Lacey didn’t have a chance to answer for hours, as that moment brought Walter and Ryan coming back through the door. Walter raised an eyebrow at the four of them standing in the middle of the couches, with Siobhan still in a loose kind of stance.
“Danger?” Walter asked with a raised eyebrow, his eyes quickly checking the corners of the room. It was obvious to Siobhan he didn’t think they were actually in any danger, but it was wise to check. Siobhan shook her head. “Anything I need to know?”
Siobhan raised an eyebrow, and less than surreptitiously glanced over at Lacey. When the blond girl shook her head, Siobhan mirrored the motion. Walter glanced at the other girl as well for a moment, but then nodded. “Alright.” There was a lingering, almost inviting length to the word—an opportunity to fill in more information. When nothing was forthcoming, he gave his daughters a look and then shrugged.
“Hey Dad, show us something?” Antigone asked, piping in to the increasingly awkward silence. At his raised eyebrow, she pursed her lips. “Show us something fight-y. Siobhan was just giving us a little lesson,” she offered by way of explanation. At Walter’s pursed lips, she sighed in exasperation. “Come on, it isn’t like we haven’t seen you fight—we were all at the high school.”
Walter sighed, and ran a hand back through his hair. Andre and Leah stepped in through the door, having stopped to talk on the porch for a moment, while Ryan stepped up and put his hand on Walter’s shoulder. “We could show them sparring like we used to?” He offered with a wry grin and a wiggle of his eyebrows. “Although we don’t have any mats, and I’m not sure I want to dislocate my shoulder.”
Walter shook his head slowly, ignoring the bewildered and blinking looks of the others in the room. “I like my furniture, Ryan. And no, I really don’t want to go at it like we used to.” Now he considered the others in the room, and let out a sigh. “Alright, you want to see a trick? Andre, open the door please?” He asked, walking back toward the entry area as the other man complied. While he was moving he reached in to his coat and pulled a knife out of his interior pocket, thumbing it open with practiced ease.
“Ooh, I love it when he pulls out knives,” Ryan said with a grin. “Normally something dies. Probably not this time,” he said, in a tone of reassurance, “Unless he’s finally snapped. We’ve expected it for a while.” At that statement’s complete failure to reassure anyone, he simply continued to grin.
Walter glanced at his brother-in-law and best friend, and shook his head slowly. “You want to move to the top of the list?” He sighed. “I don’t like to show off, but I’m sensing a cunning plan to change the topic from something awkward.” He considered the knife for a moment. “And maybe after pretty much getting my ass kicked, I need a reminder.” He offered this comment more to himself then to anyone else, before he offered the room a wry smile himself. “See that knot on the top of the mailbox post?” He asked, gesturing with the knife point toward it. When everyone else in the room nodded, he casually flipped the knife in the air and grabbed it by the blade. “Good, keep watching.”
His arm moved back quickly, with his palm facing in until it was roughly at his ear, before it rushed forward again in a blur. The knife whipped out of his hand and, after a few rapid rotations, impacted the knot at the top of the wooden post with a solid thunk and stuck there, quivering.
“Damn,” Lacey commented after a moment of stunned silence, “Your dad is terrifying.”
It was only when the rest of the house had gone to sleep that Lacey had been able to answer Siobhan’s question. Andre and Leah drove back to the station to get her car, and Ryan left for his apartment, leaving the young women to resume their study sleepover. With Walter and the younger Ryan, as well as Antigone and Monica asleep, Lacey and Siobhan sought privacy. Siobhan led her first up in to the cellar and then out on to the roof, where they sat looking in the direction the police had run earlier.
“He isn’t, you know,” Siobhan offered as they settled down. At Lacey’s confused look, Siobhan gestured back to the house. “Dad. He isn’t terrifying—most of the time. You’ve seen him—he’s a laid back guy. He likes dad jokes and playing video games with Ryan. When I picture him, honest to God, I picture him on the porch with a cigar and a book.”
Lacey nodded slowly. “But…”
“But he gets…focused,” Siobhan explained, waving her hands. “Almost…distilled, I guess. Like there’s a part of him that he keeps tightly wrapped up inside, and when he needs to he pulls down in to that person. And that person is scary—that person killed basically a God.”
Lacey leaned back on her elbows, looking up at the sky before she looked over to Siobhan. “You know, you do that too.” Siobhan sputtered, and started to protest, but the other young woman held up a hand. “I saw it, Bonnie. I saw it at school, during the fight. Whatever it is—killer instinct, too many violent video games, training, whatever—you have it too. It’s…scary, but it’s also kind of amazing to see. That’s why I asked, tonight.”
The air between them hung with a pregnant pause, and Siobhan didn’t need to re-ask her earlier question; it lay between them still, and Lacey nodded in acknowledgment. The nod was followed by a long, almost rattling sigh as the blond sat up and pulled her knees up to rest her chin on. “My dad,” Lacey answered softly after another long moment had passed.
“I thought your parents were divorced?” Siobhan prompted, and Lacey nodded.
“Yeah, they are; they have been for years. My mom is really smart; you know she’s an attorney for the county attorney’s officer?” Lacey asked in the middle of her thought, continuing at Siobhan’s nod. “But Dad…blows in to town about once a year, and he’s…Dad. Charming and funny and on some plan to get rich that sounds dumb as hell until you hear him say it. Then it makes perfect sense.” She licked her lips and looked out across the darkened city, and Siobhan let her take her time. “But then it goes south—then he blows it, and suddenly the whole world is out to get him. And he drinks, and he hits mom…and he hits me. And it hits a tipping point, and she throws him out…until next year.”
Siobhan reached out and put a hand on her friend’s shoulder, squeezing. “Your mom knows there are people she can talk to, right? Dad would go help.”
Lacey nodded now, and squeezed her legs tighter. “I know, and she always says she’s going to, but…I don’t know.” Her voice was hesitant, almost plaintive. “There’s just something about him, that makes her…different. Like she is hoping this time will be different, which is stupid and the definition of insanity. But…I do it too. I tell myself he’s my dad, and I can’t tell anyone; then he’s gone, and it would just be petty.” She put her head down on her knees then, obviously fighting emotion.
“Monica knows.” Siobhan didn’t ask, but told it as a statement. Lacey nodded, and broke in to a little bit of a smile. She smothered it quickly, but there was still a hint of it in her eyes and around her mouth.
“The last time, she’d decided she had enough. Threatened to call the cops, the media, and come back with a shotgun.” Lacey sounded almost dreamy, in a way that Siobhan would have found disturbing if it wasn’t in obvious admiration. “She comes from a family of cops too—I think her mom is one of the only ones in the extended family that isn’t. She’d do it, too.”
A cool breeze started to blow around them, bringing a shiver out from both girls that made at least Siobhan reconsider sitting out there in her pajamas. “I…shit, Lacey. I’ll teach you how to block a punch, but if you get in trouble call me, or call Dad. You don’t have to put up with that—no one should.”
Lacey nodded, sighing. “I…I’ll try. I wish…” She let it trail off in to nothingness, not explaining what she wished. Instead she just nodded, and reached out to squeeze Siobhan’s arm. “Thank you, Bonnie. Let’s go, before they notice we’re gone and mount a rescue.”
They climbed back in to the house and shut the window they had come through, closing the increasingly chilly night and the unpleasant topics on the other side of the glass for the moment.