Life for him sucks. His family life sucked, everything has always sucked, never able to catch a break. His old man would say it is his attitude. Yeah he would have said that years ago, before he started drinking, now the old man doesn’t crawl out of the bottle much. He finds it ironic dad was so against drinking when he was a kid. Now dad is drunk all the time. He went to see his dad not long ago, saw him in fact from a distance, he did not feel the need to talk to him. Dad was sitting at a bar talking up some nasty looking barfly. No one he wanted to talk to. Mom, he lost track of mom, not even sure where she lives now, maybe near his sister. No matter they are all better off without him, even dad.
He opens the door to his studio apartment over the Copper Penny in southeast Portland, no way the Ritz Carlton, but he has lived in worse. He has a stack of car stereos, T.V.’s, laptops, other electronic equipment he has managed to boost off of unsuspecting people. He just needs to find a new way to get it moved, his contact went to lock up. Now he cannot move all his loot. Go ahead leave your car unlocked, house door open for a second. It only takes him a blink of an eye and he has what he came for. He is good at his job. He is a real pro at stealing shit.
He goes into the bathroom and takes a shower. After his shower he is looking in the mirror, chicks, they still dig him, just not the quality ones he used to tap. Same blue eyes as always, hair still black as night, just now there are dark circles under his eyes, he is pale, skinny, he doesn’t eat much. He stays high for days, doesn’t need to eat. When he stays high, he does not have to feel the pain. The pain of the life he leads and of the haunting of the one he might of had. He never meant for any of this to happen to him. He just wanted to party, hang out, why did dad have to go and try to make him stay in school. He should have just let him be. He was young impulsive and hated authority, dad should of understood, he was a spoiled kid. He gets dressed, preps himself for the one thing that really matters to him, the needle, that is his only family now.
There is a knock at the door. He stashes his shit and goes to peak through the peep hole.
“Whats up Bill? Jeez cut me some slack man.” He says as he opens the door.
“LJ come on dude lets shake it we got to score some cash, Sonny ain’t going to wait for his car forever.”
LJ hates when Bill gets like this. He gets stupid. He forgets everything except for the score, he don’t care who gets hurt. LJ has done time, he doesn’t want to go back because this idiot up and kills someone. He hates what his life has become but whats he going to do about it. He shoots up, gets his shit together and heads out into the evening. Bill is right about one thing they do need to take care of Sonny, he is not someone who will take disappointment lightly.
They head out just about sunset, they climb into Bill’s compact and head downtown, Saturday night, great night for boosting cars. They cruise the streets for hours looking for possibilities.
LJ is over it, ready to call it a night when Bill sees what he has been looking for. They pull to the curb and switch, LJ is the driver now as they pull back into traffic and tail the car they are interested in. This one is going to be tricky, possibly having to follow for a while. Bill grabs a bat he has in the backseat.
“Whoa dude what ya doing with the bat?” LJ is startled, this cannot be good.
“Ya think that fella is just gonna unlock and let me in, hell no going to bash his window then bash him and toss him on the ground.”
“Thats a little extreme don’t you think? The broken window is not going to make Sonny very happy.”
“Sonny ain’t gonna care that is a sweet ride, not everyday we get a chance to score like this.”
A BMW modified like this one is always a sweet find. They follow the car out of downtown and into the West hills of Portland, quiet side streets, great spot for the pop. They are right behind the car when they are stopped for a red light. Bill jumps out and runs up on the drivers side. He bashes in the drivers window with one swing. LJ watches as the startled drive reacts to the attack, only to see Bill hit the man in the face with the bat knocking him over in the seat. LJ guns the car and gets out of there. He checks his mirror, sees Bill drag the man from the car swinging the bat repeatedly as he bashes the driver, finally leaving him lay in the street, like yesterdays garbage, a pang of guilt almost manifests itself in LJ’s conscious. He takes a swig from his bottle of beer to wash away the fleeting thought. He looks down and does not see the red light in time as he blows through it. The lights come on immediately. LJ looks in his mirror sees Bill make the turn at the light and escape into the night as the cruiser falls in behind him. Great just great. The familiar blue and red lights twinkling at him in the rear view mirror. as he pulls to the curb.
He tosses the beer to the back seat, He had only had a few hopefully the cop will not notice. Ha laughable, not with his luck.
Well, his luck holds as the charges he is facing mount. No insurance, no registration, open container, DUII, at least he had his license with him. He is sitting in the processing center waiting his turn at the window. With some luck, and bail he will be out tomorrow.
