Power and Fury: The Early Days Conclusion
Young teen Jan learns that she has to fight for what she wants, but will her power fail her when she needs it the most?
"You guys seem to be getting along pretty well", Jan Caufield told her
friends as she sat down on the tall stool at the ornate bar of the 608
Date: August 2005
"Oh yeah, Luther's been telling us how you two met", Alisha said.
"That's a good story", Jan said before quickly leaning over the bar and snatching a bottle of beer from the cooler before Luther could stop her.
"Damn it, girl, how many times have I got to tell you?", club owner Luther Jackson exclaimed.
Jan twisted off the cap without the least problem and tossed it on the bar. She took a long drink. "What can I say, I'm blessed with long arms. I might as well put them to good use." Jan took another drink and started to sit the bottle down on the counter. Luther slid a coaster to her. There was no way he was going to let her mark up his bar. "Hey, is the kitchen open yet?", Jan asked rubbing her tight toned belly. "I'm starving."
"It won't really be open for another hour, but I'll have them make you girls something right away." It didn't take long for the food to come out. The waiter brought out three plates packed with the best soul food in Baltimore.
The waiter started to walk off when Sara stopped him. "Excuse me, but would you happen to have just a few pieces of okra to put in my greens?" The waiter nodded and hurried back to the kitchen.
Alisha rolled her eyes.
Sara just smiled and broke up the slice of onion and mixed it into her white beans and greens. Luther put his plate of food across from the three girls and ate too. He started his story again. Jan was going to stay to listen, but the house band began coming in. Jan hadn't seen them in a long time. There were hand shakes and more than a few hugs. Jan introduced the group of musicians to Sara. Sara promised to sing a couple of songs before the night was over. Jan was about to go on-stage to warm up with the band when her new cell phone rang. It was Sandra telling Jan that she was going to stop in a see a show. Jan felt excited and apprehensive at the same time. Sandra was Jan's oldest friend. They had been friends since Jan was 6 and Sandra was 7, but Jan had been avoiding Sandra for a day or so. Jan had tried to hide her special powers from Sandra, and she had been successful for 12 years, but now Sandra knew that Jan wasn't completely normal. That was something that Jan never wanted Sandra to know. Oh well, tonight would be a good enough time to tell her, but Jan wasn't looking forward to it.
The band got going and some regulars started filtering into the club on a Friday night. Even warming up, the band sounded good. Jan had boasted that it was the best house band anywhere. She was back on-stage going over a song list for the night when Luther restarted his story. He got a little help from a guy who was there from when the story started. Luther's friend Paul walked in the door still sporting the work shirt with is first name on it from his job as head of maintenance at Johns Hopkins Hospital. He joined the group when Luther got started.
March - May 1999
Jan woke up Saturday morning and stretched her arms towards the ceiling. She was feeling much better than she had been the when she had gone to sleep. Her face had been swollen and her hands had hurt. Her ribs had been sore and her neck had been stiff, but that was all gone. She was pretty sure the guys she had fought didn't feel as good as she did this morning. Jan had fought two grown men the night before and won, but it hadn't been easy. If it hadn't been for her special strength, they might have raped her. That had opened her eyes. Her body healed itself, but there was no complete healing from that sort of assault, and Jan knew that she couldn't rely on her strength to get her out of all situations. She was going to have to lean how to fight. She had asked her father to teach her, and he agreed. Her father had been in the Army. She could remember being on military bases as a little child. She didn't know what her father had done while in the Army, but she did know that he had learned lots of hand to hand skills.
Jan hopped out of her bed and opened the blinds letting in the morning sunlight. She went to the mirror and held her longer than average arms out. They weren't bad. They were pretty much the size of every other 7th grade girl's arms. Then she bent her elbows and flexed her biceps as hard as she could. The muscles on her upper arms flexed into noticeable peaks. It was really impressive when she showed people how much her biceps expanded when she flexed them, but they weren't all that big. Jan sighed and decided that she was going to start working out too. Jan's power always frustrated her, but sometimes more than at other times. She could get so strong sometimes that it scared her, but usually she was only strong for her size or strong for her age, but that wasn't enough. She was going to fix that too. She met her father downstairs after getting dressed and they went to the gym. Usually Jan just shot basketball when her father went to workout, but this time they were going to training. It was going to be fun. That first lesson with her father put a love of martial arts training into Jan that she would never lose.
Over the next few months, things were going well at the 608 too. Jan was now the opening act for Mose. She would work the crowd up with the house band until she had them screaming his name, and then she would lean over to the microphone and yell, "Ladies, Gentlemen, and all the rest of you folks too, let me introduce the man himself. The Lord of the 88's! The King of the Boogie! The Maestro of the Blues! The one and only Mose Chapman!" Mose would come from the side of the stage with a flourish. He had his cigar in his mouth and his brandy sniffer hanging from his left hand. He would always wave to the crowd as he sat down on the bench. He and Jan had worked out the exchange so well that there was nary a missed note when the piano went from her control to his. Jan would slip off to the side and find her seat near the bar, but not this night. She went to a booth along the back wall. Carol and Jack were back there enjoying themselves. It had taken Jan a while to convince her parents to come down to the club, but now they had come and were enjoying themselves immensely.
