Author Topic: Ghosts (18+ violence, language, adult themes)  (Read 6354 times)

Simon Toews

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« Reply #45 on: February 01, 2019, 12:38:31 AM »
Once again, the grey dreariness of the city was in his rearview, SImon behind the wheel of a rented Ford sedan.  He expected there to be a weight lifted, like the last time when he met Kate, Virgil and Millie.  He was running again...but this time there was no relief.  This time, he was headed for something, completely uncertain of what awaited him on the other end of it.  Anna would be there, but what would he find when he got there?  The expanse of fields were now blanketed in miles and miles of snow, the sun hidden behind a grey veil of clouds.  How the hell had he let Mulcahy talk him into this?  One moment, he was heroically swearing off putting his friends and loved ones in danger, and the next, he was packing his bags.  

After everything he'd seen and done, he was surprised to find himself nervous at the prospect of meeting her again.  Mulcahy hadn't exactly been forthcoming about what she was up to, other than the fact that she was unmarried and reasonably happy in whatever life she'd carved out for herself.  Part of him wanted to just turn around before he ****ed it up for her.  But curiosity, and some nameless desire drove him onward.  He had to see her, even if she immediately sent him packing, he had to know it was really her.

His car slowed to stop at the crossroads, a sign pointing North reading "Haven".  

"Bit on the nose, Anna." He chuckled to himself, flipping on the turn signal and cutting the wheel.  She was on the far outskirts of town, Mulcahy had told him. The actual town took him back to Noble for a moment. That small, rural, salt of the Earth kind of place.  He could definitely see the appeal.  He passed through following the road as it became increasingly flanked with snow-covered pines.  She lived in relative seclusion out here.  Close enough to society to keep herself fed, and far enough away to be left alone. She was always the smart one, he thought.  If he'd had half a brain, he'd have cleared out years ago.  Maybe he could have avoided all the pain he'd been through in the past decade and change.  

He travelled up the snowy, ill-plowed road until he saw the ranch.  It was bigger than he expected.  Stables and a large barn were off to the left and right of a large two story house, wider than it was tall.  Wooden fences flanked the road, stopping in the large area in front of the house  Three or four different cars were parked in along one side of the house, one of them a big, beat-up pick up.  Lanterns hung upon the porch cast a warm light in the approaching night.  Smoke rose from a chimney over the left side of the building, and he could see different people of multiple ages walking around inside through the windows.  Did she have a family, he wondered?  Hadn't Mulcahy mentioned she was unmarried?  Maybe the old man got mixed up, he thought.  Good for her, if she did.  If anyone deserved it...

Simon pulled to a stop in the nearest clear space, remaining in the car for a moment.  Once again, that fear came back.  What if she told him to go away.  What if she took one look and couldn't fake it enough to see him?  He didn't think he could handle that.  Part of him just wanted to turn around and leave.  Let her live her life happy.  Without him.

His eyes closed and he just breathed.  In.   Out.  Let it go, Simon.  Get out of the car.

The car door creaked open and he stepped out into the cold.  His boots crunched in the snow as he made his way to the door, every step feeling like it weighed a metric ton.  He was one the verge of running when that door opened.  Simon froze.

Anna stood there.  Her green eyes softer now, her red hair healthy-looking and tied in a loose bun.  She wore a cream colored sweater under a slightly oversized rancher's jacket and a pair of blue jeans, slightly faded from wear.  The scars remained, but they were less noticeable now.  She was beautiful.  More beautiful than he remembered.   Just looking at her, his heart ached.  She stared back, like she was seeing a ghost.  He couldn't decide if the look on her face was sadness or happiness.  Maybe it was a bit of both.

"Hey, Anna."  he said quietly.

Her eyelids fluttered and a small laugh left her.  "Hey, Simon."