Detective Pete Shaw does not spend much time in the processing center, but the possible connection of this routine traffic stop having something to do with the car jacking’s is just the right bait to get him down there at 2:00am. As he looks over the arrest information his gut is telling him this guy could have seen, or, been involved in the violent car theft that happened about two blocks from where he was pulled over. There is practically no way this guy did not see something. He looks at the mug shot, he looks slightly familiar to Pete. Where has he seen this guy at? He flips to his name.
He looks back at the picture, looks at the name again, this cannot be happening to him, first solid lead he has in catching this violent bastard and now this. His primary suspect, is Lance Johnson, Sophie’s brother. He sits back on a stool as he absorbs the ramifications of the whole situation. The possible, no probable conflict of interest involved in even speaking to the suspect with his connection to Sophie. He has only one choice. He is going to call Sophie, she can confirm his suspicion if this is her brother and if it is, he is going to have to figure out his next move.
Pete walks away from the counter and calls Sophie.
“Hello.” A very sleepy Sophie answers the phone.
“Hey, I need your help with something. I am going to send a picture to your phone, let me know if you know him.” Pete sends the mug shot to Sophie.
“Pete you do realize it is the middle of the night, whats going on?”
“Did you get the picture yet?”
“I am in bed I have not even looked, hang on.” Sophie stumbles to her alcove office nook where she plugs her phone in at night and looks at the face of her phone as the text arrives. She clicks on the image icon. As the picture opens on her phone, she gasps. “Pete, that looks like my brother. Whats going on?”
“You need to come to the processing center, thats all I can say.”
The call is ended. Sophie goes to her room and sits on the bed, her world she is pretty sure is about to spin out of control. She gathers her thoughts, processing center, what the hell is that? She grabs some jeans and a sweatshirt, it may be summer but it is cool at night. She throws on her tennis shoes, brushes her teeth, pulls her hair in a pony tail and heads downstairs. She quickly googles the location of the processing center, she normally would just text Pete, but something tells her not to this time. She heads to the garage and pushes her garage opener as she starts her baby. Even tonight its familiar purr calms her nerves.
She pulls into the lot at the downtown processing center as she parks she calls Pete.
“Hey” He answers on the first ring.
“I am here what do I do?”
“Go to the information officer and ask for information regarding him thats all I can help you with.”
The call ends as abruptly as the last call. Sophie is completely confused at this point. What is seriously going on? Sophie finds her way to the officer and inquires after her brother. She is told to wait there.
In the processing center, LJ cannot figure out why he has not been called to the window yet. Others have come and gone and still he is just sitting here, and he is sober now, never a good thing. He needs a hit, a shot, and a beer to chase it all away.
“Lance Johnson.” The officer at the desk is finally calling him to the counter.
“Mr. Johnson you have been put on a 48 hour hold regarding an active investigation your processing will be concluded at the end of your hold. The officer requesting your hold has done you the favor of contacting your next of kin. If you would please follow the officer to the visitor cubicles.”
“My next of kin? A hold regarding what?”
“Yes, your closest living relative. The hold is regarding an active case, I do not comment on active cases, someone will be speaking to you regarding the matter soon. Follow the officer please.” The officer at the desk points to the officer that is waiting to take LJ to meet with his next of kin.
LJ follows the officer, he is trying to figure out who could possibly be there to see him. The information officer directs Sophie to the visitor cubicles where she waits for her brother to appear. She feels a lump the size of Texas in her throat as she waits. Suddenly a man in an orange jump suit is brought to her cubical and sits down as he sits he is staring at her through the glass.
Oh my god, it cannot possibly be Sophie, how would she know he is here? This cannot be happening to him, what does he say to her? He is humiliated, he never wanted her to see him again, he does not know what to do. He sees her reaching for the phone that would make it possible for them to talk for the first time in ten years. He is terrified, yet what must she be thinking, she has the courage to reach for the phone, he can to. He picks up the receiver.
“Hello” He is playing it cool not going to let on he knows her,
“Lance, it is me Sophie, what is going on? What are you doing in Portland? I have so many questions I do not know where to start.” Sophie is gushing, seeing her brother, alive, albeit not in the best of circumstances she is still so excited just to see him.
LJ wants to deny her. Tell her she is wrong it is not him, he has never seen her before in his life. Hang up the phone and just walk away, it would be best for her. He can bring her nothing but pain and heartache, he knows he should just ignore her and go back to his life. He looks into her eyes, like looking into a mirror, the same blue eyes, how can he deny what is all over their faces. They were family once, before he destroyed all traces of family in his life.
When Lance says nothing, Sophie does not know what to do. She feels tears form behind her eyes, tears of pain and frustration, this man-boy can still bring her to tears even now.
“Lance, please say something. After all these years without a word I deserve something, hello maybe.”
“You should not be here. Go home Sophie, go back to your family forget about me.”
