angela warned. "We've got press snooping around the parking lot gate again."

"Good God, don't they ever give up?" Jon asked. Even though the incident with Jennlynn was ten days in the past now, there were still press people snooping around the place. They were looking for information about her, where she might be, or just looking to get an angle no one had uncovered before, not that anyone had been terribly successful in getting anything so far.

"You'd think they'd realize this is a dry hole," Angela snorted. "But this seems to be the only lead they've got, and I guess they hope someone will let something slip."

"Well, they're not getting anything from us," Jon shook his head. "I mean, like we know where Jennlynn is." The truth, of course, was that he and Tanisha probably had a better idea of where she was than anyone, but they weren't about to say, even to a friend and co-worker like Angela.

"They're just being a pain in the ass, that's all they know how to be," Angela shook her head. "I'll alert security that you're heading out in case someone tries something."

"Thanks, Angela," Jon said. "We are parked a little close to the gate."

"Good God, you wonder if they're ever going to give up," Tanisha shook her head as the two of them headed for the door to the east parking lot.

They stepped outside to see three people standing on the sidewalk by the edge of the driveway. One of them put a big video camera up on his shoulder when he saw them come outside. "Oh, shit," Jon said, pulling out his cell phone, just in case. "I guess we do it like we've been briefed."

"Might as well," Tanisha sighed. "You think they'd learn."

They did their best to ignore the three press people on the sidewalk as they walked across the parking lot toward their car. All of a sudden, they heard a male voice cry, "Hey, don't!" They glanced up to see a well-dressed woman running toward them.

Jon raised his cell phone, punched a single button and said flatly into it, "Security intrusion, east parking lot." No one replied, but almost as he spoke, there was the hoot of a loud horn, and the crash of metal as the sliding gate across the entrance to the parking lot crashed closed.

"Sir! Ma'am!" the woman yelled. "Can you tell us . . .?"

"No, we can't and we won't," Jon said. "Back off with your hands in the air or you're going to be sorry."

The woman ignored him. She reached out, grabbed Tanisha lightly by the arm, and said, "Look, all I want to know is . . ."

When Jon managed to knock down Tanisha's brother nearly five years before, he'd only had the benefit of a couple brief training sessions with his black belt sister, Crystal. However, the threat of Kwame since then had given both of them the need to do a lot more martial arts training, and the woman's next words were, "Ow! You're hurting me! Quit that!" as Jon had her in a hammerlock, her arm twisted tightly behind her back as two different doors on the side of the building opened and security guards erupted out onto the parking lot. "What the fuck do you think you're doing?"

Jon didn't answer, but Tanisha had a can of chemical mace out and was pointing it at the newswoman as the security guards reached them. "We have cuffs ready, sir," one of them said. "We'll take care of this now."

"What the fuck do you think you're doing?" the woman swore again. "All I wanted to do was ask a few questions."

"Ma'am," the security guard said. "You are trespassing on private property in a federally classified zone, and you've committed several federal crimes. Now you can be calm until the authorities get here, or you can fight us, but you're going to be here until this is dealt with."

"You can't do this to me!" she said, her voice rising. "I'll have your job for this!"

"I very sincerely doubt it," the security guard said as he snapped the handcuffs closed. "And you're not going to be the first person to find that out."

The woman was bitching and swearing as she was rather forcibly led into the building, into a special holding area. "Got another one," another security guard smiled to Jon and Tanisha. "You think they'd get the message after a while."

"You need us to stick around?" Jon asked. "We've got somewhere we need to be."

"Probably nothing that can't keep till tomorrow," the guard said. "Just so long as you keep your cell phone on if something comes up. Ma'am, you're willing to swear out a complaint for assault and battery, aren't you?"

"I hate to do it for that but this stuff has got to cease," Tanisha said. "Call me if you need me."

"Sure will," the security guard grinned. "You know, while this whole thing has been a pain in the butt, it's at least given us a little excitement.'

"I'll bet it gets a little dull sometimes," Jon grinned. "You want to have the gate popped for us?"

"Get in your car and pull up to the gate, then we'll open it," the guard told them. "This probably wouldn't have happened if you'd been leaving at the normal time, but that left things a little more one on one."

"Sorry about that, but we really do have other things to deal with," Jon said. "Hey, I will point out that the guys outside the fence yelled at her to not do it."

"They've been here before, they know the rules," the security guard said. "You two have a good day, now."

Jon and Tanisha got in the Chevy, and headed for the gate, stopping in front of it for a moment while it opened. He noticed that the cameraman had set his camera on the ground, pointing away from him, and was standing just outside the gate, apparently wanting to talk to him, and Jon was sort of in the mood. He rolled down the car window and leaned out. "Sorry about that, man," the cameraman said. "We told her not to go past the gate, but she's from network, she knew better."

