Home > Relative Justice

Relative Justice
Author: Gregory Ashe

 

CHAPTER ONE


 OCTOBER 31

 THURSDAY

 11:26 PM

 THEIR FLIGHT OUT OF St. Thomas was delayed, and they had to run through Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson, Terminal I to Terminal S, to make their connection.

 Vacations were all right, Emery Hazard thought. Honeymoons were pretty great. Travel, though, was a bitch, especially when all you wanted was to get home.

 “Noah and Rebeca called.” His husband, John-Henry Somerset—who went by Somers—panted as they ran, phone in one hand.

 “What’d they say?”

 Holding the phone to his ear, Somers made a face as he listened to the voicemail from their neighbors. He didn’t seem to see the custodian with the trash cart ahead of them, so Hazard snagged his elbow, detouring both of them toward a bakery. The aroma of cinnamon pretzels wafted toward them. Then the unmistakable fragrance of cheese dip. Hazard’s stomach rumbled.

 “Something kind of weird is going on,” Somers said, parroting the words from the voicemail. “Could you give us a call back when you have a chance?”

 “That’s all?” Hazard asked.

 “That’s all.”

 They reached the gate, where a heavyset young guy had six kids on a leash and was taking advantage of the family boarding.

 “What if it’s about Evie?” Somers said.

 “Evie’s with Cora.”

 “I know, but what if it’s about her?”

 “Call them before we take off,” Hazard said.

 “It’s almost midnight there.”

 “Then don’t call them.”

 “But what if it’s about Evie?”

 “John, if it were about Evie, they would have left a detailed message and said it was an emergency. It’s something weird. That’s it. That’s all. Maybe somebody broke a window. Maybe there’s a package on the porch.”

 “Yeah,” Somers said, smiling, the line of his shoulders softening. “Ok.”

 Hazard slept on the flight to St. Louis, and he was groggy as they waited for their bags and rode the shuttle back to the parking garage. Their driver was wearing a t-shirt that said MY OTHER CAR IS A GO-KART. After they’d gone up and down every aisle on three floors at an average speed of five miles an hour, Hazard would have been happy to trade for a go-kart.

 Somers kept checking his phone.

 “Did they call again?” Hazard asked.

 “No.”

 “Did they send you a message?”

 “No.”

 Hazard studied his husband.

 “What?” Somers asked.

 “Normally I’m the one who worries.”

 Somers’s grin flickered in and out. “I guess I’m just tired.”

 “No,” Hazard said slowly. “That’s not it.”

 “Ok, I don’t know. I just feel weird.”

 “Is it your tummy?”

 Somers put his face in his hands.

 “Are you gassy?” Hazard asked.

 “I think it’s actually worse,” Somers groaned, “that you’re a hundred-percent serious.”

 “Of course I’m serious. The digestive system is one of the major invisible factors affecting our overall health. And many people experience some sort of irregularity after traveling. Do you need to—”

 Somers put a hand over his mouth.

 Before their flight had gotten delayed, they had planned on driving straight back to their home in Wahredua; when Hazard asked if Somers wanted to get a hotel, he shook his head, so they hit I-70 and went west. The highways were deserted, and they made good time. A couple of hours later, they were pulling into their neighborhood. The Arts-and-Crafts homes were dark, and the streets were quiet. A possum shot out in front of the Mustang, and Somers tapped the brakes, and then it disappeared beyond the headlights.

 When the house came into view, Somers let out a breath.

 “It didn’t burn down,” Hazard said.

 Somers laughed, but it wasn’t a real laugh.

 The garage door rattled up, and yellow light made an apron on the driveway. As Somers turned in, the headlights bounced across the porch, and Hazard saw someone sitting there.

 “John.”

 “I saw him.”

 They parked in the garage next to the Odyssey, and Somers shut off the engine.

 “Gun?” Hazard asked.

 “Locked up inside.”

 “Go get it,” Hazard said, reaching for the door.

 “No.” Somers shook his head. “Let’s just see what’s going on. It’s not like he was trying to hide; he could have been waiting inside the house if he wanted to hurt us.”

 Hazard nodded, but he still grabbed a baseball bat from the pile of sports gear before heading out to the front of the house. Somers walked at his side and then took Hazard’s free hand and squeezed it once. Hazard gave him a look, but Somers just shook his head.

 “Hello,” Hazard said.

 The guy was sitting on the porch steps, his knees pulled up to his chest, shivering in the early morning chill. At Hazard’s voice, he stood, and Hazard realized his first impression was wrong: this guy was really just a kid, probably still in high school, but tall and lanky. His hair was buzzed short, and his eyes were a dark amber that glittered in the distant light from the streetlamp.

 “Can we help you?” Hazard asked.

 The kid’s eyes went to Somers first, held there for a moment, and then followed their joined hands to Hazard. This time, his gaze lingered.

 Somers drew in a sharp breath. “No fucking way,” he muttered.

 “What?” Hazard asked.

 Somers didn’t answer, but he was clutching Hazard’s hand hard enough to hurt.

 “Who are you?” Hazard asked the kid.

 “You’re Emery Hazard?” the kid said. He had a low baritone voice, smooth and assured.

 “That’s right. Who are you?”

 The kid smirked, displaying a crooked eyetooth. “I’m your son.”

 

 

CHAPTER TWO


 NOVEMBER 1

 FRIDAY

 5:06 AM

 “WHAT THE FUCK are you talking about?” Hazard asked. His voice boomed up and down the empty street.

 Somers squeezed his hand.

 The kid met Hazard’s gaze. He was wearing a half smile.

 Hazard’s head pounded from hours of travel and a sleepless night. He rubbed gunk from his eyes and wiped his hand on his jeans. The lingering smell of sweat, of too many bodies crammed inside a tin can, mixed with the morning’s cool humidity. Light from the porch glittered on dew-bright spiderwebs between the columns. Part of Hazard’s brain catalogued the need to get out later that day with a broom.

 Still that stupid half smile.

 “Well? I asked you a question: what the fuck are you—”

 “Ree,” Somers said, his free hand coming up to take Hazard’s arm so that he was holding him with both hands now. “Let’s go inside.”

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