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Disclaimer: The characters of Angel are owned by 20th Century Fox and Mutant Enemy; the------------------------------------------------
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arts, I won't object. ;-) Oh, and Bob is *my* character - keep your hands off!
Logan drove back to the stop, tires sliding slightly on the new layer of ice forming on the roadway, and at first he wasn't sure why he was coming back here - surely the pass wasn't open yet. No, that was a lie, he knew why he was coming back here - Pat knew. Pat knew Fidget was a mutant, and how did he? Pat wasn't the brightest bulb in the drawer - he'd never put together that he was a mutant, even though he never had a bruise after the beatings he allowed the rednecks to give him. So how could he put together that Fidget, whom he almost never saw, was a mutant?
The answer? He couldn't - someone told him. Someone knew what Fidget was, knew he was a trouble magnet, and warned him. Logan wanted to know who - and Pat was going to tell him, whether he liked it or not.
In fact, he rather hoped he didn't want to tell him; he hoped he was stubborn and found the courage to not be intimidated by him ... not until he got a chance to soften him up.
He knew, on one level, he shouldn't be looking forward to hurting someone. And yet he did. He tried not to focus on it, or think about it too much.
Up here it was genuinely snowing, coming down in fat white flakes, the type they liked to show in greeting cards and Christmas movies, the kinds kids liked to run around and play in. He didn't know if the latter was true or not; there were certainly no kids at the stop to test the theory.
As he crossed the parking lot, the white carpet of new snow crunched under his feet like pulverized bone, and he could feel the bass of the music playing on the jukebox from out here, hear the treble if he opened up his hearing just a bit. It was more of the shitkicker stuff. Goddamn it, he hated truck stops.
Once inside, it didn't take him long to find Pat. He was speaking to Arnie - the first shift bartender - at the bar, and shut up as soon as he saw him, giving him a curious look. "I ain't here for the fights," he said, coming up to them, ignoring Arnie's evil look - Arnie never liked him, for whatever reason.
Pat tried to pretend he was relieved, but failed. "What can I do for you then, Logan?"
"In your office." Logan jerked his head in the appropriate direction.
He looked understandably wary. "Is there a problem?"
"Somethin' happened last night, and I don't think you want me discussin' it around all these people." Logan didn't wait for his response, he simply started heading towards his office, sure he wasn't about to let him be alone with the lockbox full of cash in his third desk drawer.
He was right. By the time he reached the door, Pat was hot on his heels. "Look, Logan, I know it's shitty about the fights - "
"I told you it ain't about that." He entered his office, crossed his arms over his chest and glared at Pat until he came inside and shut the door.
"So what is this about?" He was trying to play it casual and cool, but Logan could smell the start of nervous sweat just beginning to ooze from his pores. He went behind his desk, taking a protective, defensive position. Shit, he was still scared of him.
"That white haired kid who came in last night - why'd you kick him out? He wasn't causin' trouble."
Pat looked baffled, deciding to shoot for ignorance. "Who?"
Logan leaned against the door, making it perfectly clear that if he ever expected to leave this room, he was going to tell him what he wanted to know. "You know damn well who I mean - you called him Gordon, right? What was that about?"
Pat tried to stare him down, but almost immediately gave up. He pretended to look for something in the mess of off track betting racing forms on his desk. "How did you hear that, exactly?"
"Neither of you ever learned how to whisper." Well, close enough - he didn't really need to know more.
If Pat thought he was lying, he was never going to call him on it. Chicken shit. "Look, I got fights to set up. Why don't you find the kid and ask him?"
"I've tried; I can't. It's like he dropped off the face of the earth." Unlike most other people, Logan knew he was a good liar when he wanted to be; he could modulate his own physical responses, and he was never afraid of what would happen if he got caught in one. After all, he had to lie to survive. He knew it was possible this made him a complete sociopath, but that was another thing he didn't like to think about.
And there it was - a twitch in his right eyelid that was too subtle to be a wince, but more like a nervous tic. Why the nerves? Were innocent men this nervous? "He prob'ly got a lift outta here - "
"With the pass closed?"
"He could've taken the main highway out."
"If he wanted to head back towards civilization. But he was terrified of civilization, and you know why, don't you, Pat?"