"Yeah, well, thanks for trying," Jon told him. "You might as well take off; I don't think she's going to be back for a while."

"Yeah, but we're independents," the cameraman said. "If we hang around we can still bill the network for our time."

"Stay late and make it overtime, then," Jon grinned as the gate opened. The cameraman stepped back, and Jon pulled out onto the street. "You know, when you stop and think about it, that makes me feel pretty good," he commented.

"What, scoring another point in the Jennlynn versus the press battle?" Tanisha asked.

"Well, that too," Jon replied. "But let's face it, if Stan or Jim thought there really was a threat from Kwame, that's the kind of support we'd be having around us. He'd have to be really crazy to try to walk into that, and I hope he realizes it."

Fortunately, the incident at the gate didn't slow things down too much. Ben and Joy were waiting at the apartment when Jon and Tanisha pulled up -- that much had been expected. However, there were other cars around, Al's Chrysler and Preach's Buick. "Good God, the whole herd," Tanisha snorted.

She was right. In addition to Al, Karin, and Jeff, who they'd been expecting, Crystal, Nanci, and Preach were all milling around outside the apartment with Ben and Joy, who apparently were busy filling everyone in on the house hunt. "Hey, people," Jon said as he got out of the car. "Don't you think this is overdoing it a little? I mean, with just a little more time we could have Dad and Doris here, too. This is a house inspection, not a house invasion, and I really don't think it would be nice to scare those people."

"Yeah, it is a little bit much," Al said, taking control of things like he often did. "But Crystal and Nanci wanted to come, and, well, you know how it is with women and babies. Preach is gonna take them shopping somewhere while we go look at the houses."

"That makes it a little better," Jon said, shaking his head. "Not perfect, but a little better."

"Congratulations, Bro," Crystal said, breaking into the conversation. "Looks like you won the race to make Mom a grandmother."

"Unless you're covering up something," Jon shook his head.

"Oh, not any time soon, but that takes some of the pressure off," Crystal smiled. "We just wanted to come down and share a little of the family time. I kind of want to see this house, but I agree, this might be a little much of a mob. At least I can say that I'm going to be shopping for baby things, but not for me."

"Oh, my God," Tanisha said. "Don't tell me that stuff is starting already."

"Yeah, really," Jon said. "Don't be buying a bunch of crap, we're just going to be moving anyway and there's no point in having to move that stuff twice."

"Oh, quit being a spoilsport," his mother replied. "I only get the chance to be a grandmother for the first time once, don't take the fun out of it."

"Fun's fun," Jon said. "But that's not what we're doing here today, and what we are doing is pretty serious. We've got to do this on a fast track, and we shouldn't let things get in the way. I'm hoping we can make a decision on these places this afternoon, and that's the priority item. We've still got some time to deal with baby stuff, so it doesn't have to get done first thing."

"Like I said, spoilsport," his mother grinned. "All right, have it your way."

Jon looked around, and saw Joy standing on the outside of the group. "Joy, how are we doing on time?" he asked.

"We really should get moving," Joy replied. "We've got a little slack but I don't think we want to be late."

"Why don't you and Ben ride with us?" Jon said. "Al and Jeff and Mom can follow while Preach, Crystal, and Nanci get lost. I hope one of you has a cell phone, we can work out a meet when we get done with the inspection."

Soon they were heading across town to the real estate agency, which was actually a little farther than it would have been to go directly to the houses. "Sorry about that," Jon said to Ben and Joy in the back seat. "I wasn't expecting the whole thundering herd to be here."

"Oh, that's all right," Joy smirked. "They love you and they're excited for you. We understand. It'll probably be about that bad if I ever get pregnant."

"Be that as it may, I've already had about enough excitement for one day," Jon snorted. "Tanisha, do you think life will ever turn normal again?"

"With a baby on the way?" she grinned. "What's normal? Jon, things may never be normal again."

Even with Crystal, Nanci, and Preach elsewhere it still seemed like a pretty big herd to be going through the houses. However, with that many people, it was pretty clear that everything was going to be looked at thoroughly. Jeff and Al didn't miss much, and Ben and Jon basically stood back and let the two older men inspect things, while Karin, Tanisha and Joy quizzed the ladies of each house about various details.

It took about an hour to go through each house before they wrapped things up. "To be real straight about it," Al said. "There's a few little things needing work, nothing major, and it's all pretty much stuff that's going to crop up in any house. I don't think I saw anything that would be a show stopper."

"Me either," Jeff said. "I see about a thousand dollars worth of work on the first house that really ought to be done, but wouldn't hurt if it waited for a while. The second house, the one to the west, a little more, a couple grand at most. There's a leaky toilet in the basement; I can't tell if it's something simple like a bad wax ring, or if it's something serious. But if it called for the replacement of the unit, it's still only about three hundred bucks. I could handle most of it in a couple days."

