Power and Fury: The Early Days (part 1 of 2)
Before she was a super powered secret agent, Jan was just a teen with dangerous powers that she didn't want and couldn't control.
Jan Caufield was the first to set her badge and credentials on the
table in front of the Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, but her
friends Sara Hewitt and Alisha von Edder weren't far behind. The three
of them remained standing.
Date: August 2005
"Are you sure you want to do this?", their mentor Martha Worthington asked from the very end of the table.
"Yes, ma'am", Jan began in a serious tone. "We've given this a lot of thought, and talked it over. We believe that this is the best thing for us."
"What about what's best for the nation?", an Army general blurted out. "You girls are national assets for goodness sakes. We have plans."
"With all respect, General Sir, we have plans too", Sara Hewitt said in her genteel Mississippi accent. "In the last 2 years, we've done quite a bit for our country. I've bled and I've shed blood for this country, General, but I think its time for me", she paused and looked at Jan and Alisha before continuing. "Its time for us to try to be private citizens again."
There was a long silence. The girls looked at each other. Jan and Alisha had to suppress smiles. Two years ago Sara wouldn't have had the nerve to speak up in a forum like this. Sara had been shy when they had met her, but now standing in front of some of the most powerful people in the country, she had the courage to speak her mind.
"We can't keep you against your will", the new Director of Homeland Security stated for the group. "You know the rules upon leaving service. You know what you can and can't talk about. It was a privilege to have you ladies while we did."
The girls nodded and turned to leave. They were about to walk out the door when the Assistant Sec of Treasury spoke up. "Before you leave, I just want you to understand that once you've been in this deep, you never completely get out."
"We understand", Alisha said as Jan opened the door. A kind faced Federal police sergeant started escorting them out of the building. The girls no longer had their ID cards and their fingerprints had been deactivated in the system. They couldn't have even get an elevator to move. They were stepping onto the elevator when they saw Mrs. Worthington flagging them.
"Good luck, ladies", she told them after nearly running down the hall to catch them. "I just wanted to say that I support you all in whatever you want to do."
"Great? I thought you might be upset since we didn't consult with you first", Jan said.
Martha chuckled. "No, I don't blame you for not talking to me first. I might have tried to talk you out of it. From what you told me about what happened in Oklahoma, you all deserve this. Just don't forget me."
"Oh no we won't forget." The girls hugged Mrs. Worthington in turn. The sergeant didn't look the least bit annoyed as he waited to carry them up to the parking garage. He escorted them to the parking garage and made sure they had no trouble leaving. He waved and walked back inside the building once they pulled out. Jan drove her father's black Tahoe and after a couple of turns, she was on Pennsylvania Avenue. No one spoke for ten minutes. All of them were struggling with their decision. It was probably the best thing for them to do, but now they felt a little exposed. Part of them regretted leaving Treasury. They had been part of something important, but they all knew it was for the best. Besides things had functioned just fine before they had started working for the Treasury Department and they were sure that things would function just fine now that they were gone. They didn't know that their leaving was going to spur changes to the agency that they had left.
"So how do you guys feel?", Jan asked as she got on the highway.
"I'm glad its over. I thought they were going to make more a fuss about it", Sara said.
"Yeah me too", Alisha began. "I thought they were going to site some obscure rule and make us stay." They laughed together. It was one of the few times they had been able to laugh in the last several days. It had only been a few days since Jan had been freed from a secret laboratory in Oklahoma. They had done all sorts of horrible things to her, and it had only been a few days since Alisha had nearly died after being shot through the back with a high powered rifle. A man named Yonatan had healed her body, but that experience had changed her priorities a little.
Alisha and Sara were only going to be in town for one more day. After that they had to head back home to get packed to go back to college. Jan decided to show them around Baltimore, her home town, before they left. They wouldn't have a lot of time in the city so Jan wanted to show them one very special place. She stopped at home, and the group changed clothes before she drove into Baltimore.
Jan pulled her father's black Tahoe into the first space at the corner of the parking lot across the street from her destination. The attendant just nodded when he saw who was driving the vehicle. There were people who didn't get charged to park, and Jan Caufield was one of them. That didn't keep him from looking at her and her friends too. He had seen Jan lots of times, but he never got tired of looking. She was wearing some denim shorts that were tight on her shapely thighs, hugged her hips, and showed off her very nice derriere. He looked her up and down as she walked away. There should be a law he thought. Jan was just under 6'1" and had a body that begged for attention. Her friends were nice eye candy too he thought. The dark haired one had breasts that made the attendant bite down on his fist, and she had a body to match. Then there was the blond one. She had a tight little body on her too. She looked innocent which probably meant that she was a beast in the bedroom. He hurumphed and went back to his paper.
"This seems like a nice place", Sara said as she looked around the neighborhood populated with shops, clubs, young professionals and locals. She saw a couple jogging down the street. There was another woman running the other way, she had her dog on a leash jogging along side her.
Jan laughed loudly as she opened the door. "This neighborhood wasn't always like this. Trust me." Jan held the door for her friends. Sara and Alisha looked around the club as they came in. The lights were up, and they had the curtains open letting in some natural light as well. A cleaning crew was busy all over the club. The place was bigger from the inside than it looked. More than a hundred- fifty people could sit at the nice tables and there was more room still for dancing on the polished floor near the low stage. The pool tables and dart boards were located at the other side of the room across from the shiny ornate bar that had survived the fire of 1904. Jan was looking in the direction of the bar, but not at the ornate wood work, she was looking behind it. Finally an older black man behind the bar saw her and ran out towards the front door of his club. His legs didn't work like they had in the past. These days he had a little trouble getting around, but he scurried to get to Jan. He wrapped his arms around her and lifted her off the ground with the strength he didn't think he still had.
