Seth and Karen were in an extremely compromising position when they heard the frantic, loud BANG BANG BANG from someone knocking on the door.
“Who the hell is that?” Seth asked, looking quizzically at the door.
“Are you expecting anyone?” Karen asked as she climbed off of Seth’s lap. She quickly threw her shirt and pants back on as Seth also dressed once more. When they both were decent again, Karen walked cautiously over to the door and peered outside through the peep hole. “Holy shit,” she breathed softly. “I think it’s your brother.”
Seth scrambled to his feet and ran over to join Karen at the door. “Fuck - what is he doing here?”
Karen didn’t offer an answer and instead opened the door for Logan and the girl that was with him. Seth had never seen the girl before; he didn’t keep up on any of Logan’s fuck-buddies. Karen and Logan had met a couple of times, but it had been a long time. Seth would have been very impressed if Logan actually remembered her. Then again, this was her apartment - if he knew where she lived, then hopefully he could remember her name, at least, right?
“What are you doing here, Logan?” Seth asked, glancing at his brother.
“I left the gang, Seth. I need somewhere to crash while they are looking for me.”
“What, you just stood up and left? You just walked out? How did you manage that? I thought gangs were really hard to get out of.”
“They are,” Logan stammered. “I was only able to escape because I heard gunshots and I bolted. I didn’t think about running; I just did it. The next thing that I knew, I was walking in Cripp territory. After getting my bearings, I realized I was pretty close to the Waffle House that Tasha works at, so I went to meet her there. After telling her that I ran away from the gang, she told me that we needed to find a safe place for me to hide. I figured in Karen’s apartment would be about the safest place that I could go.
“I know that you don’t know me that well, Karen, and I realize that what little you have heard about me has come from the mouth of my older brother who has every right to hate me, but I am asking you to spare those sides. Please. Just give me a couple of nights. I can move on after a day or two. I can find a hotel, or something.”
Why couldn’t you find a hotel now? Seth wondered, gritting his teeth. Normal people would have at least had the common courtesy to do that. But oh no, not my brother. My brother who has to do everything the minute he thinks of it. My God, it’s only been twelve hours since he told me that he wanted out. I thought we had more time to develop an escape plan. But no, Logan just took everything in on its own. Figured, “to hell with it - let’s try our escape now!” and rand off. Stupid fuck!
But of course, did Seth say any of that? No. Because Logan was his brother. And like it or not, that made Logan his family. Seth never could say no to family. If he could have done that, then this would certainly be the time to do it.
“You want to stay with me?” Karen asked, once she had found her voice. To Seth, it almost sounded like she was snorting back laughter.
She would think this was funny, Seth thought. She always did find irony amusing.
“With your permission, of course,” Logan said, quickly.
He has to know how inappropriate this is, right? Please tell me that he is smart enough still to realize how unconventional what he is asking for is.
Karen glanced over at Seth, then turned her attention back to the pair of them. “Who is the girl?”
“Oh,” Logan said, putting his arm around her shoulder. “This is Tasha. Tasha, this is my brother, Seth, and his friend, Karen.”
Who is Tasha? Seth thought bewilderedly. Why is he bringing an unknown girl into Karen’s house? It’s bad enough that Logan had to come. But now he is asking her to let his whore in the house too?
“Hi, Tasha,” Karen said slowly, giving her a weighted once-over. Tasha must have passed Karen’s inspection, because she didn’t say anything else about her. If she would have gotten a bad vibe from her, Karen would have let everyone know it.
Seth turned his attention back to the girl for a closer inspection of his own. He realized pretty quickly that she didn’t look the way that he expected a whore to look. She was way too clothed, for one thing. And she wasn’t wearing any makeup for another. Another thing that gave Seth the impression that she wasn’t actually a hooker or a whore was that she actually had some weight to her. It wasn’t a bad thing, by any means; she was a very attractive woman. What Seth thought was that she wasn’t afraid to eat. He didn’t really know where that thought had come from, so he quickly shook his head and tuned back in to the conversation so that he could remain aware of what was being said.
“Are you . . . erm . . . one of the local . . . erm . . . talents?” Karen asked, her eyes flicking between Tasha and Logan once more.
“God, no,” Logan said quickly. “Tasha is a waitress for Waffle House. That’s why I went there this morning, I was hoping that I would find her. She’s not a hooker.”
“No?” Seth asked, attention fully on Logan and not at all on the girl that the conversation was about, even though she was standing no more than five feet from him.
“No,” Logan said through clenched teeth. “Look, if you want to be an ass hole to me, that’s fine. I understand that. But do not be an ass hole to Tasha. She has done nothing to you, and she has done a lot for me.”
