It's quiet in the car as Uncle Charlie drives me to the airport. In my bag is a fistful of cash, I have no real concept of how much it is - but I know it's a lot. There's also a passport, in my real name, Rachel Seybolt, which I don't remember applying for. Ted once told me Uncle Charlie had "interesting connections" and I guess this is what he meant.
When I registered in school, Charlie insisted I use my real name. I think it was a stubborn streak in him and the only way of keeping my family (or the memory of it) alive. It made it easier for the people looking for me to find me but I think Uncle Charlie felt he could protect me. Something has happened that makes him doubt that now.
Someone has placed fear into a man who doesn't know fear.
The quiet gives me time to study him and I can tell he's very worried. It's more than what he says. There is "tenseness" in every line in his body, his jaw set in fierce determination and blue eyes steely; it's that tension more than anything is what convinced me not to argue about his demand that I leave. I don't know enough to be scared, but the fact that he is - scares me.
He couldn't make Aunt Jen and her family leave, but he did his best to sever that bond. It created enough distance (he hoped) to keep them safe. I'm headed somewhere I don't know, but then that's not really new for me. Most of my life has been played out absent my input and the only portion I've controlled is my reaction. I learned that intuitively, but it wasn't until I lived with Charlie that I realized its what we all do.
People think they control their lives; they don't. Life happens to us.
Charlie knows this more acutely than anyone and somehow he's at peace with it instead of annoyed by it like his partner. She seems intent on bending the world to her way, but Dani Reese is about the only person Charlie trusts enough to let stay. I know now that she's Jack Reese's daughter. Hey, I can do research as well as the next kid.
Information from the wonders of the Internet and one of the benefits of living in a free society, right? She graduated from the LAPD Academy at 23 and then did a stint in vice, followed by a disastrous rotation in narcotics. That part I learned from connected friends in the business. In the drug world, news travels fast. She must have been good; because no one had a clue she was a cop. She was so far gone, they had to take her out and put her straight into rehab. Maybe that's why she's got a huge chip on her shoulder. I know that kind of resentment, I feel it too.
You can find out a lot about a person on the Internet, but none of the important stuff.
Her hopes, her dreams? Those I can't know and to tell the truth I think she's lost touch with them – because she seems kinda sad and broken – in some ways a lot like Uncle Charlie. It's only when they are together that either of them seem whole – as weird as that sounds.
Charlie thinks he's keeping his private vendetta or "investigation" as he likes to call it - from me, but he's not. I know that Jack Reese protected me when I was younger, but it wasn't because he cared me about me like I thought. I was naïve enough to believe that before, but my naïveté is burning off fast these days. Jack Reese was one of the bad guys, connected to the people who killed my family, maybe even controlling them, directing them. That part I'm less sure of, but he is a bad man.
His daughter seems unaware or maybe she just doesn't want to know – in the way we all choose to ignore the faults of the people we love.
Now as we speed toward the airport, I try to talk to Charlie. But he's not talking.
Uncle Charlie normally talks a lot, but not when I want him to - like now. He's thinking about the future something he says he doesn't believe in – and he's thinking about her – Dani Reese. There's something there that neither of them want to admit, something real and tangible. Trust me – I know falseness its just about all I've ever seen, but I can recognize real truth when I see it.
In them together I see two halves that make a whole, it's like one person added to another equaling a complete unit and it's pretty amazing. It makes me hope that someday someone will find me and make me whole again.
She was a tiny bit jealousy when she learned I was living with Uncle Charlie, I saw it. She didn't even try to conceal her eye roll when he introduced me as "a friend of the family." Is that what I am? Whose family? Charlie doesn't have one and neither do I.
Maybe he was projecting to a time when he will have a family and I'll be part of it in some fracture, fucked up, kinda of way.
I have to say that I find the prospect anyone could consider me and Uncle Charlie "hooking up" – more than a little weird, but it didn't stop that green-eyed monster from flashing across Dani Reese's face. Uncle Charlie noticed. He just pretended not to notice, but he watches her closely. He doesn't want to risk her, her protects her in a way he won't even protect himself. I think he loves her – he just doesn't want to admit it.
Normally he ignores when people misinterprets things. He doesn't care what people think – he can't. A jury of his peers thought he was guilty of murder. He wasn't. So he seems not remotely interested in correcting people's misperceptions of him or the things around him. But he took specific exception and effort to clear this up – with her. The rest of those cops could stay in the dark about who I was and why I was there, but not her. Actually to tell the truth it did make me a little envious. He cares about her opinion of him and that means she matters to him.
When she could tear her attention away from him, I was certain she recognized me. I knew her too; it took me a minute to connect the woman with the girl I'd met years before. But I saw it in her eyes, recognition, a glimmer but strong – so I stuffed it away from the light and hid.
She was just a teenager when Jack Reese brought me to their house in the middle of the night to hide me. He told her I was a distant relative and I wasn't saying much in those days, but I remember her. She was who I wanted to be – tough, resilient, kinda rebellious. She was awesome back then and apparently in Charlie's eyes she still is. He sees in her what she once was and could be again and he believes in her – more I think than she does in herself.
Uncle Charlie wants to be alone and I know the terrible things people can do when they think they are alone. He drives this fucked up car, full of holes, because it's him – the scars that won't heal both inside and out. It's like the dark clothes the Goths I know wear – it's how they feel on the inside worn outside so that people can see. The darkness we can't hide from ourselves; part of him like the scars that show – on the car and on himself.
But I'll leave, because he's no longer alone. She's with him – Dani Reese. Maybe not "with him" in the traditional sense, sexually – yet. I have the feeling that will come, but it's like a joke my friend told me about how porcupines mate – very carefully.
Those two are both of them are damaged, inside and out, they don't trust anyone – sometimes not even themselves.
I know that in the same way I know that I am not the same as the kids at my school.
But they have found or created a bond that is stronger than what they are fighting and that's why I know he'll be okay. He's a tough guy with a heart of gold. She's a tough girl who just wants to be loved – and he loves her, I'm sure of it - even if they aren't - yet. She'd better not let him down or hurt him because if she does…I'll find her and rip her heart out myself.
Yeah, I said it. He's all the family I have left and I love him despite my better efforts not to. He protects me, so I'll protect him.I can feel the goodness in him, fighting for control of his spirit and I can see the darkness that encircles him. On some days I'm sure he's winning and other days it seems like he's wrestling dark angels and he doesn't stand a chance. But he's still here, he's still fighting – and that's something.