Part Twenty – Three
After leaving the police station, Brax was going to head to Angelo’s, but instead he got a call. Tugging his cell from his pocket, Brax frowned at Heath’s name. His brother would usually enjoy having the house to himself and sleep into at least noon. It wasn’t even nine in the morning yet.
“What’re you up to?” he answered by way of greeting.
“Not so much yet,” Heath was saying, sounding groggy. “But I’m probably gonna need to get in between you a certain four footer.”
Brax closed his eyes. “Damnit, what’d Jagger do now?”
“Wrong four footer,” Heath scoffed. “And you wouldn’t believe me if I told ya.”
“Nash?” Brax frowned. “Really?”
“That’s what Hag’sbreath said,” Heath added with a yawn.
“What did Hallman say, exactly?” Brax started up his car and instead headed back towards Mangrove River.
“Well, first there was the automatic message calling to inform all parents that the students would be dropped off in half an hour, or would need to be picked up, but that classes should resume normally tomorrow.”
“Holy fuck,” groaned Brax. “They closed the school down for the day?!”
“Not even you managed that!” Brax took to driving slowly, listening to his baby brother’s antics told by his amused younger brother. Brax, however was not amused.
“Smoke bomb, stink bomb, cherry bomb combo thing. They’re not actually sure.”
Brax was speechless. The twins were barely in school that month with so much suspensions, and with this, Nash could be facing criminal charges.
“Are you serious?”
“Before you start planning the grommet’s funeral, you should know, it seems like most of this stuff was some other kids. But Nash definitely triggered them. Anyway, that’s all Hackaway was willing to tell me. You gotta go pick him up.”
“This day is just perfect,” Brax shook his head. “And Jags?”
“Apparently, she’s innocent.”
“Yeah, well, I’ll be the judge of that.”
Brax hung his cell phone and tossed it into the passenger’s seat. Most days, the kids were great. Then there were days he contemplated shipping them all off to a school on the other side of the country. Today was definitely one of the ship-them-off days.
It took Brax thirty-five minutes to get to the twins’ school, his school from way-way back in the day, and he took each one of those minutes to try and calm himself. He would be dealing with Principal Hallman, again, and she hadn’t been so happy to see him just two weeks earlier.
He could only imagine what she would have to say now.
There were cops, of course, leading the progress of cars coming to pick up their kids. Brax groaned. He waited his turn, opening his window as he stopped beside one of the newer officers, because he hadn’t seen the guy before.
“Child’s grade?” the officer asked.
“Year 5, but I was called in to see Principal Hallman,” Brax replied.
The man frowned. “One moment.” He walked over to another one of the officers, who then talked into their radios until the young officer came back.
Brax couldn’t stop thinking about Nash. His first instinct would have to not be throttling the kid. He would have to remain calm, listen to Hallman spew out how much of a demon spawn the Ellis two were, again, and hopefully be able to get the kid back to school in a day or two.
Then he would take him home and actually deal with the problem.
“You can park your car over there sir, and go right in.”
“Thank you officer,” he said, not even a hint of sarcasm in his voice. He didn’t have the energy, and the guy wouldn’t understand.
Walking into the school building was a bit creepy. A few officers still lingered about, and teachers were accompanying each student out to their awaiting ride. Whatever his kid had done to get this kind of reaction, Brax mentally promised himself the kid wouldn’t sit well for the week.
This was outrageous.
He found his way to the office easy enough, he had been there enough times throughout the years. His first foray into the office had been in kindergarten, when his father hadn’t been there to pick him up until almost 7pm. The only reason that the cops hadn’t been called on the family then, was because that had been the day Heath had learned to walk, and had managed to walk himself into near drowning by falling in the tub. There was neglect written all over that incident, but people were good at not looking for trouble they didn’t want to deal with.
“Mr. Braxton,” Mrs. Dahl groaned at seeing him.
“Call me Brax,” he said automatically, though in twenty years, she still hadn’t. In fact, she had stopped calling him Darryl once the twins showed up. She was one of the ones that figured the duo were his.
“Go right in, Principal Hallman is waiting.”
“Thanks,” he nodded, ignoring the look she gave him over the brim of her glasses.
He turned, surprised to see Jagger seated in the waiting room.
“What are you doing here?” he turned to her.
“They pulled me from class when it all happened,” Jagger informed him. But there was something more to her eyes.
Brax looked over his shoulder at Dahl, who was ignoring them. But he knew that she had razor sharp ears, if not her vision was shot to hell at least a decade ago.
“I’ve been sitting here for like two hours,” she groaned.
Jagger jabbed a finger towards the principal’s door. Brax should’ve figured as much.
“They read him the riot act. Hallman was literally yelling,” Jagger offered up.
“Mr. Braxton?” came Dahl’s clipped tone. Brax glanced back. “Principal Hallman is waiting.”
“Right,” Brax turned away from Jagger and walked towards the door again. “Behave.” He told her and then opened the door.
Nash glanced up as the door opened. He was seated in one of the two chairs that were usually in front of the desk, but it had been moved so that his back was to the wall.
