Lightning Strikes Twice: Part 8

And the Tuesday update finally appears. The day’s what, only three-fourths finished? I’m thinking that still counts for Tuesday–except maybe in countries where it’s already Wednesday.

“How do you owe somebody a thousand dollars?” I didn’t need to ask about the car. Everybody in school had heard about Vaughn crashing Sean’s car.

I’d heard three different versions of that story and I’m mostly unaware of the school rumor mill.

“Last year was a wild year,” Vaughn said.

On the sidewalk in front of us, Sean got into the passenger seat of a red jeep. He gave Vaughn the finger as the jeep drove off.

“For you,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said, “for me. My parents gave me a pretty big allowance and weren’t paying much attention to what I did with it. So I spent a lot of it on parties and sometimes when I was out of cash, I borrowed.”

“You borrowed a thousand dollars?”

“Not all at once. Just when Sean added it all up, you know? And he’s not the only guy I owe money to. I could have paid it back, but then my parents cut off my allowance and sent me to rehab.”

I know enough about Dad’s style to know that he recommends parents create clear and immediate consequences.

“Who else do you owe?”

“Look, I didn’t come here to tell you everything I ever did wrong. I came here to apologize. I’m sorry I broke in. I’m sorry you had to take me home. That’s it.”

He stood up and started walking back up the stairs and into the school. I hurried to keep up with him, passing under Central High’s arched doorway. I didn’t want to risk a fight (what with him being a walking electrical outlet and me being out of costume), but some things still bothered me.

We walked past the glassed in trophy display case on one side and the windows into the computer lab on the other.

“Vaughn,” I said, still a couple steps behind him in the hall, “Why now? If you wanted power, you had all summer. What were you waiting for?”

So yeah, brilliant move. Instead of leaving a guy who may the ability to electrocute me alone, I go and point out to him that logically he should have broken into Grandpa’s house earlier.

He stopped and turned to face me. It may have just been my imagination, but I thought I saw something arc up his forearm from his right hand.

“They told me I had a week to get them more of Grandpa’s stuff or else, you know, they’d—they never said, but it sounded like they were going to go after my parents next.”

“Wait a second, you were breaking in to steal something?”

“I wasn’t stealing anything. I was breaking in to get the power to protect myself.”

“Why didn’t you call the police?”

“It’s not that simple,” he said and opened the door that led to the school locker rooms. Central has special locker rooms for people on a sports team. Both the athletes’ lockers and the regular lockers are part of a 70’s era addition and include a lot of cinderblock painted blue and yellow, but the athletes’ locker rooms have bigger lockers.

The athletes’ locker room smells of BenGay and sweat soaked athletic uniforms. It was empty—except for Coach Michaelson.

Coach Michaelson is also known as Mr. Michaelson, one of the math teachers. I’ve always liked him, but being cross country coach has always struck me as a bit of a blow off job. So far as I can tell, ninety percent of it is saying, “Today we’re going to run six miles. Go out and have a great time.”

Granted, it’s not always six miles, but it’s basically the same line.

“You’re late,” he said, “but it’s OK. Everyone else is already gone, but you guys can buddy up and do a four mile run. Have fun.”

He wrote something on his clipboard and left.

Vaughn and I put on our sweats and walked out of the locker room into the gym. From there we stepped outside, exiting through big metal doors to the track behind the school.

We didn’t talk while running warm up laps. Then we left the school grounds to do the run. Central High is in the middle of the city so we do a lot of our training on the road.

It was a decent day for running. The skies were blue. The temperature wasn’t too hot or too cold. Goldilocks would have been pleased.

A couple blocks into the run I asked Vaughn, “Who are ‘they?’ I mean seriously, you make it sound like the Men in Black or the Mafia.”

We were leaving downtown, passing into old neighborhoods of Victorian houses, wooden homes with towers and turrets.

“A couple guys who were hanging out at the parties I went to. After my parents cut off my allowance, they gave me a few loans.”

“And all they wanted was your grandfather’s stuff? That’s crazy.”

Vaughn stopped running. When he replied, he was almost shouting at me. “You don’t know what it was like. Sean and everyone else wanted their money back and I was panicking and they had money. And they gave it to me no strings attached.”

I began to open my mouth and point out that handing over his grandfather’s equipment was more like a rope than a string and it probably had a noose on the end to boot.

He interrupted me before I even got a word out, saving the metaphor from abuse.

“I know it was stupid. Don’t tell me.”

“What did you give them?”

“Some gadget from his costume and book full of formulas. After that they left me alone–or at least they did until you guys turned cape.”

9 thoughts on “Lightning Strikes Twice: Part 8”

  1. First!

    Some really interesting twists this time around. I wish you had the time to do the whole conversation at once, but I understand (I started writing for practice and I’m beginning to see how many hours can go into writing a single paragraph.)

    Keep up the good work.

  2. Thanks. Sadly, there’s still more of the conversation to go. Not much though.

    For me, the hard part is always background–not creating background (I create large chunks of background reflexively), but figuring out the best time to mention the background and not deluge the reader with massive chunks of “by the way, in order to understand anything, you’ll need to read these 4000 words of explanation.”

    I try imply the background and explain only when I can’t see any easy way to imply. That’s a good chunk of why we’re all getting a week’s worth of conversation with Vaughn (the other part being Nick’s and Vaughn’s personalities).

    I’m personally looking forward to the next part of this story (which, to be honest, I expected to get to earlier than this).

  3. Vaughn’s been supplying the bad guys? With his evil grandfather’s formulas? Great! (sarcasm)

    I can’t wait to see how they have to get him out of this…

    ~Cindy

  4. As you can see, I’m quite taken with this Vaughn character, and in this chapter, he becomes an even more mysterious wild card.

    He clearly has personal demons, but is giving in to them or fighting them.

    Also, continuing the Anakin/Luke metaphor, will Nick be his Obi-Wan and eventually become his enemy, or will he be his Han Solo and must trusted pal??

    Loving it, Jim, loving it.

  5. Well, they’ve found their shady antihero with a dodgy past… Who’s kind of stupid to be giving criminal seeming types superpower formulas. That’s not going to come back to get them later, I’m certain! Why would that end badly?

  6. This doesn’t make sense. If they loaned him money with no strings attached, that means there’s no document proving anything. If so he can just choose not to return the money anyway, or claim the prior documents paid off all debts. If they have the power to back the threat of hurting one of the strongest and richest families in the city…what are they even doing here?

    1. There’s a fairly well known psychological theory that people prefer to feel that there’s an equal amount of giving between them. People (salesmen, lobbyists, criminals, spies, etc…) use practical applications of it all the time. Thus you give somebody something, and the person feels like they owe you. You can then get them to do things for you to pay off the debt.

      In this case, could Vaughn refuse without legal repercussions? Of course. Does he feel like he still owes them? Yes. Played well, they might think they can get more out of him. If it doesn’t work, they’ll have to move on to other methods that hold more risk than intimidating a high school student.

      The money’s just a tool. They don’t really care about it,and back when he was on drugs and hiding it from his family, manipulating him with it worked. No reason not to try again later to see if it still can.

      In any case, at the point where it’s moved on from using the feeling of owing them, the don’t have to be able to take on his family. They only have to make him think they can.

      1. Oh I see I see. These makes sense, and it’s quite hard to include in the story too. Wow didn’t think you’d go so deep to even consider psychology, though I guess what I pointed out is logical without considering your explanation, too.

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