Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Chapter 13: Love Entanglements

Alfonzo changed lanes and the blinker clicked loudly into the silence as the group awaited Ron’s story.

Ron took in a deep breath. 

"Well, college was a rough time for me. It took me a long time to figure out what exactly I wanted to do with my life. In fact, I went through a long period where I used to think I wanted to be an environmental studies major.”

McKenna couldn’t help but interrupt early in the story. “Really?” she asked incredulously. “I never knew that.”

“Actually, that's where the story starts,” Ron said, patting McKenna’s knee. “My decision toward environmental studies might have been triggered by a certain girl who I happened to have a crush on, or have the hots for, or whatever you kids call it these days.”

Luke chimed in. “I think we actually just call it love now.”

McKenna stole a look at Luke to see just how flippant his comment was. He seemed to be mostly joking with only a touch of seriousness. So, after rolling her eyes at him playfully, she turned back to her father. She had never heard the story of how her parents had met.

“Lisa was what you would call a flower child,” Ron began. “She had long, golden hair that she wore in a pony tail with a daisy in it and she always had homemade t-shirts with political statements about the environment on them. Some girls dressed that way to keep up with the fads of the time, but Lisa was truly passionate about what she believed. Really, I simply couldn't resist her.”

McKenna smiled, watching her dad light up as he told the story. She remembered seeing pictures of her parents back when the styles were full of flowers and peace signs.

“So, I didn’t actually know Lisa, and I used to be extremely shy. But one day, my friend, Chris, convinced me to go talk to her.”

Now everyone was acutely tuned in to the story upon hearing the name Chris. Even Alfonzo drifted out of the lane for a moment, only to hurriedly realign the car safely within the confines of the white lines.

“Dad, was it Mom’s Chris that was your friend?”

Ron squeezed his eyes shut upon hearing Chris described as Lisa’s Chris. But he knew he had to continue on, so he opened his eyes and looked squarely at McKenna.

“Yes, the very same. Chris practically dragged me over to talk to her. The two of them hit it off instantly because Chris happened to be an environmentally conscious fellow. He used that as an in and then claimed he had to run off for a biology meeting and left me alone with Lisa.

"At first, she seemed put out that Chris was gone. Soon enough though, I found my voice and ended up making her laugh all the way to her next class. However, I was still pretty shy and didn't ask for her phone number. I just hoped I'd get to see her again. But before I could turn to leave she grabbed my arm and scribbled her number in a huge purple scrawl.”

The mood in the car had lightened significantly as everyone relaxed and listened to Ron's love story.

“Anyway, I called her that night; I couldn’t help myself. We set a date for the weekend. That’s not really an important part of the story, but basically it consisted of a drive-in movie, my car breaking down, an intense pretend dialogue of us dubbing the cheesy flick we’d seen and a kiss on the cheek at the end of the night.”

McKenna had heard this part of her parents' history and wanted to hear it again, but she knew she had to be patient. Glancing up front, McKenna realized that Ron had Jewel’s complete attention. She hadn’t known that was possible. Even though Jewel had crossed arms and her usual wrinkled brow, there was a hint of a smile playing on her lips. Maybe Jewel was actually a sap, deep down under all her sarcasm.

“—And we couldn’t get enough of each other. Ice cream runs, study sessions, more drive-in movies; we spent practically every waking moment together. Some called it unhealthy, but we knew that we only wanted to be with each other. We’d talked about marriage and all I had to do was ask her father for permission and we were set.”

This fairy tale portion of the story was what McKenna had always heard growing up. Except she knew that there had to be a glitch to the story, or her father wouldn’t be telling it.

“So, I was all happy, floating on air everywhere I went. When Chris invited me to what he called an environmental debate, I agreed to go, since Lisa was busy with a group project. But I soon realized when we got there that this debate was actually a full-fledged protest. A local company had been accused of dumping into the city river and Chris and some of his friends had decided to protest outside the company’s gates. Being in love and all, I think I was easily convinced of anything. So I grabbed a picket sign and protested my heart out for the cause.”

Ron paused as Alfonzo steered the car to an exit off the freeway. “Wait, where are we going?” he questioned Alfonzo.

Startled at being addressed, Alfonzo jumped. Then he glanced back and said, “Grocery store. I figured we could all use some food before we really get going.”

Before McKenna could ask where they could possibly be headed after the store, Luke changed the subject back to the story. “So, how does this protest have to do with my sister being almost killed at a train station in Paris?”

Ron sighed and sat back. “I’m getting to that. So, after the protest, we got caught by the cops and got cited for trespassing. It was no picnic, being sent to the police station, but I figured we deserved what we’d been charged for, so I was taking the whole situation rather calmly. But Chris started reacting rather violently toward the police who were charging us, and he ended up getting arrested. Before being shoved into a police car, I heard him talking to his other protester friends, using odd code words, and I knew something wasn’t right. I'd never seen this side of Chris before. He looked maniacal as he screamed at the police with his blonde, greasy hair whipping back and forth. Picture a blonde Severus Snape and that was Chris back then. He definitely intimidated the cops. Anyway, once we all got released, I asked Chris about the weird code words. He answered vaguely but didn’t tell me anything concrete. Repeatedly though, I kept seeing people who had been at the protest glaring at me whenever I saw them around campus. I was quite confused by that point.