"You were so terrific, baby!", Carol told her daughter and hugged her. The people had been jumping and shouting before Jan had gotten off the piano, but Mose was taking things to another level.
Just then a woman came by. "Excuse me, is this your daughter", the lady asked.
"Yes, ma'am", Jack answered.
"Well, she can sure play the heck out of that piano. She's really good. Even made my ole husband Earl get up on the dance floor."
Jan beamed and thanked the lady for her compliment. She settled into the seat next to her father, but she wasn't still for long. She urged them to go out to the dance floor. She laughed and giggled the whole time, but she had to admit that both of them danced better than she did. Which wasn't hard to do. Jan wasn't best dancer in the world. That night she stayed at the club so long that she had curled up and fallen asleep in the booth while her parents were still dancing. One of the club regulars took Jan's jacket from next to the bar and carefully put it over her and went back to his own table. Jan had become like everybody's daughter while she was down there.
Things were going as well in Jan's life as she could remember. She still had problems with her temper, but she was so happy that her bouts of anger were less frequent and less severe. Then her parents dropped a rock into Jan's still waters. They called her down to the dining room table. She was humming a Howlin' Wolf tune as she came.
"Jan, baby. We have something to tell you", Carol began. "We've been thinking about this for a while, but your father and I have decided that we're going to move. We're looking at some houses in Howard County."
Jan frowned. "But why?", she demanded.
"Several reasons", her father said. "Its closer to both of our jobs for one, and we both think that we'd like a little more room. I think you'd like it too."
"But, I have to change schools. And what about my friends?" Jan's face was turning red.
"Jan, we aren't trying to turn you away from your friends. We'll make every effort to make sure you can see them whenever you want, and spend time. We don't want this to be a bad thing, Jan. We all want to make the best of this."
Jan just kept thinking about all the changes she was going to have to make. Her friends kept coming to mind. As if on cue, there was a knock at the door. Carol jumped up to get it. "Hey, Mrs. Caufield." Jan heard her best friend Sandra Grunberg say as she walked into the house. Sandra was a few inches shorter than Jan with light brown hair that she usually kept pulled back, and she had smiling hazel eyes that saw almost everything. "Did I come at a bad time?", she asked.
"Oh, you know there's no such thing as a bad time for you", Carol told the 14 year old.
Sandra sighed and looked at Jan. "I'm racing in Delaware this afternoon, and I was wondering if Jan might be able to go."
"Its okay with us."
Jan nodded, but her face didn't look happy at all. "Let me go get dressed." She trudged up the stairs. She knew it was going to be a little chilly at the speedway this time of year.
"Hey, you guys want to come?", Sandra asked Jack and Carol. "Its the third race of the season, and I'm running late models and midgets."
"How are you doing?", Jack asked.
Sandra screwed up her face. "I'm running 4th in the standings right now", she answered with disappointment in her voice. She didn't explain that she was racing in the adult circuit. She had dominated the junior's circuit for two years in a row, and they had forced her to go up with the big boys. Sandra liked the challenge. She just didn't like losing.
It was a two hour drive to the speedway which gave Jan time enough to tell Sandra that she was moving. Jan nearly broke into tears. Sandra put her arm around her friend, and shook her head. Jan could be so strong and so fragile at the same time. "Jan, are we friends?"
"Then we'll still be friends even if you move. Don't worry about it. But Howard County? We make fun of the people in Howard, and now you're going to be one of them."
That made Jan chuckle. "Yeah, I know. So, Dr. Grunberg, you don't want to move to Howard County do you?", Jan asked Sandra's father who was driving.
He shook his head. "Most of my colleagues at the hospital live in Howard County. I think I'll stay as far from them as I can." Jan and Sandra laughed. After a while longer, Jan felt stupid for being so down. She still didn't like the idea of moving though.
The next week Jan was sitting at a table at the 608 drinking the strongest thing Luther would let her have. She sipped at her ginger ale and ate a juicy hamburger with homemade fries. Mose was on the bandstand playing the most beautiful and lonesome tune she had ever heard him play. She listened to him with her musically trained brain, but mostly with her heart. She was enjoying herself and trying to get over the fact that she was moving out of the house that she had lived in for most of her life, when she saw Luther pass by her wearing a frown. He went to the bar and didn't even go behind it. He just sat down on a stool and put his head in his hand. Jan knew something was wrong, but she knew that he wouldn't talk about it. Jan only had to wait a few days to find out the problem. It was a Tuesday and Mose wasn't there. It was just Jan and Luther in the club until a well dressed man came inside with two other men in tow.
"I thought you'd be packing this place up by now", the well dressed man announced.
Luther came from behind the bar. "This is still my joint, and I still got some time."
The man stepped close to Luther and got in his face. "Stop fooling yourself old man. This is place is going to made new. There's no more room for places like this and people like you in this city anymore. You attract crime like shit attracts flies."
At that Jan got up and stood next to Luther. Jan was getting
into puberty and her body was starting to fill out, but she still had
the slightly innocent look of a young girl.
"Who's this? You running prostitutes out of the place now?", the man asked with a chuckle. His two cronies laughed with him.
