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Fiction: Legal Theft Project–Arrested (1031 words)

Careful so the guard wouldn’t notice, he tossed his handkerchief over the side of the cart, someone would find it.  Whoever would pick it up would notice the Crest of the Lake Family, and take it to return it to Annamarie in the hopes of getting a gold piece or two.  She had to know that Lewis wouldn’t have lost it on accident. She had to realize that he usually wore it close to his heart, where it could never just fall loose onto the road. And he could only hope that she would follow the train of thought and realize he’d dropped it as a plea for help.

Lewis looked across the cart at Marcus, also sitting with his knees tied together, his wrists loosely bounded, pretending to be far more restrained than he actually was. An old trick they had learned from Marcus’s less than reputable biological father, who didn’t understand was appropriate for entertaining seven-year-old boys. Of course, Marcus and Lewis thought it was great fun.

Marcus raised his eyebrows at the careful little toss but said nothing. Lewis smiled a cheeky grin and gave a little shrug. Like this was just a silly night out on the town that they had done a thousand times, rather than an arrest by the royal guard. Marcus rolled his eyes, slumping back against his side of the cart.

It wasn’t that long of a ride. They hadn’t been walking too far from the high city jail when the guards had demanded they face the wall and stand still, waiting to be tied and all but tossed into a cart.  The guards unloaded them with all the care of a sack of potatoes, and lead them down two flights of stairs, awkwardly waddling with their knees together, until they reached a stone room with a barred door.  They sank together onto the rough wooden bench, waiting silently until the guards finished sneering at them, and returned to their desk at the top of the stairs just outside their door.

“So—What was that?” Marcus asked in an undertone.

“Nothing that needs mentioning right now,” Lewis replied sweetly. “If it works, I’ll explain it, if it does not—well, I’d rather not embarrass myself.”

“A little late for that,” Marcus sighed, resting his head against the wall behind him. “Wake me up if they decide to kill us so I can go out of this world screaming like the baby I was when I entered it.”

“Of course,” Lewis laughed, tapping his foot nervously in his waiting.

He didn’t have to wait long.  She wasn’t the kind of woman to do anything subtly, so he heard the ripple of her arrival as soon as she entered, even three floors down. Moments later, she heard the commanding voice.  “Well, the people upstairs tell me that you are holding my men here? Are they right or do I need to contact someone about the way this place is run?”

“Your men?” some poor soul asked, unaware of exactly he was facing, “They are your men?”

“Of course they are my men,” She answered, portraying her anger without actually raising her voice, “Do you think that I would come all the way down here to free some ruffians off the street?”

“Who is that?” Marcus whispered, causing Lewis to jump. With Annamarie’s arrival, Lewis had forgotten all about him.

“It’s complicated…” Lewis began.

“Well, they weren’t wearing the Lake Crest,” the poor man upstairs continued to stutter.

“Good man,” Annamarie’s voice was somehow even cooler than before, “I was raised to believe that the City Guards and Royal Guards were some of the bravest and truest men of the nation, but I am beginning to believe you are a few marbles short of a full game.”

“Ma’am?”

“Do you ever see the Crest of the Noble Houses on the street without an armed guard? If I sent two men out to do my shopping covered in the Lake Crest, aren’t I just inviting them to be pickpocketed or mugged during the errands? Do you think that the Noble Houses keep their wealth by advertising on the street what their servants carry in their pockets?”

Lewis couldn’t help but laugh at that, and when he did, he heard the quick walk of Annamarie’s shoes come towards the stair, her shadow darkening down to his view. “Lewis? Are you down there?”

“Yes, Milady,” Lewis called back, laughing, “I’m down here with Marcus. We regret to inform you we were not able to complete your  shopping list today.”

“I suppose that I will have to let it slide this time,” she yelled down the stair again, and then her shadow disappeared. “Well, are you going to release my men or not?”

There was a great commotion as the guards scrambled for keys and rushed down to untie the two prisoners, all bows and apologies now that a Noblewoman was upstairs waiting for them. Marcus was at least well-versed in the art of deception to keep his amazement and confusion off his face. They made their way upstairs, and both dropped into low bows in front of Annamarie. Lewis fought to keep the cheeky grin of his face. This would go very badly if he smiled at her like he’d seen her naked.

“Well, that took long enough,” Annamarie sniffed, “Come along, boys. I suppose I will have to wait until tomorrow for my goods.”

