The Bad Things

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Chapter 9. Stormy

The doctors wouldn’t allow us to be with Stormy. We sat in the waiting room. Abigail held onto me and cried for a long time. She finally managed to calmly tell us what happened. Stormy had been focused on a toy in her basket, and she didn’t realize she was heading straight for the steps. Abigail screamed for her, but it was too late, and she had been too far from Stormy to make it to her in time.

Abigail dropped the phone and chased Stormy down the steps. Stormy apparently hit almost every step on the way down. The mansion’s steps were made of concrete, and it was a long way down. Abigail said when she first got down to the bottom, Stormy wasn’t even breathing.

I didn’t say anything to Abigail about me being at fault for it because I knew she would try to put the blame on herself. We weren’t ready for that conversation yet.

My parents rushed into the emergency room. Both of them breathing heavily. They stopped and stared at all of us.

“What happened?” Dad asked me.

“Stormy went down the stairs on her tricycle. We don’t know how she’s doing yet. They haven’t told us much,” I said.

A doctor walked into the room. “Stormy Vasquez’s parents?”

“That would be us,” Abigail said. She grabbed my hand and pulled me from the chair. The others stood up curiously and moved toward the doctor. “Is she okay?”

“She took quite the fall. She had a seizure from the head trauma. She’s likely to have more. We had to keep her in a medically induced coma to stop them. One of her arms is broken, and two of her ribs. Stormy will make it, but she’ll be here a while. Even when she does go back home, you will have to keep her on bed rest. Right now, it is the seizures that concern us. We’ll have to try out different medications to stop them,” he said.

“Can we see her?” I asked.

“Yes, of course. Just the parents for now. Perhaps other visitors in a couple of days.” The doctor gestured for us to follow.

I turned to my family. “Thanks for coming down here. We’ll keep you posted. Sean, Chelsea, you two can ride back with Angel. I’ll probably be back later to get some clothes.”

“Okay,” Sean said.

Mom hugged Abigail and me. “Call us and let us know how she is doing. Poor little thing.”

“We will,” Abigail whispered.

Abigail and I followed the doctor to the room where they kept Stormy. We stepped around the curtain. Abigail threw her hand over her mouth and sobbed as soon as Stormy came into view.

“My baby,” Abby said. She stumbled through the room, pushing things out of her way that kept her from getting to Stormy.

At that moment, I realized that Abigail was much stronger than me. I couldn’t move. A numbing sensation when up my spine and suddenly paralyzed me as I stared at Stormy. Nothing could prepare anyone for something so horrible.

Stormy stood about three and a half feet tall and only weighed forty pounds, average for a four-year-old. What wasn’t so average about Stormy was her beauty, intelligence, and compassion. In my mind, she was just a baby.

“Andy,” Abigail murmured. “Are you okay?”

“I’m going to go back to the house and get some clothes,” I said stiffly. “Do you want anything in particular?”

“Um, my phone is near the bedroom door, probably still on the floor. Could you grab it so that I can call Mom?” Abigail’s eyes clouded with worry.

“Yeah,” I said. I pecked Abigail on the lips and left the room. Going home could have waited, but I could feel myself losing it. The image of Stormy lying in a hospital bed, intubated with wires sticking out of her, burned in my mind. It wasn’t something that would ever go away. I wouldn’t wish what I saw on anyone. How could I forgive myself for this?

When I walked into the foyer, there wasn’t anyone around. The pink tricycle sat at the foot of the stairs. At first, all I could do was stare at it. The memories of every time she got hurt on it played through my mind, including on her first tricycle, the time she nearly got hit by a car.

Anger bubbled up inside of me in a way that it hadn’t in years. My body trembled. My temperature rose. There weren’t any rational thoughts left. Everything went black.

“Andrew!” The voice pulled me from the darkness and anger that consumed me.

Only then did I realize what I was doing. “Stupid son of a bitch!” I screamed as I came to. The anger that I felt knocked the wind out of me. I was vaguely aware of hands trying to restrain me as I collapsed to the floor and sobbed. The little tricycle was no longer a tricycle—I had destroyed it without any recollection or desire of doing so. Tears rolled down my face.

Dad kneeled in front of me. “Son, are you okay?”

Mom kneeled beside Dad and stared at me with worry. Angel, Sean, and Ademar were behind me.

