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The Agent chapter four

Fixing families

The Agent Chapter Four

After returning to base I hoped to get a little down time, not that I was really tired, but the tension of the last weeks had me feeling a little hang dog. So I was leery when Simon sent for me. I hoped there wasn't a critical event on the horizon that I'd have to jump on.

I knocked on Simon's door and entered when he clicked the lock open from his desk. Entering, I saw, besides Simon, Jennifer and two other agents I knew slightly, sitting in front of his desk. I took a seat while Simon looked us all over.

After a few more seconds of silence he spoke, “Agents, you all did a superb job on that last very critical action. We have had some surprising and welcome reactions to what you accomplished. Many plots that were starting to get to the critical stage have either been postponed indefinitely or abandoned altogether. We have nothing pressing or very urgent to take care of that the junior agents can't handle. It looks like word of what happened was disseminated and a lot of people are getting very wary.”

One of the other agents spoke up, “Simon, does that mean we can stand down for a while?”

“That's exactly what it means,” he said with a smile. “Just remember, things can turn bad at a minutes notice, so we may have to pull you in quickly, but I don't really foresee that happening, so relax and have a good time, you've certainly earned it. We know your location by the GPS chip you have implanted, so if and when we need you we'll contact you. You're dismissed.”

This was certainly welcome to everyone but me. Where will I go? What will I do? I hadn't given a thought to what I would do on a vacation. Ever since the explosion that had put me here I spent all my time studying while I was clinically dead, then months of rehab, followed by working in the field doing small and then larger actions.

As I left and just stood in the hall, befuddled, Jennifer left the office, looked up at me, smiled, and said, “I recognize that look, you have no idea what to do, do you?”

“Jennifer, I really don't. I've never thought about it. I wanted a break, but never thought about what I'd do if I got one. That was kind of stupid, I think.”

“Nonsense, Matt, it's been over twenty five years since you've had a life of you're own, isn't it? We've had you busy every waking minute since you awoke. No wonder you look like a baffled little boy.”

“I do? I mean, do I really look that bad?”

She took my arm as we started down the hall. “Matt, I have an idea if you think it will suit you. I'm going to visit my family and I'd like you to come along. Would you like to?”

I thought about that for only a few seconds and suddenly came to an abrupt halt. “Your family! But Jennifer, how can, I mean you're, uh, don't you......?”

“Of course I have family, they're all great, great, great, something children of mine, but they're mine and I love them. They are the main reason I keep doing what I do here.”

“But, Jennifer, do they know who you are?”

“Of course they don't know how we're related, they think I'm some kind of distant cousin. I can only see them for a few years every thirty years or so or they would notice I'm not aging. Then I return as the daughter of the former visitor or another relative. But I get a chance to hold the little ones and just love them.”

I really had to give this a lot of thought. As far as I knew, I didn't have any family, My parents both died While I was in college and I was an only child. I think my mother had mentioned a distant relative of some sort once, but that was it.

I knew that this subject might be a tender one for Jennifer, and I didn't know how to broach it, so I tried to start slow.

“Jennifer, just how many offspring do you have? Or is that too personal to ask?”

“Don't be silly, Matt,” she smiled. Don't you think I've had enough years to get use to the situation? To answer you, not as many as you might think, not everyone married, ones who did may have been childless and you have to remember what child mortality rates were back when I started a family. There's always death to interrupt life before having children. To tell the truth, I've never tried to keep track of how many, but where they are.”

“I'm still a little confused, Jen. Uh, may I call you Jen, or Jenny? I think Jennifer is pretty formal.”

That produced a full throated laugh, “You're trying too hard to be polite. Of course you may call me Jen ,but please, never Jenny. Look, Matt, I'm not able to see all of my descendants every time I get time to, so I pick a location where there's quite a few and go there. They're spread all over the world now, anyway. I do try and keep track of each and everyone when time permits but that's getting very complicated. Besides, It's not for them, it's for me, I have to reset the core of who I am. Does that seem selfish?”

“Please Jen, I'm getting in waaay over my head, can we change the subject? I would like very much to see your family with you. I hope your not taking me for pity, are you?”

Another full laugh, “I haven't had room for a lot of pity for quite some time now. When I ask an attractive gentleman to go somewhere with me what would lead you to think I pitied him?”

“Well, I guess it's because I've been pitying myself Since Simon let us go, boo hoo, poor Matt doesn't know where to go!”