Across from him, Miles Addington was sobbing his sob story into his mother’s shoulder, who was arguing with her ex-husband, Mr. Hallman. Beside Mrs. Addington-Toole, was Mr. Toole – which was hard for Nash not to laugh at – who was there glaring at his wife’s ex. They all deemed that their precious Miles couldn’t have had all of those things in his locker.
They all glared, constantly at Nash.
The only person who was there actually standing up for him was, surprisingly, Inspector Kushner, who had spoken with both boys separately and had come to his own conclusion. Now, they were all, including Principal Hallman, Miles’ stepmum, arguing against his findings.
In walked Brax, frowning at the people he had clearly not expected to see. Brax’s arrival stopped the yelling, and his gaze went around the room until he saw Nash. Then, he fully stepped inside and closed the door behind him.
“Got a bit of a situation here, huh?” Brax said, moving to stand beside Nash. His hand came down to rest on Nash’s head a second, ruffling it slightly, before it came to land on his shoulder with a firm grip.
“Darryl Braxton,” Hallman was groaning at him. “As if this day couldn’t get worse.”
“I’d be more than happy to leave,” Brax shrugged, mostly ignoring the rest of the people crowded into the small space. “Come on, Nasher.”
“That boy’s not leaving!” Mr. Hallman yelled. “I want him charged!”
Mr. Hallman moved to stand in front of their path, but that just brought him face to face with Brax. Nash stood up, but he was still behind his brother. He couldn’t see the look his brother was giving the man, but from the quick way the man jumped back, and glanced over at his wife, he could only guess it wasn’t a good one.
“You want to say that a little louder?” Brax offered. “I don’t think you ruptured my other ear drum.”
“Mr. Braxton,” Inspector Kushner turned to him. “We were waiting for you. I’ve spoken with your son, and with the Addington boy, and I found that while Nicholas seems responsible for the initial incident, the mass cause of the destruction was in par with items that Miles Addington had illegally in his locker.”
“My son wouldn’t even know where to get those things!” his mother was quick to step in. She was still seated, Miles partially pulled onto her lap, standing slightly but mostly leaning into her. “He’s never had any problems in school!”
“He’s been held back twice,” Nash scoffed. “I’d say that was some problems.”
Brax turned and glared at him, and Nash could see that his brother was not at all pleased with his addition into the conversation. Nash made a note to maintain silence.
“It’s hardly fair to state that Miles hasn’t had issues in school,” Principal Hallman added with a sigh. “But we can all attest that this level of, of malice has never been breached before.”
“Miles exhibits many underlined characteristics that should have had him in closer guidance,” the Inspector nodded. “If only for his studies alone, children don’t take kindly to the added pressure of having to encounter the same obstacle over and over again.”
“You’re saying my son can’t handle himself?” Mr. Hallman frowned. “He’s perfectly capable; he just hasn’t been able to acclimate to this school yet!”
“Changing your son into a different school every time he fails isn’t the issue, Mr. Hallman,” the Inspector shook his head. “He had a stockpile of potentially dangerous weapons in his locker. The fact no one got hurt from this is a blessing!”
“Excuse me,” Brax interrupted. “I’m sure you’re all going to want to discuss that matter for a while, but pertaining to Nicholas? I’m still not clear on what happened?”
“Your little rebel tried to sabotage our Miles!” Mrs. Addington-Toole stated.
“Mrs. Addington,” Kushner held his hand up to stop her.
“Mrs. Addington-Toole,” she corrected.
“Mr. Braxton,” he ignored her. “It appears that Nicholas was trying to pull a prank on Miles. He admits to having placed a small snapper into the locker by way of the slit openings. He expected them to startle Miles when he opened his locker, but instead, the snappers seemed to have activated, causing enough of a small spark to cause a chain reaction from the smoke bombs, stink bombs, and other such contraband, seemingly harmless items.
“The large combination in the locker space, caused the locker itself to explode, causing damage to the surrounding lockers and releasing a smoke field that covered the majority of half of the hallway.
“I’m sure you can understand how such actions would have been meet, and the school had no other choice than to call the police and release the students out early. The firies are giving the building a once over, but I think we can safely assume that there are no real issues concerning the school at the moment.”
“That’s pretty serious,” Brax stated. “Are the boys facing any charges?”
“Not my son!” Mr. Hallman grumbled once more.
“I’m afraid that is likely, yes,” the Inspector nodded. “But the extent of the charges is to be decided after a final report is made, and the school also presses the charges.”
“Good! Nancy wouldn’t dare blame Miles,” Mrs. Addington-Toole stated. She moved Miles to stand and stood herself up.
“This wasn’t all Nash’s doing,” Brax stopped her happy progression. “It wasn’t his locker, how did Miles even get those things into the school?”
“The children aren’t searched upon entering the school,” Principal Hallman stated. “This isn’t juvenile hall. I’m sure you’ve spotted the differences.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Brax turned his look towards Hallman.
With the full force of Brax’s glare turned on her, Hallman found herself speechless. It happened every now and again. Most of the time, Brax took the ‘adult’ responsible side of things, no matter what the woman said. But then there were times that she was probably berating herself for opening her big mouth.
Nash made certain not to grin.
“The school has the right to implement and disciplinary action it sees fit,” Inspector Kushner told them. “But the police will hold press their own charges, if any, in a day or so.”