That made him glance up sharply, grey eyes narrowing in suspicion, trying to bluff his way past his own fear. "I have no idea what the fuck you're on about, Logan. What the fuck was he? A friend of yours?"
"Like I have friends," he replied tartly. Well, he knew Pat would have brought it up eventually if he hadn't. "You said you didn't want his kind in here. What "kind' was that?"
"He was dealing drugs. I - "
Pat stared at him, and in spite of his fear, he was getting genuinely angry now; cornered animals often did. "What the fuck is this to you, Wolverine?"
Logan smirked at him, amused at his use of his fighting name. What response did he think he'd get from that? Shame? He should have known by now he had no shame - that part of him was missing too. "Why did you throw him out, Pat?"
He scoffed, and once again fell to hiding behind a wall of emotion to obscure his duplicity. "He was a fag. If I let him hang around, he'd have gotten himself killed anyways."
What an interesting choice of phrase. "You're still lying."
"Oh, you think so? If one of those interstate truckers even suspected he was fag, he'd end up - "
"Just cut the bullshit," he growled. Until this moment, he never realized that hearing someone referred to as a 'fag' bothered him. Maybe once you'd been called a "mutie", all slurs hurt. "Who told you about him? I want a name."
Pat went back to being startled, but it was only partially an act. He was just now starting to realize he might not be able to talk his way out of this. "What? What are you talking about?"
Logan stalked towards the desk, moving with the same slow deliberateness he used in the ring when closing in on an injured opponent, and he knew it wasn't lost on Pat. He lowered his head, tensed his shoulders, and looked at Pat while keeping the rest of his face down - a predatory posture, one of imminent attack. But he kept his hands hanging loose at his sides, not fists - not yet. He couldn't give in completely to his rage, because he might not get his answers.
Pat backed up a step, making his chair scrape against the floor until it hit the wall. "L-look, Logan, I don't know what you want from me," he said, a nervous tremor in his voice. He understood he was in for it now; his fear stank like vinegar.
"I want the name of the man who told you Gordon was a mutant," he said, quietly, calmly. He felt like he was two seconds away from exploding again, and he was fighting to stay in control. Pat had no idea how dangerous he could be - his anger was often bigger and stronger than he was, a beast he couldn't hope to tame. Sometimes he was just dragged along for the ride.
Pat's eyes flicked to a desk drawer, and Logan warned him, "A gun won't help you."
He must have guessed right, as Pat's eyes widened until they almost bulged, and he backed up to the wall himself now, the back of his legs banging into the chair and sending it sliding aside on its casters. "Oh my god," he gasped, sounding like he was on the verge of hyperventilating. "You're one of them, aren't you? "
One of them. Oh, what a lovely phrase that was. One of them, spat with so much venom - one of the trash, one of the muties, one of the freaks. Logan vaulted over the desk one handed, landing on his feet in front of Pat and never losing eye contact with him. This freaked him out so much Logan could hear his heart beating from here, a desperate thud thud thud of someone with too much adrenaline dumping into their system at once, a heart not quite built to take this much stress. "I want an answer," he growled in response, his voice little more than a rumble in his throat. He wanted to pick Pat up by his scrawny neck and squeeze it until his head popped off like a cap on a bottle - Logan had a feeling he could actually do that.
Pat was clearly desperate to get out of this; he'd probably never been this scared in his life. "I have money - "
"I don't want your fucking money," he spat, grabbing him by the throat and slamming him so hard against the wall his head bounced off it, and a small framed dollar bill ( his first? ) fell off the far wall and crashed to the floor, the glass shattering on impact.
He didn't get it, did he? None of them got it. He could take their fucking money whenever he wanted; he could take anything and everything they owned whenever he felt like it. But he didn't. He didn't know why he didn't - he didn't think it was anything as prosaic as conscience or guilt - but he could own them all. The bottom line was, he didn't want to. He wanted nothing to do with people and their fucked up world. He was only peripherally in it because he had to be; there was no other reason. "I want the name," he snarled, his face inches from Pat's. It was hard not wince at the reek of fear coming off of him now; it was pungent enough to make his eyes water.
"They'll kill me," Pat gasped, almost sobbing.
"Either them or me," he replied coldly, slamming him back against the wall one more time for emphasis. "Die now or die later - your choice."