Then I realized what Jen had said. “Attractive gentleman” ME? Every time I saw Jen she became more and more alluring to me. It was not just her beauty, which she had abundantly, but her intelligence, charm, grace, humor, empathy......UH OH, I was in trouble. I was falling fast for a lady at least three times older than me. Okay, Mr. big shot Agent, how are you going to handle this!?

All this time I'd been standing in the hall, again, bewildered by the thoughts running through my head, and Jen standing there with some kind of knowing look on her face. Finally, she grabbed me by the arm, tucked hers in it. Urging me down the hall, and said, “C'mon, Matt, we're going visiting.” and we did.

We ended up in small city, large town type of community in one of the southern states, rented a car, got a couple rooms in a very nice hotel, and Jen got on the phone.

I only heard bits and pieces of the conversation, such as, “Just in town for a couple days or so,” “Business trip,” “Uncle Charlie,” “Second cousin, twice removed,” Love to see your kids,” “She asked me to call you,” that sort of thing. It all sounded genuine to me, and apparently was to whomever she was talking to, because when she hung up she said, “We're going to dinner.”

We pulled up in front of a very nice brick, two story home, with a nicely groomed lawn and some mature trees in the front yard. It seemed to be on a one acre lot. This certainly wasn't the destitute branch of the family. A short, fiftyish, slightly portly, man answered the bell and ushered us in where I was introduced to the family. There was Harry, the father, who had let us in, Lucille, a tall, thin woman, the wife and Jen's “cousin,” Deborah, or Debby, the pretty teenage daughter. And the young, maybe 6 or 7 year old son, Cody.

I had handed Harry the bottle of very nice wine we'd brought, and we were still exchanging pleasantries when another member of the family came into the room carrying an open can of beer. I found out that this was Jason, the oldest child. I'd guess his age as around the late teens to early twenties.

I'm not a small man, about 6 ft-1 and I weigh, because of my enhancements, almost 250 pounds. But this young man made me feel like Jiminy Cricket. He must have towered over me by at least 4 or 5 inches. That wasn't what made the impression of mass I had. He was a bodybuilder or weight lifter or whatever, he was wide enough to fill most doorways, and had muscles on his muscles. I would estimate he outweighed me at least 30, maybe 40 pounds.

He stood there with a surly look on his face, slugged down the rest of his beer, and crushed the can in the hand that held it. He didn't respond to my greeting, but when I extended my hand, got a sly look on his face and reached for it. I knew what was coming. He grabbed my hand and started squeezing. I could have easily crushed his whole hand but to hide what I was, gave the obligatory wince, and jerked my hand back.

Have you ever imagined how you'd feel if you unexpectedly came face to face with a raging bear? Well, thats what I was feeling. Do you remember Robby the Robot shouting, “Danger, Danger, Will Robinson?” That's what I wanted to do. I swear, the hair on the back of my neck was rising. It's an instinctive feeling and it's not pleasant.

Lucille had noticed the encounter and was trying to abate the atmosphere that had appeared. She rose and announced, “Dinner will be a few minutes yet. Debby, set the table, please. Jason, will you be here for dinner?”

“Hell no” he shouted, “Why the hell would I want to stick around for some damn distant relatives. I'm going out.” His voice was almost soprano high as one gets with testosterone abuse.

Harry looked a little sheepish, but asked me what I would like for a before dinner drink, got it for me and excused himself to see if he could help Lucille. Jen jumped up and announced she wanted to help too, and left for the kitchen.

Which left me with Debby and Cody. They eyed me suspiciously as children do, then must have decided I wasn't there for the family silver, and relaxed.

Debby asked me. “Did Jason hurt your hand? He's always showing off like that, he used to be alright, but since he started hanging around with the bunch he does and starting working out he's gotten real mean, I don't like him anymore, he's mean to mom and dad and Cody too”

She said all that on one breath, stopped and looked at me with a questioning expression.

I said that Jason had hurt my hand but it was alright, It's too bad Jason's gotten mean, I can understand why she might not like him anymore, and how is he mean to mom and dad and Cody? It took me at least three breaths.

“I saw him slap mom and hit dad and push him down on the floor and squeeze Cody's neck and punch him and he twists my arm and pulls my hair and yells at mom and swears at them and breaks things when he gets mad and all kinds of stuff.” One breath again.

Just then, Jen came in and announced dinner. Whew, saved again.