“My family?” Sophie tosses her head back and laughs a joyless laugh. “You destroyed my family years ago. Mom committed suicide Lance.” Shock at the news of his mothers demise flashes across Lances face before he can put on the indifference mask again. “Dad crawled into a bottle of whiskey shortly after, yeah you took care of my family along time ago.”
“Me? How you figure?”
“It tore mom to pieces when you just walked away from her without a backwards glance, she became deeply depressed and took her own life. She was a weak person to begin with, she could not deal with your rejection.”
“I never rejected mom. I couldn’t take pop telling me what to do when.” Lance would not look Sophie in the eye.
“Looks to me like you need someone telling you what to do, you seem to be doing a pretty piss poor job of taking care of yourself. You acted like a spoiled little boy then and your acting like a complete idiot now.” Sophie’s tears dried quickly and she was heading strait to pissed very quickly, this man on the other side of the glass seems to be unable to take responsibility for his own actions.
“I do all right.” LJ says stubbornly.
“You do all right? You’re in an ugly orange jumpsuit on the wrong side of the jail glass and your telling me this is all right? I would hate to see what shitty looks like.”
LJ laughs. The chick has moxie she does not seem to backdown easily from a fight. He is sure she would have sooner stayed there and slugged it out with dad then walk away like he did. He needs to leave her be. She does not need his troubles.
“Okay so right now I may be in a tight spot, but I will git out of it, if not, its three hots and a cot for a while, no worries. Someone like me can’t expect much more.”
“So what your saying is you want me to walk away? Buddy, thats your style not mine. You are my brother, and it is time you start acting like it, grow a pair and stop acting like this is okay with you. How did you end up here?” Sophie has had it with his whole tough guy don’t need no one, I ain’t worth saving crap. He is her brother. The only family she has, and she is going to help him.
“Okay okay, man you are a bossy bitch. DUII, open container, no registration, no insurance...blah blah blah. That is what they arrested me for, but I am here for 48 hours regardless on a hold regarding an active investigation, whatever that means.”
“An active investigation? What?” Sophie is confused.
“Not real sure Miss Fix it. Something about the investigating officer in some case wants to talk to me. Anyways that officer did me the favor of contacting you. Not convinced that was so much of a favor, but they did it anyways.” LJ tosses all the information he has on the table for her to ponder.
Pete called her about him. Is Pete the one ordering the hold? Sophie has a bad feeling in the pit of her stomach. There is so much more to this then meets the eye she can feel it. She does not want to say too much to Lance, her instincts are telling her to keep Pete out of the conversation.
“Well, then there is not much we can accomplish tonight. I will find a lawyer for you, regardless of what this is about you need representation. When you get out of here where do you live?”
“No where you need to ever visit. I mean that. You do not have to get me a lawyer, they will give me a public defender. You don’t even know me lady, yeah I was your brother once, now, I am nothing, you hear me? Please hear me. You need to just go back to your world and forget me.”
“No. I just found you again, I will not just leave you to continue to tear yourself apart. I see it in your eyes Lance, your still on drugs, you drink too much, probably the things you wish you had now more then anything are a hit and a damn drink. Guess what big brother? Your baby sister is back and she is no baby now. I see more in you too. I see pain, I see you are lost. I want to help you, I want to help you get your life back. Please allow me the chance to get my brother back.”
Lance has never in all his life met a woman like her. She is amazing, strong, so very beautiful, and she wants him in her life. She wants him to be her brother again. If only it were possible. “I would like to be your brother, to be all the things you want me to be, but I am so far from there. I am a junkie, I need a fix something fierce. I really don’t think I have it in me to be what you need.” Lance looks down at his hands. He is ashamed of what he is, of her seeing him like this, but what is he going to do?
“Baby steps Lance. We are going to take baby steps. Now I have to get home I have to work tomorrow morning. I will make some calls and see what I can accomplish as far as representation for you. Talk to no one without your lawyer okay?”
“I think your wasting your time on me.”
“Let me decide when I am wasting time. Now good night.”
“Bye Sophie. Hey Sophie....Thanks for trying to help, if you can’t help me, please don’t take it personal. I am sure I am beyond help. That really sucks about mom. See ya later.” Lance hung up the phone got to his feet and disappeared again. This time around the corner of the cubical and back to the jail.
Sophie replaces the headset. She sits for a second in her chair before heading out to her car. As she approaches her car, she sees Pete there, she has a bad feeling, why?
“Hey Pete, what is going on?” She curls in Pete’s arms. He pulls her close as he could and holds her tight.
“Babe. We got to get out of here, your place okay?”
“I will meet you there I have my truck here.” He releases her and walks away.
Sophie climbs in her car and heads home. She has no idea what is going on but she cannot wait to find out.