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 17

Joy proved to be right -- it was pretty clear that the agent wasn't interested in letting the two couples get together to coordinate plans, but her attempt wasn't successful, and her arguments didn't work when she got back together with them. Jon, Tanisha, and Ben were content to sit back and let Joy battle with the woman, Joy winning most of the rounds. After considerable negotiation, Joy let herself be pushed back to a forty-five-day closing deadline with occupancy in seventy-five days. Al, Karin, and Jeff just sat back at a nearby table and watched the show without comment.

After nearly an hour the offers were worked out and the paperwork signed. The woman said she'd present them as soon as possible, but she doubted they'd be accepted as is without some negotiation. "We'll run that risk," Joy told her. "I think there's two couples there who want to sell."

The rest of the day went well. After the real estate woman left, they picked up and headed for a restaurant a little better than a Denny's, where they met Crystal, Preach, and Nanci. Dinner turned into something of a party, and plans for a shopping expedition were made. Jon and Tanisha were careful to not say anything about the business with Kwame, and just pushed it toward the backs of their minds, for this evening anyway.

They did, however, tell the story of being waylaid in the parking lot by the reporter, and how quickly security had responded. "It's not the first time it's happened," Jon explained. "I think Stan is hoping after a few arrests the media might start getting the message."

"Maybe they are," Tanisha observed. "According to Stan, there's a lot fewer incidents like that than there were a week ago.

It was probably good that they told the story, because as the whole group was getting out of their cars back at the apartment, the same news van that had been at the office earlier pulled up in front, and the same woman reporter got out, carrying a wireless microphone. "Mr. and Mrs. Chladek," she announced. "We're not on your company property anymore, and I want to ask you some questions about Jennlynn Swift."

"What if we don't want to talk to you?" Jon sneered. "Believe me, we don't have anything to say to you."

"Mr. Chladek, the public has a right to know," the woman said.

"The public has the right to know jack shit about people's private lives," Jon said. "Get lost. We don't have anything to say to you."

"I'm not leaving until you talk to me."

Crystal stepped directly in front of the woman. "Honey, you get your ass back in that van and get the fuck out of here or I'm going to take that microphone and jam it right straight up your tight little ass."

"You wouldn't dare," the woman sneered.

"I've got a black belt that says, 'You want to try me, sister?' Ten . . . Nine . . . Eight . . ."

"We'll see about this. You can't bully me."

"Five . . . Four . . ."

"All right, but we haven't seen the last of this." She turned to leave. They stood and watched as the crew got back in the van and left.

"She's probably right," Crystal sighed. "She's not going to give up easily."

"I wonder how she got turned loose so quickly," Jon said. "I hate to call Stan at this hour, but maybe I ought to call the security desk at the office. When they start coming for us at home, this shit gets a little out of hand."

"Let's head on inside," Tanisha suggested. "There's no point in standing around out here."

"Jon, Tanisha," Crystal offered. "Preach and I aren't doing anything useful. Would you like us to hang around for a couple days?"

"It might be worth the effort," Jon said. "But let me consult with company security first."

It only took Jon a few minutes to call the security desk and explain what happened. "She must be out on bail," the guy at the desk said. "I know they hauled her off and booked her, but maybe she pulled that media-queen jazz on the judge or something. Let me do some checking."

After Jon hung up the phone, he explained what had been said. "I think we're going to have to talk to Stan in the morning," he said. "I wouldn't be surprised if Stan comes up with a company guard or two, but it probably won't happen till morning, now."

Jon had no more than said it when the phone went off. He was not surprised in the slightest to discover that it was Stan calling. "That does it, we're definitely pressing charges," he said. "And just for fun, I think I'll have our attorneys ask for a restraining order. I've been mister nice guy on this in hopes they'd exercise some restraint without being leaned on, but it's not working. We have to settle this shit down or else Jennlynn isn't going to want to come back to work."

"My feeling exactly," Jon said.

"I can have guards over there in ten minutes, and not from the reaction force," Stan said. "Is that going to be enough?"

"I think the issue is over with for tonight," Jon said. "As far as guards go, my sister and her husband are staying here tonight, that should be all we need. All I'm going to say is that if anyone knocks on the door tonight I'm calling security first and then answering the door with the .357 in my hand. This is sheer bullshit."

"I couldn't agree more," Stan said. "I'm trying to be temperate about this, Jon, I really am, but I can't help but wonder how much those people would like to have another story to cover. Like, maybe why all the computers and cameras in a network news office die from a power surge in the same split second."