We had a wonderfully delicious dinner. Lucille's a gourmet cook or I'll eat my hat. If she cooks it, that is. The conversation started a little slow as they were a little embarrassed about Jason's behavior, I think. But it soon picked up and I had a wonderful time as Harry turned out to have a droll sense of humor and Lucille was a charming and gracious hostess. The bottle of wine we brought and the two great vintages that Harry provided might have helped the festivities.

Jen had skillfully steered the conversation to other relatives in the area. It seems there are quite a few on Lucille's side, and, of course, Jen's. Pretty soon Jen and Lucille were planning a get-together reunion type of party. Jen insisted having it in the hotel as it was set up for that type of shindig. She also got her way of paying for the whole thing by lying about how wealthy she was, I think.

After we left the warm hugs and handshakes and at least ten minutes complimenting everyone about what a wonderful time we all had, we started the car and left for the hotel.

“Jen, that party you and Lucille have planned sounds like it could get a little pricey. I've been saving all the money the Agency has given me as I don't have anyplace to spend it and I'd like to kick in some.”

She turned and looked at me for a few seconds, then slid across the seat, leaned against me, locked her arm in mine and said, “Matt, you didn't believe a word about me being wealthy, did you?”

I glanced at her and saw she was grinning up at me and said, “I know they said we could draw whatever we wanted, but that's a lot of money and I wouldn't like to have anyone angry at you.”

“You big lovable fool, Matt. I invested in gold stocks over a hundred years ago When oil was first drilled for in Pennsylvania, I bought stock. I've been investing and saving most of my life. Do you know how much 100 dollars turns into with compound interest over 100 years? If I wanted I could buy the hotel with my petty cash.”

“Oh” was all I said as I was pretty chagrined and didn't say much else until we arrived, then said, “Would you like a nightcap before we go up?

“Yes, lets.” she replied.

We found a table in the lounge, gave our order to the waitress, and looked at each other. I was very contented to just sit there and admire the lady, I had to admit, I was in love with. She seemed to be studying me with a very small smile on her face.

Just then the waitress brought our drinks, and after I paid her and she left, we sipped our drinks and just gazed at each other again until Jen suddenly sat up straighter, and seemed to make up her mind about something.

"Matt,” she started, “I have watched you watch me for quite some time. I'm pretty sure I know what you're thinking. You're strongly attracted to me, aren't you?”

After my slow nod, she continued, “I'm attracted to you too. Not just because you're very good looking, although that's a plus, but because you have a beautiful soul. We've worked together closely on a lot of really tough actions where you have to make split second decisions. I've never seen you make the wrong one, always the one that accomplishes what we have to do to correct things without any bad consequences. Your moral compass never get skewed.”

“That's what I've been trained to do until it's just muscle memory” I countered.

She shook her head, “No, it's not, You still have to decide what muscle to use to do the correct action, and you do, every time. But that's not what I want to straighten out with you. You're also frightened to approach me because you think I'm too old for you, isn't that true?

“No, it's not that, I don't think of you as old, you're as young in spirit as anyone I've ever known. Part of it, I think, is fear that you think of me as a boy, a puppy, when compared to your experience. I've dreaded the thought of you laughing at me to be so presumptuous as to try to court your favor.”

“Let me tell you something, a mind is neither young or old, it just exists. I have certainly more experience with life than you, but it doesn't follow that I'm wiser or more intelligent. It's not how much experience one has, but whether or not ,and how, they've made use of it.”

She chuckled and said, “If I was going to laugh at anything it would be your choice of words.” “Court your favor.” “You make it sound like we're in medieval times.”

I pondered a bit , then said, “I think I see your point, Jen, but I don't understand why you bring this up now?”

“Look at me Matt. Do I look over 150 years old to you? Does my body look withered? I have the same hormones and urges of any woman my apparent age, Matt. I've been waiting for you to make the first move on me for far too long. So, I'm taking the lead here. Matt, I think I'm falling in love with you.”

We used only one hotel room that night.

The first morning, when we awoke, there was the usual awkward hesitancy on my part. I needed to brush my teeth and use the facilities badly. Jen was seemingly oblivious that she was naked as she went around her usual morning routine. I admit, I did wonder how many times she had been in this same situation through the years.

My discomfort disappeared when, after our ablutions, she walked up to me, put her arms around my neck, thoroughly kissed me, put her head on my chest and....purred. The second day we canceled one room.

