A crash like breaking glass sounded from upstairs, and Jo bolted to her feet, tablet still in hand. Her mind snapped back to the terrified-but-ready-to-act state that she’d felt in that basement. “Gran! Are you okay?” She practically flew up the stairs, Quinn right behind her. She brandished the tablet like an awkward club.
She burst into Gran’s room and stopped. He was kneeling down over a broken picture, trying to brush shards of glass from a printed photo with shaking fingers. Tears ran down his cheeks as he turned to look at them. “I-I’m sorry I startled you, Jo. My h-hand, it slipped …” He bowed his head over the photo.
Jo felt all the adrenaline drain from her body; she knelt and swept the glass from the picture. “It’s okay, Gran. The print is fine, no damage. See?” She focused on the image, and her heart dropped a few centimeters in her chest. It was a family picture taken almost eight years before; Jo herself, and Gran, and her cousin Phil, Gran’s son. Jo couldn’t have been more than sixteen, maybe seventeen. Phil was a couple of years younger. It had been a long time since she’d thought about him. It’d been even longer since they’d heard from him.
He’d been a hellion of a child, and he’d lost his mother not all that long after she lost her own parents. He hadn’t dealt with it as well as she had. He’d gotten in trouble constantly, and as he got into his teen years, it’d gotten sharply worse. Instead of getting in trouble with the schools, he was getting in trouble with the constabulary.
Finally he fell in with a bad crowd, and the last they’d heard of him was a criminal investigation report of a shop robbery. They had holo-footage of Phil leading a group of five other guys in an assault against a small store. He was shot on his way in; his friends wounded the shopkeeper and were gunned down themselves by police minutes later, while they were ransacking the place.
Two of the guys had died; Phil and the three other survivors were taken to the hospital, but escaped before they could be treated and locked up. And that was it. He’d been all of fifteen at the time, and they hadn’t heard a single word about him since, if he was even still alive.