"It would be nice if you could fit it into your schedule," Jon said. "But you don't see any real show stoppers either, right?"

"No, not a bit," Jeff said. "Assuming you want to live in a city like this, I guess it would be all right."

"I told you the houses were in pretty good shape," the lady from the real estate company said. "Do you think you might be interested?"

"There's a good chance," Jon said. "Look, I noticed a Denny's out on the main drag. Let's go there and get a cup of coffee or a Coke or something. You let Al and Karin tell you some Grand Canyon stories while Ben and Joy and Tanisha and I talk it over, all right?"

"I'd like to be a part of that discussion," she replied. "I might be able to answer any questions you might have."

"Right, and I'm sure we'll want you," Joy told her. "But this is something I think we ought to first talk over among ourselves. Let's ride over to the Denny's and talk about it."

Everyone loaded up into the cars and got set to leave. "Boy," Tanisha said as soon as she got the door closed. "She really wants to twist our arms, doesn't she?"

"Sure does," Jon said. "Look, let's not beat around the bush. Considering the timing issues, either one of them will work for me. How about anyone else?"

"I think they'd do," Ben said. "If we had time I wouldn't mind looking a little more, but we don't. I say, let's do it if we can work out a deal."

"Tanisha?" Jon asked.

"Fine with me," she replied. "The houses are very much alike, except in minor details, and I think I know what room I want for a nursery."

"Either one of the houses is all right with me," Joy said, "Except for prices. I did some checking around in the neighborhood, and the asking prices for these are a little high. But then, you expect the asking prices to be high since people want to make out on them. That's why we ought to work out offers a little on the low side, so we can negotiate a little."

"So, you're saying, make offers?" Jon said.

"Yeah, I think so."

"Anyone have any objections?" Jon asked. There was silence for a moment. "Joy, we've pretty well followed your instincts in this so far," he said. "What do you think we ought to offer?"

"They're asking $219 thousand for the first house and $224 thousand for the second," she said, quoting figures they already knew. "The second house's pool is a little larger and the washer and dryer are a little newer, so I'd say they're about relatively the same thing. We can screw around negotiating, and I suspect save ourselves somewhere around twenty to thirty thousand dollars, or we can throw out something close to the asking price, say, maybe ten thousand under and expect that they'll hop on it in a hurry."

"What's your gut feeling?"

"My gut feeling is to go low, and give them maybe forty-eight hours to make a counter offer," she said. "If they want to negotiate, then we've got some room to do it. If they want to play hard nose, we don't actually have to go with it. My gut feeling is they want to sell, both of them."

"I'd say, let's go with your gut," Tanisha said. "You know more about it than the rest of us."

"That's my feeling, too," Ben agreed. "I know we're tight for time, but we have the time to play around a little."

"I'll go along with that," Jon said. "I'd like to talk to the real estate woman about some kind of clause calling for closing within sixty days, occupancy within ninety."

"The banks may not go along with that," Joy pointed out.

"If she wants the business she'll find financing that fast," Jon said flatly. "Flat rate, none of this adjustable rate with a five-year balloon, either."

"Right on that," Joy said. "You've been studying this?"

"No, I've been listening to our boss," Jon replied. "Are we pretty well agreed to go with it?"

"All right," she said. "We'll have to make it contingent on both offers getting accepted, too. She may balk at that but I think we can be a little hardnosed about it. One question," Joy said. "Who gets which house?"

"It's your idea, I'd say you guys pick," Tanisha said.

"You're making this tough," Joy said. "They really are two peas in a pod. Just off the top of my head, to keep it from turning into something that will hang us up all afternoon, let's say Ben and I will take the first house."

"See?" Jon said. "That wasn't hard at all."

"That was the easy part," Joy smiled. "The hard part is going to get the agent to bite on all of this. I'll bet there's half a dozen things she's going to scream bloody murder about. She's not going to like offers fifteen percent under the asking price, she's not going to like the tight timing, she's not going to like the financing restrictions, and she's really not going to like the bit about one offer being contingent on the other one being accepted."

"Tough," Jon snorted. "She's also getting to sell two houses on one sales call; that needs to be worth something. We're just going to have to present a united front and not put up with any bullshit."

"Let's up the ante to give us something to give back to her in negotiations," Joy suggested. "It may be the Vietnamese in me, but what the hell. How about closing in thirty days and occupancy in sixty?"

"Fine with me," Tanisha said. "It'll give her something to scream about that we can afford to give up. But I'll tell you what, I sure would like to be moving in sixty days."

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To be continued . . .

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