Luther sucked in a deep angry breath, and he backhanded the man hard across the mouth. "You better watch yo motherfuckin' mouth. You don't bad mouth this girl! Not this girl or my place!", he yelled.
Jan felt so proud at that moment, but she didn't have long to enjoy it. The two cronies came towards Luther. He stood his ground and tried to defend himself with the first one. Jan didn't let the other guy get close. She stepped in his path wound up and threw the hardest punch she could throw. Jan had been working with her father for a few months and was a quick learner. She had started weight training too and even without her powers, she had gotten pretty strong for a 13 year old girl. Her fist hit him right above the bladder like her father had showed her. The man stopped in his tracks. Jan's mind had switched into a mode that she didn't even know she had. She threw another punch. This one to his kidney. Then another. Jan's father had taught her that where you punched somebody was often as important as how hard you punched. He showed her how to throw a punch and how to locate it. The stronger she got, the more damage her blows would be able to do. She stepped in close then and did a textbook hip toss. She drew her leg back and kicked the man in the ribs as hard as she could. He coughed and went into a fetal position. Jan felt the blood rushing through her body, and her eyes darted from man to man. Luther had knocked his guy to the ground and loomed over the boss.
"Get out!", Luther yelled. "Get out of my place now!"
The boss had pulled his handkerchief to put against his bloody mouth. "Thirty days Jackson! You hear me! Thirty days!", and then he left.
Jan watched the three men leave. Her hands were still balled into fists and her adrenaline was pumping. She thanked her father in her mind. Here she was fighting, but her super strength was nowhere to be found. Luther shuffled over to the bar and sat down. He was still strong for his age, but he wasn't as young as he used to be.
"What's going on, Luther?", Jan asked, pulling a stool up across from him.
"Oh, come on. Don't treat me like a baby. What's going on? Who was that guy?"
"That's the guy who's going to buy this building. See, Jan, I don't own this building. We've always rented out the space for the club from old man Wilson. He died about a year ago, and his wife's sick in the hospital. She needs the money, so her children are putting the building up. That asswipe you saw has the highest bid with the trustee at the bank. In thirty days the sale becomes final if no one out bids him. I put a bid in, but that asshole is buying the whole block from the Wilsons. I can't afford all that."
"What, you gonna break open your piggy bank?", Luther asked without thinking.
Jan put her hand on his arm. "Luther, did you forget what my last name is? How much?"
"$1.1 million", he answered without looking up.
Jan whistled. "That's a lot of money."
Jan laughed and shook him. He looked up and she looked him in the eye. "I think I can help you. No, I know I can. This club's not going anywhere. Just you wait." Jan ran out the door to go home. Her talk with her father didn't go exactly as she had planned, however.
"Jan, baby, you can't just spend over a million dollars on something without any plan to get it back", Jack tried to explain to his daughter.
Jan was leaning against a stack of boxes full of belongings about to be moved. She had her arms folded, and she had a look that was mostly disappointed, but anger was starting to show up too. "I don't understand, Dad! You just spent all that money on the house, and it doesn't make money!"
"Not the way you think, Jan, but it does", Jack answered in a very calm tone of voice.
Jan was trying to talk to her father and keep her temper under control, but it wasn't working. She felt like her head was about to explode, and she could feel the strength coursing through her body. "So, you're just going to let the place go just like that?" She slammed her hand into the wall putting a hole in it the size of her fist. She didn't even notice. She put her head down and the tears started to flow. She covered her eyes and leaned against the blemished wall.
Jack sighed and sat down across from her. He took her by the shoulders and pulled her to him. He could feel the difference in her body when her power was loose. He didn't care. This was still his daughter. He hugged her and then pulled her back to arms length. "I think I have an idea."
"Yeah?" Jan sounded skeptical.
"Yeah, I do. Do you trust me?", he asked.
Jan looked her father in the eye. "Of course I trust you."
"Good. Now go upstairs and wash your face. Your mother is going to be home soon."
Nothing happened for a time. Jan would ask her father had he made progress on his idea, and he would assure her that he was. Jan still went to the club, but it was getting harder. She could tell that Luther and the entire crew was anxious, but no one asked her about it. It was always unsaid. She didn't want to stay away, but it was starting to get uncomfortable.
Jan stayed home one morning when her parents had both gone out. For the first time in a long time, she was completely down. She moped around the house for a long time doing nothing. She didn't play the piano; she didn't listen to music; she didn't even turn on a television. It was times like this when all of her problems seemed to press in on her. It was days like this when her number one problem came back to the front of her mind. Jan walked past the freshly repaired hole in the wall and realized all over again that she was a freak. If the world knew just how much of a freak she was, then they'd want to study her like a lab rat.
She took a brand new razor from a package near the kitchen and sliced gently across her forearm. Then she sat down and watched as over the next half an hour, the small cut went away completely. Her face registered the pain as she sliced into the same place. This time deeper. In about an hour the little cut was gone. Every time her body healed, her spirits sank.
