Twenty-Six

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Lester came to group early to help set up chairs with Father Bishop. Once finished he simply too a seat and waited for things to kick off. Eventually Emma and Jackie seated themselves next to him. He greeted them halfheartedly but otherwise remained silent. He came for the company more than anything. Sometime after they began he realized he wasn't really paying attention so he straightened up and gave his full attention to a young girl describing how being molested as a child and it destroyed her ability to be intimate with men. Something that vexed her current boyfriend and something Lester had zero experience with.Even so he remained attentive through her plight and that of a the others that followed. Eventually he decided to speak up and take his turn next.

"I have made a deal with the devil." Lester began.

"Explain." Someone said.

"I tried to go to the authorities with my issues surrounding The Count, even met with the DA, but the guy literally delivered me to a drug lab to have a talk with The Count himself. Not only does he have cops on his payroll,but the damned prosecutors office as well. So I met with The Count and we came to an arrangement in which I give him most of my monthly income and he lets me live."

"Man, you just can't catch a break can you?" Jackie observed.

"Apparently not." Lester replied.

"Maybe you can take it to a higher authority." Emma suggested.

"At this point I'm not sure I want to risk it." Lester admitted. "Who knows how high up this mess goes. I could just make things worse."

"Surely his power can't reach that far up." Someone said.

"In this corrupt ass city? I wouldn't put it out of the realm of possibility." Someone else countered.

"I'm not willing to dismiss anything as impossible at this point." Lester agreed.

"The answer will present itself." Father Bishop added. "Have faith in that."

"Faith can only take you so far Father." Jackie said.

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"What about Jackie. How was your week?" Father Bishop asked.

"Fulfilling and a little remorseful." She answered. "I've finally come to grips with my sons death but I think I've taken a step too far on my journey to achieve closure."

"Care to elaborate?" Someone asked.

"It's best I don't." Jackie answered.

"Is this step you've taken something illegal?" Father Bishop asked. Jackie merely nodded her head. "Then maybe it's best to keep it to yourself."

"You're the last person I would have expected that from Father." Lester said.

"It's not my place to judge.If she has something troubling her that she wants to keep to herself then I leave it to the Lord to help her through it."

"Sometimes we have to break some rules." Emma added. "I never did anything to stop my ex-boyfriend from selling drugs. I may have told him not to do it in my apartment, but that's really an empty gesture." Emma placed a hand on Jackie's knee. "That makes me at least partially responsible for anyone he hurt or got hooked on smack."

"Don't put that on you girl.Sleeping with the devil don't make you responsible for his sins."One of the other women said.

"She's right, you didn't put that poison into their hands. They would have found a way to get it with or without your ex." Jackie agreed placing her hand on top of Emma's

"Wise words." The Father added.

"In any case I'm feeling mighty sinful right now and I'm not sure what to do about it."Jackie said.

"You need to reflect on that until you have found a way to forgive yourself because the Lord already has."

"That's an interesting way to look at things." Said Lester.

"I'm not sure I can do that Father." Jackie responded.

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Emma came to group unsure how she would react to Jackie's presence after Spoony died. She had come to terms with the whole situation but still believed Jackie had taken things too far. Regardless she had other things on her mind as well.By now all the dirt on Henry would have reached her moms house and she hoped her mom was the one to open the envelope. She'd be safe if Henry found it since she mailed it anonymously. She wanted to know what everyone else thought about what she'd done.

After a brief extremely uncomfortable and nonspecific discussion with Jackie about her own feelings of guilt Emma brought her concerns to the fore.

"I think you did the right thing." Someone told her.

Several others nodded in agreement.

"My concern is mainly whether or not he'll think I had something to do with it."

"So what if he does. Your mom will know the truth and be able to get free of the degenerate." One of the other women said.

"You know that's right."Added another woman.

"Given his line of work I think that may be a reasonable concern." Jackie commented. "Who knows what a man like that will do."

Emma knew Jackie spoke from first hand experience with the man and she mentally high-fived her for shooting Henry in the leg bringing all this to light. "She's right it could get real ugly. Especially if he finds out I had anything to do with it."

"With him on the mend, he'd have a much harder time doing anything at this point. That may work in your favor." One of the men pointed out.

"Can't hit a woman if you can't walk under his own power." Someone added.

"That's true." Lester agreed.

"That will only hold him back for so long. It might spare my mother from a physical fight but he'll still take it out on me if he can."

"Maybe you should go to the police." Someone suggested.

"That's worked out real well for me recently." Lester's thick layer of sarcasm could not be missed.

"That's something to consider." Jackie added. "He might have friends on the force that will look the other way or help him out in court."

"He does have a long list of enemies both real and imagined. He always has been extremely paranoid." Emma said. "Maybe I don't need to be too worried about it."

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