The redhead smiled then, stepping forward and down the steps to him.  Immediately, her arms wrapped around him and pulled him close.  In an instant, the past 20 years disappeared.  Simon held her just as tight, clinging to make sure she didn't disappear, the ensure he wasn't dreaming.  Then...something inside broke.  Wave after wave of emotion hit him hard and the tears began to come.  Simon couldn't stop it.  It just came.  His breath came out in a quivering whimper, his eyes clamping shut.  Anne just held him tight as his body shook, wracked with sobs.

When she finally pulled back, her eyes were glistening with her own tears, a hand reaching up and stroking his cheek.  A chuckling breath left her and she sniffed, smiling up at him.  "I guess we have a lot to talk about, huh?"


(OOC Note: Written to this music, if it helps. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wt_IoFlvKFA Writing this scene utterly destroyed me)

"You can run on for a long time.  But sooner or later, God'll cut you down."

Simon Toews

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« Reply #46 on: February 03, 2019, 07:46:08 PM »
The house was as warm and welcoming as he'd imagined.  The sounds of people going about their tasks filled the air.  The scent of a warm meal wafting out from the kitchen.  All over were pictures of kids and adults alike.  In all of them, Anna stood with them, that warm, gentle smile on her face.  

"Take your coat?"  She offered Simon with a glance over her shoulder, pulling her own jacket from her shoulders.  

Simon kicked the snow off his boots and stepped inside, removing that peacoat and handing it off. "Thank you."

Anna carried them to a closet and putting them up on hangars.  A little girl came running through the room to her, bright eyed with a big mess of curly blonde hair.  "Ms. Anna."She begged her attention.

Anna smiled brightly to the girl, her tone raising sweetly.  "Yes, Miss Daisy."  

"Can I feed the horses, pleeeeeeease?"  She tugged on Anna's sleeves excitedly.

"Yes, sweet girl."  Anna grinned and kissed the top of her head.  "Yes, you can."

The little girl looked absolutely blissful at this gift of a chore, letting out a little "Eeeeee!" in response.

"Did you say hi to my friend?" Anna asked the little girl.  Daisy shrank a bit, suddenly shy looking at him.

"Hi."  She said a bit sheepishly.   Simon crouched down to her level and smiled, offering her his hand.  

"Heya, Daisy."  He said. "I'm Simon.  Anna and I are old friends."

The hint of a smile formed on the girl's face as she placed her tiny hand in his.

"Nice to meet you." She said politely.

"Likewise." He nodded. "Don't let me keep you, kiddo. Those horses were giving each other funny looks out there.  I think they're getting pretty hungry."

Daisy giggled and ran off.

"Hat and gloves!"  Anna called after her.  Simon quirked a brow to Anna and smirked.

"Horses, huh?"

She held her palms up and shrugged.  "Kid loves 'em."

"Oh yeah,He chuckled. "I'm sure she's the only reason you have them.  Anna graced him with teasing little smirk.

"Yknow...Somehow, I didn't see you becoming a farmgirl."  

"You and me both.  But...that's a bit of a long story."  

Simon imagined there were a lot of "long stories" for them to delve through.  But for now...he had one thing gnawing at his mind.  "So...uh...Daisy there?"

"Mmhmm?"  Anna responded closing the closet and slipping out of her sneakers.  

"She, uh..."

"She's one of my kids."  Anna nodded, not yet sure of what he was asking.

"Oh."  Simon said, his brows raising.  "You, uh...you had kids, huh?"

Her brow creased as she looked to him curiously.  Then she got it.  "Oh!"  She laughed.  "Oh, no, no, no.  Not like that.  She and her mother stay here.  They got caught up with a, uh...well."

"Not a nice guy?"

"No.  It was a bad situation.  They had to get out of it, so they came to me." She explained, leading him into the busy kitchen.  A large man at the stove cooking up a stew, Anna gently placed a hand on his elbow as she passed the pair of them sharing a friendly smile.  "S'cuse me, Otis."  

"Ms. Anna."  He nodded to her.  "Grub's almost up."  

