26


Jack looked at the phone, swallowed and read over the name again, assuring himself that the name he'd read was correct. He'd transferred the contact into every new phone he got, but he'd always thought in his mind he'd end up calling him. Not the other way around.

He'd only allowed his surprise take over his expression for a moment, but it'd been caught.

"Who is it?" Shaundi asked the question they were all thinking but had been holding back. She looked over his face for a moment, then down to his phone.

"Nobody. An old friend." Jack said gruffly, regaining himself quickly, "I'll be right back."

Shaundi wanted to call after him and demand an answer but she bit her tongue as he stood from the couch and pressed the green phone on the screen, "Hello?"

"Jack. I told you to stay low."

Jack brushed a hand through his hair, pushing the door out to the balcony, and positioned himself at the first railing he came into contact into. He'd gotten jumpier since Afghanistan. Before then, he might've brushed the phone call off a little better. He'd of answered it, sure, but he'd of answered the voice on the phone with a, 'Nice to hear from you too, Mr. Dwight.'

Instead, all he could say was: "Is he comin' for me?"

"He's shown an interest. And you know how that goes with him. I think he might've gotten over killing you, but hey, he's liable to change and you know that. Point is, you're a fucking dumbass."

"Not gonna deny that, Mate..."

John Dwight silenced at the voice. Jack momentarily wanted to ask why, but feared the answer to this question and decided against it.

It was another change he'd noticed within him: he'd become scared of words. Never in his life had he feared fucking words. He swallowed it whole, swallowed his fear like a fat Advil and opened his dry mouth, "What? Why'd you go silent?"

"Uh...nothin', kid. I was just thinking...you sound like him."

Jack bit the inside of his cheek. Maybe he'd been right to fear words afterall. A sickening churning begun in his stomach and he shook it away, moving almost lethargically towards the pool, putting his other hand in his pocket as he gazed down at the reflection that peered back at him.

He had dark circles, his skin had grown a couple shades paler than his usual golden tan, and his hair was a mess. What would he'd of said to this reflection if it'd been six and half months earlier? Before he and his gang had been taken in the middle of the desert, in broad day light. It'd shocked him: that they could take them by surprise with the Afghani sun brighter than ever, shining in a clear blue sky.

But they were in the middle of no where. With no one to hear them scream, no one to come to their aid.

What would the Jack before all that have had to say about this face looking back at him?

"Jack."

"Yeah?"

"I don't know much yet. He saw you on the news. This went international, kid, you were lucky before: your fame was contained in America, but this..." He made a little tsk'ing sound, "... I saw him looking at it on the news when it first came on like he was interested, but a couple days ago he started talking about you. Somethin' must've really resonated with him there all that time. Nobody's heard anything about you for years, you know."

"He could'a looked me up using Google or Yahoo or whatever."

"Yeah, but after you left...I think he was just happy you were out of his hair."

The silence made Jack swallow. It wasn't uncommon of Mr. Dwight to do this: become lost in thought or just fall silent for no apparent reason at all and though he was used to it, but it still made him uncomfortable. He used to let it brush off and roll down his back: but for this subject, he couldn't do the same. He wasn't even sure if the old Jack would've allowed it to simply roll down his back either.

"So, what made him suddenly interested?"

"...Not sure, kid. He...expressed an interest...in getting into contact with you. Says he wants to talk...But...Look, I would'a called sooner if I could've, so just be on your guard."

"I've been on my guard for six and half months."

"Stay that way a little longer, Jack, and I'll call you when I've got more info. Right now, I can't even find the bastard, so be careful."

With that: the line went dead.


Jack re-entered the living room setting, putting his phone into his pocket, and breathed in a sigh, folding his arms across his chest as he made his way back to his spot, sitting down with a small groan. He looked up to Gat who he noticed had not put the sunglasses back yet.

He leaned back into the couch.

"Alright." Jack murmured, pinching the bridge of his nose, "So, we've established that I'm a little fucked up and there's nothing I can really do but just continue on. Right? So we can be done, yeah?"

There was a round of undetermined silence around the couches.

"Look, I-..." Jack sat up a little, sighing, "...I promise to give what you said a go, ok?"

He looked towards Shaundi, "I promise to try uh...moving on. Ok?"

