Ben picked up his phone while he and Sofia were still sitting together in the banquet room, their uneaten lunches sitting between them, and called his father. He was shocked when Newt picked up right away. Ben figured he wouldn’t want to talk to him. He hadn’t spoken to his father since had been back in Willow Creek, although he suspected his mom had kept him up to date.
He closed his eyes and prepared for the lecture when Newt’s deep voice sounded over the phone’s speaker. “Ben! What a surprise. How are you? And how’s my grandson?”
His father was making this too easy. Why did he always think the worst of people? “Hi Dad. I’m okay. Well not really, I owe you an apology for how I acted the last time we spoke. I’m really sorry.”
“Ben. It’s okay. I understand why you were so angry. You inherited my quick temper, so who am I to judge? I’m just glad you’re doing better. So was that really all you wanted, or did you need something else?”
“No. That’s not all. I need a favor, but I did need to apologize too.” Ben blew out a breath, “So, I have an issue and I need you and Mom to maybe help me with it. But…well…can you come to Willow Creek right away?”
“Ben, what’s going on? Is someone sick?”
“No Dad. I really can’t talk about it over the phone. I just need you here. Then I will explain everything.”
“A mystery. Hmmm. Interesting. I can leave tomorrow morning. How long am I going to need to be there?”
He looked up and Sofia was watching him intently, her big brown eyes full of hope. “He’s coming,” Ben mouthed to her before answering his father. “Hopefully only a couple of days.”
He was shocked his dad was being so accommodating. Then he thought about his own son. If Cole had called and said he needed him, he would do exactly the same thing. Drop everything and go help him. Even so he felt guilty. Undeserving.
“Okay. Do you have room or should I get a hotel?”
“I’m sorry Dad, my house is tiny.”
“Hotel. No worries. I will call you when my plane gets in. And Ben, whatever it is, we’ll work it out.”
Ben’s voice was thick with emotion when he replied. “Thanks Dad. See you tomorrow.” He disconnected the call. That was easier than he thought. Now to tell his mom and Leroy. That wouldn’t be easy.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Ben went back to work alone and told Leroy that he and Sofia needed to talk to him and his mother the next day. He let Leroy know it was serious and his father was coming for the conversation. He could tell Leroy wasn’t happy. Well, neither was he. He was not looking forward to the next day.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
They had decided to meet at the trailer so they would have privacy. Ben was nervous, so he made coffee to give himself something to do while they waited for his father to arrive.
He gave Sofia a cup and sat down with her. Having Sofia by his side helped. It gave him the strength to be civil and take whatever they threw at him.
Leroy and Kaitlin talked quietly to each other on the couch. Leroy doing his best to keep Kaitlin calm.
Everyone looked up when the door opened and Ben’s father made his entrance. It was hard not to notice his father. He was bigger than life. Not physically, like Leroy, but in the way he carried himself. He was a natural athlete and his looks were striking. You couldn’t help but notice him when he walked in a room. Women stared and men wanted to be his friend, to be on his good side. That had help make him a very successful business man.
He walked over to Kaitlin and Leroy. He kissed his ex-wife on the cheek and shook Leroy’s hand.
Ben and Sofia walked over from the breakfast nook and joined them. Newt hugged his son. “It’s so good to see you again Ben. You’re looking good.” He then turned and looked at Sofia appreciatively. “This must be Sofia. Nick’s little sister?”
Sofia turned scarlet and Ben answered for her. “Yes. Sofia, you already know my Dad right? Newt Murdock.”
Newt took her hand. “Very nice to meet you again Sofia,” he said and kissed her hand while Ben looked on uncomfortably.
Newt abruptly turned back to Ben. “Okay Ben. I’m here. We’re here,” he said motioning towards everyone in the room. “What’s this cloak and dagger shit all about?”
Ben took a deep breath and gestured towards the chairs. “Why don’t we all have a seat.”
Once everyone was settled, his father couldn’t help himself. “Okay Ben. We’re waiting.”
Ben felt so small with everyone looking expectantly at him. He took a deep breath and held it for second before letting it out. He gave a quick glance in Sofia’s direction and it broke his heart. She looked miserable. He wiped his hands on his the front of his jeans and looked at his father.