"You finally come down here and see an old man!"
"I got down here as soon as I could, Luther. We had some business and stuff to take care of."
"Well, its damn good to see you, girl. You almost scared an old man to death. You know that? When your mother called me, I almost fell out dead on the floor. If you ever scare me like that again, I'll wring your neck myself!" They both laughed together and stepped further into the club. Luther turned. "So, Jan, who are your friends?"
"Oh, I'm so sorry. Luther, this is Alisha von Edder"
The man chuckled. "Nice to meet you young lady."
"And this is Sara Hewitt."
"Pleasure", he said.
"Pleasure's mine, sir", Sara greeted him.
Luther shook Sara's hand and looked at her closer. "I think I hear cotton country in your speech young lady."
"I'm from Mississippi, and I hear a little drawl in your's too. You've been hanging with the yankees awhile, but its still there."
Luther laughed, it was halfway between a chuckle and a wheeze. "Good ear. I grew up in Memphis before I came up here after Korea."
"Hey, Luther, this is the one I was telling you about with the voice. I think when she was a baby they shoved a megaphone down her throat."
"Oh stop it", Sara said.
"I'm serious", Jan said. "Speaking of music, who do you have here tonight?"
"Nobody special until you showed up."
Jan grinned and looked over her shoulder at the stage. The baby grand piano was there. She started over towards it. "I'll go play a little bit and let you three get to know each other. So what do you want to hear?", she asked Luther.
He frowned in thought. "Play something mellow."
Jan nodded and walked between the tables towards the low stage. Alisha, Sara, and Luther made their way to the bar while Jan went back stage to get her piano bench. There was a piano bench up there already, but it wasn't the bench. She opened the piano cover, cracked her knuckles and started playing. All the heads in the place turned. She played a jazzy melody that was Duke Ellington-like, and filled with the heavy emotions that she was dealing with right now.
"That girl can sure play", Luther exclaimed as he slipped behind the bar. "You girls want anything to drink?"
"Light beer", Alisha answered quickly.
"Just water." Sara rolled her eyes at her friend.
Luther pulled a bottle of Bud Light and popped the top and placed it in front of Alisha. He pulled a tall glass from under the bar for Sara. He opened a bottle of already cold spring water and poured it over ice cubes made of purified water. He put a thin slice of lemon on the rim and placed it and a coaster in front of Sara. Luther had learned to cater to his more upscale clientele. "So, how's my girl doing?"
"Better", Alisha answered. "Her confidence isn't all the way back yet. Jan's not usually unsure about herself."
Luther pulled himself a beer and took a long drink. "I'm so glad to hear she's better, and I think the confidence will come back. That's who she is", he paused and took a drink. "I wasn't joking when I said I nearly died. My son had to come here from Charlotte to sit with me and run stuff for a day or two." Luther looked down at the bar and shook his head to clear his mind before looking back up. "Who would want to mess with Jan? She's such a sweet girl, and really she don't mess with nobody unless you mess with her." He paused and took another drink. "They had to be some bad ass people to mess with Jan though, cause that girl don't take shit offa nobody."
Sara and Alisha laughed. "You know her pretty well don't you."
"Sheeit... You better believe I do. She's like family now, but I knew that girl didn't take shit the first time she walked through that door. When I saw that little white girl... oh excuse me... Its just that this wasn't the sort of neighborhood where people came unless you were a local."
"Jan told us that this area used to be kinda tough", Alisha said.
Luther laughed loudly and slapped the bar again. "Tough don't begin to tell it. Young lady, this was the sort of neighborhood where you didn't just have a gun, you kept that pistol in your pocket loaded and cocked at all times. If you didn't have a gun then you had a blade. Hell even the dope boys got nervous 'round here after midnight, and the cops didn't come down through here unless they was rollin 20 deep. That's why we was all so surprised when we saw a little girl walk in wearing a evenin dress no doubt.
"So that's how you met?", Sara said.
Luther smiled. "Well, I'll tell you all about it." He pulled up a stool and told the story of how seven years ago the 608 Club had helped save Jan Caufield and how Jan Caufield had helped saved the 608 Club.
Every eye in Baltimore's Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall looked at her, and every ear strained to hear every nuance of the piece being played. The director and the director emeritus of the symphony were watching a 12 year old girl play Prokofiev's Sonata No. 7. She was the last soloist of the night, and she had the audience spellbound. Most of the 2000 strong audience would have thought that a girl so young would be unable to put enough emotion behind the song to make it work, but then again few of them knew Jan Caufield. Sometimes she thought her entire life was just brief pauses between bouts of strong emotions sort of like this sonata. She had more than enough emotions to put behind the notes written before either of her parents were born. She did know that her mother loved this song, and would probably be in tears by the third movement. That was one of the reasons she had decided to play it. The other reason was much more selfish. The other reason she had chosen to play this piece was because she could. Jan was good, and she knew it. She wasn't sure if she was the best preteen pianist in the country, but she was the best preteen classical pianist on the east coast. She had proven that to Hanna Barbarick the month before in Hanna's home town of Boston. There had been talk of Jan going out west and playing some shows with a chamber group that was touring through Salt Lake City, Phoenix, Los Angeles and ending up at San Francisco's beautiful Davis Symphony Hall, but no plans had been made yet.