"Smells great.  Thanks, Otis."

Simon and the big man shared a glance, a slight defensiveness in the stranger's eyes as he regarded the tattooed newcomer.  Simon nodded to him, a bit awkwardly.  Otis sized him up and lifted his chin.  Anna glanced over her shoulder.  

"Get you a drink?  Coffee, soda, water?"  She asked.

"Coffee sounds good."  He nodded.  Anna poured them each a cup, handed his off to him and lead him through the house.  Kids were playing games, an elderly couple sat at a chess board, and a few women were chit-chatting.  They pushed their way through a set of double doors into a dining room, Anna sliding into a chair.

Simon looked around, taking it all in, flashes of Virgil and Kate's running through his mind.  It was as every bit as cozy, but there was an energy to it, a life in the atmosphere of the place.  He sank down onto a chair, mixing cream and sugar in his cup.  "What is this place?"

Anna thought a moment.  She'd never put a name to it, really. "Well...it's...kind of a half-way house.  A refuge for..."

"People like us?"  He finished for her.  The smile on her face dimmed.  It was impossible to leave the past behind, though they'd both tried like hell.  Some days they could even convince themselves they'd buried it.

"Yes."  She said, those emerald colored eyes dropping to the brown liquid in her mug.  "Lot of people out there going through a lot of bad stuff.  Sometimes, they just need a helping hand.  If I can provide that...well, I feel like it's my duty."

A smile crossed his lips, watching her.  Even when they were locked up together, she was a protector of the weak and damaged, himself included.  He should have guessed this was where she'd end up.  Suddenly, the image returned to him of the last time they'd seen each other, the girl being dragged off into a sea of people as the doors of the train slid shut.  When their eyes connected again, he could tell they were thinking the same thing.

"Anna..." he said.  

"Simon..." She protested, but he pressed on.

"Please."  He said.  "I need to know what happened."

Her eyes slid shut, Anna remaining silent for a long moment.  When she opened them again...she was there.

"You can run on for a long time.  But sooner or later, God'll cut you down."

Anna Simmons

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« Reply #47 on: February 03, 2019, 11:00:36 PM »
The world around her was muffled beneath a burlap sack secured over her head.  Her hands were bound behind her back with zip ties.  They were tight.  Too tight.  The rigid plastic dug into her wrists uncomfortably.  Simon had been right.  The time had come when everything fell apart, just as he'd said it would.  Part of her was furious and sickened at what he'd done.  It was the cause of all this.  But, deep down, she understood.  What that man had done to him...to so many other young boys...he deserved to face justice for what he'd done...but she knew it offered no satisfaction.  How many men had used her just like that man had used Simon?  How certain had she been that putting a bullet between her abuser's eyes would assuage any pain and shame she felt over what had happened?  Killing him did not make it go away.  It just left her feeling hollow.  But, still...she understood.

Anna was roughly yanked to her feet and pulled out of the car, immediately going limp.  She couldn't escape, but damned if she was going to make it easy for them.  Her boots scraped against the concrete floor, the barest hints of light visible through that scratchy burlap hood.  It was the smell that told her where she was.  She knew it all too well.  Three months hadn't been enough to wipe it from her memory.  The men dropped her to the ground, the girl landing on her side.   The familiar, cool, damp concrete sending a chill through her bones.  Anna did her best not to panic.  It was time to take things a step at a time.  The only certainty she had...was that she would not fight.  Not ever again.  No matter what they did to her.  She would find a way.


How long she laid there, she couldn't tell.  Minutes, hours, it all blended together.  When the door creaked open, she flinched at the sudden sound.  A pair of hands grabbed her and put her on her knees.  She jerked her body out of their grasp, defiant to the end.  Footsteps approached, but she didn't have to guess whose.  He was humming a tune to himself.  Quietly muttering the words.

"We'll meet again."  he sang.  "Don't know where..."

Her hands began shake, and she tried her best to still them.