Pat swallowed hard, and tried to call up his last reserves of courage. "I'll call the police. You won't be safe in this town - "
Logan growled, a noise that was as derisive as it was angry, and said, "Call them. Do you think they can hold me? Do you think they can even slow me down? Call them. And once I'm through with them, I'm coming back for you."
Pat was shaking now, trying not to cry, a single muscular contraction away from pissing himself. He looked like the sad old man he was, and Logan felt an inexplicable twist of guilt in his stomach for bullying someone so obviously weak. But he made this bed - he deserved the consequences. "Branson," Pat stammered, tears leaking from his rheumy eyes. "Roger Branson."
The name was vaguely familiar, but it took Logan a moment to figure out where he'd heard it before. A customer, yes, but also ... "Fuck," Logan cursed, and slammed his forehead into Pat's. His eyes rolled up inside his head, and Logan let him go so his body could collapse to the floor like the sack of shit it was.
He should have known. It made the most sense, didn't it?
Roger Branson. The man who looked the other way as far as the illegal fighting and betting going on at the stop went.
The cop. The police chief of Whitewater.
Oh, holy shit.
But if they were corrupt, you were pretty much fucked.
What Logan didn't understand was who told Branson. He couldn't have known right away, or Fidget would have been dead the second he set foot in this town. So someone informed him, and he took care of the "problem".
It made the sloppy crime scene instantly suspect. Guns would have drawn attention, so they used knives, but they didn't use them well - because they wanted him to suffer? Because they wanted ... they wanted information out of Fidget? And why would cops be suspected if the crime scene looked so fucking amateur?
It wasn't hard to find out where Branson lived - all he had to do was call information. Why would he have an unlisted address or phone number out here? What did he have to be afraid of? He was the law around these parts - people were supposed to be afraid of him.
But Logan wasn't. Why should he be afraid of the bastard? It wasn't like he had anything to lose.
Whitewater was too small to technically have a good side of town, but there was a house set apart from all the others, on three acres of land now covered with snow, and with a mountain so close it looked like it was in their backyard. The house was a large three story structure with lots of wood shingles and a dramatically peaked Alpine style roof - it looked like it may have once been a ski lodge.
Up the long drive, which had been cleared of snow, he saw a a four wheel drive truck and a big, shiny new SUV parked beneath a protective carport- the truck still had snow on it, so it must have been out recently; the SUV was clean, suggesting it hadn't. He wondered which one belonged to Branson.
He walked up the freshly shoveled stone steps to the front door, which had a stained glass window inset at the top. He remembered they were called transoms, but he had no idea why he knew that. He shook his head at his own curious mind and knocked on the door, not looking for a doorbell. Frankly, he could just walk in the door - locked or not - but he could smell at least one woman, and had no interest in terrorizing his family. He just wanted Branson.
Did one of the women smell familiar?
He heard female voices coming down the hall, one of them laughing, but he heard only one set of footsteps coming towards the door. When it opened, he found himself looking at a tall, elegant but matronly looking woman. She was in her late forties or early fifties, with a tidy halo of tightly curled blondish brown hair, and clear blue eyes that gazed at him with a sort of haughty suspicion, as if he could just barely be of interest to her. She wore a loose brown sweater and tan slacks that didn't quite hide her slender, stick like figure. He definitely preferred women with a few more curves. "Can I help you?" The woman he assumed was Branson's wife said, studiously polite but frigidly cold.
"Is Roger home?" He asked, pretending familiarity. It was more likely to get a positive response.
She studied him curiously, obviously trying to figure out how he knew her husband. "No, he's out on call. Is there something I can do for you?"
Logan shook his head. Maybe it was time to call the police on himself. "No, I'll catch up to him - "
"Thanks, Diane," a woman said, coming up behind her, slipping on her down jacket. "I needed to - " She stopped in her tracks when she saw him standing on the doorstep, and even he paused, surprised. The woman did smell familiar.
It was Callie.
He recovered more quickly than she did, looking back at the woman who must have been Diane. " - later. Thanks." He then looked back at Callie and gave her a polite nod." Ma'am." He didn't wait for her response, he simply turned and left, walking down to the carport, where he knew they'd be unable to see him. He crossed his arms over his chest, leaned against the truck ( which must have been Callie's ), and waited for her to join him.
How coincidental. Callie being here, at the house of Branson. He was starting to wonder how much of this was coincidence, and how much of this was set up.