“What happened?” I whispered. Somehow, I knew what I had done, but I couldn’t remember.

Andrea sat down beside me. “You blacked out, didn’t you?”

“Um. . .” I trailed off and swallowed hard.

“I do it too sometimes when I get really upset or angry,” Andrea said. She grabbed my shoulder, and concern distorted her features.

“I’m okay,” I mumbled. I started to stand up but swayed and fell back again. Andrea caught me.

“I’ll get him some water,” Mom said.

“Let me talk to your brother,” Dad said to Andrea.

Andrea and the others left the foyer without a word.

Dad turned to me as soon as we were alone. “You really don’t remember?”

“I barely remember driving back home.”

“Sometimes, when something bad happens, people blackout from it. Not that they can’t remember, they choose not to. You’ve been through too much in your life. Maybe you should stay home tonight. I can call Abigail—”

“No,” I snapped. “No. I’m going back.” I jumped to my feet and stumbled slightly. My vision blurred. I groaned and held my head in my hands to make it go away.

“Andrew,” Mom said.

I looked up at her.

She handed me the glass and gently rubbed my back. “Maybe your dad is right.”

“No. I need to be there with her. I’m fine. I have to go back. I just came to get a few things. The tricycle just freaked me out or something. I’m sorry you guys saw that. It’s just that Stormy has had a lot of incidents with tricycles. . .” I trailed off. “And I’m the one who bought them.”

“Andrew, you can’t blame yourself over it just because you bought the tricycle,” Mom said.

“Have you ever seen a four-year-old laying in a hospital bed with needles and wires all over her and a breathing tube down her throat?” I asked.

Mom and Dad glanced at each other and shook their heads.

“Well, I just did. So, I think I’m entitled to be a little edgy. I have to hurry up.” I took a drink of water, handed it back to Mom, and rushed past them up the stairs. By the time I got to my room, I felt sorry for snapping at my parents and the double vision from the blackout faded. It wasn’t that I was upset with them or anyone. I just wanted to get back to the hospital. I wouldn’t be happy with anything or anyone that stood between Stormy and me.

I grabbed clothes for Abigail, Stormy, and me, and Stormy’s favorite blanket. Abigail’s phone laid right in front of our bedroom door as she said.

There wasn’t anyone in the foyer when I got back downstairs.

I threw the bag into the backseat and sped away from the mansion.

***

Abigail stayed beside Stormy for days. She wouldn’t leave her side unless it were to slip into the bathroom to shower or go to the bathroom. I had to persuade Abigail into eating.

I came down the hallway with two cups of coffee and stopped short. Abigail stood outside of Stormy’s room with her head against the wall.

My feet moved closer to get to Abby quicker. “Bebé, what is going on?”

Abby looked at me in a daze. “Everything is fine. They’re just trying to wake her up. They think they found a medication that would work.” She took the coffee from me.

“How long have they been in there?”

“They came in just a couple of minutes after you left.”

I checked my watch. “Hmm,” I hummed. “About fifteen minutes then? I called your mom to update her. She’s coming out to California soon. She’s just trying to get away from work.”

“You know, I can’t believe they threatened to fire her. This is her granddaughter, damn it,” Abigail snapped. Abigail had been on edge. One of us had to stay rational. After my meltdown ended, I didn’t go into another.

“Look, when all of this is over, maybe Dad and Mom can help her find another job. They mentioned they owned some big companies in Florida.”

“My mom is too proud to accept help from your parents, Andy. You know that,” Abby said and sighed.

“Let’s go sit down in the waiting room.”

Abigail agreed and followed me out of the ICU. We made our way past the nurses’ station and to the waiting area. We sat down in a couple of chairs side by side. Abigail stared blankly at the wall. At that point, I didn’t think she knew what to think. I grabbed her hand in mine and pressed my lips to the back of it.

“Bebé, she’s tough. She’s going to make it,” I murmured.

“I’m a horrible mother. I should have put that tricycle in our closet or in the garage, and I left it in her room. I should have—”

“Stop it, Abigail. I thought all the same things, okay? You tried to stop it from happening. Some things just happen that aren’t in our control. You couldn’t have known—”

“But I should have known. Especially after the other incidents with that stupid tricycle,” she snapped. She buried her face in her hands and groaned in frustration.

I rubbed her back soothingly. “The tricycle is gone.”