Huh, Seth thought, a little surprised at the suppressed ferocity in his brother’s voice. He really must care about this girl. Who is she, though? Trying to lighten the mood, Seth turned his attention away from his brother and asked (in a much more welcoming tone), “Who are you, again?”
“I’m Tasha Williams. I met Logan a couple of years ago,” she said steadily, holding her own.
“How did you meet him?” Karen asked as she picked up the pillows and things that she and Seth had thrown to the floor during their make-out session.
“I saw him at my brother’s bachelor party,” she responded simply.
“I see,” Seth said, thinking that they must have started off as fuck-buddies or something.
“It wasn’t exactly like that,” Logan said, knowing where his brother’s mind was racing off to. “She called me called me because she needed to get over the fact that she had broken up with an ass-hole that cheated on her.”
“So, then, what, did you two become fuck-buddies, or something?” Karen asked lightly, still straightening up.
“Yes,” Tasha said tightly. “Then I found out that he was in the Bloods gang and I told him never to call me again. He tried calling for a while, but eventually, he stopped. It was too late by that point to get over him completely, though, I guess. Because I eventually called him. It took a long time to open up to him the way I had initially opened up to him, but we did make it back to that point. He came to Waffle House this morning, so I knew something big must have happened. I don’t know how much you know about the Bloods and Cripps gangs, but Waffle House is not in Bloods territory. It is in the heart of Cripps territory. So, needless to say, when I saw Logan standing in Waffle House this morning, I knew something was wrong. Look, I don’t care what you think about me, or how we met, or how we’ve been able to move past all of this bull shit and find a way to make a relationship work. All I need to hear you way is that you will help us. Can you do that? Will you do that?”
Seth shared a look with Karen. So, this was the woman that could love his brother enough to put up with his bull shit long enough to see that he wanted out. If they really had known each other for two years, then she must know all of him. She must have learned about his being in a gang, and breaking the law, and killing people. And she was still standing there beside him, begging them to help him. It was touching, really. Seth briefly wondered if any woman would ever be so passionately in love with him that she would stand before anyone and beg the same for him as this woman was doing for his brother.
Giving Karen another look, Seth ultimately folded. Staring at his brother and the woman that had come with him, he asked, “Do you have a plan, or do I need to come up with that, too?”
“What? You’re actually going to help me?” Logan asked.
“Yes, Logan,” he sighed. “I’ve told you before, and I’ll tell you again - you are my baby brother. First, foremost, and forever. You will always be my responsibility, no matter how hard I try to forget that. I can’t. I know that, too, because believe me, I’ve tried.”
Logan looked at him and said sincerely, “Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me yet,” Seth warned. “You’re not out of this, yet. I need to know how far you are willing to go with this, though.”
“What do you mean?” Tasha asked, worry etched on her face. “What do you think is necessary?”
“I don’t know how much Logan knows about gangs, and getting out of them, but I have done my research on the matter,” Seth began. “I have looked up the best way to rescue someone from a gang for years. I mean, it’s not like I ever thought that I would actually get the chance to help you escape the clutches of one, but now that you have come to me, that gives me the chance to use some of the knowledge that I have acquired. The first thing I can say that I think is necessary is you have to move more than one hundred miles away.”
“What?” Logan demanded. “You’re saying to leave and what, never come back or something?”
“No, I’m saying that you need to get away from the gang for two reasons - to protect you from them finding you and to protect yourself from going back.”
“If I go back, they will kill me, Seth. I know how that works,” Logan said coldly.
Seth was taken aback by that answer. It really shouldn’t have surprised him as much as it did, but still, it was a wonder hearing that amount of hatred in his voice. It wasn’t even that Logan hated him; it just felt bone-chilling cold.
“Are you saying that because you have killed guys that tried to run before?” Seth asked, his voice quieter than he had expected it to be. He just couldn’t imagine why they couldn’t just let a kid go if he realized that he didn’t want to be in the gang anymore. Why did they have to kill him? Where was the sense in that?
“You really don’t want me to answer that question,” Logan said, his voice much gentler than Seth had been expecting. “Trust me on that.”
Seth swallowed hard and nodded. Instead, he turned his attention back to the matter at hand - helping his brother escape the stranglehold that the Bloods had on him. “Ok, look, I know that your gang only operates within a like, what, ten mile radius or something. So, I mean, I guess you could technically live closer, but I think the farther away you are, the better. I don’t want you to be so close that you could decide one ay that you want to go back.”
“I won’t decide that,” Logan said, stubbornly. “I can’t. To decide that would be to decide to be put to death. Trust me, I do not want to die. This woman,” he said, clasping Tasha’s hand tightly, “has put up with worrying about me enough. I don’t want her to have to be worried, anymore.”
