CHAPTER: 12345, 6789101112131415161718192021222324252627, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32EPILOGUE

Judd is lying on his bed, staring up at the ceiling. He really doesn’t know what to do. It feels wrong to have the gun in his flat, well hidden as it is in his safe. He feels lost, restless. Normally he would call Reece when he feels like this but the betrayal of Reece leaving him is too fresh, too raw. Judd knows that if he calls they’ll just end up raging and shouting at each other. Any chance of reconciliation would vanish thanks to whatever harsh words they might throw at each other. He wants to keep that chance of reconciliation open, his friendship with Reece goes too far back to just toss aside easily. So instead he’s stuck in his flat, being bored.

He’s tried to play Call of Duty already but his heart wasn’t in it. By the third time that he got shot in the head and then tea bagged by the enemy team his own team was fed up with him and he was ordered to log out and get his head on right while someone else played in his place. He’d tried to play some of the zombie games but he couldn’t focus and he kept making stupid mistakes that ended up with him staring at a graphic of some horrible zombie eating his avatar’s corpse. He wouldn’t even complain, he’d just sit there, watching it blankly, not even properly realising what was going on.

He needs to do something, talk to someone but doesn’t know who. He considers calling Emmet but knows that he’ll just want to come around and look at the newly acquired gun, maybe even want to take it to some deserted place and fire off a couple of shots. He’s too blood thirsty for his own good sometimes. Judd shudders and glances outside.

He jolts upright and stares out of the window. It’s getting dark already and the streetlights are coming on. A glance at the clock tells him that it’s later than he expected. When he had first collapsed on the bed it was barely mid afternoon. He has been staring at the ceiling for hours. Judd’s stomach grumbles and he climbs to his feet, stretching out the kinks in his body from staying in the same position for too long. He tosses a ready meal into the microwave and starts making a cup of tea. When he’s putting the milk back into the fridge and shutting the door he notices a scrap of paper with a series of numbers on it. He takes it down and looks at it closely. It’s Connie’s number and he remembers her giving it to him. Maybe he could call her.

He had enjoyed their last conversation, or rather debate. Their time together had flown by and he had actually regretted when it had been time to say good bye. For those short minutes in his car he had managed to forget that he was anything other than a regular guy, he had forgotten that he is Judd the drug dealer and boss of a third of Farlow. He had felt normal, like a student having a regular conversation. He had really enjoyed that feeling. Judd stares at the paper in his hand, thumb gently tracing the looping letters. He doesn’t know how long he is standing there but at some point his phone appears in his hand and he starts dialling the numbers.

“Hello Connie speaking?” a soft voice says.

Judd swallows, unsure of what to say for a change.

“Hello?” Connie says quietly, “Is anyone there? Sam is this you? I told you to leave me alone!”

Judd can hear her muttering under her breath and suddenly realises that he needs to say something before she hangs up and ignores his number forever.

“Hi Connie! It’s Judd,” he says quickly, “How are you?”

“Judd… Judd,” Connie says, thinking, “Judd…. Oh college right?!”

“Yeah…” he says, hesitant now. He thought that she liked him but hearing her unsure about him he wonders whether it has just been all in his mind. “I gave you a lift home when your car died after class,”

“Oh yes!” Connie says. Her voice sounds friendlier, “Sorry, I have so many classes and I tend to give my students nicknames. I very rarely think of them by their real names. I do remember you now though, no worries…. Judd.”

“What was my nickname?” he asks, leaning against the counters in his kitchen.

“Wouldn’t you like to know,” Connie says, sounding coy.

Judd can just imagine the smug, teasing look that is probably on her face and a jolt of desire to see it for himself runs through him.

“So what’s up?” Connie asks brightly, “Not that I’m not happy to hear from you of course. I’ve been looking forward to your call. I just figured that you’d be with mates or something this time of night and… I’m rambling aren’t I?”

“Yeah, a bit,” Judd says with a laugh. “I was remembering that debate we had, the chat in the car. And I found myself wanting some proper adult conversation like that again.”

“Oh!” Connie says, “I really enjoyed it too. Did you want to go for a drink or something?”

“Actually…” Judd says. He hesitates, worrying that what he’s about to ask is a little too forward. “I was kind of wondering if I could come round to yours and we could have that coffee and talk that you mentioned last time.”

“Of course you can!” Connie says quickly, “Please, come round as soon as you can,”

“Ok,” Judd says, a smile spreading across his face, “I’ll be right round.”

Judd hangs up and quickly gets to his feet. He turns to his wardrobe and looks through his clothes. For some reason he wants to make a good impression on Connie, a better impression than he has so far. He finally decides on an outfit and gets changed. Moments later the door of his flat clicks shut and he’s making his way to the car park.