“That boy better be expelled!” Mr. Toole mumbled loudly from where he stood behind his wife, his arms around her shoulders.
Nash frowned at them. He wondered if the woman would go into a state of shock if Nash told her what an awful bastard she really had for a kid. He wouldn’t, of course, because Brax would likely smack him in front of all of these people, and that would totally suck.
Best saved for the beat down his butt was so looking forward to when they got home.
“Alright, fine. If Nicholas gets expelled, I expect the same will be done about Miles,” Brax crossed his arms.
Nash glanced up at his brother. Brax always said he would kill them if they got expelled! What was he doing encouraging them?
“That’s absurd!” Miles’ mother’s eyes grew so wide, Nash kind of feared they would pop right out of her head. He was going to tell Jagger that they had, like in that Believe it or Not show he’d seen online. Jagger would freak.
“That boy caused quite a lot of damage to the school, and not to mention the disruption to the study body.” Brax turned towards Hallman. “I would assume there has to be some kind of disciplinary action for this? I mean, I think we can all agree Nicholas shouldn’t have skipped his class to play this prank on Miles, but how was he to imagine what Miles held within his locker?”
“The lockers are private property!” Mr. Hallman snapped. “Would a homeowner be in trouble for having a dog that attacks the criminal trespasser? I think not!”
“Actually, the lockers are the property of the school, for use by the student body,” the Inspector corrected. “And in light of this situation, I would say that a schoolwide locker search be performed first thing in the morning when the students arrive back.
“Having those items in his locker would count as his having it in his possession, and Miles would be found liable for any destruction that the school finds. Nicholas’ actions, while not malice to the extent that occurred, would certainly have to be taken into consideration, since they were the direct cause of the incident today.”
Nash sighed. It wasn’t looking good for him, but it certainly wasn’t looking like Miles was going to be in the clear for this either. He was slightly pleased with that, but he was thinking that this whole thing wasn’t worth it.
He hadn’t thought that the police would have to get involved.
“Mum, Nash’s lying, those things weren’t mine!” Miles insisted, for like the hundredth time.
“Don’t worry dear, we know,” his mother smoothed his hair. “Angus?”
“Nancy?” Mr. Hallman turned to his wife.
Principal Hallman sighed. She couldn’t exactly let Miles get away with things now. Not with Brax and the Inspector Kushner there present as witnesses.
What that said about her married life, Nash didn’t know and he didn’t care. That stupid marriage had been enough of a headache for him and Jagger.
“I think this matter might have to be handled by the Board,” was her reply.
Nash cringed. If the matter was going to be the board, there was a very real possibility of expulsion. He looked over at Brax, who did not look pleased.
The day, apparently, could get worse.
Of course, the Board would actually and finally have Miles Addington in trouble! Something on his permanent record. Something more than the fact he kept skipping around schools and that he was on the verge of growing a beard when the rest of them were still losing baby teeth.
“Really!” Miles’ mother snapped. “That’s absolutely unnecessary! How could you even think such a thing, I mean really!”
She must have been really surprised. Nash couldn’t stop himself from chuckling. Brax glared down at him, and Mr. Hallman turned to glare at him too.
Nash calmed his face, more for Brax than for the man. He didn’t want to further anger his brother, but really.
“I’m going to take Nicholas now,” Brax motioned for him to stand up again, and Nash shot up at the idea. He’d been sitting there for two hours! He was looking forward to leaving, though not so much to what was likely to happen to him.
Miles’ mother looked like she wanted to object. She clearly didn’t want them leaving until she could blame it all on Nash, but Brax was pretty much giving them all the death glare, and she instead wrapped her arms around her son that was just about her same size. Nash was still shorter than his mother, and it kind of bothered him, because he didn’t like her having any kind of advantage over him.
But then again, maybe he’d be taller than Casey!
“I think that’s best,” the Inspector nodded. “We’ll be in contact with the Board, and with the families.”
Brax moved Nash ahead of him, and Nash was more than happy to lead the way to the door. Opening it, he felt like he was finally breathing free, though he was under no illusions.
Jagger saw them and jumped up, but the look on Brax’s face must have stopped her from saying anything.
“You two have your things?”
“Yessir,” Jagger nodded, pointing towards the backpacks she had beside her.
Stupid kid. Granted, he was a Braxton, but even Brax was amazed at how truly stupid the kid was.
He was almost afraid to hear the true story.
Oh, he was under no illusion. There was no way that Nash was trying to “prank” that other kid. Though, calling that overweighed boy a kid was a bit much. His mother wasn’t much better, and Brax could only imagine that the family was going to find themselves at a buffet eating out their current sorrows.
He was driving home, having texted Heath that they were on their way. He would have called, but he didn’t know what to say. The twins were seated in the back, silent, and while that wasn’t usual, he could only imagine that they were aware of how much trouble they were in.
Because, he was also under no illusion that this was solely Nash’s faulty plan.
Arriving home, Brax turned to glare at the trouble terrors.
“Get inside, and don’t get any ideas about making up stories. You’re going to tell me the truth.”
“You got it,” Jagger nodded, opening the door beside her.
“Righto,” Nash said at the same time, opening his own door. No soon the two were barreling towards the door.