"Don't know when...but I know we'll meet again some sunny day..."

The hood was pulled from her head, the light blinding her for a moment.  Slowly, she began to make out the figure in front of her.  Jakob Falk sat in a metal folding chair, that fancy suit flawless and clean, his scarred face regarding her pitilessly.  

"Hello, Anna."  he said calmly.  "Welcome back."

She didn't respond, just glared a hole through his face.  He did not seem bothered by it at all.  He took in a lungful of air, letting it out in a long sigh.  "Anna, Anna, Anna.  You and Simon caused an awful lot of trouble."

Her eyes remained locked on him, something predatory in them mingling with pure, unadulterated hate.

"I had such plans for the both of you."  he said, turning his eyes up at her.  "You were to sit at my side.  Want for nothing.  Fear nothing.  But you just.  Couldn't.  Be patient."

The tears that welled in her eyes were not out of sadness.  They were the expression of unfettered rage.  Still, she never broke eye contact.  She would not cow to him.  

"Did it feel good?  Killing Mr. Stills?  Killing Mr. Larkin?  Was it worth it, Anna?  For some silly idea of freedom?  Eeking out a living on the scraps of society?"

"No."  She said, finally.  "Because we never were free.  Were we?   No matter what we do, we'll never be free of you.  Will we?  You made sure you branded us for life."

"I made you stronger."  

She sneered at him.  "You truly believe that, don't you?"

"I do."  He nodded.

"You sad, sad little man."  she shook her head.  "It ends now."

Falk was not amused.  "No.  No, my dear.  It's just the beginning."

She remained defiant, smiling right in his face.  "I'll never be what you tried to make me."

"Oh?  Well, let me tell you what you *will* do.  You will go back into the cages.  You will fight.  You will repay your debt to me.  And if you survive...then I'll decide what use you are to me."

"No."  She said confidently.  "Never again."

His brow furrowed.  "Come now, Anna.  You know what happens in the ring."

"Better than you do."  She fired back.  "And I won't lift a finger."

"You'll die."  He said plainly.

"Then I'll die on my own terms."  

Falk wasn't sure how to handle this.  She was utterly defiant and unafraid of him.  Whatever Simon had gotten up to with her out in the world, he'd given her a strength Falk had not seen before.

"If that is your fate."  He nodded slowly.  "Then so be it."

He stood then, slowly and started toward the door.  As he reached for the knob, he glanced back to her.  "Don't worry about Simon."  Falk said.  "It's only a matter of time.  He can't hide forever."

Once again, he began humming the tune to "We'll Meet Again", low, slow, and haunting as he stepped through the door.

Jakob Falk

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« Reply #48 on: February 05, 2019, 10:58:10 PM »
The girl was obstinate.  Rebellious.  But then, she would have had to be to make it as far and as long as she had.  Jakob couldn't have that.  That fire would have to be quashed somehow.  Anna was fearless.  It would take work to find her weakness.  It was easier before, all he had to do was threaten Toews.  Now she was emboldened, a sense of purpose achieved.  Many had come through there with the confidence she possessed, but that was at the beginning when they had no idea what awaited them.  Eventually, they all cracked.  Anna knew exactly what world she'd reentered and still, she practically dared him to come for her.  Jakob's lifeblood was control.  Anna legitimately scared him.

He stood in that finely appointed office, the scent of fresh coffee and leather mingling with mahogany in air around him.  Falk stared out the window overlooking the city.  Grey skies showering everything in white, fluffy flakes.  A world blissfully unaware, ripe for the taking to his mind.  If only he could have grabbed Toews, this would have been so much easier.  He underestimated the girl.  Figured she'd beg for him, do everything in her power to stay with the boy and doom them both.  From what he'd been told, it had been her own choice that separated the two of them.  Granted, after seeing what the kid had done to Tobias Larkin, he was vaguely relieved.  Falk had never cared for the man, himself,.  In fact, he thought very little of the men and women who partook in his fighters, but the leverage and power it gave him over the rich and powerful was priceless.  After everything that had happened, he couldn't have the boy in a room with them again.  Simon was willing to kill, even if it wasn't in self defense.  Putting him back in rotation would pile up bodies and questions would, inevitably, start getting asked.  Attention he didn't want or need would be cast in his direction.  Still...he wanted some retribution.  Simon Toews killed his men.  Made him look foolish.  Dead, he was of little use.  No.  Jakob wanted him to hurt and the girl was not enough for him.  Scars and bruises could heal, but the heart wasn't so easy to mend.  He'd find a way.  It was only a matter of time.