Jan began the last movement of the song and tried her best to put everything she had into it. She wanted to push her skills to the limit, but a small voice in the back of her head told her that she might make a mistake if she pushed it too far. So she dialed it back. The third movement was everybody's favorite. Jan still used everything she knew to push it as far as she dared. She wanted them hanging on every note she played. Her large hands glided over the keys and her fingers moved almost in a blur as she played the last movement. Then it was over, and there was complete silence in the hall. The only sound she heard as she held her hands over the keys was her breathing. When she pulled her hands back the audience erupted into applauds. The important people in the front few rows stood up first, but very quickly the entire audience was on their feet. Jan stood up from the bench and curtsied to the audience which bought louder cheers and whistles. Jan tugged the sides of her cute velvety green dress and curtsied again, then walked off stage. There were all sorts of people waiting for her behind the stage. Everybody had a kind word and many had a hug or a kiss for her. Jan knew most of the classical music community in Baltimore and they knew her. In years past, Jan would have soaked up these accolades like a very fluffy sponge, but now not so much. She had to force herself to smile when people told her how good a job she had done. She knew that she had played well, but there was something missing.
Jan met her parents in the lobby area during intermission. She had to wade through people telling her how great she had done just to get to her parents. By the time Jan reached them, her mood had turned sour.
"You were so wonderful!", Carol Caufield exclaimed while leaning down to hug her daughter. Carol had noted that these days she wasn't having to lean down so far to hug Jan. Carol was 5'10 and even though Jan was 12 years old she was 5'6.
"Thanks, Mom", Jan grumbled.
"What's wrong, baby?", she asked.
Jan shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know. Nothing I guess."
"Did somebody say something to you that you didn't like?", Jack, her father, asked.
Jan shook her head making her long brown hair wrap around her shoulders. "No, nothing like that. Its just... Oh I don't know. I'm fine. I'm going to get some punch if you don't mind?"
"Go ahead. We're going back inside to get ready for the rest of the show."
"I might hang out here." Jan left her parents and got a cup of punch and then got another. The crowd was going back inside, but Jan wasn't going back inside. She felt like she was going to suffocate if she went back in there. She couldn't put her finger on it, but she was sure that if she went back in that concert hall that she would lose it. She saw the nearest exit and quickly stepped outside. A gust of cold early November wind hit her as the door closed. She had left her jacket in one of the rehearsal rooms backstage, but what did she care. Sure she was cold, but it wasn't like she could get sick anyway. She took another sip of her punch before tossing the empty plastic cup in the trash. She folded her arms to shield herself from the cold, and started walking. She pulled up the hem of her very nice dress a couple of times crossing the street, but she just kept walking. Soon the Symphony Hall building was out of sight, but still she kept walking. She didn't really have a destination, and she wasn't paying the least bit of attention to where she was.
She passed the interstate heading generally south towards the Inner Harbor, but also a little east. Jan didn't even look at the street signs until she passed Orleans Street. Still she kept walking. The houses were getting a little shabbier and the makeup of the crowd was changing too. Jan glanced at them, but kept walking. She looked partly lost and partly like she didn't want to be bothered. The people would frown as she walked by in her black leather shoes and evening dress, but they wouldn't say anything. She was lost in her own thoughts. She realized as she walked that there was something missing from her music. Every since Jan could remember she had loved to play the piano. She didn't mind the hours and hours of practice because she had loved that too. She also loved to perform, but these days she still enjoyed it, or she thought she still enjoyed it. But she had to be honest with herself. Practicing was a grind, and she didn't even smile when she played Mozart anymore. She figured this is what burn out felt like, but Jan didn't want to be burned out. She loved music, but there was something missing. Maybe she could find out what it was before she stopped wanting to play all together. She had been walking for quite a while when she heard something that stopped her in her tracks. It was faint and she had to strain her better than perfect hearing to make out the music. Mixed in with the booming bass and shouted lyrics of the hip-hop coming from the parked cars around her in the neighborhood, Jan heard a piano being played, but it sounded like no playing she had ever experienced.
Jan followed the sound around blocks and through alleys. She walked right past drug deals being done, and she paid absolutely no mind. She had to find that music. She could hear an alto saxophone playing now. Then the piano again. Jan felt like she was floating as she found the place. The 608 club's neon sign was burned out on one side, and there were a large group of people standing near the door. Some of the men had their hands on the women's thighs and some of the women had their hands in places where Jan thought a lady's hand didn't belong. She only glanced at them as she stepped into the door of the club.
The smell of soul food and stale beer hit her, but it was the piano that she had come for. She found the stage right away. It was low, but the man playing the piano might as well have been ten feet tall to her. Behind the baby grand piano was a tall, rail thin black man. He wore a sharp three piece suit and a boller hat. He had the stump of a cigar in his mouth and a nearly empty glass of brandy on a stool, and he was making that piano sing. Jan could analyze every note he played. She could hear the chords and the scales, but she had no idea why he was playing what he was or why that made music. Everything she had ever been taught about music said that what he was doing on that piano was all wrong, but to her ears nothing had ever sounded so right. She took two steps into the club and moved no further. She no longer had to move. She had just found her own little slice of heaven. Then a guitar player chimed in, and that only made it better. The way the instruments played with and against each other was overwhelming.
"So the asshole said, 'Hey man, you screwin my wife too!'", Paul finished his joke. The guys at the bar laughed so hard that some of them spilled their beer. Paul turned around to face the door and a frown came over his face. He turned back around and tapped the bartender on the shoulder. "Hey, Luther! Will you get a load of that!"
"What in the hell!?!", Luther exclaimed. He came around the bar and walked up on the little girl standing in the doorway.
Jan didn't even notice him. She was looking over the tables and past the couples grinding against each other on the dance floor to the stage. She was fixed on the man playing the piano. She didn't notice the club owner until Luther spoke up.
"Hey, little girl, what are you doing here?", he asked in a deliberately soft tone.
"I heard that music and I had to come in", she responded without looking at him.
"What? What are you doing down here in the first place? Where are your parents!?!", he demanded loosing his patience.
"They're at the Symphony Hall."
That would explain the dress he thought. "Well, you've got to go!"