“What?” Abigail lifted her head to look at me. Her eyes clouded with confusion.

“I sort of smashed it to pieces,” I admitted. “I got home, and the tricycle was still in the foyer by the stairs, and I just lost it. I lost it so bad that first night. I barely remember some of it. After seeing Stormy in that bed. . .” I trailed off and shook my head. “I don’t think I’ve been right since. When she gets out and gets better, I might wrap her up in bubble wrap.”

Abigail gave me a small smile. “Yeah, I get that.”

“Abigail,” the doctor said.

Both our heads snapped up.

“We woke Stormy successfully. She’s a little out of it and doesn’t recall what happened, which is normal. The medicine seems to be working, but we’ll want to keep her an extra few days to be sure.”

“Thank God. Can I see her?” Abigail jumped to her feet. She looked as if she were ready to run past the doctor without his permission to do so.

“Yes, of course,” he said and gestured for us to proceed.

We walked so fast down the hall it could have been almost considered sprinting.

The room hadn’t changed, except that Stormy’s bed wasn’t flat. The nurses made it to where she sat up and could see the TV. She held tightly onto the blanket that I bought for her.

“Oh, baby,” Abigail cried. Abigail rushed over to her.

My throat tightened as if someone were strangling me. I swallowed hard and stepped closer to Stormy. I didn’t know what to say or do. I wanted to make her pain go away.

“Hi, Mommy,” Stormy said. Stormy’s eyes flickered to mine. “Hi, Daddy. What happened?”

Sobs escaped Abigail as she kissed Stormy all over. “I’m so happy to see you awake,” Abigail said.

I sat down on the edge of the bed. I leaned forward and kissed the top of Stormy’s head. “Hi, baby girl.”

“The doctors said I shouldn’t move. My body hurts a little, and my head too. It hurts to move,” Stormy said.

“You fell down the stairs while riding your tricycle. Stormy, you can’t ride tricycles or bicycles in the house. It’s not safe, baby,” Abigail said. Abigail ran her hand through Stormy’s hair.

“Did my tricycle get broken too?” Stormy asked.

Leave it to Stormy to be more concerned about the tricycle than herself. “We had to throw it away,” I said.

Abigail looked at me worriedly.

“Um, we’ll get you another one when you’re better enough to ride, but you won’t ever ride one in the house again, Stormy,” I said.

Abigail nodded in agreement. “That’s right.”

Abigail and I cuddled Stormy and spoke to her for hours. We watched movies with her, and we were able to get Stormy to eat something.

Stormy fell asleep between Abigail’s body and mine. My eyes flickered from Stormy’s face to Abigail. Abigail gazed up at me.

“Remember when you asked me why I was scared of having kids?” I whispered so Stormy wouldn’t wake up.

“Yeah.”

“Since Stormy’s accident, my demeanor on that has changed. I’m scared as hell of having to go through something like this or anything close to it again.”

Abigail sighed and nodded. “I know the feeling. Being a parent is wonderful. I love it, and I don’t regret anything. But it has also caused me heartaches in ways I never knew existed.”

I leaned over Stormy and kissed Abigail. My forehead rested against hers. “Get some sleep.”

***

Angel sat in the study at his desk. Buried in paperwork as usual. Ademar sat on the couch across from him with his nose in a thick book.

“Hey, we’re back from the hospital,” I said.

Angel looked up at me and smiled. “Hey, man. How is Stormy doing?”

“She’s good.”

Ademar looked up at me. “The seizure medicine must be working.”

“Yes, it is. Do you need anything, Angel? I know I haven’t been around for a while. I’m sorry about that. My head wasn’t in a good place—”

Angel cut me off. “Don’t worry about it, Andrew. I understand. It wasn’t good on Abigail or you. You have nothing to explain. If you want a job, I can give you one. I’m always full of those.”

I chuckled. “Name it.”

“The Japanese want some guns tonight. It’s a usual client. It should be a simple drop. I want you to take Sean and Ademar with you, though. Just in case.”

Ademar looked up at Angel. “Come on, Dad. I haven’t even been to a drop yet.”

“And I think this would be a good beginner drop for you,” Angel said. “Is that a problem?”

“No,” Ademar sighed. “I guess not.” Ademar lazily climbed off the couch and walked with a slouch as if he were tired. Ademar and I walked out of the study.