A knock came from the door, stealing away his attention.  Jakob threw a glance toward the pebbled glass, a male outline on the other side, a white lab coat just barely recognizable upon his person.

"Come."  He called out.

The door creaked open and Dr. Steinman, his new medical examiner entered the room.  Tall, wiry, and always a little twitchy.  His brown hair kept short and always on the messy side.  Bags darkened the underside of his eyes, a perpetual 5 o'clock shadow on his gaunt cheeks.  The good doctor had his license revoked after prescription meds went missing, his recreational habits becoming a liability to the hospital.  But the man had skill.  The combination of talent and an exploitable flaw was like catnip to a man like Jakob Falk.

"Mr. Falk."   he addressed his employer.  Jakob offered that amiable smile.

"David.  How may I help you?"  He greeted the man.

Steinman fidgeted a bit, his eyes lowering and refusing to make contact with Falk's,  "Um...it...uh...The girl."  He struggled.

Jakob folded his hands behind him, stepping out around his desk.  "Yes.  Anna.  Is there a problem."

"What?"  He asked, the barest hint of panic in his tone.  "No.  No, nothing like that?"

"Excellent.  I want to get her back in rotation as soon as possible."  Falk nodded.  "Wouldn't do to have a sickly wretch out there infecting the clientele."

Steinman scratched at his neck, clearly high on his own stash again.  "It's...I-I don't think that's a...uh...a good idea."

Falk squinted, eyeing him a moment.  "And why, may I ask, not?"

"Well...th-the girl.  She...she's um...she's...pregnant."  

Falk's interest was piqued.  "Pregnant?"

"Y-yes, sir."  Steinman nodded.

"You're sure."

"Positive.  About...3 or 4 weeks along."  the doctor confirmed.

Well, that was a development.  There was no doubt in Jakob's mind who the kid's father was.  Given the timeframe, there was only one person it COULD be.  A small smile played across his scarred face.  In an instant, his concerns went away.  He had his way in.  Anna had something to lose.
[img:14af213a26]https://i.imgur.com/LxEVeLc.gif[/img:14af213a26]

Anna Simmons

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« Reply #49 on: February 12, 2019, 11:57:21 PM »
It didn't take long for the girl to figure out what was happening to her.  Her body began to change and when she started to show, there was no doubt what was happening.  Every day she waited for some pervert to barge in and force himself on her.  But it never came.  She never received visitors, aside from the doctor to check up on her and the people who dropped off her meals.  It was not what Anna expected at all.  Falk had her put up in a decent room, not unlike the motel she and Simon spent those months in.  She was well fed and cared for as the pregnancy continued.  For the first few months she rarely slept.  Most nights, she paced the room, trying to come up with an escape plan.  The door was locked from the outside.  Falk had her on lockdown.  She wasn't even certain where she was, but she was sure that if she could get through that door, she'd find a guard and the long hallway waiting her.  Escape was not an option.