He heard her say her goodbyes to Diane, who asked, "Did you know him?"
"No, I just ... for a second, I thought he was someone else." The hesitation was so obvious, he was surprised Diane didn't call her on it.
He heard her steps as she approached, and they slowed as she must have guessed he was waiting for her. "Are you following me?" She asked, her voice small and strangely defeated.
He gave her an odd look for that - what a weird question. But as she made her way to her truck, Callie was studiously avoiding looking at him; she pretended to be more interested in searching her key ring. Her black down coat was way too large for her; she was swallowed by it, rendered both shapeless and oddly young, like a little girl wearing her daddy's coat. Her long dark hair veiled her face, so he couldn't see her expression. "No, of course not. Did you set me up?"
Finally she looked up at him sharply, shocked and confused. "What? What are you talking about?" He noticed she was now wearing a ring on her left hand - a wedding ring. So that's what she was hiding.
She wasn't lying, as far as he could tell, but she was scared. "How do you know Branson?"
She blinked rapidly, brown eyes wide, and he knew she was torn between rage and tears. Her eyes had a tilt that suggested some Inuit blood in her family; maybe that's why she had such a lovely face. "How do you?" She snapped back, settling on anger.
"I don't." He had to tread very carefully here - he didn't dare reveal too much until he knew what her role was in all of this. "Something happened to a .... friend of mine, and I think he knows something about it. Your turn."
She glanced back down at the clean cement carport, and briefly fumbled with her keys again. They jingled like chains. "Get in the car," she said, that strangely defeated tone back in her voice. "I don't want Diane hearing this."
To trust or not to trust - such a weird conundrum. And things were made even more awkward by the circumstances. They knew each other's bodies, but otherwise knew absolutely nothing about each other - intimacy with a huge chasm of mystery. Still, when she unlocked the passenger side door, he waited until she walked around to the driver's side before he got in.
The leather seats were comfortable, the interior was scrupulously neat, and smelled very faintly of a man. A man who smoked, who had something to do with gun oil, and man ... who used an odd smelling hair product. Hadn't he smelled that in the alley where he found Fidget?
As soon as she got in and slammed the door, he said, "He's a cop."
She looked at the steering wheel, tears welling in her eyes. "He is. I thought you were leaving town."
"I'm tryin', but things keep gettin' in the way." He studied her profile, the dejectedness of her posture, and realized she seemed much older than she actually was, as if life had beaten her down so much she had almost no fight left in her; a complete one eighty from the sexy, confident woman he met in the bar. He guessed she wasn't a cop, just a cop's wife, but that begged the question why was she at the stop, looking for a one night stand? That was pretty fucking dangerous, wasn't it?
Yes, it was. That was the point. "He was out that night, wasn't he? You knew he wouldn't come by Mc Quarrie's, so he wouldn't run into you."
"I don't want to talk about this," she said, a tear trailing down her cheek. "I'm sorry, okay? I drank too much, it was a mistake - "
"You weren't drunk," he replied, not rubbing it in, just pointing it out. There was a special smell for the intoxicated too, and she wasn't. Two rum and Cokes had been enough to make her happy, but not out of her mind.
She looked at him, eyes shining with tears. "Is that an accusation?"
"No. Look, I don't care, Callie - I'm not out to fuck up your life."
She scoffed and looked away, shaking her head. "Why not? Everyone else is."
Her hair slid aside from her throat, and he saw some red marks on the side of her neck. They were shaped like thick fingers, and were back far enough that they could pretty much only be seen from this angle. Now pieces started to click into place. Some people drank, some did drugs, but those weren't the only self-destructive behaviors, were they? "He hurts you." An observation, not a question. And he hated this man - whoever he was - just for being on the scene of Fidget's murder. God, this cocksucker was asking to get beaten until he didn't even resemble a human being anymore. Which was only right, because he was a poor excuse for one.
And Logan felt sick, because he realized now why she seemed so submissive when she came out to the carport - he was a man, and she was expecting him to get violent with her, to beat her. And she thought a posture of immediate surrender would lessen the severity of it.
He didn't know how hard done by she had been in her life, and he didn't want to know, as god knew he had enough shit he was dealing with. But he was furious on her behalf, just like he was furious on Fidget's behalf. But why? Didn't he have enough shit he was dealing with? He didn't need to take on other people's problems.
