Twenty

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Come Tuesday evening Lester considered staying home instead of going to group but in the end decided he should let them know about recent events. He had come to enjoy the company and even considered Jackie and Emma friends after a fashion. Besides he had little else to do but drinking alone which he planned to put an end to. Once seven o'clock struck his butt was firmly planted in a seat next to Jackie.

"Who wants to go first?" Father Bishop asked.

"I'll start." Lester offered.

"Alright Lester, tell us what's on your mind."

"I actually have some great news. With some... unconventional help from some friends I have found the person who set me up and cleared my name." He turned to Emma who sat on the other side of Jackie."Thanks for those things you gave me by the way, they worked perfectly."

Emma seemed a little disquieted by the comment but nodded her head. "No problem."

"Anyway my life is on the road back to normal thanks in no small part to this group." Lester continued.

The Father began clapping and soon the others joined in. "That's what we like to hear." Father Bishop looked overly proud of this news as though this was the first time an announcement of this sort had ever been uttered in the group. "Thank you for sharing that with us Lester. That's truly amazing."

"I never would have been able to do it without your group Father." Lester felt a sens of relief that had been missing up until this point. It felt as thought sharing it here made it more real. Coming here tonight was the right choice. He told himself.

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Jackie came to group a little on edge. She had not talked to Lester since they drugged Lars. For the sake of her own sanity she hadn't asked Lester what he planned to do with the unconscious co-worker and would be friend. She knew he wouldn't kill him and make her accessory to murder, but she had a pit in her stomach every time she thought about how close to it he might go to wring a confession out of Lars. When he sauntered in looking especially chipper and took a seat next to her it did little to ease her nerves.

She listened to Lester revelation that events had gone as he planned and breathed a sigh of relief that Lars had seemingly co-operated with Lester instead of forcing him to result to prolonged and brutal torture. She was happy for him and clapped loudly when everyone else congratulated him. Now if only I can get that kind of closure.

The rest of the group turned out to be the standard fare. Assault victims talking about how their experiences had impacted they're lives over the course of the week followed by substance abusers sharing their struggle to keep clean. She wondered if any of the addicts got their fix from Spoony. If they did would they roll over on him? Something to keep in mind for another time. Finally she worked up the will to speak about her week.

"I'm sorry to report," She began, "That the man I was seeing turned out to be a real slime ball."

"Ooh girl we told you to watch out for them internet men. What he do?"One of the other women chimed in.

"I really don't want to get into what he did, but let's just say it was criminal and I had to cut him loose."

"That's too bad. It seemed like you were really into him." Someone commented.

"I was." Jackie admitted, "He treated me well and was fun to be around."

"Not to cut in on you or anything but I finally decided to kick out my criminal boyfriend too." Emma interjected.

"I wondered when you would come to your senses." A man opposite her in the circle replied.

"What did he say when you told him?" Someone else asked.

"He doesn't know yet. He's still hiding from whoever is after him, but I packed up all his things so when he comes back I can just tell him to get out."

"Given your history with him I hope it's really that simple." Another woman responded.

"I'm glad you've taken that step Emma." Father Bishop commented. "When the time comes you need to find a healthy relationship or even no relationship at all until you learn to be more assertive in the face of emotional and verbal abuse."

Emma sighed. "I know. I think I"'m getting there. I guess it depends on how things go with Spoony."

Jackie placed a hand on Emma's knee. "You'll do fine hun. When the time comes you'll find the strength to do what's right for you."

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Emma felt considerably better about herself after some encouragement from the group. She thought more and more about how Spoony might react to the eviction. He would yell, that much is certain. Would he get violent was the million dollar question. He might, but she wasn't overly worried about it. Then she remembered he had a gun now and it may complicate matters. He might not hit her, but he wasn't above threatening her with a firearm. She found this new line of thought to be extremely troublesome.

When group ended she was surprised to see Jackie lingering by Lester who had begun stacking chairs.

"You guys eat yet? I'm buying." Lester offered. "Think of it as a thank you for your part in helping me secure my freedom."

"I've already eaten, but I'll come along for some coffee." Jackie replied.

Emma shrugged. "Sure. It's not like I have someone waiting for me at home or anything."

"That's the spirit. Just let me finish helping Father Bishop put away these chairs."

Emma and Jackie pitched in and the chairs were all stacked in the corner in short order. They then caught the bus to the Coney Island and took a seat in a booth.

"I hope you don't mind coming here to eat." Lester said to Emma while looking over the menu.

"It's fine. I don't think I could ever get sick of the food here. Even after all these years." Emma responded from behind her menu.

"I really can't thank you enough for helping me with the whole Lars situation."

Emma folded her menu. "You didn't hurt him did you?"

"Some minor bumps and bruising. Nothing that won't heal in a couple days."Lester folded his menu and placed it in front of him. "My methodology turned out to be extremely effective."

"Please don't elaborate on that." Jackie protested. "I don't want to know."

"Me either. I already feel guilty for giving you the drugs in the first place."

"Fair enough." Lester conceded. "It's not an especially good story anyway."

They ordered their food and made small talk for the better part of two hours before they each went their own way.

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