Jan turned and looked up at him with big tears in the bluest eyes old Luther had ever seen. "Oh, please, sir don't make me leave. I just wanted to hear the piano. I won't cause any trouble. I promise."
Luther had been fit to burst, but it was just like with his own daughter. Little girls had a special power that turned grown men into putty. "You're causing trouble just by being in here. This ain't no little kid joint." Just then the piano player and the band started into another number. Jan turned towards the stage before looking back at Luther.
Luther just sighed. "What's your name little girl?"
"Janet Caufield, sir, but everybody just calls me Jan."
The man took Jan by hand. "Ok, here's the deal. I'll let you listen to one more song then you have to call your parents. Once they get here, you have to go. Got it?"
Jan nodded and followed Luther behind the bar. He put her on a stool near the back wall. The patrons wondered why the little girl in an evening dress was behind the bar, but only one of them spoke to Luther about it.
"Man you have to be out yo rabid ass mind lettin that girl stay here", Paul scolded Luther between puffs on his cigarette.
"I'm going to make her call her parents", Luther tried to defend himself. "Besides she looks like she's in a trance." They both looked at her as the singer started singing Trouble in Mind by Otis Spann. Jan swayed to the music. After the song though, Jan did call her mother's cell phone. Luther snatched the phone from Jan as soon as her mother answered. "Hello, Mrs. Caufield, this is Luther Jackson, and I believe your daughter has stumbled into my club."
"Thank you, sir, for making her call and letting us know where she is. We were getting worried."
"No need to get worried, ma'am. I have her right here with me, but this ain't really the place for a kid, if you know what I mean."
"I do. We are on our way."
Not long after Luther hung up, he saw a tall well dressed man walk through his door. The man had to be 6'4" or more and near 240 pounds, and he didn't seem the least bit nervous. He looked around the club a couple of times before his eyes fell on his daughter. One look from her father made Jan hang her head. He held out his hand, and she slowly walked over and took it.
"Thank you again", Jack told Luther.
"No problem. Just make sure she doesn't do this again. The folks in here is decent folks if you know what I mean, but this ain't the best area of town for a little girl like that... well brought up with the yes sir and no sirs and all that."
Jack smiled and thanked the man again before leading Jan out to the car. Carol gave Jan a piece of her mind as soon as the door closed. Jan took it all in. She explained herself as best she could, but her mother didn't want to hear it.
"Mom, Dad, I'm sorry I left the Hall without telling you, but I couldn't stay in there anymore. Besides I wasn't in any danger. What could they do to hurt me anyway?"
"That's not the point, Jan. Its disrespectful."
Jan was quiet while they headed north out of the city and into the county where they lived. "I really am sorry", Jan said after a time. "I won't do that again." Jack and Carol didn't say anything else about it, and Jan didn't bring it up either. They gave Jan as much freedom as they dared, but there had to be limits. Jan tried to put what she had done out of her mind, but she heard that piano player in her mind when she closed her eyes, and she heard it when she woke up in the morning. She even heard it when she was trying to practice the piano herself, but she couldn't even begin to play what she had heard. Finally she made up her mind. She wrote her parents a note, and after school she took the bus down to the 608 club. She had her book bag on her back as she walked to the door. The place was closed, but the door was unlocked. Luther and some other people were cleaning up, but most importantly for her the same man was on the piano. He was wearing casual clothes, and he had a Coke next to the piano instead of brandy, but a cigar stump hung from his lips, and the same music flew from his fingers. Jan bent down and sneaked behind tables until she was in the clear. She hopped up to the stage and got her first look at the piano player's hands.
She could feel the bass notes rolling and hear the higher notes ringing off of every surface in the place. The piano player would switch bass patterns without warning and even change keys. Jan didn't understand any of it musically, but it was so great. She sat down in a chair behind him. She could have sat there for hours with no one noticing, but she gave herself away. She moved the chair closer and closer to the piano until she was practically sitting next to him. The piano player finally saw her and stopped playing.
"How the hell did you get up on me like that?", he demanded.
"I'm sorry. I just wanted to hear you play."
"So you like the blues?"
Jan blinked at him with a blank look. "I've never heard it before."
"You must be that little girl Luther was talking about came in here the other night."
Jan nodded. "Yes, sir. My name is Jan Caufield."
"Nice to meet you", the man drawled in his slow country accent. "My name is Mose Chapman."
"Well Mose you are like the best piano player I've ever heard."
The old man laughed. "I can't stand up to a boast like that, but I play my music the best way I know how. Do you play, Jan?"
"I do, but nothing like you play, sir."
He moved over on the bench. "Here come sit here and play me something of yours."
Jan sat down on the piano bench next to Mose. She stretched her hands over the keys and tried to think of what to play. She knew lots of songs. She finally picked one and started playing. Mose watched as the little girl's hands slid over the keys expertly. She had great technique and a talent for playing a note with just the right amount of touch.
"Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata", Mose said and started playing the melody on the upper range of the piano.
"You play classical?", she asked and stopped playing.
Mose laughed and sucked on his stogie. "A little bit, but you play it like a pro. I can't teach you nothin about that stuff that you don't already know."
Jan shook her head. "I want to know how to play what you play. Is there any music that I can take home or anything?"
That sent Mose into a fit of laugher. "There's no writtin down the blues, girl. It comes from here." He patted his fist to his chest. "If you want to play this stuff, then you have to feel it and own it. Well do you?"
"I don't even know what it is?", Jan replied.
Mose laughed again. "Well, let's see what you have in there little girl." The next thing Jan knew, Mose was teaching her a boogie pattern with her left hand. Jan was so clumsy sounding that it caught Luther's attention. "Oh hell naw!", he yelled. "I thought I told you not to come back! Mose, what the hell are you doin!" He started towards the stage, and Jan was already backing off. "Get the hell outta here before I tan you damn hide, girl! Get out now!" He jumped up to the stage, but Jan had already split. She leapt off the stage and sprinted out the front door like a flash. They were surprised at how fast that girl could move. She slammed the door open so hard Luther hoped that she hadn't cracked his glass.