Oh, shit, Jon thought. Stan is pissed. He knew exactly what Stan was talking about, too -- although surpassed by later developments, the Swallowtail prototype was still owned by Lambdatron and was sitting out in the back shop with a tarp over it. It would be no trick for it to knock out a couple floors of computers and electronic equipment in a skyscraper from several miles away. It was Jon and Tanisha's biggest contribution to Lambdatron, originally designed as a missile defense system, and highly secret, easily the biggest government secret around the place. "I wouldn't do that if I were you," Jon said gently. "There could be, uh, security concerns."

"Oh, shit, no I wouldn't do it, not at this stage, anyway," Stan laughed. "But it sure is fun to think about, isn't it?"

"I'll give you that," Jon grinned.

"No, in a situation like this the first thing to do is to call in the attack lawyers, and I think I've waited long enough as it is," Stan said. "I think there are some reporters who need to do some reporting on conditions inside the local jails, and your friend from tonight is one of them. We're going to throw around some restraining orders, for you kids, of course, but especially for Jennlynn."

"I think that sounds like a good idea," Jon replied.

"Let's talk about it in the morning, and maybe I'll have cooled off a little," Stan sighed. "You think you're going to be all right tonight with just your sister and her husband around for security? I can get some staff over there in minutes."

"We should be all right, if someone will come when they're called."

"Always has been that way," Stan said. "And that's as a result of your other problem."

Everything stayed quiet for the rest of the evening. After a while, everyone but Crystal and Preach took off, and it was nice to be able to sit around and talk with the two of them quietly -- something they rarely had a chance to do -- even if tonight they didn't talk about anything much of importance. Crystal was still touchy about Pete, but it seemed a little muted from the Saturday before, which seemed like a long time ago, now. Crystal and Preach spread sleeping bags on foam pads in the living room -- which was about like normal for them, even a little luxurious since they were staying inside -- and everyone went to bed early.

It wasn't until they were in bed that Jon told Tanisha about Stan's idea for Swallowtail. "I'll admit, it would be fun to think about," Tanisha whispered back to Jon's whispered revelation. "But there would be too many questions asked."

"Yeah, even Stan realizes that," Jon said. "But someone needs to do something about this crap we're having to deal with."

Jon and Tanisha didn't see Stan the first thing the next morning. That wasn't surprising, since they figured he was up to his butt in lawyers. He showed up in the classified office a while later, while the two were busy analyzing test results. "Just so you know, your young friend from last night is on her way back to New York. She blew town when her bond was revoked, so that's going to make life more interesting for her. I'm going to keep after her on general principles, just to send the message that you fuck with Lambdatron at your peril."

"In trying to be philosophical, I suppose she was doing her job, what was expected of her," Jon shook his head. "Even if her job does make her a professional pain in the ass. Most people let reporters get away with that shit, so they don't know what to do when someone pushes back."

"You're probably right," Stan sighed. "Anyway, we've filed for several restraining orders, one of which is pretty blanket, and I don't know if it'll get approved. For the moment, clam up if anyone approaches you and call security. Oh, and tell your sister she did good last night."

"Sure will," Jon said, "Mostly because she did. I learned to not fuck with her a long time ago."

"Oh, and forget what I said about a power surge last night," Stan said. "You're right, it would not be a good security move and questions would get asked that I'd really rather didn't get pointed at us. There may come a time, but I don't think it's just yet. It's kind of one of those last-ditch things."

"I couldn't forget about it," Jon grinned, "Mostly because it's such a nice vision. But I think we'd better keep it a vision."

"Yeah, sometimes I'm a little sorry you kids invented it, and more often I've been a hell of a lot more sorry I thought of the concept in the first place. But that's all in the past. Are you guys going to be able to have a teleconference with the Halloran operative from St. Louis this afternoon?"

"We're ready when they're ready," Tanisha said.

"You have teleconferencing in your office up front, don't you?" Stan asked. "What do you say to about one our time? I don't know if I'll be able to sit in or not."