She led them out to the street and crawled into the awaiting carriage. Lewis and Marcus followed her in as if it was something they did every day.  It was only after they started to move, that Annamarie dropped her cold demeanor and dissolved into a fit of giggles. “Oh, Lewy, what did you do to get yourself there?”

Lewis let that grin he’d been fighting before spread across his face. Marcus looked back and forth between the two of them with an eyebrow raised. “Okay, what is going on here?”

“It’s a long story,” Annamarie offered.

“I’ve got time,” Marcus countered.

Lewis looked to Annamarie, who shrugged and gave a dismissive little hand wave. “Alright then,” Lewis smiled, “Let’s start at the beginning.”

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2017 in Legal Theft Project, Stories

 

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Fiction: Helping Friends (210 words)

“How do we balance the line?” He asked quietly, “I mean, there has to be one, right?  A safe point where we can be tolerant and understanding of what she’s going through—but also push her to start getting better? That point has to exist somewhere, right?”

Chris gave Darren a sad smile.  “Well, if there is one—I haven’t found it yet.”

“No—You’re not saying we just have to leave her like this. That we just have to watch her suffer.” Darren insisted, wheeling around on the older man.

“I’ve never found a way to do more, and I’ve never seen someone successfully try.  If you want to try to find a balance, go ahead, I won’t stop you.  But if she tries to cut you out, I won’t stop her either.  Think very carefully about what you want to do here.”

Darren faltered for a moment watching Chris carefully, processing his words. But he shook his head and turned his back.  “No. I won’t accept the idea that the only thing I can do is watch her get worse.  There has to be a way.”

Chris watched Darren hurry from the room, and thought silently it was a shame.  He’d liked Darren.  It wouldn’t be fun to watch him go.

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2014 in Stories

 

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Fiction: Changing the Future (357 Words)

It always felt like a shock. Not a little static shock, but like the time he accidentally touched an uncovered wire for a second—that wave of energy rolling up his arm.  It didn’t hurt, per se, but it didn’t feel good. Daniel always seemed to notice before Arthur’s brain could even fully recover from whatever happened.  He’d steady Arthur easily, and whisper “Who was it?” as if it was ever anyone else these days.

“Maggie,” Arthur would dutifully respond, and Daniel would abandon him.  Of course, Arthur never minded.  If he had the power to help her, he’d have abandoned Daniel in a heartbeat.  She was both of their top priority.

And it was all due to Daniel that those shocks were so small, not the crushing pain Arthur had felt before—knowing the worst had happened to someone he cared about.  Daniel could move fast enough just quick enough to stop it before it could get too bad—sometimes before it happened at all.

So slowly Arthur made his way back home, sometime taking hours to get to that house in the woods, sometimes days.  But no matter what, it was worth it.  To be greeted at the door by Maggie—to have her wrap her arms around him and say “Thanks, King.  I owe you another one.  You’re always saving my life.”  To which of course Daniel would always get mock huffy and complain that he does all the heavy lifting and Arthur gets all the praise, but in the end everyone’s okay and they order pizza that Daniel always has to go pick up because Maggie doesn’t want to give out her address to people she’s never met.

And it takes a while, but Arthur finally admits—he’d rather get shocked every day, he’d rather take all the weight of every crushing pain he’d ever experienced at once than let one bad thing happen to Maggie. And he is so grateful for Daniel that he doesn’t even know how to start to say it—and then as if he’s the psychic, Daniel gives him a wink and a smile and says, “Don’t worry, you’ll figure out how to tell me.”

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2014 in Stories

 

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Fiction: Cat Emergency (830 words)

“I broke their cat!”

Clark sat up in bed and looked at the clock.  2:33 am.  He’d answered the phone on autopilot, still mostly asleep, but the sound of a crying woman on the other end of the line made him focus a little faster.  “Marjorie?”

“Help me.  I don’t know what to do.”

Clark crawled out of bed, cradling the phone between his ear and his shoulder, already looking for a pair of pants to pull on. “Okay, Marj, I’m going to need you to give me a little more information here.  Where are you?”

“I’m at Heidi’s and Justin’s.   I’m cat sitting, and I was just watching TV and there was a thump and a lot of meowing and I don’t know what to do.”  Marjorie was still practically sobbing onto the line, “I’ve broken their cat and they’ll never forgive me.”

Now that Clark was waking up more, he could hear a cat meowing in the back ground, and it did sound rather pathetic.  “Marjorie, did you call the pet emergency? If I know Heidi she left you the number somewhere. Or several somewheres. Check the fridge, by the cat’s food, and on the itinerary, I’m sure she left you, it’s bound to be there somewhere.”  He heard her shuffling around then a noise of success.  “Okay, call them.  I’m coming over.”