That afternoon Jen and Lucille met at the hotel and made out a guest list. Lucille had already made some phone calls that morning and was gushing with enthusiasm over the response she'd received. The two of them, over the next days, made out list after list of various things needed. Guess who was nominated to get them. I really didn't mind as both of them seemed to glow with joy. Jen, especially, was ecstatic over the prospect of seeing some of her progeny after so many years.

Finally the big night arrived. The hotel had really done a superb job of decorating the ball room. The menu they had prepared looked delectable. The wait staff were clad in fashionable uniforms. What could go wrong?

For a some hours nothing did. The mirth that the crowd exuded, as people that hadn't seen each other for years, months, days, or maybe just hours, burst across the assemblage. The dance floor was jammed with happy, red faced, couples enjoying themselves with great vigor.

Jen, face aflush, was trying to circulate but was constantly stopped by people thanking, hugging, and kissing her. People who had never met her were showing their affection, and even love, for their “cousin.” She had told me she had to reset her core and return to her base. This was it.

I wasn't being ignored, as Jen's business associate and VERY close friend , I was welcomed, hugged and even heartily kissed a few times. I had even worked up a modest sweat from dancing with a variety of women and girls.

I just happened to be looking in that direction and saw a waiter with a large tray of empty glasses leave into a dark service hall. Almost immediately he came backpedaling out of the access, trying to regain his equilibrium, and failing to do so, crashed to the floor, the glassware breaking and spilling all over the floor. There was almost instant silence as the loud crash of the glass had everyone's attention.

I could see into the hallway and perceived someone walking toward us. In a moment Jason walked in, followed by group of dirty, unshaven, smelly young men and a few rough looking girls There was about a dozen to fifteen young people total. As Jason peered around the room I could see that he was high on something. His eyes were red with dilated pupils and he was sweating though the evening was quite cool.

Harry quickly walked up to Jason and asked “What are you doing Jason? Who are these people? Are they friend of yours? You know this party is only for family.”

In a surprisingly swift move Jason grabbed his fathers shirt front and yelled in that falsetto voice “Shut the fuck up, old man” and slapped him forcefully on the side of head, while releasing the shirt. Franks feet actually left the ground and then he hit and slid across the floor, unconscious.

During this activity between Jason and Frank, Jason's friends had been dispersing into the crowd, the boys ogling the young ladies and making lewd remarks to them. They had enough sense not to manhandle anyone or there would have been a brawl between them and the girl's fathers. The whole group, boys and girls, were taking full and half full glasses of drinks off the tables and either chugging them down or breaking them on the floor.

All this time I had been sidling across the floor to Jen. I was afraid she would let her temper go and we'd see unbelievable carnage . When I reached her I realized she was more professional than that as her face was set in a mask of cold fury and her mind was categorizing everything and planning various possible plans of action. But I could tell she wouldn't lose it and go amok.

We could now hear sirens coming closer. Jason walked to the bar, reached across and grabbed a bottle of something, and calling his crew, walked out with the rest of the scum following out the same hall they had entered from.

Someone from the hotel must have called for the police and an ambulance as they both arrived almost simultaneously. Frank was loaded ,and with Lucille sobbing at his side, was driven to the hospital. The room was almost silent except for some quiet crying from some of the ladies.

People were mainly just wandering around, picking up overturned chairs, and trying to get things back in order. There were even a few hearty soul trying to cheer people up and continue the party. Almost all of these folks knew both Frank and Jason and there was a pall over the room. The crowd thinned out, slowly at first, then quite quickly as families picked up and silently left.

Jen had gathered Debby and Cody and we took them home, to wait there for Lucille or word from the hospital. Debby knew where the extra key was so we had no trouble getting entrance. Cody had been playing off to the side with some of his young relatives, and luckily, hadn't seen the incident, but Debby had and she was very upset, crying and rubbing her arms.

Jen took both of them to the couch and sat with one in each arm, talking quietly and soothingly, answering any questions they had and eventually had Debby much quieter and Cody asleep.

I finally reached someone at the hospital that could answer questions to find out Frank was awake and seemed alright but was being held overnight.

I then talked to Lucille, explained where we and the children were, and asked if she would like me to pick her up, or we would stay the night and watch the house. She thought for a moment and said she'd rather stay with Frank if it wouldn't be an imposition.

I reassured her, “Lucille, were family, aren't we? That's what families do, take care of one another.”

“Oh, Matt, I'd never met you or Jen before a couple of weeks ago, but now I think I've known you both in my heart for far longer than that, and you'll be in my heart forever. Of course you're family, I love you both.”

