Wednesday, December 7, 2011

S3: Chapter 03: Family Ties

Ryan waited outside of the school watching to see if Stefanie had intentions to show today. He worried more about her after their last conversation; she seemed defeated which broke his heart. He’d hate to think she’d given up because of her situation. His promise replayed in the back of his mind as she stepped off the bus and pushed her way through the crowd of teenagers to enter the building. He said a silent prayer and started up his engine to head back home.
“Hey excuse me!” He felt the soft touch of a woman’s hand on his shoulder and turned to face her, letting off of the throttle and powering down the motor. “Can I help you with something?”
“I’m sorry?”
“Well it’s just that you’re here every day and I was just curious what it was you were looking for,” she smiled and removed her hand noticing the badge pinned to his side. “Oh I’m sorry I…”
“Thought I was a perv? Yeah thanks. No I’m a federal agent and I come here to make sure my sister is showing up like she needs to.”
“Your sister?”
“Stefanie Brooks.”
“You’re Stefanie’s brother?” He nodded his head and her smile grew wider. “Well isn’t this a coincidence! I have been sending correspondences to her home hoping to get one of her parents to come out and talk with me but they never respond and they never show.” She sized him up and extended her hand. “I’m Erica Stanton, the guidance counselor here.”
“Ryan Sharpe,” he said smiling and accepting her hand.
“Listen Mr. Sharpe…”
“Ryan; if you have a moment I’d like to discuss Stefanie with you.”
“Uh, yeah of course, whatever I can do to help.” He pushed the kick stand down on his bike and followed her into her office.
“Would you like a bottled water or anything?”
“Uh no thank you, I’m fine.” His eyes roamed across the numerous certificates and medals lined along her wall. There were diplomas from several schools and achievement awards for her service with soldiers returning from war. She had pictures of events from dinners with dignitaries including Mayor Bigsby and Governor Blanchard as well as an unprecedented amount of cards, letters and postcards from families she’d helped along her way. “So Dr. Stanton what did you want to talk to me about?”
“It’s Erica. Don’t let the plaques intimidate you. I’m an average down to earth person who loves helping kids and families work through their issues to become better people.” She folded her arms in front of her face and watched him.
“Right and what ‘issues’ does Stefanie have that you want to ‘work through’?” he asked becoming defensive of his little sister.
“Ryan, I don’t mean this in a harsh manner, but we both know that Stefanie is not herself these days and lately it only seems to be getting worse. Her normal cheery disposition has been replaced with a callous and sarcastic attitude. Her grades are dropping, she’s skipping school or classes if she actually shows up and she’s starting to hang around people that are not good for her.”
He nodded in agreement thinking back to the alley he’d found her in a couple times. He was sure she wasn’t participating in the activities the others were, drinking and smoking, but they were a bad element just the same. “I know. She’s been having a hard time at home. I’m working on getting custody of her but the court system isn’t buying a federal agent whose job keeps him away from home at all hours of the day. They see me as unstable and unfit.”
“Well perhaps there is another alternative. Group homes are…”
“Fuck that! I’m not sending my sister to some state care facility where she’ll be surrounded by people who THINK they know what’s best for her. I’m what’s best for her and I’m what she needs!”
“Wait, I love Stefanie! I think she’s a brilliant, young lady. But I know she is not reaching her full potential because of the problems she is faced with in her home environment. I want to work with her and get her to open up about them so we can get her past them but she is less than willing to try.”
“And you want what from me? She only talks to me; though lately she’s closing up more and more.” He stood from his seat and took a step towards the desk. “Look, I know you think you have good intentions where Stef is concerned and I see the number of achievements you have hanging on your walls but none of that impresses me or makes me feel that you know what’s best for my baby sister. If you can’t help get her away from her home, and I’m not talking state homes, then we have really nothing further to discuss.”
“Ryan!” she yelled standing and stopping him from exiting the door. She approached him and pushed it shut again before leveling her eyes with his. “I know what I’m talking about and I know what Stefanie needs. It’s obvious you love her and that will go a long way in her recovery. But she needs to talk to someone and if she is finding it hard to talk to her big brother perhaps she needs a woman’s perspective. All I’m asking is that you work with me; convince her to come in and have a chat with me and we can go from there. Trust me it’s what’s best.”