Connie stares at her wardrobe, looking at all of her clothes. She finds herself liking Judd more and more. She knows that it’s unprofessional, that being attracted to one of her students is wrong but she can’t help it. To be fair she’s never cared for those moral rules that govern the college and tends to ignore them when she wants to. She’s dressed provocatively before, tried to tempt him in when he gave her that lift home but it didn’t seem to work. She wonders whether she needs to try a different approach. This is all new ground for her, completely new. Most guys come running to her, chase her for her attention. But now she is having to do the chasing, she is having to pursue Judd. She wonders whether he would like to see her wearing something more comfortable and casual, wonders whether that would work better than clothes that show of her legs and body.

As she flicks through her clothes she remembers Judd’s response to her clothes last time. He had certainly kept looking at her, had kept staring at her legs and breasts. He had certainly liked them and her body, he couldn’t keep his eyes off her, she had seen his body’s reaction to her. It was hard to miss to be fair, that large bulge that kept growing at his crotch. But he hadn’t made a move, hadn’t responded to her flirting or anything. She wondered what would make him respond better this time. Eventually she decides and slips on a casual  wrap dress that is warm and figure hugging. Her dress is a deep burgundy colour, woollen and wraps around her body. She slides black tights over her legs and pops on a pair of fluffy socks.

The intercom chimes as she’s touching up her make-up and when she answers she hears Judd’s voice. She smiles as she buzzes him in and then returns to the mirror. A quick layer of lip gloss and a fluff of her hair finishes her look. By the time that Judd is knocking on her apartment door she’s ready and opens the door with a wide smile.

“Hey,” she says softly.

“Hi,” Judd says.

He stands there, shifting from one leg to another and looking at the floor.

“Come in,” she says, stepping back and waving a hand towards her apartment.

It doesn’t take long for the couple to settle themselves on opposite ends of the sofa and start discussing everything that comes to mind.

“I can’t believe that you’re all for vengeance,” Connie says at one point. “I would have thought that with everything going on with your dad that you’d want to trust in the justice system to work for you rather than taking it in your own hands,”

“How’d you know about my dad?” Judd asks, confused.

“You told me,” Connie says with a smile, “Last time in the car. You explained about your dad being in court because he attacked a kid who shoplifted,”

“I don’t remember,” Judd says, frowning. Then he smiles a little embarrassed, “Then again I don’t remember everything that we talked about. It sort of blended together,”

“Same here,” Connie says with a shy smile, catching Judd’s eyes, “So how are things with your dad?”

“They’re ok,” Judd says with a sigh, “He’s still in court and his insistence, that he was getting justice for a wrong done to him and trying to teach others a lesson in case they were thinking about trying something, is not doing him much good. He gets a bit worked up and scary when he’s on a rant,”

“My dad gets the same,” Connie says, her smile growing, “Do you think it’s going to be ok though?”

“I’m not sure,” Judd admits eventually. His eyes are tear filled and his hands shake, “We thought that things were going well but then he went on a rant and the jury turned away from him a bit. At least that’s what Sally thinks and the lawyers say. I’m going to go to the trial, just for the last few days.”

“That’s not going to be easy for you,” Connie says quietly, “Are you sure you’re up for it,”

“I have to go,” Judd says. His voice breaks a little, “He’s my dad. I’d hate myself forever if I wasn’t there for him,”

“I know,” Connie says. She reaches out and squeezes his hand for a few moments before drawing back, “I’m sure that your dad will be grateful for you being there. It’ll probably cheer him up so much,”

“We’ll see,” Judd says. He looks away, pensive for a moment, “I just hope things go ok. I don’t know what’s going to happen to everyone if he ends up locked away. It’d break Sally’s heart.”

“I’m so sorry Judd,” she says quietly, gently reaching out and wrapping her fingers around his hand, “But that’s what I’m talking about. You’ve seen for yourself that vengeance doesn’t work. Not in a civilised society. Your dad is the one that’s got into trouble, not the one who did the original crime. Doesn’t that tell you something?”

“It tells me my dad’s part of civilised society and forgot that fact,” Judd says firmly, “But vengeance works sometimes and it is an important part of some people’s lives.”

“Like yours?” Connie asks.

Judd looks at her sharply. She’s just looking at him, her face blank and expressionless. He can’t even see her brain working behind her eyes, she’s just looking right at him. It feels like her gaze is penetrating his very soul. He looks away.

“What do you mean?” he asks quietly.

“Judd,” she says quietly, putting her hand on his again, “I’m not a total idiot. I figured out you were involved in something possibly illegal. You’re too set and firm on vengeance and revenge. The only way for you to think those things are important is if you were part of an uncivilised society. And the only way you could be part of one of those is if you’re doing something illegal.”

“You’re not just a pretty face,” Judd says. He can’t help but be impressed, not even his dad figured it out, “Does it bother you?”