Brax groaned. A part of him wondered what it would be like if the twins were girls, or if it had just been a girl and not twins. The thought of his life without them was sobering, however. They were terrors, but they were also a calming effect on their three older brothers. The twins had no idea how different they made the lives for all of them.
Now, however, he had a whole different kind of thought process about those two. Trouble and Terror, those should’ve been their names.
With a groan, Brax got out of his car and walked, slowly, towards the house. If he could turn around and leave, he would already be gone.
“Got lost did ya?” Heath teased as he entered the house.
“Shut up, Heath,” he groaned at his brother. “Where’d they get off to?”
“Sent Nash to shower, cuz he smells like a dog’s arse and Jagger’s in their room. How bad is it?”
Brax scoffed. “This kid looked like he ate two smaller kids, and he’s been left back twice. I can probably see why he’s giving the world grief. But his parents would make just about anyone hide smoke bombs in their locker.”
Brax dropped onto the couch and glared at the ceiling above. Soon, there was a beer bottle hanging above his head, and he gladly accepted.
“That sounded exciting,” Heath smirked, dropping much more gleefully beside him. “Maybe the kid ate the teachers that’ve been failing him.”
Brax scoffed and shook his head.
“What’s the real story?”
And Brax groaned again.
He waited until Nash washed the stink and smoke bombs off himself, luckily enough time had passed that he wasn’t so bad, but it was also time he spent calming down.
“I think I’ll head down to see the Boys,” Heath cringed as the water silenced from the bathroom. He hated being anywhere nearby when any of the kids were getting their butts handed to them if he could help it.
“Be back in an hour,” Brax sighed. “I need you to watch them.”
“Really?” Heath groaned. “What if I had a job? What’d you do then, huh? Why can’t they just stay on their lonesome?”
“Reward the fact that they managed to get the school evacuated and closed for the day? Nash is probably going to be suspended, hopefully not expelled. Jagger is probably looking at detention, because Hallman isn’t so stupid that she’d think Jags wasn’t involved. If you had a job, I’d die of shock. One hour, Heath!”
His brother rolled his eyes and gave him the middle finger as a reply.
“I heard you!” the other groaned as he left out the backdoor.
“Is it safe to venture?”
Brax turned to see Nash sticking his head out of the bathroom.
“Probably not,” but he motioned the kid forward. “JAGGER!” he yelled, hoping to get her attention without having to actually move. Parenting was exhausting him today.
“Can I say how sorry I am?” Nash came slowly, moving to take seat at the furthest end from him.
“Think it’ll help?”
“Maybe,” the boy shrugged. But he looked down instead and remained silent.
No Jagger still. Brax sat up and frowned down at the still closed door down the hall. He knew that she had to have heard him because there was literally nothing else on in the house, and he’d been loud.
He stood up, thinking maybe she was listening to music with earphones on or such. She wasn’t supposed to be, that would be obvious enough from the predicament the twins were in. Prepared to start in on the one twin, Brax entered the room instead to find Jagger changed into an old shirt of Heath and a pair of shorts Casey had outgrown years ago. She was curled up in the center of the bed on a pillow, cuddling one of the two small matching koalas that had been a Christmas gift to the twins way back when they were mere babies. And she was fast, deeply, asleep.
Brax walked forward and covered her with a blanket. At least he wouldn’t have to worry about her for the moment.
Getting back to the living room, he found Nash looking just as sad as before. As if it wasn’t hard enough dealing with their devious antics, he had to have to guilt of putting those looks on their faces.
“I guess Jags isn’t coming,” Nash cringed.
“Not yet,” Brax shook his head. “Which means I can get the truth from you the first time, eh?”
Nash looked down and gave a slow nod. But he stayed silent. Brax sighed.
“Where do we even start with this thing? What was your plan today? Why couldn’t you just go to school?”
“I don’t know,” Nash replied.
“Great talk,” scoffed Brax. “What do you know then?”
“That today sucked,” Nash shrugged.
Brax groaned. Even without her there, Jagger’s presence was being felt.
“You want to maybe give me a non-Jagger answer to something, without launching a 3-act story to go with it?”
Nash glanced up. He opened his mouth, but he didn’t know what to say.
“Nicholas, there were cops outside your school evacuating students!” Brax started to yell. Stopping himself, he took a deep breath. Yelling would only wake Jagger and not get Nash to talk at all. “What was your big idea here?”
“I can’t stand that Miles kid,” Nash finally replied. “He bullies everyone and he never gets into any trouble because Hallman’s his stepmom!”
Well, that would certainly explain a few things. Brax groaned.
“So you decided to pick on the kid whose mother already hates you? Great thinking Nash,” he shook his head.
“He decided to pick on me!” Nash groaned. “And I didn’t know he had that stuff I his locker!”
“Really?” Brax frowned at him. “And all you did was stick some poppers in there?”
“Well,” Nash cringed. “Not really.”
“What’s the real story?”
Nash sighed, glancing down the hall.
“She’s not coming to save you,” Brax shook his head.
“See,” groaned Nash. “That’s the problem!”
“I don’t need Jagger to save me! I’m older than she is, I can do stuff too!” Nash crossed his arms and sunk further into his seat.
Brax rubbed at his face. Of course matters had to take turns he never expected.
“Was all this just to prove that you could come up with a plan as stupidly pointless as Jagger?”