Unable to wait any longer he began. “I’m sorry for being so secretive. I got involved in something a few years ago that I shouldn’t have and it’s escalated out of control.” He paused before continuing, his heart racing. “And it’s illegal. I want out, but I don’t know how, so I brought you here to ask for your help and guidance.”
“Oh God Ben, are you on drugs?” asked his mother.
Ben could feel the anger rising at his mother’s words. She always jumped to the wrong conclusion.
Sofia spoke up for him, effectively diffusing his anger. “No, Mrs. Chapman,” she said softly, “Ben isn’t an addict. You know how I feel about Ben. I want to support him through this but the situation is dangerous. It has to get worked out – or Cole will be at risk.”
Newt cut his eyes towards Ben. “Oh, I like her Ben,” he said appearing more amused than upset at the whole situation. “Someone that will call you out on your shit. So – what exactly are you doing son? Gambling? What?”
Ben swallowed hard and looked at his father. “I have a grow room in my house. I supply marijuana to the dealers around here. I told them I was going to quit when I moved from San Myshuno, but they threatened to harm Cole if I didn’t continue when I got to Willow Creek. They came to my apartment and trashed it when I was late with a delivery after Grace died. They threatened me with a gun to make me sell to them.” He couldn’t bring himself to tell them the most recent issue with Cole and the dog.
He heard Sofia give a soft gasp at hearing the things she hadn’t wanted to hear. He was glad he hadn’t told her the ugly details before.
His Dad let out low whistle but didn’t say anything. He seemed to be deep in thought.
Leroy was watching his mother for her reaction, his teeth clenched. She was the one that finally broke the silence. “Ben….why didn’t you come to us before now?” she asked softly.
“Mom, we weren’t exactly on speaking terms.”
“I’m so sorry Ben,” replied his mother.
“Don’t even…. it was my fault. It’s just that Grace’s medical bills were so high and it was an easy…”
“Ben!” said Newt, his deep voice startling Ben out of his rambling and commanding his attention, “do you know any names or how we can contact them?”
Ben slowly shook his head in defeat. “No sir,” he said quietly, “I just show up at the same spot every two weeks and they pay me.”
“Damn. Okay,” he said, then got up and walked over to where Leroy was sitting. “Leroy, is there somewhere we can go for some privacy? I need to make a couple of phone calls.”
Leroy and Newt walked into Leroy’s office and closed the door. While they were gone Kaitlin spoke up. “Ben, there is something you should know. Your grandfather, Papa, he knows people. He used to help traffic stolen goods and drugs through his import and export company. If I had to guess, that’s who you father is calling.”
“What the hell?” asked Ben, incredulous. Then he blurted the next thing that came to his mind, “Does Dad do that too? Traffic stolen goods and drugs?” Sofia would leave him for sure now. It didn’t matter anymore.
“No. Papa wanted him to, but he wouldn’t,” she replied, sadness lacing her words, “It’s a long story, but his bar, it’s 100% legal.”
Ben let out the breath he was holding. “Thank God. I thought I might have been working for my own father and not even know it.” He looked at Sofia regretfully. “I told you my family was a mess. If you still leave me after this, I won’t blame you.”
“It’s okay Ben. Maybe your father can help you out of this,” offered his mother.
Before Sofia could respond, Newt stuck his head out of Leroy’s office. “Ben!” he boomed out, causing Ben to jump again, “Get your ass in here. We need to ask you some questions.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
When Ben went to join the men in the office, Kaitlin took the vacated seat next to Sofia. She looked so lost and sad. Kaitlin’s heart ached for her. Sofia and Ben had both already been through so much, and now this. She knew this kind of thing could tear even the strongest couples apart.
Kaitlin felt the need to explain, to plead her son’s case. “Sofia,” she said softly, “I’m sorry you are seeing the ugly side of our family. We have truly tried to make our lives better. But somehow, Ben got caught in the crossfire and has had a really hard time. I’m ashamed that I wasn’t there for him when he needed me the most. None of us were. He was such a quiet child and kept to himself, until the day he wasn’t. None of us understood how much pain he was in. Then, losing Grace almost destroyed him. You brought him back to life. He loves you so much. He needs you, or we wouldn’t be here tonight.”
“Mrs. Chapman, he is here because I gave him no choice. I did it for Cole. But, Ben, he is a good man and a good father. He obviously got in over his head and felt trapped. I don’t know how he did it all this time alone. I am sure he only got involved to help somebody. Sadly it was probably my brother, but he won’t say that. He’s lucky to have the three of you here to help him.”