"And if you feel like it's not working or something, you'll let us know?"

Jack tossed the thought around in his mind and decided, to at least appease her, he'd be agreeable, "Sure. Now how about a trip to the Broken Shillelagh? I could use a drink."

"Fuck yeah." Pierce gave a half of a smile, jumping up from the couch and fixed his hat firmly on top of his head. He'd had it cocked off before, scratching the edge of his hairline in anxiety. In the back of his mind, he wondered about the phone call from the 'old friend' but he pushed it away. There were a million questions he had for him and

"I could go for that." Gat picked up his pistol from the side table, standing simultaneously with Jack as Viola raised an eyebrow from her spot on the couch, remaining unmoved in her stoic position, graceful as a swan and as unmoved as a jackass.

"Um. What time is it?"

"One thirty." Jack checked his watch, "What? That's close enough to five, isn't it? Don't be a prude, Viola."

"I'm not." She rolled her eyes, and stood with the others, "I'm just more of an evening person, but it wouldn't hurt I guess."

She stretched, languidly moving towards the others as they begun to walk towards the elevator.

"I'd say we deserve a drink." Pierce said, hands in pockets, entering the elevator first and moving to the very back.

"I mean damn girl, you gotta lighten up a little."


"Asshole gang bangers like us and the harm we've been doing lately." Johnny remarked sarcastically, nodding towards the news station on the little screen.

The reporters were criticizing something about the Saints, supposedly trying to link their recoil in marketing to the events in Afghanistan.

Jack brought his glass to his lips, downing another gulp of the amber heat and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, nodding.

"Hey, change this shit would you?"

The bartender flipped the channel with the remote to yet another news station, but at least this one wasn't talking about some crazy crock of a conspiracy against their gang.

Jack rolled his eyes.

Even news channels that covered international stories were just as bad anymore: they could be talking about new policies in Turkey and the next minute start commenting on the rising stardom of the Saints and what this meant for America's youth, and people everywhere and blah blah blah.

Fuck them.

But for the moment: they didn't have anything to say about them, they were talking about something he didn't even recognize, so he turned from it.

"And me and him a shot of tequila. Best shit you got." Johnny added to Jack's request casually, downing the rest of his beer and looked towards him with playful challenge in his eyes.

Jack smiled slyly as the two shots were set before them, "Keep them coming." And with that he downed it, setting it bottoms up onto the bar.

Johnny mimicked the move quickly and looked back towards him as another was set before them.

Jack and him downed them quickly and went onto the third and then the fourth.

"Hey, it's barely six you two." Viola commented from down the bar and then looked to the bartender, "Can you cut them off for just a little? Give them some water and chips or something."

"Hey, get your nose outta this." Gat yelled to the end, Jack nodding quickly in agreement.

"Yeah, and it's fucking crisps. Not chips."

Viola rolled her eyes and flipped her hand at them, "Whatever. Just chill out. You guys act like your in college or something."

"We didn't go to college." Johnny smiled, "We're degenerates. Isn't that right, Boss?"

"Fuck yes. Hey, hey-" He made eye contact with the bartender: a portly middle aged man with black wispy hair and a thick mustache, "I'm paying you, let's get another."

The bartender looked between Viola and him and shrugged, "He seems alright to me."

"Fuckin'-A." Gat nodded to him, "That's my man."

Two more smudged miniature glasses were sat before them and they downed them within seconds.

"It takes a lot more than four to get us drunk, Love. Come on now."

"That's your fifth."

"Blame it on our High School Diplomas." Johnny laughed as Viola crinkled her nose.

"You two are morons."

"Hey, Matt." Jack leaned forward, "C'mon." He slid a shot glass down the bar, "Drink that."

Matt looked down at the shot glass, his fingers slid down the neck of the beer bottle that he'd been sipping, "Ahh...umm.."

"That's an order!"

"Yes, sir!"

He brought it his mouth cautiously, letting it touch his tongue before he shot away from the glass as if it had offended him, "Oh dear God... I was never much of a drinker, I-"

"Finish that shot, Matt!"

"Ok!"

He downed it, eyes closed, and when he was finished threw the glass away from himself, allowing it roll down back towards Jack.

