WARNING* Contains spoilers! If you haven’t read any of the Talion books. We highly recommend that you do before reading this content.
Jo Harlan Sr. loved his son. Though he recognized that he had issues.
It wasn’t that Joe was a bad kid, in his father’s opinion. He just loved chasing tail. And, when he drank, the worst in him came out. When he’d been young, little Joe had shown sign of being different, sexually. Harlan Sr. had been slightly amused when he’d caught Joe – then just seven – masturbating. It was shortly after his mother had passed. It seemed that he was a bit young, but then again, he was going through a lot. And different people develop at different speeds, don’t they?
At fourteen years old, he’d caught Joe getting a blowjob from the maid. He’d walked in on them in the laundry room. Of course, he’d fired her, and reprimanded Joe. But, before he’d fired her, as she begged for her job, she told Harlan Sr. that Joe had threatened to get her fired if she didn’t acquiesce, and had been paying her $20 per session.
Harlan Sr. had chosen to believe that the maid was just trying to save her job. When he confronted him, Joe had denied everything she’d claimed. But, the doubt lingered.
It was two years later after Joe had started driving, that Harlan Sr. had gotten the call.
It was early evening, around 7:00 p.m. Joe was supposed to be at home aftea a late football practice. The legislature was in session, and Harlan Sr. was at dinner with some lobbyists, when his mobile vibrated. It was the then Police Chief Albert Gaines.
Harlan Sr. had made his excuses and headed down to the police station. Chief Gaines was waiting for him. They had found Joe parked on a side street up near Rosewood and I-35, an unsavoury neighborhood.
“With a hooker,” said Gaines.
“I see,” said Harlan Sr.
“When the officer saw Joe’s name, and age, he thought it best to bring him in. He hasn’t been arrested and isn’t going to be. But, he was with a girl that’s well known to our guys. Drug addict. Lots of priors. Just really nasty, Senator.”
Harlan Sr. nodded, slowly. He didn’t know what to say, or what Gaines was after – something specific, or just banking a favour.
“I remember being young and horny,” said Gaines. “But this girl, like sticking your dick in the sewer. He wasn’t using a condom, either.”
“What is her … background? Asked the Senator, trying to delicately fish out a very specific piece of information.
“She’ss black, if that’s what you mean,” Gaines opened a file folder on his desk. “Thirty-seven year old. In juvi when she was younger for selling drugs. Arrested a few times since then for hooking. Into rehab a couple of times for heroin. Bad news is, heroin means needles. I’d have Joe get tested if I were you, just to be safe.”
Harlan Sr.’s stomach sank. He could see headlines, various and sundry:
Senator’s Son Dies of Aids
Senator’s Son Arrested with Prostitute
Senator’s Son Arrested with Know Addict
None of them were pretty.
“I am stunned, Al. I don’t know what to say. He’s never done this before obviously. Never any indication.”
“Hey. These things happen. I just … it doesn’t make sense to let one mistake ruin the kid’s life. This kind of thing, I mean, being who you are and all, if it got in the press, it’d be no good for him… or for you.”
“I understand, Al. Thank you so much for your discretion.”
Gaines smiled, “What are friends for, Joe”
Harlan Sr. had driven Joe home. He’d yelled, he’d lectured, he’d questioned him, trying to understand what he thought he was doing. Joe had stayed mainly silent. In the end he’d cried.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me, dad. I don’t want to. I want to be good. Sometimes I just feel like I have to do bad things. Like I almost can’t control it.”
Harlan Sr. had held his son. “It’s alright Joe, we’ll find help.”
Joe had begun seeing a therapist shortly thereafter. Harlan Sr. had set it up so that it would be under the name John Hughes. He’d wanted to be sure that none of this could come back to bite him on the ass. The Senator with the unstable son, the sex addict son.
When the whole Wise incident had happened – Harlan Sr.’s worst nightmares came true. All the headlines, worse than he’d imagined. The scrutiny. The accusations. The questions about his fitness, having raised Joe as a single parent. He sometimes wondered if maybe he hadn’t done enough – too much time spent on career, not enough on his own flesh and blood.
But, thanks to that career, they’d managed to pull in favors, and get the thing taken care of. He’d made it all go away. He’d protected his son, which is what a good father does. And since then, Joe had been back with his therapist. He’d been working with Stern on Procurex. Things seemed to be on a good track.
Harlan Sr. checked the time. Joe’s flight should have landed by now. He hadn’t called him, like he said he would when he got to Miami. Harlan Sr. had called several times and left messages. He’d texted as well. Not to check up. Just to see how thing had gone at his meeting with Cruise Capital.
According to FlightAware, Joe’s flight was indeed on the ground in Austin. It had landed almost 30 minutes prior.
The Senator called his son again.
He was going to have to have a talk with Joe when he got home.