"Man, Luther you scared that girl to death. You didn't have to do all that", Mose said.
Luther smiled and looked down at the piano player. He was breathing heavy when he said, "Man, I wasn't all that mad, but that girl is hard headed. I just don't want her to get hurt."
"You're probably right", Mose admitted with a sigh. He finished his Coke and started playing again.
Jan was winded too because she ran about a mile and a half without stopping, but more than that, she was angry. She held onto a sign post while she gulped in the dry chilly air. She was trying to keep her cool, but Jan could have a violent temper, and she felt it coming out. She was mad at Luther, but she was more mad at letting him run her off. She could feel the anger like a separate living thing popping off inside her. Then her anger exploded. Her hand began to squeeze the steel. Her fingers lost their color as she squeezed the post. The steel bit into her hand, but the pain only made her squeeze the harder. Jan hadn't lost her cool in weeks, and when that happened it made it worse. This time she was nervous that she couldn't reign it in. She gritted her teeth in frustration. Her little girl forearm had hardened and expanded nearly doubling in size. Her fingers were crushing the post while Jan looked down at the road. She was still mad at herself. She squeeze tighter. The steel post was being crushed like an empty soda can. Jan still didn't notice it. She was trying to get a handle on her anger, but at times like this it seemed to race ahead of her ability to control it. Her chest heaved and Jan took even deeper breaths trying to bring her temper under control. There was a moan from the tortured steel as Jan's entire right arm expanded with muscles harder than the steel itself. Her wrist bent forward and her arm straightened. The post bent forward towards the ground. Jan saw the shadow on the ground and quickly pulled her hand off the now totally misshapen and ruined post. She opened her eyes wide and looked around. She didn't see anybody looking. She took off running down the street. She caught the bus a few blocks away.
Jan tried again to put the piano player from her mind, but the sounds just wouldn't go away. She wrote her parents another note and skipped the first basketball practice to head to the 608. She sneaked in again and went up to the stage where Mose was playing the piano.
"I thought Luther ran you off", Mose said to Jan as she pulled up a chair.
"He did, but I'm back. I want to learn how to play what you play. That's all there is to it. I can't get that music out of my head. And the feeling... I just can't help it. Can you tell him to let me stay and learn?"
Mose shook his head. "This is his joint he does what he wants. He's not here right now, so you came a good time. Let's hear if you have what it takes little Miss Jan Caufield."
Jan couldn't remember the last time she'd had as much fun playing the piano. Mose was patient with her. Jan was having fun, but she wasn't doing very good. She sounded like crap. After more than an hour Mose stood up. "That's enough for today. You wait right here."
Jan sat on the piano bench waiting. She imagined Mose going backstage to take some aspirin for the headache her playing had given him. Instead he came out with a paper bag.
"Here, I brought some records in case you came back. These are the ones you start with. I have a little bit of different styles in here. Give them a listen and tell me what you think."
Jan put her arms under the sack and looked inside. She didn't know any of the people on the covers, but she couldn't wait to get home. Her parents had a turntable somewhere. She thanked Mose and promised to be careful with those records. Jan's face was all smiles as she left 608 this time. She saw Luther walking into the club as she turned the corner with her burden cradled in her arms. She seemed so proud, but Luther was irate. He hurried inside.
"Man, what are you doin? We can't have that little girl coming around here. If something happens to her, it'll be our fault, and you know it. How would that look? Rich white girl killed at 608 Club. They'd put me in prison just for being a damned fool!"
"Look man, I don't invite that little girl down here. She knows the way, and she comes on her own. Besides you might as well stop tryin to keep her out."
"Why? Cause you're gonna let her in?"
"No", Mose began with a smile. "Because she's got the blues. I don't know how. Family seems nice, and they got all the money in the world, but I'll tell you, Luther, as sure as I'm sittin here, that little girl has the blues."
Luther frowned and folded his arms. "I don't care, Mose. I'm going to keep that girl out of my club."
"We'll see", Mose said as he spun around and returned to playing.
Jan set up her parents old record player up in her room, laid down on the floor and listened to the records Mose had lent her. She didn't know who he was, but the first record she put on was by some guy named T-bone Walker. She didn't know why she picked that one, she just liked the name. She listened to it and from the first note Jan knew that she had found something special. That night Jan listened to every album Mose had given her. She went to bed well after midnight, and she didn't even touch the piano at her house. She fell asleep on the floor listening to a fellow called Muddy Waters wail about not loosing what you never had.
Jan kept the records until Saturday because she didn't want to risk taking them to school. She carried the bag into the club that morning. Mose was already at the piano. "So did you like what you heard?", he asked.
"Loved it I didn't understand some of it, but it was all great."
Mose laughed. "Well, let's get started."
Mose started her lessons the same way every time. He started teaching her boogies with her left hand. She hardly ever put her right on the keys at all, but Jan didn't care. She was having fun, but not making much progress. She kept coming though. Day after day and week after week. Luther hated it, but he had learned to put up with it. Just as long as Jan was gone before the club opened for business.
Now 13 years old, Jan was missing every other basketball practice, but making all the games. Her coach didn't like it, but Jan had threatened to quit the team if the coach made a big deal about it. Jan was the best player in the league and the team was undefeated, plus the coach wanted to be the high school coach in a couple of years. Winning is always good for the resume.