“Not particularly.” Connie says with a shrug. “I suppose it’s up to you what you do with your life. I mean, I can’t understand why someone as smart and talented as you would be involved in crime but its just one of those things I suppose.”

“It’s a way of life,” Judd says with a shrug, “It’s just something I got in to, started doing just to make money and then I realised that I was actually really good at it. And in my world we have our own justice. We right our own wrongs, take revenge on those who hurt us and have our own rules. We stick to those rules and punish those who break them.”

“Sounds brutal,” Connie says, her voice quiet and a little sad, “I can’t imagine living in that sort of world. Doesn’t it scare you?”

“Sometimes,” Judd admits quietly, shifting and getting closer to Connie. “But most of the time I stick to the rules and make sure that everyone else does as well.”

“And if they don’t you take vengeance right?” Connie asks. Judd looks at her confused, “I noticed the tattoo on your arm. ‘Vengeance is mine’?”

“Oh,” Judd says.

He looks at the tattoo on his arm, rubbing the fading words. He remembers the sharp pain that had covered his skin when he had gotten it done. But it is important to him, it covers every thing that he believes in with a few simple words, it encompasses everything that his dad has taught over the years. It is the rules of his world in one sentence. He remembers hearing it somewhere, sometime, and the words had stuck in his mind. It had made sense to get those words marked on his body when he decided to take that step.

“You realise that’s from the Bible right?” Connie asks. He looks at her, “It is. And it wasn’t said by a mortal man. It’s a saying that apparently came from the mouth of God. It means that no one can avenge the wrongs done to them. The only one who can bring vengeance down on people is God himself, no one else. And he does it during their ultimate judgement at the gates of Heaven or the doors of Hell.”

“Wow,” Judd says, raising his eyebrows and staring at the words. He runs his hand over them. “I didn’t realise that.”

Connie laughs. Judd glares at her, not pleased that his confusion and surprise is so amusing to her. He can feel that heat bubbling up inside him. He purses his lips, drawing them in to a firm line and looks away. He breathes deeply, trying to fight down the rage.

“Sorry,” Connie says eventually, “I just thought you knew that, is all,”

Judd just grunts and ignores her for a moment.

“So… what crime do you do?” she asks out of the blue. Judd stares at her in surprise, “Oh, oh, oh, let me guess!”

“Fine,” Judd says, rolling his eyes, “Guess away,”

“Are you a hired thug?” Connie asks, “Actually no, that’s a silly idea, what am I saying. You’re not big and muscley enough for that. Hired thugs generally look like man shaped gorillas, not like they should be playing football or cricket.”

Judd laughs.

“Ok, second guess,” Connie says. “Are you a…assassin? You’re slim enough and smart enough to plan killings. And I bet you’re patient too, I think you’d be able to sit for ages waiting for your chance at the target,”

Judd shakes his head.

“Wrong idea,” Connie says, nodding, “Right, new idea. You’re a mafia boss,”

“No!” Judd says with a loud laugh. “Next guess,”

“Are you… a drug mule?” Connie asks. Judd smirks and waves his hand from side to side. “Ok… you’re not a drug mule. Are you a runner?”

“Warmer,” Judd says slowly, “You’re getting warmer,”

“Ok,” Connie says happily, “You’re involved with drugs,” Judd nods slowly, “Are you a minion?” Judd shakes his head, “Are you one of the people that are like second in command?” Again Judd waves his hand from side to side. She jumps up and down excitedly as another idea occurs to her, “Oh. Oh. Oh. Are you the one that’s actually in charge?! Do you run the entire thing?”

Judd doesn’t say anything. Instead he smiles a little.

“You are, aren’t you?” Connie says. She laughs and claps her hands together. “You’re like a drug lord!”

“Correct,” Judd says, nodding solemnly, acknowledging her success.

“Oh my god!” Connie says. “You’re one of the Lords of Farlow aren’t you?!”

“That’s what they’re calling us?!” Judd asks in disbelief, “The Lords of Farlow? Who on earth came up with that?”

“Don’t know,” Connie says with a nonchalant shrug, “It’s just something that started going around and it sort of stuck. I can’t believe you’re one of the Lords of Farlow. This is surreal. I’m sat in my living room, talking with one of the Lords of Farlow,”

“Hold on a moment,” Judd says quickly, holding up a hand, “How do you know about the three of us?”

“Erm…” Connie hesitates for a moment. “Well I like to do a little bit of coke from time to time, just at parties and nights out and stuff like that. It’s fun to have a good time with,”

“Can’t deny that,” Judd says with a sly smirk. “It’s a fun time thing indeed,”

“You take it?!” Connie asks sharply, “You diddle in your own supply? Is that allowed?”

“You seem surprised,” Judd says.

“Well I am,” Connie says with a shrug, “I thought that it was some unspoken law that you don’t take from your own supply.”