He shook his head as the shiver wracked his body, "No more though!"

"Fuckin' lightweight." Johnny said with a grin.

"Tell me 'bout it." Jack murmured, "Hey let's get another over h-" Jack looked up towards the television as a flicker of light caught his eyes from the screen.

It'd begun to darken in the bar as the sun had started to dim outside and the sudden flash caught his slightly inebriated gaze and held it as the words, 'Australian Bombing: Alice Springs Leveled' came on in all caps.

His heart dropped into his stomach, his words dying on his lips.

"Holy fuck."

The video showed from an aerial view nothing but smoke, blackness, and rubble.

The subtitles revealed the reporter was speaking over the video but provided only the fact that no one knew anything and went on to list how many Americans died at the U.S military base and the number of fatalities total for Alice was in the thousands. They suspected it was an act of terrorism.

"Oh damn." Johnny murmured, squinting through his sunglasses and quickly removed them to get a better look at the damage they were showing across the screen.

"Hot damn." Pierce shook his head, "Shit, Boss, you from near there?"

Jack was speechless, the words didn't even hit his brain. They were showing aerial views of streets he could see in his mind from the passenger seat of his mother's 1985 Chevy truck. He could pin-point the grocery, the candy shop, his school.

People laid scattered, cars were overturned, buildings in piles of dust and ash.

And in subtitles, the reporters were warning the viewer that the following images were graphic.

He couldn't help but scoff.

"Holy fuck." He whispered, shaking his head, watching it in disbelief. The town, smack down in the middle of Australia, had become one with the desert that surrounded it. It'd become a mass of grey charred blackness that was going to be picked up in the blustery winds and swept into the orange sea of sand around it.

Alice was gone.

His mother's grave, if there ever had been one for her, was probably untraceable, something he'd always wanted to see but had never gotten the chance to. His high school girlfriend was probably beneath a building, a girl that never hurt a fly and he'd promised to see again. Dwight was probably dead, a man that had always been stuck beneath unchangeable circumstances and his own warm heart.

Everything he'd ever left was gone.

'Help me, God damn it, Jack!'

He looked at his mother's body, a curled up mess in a puddle of thick blood, her skin stained and hair matted. He looked up into his father's eyes. Would there be anything more than desperation?

Tears were in the eyes he met, but they refused to fall. Behind them, something had shattered and broken. Not into something fixable, but into something long gone and brushed up and thrown away.

'I didn't fucking mean to, damn it!...Don't look at me like that! Fuck!'

'You fucking killed her!'

'Jack. Jack, you listen to me right now, you got to help me get her into the back of my car-...Jack, you know how we do this. I've taught you how we do this.'

'She isn't just another body! She's not...she's not...You can't just dump her in a lake!' His words were choked in sobs, 'You killed her! You killed her! Why did you kill her?'

'You fucking knew what was happening, didn't you?You knew what she doing behind my back...Didn't you? You fucking coward. You're just like her. Your against me just like she was. You both get what you both bloody deserve, you cowardly pieces of rat's shit!'

He backed out of the archway and ran back up the stairs, locking his door behind him as he threw whatever clothes he could get his hands on into a backpack. His breath was ragged and shallow, quick and gagging. He threw his wallet into the bag last and grabbed keys to the 1985 Chevy truck.

They felt surprisingly cold in his hands.

He bolted down the stairs.

He only knew one thing: he had to leave.

'Where're you going! You little fuck, this is all your fault! You killed her! You killed your own mother, you little cowardly shit!'

He jumped into the truck, throwing his bag into the passenger seat and pulled out of the dirt driveway to the sound of his father's maniacal screams.

Gunfire broke the air, slicing against the truck's rough exterior.

Jack screamed, slamming his hands against the steering wheel over and over as he floored his foot onto the gas. With a screech, he sped down the road and into the night.

He called only one person, his father's most trusted lieutenant: John Dwight. A man who showed up out of nowhere, said his father, from America.

Jack had his suspicions. He'd always figured he'd came from U.S military base in Alice in some way.

"Jack? You have any idea what time it-?"

"He killed her, Mr. Dwight!"

"What? Kid, calm down for a second now...Lose the hysterics. Take a breath and start again."