“No!” Nash scoffed. “The plan was to distract Miles’ tutor and have a stink bomb released into the room he was in, alone. But, I wanted to do something without Jagger for once. So instead of waiting for her, I went to Miles’ locker and was setting up the stink bomb to go off on him when he opened the locker back up. Instead, it triggered and blew up everything else!”
“You broke into his locker?” Brax groaned. He should’ve known. It sounded too innocent for him to use poppers. “How do you even know how to do that?”
“YouTube,” Nash shrugged.
“Great!” Brax shook his head. “Goddamn internet!”
“I could’ve learned it from a book too,” Nash defended, not in the least helping his case. “It wasn’t really that hard.”
“I’m glad you’re not wasting away your time,” Brax related back. Luckily, Nash had enough sense to realize his brother wasn’t being exactly pleased.
“I didn’t see the smoke bombs and stuff. He must have had them hidden.”
“I would imagine he would! Why would anyone bring that stuff to school? You heard that Inspector say there could be charges? Nash, what if they realize you lied?”
“How?” frowned Nash. “There’s no way to know between my stink bomb and Miles’. Also, Poppers leave nothing behind but tiny paper. There’s paper all over the hall! They’re never going to realize that there weren’t any poppers. I didn’t want to tell them I broke into his locker!”
Brax dropped his head. He was right, hearing the real story was no better. While he had to agree that breaking into the locker was another point against Nash, he couldn’t see how there would be a story that would make thing better. If Nash did get charged, there was nothing that Brax could do to get the kid out of it.
The thought of his baby brother in Juvie made his heart stop.
“I’m really sorry,” Nash said, looking at the overall position his eldest brother was taking. “I probably should’ve maybe told you about Miles first? But I don’t think Hallman would’ve listened to you either. Everyone has problems with that kid, and she never does anything! I just, I guess I thought a stink bomb wouldn’t be too bad. Heath said he dropped them all the time, and they never closed the school down for them!”
Brax shook his head. “Heath isn’t the kind of role model you should be following for this!” he insisted. “Besides, that was one stink bomb. We don’t even know how many that kid had in his locker, plus the smoke bombs and who knows what else. It was a lousy plan, kid.”
“I know,” Nash sighed again. “I should’ve just done it with Jagger like we planned. Probably never woulda got caught.”
“That wasn’t a better plan!” Brax reached over and tilted the ten year old’s head up. “I don’t know what’s gotten into you twos and Case, but you guys aren’t allowed to turn the school into your fighting grounds!”
“When you went to-
“Forget about when Heath and I went!” Brax snapped. “Things were different for us. You kids are smarter than we were! You have a chance to actually use your heads and get outta here!”
“But, I don’t want out of here,” Nash frowned.
Brax groaned loudly. The twins were still in their little kid mentally, and while he was happy to keep them safe, he couldn’t phantom the idea that Mangrove River was the be-all ideal for the two. Even Casey realized things weren’t all great there. He had his own dreams of getting out of the place, but he hadn’t wanted to leave his school like he had. His friends were left behind and he was forced into a situation where everyone was now looking down at him, which certainly didn’t make things easier for the teen.
“I’m glad you’re happy here,” Brax tried. “But you’ve got to realize Mangrove River isn’t the best of places to be.”
“I know,” Nash insisted. “But, this is where we live! This is all we know! And our friends are here and we know where everything else is. It’s not really so bad. Maybe if Cheryl was really gone, it would be better!”
Brax had to agree there. Things would be better if he didn’t have to think about Cheryl being around every corner. The woman popped up like a rainy weekend, lasting too long and unwanted.
“That’s no reason to try and get yourself tossed into Juvi.”
“I wasn’t,” Nash pouted. “That was an accident!”
“It usually is,” Brax reached over, grabbing Nash’s wrist to pull him closer. “But it’s not going to help you out much if the coppers decide you’re guilty. As if this shit with Heath isn’t enough.”
Nash stood in front of him, looking extremely young and skinny. The twins would be all over town if they were allowed, and they had the energy to match. Brax shook his head. How was he supposed to be everywhere and everything for everyone? It was all too consuming!
Without a clue as what else he could possibly say, he lifted Nash up, easily placing him across his lap. It was a maneuver well known to him, and the kiddo in question, that Brax could only wish wouldn’t have to be repeated so often.
“Ah man,” Nash mumbled to himself, already sniffing back tears of regret. If only the kid would remember this in times of his ‘epic planning’, maybe they wouldn’t find themselves like this so often.
Still, he was thankful that the boy didn’t try and talk him out of his punishment. It was hard enough doling it out, he didn’t like having to defend himself from his actions.
Normally, when it came to Nash, Brax would either equal or lessen the punishment that Jagger was likely to be receiving for the same thing. This time, however, was a first. This time, Nash was the lead problematic. Brax hated to do it, but Nash was definitely going to be getting more than he had ever gotten.
Brax cringed. He glanced up, only for a second, thinking he should use something in lieu of his hand. However, he hadn’t ever had to bother with the twins to use anything more than just his own force. He was more than strong enough, and he wasn’t trying to bruise them or hurt them in any way. Spanking was a lot about the disciplining and a bit about control. He couldn’t have any of his brothers getting away from him. At ten years old, neither twin should know how to pick open a locker or be using any kind of bomb against anyone.