I went upstairs to get Sean and let Abigail know that I was going out for a bit. Since Abigail was with Stormy in the bedroom, I didn’t specify what I was doing, but Abigail seemed to understand. I kissed both of the girls goodbye and left the bedroom.

Ademar and Sean waited for me in the foyer. I grabbed the key to my Challenger, and we headed out to the garage. Ademar climbed into the backseat. Sean and I climbed into the front.

By the time we got near the city, the sky had grown dark. Stars weren’t visible due to the clouds that covered the sky.

“It looks like it’s going to rain,” I muttered.

Just a few moments later, it started to downpour. I turned the windshield wipers on high and squinted to try to see the lines of the road. The Challenger sat low, so the headlights weren’t the greatest for rainy weather.

We made it to the southside warehouse that belonged to Angel. He stored most of his guns here, as our parents apparently did before him. In the short time that I lived in Los Angeles, I learned a lot about how things work and what went on before and after my birth.

The warehouse had more than just weapons. Furniture lined the walls of the building, stacked nearly to the ceiling. Crates were stacked on shelves.

Sean let out a low whistle. He hadn’t been here before. “There is a whole lot of shit in here,” Sean said.

“Millions of dollars worth of shit,” Ademar said and smirked. “Just to think this is only one of Dad’s warehouses. He has warehouses all over the world.”

“Damn,” Sean grunted.

To see something like this came as a shock, but I didn’t want to stand around and chit-chat. We had a job to do, and I wanted to get it done. “Come on. Guns are in the back.”

We took out what guns we were supposed to for the Japanese men and headed out into the rain. The Japanese were already there and walking toward us.

From the look on the men’s faces, I knew something wasn’t right. The leader, I assumed, reached into his jacket. Before he could get the gun all the way out of his jacket, I reached inside my leather jacket and pulled out mine.

Sean and Ademar stood frozen in shock on either side of me. It took me little time to aim the gun before I pulled the trigger. I pushed Sean and Ademar toward the open door of the warehouse. I grabbed the guns and followed them inside. I closed the door and locked it, but it didn’t stop the men from shooting at the windows. They shot at the door, but the door had been made of some kind of heavy armor.

“Maybe, I should call my dad,” Ademar said frantically and pulled his phone out.

“Kid, that won’t do us any damn good. Okay?” My voice came out in a rush as I tried to think fast about how to get us out of the situation.

“How the hell would you know? Have you been put in a situation like this?” Ademar snapped.

“No, but I’ve been in similar situations. Put the guns back. Our best chance is to slip out the back door. Hopefully, they don’t know it’s there,” I said.

We grabbed the bag of guns and took off to the back. We put them back into the crate and headed for the back door. More windows broke.

We slipped out the back door.

“How do you know this will work?” Ademar whispered.

“Look, I don’t. But they’re most likely going to climb through the windows. If we make a run for it, we shouldn’t have to take down too many,” I said.

“They’re going to steal the guns,” Ademar argued and shoved me. “We can’t let them get away with this. Just because you’re two years older than me doesn’t mean you’re in charge. I was raised in it. You weren’t.”

Ademar didn’t hurt me or my feelings, but he pissed me off. I grabbed the collar of his shirt and shoved him against the building. He tried shoving me back, but he didn’t put enough strength into it to move me.

I pointed a finger in his face. “Listen to me, you little shit,” I spat. “Your dad wanted you to come with me. I won’t be responsible for the death of my nephew. I don’t give a fuck how far apart we are in age. You will obey me. We don’t have enough guys. At best only one of us would die, but there is a damn good chance we all could. Your father has a lot of money. He doesn’t need those fucking guns, and I doubt he wants those guns as bad as he wants his son home safe.” I shoved him again and listened. No noise came from the area we were in. “We got to go.”

The three of us dashed around the corner. There weren’t any men in sight. Ademar fell behind. Before I could turn around to look for Ademar, I heard him scream for me. Ademar was down in the mud. A feeling swept over me that neither of us would make it home, thanks to his arrogance. Two men had made it out the back door and had their gun raised at Ademar.

“Fuck,” I hissed. I raised my gun and shot both of them in the head. I ran back to Ademar and pulled him to his feet. “Let’s go.” I shoved Ademar in front of me and ran behind him.