But he hated bullies; he loathed them instinctively, like it was a purely atavistic response. Anyone who would target someone they knew was weaker than they were deserved to have their balls kicked up into their chest cavity. They wanted to beat on a kid, a woman? Fine - he wanted them to try and beat on him. Take on a man for once.
"He was out with the boys," Callie said, seemingly apropos of nothing. She had turned away from him completely, as if checking the side mirror for anyone who might be sneaking up behind them. Maybe she was. And while she was trying desperately to hold back the tears, they were still falling, no matter how quickly she wiped them away. "I knew he wouldn't be home until dawn, and ... I didn't really want to be there."
"Home." She sniffed, swallowed hard. " I just wanted to feel something."
It disturbed him that he could understand that completely. "Do you know where he was that night?"
She shrugged a single shoulder, shook her head."Delroy's probably. I don't know."
Right at the crime scene. Bastards. But then again, a man who would beat a woman was capable of absolutely anything - murder was not a huge logical leap, just a tiny side step. "Have you tried to get away?"
That made her laugh, but it was bitter, and when she looked at him, her eyes were hard with anger even though they still glistened with tears. "Where the fuck am I gonna go, Logan? He's a cop."
He had a feeling she had tried to escape before, but almost didn't survive it. Maybe she would have preferred not to have. Maybe that's why she played Russian roulette by sleeping with strange men, any one of which could turn out to be a psychopath who would kill her and leave her dumped on a roadside - assuming her psycho hubby didn't find out about her fucking around and kill her first. But hey, that would solve the problem of being trapped in an abusive marriage, wouldn't it? God, he hated humanity - he really did. "Is your husband home?"
That question seemed to startle her, make her posture stiffen. "If he was, do you think I'd have been able to go out?"
He assumed that meant he was obsessively controlling. If he knew beyond a doubt that she had fucked around on him, she'd be as dead as Fidget. "Take me there. Quickly pack a bag, and hit the road. When he comes home, he'll find me waiting for him. You won't have to worry about him anymore."
She stared at him in shock, tears falling from her eyes due to the influence of gravity. "What? What are you saying?"
"I'm pretty sure he's one of the guys that killed my friend. I want to have a talk with him, and I don't want you there."
"Killed? I thought you implied hurt."
She looked out the windshield, tears welling in her eyes once more, and she covered her mouth with her hand, as if afraid she might scream or vomit. "I always thought he'd kill me," she said, her voice breaking in a sob. But she fought to get it under control, and he admired her for that.
"He won't get the chance."
She swallowed hard and seemed to get her emotions under control, but she still didn't look at him directly. "Are you going to kill him?" Her voice had no strength at all, as if he had just gut punched her, but all he heard was fear - whether it was for him, herself, or her abusive husband he had no idea.
"I don't know," he admitted. "But I promise you he won't be coming after you. He won't bother you ever again."
"How can you promise me that?"
"To get to you he'll have to get through me. He can't."
Now she did look at him, and her eyes had a stark fear in them. He understood now she was afraid for him. "He's a cop."
"So? He's just a man."
"And you're not?"
What did he have to lose? "No. I'm more than that."
For a long time, she stared at him, her dark eyes boring into his, and when she decided not only what exactly he was saying but also that he was telling the truth, her eyes widened slightly, causing a few stray tears to leak out. She looked away again, shaking so hard he was afraid she was having a seizure, and she paled so dramatically he was sure she was going to vomit or pass out. Was it being alone in a car with a mutant, or the realization that she fucked a mutie last night, or both?
They sat in silence for a long time, although it wasn't as awkward as it had been when they first started talking, and he listened to the soft plop of snowflakes falling to the ground outside. Normal people didn't hear that, did they?
She was still shaking, although her color was better as she moved the keys towards the ignition. They slipped from her trembling hand, but he caught them before they could hit the floorboards. She looked briefly startled, but then said, "Some reflexes you have there."
He just shrugged. What could he say? They came in handy.
She plucked the keys from his hand and managed to get them in the ignition this time. She seemed to be barely trembling anymore. She turned the engine over and let it warm up a minute, then said quietly, "Make him hurt."
"Darlin'," he reassured her. "That's a given."