“Thank you, Clarkie. Thank you so much.”  He heard the line disconnect, and he let his phone fall off his shoulder back onto his bed.  He looked around for a t-shirt and a hoodie before heading out into the living room.

His brother Bruce was sitting on the couch, watching what looked like late night Comedy Central. “Where are you going?” Bruce asked, throwing a piece of a chip at Clark’s head as he walked in front of the screen.

“Marjorie’s got an emergency. Don’t wait up.”

“Booty Call,” Bruce sing-songed under his breath, and Clark shook his head.  He could remind his brother that it wasn’t like that, but there really would be no point. Bruce was going to say whatever what he wanted to say, whatever Clark insisted. That was the joy of younger brothers.

 

When he got to Heidi and Justin’s, he saw a yellow and green hatchback parked in front of the house, and the door cracked open.  He called out for Marjorie as he pushed the door all the way open.

“Guest room.” He heard Marjorie call back.  She at least sounded like she’d pulled it together some since the phone call.  Perhaps the addition of strangers had forced her to hold it together.  Clark found her standing in the hallway, looking in through the guest room door, where a thin blonde man was kneeling over the still kind of pathetically mewing little gray cat. “Thank you for coming,” she sighed when she saw him.

“No problem. What happened?”  He leaned on the wall next to her, and she hugged him around the waist.  He could feel that she was shaking a little, so he tried his hardest to steady her.

“I think he was climbing on the bookshelves. Heidi said he could go anywhere and was pretty good about taking care of himself, she really just needed someone to fill his bowl when it ran low, and to make sure the house looked lived in and now I’ve broken their cat.”

“I think this would have happened whether you were here or not.  And, I’m betting that Heidi and Justin will be happy that you were here.  Because if he fell and you weren’t around, how long would he have been in pain for before someone came looking for him?”  He held her by the shoulders and made her step back so he could look at her face.  “You see the logic?”

Slowly, Marjorie nodded. “Yes. Yes, that makes sense.”  He let go of her shoulders, and she leaned against his side again. Clark leaned against the wall, watching the vet work with the cat, and tried not to let his eyes fall closed again.

He blinked, and the vet was suddenly in front of them, the cat in a carrier in his hand. “—so we definitely want to get some x-rays, just to double-check. Unfortunately, the waiting rooms and things are closed at this hour of the night, but we’ll take him in and take good care of him, and we’ll give you a call in the morning with the updates and to let you know when we think he’ll be ready to come home.  Sounds good?”

“Yes. Of course.  Thank you, for everything.”  The vet smiled politely, and they walked him to the door.  After he drove away, Marjorie pulled Clark into another proper hug. “And thank you again for coming.  I was just—panicking.”

“It’s alright.  I’m here and I’m yours for the night.  What do you need to relieve some stress?”

“Well, I have the movie I was watching when the cat fell.”

“Okay. Let’s go finish a movie.”

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2014 in Stories

 

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Fiction: Daniel’s Letter (449 words)

Arthur,

As I write this letter, I don’t know exactly what has happened.  So, forgive me if any of this is outdated or if I give you information that I’ve already given you.  I don’t know when I’m going to have to give this to you.   I won’t know until the day I give it to you.  I told you there were dark spots that all of my kind have to deal with.  This is one of them.  Sorry if this letter isn’t being as helpful as you’d like it to be.  To be completely honest, I’m not one hundred percent sure what’s going on myself.

But I am going to be gone for a while.  To put it as simply as I can, there are years that are locked to me.  I can’t get there, no matter what. In those years, I’m not in the timeline at all.  I don’t exist.

I’ll be okay.  I know that I come out on the other side intact.  Frankly, I’m not even sure that I’ll be aware that the years are passing.  Like I said–dark spots—I’m not used to things being unknown, but I’ll be okay.  I’m not writing this letter so you can come and save my ass, although I appreciate the thought.  (Unless of course, you weren’t thinking about coming to save my ass, in which case—fuck you, Arthur.)

No, I’m writing this letter for Maggie.  Or, for you, to help with Maggie.  I’m not trying to imply that she can’t take care of herself—because we all know that girl can take care of herself better than the rest of us combined.  But I don’t want her to have to take care of herself. I love that girl, and these years, they’re going to hurt her and it’s going to suck.  I’ve always been there for her, since the day she was born, and now I won’t be.  She likes you, though, Art.  For god knows what reason, she trusts you.  Not the begrudging respect and trust for someone I trust, but she genuinely trusts you.  So, check on her, please? Help her carry the load if she’ll let you.  Maybe reassure her I’m not dead.  Maybe let her know that I’d be there if I could.  Maybe get drunk with her and share stories about how I’m an ass for abandoning you all.  I don’t know what she’s going to need. I don’t know what she’s going to think of me.

