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The Black Hole - Part IV
Author Message
Thaddeus Duke Offline
Management Lv. 2


XWF FanBase:
Some of everyone

(cheered; very rarely plays dirty but isn't lame either; many likable qualities)

06-18-2023, 09:25 AM

The trip to Texas took… fucking forever.  Lauren made some calls to Doris Jenkins, the mother of the soldier I killed in cold blood.  They were friendly, respectful conversations in which we found that Mrs. Jenkins was more than willing to meet with me.  Willing or not, it gives me some degree of anxiety.  There are no nice, flowery words that can mask the past.  There’s nothing you can spray to take the stink out of the air.

Nevertheless, I decided to go through with it.  Over the course of the drive south, I thought about going home several times.  I even pulled off the interstates a number of times to do just that.  Something was pulling me to Texas.  Something was telling me I needed to see her.  To sit with her again and talk.

As I traversed the streets in Killeen, my anxiety grew quite a bit.  It reached its crescendo as I slowed the Monte Carlo to a stop by the curb at the Jenkins residence.  Once there were three, but me and their God made certain there was only one left.

Nervously, I exited the car.  With hat in hand I slowly started to make my way up the walk toward the front door.  About midway, I paused in my tracks as the door opened and Doris Jenkins stood in the doorway.  She and I locked eyes without saying anything for what was probably an awkwardly long time.

”Mista Duke as I live and breathe,” she said warmly as she stepped from the doorway.

Almost at once my anxiety and general nervousness subsides.  Her southern charm saw to that.  Enough so that I advance up the walk to the bottom of the porch steps.

”Mrs. Jenkins,” I greeted her with a smile.  ”You look fantastic,” I said to the woman.

”Why Mista Duke, you are quite the charmer, ain’t ya?” she asked while nodding her head inside.  ”Do come in.  We have much to discuss.”

”I’d like that, thank you ma’am,” I said as I climbed the porch and stepped inside.

Once inside, I couldn’t help but notice that the condition of her home has deteriorated quite a bit since the last time I was here.  The paint on the walls is scuffed and chipped.  Discoloring on the ceiling tells me that her roof either was or maybe still is leaking.

”Would you like some iced tea?” she offered.

”Absolutely, I do,” I answered eagerly.

When I was here almost three years ago, it had been to personally escort Harold Jenkins home to his mother so that he could be buried.  That day she offered me iced tea and it was the single most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted.  I’ve met southern folks before, but Doris is the epitome of Southern Hospitality.  Here I was, the man that killed her son being treated with kindness and respect by his mother.

”How’s life treatin’ ya?” she asked as she offered me a seat.

”I’ve been better, in all honesty Doris,” I admitted while unconsciously clutching her sons tags.

”Harry?” she questioned.

”Yeah,” I confirmed

”Thaddeus honey, I meant what I said when you brought him home to me,” she prefaced.  ”It is not in my power to give you the absolution you seek.”

”No, I know that,” I said before a drink.  God, it's delicious.  ”My therapist thought that seeing you might help bring closure to us both.”

”I forgave you for what you did a long time ago,” she stated.  ”There’s nothin’ more I can do on that front.”

”Well, I just wanted you to know that I still think about him.  I still think about that day and what I did,” I said while choking back emotion.  ”I still wish I could have a redo but… life just doesn’t work that way.”

”Naw it surely doesn’t,” Doris agreed.  ”But you’re still standin’.  The Ares Project wiped from the Earth.  If you could do it again, what would you do differently?”

”I’d have heard him out,” I began to reply.  ”I’d have at the very least given him due process to decide his fate.”

”Why didn’t you?” she asked as a tear rolled down her face.  ”Why did you pull that trigger when you did?”

”Mostly anger,” I answered honestly.  ”They’d killed nearly two thousand of my people when they attacked my base.”

Reaching into my wallet, I pulled a picture and laid it on her end table.

”What’s this?” she asked as she picked it up.

”I resolved to kill anyone wearing the colors that Harry wore,” I began.  ”Because there was something bigger than myself at stake.”

”Good lookin’ boy,” she said with a smile.  ”What’s his name?”

”His name is Frankie,” I answered.  ”My adopted son.  When the Ares Project targeted me, they targeted him too.  I wish I could have, but I couldn’t just let him go.  I couldn’t let him walk out like he wasn’t a part of something trying to kill my son.”

I hadn’t realized it, but the tears were rolling down my face just as much as they were rolling down hers.

”You loved him,” I continued on.  ”Hell, if I’d have gotten to know him, maybe I would have to.  But I don’t apologize for protecting my people.  I don’t apologize for doing whatever it took to protect my children, Doris.  At the same time, there are no words to express my sorrow for executing your son.”

Doris wiped tears from her eyes as she exhaled a deep sigh.  ”It hasn’t been easy, I’ll admit,” she said as she handed Frankie’s picture back to me.