Jon and Tanisha usually ate their lunch in the Lambdatron company cafeteria, and since most of the company did the same thing it was a normal time and place for Stan to make company-wide announcements. Today was one of those times: "We're still having media problems," he told the employees. "Even though it's been dying down, we had a particularly bad outbreak yesterday and last night. I'm taking some steps to control it, but again, I'll say that the way to deal with this problem, no matter where you are, is to say nothing and call security. Get any identification of the media that you can without saying anything substantive, let security know, and we'll try to take some proactive measures. If we have decent identification of the media, we're going to try to get restraining orders that apply to all Lambdatron employees, but it's going to take some time to get everything arranged. Everybody's done well so far; we're going to ride this out. In a couple weeks, maybe a month, it'll just be a bad memory."

There were a few questions, one of which was, "Any idea when Jennlynn is going to be back?"

"As soon as possible, I hope," Stan replied. "But you know as much as I do. The last time I talked to her was late last week, but the next time she contacts us I hope to be able to tell her that the media problem is pretty well cleared up. When she does come back, she will have security on her as long as necessary."

Jon and Tanisha wound up lunch early and headed back to their front office, and got onto the teleconferencing setup with the Halloran operatives in St. Louis. The session proved to be with a slender, middle-aged black man named Fred, who had a short military haircut and a very serious disposition. It was a long session lasting a couple hours, and one that mostly involved Tanisha; Jon couldn't be much help, and getting a little bored partway through, he pulled up some work that had to be done on his computer and turned to it.

The questions that Fred and some other St. Louis people had for Tanisha were quite detailed, running to people she knew in the area, how the church was organized, and such things. The questioning brought up things that she didn't even realize she knew. Even though her information was five years and more out of date, Fred and the St. Louis operatives seemed to think that she had been able to give them some new angles to work on.

"Well," Fred told her finally. "That gives us quite a bit new to work on, even though some of it is pretty stale. Thanks, you've been a big help."

"I'll help all I can," Tanisha told the man. "How soon do you think you'll have something?"

"Hard to say, but we're aware that this is a priority project," Fred told her. "I can tell you that we won't even have a preliminary report till the first of the week, since we want to have someone in the Sunday service. That'll tell us a lot. By then, we should be able to tell how much longer it's going to take. We have to go a little slow since we don't want to let him know he's being investigated."

"Well, all I can say is that we're going to be anxious to hear your report."

The interview took a big chunk out of the afternoon, and they didn't get as much accomplished on their real job as they would have liked. For the first time all week they headed home at quitting time. There was a lot of security conspicuous in the parking lot, and no press to be seen, so apparently whatever measures Stan had taken had worked for the day. They got home to find Preach and Crystal waiting for them. "Thanks for sticking around," Jon told them. "Hope you didn't have too dull a day."

"No, we can find things to do for a day in town," Crystal told them. "We can head back tonight or we can stay over. Either way we're going to be sleeping on the floor, so it doesn't matter if we stay here or what."

"Really, I don't think there's a big need for you to stay," Jon replied. "But we don't see enough of you guys, so if you want to stick around we won't mind."

Although nothing happened, it was good to spend another evening with Crystal and Preach. During much of the year the two were so busy with their duties on the river that it was hard for them to be sociable. While Crystal and Preach had only been married a few months, it began to look like they were fitting together pretty well. "I have to admit I'm starting to get just a little jealous of you guys," Crystal smirked at one point. "I mean, getting your own house after all."

"Well, it's something you can do sooner or later," Jon said. "It doesn't make much sense for you now, but I can see it being worthwhile for you up the road a little."

"Yeah," she sighed. "I'm afraid at some point in the future we're not going to be spending all summer on the river. I don't like it, but there it is. Right now, I want to grab all of it I can so I'll have something to remember when I can't. Tanisha, with all due respect, I can't imagine what it would be like to face having a baby and having it change my life that much."

"Well, we really weren't expecting it," Tanisha admitted. "And I don't think we can quite imagine how much it's going to change our lives. But for myself, now that I've gotten used to the idea I think I can say I'm looking forward to it. Six months ago I don't think I could have said that."

"Oh, there's no doubt a baby will make a big change in your lives," Crystal shook her head, "But it would darn sure make a bigger one in mine and Preach's. I'm not saying it's not ever going to happen, no way, but it's still a ways up the road. I think Preach and I need a little more time together before we even start thinking about it."

"You'd about have to give up running trips, at least every trip," Jon pointed out.

"That's the tough part," she agreed. "I will say that as long as I wasn't married I was perfectly willing to do every trip I could. Now, maybe there's an end in sight to that, and I'm not sure I like it all that much."

"Maybe it means it's time for you to think about growing up."

"Yeah, but what if I don't want to grow up?"