“You endangered yourself, and unknowingly many others around you today. Nash, as bad as it is to be on the receiving end of some punk kid, you went about things all wrong here. I will always be here to listen to you guys, and whatever I decide to do about something will be with a lot more thought and experience going into it than you two knuckleheads have got. But, instead of trusting me to help you out, you went and pulled a stupid stunt like this.”
Brax sighed. He tugged the kid free from his towel, ignored how incredibly small Nash looked shivering in his lap, and ignored the small sniffles already hurting his own heart, and instead raised his hand and begun placing firm, hard-ish smacks down.
Nash wiggled around, but it was easy to keep him in position. He had the good sense to not say anything, or try to get out of Brax’s hold. After dealing with Heath and Casey, the twins seemed to have learned from their brothers’ experiences that when it came to Brax spanking them, there was just no way out of it.
Still, if any of them realized how much Brax hated doing it, they might be able to convince him to stop.
Brax didn’t count how many times he landed a swat. He instead focused on the shade that Nash’s butt was taking, and allowing them to help him gauge when to stop. He had probably gone past twenty, Nash howling out his pain as he buried his face into his arms. Brax shook out his hand, hating how his own palm was feeling from the action.
From the sound of Nash’s tears, the kid hadn’t noticed that Brax had stopped. His butt cheeks had taken to a crimson hue, and Nash would definitely be feeling that for the rest of the day. Probably tomorrow too.
“I really hope I won’t have to revisit this lesson,” he said shaking his head. “And you better pray that they decide not to press any charges on you!”
He tipped Nash slightly forward, allowing him to better access the lower crease of the kiddo’s bum. Here, he just placed a few more smacks, but by the sound Nash elicited, he might as well have placed a hot coil against the kid’s skin.
Task complete, Brax grabbed his littles brother and raised him back up, bringing the kid this time against his chest.
Nash latched on to his brother’s black shirt, crying against his shoulder like a new born.
Brax wrapped his arms around the boy, offering him warmth and comfort. It always amazed him how willing the kids were to accept his comfort from him, even with him being the cause of their pain.
“’M sorry,” Nash muttered into his shoulder.
“I bet,” Brax smirked.
“Things never work out for me,” he shook his head, rubbing his eyes from the stream of tears.
“Plenty does,” Brax said, standing up with Nash in his arms. “When you’re not trying to pull some crazy stunt.”
Nash buried his face into his brother’s shoulder again and refrained from talking.
Brax kissed the top of his wet head and mussed it up a bit. He didn’t know what he would do with all of his free time if he didn’t have his brothers to chase after.
He walked them over to the bedroom, glad that Jagger had been able to sleep through that ordeal. He didn’t want to have to deal with another kid just yet. Brax set Nash on his own two feet, kissing his forehead before he went to get some clothes for him. It wasn’t even lunch time, but he got the kid into sleep pants and a tee shirt, forgoing any underwear, since it would likely just irritate his well-punished bottom.
“Stay in bed until Heath tells you otherwise,” Brax instructed, tugging Nash’s hand off from rubbing and instead picking him up to place him down beside Jagger. “I’m guessing you two were up all night scheming away.”
“Maybe,” Nash frowned, moving to stretch out as comfortably as possible beside Jagger. The motion was enough to slightly rattle his twins’ attention.
“Well, I guess you two can make up for it by going to bed earlier tonight,” Brax whispered, sitting down beside them. He patted Nash’s back with one hand and passed his fingers through Jagger’s hair with the other. Soon enough, both twins were back into comfortable, silent sleep.
“Maybe you should beat their butts on a nightly basis, then we would’ve have to keep chasing them to bed,” Heath muttered from the doorway.
Brax rolled his eyes and stood up to leave.
“If you want to do that on nightly basis, you can go right ahead,” he said, knowing full well that Heath was extremely hesitant to raise his hand towards any of the kids. He might tussle a bit with Casey and he had certainly gone a few rounds with Brax, mostly while drunk, but it was something completely different for him to punish them if he could at all help it.
Heath rolled his eyes. He watched the two for a second before closing the door and following Brax out.
Brax spent the rest of his evening at Angelo’s, “helping out” and grinning each time the blondie tried to give him a look. It was obvious that he man hated the thought of him being there, but that just made it that much more appealing for Brax.
Sgt. Charlie Buckton came in, her head held high and her stride confident. He could certainly watch that woman forever, but she would likely have him arrested for stalking or such if he tried.
“What brings you around this evening, sergeant?” he grinned, walking over to one of the tables. The light had given out the previous night, and Brax had made sure he went out to get new bulbs for the place, something that Angelo had to reluctantly thank him for. The man could barely afford the staff for the night, let alone things like utilities and replacements.
“I stopped by to let you know that the charges against Heath have been dropped. I was looking for Heath, but I can’t seem to find out where he is.”
Brax grinned, twisting the light out of place.
“Heath’s around,” he answered simply. “But I’ll let him know.” He took the new bulb and noticed that Buckton was still there. “Anything else, sergeant?”
“I find it curious,” she stated from behind him.