I had a little trouble answering her after that as something had lodged in my throat and I could only talk in a half whisper, “We both love you too, Lucille and don't worry about this end.”

“But what if Jason comes home?” she worried.

“I'm sure that Jason has found the deepest hole he can. He knows the police are looking for him and he'd be foolish to show up here.” I hoped he didn't and wished he would.

One shouldn't wish for things and then regret what he wished for.

Jen and I were sitting on the couch, holding hands, quietly talking about the party and and what had happened and if we could or should do anything about it. The two of us could go without sleep indefinitely if needed, and usually only slept for an hour or two when we did. The kids were upstairs, asleep finally. We had a low light on, which we didn't need, in case one of them got up.

Then we heard someone walking across the grass in the backyard, try to quietly come up the stairs and to the door. We figured it must be Jason. Whoever it was stood quietly, softly sqeaking the floorboards as they shifted their weight, and must have been peeking through the glass in the door. Then we heard a key being inserted and turned. The door opened slowly.

By this time Jen had gone upstairs to stay by the children in case they woke and I was in the dark hall.

We had turned out the light when we had first heard the intruder on the grass so it was pitch black to normal vision. I could now see that it was, indeed, Jason. He had a small penlight to see with and as he crept down the hall I retreated. He stopped at a door and as quietly as he could opened it and entered. I came back down the hall and looked around the door jamb.

Frank was a outdoorsman I could see, as the room walls were covered with mounted animals and fish, and a variety of fishing poles. There was a large gun safe in the corner. Jason obviously knew the combination as he spun the dial back and forth, turned the handle and pulled the door open. As he reached in I came up behind him and as his arm came out with a long gun in his hand I captured both his wrists and pulled them behind his back. He dropped, what I could now see was a rifle, and just stood there a second, stunned, not knowing what was happening.

Regaining his wits, he started throwing his huge body around, trying to break my grip, while yelling and cursing in that high squeaky voice “Whoever you are, you son of a bitch, I'm gonn'a break your fuckin' back if you don't let go of me.”

I increased the pressure on his wrists which brought him up on his toes and a high pitched whistling hiss from between his teeth I told him, “Jason, quit yelling or you'll wake the kids. If you do that I'll have to hurt you more, so shut up and stand still. Now, listen to me, I'm going to let go of your left hand. I want you take it and put it in my hand. After you do that I'll let go of your other hand, do you understand?” I could almost hear the wheels turning in his head, and I figured I knew what he was thinking. “Now, are you ready?” He gave a nod, and I let go of his left wrist.

And I was right, immediately he tried to spin and grab me. But by twisting his wrist and bringing it up towards the middle of his back he had a choice of leaning back and relieving the pressure on his wrist or leaning forward and relieving his arm. Actually he had no choice but pain. After a few seconds of panting and hissing he extended his left hand to where I could put it in a come-along hold. I then released his right wrist. But he'd lost his attitude some and must have figured out I wouldn't have given him any freedom if I couldn't back up what I'd told him and except for his cursing was docile.

I raised my voice just slightly and called Jen. As she came down the stairs I said, “Jason, I care very much for this lady and if you don't respect her and clean up your language you're going to have a very painful evening. Do you understand?” Another nod is all I got. It was enough for now. “Now, tell me where the basement door is.”

The light switch for the basement was at the top of the stairs so we had light as we descended. It was a very nice basement, indeed, well lit, high ceiling, large open areas and even some camp chairs. You could see where different hobbys had been carried out and shelves of canned edibles. The foundation walls were of cut stone, nicely laid.

Jen brought a couple chairs under one of the bright ceiling lights in the middle of an open area.

“All right, Jason, we're going to have a little chat. Are you going to act nice or do you have to be tied?” Another nod. “No, I want to hear it.”

“Yeah” he grunted.

“Yeah what, you idiot, do you want to be tied?”

“No, I'll act Okay.” But his eyes said different. I think he'd come down from whatever he was on earlier but he had a mean look on his face and his body language said “I'll get you somewhere, somehow.”

Well, time for lesson number three. “Alright, go over and sit down and I'll let go. Stay in the chair until I say otherwise. We'll talk.” He sat down, I let go and turned to walk to my chair. He immediately jumped up, started to leap at me while swinging his arm to brush Jen out of the way. She took his arm and threw him ten feet across the room where he hit the stone foundation wall. Hard.

