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Next of Kin, Chapter Twenty-Nine: 78%


  10:51:00 am, by Nic Wilson   , 1520 words  
Categories: Next of Kin

Next of Kin, Chapter Twenty-Nine: 78%

Twenty-Nine, 78%

I offered to give Jenel a ride home. She left so fast I'm not sure she heard, though I'm fairly certain she wouldn't have taken me up on it.
I ended up sleeping in my car. Eventually, I got a message from the doctor, telling me Jim was out of surgery and awake.
Jim looked like a ghost, because he'd lost a lot of blood. ?Is Tara okay?? he asked. I would have assumed it was bullshit, but without the pirate tech his biometrics showed genuine distress.
?She's fine,? I said.
?Christ, I don't know what happened.?
?Why don't you try to walk me through it?? I asked. He thought about lying to me, about trying to send me on another merry chase. Maybe he realized it wouldn't work, without the black tech in his brainpan. Maybe he was just a broken man, because he slumped in his hospital bed.
?It doesn't fucking matter, at this point, does it?? he asked. ?I don't know that you'd understand. You never appreciated having a family. Not John. Not even your mom. But I didn't have what you had, growing up. I was an only kid. My parents divorced. Mom got custody because she was marginally less of a druggie burn-out than dad. But I was little more than a pet she was constantly forgetting to feed. It taught me self-reliance. But it also left a hole in me.
?John filled that hole. When we both had nobody, we'd eat Thanksgiving together, or do Christmas. And when he met Tara, I didn't get shoved to the side, like I had a hundred times with other friends. It was more like my family just got a little bigger. And that's gone, now. It's fucked up and I'm never getting it back. So fuck it. I shot your brother.?
?You want to tell me why?? I asked.
?I lied,? he said. ?It wasn't John who made a deal with the Latins. It was me. We were struggling. We'd always been struggling. The suppliers warring kept margins razor thin. Our only hope was to grow the Latins as a reasonable alternative, to force come competitive pricing. I set up a high-scale deal off some Latin supply- or at least what I thought was Latin supply. But it was the good stuff, twice as pure as what I thought I was selling- so I sold it for half of what I should have. John asked me where the brick I sold went, and I was proud when I told him I sold it. I thought I'd finally set us up a score to get us out of the slums.
?The part that fucking killed me is he didn't get mad. He was disappointed. He said he knew he shouldn't have trusted me. That partnering with me this long had been a mistake. He was ending things, just like that. Throwing me away like my mom and pop had years before. I left in tears, blubbering worse than his kid.
?I saw Tara come, with Max. And then I started to panic, that this was the last time I'd see them like this, that the only way I could ever see my family was sneaking a peek through windows. That thought crushed me. And I did go walking. Eventually I made it back to my place on foot. But there was no way I was sleeping. So I turned around and headed back to John's. I just wanted to talk, to try and talk him down.?
?Then why bring the gun??
?Cause I thought he might shoot me. Look, I don't expect someone like you to understand, but there is some honor amongst thieves. If everybody's packing, everybody's polite.
?He let me in, when I got there. Tara was gone, and that only made me feel more alone- more isolated, and more panicked. So I was a mess when I got there. All the plans I made, ways we could get the money or turn the situation around, I forgot all of it the moment I set foot inside.
?He told me we were through. That he knew how I felt about him, and that he'd always pitied me. That it had grown, and now he saw me as pathetic, that I made him sick.? He shuddered.
John always had a talent for personal destruction. He was just attentive enough to recognize the things that would hurt you the most, and when he decided to, to twist them. He was a sadistic idiot savant, and I'd been on the receiving end of that enough to empathize with Jim.
?I lost control. I've always had a temper, but especially when people look down on me. I thought I would just point the gun at him, ask, 'Who's pathetic now?' I thought maybe he'd piss himself, just to make the whole think complete. But I knew he wasn't backing down. If he said I was gone, that was it. And Tara was wrapped around his little finger, which meant losing her and the kid, too. So standing there, pointing that gun at his back, it was my one chance to leave him before he could leave me.?
He closed his eyes tight, and a tear escaped from his left.
I exhaled, and it felt like the weight of the entire continent was off of me. But the investigation wasn't over. ?You shot him.?
?Okay. But why'd you go to Tara's last night? What were you thinking??
?She was family. And she was hurt- and I know I'm the one that hurt her, but- I wanted to be there for her; it killed me, waiting until last night. But I was guilty. I was trying to get up the nerve to come clean to her, to tell her the truth. Because I loved her, even before John got to her. And fucked up as the whole thing was, I wanted to help her. To help her with the rent, to help her raise Max. To be a better dad to him than John could have ever been. But I knew that to have that I couldn't not tell her the truth. She had to know, to forgive me. But once I got there, everything came out wrong. I told her too much, and of the wrong things, and always the worst way. She was horrified. And she looked at me with that same kind of pity and disgust and... I hadn't even got to the part about John, but I knew how big a mistake it had all been.
?Then you showed up. I knew the layout just well enough to sneak into the bathroom. But the windows weren't the kind that opened. And when I saw you I thought there was just a moment before you would see me, and you had the gun and-?
He frowned. ?I think, in that moment, I blamed you. Like for that split-second, I convinced myself that if only you would have let shit go, that I could have talked to Tara, made her see how much I cared for her and Max, made her see that, in a way, all I'd ever been trying to do was build a better life for the pair of them. I am sorry for that,? he said. ?It wasn't you. It was me. It's always been me.?
?Then why'd you shoot me in the first place??
I saw the wheels turn. He wanted to lie to me; it was just his nature.
?I panicked. Until that moment I thought I'd got away with it all. I still had hopes that I could turn Tara around. You were a sudden, existential threat, to everything. But you were also John's family. That's why I didn't shoot you in the face, or more than the one time. I didn't want to shoot you at all, but in that second, caught between everything I could want to have and letting you put me in jail, stranding Tara and Max without support. I couldn't let you interfere.?
?So you don't feel bad about shooting me?? I asked, since he hadn't apologized for that.
He sighed. ?I am sorry,? he said. ?But when I shot you, I was making a choice between the life I wanted, and the one you were trying to saddle me with. I'm sorry that decision ended with you getting hurt. But the reasoning was sound. Attacking you in Tara's apartment, though? That was self-delusion. You didn't deserve that beating. Because what was standing between me and my future by that point was me.?
?Anything else to say?? I asked. A tooltip popped up, with his Miranda rights. I shared the message with him. ?You want me to go over these with you?? I asked.
?No,? he said sullenly. An orderly brought his belongings in a bag, and a wheelchair, and helped him into it.
I wheeled him out of the dead zone in the wheelchair on foot. I called Chase. ?I've got him. You should pick him up at my location. And bring something wheelchair accessible.?

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