Sandra's house was two doors down from Jan's. Sandra had just finished brushing her teeth when she looked out the window. She had a clear line of sight past the house next door to the back of the Caufield house. All the curtains and blinds were gone so Sandra could see inside. Most people would have only seen shapes from this far away, but not Sandra. She could make out the headlines of the newspaper sitting on the table next to the chair. She could also make out Jan. Sandra sighed and decided to get dressed quicker, so that she could go take Jan out somewhere. She could always tell when Jan was down, but she didn't realize just how down she was. She was about to turn away, when she finally saw what Jan was doing to herself.
Jan had sliced her arm twice, but now she sliced more. She ran a line from her wrist to near her elbow. She pressed the corner of the blade into her skin as hard as she could, and she sliced over and over again. The pain made her eyes water and her limbs shake, but she sliced deeper and deeper. Blood ran down her arm wetting the paper she had placed beneath her arm. Jan had cut deeply into the muscle and flesh until finally she felt the change in texture when she drew the blade. She had hit her bone. She dropped the bloody useless razor blade onto the table and looked at what she had done. It looked horrific and it felt even worse, but somewhere deep down there was a hope that it wouldn't heal. Maybe this time she had done something to prove to herself that she was like everybody else. She wrapped it up and walked around the house slowly holding her left arm up with her right. It hurt too bad to let it hang, plus blood dripped.
She walked around the house with a small smile waiting to tell her parents that she needed to go to the hospital. She didn't really notice that during the time she was waiting for her parents, the pain had nearly gone away. Jan didn't look at her arm again until the mid afternoon. When she unwrapped it and got past the dried blood and stuck paper, her arm was almost completely healed. Just a long scabbed over slice remained. Jan hung her head and cleaned up her mess. The next day, she woke up and called Sandra's number, but her friend didn't answer and she didn't know why. She wouldn't talk to Sandra again for over a week.
Jack finally had good news for Jan, and she was able to go to the club without feeling like an idiot. She was sitting next to Mose on the bandstand trying to learn a new technique when the front door of the club opened. A group of teens came inside carrying a huge boombox that blared out music as loud as it could. It sounded like the speakers were going to burst, but no, Jan and Mose weren't that lucky.
"Hey!", Mose tried to yell above the noise. "Can you turn that racket off!"
The gang looked at Mose and laughed. "Shut the fuck up old man!
This place 'bout to close down anyway! We just want to make it a real
club before they shut it down!" The group laughed again. Mose could
smell the marijuana from the stage. He turned to his left to find Jan,
but she was already gone. She could move pretty silently when she
wanted to. He went backstage to call the cops. He was too
old to fight and he didn't want to pull out his nickel plated .38 and
kill a kid if he didn't have to.
The gang huddled around the table dancing and jumping around to music. Jan calmly walked up to the stereo and pushed stop. They all turned.
"What the fuck! Don't touch my shit!", the leader yelled at Jan. One of the gang members pushed Jan back. Another one turned the stereo back on.
Jan sighed and looked over her shoulder at Mose. The old man was sitting on the edge of his piano bench motioning her to come back to the bandstand, but deep down he knew she wasn't going to. Jan knew it too. She stepped forward and this time ejected the cd, and slipped into one of the oversized pockets on her hoodie.
"Bitch, what the fuck?", they demanded.
"If you guys leave, I'll give the cd back."
The gang members stood up and all looked at Jan. She took a step back. "I don't have to leave no place. I go where ever I want to go. Now give back the fuckin cd before you end up bloody."
Jan looked the leader of the gang. He couldn't have been older than 20. "Take the radio and you guys leave, and I'll give the cd back."
"You think you're big stuff around here don't you? Everybody in the neighborhood looks out for you and treats you like a local. You ain't nothin but a rich girl tryin to get some cred." He reached into his waist and pulled out a chrome plated 9mm. He slowly held the gun out in front of him and pointed in Jan's direction. "This is how we do stuff down here. Think you can handle it little rich girl?"
Jan's eyes narrowed as she stared down the barrel of a gun for the first time in her life. It was a strange feeling. Part of her wondered what would happen if she got shot up close with a pistol. Would she die? She had caught a bullet fragment to the eye about 10 months earlier and it had hurt worse than anything ever. So no, she didn't want to get shot. She held her hands up. "You need a gun to get a cd from a little rich girl?" Jan's voice was a little shaky as she asked. "You might need a gun because I don't think any of you could get it off of me any other way."
The leader laughed and lowed his gun. "Someone go get that cd", he ordered with a chuckle and a dismissive wave.
Jan took another step back and her face changed from innocent and frightened to intensely focused. The only female gang member looked at the younger girl and laughed like she was looking at the funniest thing in the world. She looked like she had been a fight or two. She was shorter than Jan by a couple of inches, but she was bigger and heavier. She slammed her fist into her palm as she came closer to Jan. This girl was looking to officially join the gang, and beating up Jan would only help. Jan took a step back and spread her legs apart to get a firm base like her father had taught her. The girl didn't even notice. She tried to look casual as she came close to Jan. She got a sly look on her face and lunged at Jan. Jan drew her arm back quickly and let the punch fly. The punch rocked the girl to her toes. Jan had coiled her arm and thrown a right cross. It had just come from nowhere like a striking snake. The girl dropped to the ground motionless.
