The next he heard of his father was a letter, sent just after summer started, informing Zerbrowski of the old man's death. The date for the funeral was included. Zerbrowski crumbled the letter and threw it into the trash bin.
His youngest sister, a nosey brat whose then-hero was Nancy Drew, pinched the letter and showed it to her mother. Zerbrowski learned of this the next day, when his mother and step-father came in to his room to talk to him.
As a graduation present, how about a trip to England? they offered. You could make it in time for the funeral, then use the rest of the time to look around.
Zerbrowski knew it was guilt that made his mother offer. He took them up on it with a shrug and a smile. He'd travelled on his own before. When he was fifteen, he'd bussed to New York and back on his own. He'd been grounded for two months, but the trip had been worth it.
A few days later, he was in a small hall off a London church in a memorial service for the old man. He was more uncomfortable in his suit than in mourning for his dead father.
After the service, a man came up to Zerbrowski and introduced himself as Travers. He asked if the old man had given Zerbrowski 'their' offer. At the look on Zerbrowski's face, Travers invited him for a walk through London streets, where he explained the Watchers, what they did, and how the Zerbrowskis had been Watchers for thirteen generations, before they even came to England.
The offer was this: take college courses, supplemented by extra reading. Help the Watchers in their quest to aid the Slayers.
Zerbrowski left London without giving Travers an answer. He hitchhiked around England and Scotland for a bit, making it as far north as Glasgow before turning around. Travers was waiting for him when he showed up at Watcher headquarters. He'd think about it, was the only answer he could give.
Travers smiled like he had already won.~*~
Back home, the last month of summer before he went to college was a blur. With seven kids in the house, his mother was always busy, so Zerbrowski planned to get his own stuff to the college dorms with the help of his buddy Todd and both their cars. Zerbrowski had a full course load of sociology and law classes. He didn't want to tell anyone, but he had his eye on the police force. He wanted to be a detective, like those guys on TV, and his guidance councillor told him that a college degree could only help.
The envelope from the London lawyer arrived in that last week at home. It contained a nice letter explaining the distribution of the old man's will, and a check with enough zeros on the end to pay for Zerbrowski's entire college degree.
Zerbrowski wasn't fooled. Strangely enough, neither was his mother. Zerbrowski wondered if she knew the old man was a Watcher. She'd only told him to do what he thought was right, then left the room in silence.
Even though no one brought it up, he knew things were tight. There were six other kids, most of whom would go to college. His mother hadn't worked in a while, and his step-father's job at the car plant was on shaky ground. Not having to pay for his college would be a great help to them.
Zerbrowski cashed the check, feeling the whole time as if he'd just sighed a deal with the devil.~*~