“But, you don’t think I had anything to do with it?” He turned and found that Buckton again looked slightly deflated. She was letting her guard down around him just a smidge. Brax grinned.
“No, I think Heath struck a lucky break, and that his victim’s just someone that cares more about others.”
“A school teacher with a heart,” Brax scoffed. “Really, I never thought I’d see the day.” They certainly had a different breed of people in Summer Bay. Brax couldn’t count one teacher that seemed to actually give a damn. There were good teachers about, but they didn’t give him half a chance, not after seeing his file. He was disruptive, missed classes, loud, noisy, class clown, sleep through lessons. Heath didn’t fare much better. No one had bothered to wonder exactly why they were like that, but Brax doubted he would’ve told anyone about how his parents were rarely home, and if they were how things only ever got worse.
Buckton glared at him.
“You can make sure Miles isn’t wasting his time with Casey,” she told him, making certain her own feelings were clear. She didn’t think the teach should’ve retracted his charges. Brax could see that, but he couldn’t exactly not be pleased. He didn’t want Heath going to jail, even if his brother was an idiot.
“What do you want me to force the kid to go to school?” Brax scoffed, as if he could care less.
Honestly, if Casey knew what was good for him, he would make certain his arse was in his classes and Brax would be off his case. But the good sergeant didn’t need to know that.
“Is that all you came to tell me?”
“Yeah, I thought you’d like to know,” she stated, clearly going for the same façade of ‘I don’t care’ that Brax upheld.
“Ah, cheers,” he offered back. “I’d love to stop and chat,” Brax continued, moving around her. “But we’ve got a pizza tasting to organize, and a new chef to bump into shape.”
Brax walked over to where Angelo was pretending to not be interested in the whole interaction, wiping away at the same spot of the bar for the past five minutes.
“Isn’t that right, partner?”
Angelo looked up, his eyes startled, and Brax grinned. Angelo hated even the thought of interactions with Brax. But Brax loved bringing up anything that made the old copper fidget.
How the heck the guy made it through training, Brax wondered daily. He certainly wouldn’t trust the guy with a loaded weapon.
“Catch you later, sergeant,” Brax waved at Buckton and headed towards the kitchen.
He had actually found that most of the staff liked him. Though they could certainly see the struggle between himself and Angelo, Brax was friendly with them. He was much more understanding to their needs, and he had more readibly agreed with two of the waitresses when they had needed to change their shifts. It wasn’t like the place was making a lot of business, and they were each in uni with expenses. Angelo had his head too stuck up his arse to try and make the business go like he had it plotted out in his head to realize, that’s just no way to run a business.
Luck for Brax, this wasn’t his first foray into being a manager. He wasn’t often an owner, but he was certainly making his way there.
Brax leaned back against the wall. He listened in as Charlie and her old friend spoke.
“What’s he done now?” Angelo asked.
“For your sake, let’s hope nothing. You’re the one that’s in business with him.
“Believe it or not,” Angelo stated. “He’s actually helping to save this place.”
“By throwing cash around?” Buckton sounded skeptically, as her usual. “We still don’t know where he gets it from.”
“I thought you said he owned an export business?”
“Well, I don’t see any Burmese furniture around, do you? I thought so. Angelo, he’s using you.”
“Funny, I thought it was the other way around.”
Brax listened as she listed back the same story about the liquor store man. So Brax had bought out an alcoholic that was drinking his products more than selling? The man had been more than happy to sell the place, having been going through a divorce and not having to split anything with his wife that way. Since they had no kids, Brax could care less what they did with the money. Offloading the goods, however, was another story. The man hadn’t exactly left him with a suppliers list that was willing to do business with the store after he was pretty much going into two years of not having paid off his debts.
Honestly, the place was a hassle.
“Are you finished?” Angelo asked instead.
“Just do me a favor,” Buckton sighed. “Keep your eyes open, yeah? And good luck with the pizza launch.”
Brax heard her walking away and shook his head. They were both skeptical of him, and he couldn’t blame them. His intentions weren’t all noble. He liked getting shit over Angelo, but he did like the prospect of having an actual running business.
The alcohol was selling, but he wasn’t making profit from it. He was still paying of leans from the previous idiot, and past taxes and bills. Not to mention the day to day of the place. Nowadays, he had the place only open on weekends, since it had been the most profitable days. And the weekday stragglers would come in and buy in bulk to keep them going until the next weekend.
The furniture business was worse. He could go a full week without someone buying something. Of course, at those prices, one sale a month was enough to keep the bills paid, but he had to have the place opened most days. The store kept their original staff, but he still had Heath pass by there occasionally, especially if they were making a delivery. He didn’t trust the skinny guy and older lady to not break shit. And Heath knew better than to mess around in there.
Angelo’s was promising on a different front. He could see the benefits on a day to day basis. People ate all day long. If people ate like his brother, he’d have repeat business five times a day. If the prices were too high one day, or the food sucked one day, the next day was a whole other experience. It certainly beat the mundane, once they were able to actually get the place to stop being so mundane.
That afternoon, as the early dinner crowd was being used to taste test the pizzas that would be going into the menu, Brax decided to hatch himself a plan. He had texted Heath to send over one of the Boys for a bit of a mission, and in the whole of evening he had slightly forgotten.