"One down", Jan said and pulled out the cd again. "Anybody else?" She smiled her sweetest smile, but her eyes weren't smiling. Jan didn't notice, but Mose had slipped off the bandstand to the rooms behind the stage.
Two guys came at her. One bent down to look at the girl Jan had hit. They other one took a swing at Jan. She leaned out of the way, and threw two quick jabs. His head snapped back, but he wasn't hurt. He wasn't hurt until Jan twisted her hips and stepped into her right hook. Jan's fist exploded against his face. The boy reeled. Jan grit her teeth and put everything she had into the left hook that hit him as his body was turning adding to the force. Jan's body was long, lean and strong. The blow echoed in the club, and a couple of his teeth bounced across the shiny plank floor. He was on his hands and knees trying to get back up. Jan took a long step forward brought her fist back and put all her power behind the punch that knocked the gang member to the ground. She raised her fist again, but the other guy had gotten behind her. He wrapped his arms around her. He wasn't a tall guy, but he was strong. His arms encircled Jan's body and he pulled her to him in a reverse bear hug. It was Jan's turn to moan as he poured on the pressure. There was no chance of him doing any real damage, but she couldn't take a deep breath either. She figured it would be a good time for her special strength to come out, but she couldn't feel any of it.
Jan struggled against the guy holding her as two more gang members approached. She tried to raise her legs to kick at them, but she couldn't raise them high enough. Then her foot brushed against his leg. She got an idea. She hooked her feet behind his knees, and crunched her body forward. Jan was a natural athlete and she'd always had hard abs, but after she started doing crunches, they'd become even harder. She just hoped that they were strong enough. Jan started curling her body. The gang member holding her tightened his grip on her upper body, but he was having to strain to keep his knees from bending. Jan's face was set in concentration and effort as she pulled against him. Trails of sweat ran down Jan's forehead stinging her eyes as she struggled. Her face was red and a thick veins pulsed on her forehead and neck as she tried her hardest. She also started trying to break his grip with her arms. Her slim arms hardened, but she knew that she wasn't strong enough to break out. It was the crunch that was giving him the most trouble. It was working, but not quickly enough. One of the other gang members drew his hand back and punched her in the gut. Jan felt the blow, but her abs were fully flexed this time and absorbed it. The punch just bounced off. She kept up her crunch and finally it worked. He couldn't maintain the reverse bear hug as he knee bent, and he started to fall. Jan pushed backwards as soon as her feet hit the ground. They both went down. She fell on top of him, but quickly rolled over his face ending up on her feet.
Two more rushed at her. The first one threw a hard wild punch. Jan moved her head quickly to one side, and his fist slid right by her face. She grabbed his shoulder and threw him using his own momentum. He knocked into a couple of chairs as he fell forward. Jan didn't turn her head quickly enough and a punch slammed into her jaw. The hard blow knocked her down. A kick impacted her chest flipped her over to her back. The gang member raised his right leg and brought it down to stomp on her face. Jan brought up her arms and caught his foot as it came down. Her arms bend, but she kept his foot from her face. He put all his weight on his right leg trying to make her arms collapse. Jan held her breath and pushed. She couldn't hold him up now matter how hard she tried. Her arms shook and her triceps muscles ached from the effort. Veins appeared on her arms and delts as she pressed with all she had, but it wasn't enough. Her arms were bending more. She was just a moment from failing completely. Just before the sole of his shoe touched her nose, Jan twisted his ankle. With all his weight on his right leg, he lost balance and fell. Jan hopped up. She looked around the room. Three of the gang members were down, but four of them were ready including the leader.
The strong one who had captured her in the bear hug roared and charged her. Jan's eyes went big in her head as he lunged at her. His fist was coming forward. Jan's reflexes were pretty quick, and she just ducked out of the way. She bent her knees and wrapped her arms around his waist. She got a good grip and scooped him off his feet. This was the latest move her father had taught her, and his favorite ever since his days a wrestler in high school. The guy was on his back with arms up in front of him. Jan scrambled past his flailing limbs and dropped a fist onto his chin. He tried to push her off, but she was moving around too much. She dropped another punch onto his face. This one stunned him. She threw another punch. Jan threw another and another. She didn't see the female gang member get back to her feet and take up the leg of a broken chair. The girl had blood running from her mouth, but she was focused only on one thing. She saw Jan's long brown hair going back and forth as she punched. The girl raised the chair leg high and started down. Jan heard the whoosh of the leg and moved to her right just in time for the blow to miss her head. It slammed against her left shoulder instead. Jan yelped in pain and fell to her right. Her right hand went to her shoulder, but she had to roll again as the girl brought the leg down again. This time it broke against the floor. Jan kicked the girl in the knee. The female gang member dropped to the floor just in reach of Jan's foot. She kicked the girl in the face with the sole of her shoe. Jan's hand went back to her shoulder, and she started to get up. She spun quickly and was about to put her hands down to push herself up, when she found herself staring down the barrel of that 9mm again. This time all humor was gone from the leader's face.
Jan looked up at him and realized that she was only a moment away from feeling what being shot was like. The leader's finger was on the trigger. Jan closed her eyes and waited for the pain.