"Then we heard that one of the cops who arrested us had died in a fatal car accident. This was the officer who had arrested Chris at the protest. Since I’d heard Chris threaten this officer, I badgered him even more. Finally, he confessed that he was in a gang.”

McKenna gasped. What? Chris, in a gang? He seemed to be one of the calmest people she knew. He was usually opting for relaxing movie nights with her mother, and she had rarely seen him angry. Last week, hadn’t he even offered to take her out for ice cream? Then an urgent thought crossed McKenna’s mind.
“Dad, is mom safe right now?”

Ron opened his mouth to answer, but Alfonzo spoke instead. “Actually, he’s out of the country, currently. We’ve been tracking his whereabouts. Your mother is completely safe right now.”

McKenna sighed in relief and leaned her head back on the seat. Luke reached a hand over to rub her shoulder lightly.

Suddenly, McKenna felt safe, nestled between her father and Luke. Which was odd, considering her father had been estranged to her until only about an hour ago and she’d only met Luke yesterday. But strangely enough, she felt comforted by the two men beside her.

Before anyone else could comment further, Ron plunged on to get the rest of his story out.

“I finally understood that Chris had drugged that officer before he'd gotten into his car, which caused the accident. As if finding that out wasn't terrible enough, it turned out that the protest had been a sort of initiation into this gang, and that I had passed the test,” Ron said quickly, as if saying it faster diminished its importance. “Chris was the leader and he wanted me as one of his top guys. Well, actually, mostly girls were his top dogs; they're the ones who couldn't stop glaring at me for jumping the ranks.”

Ron registered the shocked look on McKenna’s face.

“McKenna, obviously I didn’t want in this gang,” Ron’s voice pleaded for her understanding. “I had everything I wanted in front of me in your mother. I told Chris I wasn’t interested. Chris and I grew apart soon after that, but not because of the gang. He found out that I was going to ask Lisa to marry me. He went crazy one night when I got home from class, throwing things everywhere, claiming he always thought Lisa was really interested in him and once she got over me that they would be together. Why he hadn’t told me his feelings sooner, I had no idea. But there was no stopping me from marrying Lisa by then. We were married within the year.

"Concerning the gang though, Chris told me I could decline with no consequences, but that they'd always be watching me. No consequences actually consisted of yearly checkups where he’d randomly appear to me to ask if I wanted in yet. I think he really just wanted to glimpse Lisa and reconfirm that we were still married. Looking back, I can see how he was able to use this to his advantage and find her so quickly after the divorce. Anyway, I always declined his gang offers. One year though, he came to me with an assignment.”

Jewel whipped her head around, breaking her rare silence. “Me?” she asked.

Ron nodded. “I declined, of course, but Chris kept returning to me, holding a paper bag and claiming he needed my friendly cooperation because I was the only one who could help him. He said that when I took my sabbatical to Paris that I could be of service. After denying him multiple times, finally it was time for my family and I to head to Paris. The entire trip I was extremely paranoid. But by the end when nothing out of the ordinary had occurred, I began to relax. Only later did I find out that my daughter had gotten in the midst of my problem right under my nose,” he said accusingly to McKenna.

McKenna just smiled sheepishly, waiting for the rest of the connections to fall into place in the story.

“Apparently Chris had crossed paths with another gang that was heavy into dealing drugs. There was a guy, Matthias, who had an initiation assignment to kill his girlfriend, who apparently knew too much about their operation. Matthias went to Chris, who had owed him from some previous dealing, and convinced Chris that he needed to kill this girl because he couldn’t go through with it himself. Chris was under the radar, hiding from the law since his gang had dispersed, so he came to me, probably his only friend left, to have me carry out the operation. I honestly didn’t think he’d leave a gun for me to do the unthinkable.”

Jewel was turned, gripping the edge of the seat she was in as she listened to the story of her assassination attempt. “Why didn’t they come after me again?” she asked.

“The gun was gone, and although no reports of a death in the train station had been given, Chris assumed I had done the work for him. He came later to commend me when I told him the truth. Matthias apparently had lied to his gang leader, saying he’d gone through with it.”

“That’s when Matthias came to us,” Alfonzo chimed in. “He wanted to protect Jewel, even though he'd  started out with awful intentions. His gang is called The Gordovos; they’re a well known murderous drug gang in the Maine and New Hampshire area. I’d heard of them and knew that we had to hide Jewel as quickly as possible. Luckily, Jewel had already come to me with her apprehensions about Matthias’s gang, so I’d already sent Jewel to Paris to hide out for a while. Then Luke and I had to fly to Paris to track her down, ensure her safety and go to the train station where Matthias told us her killer was waiting. We had to put a stop to it all. Now, somehow, The Gordovos has realized that Jewel is still alive. They're doing everything they can to make sure we don't expose the gang and its secrets. Which is why we’ve been trying to solve this, so we can all live in safety.”

Just then, the car pulled into the lot of a 24-hour grocery store.

“And now we need to get prepared for the next step of our journey,” Alfonzo concluded.

“Where exactly are we going?” McKenna asked tentatively.

“Where else?” Luke asked, getting out of the car. “Paris.”


  1. Your story is awesome! I can't wait to see what happens next.

  2. Yes! The story is developing and making sense! I love it!!