Kaitlin managed a small smile. “Newt was right about you. You are strong and level headed. You won’t let Ben get away with being irrational no matter how good his intentions are. You are good for him, in more ways than one.”
“It goes both ways, Mrs. Chapman. Ben was there for me when I needed him. No questions and no pressure. Just there. I love him very much. I didn’t do this right. We should have discussed it. I gave him no choice. I was so stupid.”
Sofia put her head down and continued quietly. “But I couldn’t stand by and watch Cole potentially get badly hurt. I did this for him, not Ben. I’m terrified this will end badly for Ben and it will be my fault.” Sofia’s voice broke at the end and a single tear ran down her cheek.
Kaitlin reached over to her. “It’s okay,” she said, her voice comforting, “You did what was right, you put Cole’s safety and well being above everything. You think Ben doesn’t know that? Sofia, he loves you so very much. Nothing has happened yet. It will be okay.”
“I’m so sorry,” she whispered.
Newt walked out of the office, flanked by Leroy and Ben. His loud voice startled Kaitlin and caused Sofia to jump. “Okay, we have things worked out!” he said, obviously pumped and fully in charge of whatever it was they had ‘worked out’.
They jumped up and Kaitlin grabbed Sofia’s hand to help calm both of them. She noticed how bright Newt’s eyes were in comparison to Leroy’s scowl and Ben’s obvious nervousness. “How?” she asked.
Newt answered for them, leaving no doubt that he was indeed the man in charge. “The underground works on favors Kaitlin. Dad and I just called in a couple. Ben is going to put his little ‘garden’ in one of Leroy’s trailers and we will tow it to a drop point. Once they empty the trailer, we will bring it back. We need to have it there tonight by 10:30.”
No wonder Leroy was upset and Ben was terrified. She figured Leroy didn’t want his trailer to be traced back and poor Ben was just plain scared. “We aren’t calling the cops?” asked Kaitlin.
Newt looked at Kaitlin like she had three eyes. “No! Good God Kaitlin! Do you want Ben to go to jail and be on someone’s damn hit list? We take care of our own sweetheart. As long as Ben never grows again, he’s good.”
“Who’s going to drop off the trailer?” asked Sofia quietly.
Newts tone was softer when he answered Sofia’s question. “Don’t worry your pretty little head. Once Ben loads it up, I will drop it off and wait until it’s unloaded. We will keep Leroy and Ben out of it. They know not to mess with me. Dad and I have a long reach. Come on Chapman, let’s go get the trailer ready.”
Sofia was crying silently. Kaitlin put her arm around her again. “It’s going to be okay. After tonight, it will be over,” she whispered, thankful no police were involved.
Instead of following the men outside, Ben walked stoically over to Sofia and his Mother. He reached out to touch her face, “Go home Sofia. I will call you when it’s all over.” He turned his attention to his mother. “Mom, can you keep Cole until this is done? I’m so sorry.”
“I don’t want to be alone,” said Sofia, her words barely audible. She was still clinging to Kaitlin.
Kaitlin’s heart was breaking for the two of them. They needed each other but couldn’t comfort each other until this mess was over. “Come home with me,” offered Kaitlin, “Cole would like that. You can sleep in Ben’s old room.”
Ben visibly relaxed, “Thanks Mom,” he said.
“I can’t leave you,” said Sofia in tears, “You are risking your life because of me. I should have just gone to the police.”
“No!” said Ben, his inner Newt coming out, “You will NOT blame yourself for my mistakes. I should have come to my parents when things escalated but I was too damn proud and wrapped up in my own anger and self loathing to do it. This is safer anyway. Dad was right. No cops.” He took a breath and when he spoke again his tone was much softer. “Go with Mom and try to relax. I will come and get you once it’s over – if you will still have me.”
Newt walked back in. “Benjamin!” he called out startling all of them again, “Let’s get going. Leroy’s got the trailer.”
“Be careful,” said Sofia and Kaitlin simultaneously.
Ben turned and jogged over to where his father stood waiting. Newt clapped him on the back and they left.
When the door closed, Sofia began to sob uncontrollably. Kaitlin held her and cried silent tears of her own. All of the men in her life just walked out the door to make a deal with the devil and selfishly, she was okay with that, as long as they all came home safe.