We reached the car. Ademar jumped into the back seat. Two of the men out front noticed us. They fired a couple of rounds at the car. I jumped into the car and started it.

“Shoot at them, Sean,” I said.

“I-I can’t get a clear shot,” Sean stammered as he fumbled with the gun in his hand.

More bullets hit the car.

“Get down,” I said.

The three of us ducked. Two of the bullets hit the windshield. I rolled my window down. The Challenger sped toward the two men that shot at us, and the car drifted across the gravel. The driver’s side faced the two men. The second the car stopped, I aimed my gun at the first one and shot him in the head, and did the same to the other guy. It happened in a matter of seconds.

“Holy shit,” Ademar gasped.

I pulled the clip out of the gun and tossed it into Sean’s lap. I spun the car around, and it fishtailed up the wet gravel road.

“Damn,” Sean huffed. His eyes locked with me. “Man, I knew you were crazy, but what the fuck was that?”

“What was what?”

“I about shit my pants. That was better played out than any action movie I ever saw in my life. It’s like you were born to do this shit,” Sean said.

I shrugged. “Maybe I was.” I didn’t know what else to say. If someone had told me months earlier that this would be my life, I wouldn’t have believed it. I did what I could to stay out of trouble, but bad things just seemed to find me. Just like Sean said, it was as if I was born to do this, and I already knew that to be true. People can’t run from who they are—I tried that; it didn’t work out too well.

We made it back to the mansion in a short time. All three of us were drenched. Our shirts and pants were heavy from the weight of the water. Mud covered Ademar from head to toe. Our boots squeaked across the foyer floor.

Dad, Angel, and Benny were at the desk in the study. Dad had his face buried in his hands.

“We have a problem,” I said.

“Make that two,” Dad muttered. “You go first.”

“The Japanese are currently raiding your warehouse,” I told Angel. “We’re lucky we made it out.”

“Correction, we’re lucky this badass was with us, or we wouldn’t have made it out,” Sean said and pointed at me.

“What the—” Angel started and stopped. “What the fuck happened? We’ve never had problems with them.”

I launched into the story about what had gone down at the warehouse. They all listened intently. There wasn’t any reason for the attack. No words were exchanged.

Dad shook his head. “I knew something wasn’t right about them guys. At least you three are okay. Did they say anything at all?”

“No,” Sean, Ademar, and I said at the same time.

“Maybe they thought they could pull a fast one. What the hell were you thinking, Angel? You can’t send three new guys to a deal,” Ace scolded Angel. “You should have learned that from your past experiences.”

“You and mom let Jesse and me make trades on our own,” Angel said.

“Right, and look how well that went? When another gang sees a sign of weakness, no matter how loyal they claim to be, they try to take what they can get,” Dad said.

“Your old man is right,” Benny said. “I can’t count the times that has happened to us. They see a weak spot, and they go for it.”

“You should have seen how Andrew took some of them out, though. We need to get back there and clean up the bodies,” Sean said.

“We’ll deal with them. We have a bigger problem,” Dad said.

“What?” I asked.

“Iris’s sister contacted us through Iris’s phone,” Dad started.

I swallowed hard and shook my head. I knew what he would say before he said it. “No,” I murmured.

“Andrew, I’m sorry,” Dad started.

“No.” I ran my fingers through my hair and pulled it roughly.

“Hey, guys. Have you—” Abigail stopped when she saw me. “Babe, what’s wrong?”

“Tell me you’re kidding,” I said to Dad. I knew he wasn’t, but I wanted him to say it.

“Iris’s sister found Iris deceased in the house when she came back from work. The cops are saying there aren’t any signs of foul play. They believe it was suicide,” Dad said.

“What?” I spat. “Dad, that’s horseshit!”

“Andy, I know. I figured as much.” Dad walked toward me slowly as if I were too dangerous to get close to. He walked toward me with a carefulness—the same way others used to tiptoe around me in Florida when they believed I killed my family. He stared at me like I was a bomb that would go off any second.

That wasn’t the case. I wasn’t a bomb about to go off. I was a son that lost his mother. A son that couldn’t protect her. “No,” I groaned. I buried my face in my hands. My knees gave and hit the floor. I sobbed heavily into my hands. It felt like my body was ripped apart at the seams.

Abigail got down on the floor beside me and wrapped her arms tightly around me as she hushed me and promised me it would be okay.

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