So, please—help her where I can’t.  After all, I’d be dead a hundred times over if it weren’t for her. And so would you.

I’ll see you when I see you.

–Daniel

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2014 in Stories

 

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Fiction: Getting Help (888 words)

It was about four in the morning when the knocking started.  Dean sat up slowly, blinking a little bit, running through the possibilities in his head.  Did he miss a night shift? Surely they would have called rather than this constant soft knocking.  Not frantic enough to be an emergency, but constant enough that he knew it was there, that he knew it wasn’t just a trick of the mind or the pipes settling.

He didn’t bother to put on a shirt, just stumbled towards the door in his gym shorts, scratching idly at the side of his neck, running through a list of names that could be coming to his house in the middle of the night.  He unlocked to the door, but left the chain on, opening it just a crack.

“Bess.”  He peeked out the crack.  That name was not the list.  “Hold on, let me get the chain.” Dean shut the door again and took a deep breath.  Whatever drove Bess to come to see him at four in the morning was likely not something good.

He let one more slow breath out through his mouth, and then he pulled the door open again. “Come in.” Bess didn’t look good, per se.  Her eyes were red like she’d been crying.  Under her eyes were dark like she hadn’t been sleeping well. But she seemed rather put together, not like a woman who walked to his apartment at four in the morning and knocked on his door for ten minutes straight.  “Can I get you something? A drink?”

“No.” She crossed pass him and sat down on the couch.  He sat next to her gently, still not sure what the appropriate response should be, but now very aware of the fact that he was naked from the waist up.  “I mean.  No thank you.  I’m okay.”  She gave a little laugh, and shook her head, “Well, no I’m not okay, but I don’t need a drink.”  Bess covered her face with both of her hands.

Dean put a gentle hand on her shoulder.  “How about you just tell me what you came here for?”

Bess waited three seconds before lowering her hands back to her lap.  “I’m sorry to be here like this, I woke you—“

Dean gave her shoulder a gentle squeeze and she stopped talking.  After another second, he repeated, “How about you just tell me what you came here for?”

“I need you to tell me to get help.”

His hand fell away from her shoulder.  “What?”

This time, when the words came pouring out of her, he didn’t stop her, he just let her go on. “I need help.  I’ve needed help for a long time now, but I couldn’t admit it to myself and then I sure as hell couldn’t admit it to someone else and I’ve been thinking about it and it occurred to me that I’ll never help me for me, I’ll always convince myself that other people have bigger issues than I do and I’ll never do anything about it, but if someone told me, and maybe that’s part of my issues, but if me getting help was for someone else then I could do it, but then I realized that there are a lot of people who could tell me to get help but I don’t know if I would believe them but I believe you want me to healthy and I’d believe that you’d be concerned for me.  I’d considered waiting until morning at a decent hour but the longer I thought about asking you the more I started to talk myself out of it, and I need to come down here and ask you now before I lost my nerve and I’ve said so much now and you’re looking at me like I’ve grown an extra head so I’m just going to curl up and die now.” She let her head fall forward and covered her face with her hands again.

It took Dean a second to realize that his mouth was open and that he was staring.  Slowly he began to piece together the things that Bess had said. He shut his mouth and turned in his seat so that he was no longer looking directly at her when he asked, “Is this about Tay?”

Bess made a soft strangled noise and rubbed her heel along the scar on her left shin as if scratching at a wound that had longed healed. “No.  I mean, that didn’t help.  That was a lot of unwanted attention and guilt over his death, so it probably didn’t help, but no.  Something’s been off in my head longer than that.”

Dean nodded slowly.  “I’m going to get you some blankets.  You’re camping out on the couch tonight.  In the morning we’ll discuss the best ways to go about getting your head screwed on right, okay?”  Bess nodded, and Dean leaned in to give her a hug.  As he held her, he realized she was shaking. “Bess, I need you to get better, yeah?  I’m not okay when you’re not okay.”  Just because it was what she wanted to hear doesn’t mean it wasn’t true.

“Okay,” Her voice was soft, and she sounded exhausted.  “I think I’d like to get some sleep now.”

“All right. Let me get those blankets.”

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2014 in Stories

 

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