It wasn't just the hopelessness of the situation or the utter confusion of her circumstances that was the most difficult.  It was the loneliness.  Never having anyone to talk to or confide in was torture.  Denying affection or even the slightest amount of joy made even the doctor's visits an event to look forward to.  Falk excelled in these kinds of mind games.  Months passed and her body kept changing, new aches and pains cropping up that the junkie doctor told her were normal.  Aside from that, the conversation was limited to the clinical.  Whenever she tried to talk about anything else, he either ignored her or interrupted, saying "We're not allowed to talk about that."  There were people who saw childbirth as a miracle.  Something to be excited about and look forward to.  That wasn't going to be her experience.  When she wasn't trapped with crushing lonliness, she dreaded the thought of what Falk would do with the kid once it was born.  Would he be evil enough to kill it?  Would he hold it hostage while making her do his bidding?  The worst she could imagine was the man raising her baby to be like her and Simon.  Put into the ring when it came of age and made into a fighter and sold to the highest bidder for those nights of terror she was subjected to in her own youth?  It chilled her to the bone to even consider it.

Some nights, she'd talk to Simon as if he were there.  Imagining his side of the conversation.  In those moments of delusion, he'd promise he was coming for her.  That he'd take her away from all this and they could live happily with their child, far from the reach of this hellish place.  As comforting as the thought was...it wasn't what she wanted.  She hoped Simon was far, far away.  Living safely, never to be hurt again.  One of them had to get out alive, and she firmly believed he deserved it most of all.  Whatever they did, she would take it.  She would be strong and persevere, even in the face of Falk's emotional tortures.  Other nights, she found herself with her hands on her expanding belly, talking to the unborn child within.  She told it about its father.  About who they were and all their hopes and dreams.  She apologized to her future baby for the world it would be born into.  She apologized that she couldn't save it.

Nine months passed.  She was awoken from a rare moment to true slumber by a sudden rush of wetness and stabbing pain.  For a moment, she thought she was being attacked, but when she found nobody there, she realized what was happening.  As she stood, the contractions hit like a mack truck, the agonized groans leaving her of their own accord.  Panic filled her as she doubled over, sinking back onto the bed.  The guards must have heard her, because moments later, the doctor barged into the room.  He spoke to her encouragingly and gently, getting her to lie down.  It was rare to see him when he wasn't strung out on something, and tonight, she was grateful for him.  There would be no epidural or pain management here, but he stuck with her through it all.  Over the next 9 hours, it felt like the kid was ripping her body in half..  The agony was like nothing she had ever experienced, even in her short, painful life.  It was only sheer will, adrenaline, and determination that she finally pushed one last time and the baby was out.

Exhaustion doesn't begin to even touch what she felt.  Her body felt destroyed, her throat hoarse from screaming.  She found herself trembling uncontrollably as her head swam wildly, the room spinning in a kaleidoscope of color and light.  Try as she might, she couldn't catch her breath.  Dimly, she was aware of her newborn's wailing.  Weak and listless, she grabbed for him with one arm, but her body refused to respond in any way that might make a difference.  

The room began to get dark, the world fading away as she was injected with something.  The last thing she heard before losing consciousness was the doctor's voice.

"It's a boy."

Simon Toews

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« Reply #50 on: February 15, 2019, 08:42:19 PM »
Simon stared at Anna, heartbroken for her but also for himself.  They had a son.  Somewhere out there was a boy he'd never known.  His flesh and blood.  It took a moment to process.  Anna wiped her eyes with the back of her hand, pushing away the tears that streamed down her cheeks.  She ran her fingers through those red locks, pushing them behind her ear and regaining her composure.  

"They patched me up, got me healed and the next thing I knew, I was out on the street."  Anna told him.  "No...taunting.  No goodbyes.  Nothing.  Just went to sleep and woke up in an alley in middle of nowhere.  I tried to find him.  To rescue him from that son of a bitch.  But he'd gone.  The old factory was empty.  Completely cleared out.  I spent the next 2 years trying...but after a while, I had to give up."

"Jesus, Anna..." Simon muttered, reaching out and clasping her hand.  "Why didn't you come find me?"
he asked gently.

Those glossy green eyes turned up to him.  "I didn't want to drag you back into it.  I thought you'd be better off not knowing.  You were safe."