“I am the boss,” Judd said, smirking, “I can pick and choose if I touch my supply. It’s not like I’m a complete coke-head or anything. I just use it now and then when I need a pick me up or I’m partying.”

“I know what you mean,” Connie said quietly, “I have to admit, I do like to do it now and again. Not often but just sometimes,”

Judd looks at her, a little shocked. Then he grins and reaches in to his jacket pocket, twisting in his seat. When he turns back he has a mischivous smile on his face. He holds up a clear plastic baggy with a fair portion of white powder inside. He wiggles it enticingly. Connie looks at it, a little surprised before she smiles slyly. Judd doesn’t say anything, he just leans forward towards the table and starts to lay out few lines for them to enjoy together. There’s not much left in the baggy once he’s done. They start to snort the coke up their noses and when they’re done Connie quickly puts a film on. They sit back and relax.

Connie can’t help but keep sneaking glances at Judd as they watch the film together. She’s surprised that he decided to come round to hers. She had gotten the feeling from him that he wasn’t really interested in women in general, not from lack of attraction, but from his drive to achieve something greater in life. She felt like he worked to look past other people and just focus on his goals. It must be a lonely existence for him, she figured, just switching between work with the drugs and his studying. She wonders if there was any more that was holding him back. The fact that he had actually decided to ignore that determination and actually come round touched something inside her.

The thought makes her heart skip a little and her stomach flutters. She can only remember feeling that sensation once before, back when she had been at University, about twelve years ago. She had felt it when she had started to fall in love with her first boyfriend, the man who had broken her heart. The idea of seeing Judd had sent her heart racing and her stomach jumping all over the place. And as she looks at Judd that feeling bursts in her again.

Then again the fact that she finds him attractive isn’t really that much of a surprise to her. She’s always been attracted to men who seem to be aloof, keeping themselves above others, men who have that air of arrogance to them that suggests that they feel that they are better than others and actually have a reason to feel that. Those sorts of men never seem to recognise the beauty on the outside and the inside of her, they just looked past her. That sort of arrogance sends her blood boiling in a good way, the lack of interest tends to make the men actually like their true selves. Most guys who are interested in Connie for just one reason and they tend to know they need to act a certain way to impress her, or rather they think that they do. It never works. The aloof men don’t do that though, they don’t feel like they need to act a certain way to impress her so they’re themselves. And that’s what she likes.

She can’t figure Judd out though, can’t understand what exactly it is that motivates him or why he stays in the drug business. The question keeps racing through her head, building her up with a burning desire to know the truth, the secrets that Judd is keeping so completely hidden.

“I don’t get you,” she finally says as the question and the need for answers becomes too much.

The film’s credits are playing on the screen and she’s surprised to realise that she barely saw any of it. She can’t tell anyone what happened in it, at any point.

“What do you mean?” he asks, looking at her, “There’s nothing to get,”

“Yes there is,” Connie says, giggling, “There’s totally more to you than you’re showing. I mean, look, you’re clearly smart, way smarter than most people in your line of work and yet you keep doing it.”

“Because I need the money,” Judd says shrugging, “Doing a law course doesn’t exactly come cheap and I like my independence. Until I become an actual lawyer I’m going to take that money any way that I can.”

“But it’s so dangerous,” Connie exclaims, “I mean… you’ve probably seen already that revenge just keeps escalating with each person that gets involved. Don’t you worry that you’ll get hurt? Don’t you wonder whether one day you’re going to make the wrong choice and piss off the wrong person? Revenge escalates, it gets stronger and stronger and there’s no way of stopping it once it starts really getting going.”

“Connie,” Judd says carefully. He twists and takes her hands in his gently, “I respect you, I really do, but you really have no idea what you’re talking about.”

Connie looks at him for a moment, her eyes starting to sparkle as they fill with tears. He realises that perhaps he was a little harsher than he meant to be but he couldn’t help it. Here is a woman, clearly smart, unarguably beautiful and who sometimes dabbles in drugs, and yet she is trying to lecture him about the morality of his career choice and actions.

And she doesn’t know what she’s talking about, Judd realises as he drives home later that evening. She’s not really a part of his world, even if she does dabble occasionally. She doesn’t really know him or why he does what he does. There’s no way he’s going to explain to her that he deals drugs because it’s what he knows, it’s easy and because he doesn’t want to end up like his father. He wants to be his own man, run his own life and right now he can only do that through dealing. She doesn’t understand that watching his dad come home day after day, too exhausted to even finish his dinner, made Judd know that he didn’t want to be stuck in some regular job like everyone else. He is the one who has to be in control of his life, he is the one who calls the shots on whether or not he makes any money. Every penny that he has, he has gained through his own hard work and the business skills that he learnt at university. There’s no way that Connie can understand this without understanding him. And he isn’t ready to let her see that part of himself yet. It’s possible he may never be ready.

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