Jack swallowed, "M-My Dad...killed her..."

"Killed who?"

"My mum."

John went silent.

"M-Mr. Dwight?"

"Where are you?"

"In my car."

"You got some stuff packed?"

"Y-Yeah."

"Good boy. We're gonna get you outta here, but you gotta tell me one thing: are you sure you're ready for this? I gotta guy that can get you out but you've gotta be sure you want ou-"

"I want out, I want out..."

"Ok. Be at my place in thirty. It's gonna be ok, Kid."

"Ok...Ok...Ok, bye..."

He hung up the phone shakily, and after a moment of looking down the blackened road, he stopped. Letting his head fall against the steering wheel.

Dead. She was dead. And this would be the last time he'd see this place for a long while. He wasn't sure if Mr. Dwight was sending him to another city or another state for a while: but he'd always told him how he'd always have a backup plan for him if he needed it.

His breaths turned instantly to gasps and sobs as his head laid against the steering wheel, knowing he had to keep going even if he didn't want to.

"Fuck...Fuck..."

He put his foot to the gas again, gradually, and made a right down a road he'd walked down so many hot and weary summer days.

He stopped at a dimly lit house, exited the truck with the dried congealed jelly of blood still on his hands, and knocked on the door.

Her mother answered the door: she always did.

She answered it was a smile displaying some amount of concern, probably due to the time, but it turned to fear as soon as she saw the blood on his hands illuminated by the porch light.

The moths flew around him noisily, batting their cotton-like wings against his ears. The flies hummed around his head in an orchestra that only fed his frustration.

"Oh dear God, Jack. Do you need me to call someone, dear?"

"No, I-...I need to talk to Lilly, please."

"I...ok...Lilly! Lilly, baby, Jack's here." Her mother backed away a little nervously, standing behind like a chaperone as she came to the door. Lilly came with a smile, but it melted away when she saw his own expression and the smears of blood that lined his hands.

"Jack...? What's wrong? What's happened?"

She grabbed him by the arm to pull him in, but instead he pulled her towards himself, "I have to go. I have to go and I wont see you for a long time..."

"What?" She pushed herself from him, looking him in the eyes, "What're you talking about? Jack, please talk to me."

"I'm sorry, I can't I-...I can't. I'll be back." He backed away from her, pushing her gently back towards her mother, "One day, I promise. I promise!"

"Boss?"

Jack looked to Pierce and shook his head. He opened his mouth to say something but couldn't even find the right words to say. Had he lived near there? No, he'd been a part of there.

He swallowed.

And what about his father?

When he spoke to Dwight just earlier that day, just five or so hours ago, he hadn't even been able to find him.

He looked back to the television screen and lifted his phone carefully off the bar as though someone was slowly coaxing him into action. He clicked on the contact quickly, eyes still tracing the roads and bodies on the screen.

He listened to the phone's monotonous ring. With every new view of Alice, less and less hope remained in his body and the world grew a little dimmer.

And for the first time ever, John Dwight didn't pick up.

He brought the phone away from his ear.

John Dwight was more than likely dead, but so long as that meant he was dead as well-...

'Right now I can't even find the bastard, so be carerful...'

Jack's hand squeezed around his phone, his heart was thudding in his chest, his blood pumping down into his fingertips making them a bright cherry red as he squeezed harder and harder around the iphone's frame.

"He blew it up..." Jack whispered, "That fucking bastard blew it up..."

"Wait, what's goin' on?" Pierce wriggled in his seat to get a better view from half-way down the bar, attempting to gauge the reaction on his boss' face.

Jack pointed to the television quickly, looking down to Pierce, "I'm from Alice. It's complicated, but I think I know the bastard that did this."

"You think it was a single person?" Kinzie appeared dumfounded, "What single person would have the ability to acquire that many explosions?"

"Give him a few months?" Jack pocketed his phone, imagining him on a flight right then, leaving John Dwight, his helpless and always helpful servant in the dust to be a victim in a ticking time bomb.

"My father."


Hey guys,

you're probably wondering WTF this chapter has to do with anything, but don't worry. It's all going to come together shortly. Just stick around to find out. I haven't started some new story randomly, I promise.

Thanks for reading!

:)