While she threw some things together, he stood to one side of the curtains beside the bay window in their living room, which gave a wonderfully unobstructed view of the road, their small gravel driveway, and their snow covered front lawn. There was no way he was getting with fifty feet of this place without him knowing about it first. He just hoped that she was long gone before he showed his cowardly, mutant hating face.
It turned out she was quite eager to leave. She had a bag packed in under ten minutes, and she seemed almost flushed with the speed of it, fear still oozing out of every pore. But she wasn't crying anymore - she had given that up just as they left the Branson place. "He has lots of guns," she warned him, coming into the living room. She carried only a single suitcase with her, and his respect for her increased a notch. There was rarely if ever any object worth dying for - she could always buy what she had to leave behind.
He nodded, not at all surprised. "I smelled the gun oil."
She raised an eyebrow at that, but went on. "There's one in a locked drawer in the nightstand, one in the upper shelf of the closet, another he hides in the living room -"
"I'll find 'em, don't worry."
"Should I ask how?"
He shook his head, because he didn't really think she wanted to know. "Doesn't matter. Bullets don't do much to me anyways."
Now that really surprised her. "They don't?"
"Well,they sting. Trust me, he's got nothing that can drop me." Unlike Fidget. He hoped he was expecting to battle another Fidget - and he was looking forward to fuckface ( according to Alisha, his name was David Farris ) pulling a knife on him.
She considered that a moment, and he smelled the slightest decrease in her fear. "So I guess asking if you're sure you'll be okay is idiotic."
"I'm always okay," he told her, kind of touched that she gave a damn. It wasn't like they actually knew each other, nonetheless meant anything to each other. They were still just strangers who slept together once. Well, technically twice, if you wanted to be nitpicky, but all in the same night.
She nodded, and came up to him on her way to the door. He was expecting a kiss, but not quite the passionate one he received. She kept her warm hand on the back of his neck even as she pulled away, and looked him straight in the eyes when she asked, "Why?"
Why help her or why do this? They were both damn good questions. "Because I have to," he said, surprising even himself. Well, someone had to do something, and if everyone else was too stupid or too afraid, it fell to him, didn't it?
Fidget would get no justice. Whatever he died for would be swept under the carpet, because it was corrupt cops that killed him. And Logan would never find out what "Purity" meant, and he wasn't about to stand for that. He would know what it meant, and why killing Fidget because of it was so important, even if he had to go through every cop in this goddamn town, one by one.
Now that sounded like a fun evening.
She slid her hand down his neck, down the front of his chest, and finally let it fall to her side. He was sorry there wasn't more time, because whatever sexual chemistry they had was still present, and he could hardly deny that he still wanted her. But there was no time, and it wouldn't be right anyways; sex was a fun way to kill the pain, but getting away from the source of the pain was a hell of a lot better.
She looked like she wanted to say something but she didn't know what, and ultimately she just gave up. But as she went to the front door, he told her, "Don't live in fear. There's nothing worse than that." And he knew that from personal experience.
She paused in the doorway, letting in the chill air from outside, and after a long moment, she looked at him, and said, "For the record, you're the best fuck I've ever had."
He couldn't help but smile at that. She really knew the right way to compliment a guy. "You weren't too bad either." But that wasn't much of a compliment to a woman, was it? "Take care of yourself. And don't let anyone treat you like shit again."
She gave him a heartbreakingly sad smile. "I won't. Kick his ass."
Alisha left, glancing back once at the house and giving him a small farewell wave as she drove away, leaving this place behind for good. She was headed towards the main highway, back towards civilization, so the fact that the pass was still blocked didn't matter to her. For the moment it had stopped snowing too, so it was possible she could get half way to Edmonton before the roads backed up.
His stomach rumbled, reminding him he was hungry - when was the last time he ate anyways? - so he decided to go make himself something before David came home for the beating of his life.
They had a nice little home here, so neat and tastefully appointed it could have been a showroom, but that was probably the first clue something was drastically wrong. Unless people weren't staying in a place - like it was one of those seasonal cabins he used to camp out in when he was completely out of his fucking mind - a place should look lived in. The fact that this place was cleaner than most surgical prep rooms was a disturbing hint of a compulsion, or a mentally ill person who craved such a high degree of order they were bound to be disappointed. And since David was a control freak, that tracked.