"BPD, drop the gun or I'll fucking drop you!", a veteran police officer yelled. His rookie partner looked a bit surprised, but kept his gun aimed.
The leader took a long look at Jan before letting the gun drop to the floor next to her and raising his hands up. Seven more police officers came in with their guns drawn. Jan looked at them come into the club from her back. She sighed and slowly sat up. Her shoulder really hurt and her hands had begun to throb. Jan stood there and explained to the cops what had just happened.
"You trying to tell me, young lady, that you fought all seven gang members, and that you downed four of them?"
"Yes, officer. I'm pretty good at fighting."
The police sergeant shook his head. "You saw all of this, sir?", he asked Mose.
"Sure did", the old man said with a wide grin. "I went out to call the police when the boys first came in. I told Jan to come back stage with me. Next thing I know, this girl's out there thinking she's Charles Bronson or Bruce Lee or some shit. I'm just glad you came when you did. Luther's right this girl is hard headed." He put his hand on Jan's right shoulder and gave it a squeeze. Mose had only had one child, a son, but he had been killed in a crash. He was nearly as proud of Jan as he had been of his own child. Mose had figured that he had been destined to die alone with the story of his life locked up in his own brain and break the promise he had made a long time ago. When Mose had been a little boy, a local barrelhouse piano player had taught him how to play piano. The man never asked for money. The only thing he wanted was for Mose to promise that one day he would teach someone as he had been taught. Mose's son had no interest in the music, but Mose had hoped that a grandchild might take an interest. That dream and many other dreams died with Mose's son, but he had to remember what his mother had told him. "God is merciful", she would say. Jan had no idea why Mose was looking a little detached as he stood there. There was a lot on his mind.
He and Jan went back to the bandstand, and he stood behind her
as she played something slow. Her hands were still hurting, but she
serenaded the cops anyway. Mose had been letting her sit down on his
because he had found it a new owner. That piano bench had belonged to
Big Maceo in Chicago. Mose had brought it to Baltimore when he moved
there in 1949. Only people with 'it' could sit on that bench. That
bench was an honor that was bestowed. It was an honor that had to be
defended. Mose had never let any other piano player sit on his bench
before Jan had sneaked into the club all those months before.
But Jan was now his heir. As he watched the young teen play, he knew
he had made the right choice. He still had a lot to teach her,
but she was well on her way. There were two names carved into the
bottom of that old bench, Maceo Merriweather and Mose Chapman. In
another year or two Jan Caufield's name would be on the bottom of that
bench, and it would be hers to defend, and hers to pass on one day.
The last police cars left 608 just after opening. A long black Cadillac limousine pulled in front of the club just then and two men got out. One of them had been to the club before, but the other one was still wondering why he was there. He was a short stout man standing just 5'8", but weighing over 200 pounds. He had thick shoulders and thick arms and thick legs. The man was built like a human bull, and he had a personality to match. He leaned over and dusted off some debris that had attached itself to his $2000 shoes before standing up and straightening his very well tailored suit.
"Jack, what the hell am I doing here again?", Francis Da Costa asked his friend.
"I already told you that this place is a gold mine, Frank. Just come inside", Jack Caufield said.
The two men walked inside and the place was already filling up. They found a table, but Frank was fussing the entire time. "You better not be wasting my time, Jack. You know how I hate to waste my fucking time." Frank's face was getting red already. He looked around the club rudely and snorted.
"This is the place I've been talking about. Just look at it. Look at the people. It still early and its already full." Jack looked up towards the bandstand and was more than a little disappointed to find it empty. He also didn't see his daughter. This wasn't going to plan so far. Luther came from behind the bar and stood next to the table. Jack stood up and shook his hand. "Hey, Frank, this is Luther Jackson, the owner of this establishment."
"Nice to meet you", Luther greeted Frank with a big smile.
"Yeah, yeah. Jack here tells me that you have good food. I haven't eaten a bite since this morning just so I could try your food. Bring me one of every fucking thing on the goddamn menu, and please sir make it as quick as you can. I can't do any kind of business on an empty fucking stomach. You know what I mean?"
Luther slapped the man on the back. "I do. What do you want to drink?"
"Beer", Jack answered quickly.
"Same", Frank answered quickly.
The food came out quickly and there was a feast in front of the two men. Frank tucked his napkin into his collar and ate quickly licking his fingers and guzzling beer between bites. "Food's good, Jack. You were right about that, but I don't see that damn atmosphere you've been talking about. I can find joints like this all over the damn place."
Just as he finished talking there came a loud but delicate cascade of notes on the piano. The rest of the band joined, and Jan played to open the first show of the night. That got the crowd into it. By now Jan's hands were totally fine, and they glided over the keys expertly. The people danced, and shouted at the stage. Jan would smile at them and do some of the performance tricks she had learned from watching Mose, but putting her own spin on it. After about fifteen minutes, Jan introduced Mose. Then the show really got going.
"Okay, the fucking atmosphere is getting better", Frank admitted. "But why the hell should I sink more than a million fucking dollars in to this neighborhood?"
"Because some big developers are going to put this place out of business just to build some fucking yuppie shopping center."
