23 December 2014

Jerod's Fifth Tale - Part 1

“Shrimp, I need your fucking answer. Are you going to China?” the red head snarled at me. He hit the table hard enough to rattle the now empty glasses. The bartender heard it, and glanced in our direction.

“Ted, you fucking bastard, I just don’t know,” I shouted at him. It’s only been a couple of days since my family had been under threat. Before you get the wrong idea, Ted is actually a good friend and the godfather of my children. But he is a pushy son of a bitch, and I’m under enough pressure. I took a deep breath. “Look, I’ll talk to Tania. But she’s only just found out so many things about my history. I don’t want to push her.”

“Why the fucking hell did you have to marry an angel?” Ted growled.

I snarled back. “Don’t give me that, Ginger. I remember when you were sniffing around her. I won her, fair and square.” Ted is the local boss of the thugs and villains around town. I had that position before he did but stepped down from it when I got serious about Tania. The idea that I won Tania’s heart fairly is unusual to say the least, but it’s one of those things. My love does have a thing for bad boys, so Ted and I both had a shot.

He rubbed his temple, his eyes squeezed shut. “Look, I have to know by tomorrow. If you can’t go, do you think your employee would?”

I shook my head in vehement denial. “Howie is still under the impression that Simtastic Imports is completely legit. I couldn’t possibly tell him tomorrow that it’s not and expect him to cope with whatever might happen on an overseas trip. Not if he only has two days to prepare.” Howie was very smart, but in a nerdy kind of a way. Running a legit business, he does perfectly. But so far, my overseas trips are never routine and I don’t think Howie has the right stuff. That could prove fatal.

Ted grimaced. “Shrimp, seriously, if I had anyone else I could send, I would. The problem is that my crew is muscle, I need to send someone with brains.”

I nodded. The local talent was very short on brains. Great bunch if they have exact instructions but not good to go solo without. “Why don’t you go, Ted?”

He frowned in thought. “I did consider that idea but I don’t trust the crew without me.”

I was about to ask why until I glanced at his cane. A couple of his more ambitious thugs tried to take over and shattered his leg as part of the deal. Going away would give someone in the crew a chance to set up something. Ted is paranoid but he has reasons.

“All I can promise is that I will talk to Tania,” I stated flatly. “I am not going to force her. She has the final word on this trip.”

I was still feeling guilty. It was because of a murder I had committed a few years ago that Tania ended up tied to a chair as bait to trap me. The tactic worked, I went in. But I owed Tania a lot. Everything else in this world can rot to hell, my family is everything.

“I’ll be by tonight before work. Try and have an answer by then,” said Ted.

I nodded and left the pub. I walked fast, I didn’t want to talk to anyone else. As I walked home, I tried to calm myself and relax. It didn’t do any good. I’d been dreading this question since I gave Tania a choice. I didn’t know what her answer would be, or even if she were ready to answer yet.

“Hi, honey, I’m back,” I shouted as I entered. I didn’t see Tania but Lana toddled her way over to greet me.

“Daddy! Daddy! Hug?” She held out her arms to be picked up.

“All right, you little munchkin. But you better not get much bigger or I won’t be able to do this,” I said as lifted her up for a big hug. Then tickled her tummy. “Now where’s your mummy or I’ll do that again.”

I could see the cogs turning in my daughter’s head. She nearly decided in favour of not telling just for another tickle. I tapped her nose. “Come on, munchkin. Tell me.”

“Mummy wif Toby.” Lana pointed out toward the back garden. I nodded. That explained why Tania hadn’t answered when I shouted. She might not have heard. I hope that’s why she hadn’t answered.

To be honest, ever since there had been that issue with my past, Tania and I haven’t spoken much. I’ve been trying not to push her, to give her the time and space she needs to think. But I’ve run out of time, now that Ted is demanding an answer.

I slide open the door. “Tania, sweetheart?” I put Lana down and she ran for her new sandbox.

My heart stopped when she smiled at me. I could die happy in that smile. “Yes, Shrimp?” I hadn’t realised that I was still just admiring her until she asked, “What is it?”