Jan kept going to see Mose, but it wasn't working out. He was teaching her, but even he was thinking that she just might not have it in her. The problem was that Jan wanted to have it in her. She was down when she started home after a lesson with Mose. She either sounded like a mimicking robot, or like a kid who had never touched a piano. She walked towards the bus stop when her frustration boiled over. She stepped next to a vacant building, balled up her larger than average hand and punched the brick wall hard. She pulled her fist back and punched it again harder. She punched the wall over and over again. Each punch was harder than the last. She could feel that strength start to flow through her body. Pieces of brick were starting fly.
Jan was startled when she heard a woman's voice from down the block. "Oh, don't do that, darling. Don't hit your hand like that", a lady hollered. The woman hurried up to her. "Let me see that." The woman took Jan's right hand in hers. Jan opened her fingers and the woman, who was dressed like she might be a housekeeper at a downtown hotel, felt the bones in Jan's hand.
"I think I'm ok, ma'am."
"I don't feel anything broken, but don't hurt yourself. Do something nice to yourself."
Jan barely raised her head as she nodded her head a little. "I'll try", she said and climbed onto the bus.
Jan dragged herself to her bedroom to do her homework before dragging herself downstairs to practice. She had been putting it off, but she had to practice for a chamber recital in January. She pulled out the sheet music from the large trunk next to the grand piano, and after doing exercises for an hour she started playing the piece. She had played it before. She finally came to a certain part in the song that she had never really liked. She played it and went on a little further, but then she stopped. She turned the page back and started playing again. This time when she came to the part she didn't like, she changed it. She smirked and kept on playing. She played the piece again, but this time she changed it in four different places. Then she understood. She closed the sheet music on the stand and looked at the cover. It read Johannes Brahms in nice script. She opened the trunk full of neatly organized sheet music next to her piano. She saw Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, and so on. She knew then what was missing. All the music she had played her entire life belonged not to her, but to the men who had written it. Mose Chapman played his music. He owned it. Until this night Jan had never played a note of music that belonged to her. She stopped playing then and closed the trunk. She wasn't going to play that chamber recital. She'd call Keith and tell him to practice, because Jan couldn't see herself playing a classical recital anytime in the future. She was going to play her music.
She found Mose Chapman at the piano the next day, and she told him what she had discovered. The old man's smile showed all the teeth he still had in his head. "I was startin' to think you'd never figure it out, Little Miss Jan. It only took a month to learn lessen number one. Well, now I can start to teach you how to play the piano. His lessons were no longer easy. Mose rode Jan as hard as any of her other teachers had done, and he told her the same thing they had. She had potential to be as good as she wanted to be.
"Play that boogie girl!", he yelled at one lesson. "Make me feel it!" Jan redoubled her efforts and put her frustration into it. "That's more like it. Put that passion in it. Make an old man want to sake a damn leg!" Jan's left hand felt like lead and her fingers hurt, but she kept on going. "Put your right hand up", he ordered. He saw Jan smile. She was finally going to learn some right hand stuff, but instead he said, "Play me the right hand part of Für Elise."
"Damn it girl, you heard me. PLAY IT! And keep that boogie rollin!" Jan started playing. She messed up a couple times, but Mose kept on her. "Switch the boogie!", he yelled. Jan obeyed him. "Now play me the right hand part of Chopsticks and keep the boogie going!" Jan was sweating, but she was doing it. "Enough", he finally said. Jan's left hand fell off the keys to her side. She rubbed her sore fingers. Mose was again grinning from ear to ear. "You finally played me something that I can call a boogie. Its a start."
Jan left that afternoon on a cloud. The sun had already gone down, but it wasn't really late. She hummed to herself and skipped to the bus stop, her pink and white backpack bouncing behind her. She was in her own world until she felt her bag get snatched off her back. Jan stopped and turned around. Four teenage boys all wearing black jackets were standing in front of her. Two of them circled in behind her.
"Wonder what you got in here?", the leader of the gang asked and started unzipping her bag.
"Books! What else would I have in it?"
"You probably got all sorts of money in this bag." He started looking through the bag.
"There's no money in there, I promise. Just give it back."
A boy pushed her and the leader kept looking. "There better be some money in this thing!"
Jan reached her hand into the pocket of her jacket and pulled out some neatly folded bills. "This what you looking for?", she asked and held the money between her thumb and index finger. "There's $100 here."
"Give me that!", one of the teens yelled and snatched at it. His hands were quick, but Jan's were quicker. She backed up and shoved the money into her pocket.
"Give me back my bag, I'll give you some of the money." Jan kept the money in her right hand, but put it behind her head. She held out her left arm for her bag. The leader made a show of carefully zipping up the bag and dusting it before holding it out for her. Jan brought the money forward slowly. Just as Jan's left hand was about to touch her bag, the leader dropped it and his boy reached for the money. Jan saw it coming. She pulled the money back at the same time she ran forward. She caught her bag in her left hand and kept running. She ran right past them down the block laughing the whole way. Jan's plan would have worked if the bus had been on time, but it wasn't. The normal bus on that route had broken down, and was delayed while a new bus was assuming the route. Jan backed away from the stop towards the abandoned building near it and waited. The gang of teens saw her. They had been embarrassed in front of the other guys on the block and would never hear the end of it if they didn't get that girl back in some way.
They came at the 13 year old girl from both sides. She didn't see them until they had her cut off. She squealed and ran in the near darkness towards the street, but one of the teens grabbed her by the waist. She tried to dig in her heels, but he lifted her up before throwing her to the hard litter covered ground. That hurt. Jan had thought the whole thing was sort of amusing at first, but now she was getting mad. Two of the guys put their arms under her shoulders and lifted her up. They had her off the ground when Jan brought her own arms down and pinned the boy's arms against her body. She felt that anger rising inside her. Usually Jan fought as hard as she could to keep it down, but this time she didn't fight it so hard. She felt her young body being flooded with more strength than all four of these idiots combined. She locked their arms and started pulling her arms forward. They felt the first bits of pain and her feet touched the ground, but Jan kept pulling her arms forward slowly. The two boys were complaining now.