Frank sucked his tooth and looked around the club. "You're a son of a bitch, Jack. You know that!" Frank's face was getting red.
Luther came back over to their table. "You gentlemen enjoying everything?", he asked.
Frank didn't even hear him. He looked up at Luther with the strangest expression on his face. "How long you owned this place?"
Luther frowned. "Well, my brother opened it in 1948 after he got out of the Army. I came up here after Korea in '53. We ran it together, but he died in a wreck back in '64. So I guess we've been in business 51 years and I've been here for 46."
"That's a long time. Just a family business that's been open and obviously thriving for 51 years."
Frank's face was beet red now. "Jack, you are a goddamned son of a bitch. You know that."
Jack just grinned and slowly folded his arms on the table.
"When I was a little boy, Luther, my parents had little butcher shop. All the people in the neighborhood used to come to our shop. I met my wife at that shop, but in '67 some rich asshole bought all the buildings on our block and tore them down for some bullshit apartments. My father was never the same after that. This asshole Jack knows how I feel about the little man being put down for no fucking reason." He sighed and then stuck out his hand. "Just shake my fucking hand, and I can promise you, Mr. Jackson, that this will be the best joint you can imagine." Luther and Frank shook hands, and everything worked out after that. The 608 was closed for a while for renovations. When it reopened it looked almost the same. Everything had been updated, but it kept the same feel. Most importantly it kept the same owner.
"Man, that was touching", Alisha uttered. "I knew Jan loved this place because she talks about it all the time, but now I understand why."
Luther chuckled. "Yeah, this place gets under your skin and you can't get it out."
The crowd was starting to fill the club. It was a mix of old regulars and more affluent people looking for an authentic place, rather than the over researched cookie cutter clubs. The two groups mixed more freely inside the 608 than they ever did out on the street. There were other clubs in the area now. All of them were new and built on the model of the 608, but there was a buzz inside this club that none of the others had. The locals and the new crowd had heard that Jan was back in town, and she was going to play both shows. She had a reputation as the best around. She and the band had a power packed show planned.
Jan walked out with the band to raucous applauds. She had a bottle of cold water in her hand as she waved out to the people in the club. The rhythm section was already playing when Jan sat down on her piano bench and started playing. The sound guy had to turn up the volume for the band to be heard over the crowd. Jan was all smiles until the bass player, Morris, got a serious look on his face stepped forward and tapped Jan on the shoulder. "Look at this shit", he whispered in her ear.
Jan stopped playing immediately and looked out over the people's heads. The crowd turned and looked towards the front door. "Well, look what we have here", Jan said into the microphone.
Sandra, Alisha, and Sara looked at the front door. Sara perked up and started smiling. There were six people standing there. Two of them held guitars with cords coiled and wrapped around their shoulders. There was a bass player, a drummer, and one more man who was the keyboardist and singer. He was the one who spoke up. "Hey, we're from Kinks down the street. We'd heard that the 608 has the best house band in the state."
The crowd cheered and Jan put her arms up to quiet them down. "That's right! We'll kick the hell out of anybody!" The crowd cheered again.
"Aw shit!", Luther exclaimed and slammed his hand down on the bar.
Alisha looked around as the six guys started towards the bandstand. "Would somebody tell me what's going on."
"Somebody's about to get their headcut", Paul said and tapped the bar for another beer. Luther didn't notice, but one of the other tenders did. They brought Paul a fresh brew.
Alisha poked Sara on the shoulder as the blond girl was getting off her stool. She was humming and massaging her throat. "Where are you going?", Alisha asked.
"To the stage", Sara replied quickly.
"Someone explain what's going on!", Alisha demanded.
Sara turned back around. "When other musicians walk into a place uninvited with their instruments that's a challenge. Its called a cuttin' session. Only the best band wins. Jan's band's just been challenged, and I'm going to get in on some of this. I've only been in one of these."
"Did you win?", Luther asked.
Sara frowned and looked insulted. "Of course." She took off towards the stage.
The 608 band let the challengers on the stage. They plugged in and got ready. The keyboard player was about to sit down when Jan stopped him. "You have to earn this seat", she said and brought him out the regular bench. He sat down full of confidence. Jan took the mic before he started. "Ok, folks. Let's see what they've got." With that, the cutting session began.
Alisha and Sandra watched Jan's body language as the other band
played. They were pretty darn good, and during warm ups Alisha hadn't
heard the 608 band play anything to rival this one. "She
looks nervous", Alisha told Sandra.
"What? Jan? I don't think so."
"These guys are good."
Sandra laughed. "Yeah, these guys are good, but the 608 band is going to smoke them. You've never heard them when they get going. Just wait."
The Kink's band had the club rocking after only a few minutes. They were good and the music spilled out onto the street. There were doubts in the crowd after the first band was finished. Jan smiled and clapped for them. "Good job guys."
She sat down at the piano and cracked her knuckles. She had to admit that those guys had been pretty good. The 608 house band got ready to play. Jan turned and looked at them. "Let me have it here for a second boys. I'm gonna give these folks some old school." Jan closed her eyes, and she played the last boogie Mose Chapman had ever taught her. It started low on the piano and built up like an oncoming freight train. Jan's long fingers stretched out to hit notes that most pianist couldn't. From the first note, Jan's piano playing had a certain authority that commanded people's attention. They didn't cheer and they didn't dance. They just listened. At first her right hand just tickled the ivories, but before long she had sped up, and the joint started rocking.