As he laid there, semi conscious, we checked him over, but except for some bruises and abrasions, he was alright. He'd sure be feeling it later though.

It wasn't long before he looked up at Jen and asked, “Where in hell did you learn Judo like that?”

I quietly said, “Get up, shut up, and go sit down. You're not in charge here. Now, here's the rules. I suggest you follow them.

"You will stay here in the basement quietly. You will not break anything.

"If your dad or mom come down here, you will treat them respectfully.

"I don't think the police will be looking for you here, but if you break the rules, they'll be told where to find you.

"I don't think you're smart enough to follow these rules, so you'll be handcuffed to that support column there, you might be strong enough to pull it over, but if you do, you'll be wearing the the whole house for a hat.

"We'll come down and see you from time to time and, if necessary, explain these rules to you again, forcefully. Do you understand?” I got a grunt of affirmation from him.

Jen had retrieved the extra large cuffs from our emergency bag in the trunk of the car that we always kept handy. Jason's wrist were almost as large as the column we secured him to.

We went upstairs, checked on the children, and as it was close to dawn, made some coffee, sat and planned.

Harry and Lucille arrived home about mid morning. By then we'd had the children up, dressed, and fed. Harry still looked a little stunned and had a bandage on one side of his head and Lucille looked pretty ragged. We all sat around the kitchen table and had coffee while we explained the circumstances and warned the children to stay out of the basement. We shooed Lucille off to get some rest and talked to Harry.

When Jen had retrieved the cuffs she'd also brought the mini recorder we had. We asked Harry about Jason and he recounted his early life up to when he started changing. We surreptitiously recorded it all.

Over the rest of the day and evening and the next few days we recorded all of their memories and impressions of Jason's earlier life. Debby had followed Jason one day and had found out where Jason's gang had their hideout. The following day I sneaked into their den when it wasn't occupied, and hid a voice actuated transmitter set to a voice actuated recorder I had purchased and also hid close by. We also had a few sessions with Jason about his early life. He was still belligerent but talked more freely when he forgot, for the moment, that he was being restrained.

We now had hours of recordings from a myriad of sources. We had even gone to the police under the guise of asking if they had any word of Jason, and had recorded their thoughts on him. We had hours and days of editing and rerecording all of them. Back to the electronics store to buy some quite expensive equipment to rerecord on media where we could catalog the vocalizations we had and recalling them at will. We finally had just what we wanted.

Lucille answered the door for us with a big welcoming smile and led us to the kitchen where Harry sat having coffee. We joined him and Lucille at the table and exchanged pleasantries for a while before harry straightened up and asked, “We know you have a plan of some sort but we can't have our son imprisoned in our basement anymore. He's my son and I still love him and I can't see him like this anymore!”

“Harry, Lucille, would you rather see him as he was? Or dead from drugs in a year or two? Or in a real prison? What he's in trouble for now would only lead to a little time in the local jail, maybe even probation. But I think we all realize if things don't change he's heading for a bad future. We're not promising anything is going to change from what we're going to try, or how much change we can effect, but we think it might help. If anyone has another solution I'd like to hear it.”

Lucille focused in on Harry, “You know we haven't any idea what to do. I don't know what God sent these two angels to help us, but if we don't do something Jason's going to go down the path Matt said.”

Harry, head down, thought for a few minutes and replied, “Lucille, I know, you're right.” Lifting his head, he continued, “Matt, Jennifer, can you fill us in on what your scheme is?

“Sure” I replied. “But a lot is going to play by ear, by our response to him based by his responses to ours and vice versa. First, we're going to put in his lunch a small amount of a mild hypnotic drug. It's harmless, will wear off quickly, and will open his mind to accept what we're going to throw at him. Is this acceptable to you? We could do it without the drug but we think it'll help considerably.

Harry, with tears showing in his eyes, nodded.

We waited a while after one of Lucille's wonderful lunches to give the drug to take effect, then took ourselves and the equipment down the stairs. Jason was sitting there, looking calmer than when Jen and I had last seen him. The drug had lulled his anger some. He sure smelled a lot better. He'd refused to wash with a bucket and washcloth until the smell must have blunted his objection.

Jen and I sat close to him, Harry and Lucille a few feet farther back. I started, “Jason, you won't believe this, but we cuffed you down here more for your sake and protection than any other reason.”