He was eating up a delicious pepper pizza, chatting with Angelo, when Brody showed up.
“Can you chat?” Brody said after greeting him.
“Yeah, let’s just take it outside.” Brax stood up, taking his pizza slice, and led Brody to the balcony. It was a bit windy, so mostly everyone was seated inside.
“Heath said you had a secret mission?”
Brax scoffed. “I’ve got a bit of an issue, and I need to test an idea.”
“Whatever that means,” frowned Brody.
“Gotta know the people I’m in business with,” Brax shrugged, taking another bite of his pizza.
“That shit looks pretty good,” Brody noted.
“It is,” Brax nodded. “You ate yet?”
“Well, next time. Listen, I need you to make a fake deal.”
Brax had his back towards the restaurant, but he turned slightly to look inside. No one was seated near the doors and Angelo was still chatting with people over their pizza choices.
“What does that mean?” Brody scratched his head.
“I mean, buy someone legal. I want you to get caught, but it’s nothing.”
“You want someone to see me?” Brody shook his head.
“That guy over there, you remember him a few years back? In a hat and dress blues?”
Brody looked at Angelo and frowned. It took him a moment, but he could picture who Brax was talking about.
“That newbie copper? The one that killed that other one and went to jail?”
Brax nodded. “Once a copper, always a friend with the coppers.”
“Brax, you’re going into business with a cop? I don’t think that’s sane mate.”
Brax just shook his head. “I’m not worried about him. Mind games, Brody. I’ve got a way to get this guy off of my back.”
“The fake deal?”
Brax held a hand up to his lips and took a final bite of his pizza.
“Deacon’s point. 7:00, got it?” Brax’s tone was slightly louder, and Brody frowned.
“Deacon’s point, got it.”
Brax winked and grinned, turning once more towards the restaurant and leading Brody in.
The less instructions he gave, the less likely the guys were to screw it up. If he let them plan things for themselves a bit, he was usually pleasantly surprised. Besides, it showed the Boys that he trusted them and gave them a sense of accomplishment.
Brax returned to the bar, grinning over to Angelo who was snapping his phone shut.
“Did I miss anything?” he asked, but Angelo gave him a lame excuse and he merely nodded. Casey could lie better than that guy, but Brax was after all, setting him up.
It would be a pleasure to see the downfall.
Brax glanced at his watch. Less than two hours, and they would all have their answers.
7.05 and Brax’s cell rang. He looked around, and he couldn’t spot Angelo for the moment. He must have gone to the kichen.
Two coppers, just like you said. Caught me and Leech trading off Jelly Beans, Brody rattled into his ear.
“Really?” Brax scoffed. “That’s a new one.”
Told the lady she could keep it. Buckton seems around a lot, really got it out for us, huh?
“I would definitely say that. Thanks Brody, you’ve got a case of beer with your name on it. Thank your cousin for me.”
Brax ended the call just as Angelo was walking back.
“Tell you what,” Angelo stated. “You were right about keeping those pizza orders open. People keep on ordering them.”
“Unfortuntealy, yeah,” Brax grinned, leaning back against the wall. He looked over at the restaurant, and it’s best night yet turnout. “I seem to be right about all kinds of things today.”
“Oh yeah? What else did you predict?”
“That you and that copper were close,” Brax stated. He felt like he’d just caught Casey coming in from night surfing or the twins pretending to sleep hours after they were sent to bed.
“Not this again,” Angelo sighed, shaking his head.
But this wasn’t his little monsters, this was business, and Brax had a different way of dealing with people that he truly didn’t care about. He knew better than to trust a cop, and he wasn’t afraid to show his hand in this.
“Yeah, Brody just got searched, by your ex. That’s interesting, isn’t it?”
Angelo glanced back at him.
“What’s that got to do with me?”
Brax grinned. He thought back to the conversation he had had with Buckton, about teenagers thinking that they were ready to be adults. Angelo, while an adult, wasn’t quite ready to deal with someone like Brax.
“Really?” he shook his head. “Mate, I thought you would’ve been smarter than this, ay?” Brax watched him, smirked until the light went on in Angelo’s warehouse brain.
“You faked a drug deal.”
“Yeah,” Brax nodded. “Well, I found out what I needed to know.”
“If I think something illegal is happening,” Angelo defended himself. “in my restaurant, I’m going to do something about it.”
“Yeah, but,” Brax straightened up and took a step towards the other man. “You should’ve done that face to face. And I think you’ll find that it’s our restaurant, you see. Because without me, this place was going under.”
Brax wasn’t wearing kid gloves with this guy. They were probably the same age, but the man seemed to think on a whole different wavelength. He grew up in a large family, youngest, with loving caring Italian parents that had a string of pizzerias to their name. He wanted to be different and be a cop, and then own a restaurant when that didn’t pan out. But all Brax saw before him was a man that was trying to prove himself to his parents, so as to say barely a man at all.
“You know that,” Brax shook his head. “I know that. So, from now on, I’ll be expecting a bit more loyalty.” Brax dropped all façade of smiles and took two more strides, slowly coming to stand right beside Angelo. “You just used your one and only strike, mate.”
With that grain of thought, Brax left Angelo and went instead to the door to greet the latest patrons with a smile.