"Oh play that thing girl!", one woman near the front yelled. The rest of the crowd got behind the woman and started yelling.
Jan smiled. That's what she had been waiting for. She had always known how to get a crowd going. By now her fingers were just a blur over the keys and the music was flying, but when the crowd started yelling she turned it up a couple of more notches. The pianist from Kink's house band had thought that he was a better pianist until then. He saw then that this young woman had gears that he just didn't have, and she was just getting warmed up. By now several couples were up and dancing. Jan kept the boogie going hard. She leaned over to the mic. "All right boys, you want to help me play a bit?"
With those words the band came in and the 608 club jumped to its feet. Jan toned it down just a little and the rest of the band showed their chops. One by one they showed the other band who was boss. After every member of the house band had gotten a solo, Jan leaned over to the mic. "Do you like what you hear?", Jan yelled as she kept up her playing. The crowd roared loud enough to be heard down the block. "That's what I like to hear. First of all let me thank the band from the Kink club. I'd like to thank them for making the trip down here to the 608 so we could show them how its done!" The crowd roared again. "Well, I've got a special treat for you folks. Straight out of the great state of Mississippi, the home and birthplace of the Blues that we love so much. My friend and one of the best vocalist you will ever hear. Ladies and gentlemen please welcome Miss Sara Hewitt!"
Sara took a deep breath and walked out onto the stage. She didn't do it often, but Sara had to admit that she loved to perform, and after that show the house band had just put on, she knew that she was going to have to deliver. The band was quiet for a while. "Let's do this one kinda raw. Give me an e"
Sara took the mic in her hand and pushed her hair back and got
ready. She looked out at the crowd making eye contact before she took a
deep breath and shouted. "I rolled and I tumbled/ I cried the whole
night long!" The crowd was on its feet before Sara had finished the
"Good Lord, Jan wasn't kiddin. That damn girl can sing!" They all looked at Sara strut her way across the stage. People danced in front of the low stage and those not on the dance floor were clapping and shouting. Sara poured everything she had into the song, and the crowd loved it. The place rocked all night and the headcutting session was over almost as soon as it began, but Jan invited the visitors on stage for an extended jam session that had the place over flowing with people. It was early in the morning before the crowd started breaking up. Jan was all smiles as she found Sandra in the back of the club.
"Man, Sara can sing her ass off!", Sandra exclaimed
"Tell me about it. I tried to tell you guys."
"And you were even better than I remembered", Sandra told her friend.
"Thanks", Jan replied, but then the smile fell from her face. She took Sandra by the arm to a side of the room. "I never got the chance to thank you for what you did to break me out last weekend.
"Jan, you don't have to thank me. I mean you'd have done the same thing for me."
"Of course I would have, but you were in more danger. And I never really told you about my special.... my abilities", Jan said.
"You mean that you can heal?"
"Yeah", Jan said in a tired and horse voice. "I meant to tell you, but I just didn't want you to know about me."
Sandra took Jan's hand in hers and started laughing. "Jan, I've known since we were in grade school. You remember that time when I avoided you for a week?"
"Well, I saw you slice a canyon down the middle of your arm. Blood was all over the place."
"You saw that!?!"
"Yeah, you didn't have any curtains up just before you guys were moving. Anyway, I was going to tell my parents about it, or maybe your parents, but I saw you later that night and there was just a scar there. Then the next day I saw you through the window and there wasn't a scar at all. So, I just kinda figured out that there was something different about you. Took me a week to get over it though."
Jan frowned. "But you never said anything."
Sandra shrugged her shoulders. "You're my friend, and I knew that you didn't want me to know. So I pretended that I didn't. I'll admit that I didn't know to what extent you had special powers, but, Jan, why do you think I never asked you how I got out of my burning car? Or why do you think I never mentioned the fact that after that wreck, I was in a coma for a couple of days and you didn't even have a scratch? I already knew the answer. I figured that you would tell me when you thought the time was right, or maybe you would never tell me at all."
Jan wrapped her long arms around Sandra. "I don't even know what to say."
"You don't have to say anything. I'm just glad you're my friend."
Jan wiped a tear from the corner of her eye. She looked at Sandra and then past her to Sara and Alisha and then past them to Luther. "You know, sometimes I think that I just don't deserve the folks in my life. There're all better people than me."
Sandra looked up with the most serious expression on her face. "Jan, everybody on the planet should have a friend like you." Sandra took a deep breath and then looked up to Jan. "Oh, stop crying. Sometimes you are just a big baby. A big baby who could curl my whole body."
Jan laughed and wiped her eyes then shook her head. "No, not with normal strength I couldn't. I'm pretty strong." She leaned down and flexed her right arm in Sandra's face. Her bicep rose up and formed a sculpted peak. "But you look like you've put on a couple of pounds since the last time I tried to lift you."
"I have not!"
"Just kidding. Let's go."
"Yeah", Sandra began then hit Jan in the arm. "Let's go."
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
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