Chapter 9 - C for Crazy
Emma, who was waiting at the airport for Josh, beamed and ran toward her brother as soon as she caught sight of him. Since Josh was holding Pete in one arm and dragging the suitcase with the other, he just let his little sister embrace his body without trying to hug her back.
Emma took a few deep breaths as if to hold back her overflowing emotions before she looked up from burying her face in his chest. Their eyes met, and Josh was the one to smile first. Emma smiled back.
It was their first reunion in multiple years. Josh greeted gleefully, “You’re as ugly as ever.”
The touching reunion ended there.
“Can’t believe nobody knows how annoying you are,” Emma repeated yet again, gritting her teeth.
Josh stared ahead in disinterest, sitting in the front passenger seat. “Merge now.”
“Shut up. I’m the driver.”
“Step on it, God damn it, that car is zooming!”
“I said shut up! For the last time, I’m the driver!”
At the same time, Emma violently swerved the driving wheel. Having merged swiftly, she glared ahead and cursed under her breath. She looked like she was one unwanted piece of advice away from plucking the driving wheel and smashing it on Josh’s head.
Josh glanced behind his shoulder. Pete was anxiously rolling his eyes around. Josh smiled warmly and made a bird with his hands, flapping its wings. Pete giggled and clapped. All the while, Emma continued to swear softly.
‘I’m really back,’ Josh thought to himself as he closed his eyes and enjoyed the rays of sun that showered over him.
Josh finally joined back with his team after about a week. Until then, Josh spent time with his family, shopped for a few things for Pete, and prepared this and that in order to ready himself for his new work.
The house that he had returned to for the first time in a while was truly a mess. He was asked swiftly to fix things all around the house, and he ended up hammering things all day. On top of that, he mowed the wildly overgrown lawn, pruned the trees, quarreled with Emma, and shooed away the coyotes a few times. Before he even knew it, his vacation was over.
Although he had been spending time with Pete all day for the past week, having to say goodbye to his child made his heart ache. The boy, who refused to let go of Josh with tears in his eyes whenever Josh had to go to work, clung to Josh’s leg yet again, tears rolling down his face. “Daddy, Daddy…”
Josh glumly picked up the child and held him in his arms. When Josh patted Pete’s back, Pete began to hiccup. Until now, they could see each other in the evening even when they were torn apart in the morning. This time, however, things were different. Since the team took turns to take days off, it was possible that Josh wouldn’t see Pete for as long as 10 days.
Not knowing when he would be able to see Pete again, Josh was reluctant to leave. Josh held and comforted the child, stalling for almost 30 minutes.
“You’re going to be late, Josh. You should get going,” Josh’s mother, who was watching them, reached out her arms.
Josh accepted with difficulty the reality that could no longer be delayed. He tightly embraced the boy one last time and unwillingly handed him over to his mother. Pete immediately started screaming and flailing around. Josh turned away from the crying child, loaded himself into the car, and drove far away. His heart throbbed, and he thought he felt tears well up in his eyes.
“Yeah. It’s the hardest thing in the world,” nodded Mark as Josh finally joined the team who were gathered in the restaurant for breakfast. Mark was already a father to three children.
“It’s a good thing that my oldest is all grown up now. When all three of them were wee babies, it was so hard to get my legs moving. Janet really had a hard time,” added Mark.
Since the job warranted staying away from family like this for months at times, it was a relatable topic to anyone who had kids. Isaac and Henry, who were still unmarried, robotically munched on their pancakes without many reactions. Seth, who was living together with his long-term partner, was the same.
“Just coffee would be great, thank you.” Since Josh had already eaten, he just ordered a drink for himself. The waitress smiled and walked away. When she came back, she took out a great handful of cheap cream and placed them on the table. She shot Josh a secretive glance and left.
Henry spat, “Wear your damn ring, you cheating b*stard.”
Josh merely smiled bitterly in return. Isaac, who had just poured a generous amount of maple syrup over his pancake, put a big slice into his mouth and said, “You should tell us about the gig now.”
Everyone’s eyes were pinned on Mark at once. Mark looked around once. It was past mealtime, and there were barely any people in the restaurant. After checking that the staff members were gathered on one side of the restaurant chatting amongst themselves, Mark began, “The officials got a word about a month ago, warning them about C getting K’ed.”
C stood for Chase, and K stood for kidnapping. It was part of the team’s secret code. If the client was too well-known or someone whose information had to be kept especially confidential, the team had decided on a few secret terms in order to prevent words from being spread.
Needless to say, anything regarding Chase C. Miller was top secret. Chase’s code alphabet was C not just because it was his initial; it also stood for something else.
C for Crazy.
“The FBI is looking into it, but there haven’t been any direct clues. Of course, the informer’s identity hasn’t been found out yet, either. There are a few suspects, but…”
“Is it revenge?” Isaac asked, cutting Mark off.
Henry, who was sitting right next to him, immediately criticized, “You dumba*s, why do you even bother carrying your brain around? If this was about revenge, they’d never be able to find a suspect. Anyone who knows that b*stard would 100 percent want to kill him.”
He was right. Chase Miller was a superior being to the point where his mere existence could make people hostile toward him. One word shared with him, however, could easily turn that hostility into murderous intent. And nobody who was sitting around this table refuted Henry’s statement. Even Josh just silently sipped on his coffee.
Isaac also must have agreed as he pursed his lips. However, his expression showed his discomfort. It was no surprise. Henry’s harsh language was difficult to get used to even after many years.
Mark cleared his throat and continued.
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