"Hey! Stop that shit!"
Jan's azure eyes narrowed, and she just kept going. The boys were trying to pull themselves free now.
"What the hell are you guys doin?", the leader asked. "You can't tell me that this little motherfuckin girl is hurtin you?"
Jan screwed up her face and really put on the pressure. The muscles in her arms got harder increasing the pain on the boys even more. They cried out and tried with all their strength to pull themselves free. The leader and the other boy came at Jan to help. She shifted her weight. She waited for the two to get close. She leaned back using the boys she was holding as a base and kicked both her legs out. The boys ran right her kicks. Her legs were strong too and the two boys went to the ground with the wind knocked from their lungs. With them out of the way for a moment, she went back to concentrating on the ones she was holding. She flexed her body as hard as she could and gave a sudden jerk. The boys yelped in pain and both of them went to their knees, but Jan didn't really hear them. She was too mad to hear them, and the feeling of strength was like a drug. She let more and more of that anger out making her stronger as she held on. The boys yelled in pain as their arms were being forced into an unnatural angle. They were crying now and begging. One particularly shrill scream of pain broke through, and Jan heard it. She let them go immediately. The boys rolled over in the dirt.
"You made me do that!", Jan yelled at the top of her lungs and pointed her finger at them. "I didn't want to do that!" She kicked a football sized rock sending it bursting against the wall of the abandoned building. "You should have left me alone!", she told the group. "Next time you see me! LEAVE ME ALONE!" The bus pulled up to the stop and opened the doors. Jan ran to get inside.
"Those boys messing with you?", the bus driver asked with a frown.
Jan shook her head. "It was just a game that went too far. Its fine", she answered and took a seat. She looked through the window at the boys struggling to get to their feet as the bus pulled off. She didn't think she did any permanent damage to their arms, but she wasn't sure. Either way, they left her alone after that.
The lessons kept going over Christmas and New Years. Finally Jan was learning. She was able to take what she already knew about piano and add it to what she wanted to play. By February Jan's parents had stopped hounding her to play any more recitals. She still practiced every night, but now her Mom would catch herself dancing to the music Jan was playing.
Jan and Mose had become friends. During lessons, she would talk to him about her day, or about problems. And he always had a story to tell. He told the most wonderful stories about things he had seen, or things he had done. Mose could have filled volumes of history books, but it turned out that Jan was the only person who had ever taken the time to listen to him. Luther went about his business while Mose taught Jan, and tried to keep his distance. He still didn't like the girl coming around. So far she was following the rules, but soon she would back him into a corner.
Luther was leaving the club one afternoon to run some errands. He had finished mopping the floors, and he was putting on his coat. He could hear the blues piano being played on the stage and never even looked over in that direction. "Hey, Mose, the beer truck is coming in about 40 minutes. If I'm not back by then you know what to do."
"I'll tell him what you said", he heard a little girl's voice say.
Luther looked over his shoulder quickly, and saw Jan sitting behind the piano playing. "Oh hell naw! I thought you were Mose!"
Jan's smile spread from ear to ear and her blue eyes sparkled. "Thanks", she said.
Luther cursed again and stormed out of his club.
Jan was content to study with Mose at first, but even Mose said that she was ready for more. He told the band to get to the club earlier and warm up. Pretty soon Jan was warming up the band instead of Mose. She was learning how to play this new music of hers with other musicians, and she was loving it. Soon Jan was staying later and later in the afternoon. She was staying so late that some early patrons were coming into the club before she left. She spoke to some of them and they encouraged her to play more. They said that she was playing music that they could feel. Jan had always been a good performer. She would stay later and later as the days went on. She would go fetch things for Mose and send messages to the other musicians for him.
"Man, I can't take this anymore", Luther told his friend Paul.
Paul was bobbing his head and snapping his finger to what Jan and the house band was playing on the stage. "Mose was right. That little girl has it man."
"I broke up three fights here night before last. This ain't the place for a little girl. I need you to do me a favor. I've got an idea. I want you to get a couple rough lookin guys. I don't want no psychos. I want them to put a scare to that girl good enough to where she never comes back. Now I don't want her hurt at all! Just scared."
Paul puffed on his cigarette and nodded his head in thought. "I know a couple of guys. The Crutchers, Don and Lenny. They's tough, but not too damn bad that they'd try to mess up a little girl. You gonna have to pay them though. Ain't shit free, Luther."
"Man, I know that. Just make it happen."
On the weekends Jan was now staying so late that her father was
having to come pick her up because she was missing the last route that
went by her house. Jack and Carol didn't like their daughter going down
there, but she was so happy. It made them happy to see their little
girl happy. She was a little sleepy on Sunday mornings when she
played piano and organ at church, but it was worth it for her.
One Friday night, Jan was still at least an hour from calling her father when she went to the bathroom. Don and Lenny Crutcher had been hanging out at the bar waiting for an opportunity. When they saw the little girl go to the bathroom alone, they knew this was their chance. They finished their drinks and went to the darkened hall that lead to the bathroom.
Jan was just starting to wash her hands in the rather small bathroom when the door was forced open. "Hey!", she yelled. The two men had masks over their faces. They came quickly and shut the door. One of them pushed her up against the wall hard. She could feel his weight pressing against her shoulders. The other one came up then. "We're gonna have a little fun!", he breathed in alcohol soaked breath.
"No", Jan moaned. "Don't. Don't." She looked at the men in absolute terror.