”What hasn’t?” I asked as thunder rolled in outside.

”Livin’,” she answered as she leaned back.  ”Used to be I was a homemaker.  Harold was at work and Harry was at school.  I’d clean the house, wash clothes.  I’d be there to greet Harry from the bus down the block.  Then it was time to start supper.

“Now they’re both gone.

“How I miss those days, Thaddeus.”

”Maybe we’re not so different, ya know?” I had suggested.  ”There’s a lot of things missing from my life too.”

”There’s not many jobs where a homemaker is qualifyin’ experience,” she began as I looked on.  ”Harold’s pension dried up before Harry was killed.  Harry sent what little pay he had from McGovern just to help me make ends meet and even that wasn’t enough.”

”Excuse me one moment,” she had said as the skies opened up outside.

”Of course,” I replied.  Moments later, Doris returned with an old stock pot and laid it on the floor beneath that ceiling water stain I noticed earlier.  As soon as she did, you could hear the ping, ping, ping of water droplets hitting the pan.

”Sorry ‘bout that,” she said as she returned to her seat.  ”House has seen some better days.”

”Doris,” I said as I put some words together in my head.  ”Will you let me help you?”


”Let me get your roof fixed,” I expanded some.  ”Let me get a crew out here to fix your house up a little bit.”

”That’s mighty kind of ya, Thaddeus but,” her voice trailed off as she thought up a rational argument to turn me down.  ”I am not your responsibility.”

”Maybe not,” I replied.  ”But I have and you don’t.  It’s honestly the very least I could do.”

”Bank’ll take it by the end of the year anyway,” she argued.

Immediately, the wheels in my head started to turn.

”I had to take out a small loan for a new car and, I had no history bein’ a homemaker,” she began to explain.  ”I had to use the house as collateral to buy a car.”

”I realize people look at me,” I began my argument.  ”They see what I got and think that I can’t understand what it’s like to not have what I have.  Maybe that’s true in a way.  You know, I don’t know what it’s like to have to decide which bill to skip this month.

“But my oldest son came from a poor family.  My wife came from a poor family.  Maybe I don’t know what it’s like on a personal level, but I understand that people don’t have and that they struggle.

”Please… let me help you.”

”You put a new roof on this place,” she debated.  ”You fix the house up and then what?  In six months, in a year from now I’m right back where I started before you come to see me.  It’s just delayin’ the inevitable.”

”Let’s get the house fixed first Doris,” I pleaded with her.  ”Then we’ll worry about the rest.”

”You’re not gonna subsidize me, Mista Duke,” she refused.

”That’s not what I’m talking about, Mrs. Jenkins,” I argued back.  ”What I mean is sending people here to train you for a new life.  One where you won’t struggle to make ends meet from week to week.”

Doris stares at me for an uncomfortably long period of time.

”Pride is a double edged sword and I know that much,” I cut through the silence.  ”I’ll even draw up a contract, Doris.  You’ll pay me back every penny I spend to fix this place for you.  After you’re back on your feet.”

”Son, you can not guarantee that even if I were trained in a field that it’ll lead to more gainful employment,” she protested.

”Yes I can,” I said confidently.  ”But you let me worry about that, okay?  For now, all you need to do is go to work and take care of yourself.  Let me worry about everything else.  Let me do what I do, Doris.  In a few months, your struggle to make ends meet will come to an end.

“Will you trust me?”

”Strangely yes,” she answered.  ”Every time I see your face, every time I hear your voice, my instincts tell me to go the other way.  But there’s somethin’ about you Thaddeus.  I noticed it the day we met and I notice that same thing again now, but I have no idea what it is.”

”Doris it’s about time for me to hit the road, but I’ll have a crew out here by tomorrow to get started on this roof,” I began as I stood up.  ”Thank you for trusting me.

”I know there’s nothing I can do to change the past, but there’s plenty I can do to change the future.”

”How do I thank you?” she asked as she rose to meet me.

”You don’t,” I answered.  ”I’m not doing this for acknowledgement or thanks.  I’m doing it just because it’s the right thing to do.”

Standing a couple of feet from her, my left hand clutches Harry’s tags.  With the other, I extended it in a peace offering in a manner of speaking.  She accepted with little hesitation.

”I’ve kept your son with me for almost three years,” I said as I removed Harry’s tags from my neck while tears rolled down my cheeks.  ”It’s time I returned Harry to his mother for good.”

Tears filled her eyes.  After a moment, she leaned forward ever so slightly as I placed his tags around her neck.  Her floodgates opened almost instantly.  Saying nothing, I only hugged her for comfort.  Nothing will change what I did.  Nothing will ever bring Harry back from the grave. 
There will never be absolution.  But that doesn’t mean that I can’t do whatever is within my power to make her life a little easier.  I’ll never not regret killing him.  War fucking sucks.  It’s kill or be killed and no matter who you’re cutting down, you’re taking someone’s loved one away from them.  Harold Jenkins Junior might have been misguided.  He might have been on the wrong side of history.  But he was an otherwise good person that loved his mother and only tried to help her.