“I’m not pushing something on her that she thinks will betray her trust.”
“And believe me that’s the last thing I want as well. But talking helps; I know.”
“I’ll think about it.” He snatched open the door and hurried to the parking lot. Fucking psychs always ‘know what’s best’, he thought as he pounded the pavement, jumped on his bike and sped from the lot.
“What’s the next step Yvette?” Brett asked rubbing her shoulders gently. She pulled away from his touch and rubbed the back of her neck, rolling her shoulders to relieve the tension. Brett sighed and rubbed his hands across his face before dropping to the bed.
She was still treating him like a disease. Pulling away from him if he got too close and trying to place as much distance as she could between them. He had to wait until she fell asleep before he could even join her in the bed these days. And forget a good morning kiss. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt her hands on him.
“I was thinking about Scott.”
“What about him?”
“He was with my mother for a long time, over 15 years they’d known each other; 7 of which they dated. He’d know about her missions I’m sure. There had to be a time they actually discussed things they worked on, classified didn’t always mean it would remain that way.”
“So you think he knows something about the circumstances surrounding her death? Wouldn’t he have told you that if he did?”
“Not if he knew it would put me in danger as well, Scott’s always trying to coddle me; paternal instincts. He knows me better than anyone and had he told me anything pertaining to her death, he knew I’d take it upon myself to investigate on my own and get to the bottom of what happened. No; if he knew something he wouldn’t have told me.”
“And what makes you think he would now?”
“Because now those very same people want me dead regardless of what I know or what they think I know. He’ll tell me to help save my life.” She rubbed her hands through her hair and paced the area beside him. “I’m gonna call him; get him to meet me so we can discuss this in person.”
“Yvette that’s too dangerous.”
“No, talking about it over the phone is dangerous.”
“And what about Nathan? Remember him and the time I wanted to see him? You can’t be seriously contemplating putting Scott in that position after you tried convincing me it was a stupid thing to do.”
“You’re right, fuck! But I have to see him Brett! We have to know what he knows and…”
“One of the guys could do it Yve.”
“Ryan, Dustin or…Vic,” he sighed.
“No, no those guys, Vic especially, have already been through enough. The team has been placed on the shelf for a while and…I can’t ask them to risk themselves for me again, I won’t.”
“Then what?”
She dropped onto the bed beside him and tossed herself to the sheets. “I don’t know.”
Brett’s phone buzzed in his pocket and he pulled it out to check the ID. “Speak of the devil. Hey what’s up little brother?” Brett asked answering the call.
…“It’s Mom. She called me crying last night scared out of her mind. She said these government men came to the house and told her that she owed some ridiculous amount of back taxes on their home and that if it’s not paid by the deadline they gave her they’ll come back and take everything they own!...”
“What? Who were they? Did she get their names?” Yvette sat up hearing the distress in his voice and listened in.
…“She didn’t but Dad did. He gave me a list and a description of these guys. He also said they looked NOTHING like Internal Revenue Service. They were in all black and he was certain one of them had a Navy Seal tattoo on his hand. Do you think these are the guys the Company was telling us about? The ones that they put on Mom and Dad to kill them?...”
“Sounds like it could be. Do you have that list and descriptions on you?”
…“Yeah. I was gonna get you a copy but I don’t know how. You have a dedicated fax or anything out there?...”
“Yeah one sec,” he said placing the phone down from his mouth. “Yve what’s the number to the fax?”
He repeated the number to Nathan and made sure he had it down. …“Dude if these people bother them again I’m gonna forget my badge and take them out myself!...”
“No. Nathan I don’t want you to worry about this. I’ll take care of it trust me ok? I’m gonna figure out who these men are and go from there. Don’t do anything, you understand me?”
He gave him confirmation and they said their goodbyes before Brett turned to Yvette. She shook her head at him. “It’s the same problem I’m faced with.”