Don, who was holding her, raised his arm and put it against her cheek to turn her head. He didn't want to hurt this girl, and if he kept looking at her, then he would probably let her go before he and Lenny had completed their plan. They were only planning on going so far and then letting her run out of the bathroom. Lenny reached past his brother and put his hands on Jan's stomach. He slowly brought his hands towards the button on the front of her jeans.
"No, no please!", Jan pleaded. Her heart was pounding in her chest. She was as scared as she had ever been in her entire life. She cried for her father, but he wasn't there. He could beat both of these guys up, but he wasn't coming because she hadn't called him. Then she heard his voice in her head telling her that all people had to live with their choices, and that all people had to fight for what they wanted. Jan had chosen to come to this club, and she wanted to play the blues. She was willing to fight for that.
"Stop it!", Jan yelled again and grabbed Lenny's hand. She
squeezed it and her body reacted. She started to struggle more and
more. Don was having a harder and harder time holding her. Finally she
got an arm free. She pulled her left arm back as far as she could and
punched Don in the eye. His head went back from the blow, but it wasn't
hard enough to make him let go. He just held her harder. Jan winced in
pain, and punched him again in the same spot. At the same time she
brought her knee up into his groin. He grunted and let her go. Lenny
reached out for her and took her by the torso. She punched him in the
chest and kicked at him. He lifted her off the ground and slammed her
to the floor. She moaned as the air left her lungs, and her head bumped
against the floor. The room spun and she tried to get her berings.
Lenny was on top of her with her hands in his. His larger body totally covering hers. This was getting a little rougher than they had expected. He half wanted to call it off, but he had to subdue this girl first so they could make a getaway without her finding out who they were. She fought against him, but he pressed her down with all his weight. Still it seemed like it wasn't enough.
Jan's eyes were screwed shut and her body shook with effort.
She was pushing against him. For the last several years, her
power had been her scourge. She had no control over when her
strength came out, but now she needed it. If she had ever needed
her special strength, she needed it right then. She prayed that
she would feel that familar rush before it was too late. Her pectorals
and her triceps flexed with
definition that they didn't normally have. Her entire body was getting
rock hard. Lenny was surprised when he felt his body rising. There was
now several inches between them. Her arms shook, but they just kept
flexing and rising. Jan was pressing his entire body off of her.
She had strength that no little girl was supposed to have. Don
was back on his feet. He jumped down to help, but all he did was knock
Lenny off. Jan got to her feet and sent a powerful blow to Lenny's
head. His upper body twisted from the punch. Don was finished playing
around. He punched Jan in the side. He felt the resistance from
muscles, but she was thrown against the
wall from the force. He rushed at her and hit her right in the center
of her stomach. Her abs hadn't been flexed and the blow made her double
He spun her around so that her face was against the tile wall. He
pulled her off the wall only to slam her against it again only harder
than before. Her slim body hit the wall with tremendous force,
and her head bounced against the tiles and again she was dazed, but she
knew that she had to keep fighting. She put her hands against the wall
and gathered all the strength that she could manage, then she
pushed. Hard rounded muscles popped from her skin, and she and
Don flew across the
room. He tripped over Lenny and hit his head against the wall. Lenny
stood up and threw a punch at Jan's head. She ducked and drove her fist
into Lenny's gut before rising and sending a hook to his face. He
staggered backwards. The brothers both stood up then and charged at
Jan. The fists flew.
"Man, I wonder's what taking them so long?", Luther asked with just a tinge of nervousness in his voice.
"Don't know", Paul said and took a long drink from his beer.
Just then the bathroom door slammed open so hard it stripped a couple screws on the hinge. Jan came out of the room slowly and laboring just a bit, but it was understandable. She held Lenny and Don by their belts from each of her hands like suitcases. Their arms and legs dragged the ground as Jan carried them. She was covered in sweat and there was a trickle of blood running down the side of her mouth. She carried the two grown men the length of the club past the bar and many of the tables. The people looked on amazed, but Jan didn't even notice them. Jan's arms were slightly bent and her biceps were stretched hard like twin cables, and her triceps filled out her shirt sleeve. Her delts fired quickly as she worked to keep the two men steady. When she got to the front door, she balanced on one leg and pushed it open with her foot. Lenny was first. Her biceps bunched up into high rounded peaks, stretching her shirt sleeve as she raised the man higher off the ground before throwing him out onto the side walk. His entire body flew out the door, and he rolled to a stop just short of the street. She spun Don around and put both hands on him. Jan's face screwed up in effort, and her biceps really flexed this time as she pulled his body up near her chin. She tossed him high into the air before he came crashing down to the pavement. He landed with a thud and a grunt. Jan dusted her hands and turned around. She didn't say anything to anybody as she went back to the bathroom, and finished washing her hands.
"Man...", Paul began. "I think you'd better leave that little girl alone."
"I think you're right", Luther uttered in amazement.
Luther shook his head and stared towards the bathroom as Jan came out and walked behind the bar. She had wiped her mouth, but both men could see the bruises on her face. "I'm ready to call my dad now", she informed Luther like nothing had just taken place.
Jack pulled up to the club, and Jan went out to meet him. "What happened to you, pumpkin?", he asked with the concern of a doting father.
"Nothing I couldn't handle", Jan said. Jack pulled off. "But, Dad"
"Will you teach me how to fight?"
Jack frowned and thought about it. "Sure. I'll teach you how to fight. We'll start tomorrow."
"Great, thanks Dad", Jan exclaimed as she laid her head back against the seat and faded off to sleep.
Don't forget to check out part two coming
is the place where I usually list all the past chapters of the Power
and Fury Series, but thanks to DtV there is now a Demented
bookshelf. Check out the past chapters and find out how it all began. Click
also like to thank stmercy2020 for cataloguing all the stories from the
Power and Fury series and also all the stories from my first series
Coping with Power.
comments encouraged: email@example.com