“Tania, if it were entirely my choice, I’d wait a lot longer. But it’s no longer my choice.” I took a deep breath and looked deep into the eyes of the love of my life. “I asked you before, do we stay here and live life as we have been? Or do we change our names and disappear from view?”

“Jerod, are you really giving me this decision?” She eyed me suspiciously.

“Yes, sweetheart. The future of this family is entirely in your hands.” I knelt in front of her, lightly holding both her delicate hands in mine. “If I wasn’t willing to listen to your decision, I never would have asked you to start with. Can you make that decision now?”

“Why now?” Tania had stopped smiling.

“Ted needs to know if I will be going to China in three days. If I can’t, he needs to make other arrangements.”

Tania tugged her right hand from my left. Her hand gently combed through my hair. “You promised me that if we move, you’d be good. That you would give up schemes and plots.” I nodded. I had promised and I couldn’t expect my sweet angel of a wife to put up with my plots forever.
Her fingers moved to under my chin and gently lifted it. She leaned over and kissed me. “When I married you, I knew you were a bad boy. If I had given it any thought, I should have known that trouble would stay near you.” She kissed me again with a passion that we hadn’t shared since Toby was born. “I can’t ask you to sacrifice the things you love most, Shrimp. I can’t ask you to suddenly stop plotting. It’s a part of who you are. It’s the man I fell in love with.”

“I would try if that’s what you want.”

“That’s what I’m trying to tell you, you goof.” Tania motioned for me to stand. “I want you. Some goody-goody man who happens to look like my husband but acts entirely differently isn’t you.”

“So, we stay?”

She nodded. “We stay. You keep yourself busy and doing just enough mischief to keep your soul happy. But Shrimp?”

“Yes, Sweetheart?”

“Don’t murder anyone, please?”

I shook my head. “I’ll try. Truly. But if I had to murder someone to save you or the kids or myself, I will. Make no mistake about it, I will.”

She nodded. “I guess that I couldn’t expect less. You did try to warn me back when you proposed that I should look for someone more like me. Shrimp,” she paused again to touch my face, “there has never been anyone else. I was shocked to hear you had once killed someone but you did have reasons.”

“Does this mean I’m going to China in a couple of days?” I asked quietly.

Tania shook her head, her blond curls bouncing as she did so. “No, it means we are going to China in a couple of days. I told you that you don’t travel without me.”

I nodded. “I just wanted to give you the option. I don’t..”

“You don’t believe that I want to be there, do you?”

I reluctantly replied, “Well, I’ve wondered if it’s really your line. Helping when I’m basically am one of the bad guys.” Our trip to France included blackmail and deceit. Since she was pretending to be my muscle, she had to act like she could hurt anyone who threatened me. She also helped shepherd a target and bring in the local media.

“I can understand why you enjoy it. Once it was all done and over with, I realised what a buzz it was.” I pulled her into a hug.

A sudden brainstorm hit me. “Sweetheart, would you mind if we travelled with one more? I have an idea.”

“If that idea even vaguely includes me not staying with you while you work,” she started her eyes narrowing dangerously.

“Actually no. You’ve made that sufficiently clear. You remember the dude who was with me when I rescued you from the Pesces?”

She closed her eyes for a moment. “I was mainly focussed on you. But that was a big guy, black hair with dreads?”

“That’s him. I think it might be good for you to spend some time with him. He’s properly trained as backup.”

“Does that mean you were improperly trained?”

I laughed. “That means I did a brief stint but being muscle wasn’t really my forte. Kane specialises in being the muscle. I could ask Ted if we can take him with us. He can teach you some of the tricks of the trade.”

“You won’t take him to a business meeting without me?” Tania asked with suspicion in her voice.

“I will not. Either you both go or there is no meeting. What do you think?”

“Well, it might be reassuring for me to know more. Did he impress you that much?”

I nodded. “He was doing everything that was needed when he was my bodyguard. I did have a bad moment when I had to sleep and remembered that he’d once tried to kill me. But he needed work and guarding me was the first job Ginger offered.”

“All right, Jerod. I’ll trust you, even if I don’t know why.”

“It’s because I’m the best husband you have,” I smirked.

“Not like I have a lot of others to compare you to,” she smiled.

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