“No, Scott is not being threatened right now. Your desire to contact him is what would place him in danger. My parents are under surveillance and now the IRS is fucking with them and their livelihood!”
“So what do you want to do Brett? If we go to them that would place them in even more danger.” She sighed and walked over to him.
“I’ve lost parents before I know what it means and how it feels. I’ll do whatever you want in this situation Brett. If you want us to go to them we can leave tonight. I don’t want anyone else getting hurt because of me.”
She rubbed a hand across her belly before turning away from him. Brett noticed and started to say something when his phone rang again. “It’s Ryan.”
…“Hey I’ve already asked Dustin to do this for me but I just needed to know if you guys would be willing to help if anything came from it...”
“What’s going on?”
…“Vic’s had Dust track down other members of this mafia that attacked his family but hasn’t told him about it. He said that he doesn’t want Vic to get deeper into the shit with them but we have some credible information about their hierarchy...”
“What kind of information?”
…“Like we know the man responsible for setting Andrei loose on him...”
“Yeah, yeah we’re in whatever you need.”
…“Good, that’s great to know. How’s everything else? How are you holding up man?…”
“Uh fine, everything’s alright here. Still hunting you know. Have you heard from Vic? Vette talked to Sierra the other night; sounds like he is really taking everything hard. We wanted to go see him but...”
...“Right. I’m sure he understands. Last I heard from him was on speaker a day ago when he was checking Dustin’s results. He’s been keeping quiet and to himself. Gonna go by later to check on him though...
“Good. Let us know how it goes. It was good to hear from you man. Just call if you need anything.”
…“Will do...”
Vic stood at the door watching Aisha and Chase playing on the swingset as Sierra sat with Kiara in the sandbox. Seeing his babies enjoying their day was something he hadn’t watched and appreciated in quite some time. A smile nearly formed on his lips until Sierra looked up towards him and there again was the face that haunted his dreams and his every waking moment. “Simone,” he whispered and slapped his hand against the paneled glass door. He glanced over at his answering machine and sighed seeing no messages available. “Come on Dustin!”
Sierra stood with Kiara and started towards him. He pretended as though he didn’t see her and headed into the kitchen to find something to drink, slamming the fridge door shut in anger when he found it empty.
“Strange seeing you out here,” Sierra sighed behind him.
“This is MY house Sierra if anything it’s strange seeing you in it.”
“Sure. I just meant that you haven’t left your room except to get to the bathroom and I don’t even think you make it in there half the time considering your bedroom smells like a urinal.” He glared at her over his shoulder as he continued hunting for something to drink. “Don’t worry; I’ll get this place cleaned up again.”
“Don’t bother! I don’t need you here Sierra! We never needed you!”
“Oh no? Then you are fully capable of driving the kids to school every morning? Hangover and all? I’m sure the cops wouldn’t mind a federal agent drunk driving his children to school. Do you think you can even pull yourself out of your stupor in time to make sure they are well fed, cleaned and clothed? Because I don’t. You and I both know if it wasn’t for me everything would be falling apart right now.”
“I’ve raised them since they were born I think I know how to take care of my children!” He turned to her with anger in his eyes for the first time really looking at her since Simone’s funeral. “Why won’t you just go away? If seeing your face everyday isn’t bad enough, I have to listen to your nagging too? I don’t need this bullshit Sierra!”
“No you just need another bottle to shove down your throat is that it? How is any of this helpful for anyone Vic? Do you really think my sister would want you acting this way?”
“Don’t you say that! Don’t you dare stand there and talk to me like you know what Simone would want! You don’t know anything about her!”
“I know she wouldn’t want the man she married neglecting the family she built so hard over these years. I know she wouldn’t want you slowly killing yourself and pretending as though nothing and no one matters!”
Aisha and Chase walked into the house and stopped in the hall. Vic looked over her shoulder at them and Aisha smiled towards him. “You know you’re free to leave at any time Sierra! They’re not your kids and never will be!”
“And if you keep on the way you have they won’t be yours for much longer either!”
Vic pulled a bottle of vodka from the bottom cabinet and lumbered towards his bedroom, passing his kids without so much as a “hello”.

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