Over the course of the evening, it was decided that Preach and Crystal would head back to Flagstaff the next day. They were still going to be crowded into the girls' house, but they thought maybe they might just throw the skis onto the ski rack of Preach's Buick and get a little slope time in until Al and Karin headed off to the Bahamas. By the time Al and Karin were back, it would be time to start getting rigged for the rafting season, which was only a little more than a month from its beginning. Winter was passing rapidly, even though it was hard to tell in the mild Phoenix climate.

"The hell of it is," Jon said as he and Tanisha headed into work the next morning, "Crystal is doing what she always wanted to do, and she doesn't want to give it up. Preach is doing something that he never expected to do, and he doesn't want to give it up, either. At least not yet. But when you get down to it, it's really not all that good a life. It's about the next thing to being homeless."

"But, they're having a good time," Tanisha pointed out. "That's what they want to do. Jon, we're nothing like that, but haven't we mostly been having a good time the last few years by doing what we want to do?"

"Well, yeah," he sighed. "At least we can make a career out of what we're doing. When you get right down to it, with Crystal more or less in line to take over Canyon Tours sooner or later, she'll be able to make a career out of it, too. I suppose it's the same thing but it doesn't feel like it. So long as they're happy, I guess."

"Time will tell, I suppose. At least they don't have some of the rocks in the road that we have. I sure wish I knew what was happening in the investigation on Kwame."

"I do, too. I guess we're not going to know until Bricklin is ready to tell us, though. We're just going to have to take things like they come on that."

At least there weren't any news crews hanging around the front gate at Lambdatron when they drove into the east parking lot. "It almost seems like things are getting back to normal around here," Tanisha commented.

"We can hope," Jon said. "I think the story is starting to run its course. Media people can only fart down a dry hole for so long before they go somewhere else."

"Do you think Jennlynn is ever going to talk about her story to someone in the media?"

"Knowing Jennlynn, I'd bet not," Jon shrugged. "But then, if we learned anything about Jennlynn the last couple weeks, it's that we don't know much about Jennlynn."

They headed back to work in their classified office, glad to have their minds off some of the distractions of the previous days. Along in the morning, Stan drifted by and stopped off for a chat. "It looks like the media circus has died down quite a bit since I got some restraining orders," he told them. "The orders aren't going to settle anything in the long run but might give some people some cause for thought for the short term."

"Good deal," Jon said. "Any idea when Jennlynn is going to be back?"

"Well, she called this morning," Stan said. "I could hear engines in the background so I guess wherever she is, she had to get in the plane to get in reach of a cell tower."

"That would fit," Jon agreed. "I don't know anything about the ranch except it's located just about smack dab in the middle of nowhere."

"That's my understanding, too. I guess that's why she thinks it's a good place to hide out. Anyway, I told her it was probably safe for her to come back and we'd have all the security on her she needed, but she said she thought she'd stay gone another few days, just to be on the safe side. I couldn't argue with that. At least she's saying she wants to come back, so overall, it's good news."

"Good," Jon nodded. "It'll be good to have that hassle behind us."

"No fooling, Jon, No fooling. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad she did what she had to do, but it has been a pain in the butt around here the last few days. I haven't talked to Bricklin yet today, but I take it there hasn't been any word on the investigation?"

"Not that we've heard, and we didn't expect to hear anything until into next week at the earliest," Tanisha replied. "And my own gut feeling is they'll probably want to take longer to be sure."

"Well, let me know if I can be of any help," he said. "I've got to hunt down Griz and give him the good word, or at least, such good word as it is."

Jon waited till Stan was gone, then said to Tanisha in a very soft voice, "How much do you want to bet that Will called his base and got the approval to stay gone another few days before she called Stan?"

"No bet," she grinned. "If the choice was between a cozy little cabin out in the middle of nowhere or dealing with media idiots like that one the other day, I know which one I'd take."

"That would be kind of fun, wouldn't it?" he grinned. "Maybe we ought to think about it sometime."

"Not soon, probably," she said, "But we ought to think about it."

They were just nicely getting back to work when the phone on Jon's desk rang. "Now what?" he said, a little peeved at having his attention interrupted, then picked up the phone. "Chladek," he said.

"Jon, this is Joy," he heard. "I just heard from the real estate agent. The offers got accepted. Both of them. We need to get over and sign the acceptance, and then we need to get started looking for financing."

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To be continued . . .

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