He didn't respond to my statement but you could tell he was thinking about it. I continued, “I'm going to unlock the cuff so we can talk. I won't ask for your promise to act reasonably because you've already illustrated that your word is worthless, but I think you realize that in this situation, you're no longer the cock of the walk.” I got up and took the cuff off his wrist.

I could see him wondering what was going on, and he asked “What kind of bullshit is going on here and when the fuck am I getting out of here?”

“There's nothing happening until you apologize to your parents for the language.”

He didn't like that and glowered at me silently for some moments. I'd been spinning the ring on the cuff key on my finger and he looked at that and said “I'm sorry, mom, dad.”

Jen spoke up “We're here, Jason, to try to show you what you've done to yourself and your family and to try to help you correct it. Your parents still love you, even after the what you've done to yourself and them.”

“Why should I care about what they feel about me? I've got my own friends and my own life”

“What friends do you mean.”

“My gang, they're all the friends and family I need.”

Jen hit a switch and the speaker spoke “What an asshole, if he wasn't so damn big I'd kick him right in the balls!” Then a young female voice came on. “That wouldn't do any good, with all the juice he's been using his balls have shrunk up to nothing.” Then another girl “That's a damn good thing, I was getting tired of him using me instead of jackin' off, he never cared if I got off.” Then a different male voice “ Well, he does keep the other gangs off us and he's the only one of thats got the contacts for our goodies.” Another male “Yea, but if wasn't for that, would any of you want him struttin' around and pushin' us around” A chorus of voices, “Hell no” “no way” “what a dork” “jerk” “we gotta figure a way to dump him” “he's too damn big” “not too big for a shiv or a slug”

Jen hit the switch and silence fell across the room. I was really sorry for Jason when he had that stricken look. I could hear quiet crying coming from Lucille

Jen spoke again “ Are you so far down the same road your friends have gone that you don't care when the people who really care about you mean nothing to you? Who do you think are your real friends, that will stick with you through good times and bad, like right now?

I then inquired “Jason, what do you think of your sister and brother?”

“Uh, they're OK I guess, I don't have much to do with them. They just get in the way sometimes.”

“What do you think they think of you?”

The question seemed to puzzle him. “I don't know. I guess I'm just the big brother.”

Jen hit the switch again, Debbys voice came on. “He used to be real nice, he gave me candy sometimes, and helped me do stuff like if I needed to move stuff, and he even gave me a piggy back ride once, and didn't make fun of me or my dolls and played with my kitten when I had one till it ran away, and I thought how lucky I was to have a brother like him cause Janet's brother was mean, but then he started getting mean too and didn't play with me anymore and pushed me sometimes and slapped me real hard one time when I spilled his can of beer and I don't know what I did to make him not like me anymore.”

It took more than one breath this time.

Jason looked like someone had slapped him. I think Debby's statement had hit him harder than even his gang's had. I'd noticed his expression was no longer sullen and he'd been reacting in his speech as most people would instead of sneering at everything.

Jen asked “Do you want to hear Cody's opinion of you?

“No, no, I think I can imagine.”

“Alright but you have to hear this, and I want you to know that none of your family knew we were recording. These are their actual thoughts.” And she played Harry's. This was much longer than the previous ones. He started at Jason's birth as he described his pride with this beautiful, healthy son he'd sired and proceeded through his youth, taking him fishing and the way his heart swelled when Jason caught his first fish, helping him with his baseball skills, sitting with him doing homework and being so proud of his grades, years of pride and love with his good looking, intelligent son.

And then, you could hear the worry as things starting to change. The love was still there but was mixed with self doubt as he tried to figure out what he'd done wrong as his son drew away, and then the anguish and fears as things deteriorated even more and even the tears came through the words, until Harry was sobbing and the recording stopped. I hadn't timed it, but it was probably well over an hour of love and then acute distress.

Jason sat there leaning over with his elbows on his knees and his hands covering his face.

Jen then played Lucille's thoughts, which were equally agonized, and immediately after it ended Jen and I stood and went upstairs. As we passed I glimpsed both of them looking longingly towards Jason and tears running down their faces.

We waited until dinner time, made the kids food, and waited some more. From the time we had left the basement until they appeared was many hours. We were sitting at the kitchen table when all three of them came up. Not much was said, Lucille hugged and kissed both of us, Harry hugged Jen and contemplated hugging me but settled with a two handed handshake. Even Jason sheepishly shook my hand. He didn't try the crush this time.

We left after a few minutes, this was their time.

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