“Ok then,” Seth said. “So, you’re alright with moving?”
Logan looked at Tasha. The woman stroked his cheek lightly and said, “I will follow you, Logan. I can get a job wherever - there’s always a job for a good waitress, these days. I will follow you.”
“Are you sure?” Logan asked, his voice quiet. “I don’t want to ruin your life, too. You got me out of the gang already. I don’t want to ruin your life any more than I already have.”
“You’re not ruining my life, Logan,” she assured him. “I am coming with you, if you will have me.”
“Of course I’ll have you. I’m lost without you.”
My God, Karen is probably throwing up in her head, right now. That has got to be the cheesiest thing anyone could say at a time like this, Seth thought. He kept that thought to himself, though. There was no reason that he had to ruin their “sweet” moment. If that was what it took to get his brother to leave Chicago and go try to live somewhere out of the clutches of the Blood gang, then so be it. He would have endured far less for a guarantee at that.
Looking over at Karen, Seth could see that he wasn’t that far off. Her cheeks were flushed and she looked like she was doing her best to hold back a snort of laughter. Or she was about to hurl. Either one would have been a typical reaction from her to the extremely public display of affection that had been going on mere moments before in front of them. Clearing his throat to try and sober up the moment and bring the two of them back into the conversation, Seth asked, “Ok, look, we have some cousins that live in Peoria, Illinois. I’ve actually talked to them a couple of times about trying to use them as a place for Logan to run to if he ever wanted to leave the gang. They were more than happy to help out, if he ever took his head out of his ass to see that the gang was not the life of glamour that he thought it was. I can drive you both down there as soon as you are ready, if you want.”
“Yes,” Logan said instantly. A few seconds passed before he added, “Please.”
“It will only take me about an hour or two to pack up. I will be on the road behind you in two hours.”
“I don’t want to leave you, Tasha,” Logan said. “You’re all I have. What if one of the gang members remembers your name? I have told a couple of them that I had a girl. A girl named Tasha. I know it isn’t likely that they would find you, but it is a possibility. I can’t leave you, now.”
“Look, Logan, calm down. What if I go with her?” Karen offered brightly. “I’ll go with her, stand guard while she packs, and keep her company on the drive down. Would that be all right?”
Seth id not like the idea of leaving Karen alone with someone that Logan was worried would be hit by the Bloods if they were looking for his brother. However, it didn’t look like Tasha was willing to leave without stopping by her apartment first.
“Ok,” Logan said slowly. “You will call me if anything goes wrong, right?” he asked Tasha. “I mean it, Tasha - anything. If you stop for gas, stop to get a soda, stop to get something to snack on, or anything else, I want to know. I need to know why you are five or ten minutes late, if you are going to be late. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Logan,” Tasha soothed, placing her hand on his back. “Don’t worry. Everything will be fine.”
The two pairs of people split at that point. Karen gave Seth her keys and walked off with Tasha to get in her car and Logan followed his brother to get in the passenger seat of his ride. The drive to Peoria was longer than it usually was. It was a drive that Seth had made a couple of times before, usually around the holidays to go see his few remaining relatives. He didn’t usually go on the holiday weekends themselves, as he was usually spending that time with Karen, but he did try to go near the time. Logan stayed completely silent as they drove. He didn’t ask his brother how he knew where to go. He didn’t comment on the change in landscape as they went from urban downtown Chicago to the suburbs, to rural country farmland. Instead, he just lay there, staring out the window, but not changing his expression at all, as though he weren’t actually seeing what was passing in the distance.
“Hey, Logan, you alright?” Seth asked after they had been on the road for about two hours.
“Yeah,” Logan responded, in a completely monotonous tone. “I’m just so tired, Seth.”
“Tired?” Seth asked curiously. “Tired of what?”
“Of . . . everything,” Logan breathed. “I’m tired of trying to figure out how to survive the Bloods. I’m tired of thinking how I’m going to manage to survive without them, now that I’ve left. I know that they are not going to hunt me down in Peoria, but it’s hard to shake them off. They’ve been my family for years. How do you let go of the fact that you were a gang member and now you’re not. That’s all I’ve ever known. How do I learn how to be someone else?”
For a while, Seth didn’t say anything, as he thought about the best way to respond. It took around ten minutes to form the response he wanted to give his brother, but when it came out, it felt right. “You don’t always know something is right before you do it, Logan. Sometimes, you just have to try and hope it was a good decision. For what it’s worth, I think this is the right decision. Hopefully in time, we’ll get confirmation that it was.”
The two brothers didn’t say anything else as they finished their drive to Peoria.