He can’t now.  But I can.

After leaving Doris at her door, I walked quickly through the pouring rain to my car.  Once inside, I quickly pulled up business listings in the area.  Most don’t know it, but there’s special brokers and sites that are devoted entirely to businesses that are on the market, what they’re worth, basic financials like expected profit and loss.

This endeavor wasn’t designed for me to make a ton of money.  Lord knows I don’t need it.  If expanding my portfolio can help out a number of people, including Doris Jenkins, then why not?

Then I called my attorney Robert Zane.

”Yes Thad?” he answered.

”Robert I got a plan,” I said to him.  ”I need you to be less of a shark for this one and just play ball.”

”Thad brother, you never cease to pique my interest,” he replied.  ”What you got?”

”During the Last War I killed a young man that I really shouldn’t have,” I began to explain to him.  ”His mother is struggling pretty mightily financially, so I’m gonna make sure that’s not the case anymore.”

”Alright,” he followed.  ”How big of a check?”

”Nah it’s not like that,” I replied.  ”First of all, I need you to get ahold of a roofing contractor in Killeen, Texas…”

”Okay,” he interrupted.

”414 Plymouth Avenue.  I don’t care what it costs, but get Doris to the top of their list,” I demanded.  ”Secondly, there’s a business here for sale.  It’s not in entertainment so we’ll have to set up a new parent and move LGE under that umbrella.

“You following?”

”Yeah,” he answered.  ”I’m just taking notes.”

”Call the new parent,” I paused in thought.  ”Catalon Industries.”

”You just made that up?” he asked.

”Pretty much,” I answered.  ”Just combined Caty and Talon’s names.  Anyway, this company is called Next Dimension Investments.  They specialize in getting startups off the ground.  You’re going to buy that company and put it under the Catalon umbrella along with everything else.”

”How… not shark-like… do you want me to be?” he asked.

”Get a good deal,” I began.  ”But be willing to give up concessions.  It’s really not gonna break the bank even if we overpay.  Next, you’re gonna authorize a fifty percent pay increase across the board.

”Then, you are personally going to hire Doris Jenkins.”

”For what job?” he asked.

”I dunno,” I answered truthfully.  ”Create a new one if you have to.  Call it under secretary, call it special liaison to Catalon, I don’t really care.  Just make sure her employment isn’t under the direct purview of Next Dimension.

”And let’s get this done by July first.”

”Oof,” he reacts.  ”That’s a big ask.”

”I know, but get it done,” I directed him.

”Yes sir.”

After ending the call with Robert, I pulled away from the curb at the Jenkins place.  Deep in thought as I started the long drive home, I started having another idea.  Doris’s place would be an absolute wreck for a few weeks as contractors fixed it up for her.  Grabbing my phone again, this time I called Doris.

”Hello?” she answered after a few rings.

”Hey Doris, it’s Thad,” I greeted her.  ”I was wondering if you didn’t wanna go to New York for a few weeks of job training?”

Doris didn’t answer right away.  I’m sure her head is spinning a million miles an hour at everything that’s happened today.


”Yeah, I’m here,” she answered back.  ”I was just thinkin’.”

”So was I,” I replied as I drove onto the ramp to I-14.  ”Figured your house would be tore up the next few weeks and maybe a little time away might do you some good?

”I’ll take care of everything,” I added.  ”Put you up in a nice hotel, get you a first class flight out tomorrow evening.  And then you can report to Janet at Lion’s Guard Entertainment.

“Does that sound okay?”

’Yes sir, it rightly does,” she answered.

She and I chatted for a few minutes more.  Mostly about Janet and Lion’s Guard.  I don’t think that anything that transpired today did anything to ease my guilt for Harry’s death.  In fairness, maybe nothing should.  Regardless, I’m pleased that while my intent was merely to help Doris and give her a hand up, that in the process, I’m also helping about 75 other future employees better provide for their families.  Additionally, Next Dimension helps startups, so there’s no limit to the number of families that I’ll be impacting positively, whether directly or indirectly.

As someone with my means, that is a responsibility that I take very seriously no matter how many self loathing assholes hate the fact that I have those means and actively choose to hate me because I do and base their hatred solely on that and nothing else.

[Image: wgqr9W2.png]

1x  XWF Universal Champion || 3x  XWF Xtreme Champion || 1x  XWF Supercontinental Champion (First)
1x  XWF Hart Champion (Last) || 2x  XWF Television Champion || 1x  XWF Tag Team Champion
1x  OCW Savage Champion || 1x IIW Tag Team Champion  || 2x  SOTM (9/20, 7/21)
2021 Male Wrestler of the Year (shared w/ Alias) || XWF Hall of Legends
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