"We could have gone after him together."  He insisted.  "Taken him down and gotten our son.  We could have had a life with him."

"Simon.  How?  Storm whatever fortress Falk built for himself?  Have you kill a dozen or so men or die trying?"

"If I had to."  He said it as if it were common sense.  Anna sighed, her face falling into a frown and shook her head.

"I didn't want that for you."  She said. Her brow creased, images of their escape had never left.  "You know...when I saw what you did to Stills...and then to that...that man...I was scared."

"I'd never have hurt you."  He said.

Anna smiled sadly, a shake of her head loosening a few strands of those red tresses. "I wasn't scared for me."

"They had it coming."  He insisted, a darkness in his countenance.

Anna's eyes closed, a bitter laugh escaping her.  "See...that is exactly what I'm talking about.  I didn't want you to become...THAT.  This cold...distant...killer.  You're better than that."

Simon seemed confused, his hand leaving hers.  No.  Not confused offended.  "You don't know that.  You don't know what I've done."

"Simon..."

"No.  You want to know who I am?  You think I'm the good guy?  This is what I do.  People come for me and I make goddamn sure they don't get a second chance.  I've taken down ****ing empires, Anna.  I've killed so many men I lost count."

"Yeah?"  She asked him.  "And how's that worked out for you?"

"Pretty damn good."  he said defensively.

"And there's always another one.  Isn't there?"  She said quietly.  "Always more violence.  Always more death.  Always more blood on your hands."

"I do what I have to."  

"Oh, bulls***."  She said.  "You know what happens when you surround yourself with violence?  When you go out looking for the next fight?  And the next.  And the next?  And the next?"  Anna asked him.  "You find it or it finds you."

"You don't know that."  He shook his head obstinately.  

"Oh, I don't?"  She nodded bitterly.

"They came after you and me.  I took care of it.  They killed a terrified woman, just trying to escape her piece of s*** abusive husband.  And I took care of it.  I had a girlfriend and they came for her.  Took care of it.  They took my..."  His voice caught in his throat.  "They murdered my daughter.  My sweet, baby girl.  And you know what I did?  I wiped out every. Single.  Last.  One of those mother ****ers, and I'd do it again in a ****ing heartbeat."

Anna softened visibly at the mention of Cici.  "I didn't know you had a daughter."

"Her name was Cici.  And in a world full of darkness, that kid was a ****ing light brighter than the sun.  She was innocent and she was good, and they killed her like she was nothing and made me watch. All because I helped some scumbag criminal's wife.  So I did the same to them.  I sent those bastards screaming to hell.  Because THAT is who I am."

Anna blinked, quiet a long moment.  "I'm sorry."  She said.  "I'm sorry that happened to you.  MY heart sincerely breaks for you, Simon."

"I tried, Anna."  he said sadly.  "I really did.  But I didn't know anything else.  When we got separated, I wound up running with a couple crews, getting into that life...but when I tried to get out, something always just pulled me back in."

"Don't you see?"  She asked him gently.  "You went right back into it.  Running with crimelords and criminals...You could have gotten your daughter away from all that.  You could have gotten help.  For Cici, for that woman you mentioned.  You could have run.  Gotten somewhere safe.  And I'm not saying you're to blame for her death.  But you chose this life.  You chose to surround yourself with violence and death and darkness.  I've been there, Simon.  I know.  It's all we had.  But that life only begets more pain.  More blood.  You need to break that cycle or one day, it is going to catch up and consume you and everyone you hold dear."

He didn't know how to respond.  The defensive part of his brain wanted to contest it, but she was right.  Every single time something bad had happened, it was because he'd exacerbated a situation into a needless, bloody conflict and it ended up hurting the people around him.  Paige had implied as much.  

"You can be better."  Anna told him.  "You can be SO much more.  I know you have it in you.  You always have.  You just have to see it in yourself, like I do.  You have to want it."

"I can't."  He said simply, his voice breaking.

"Simon."  She said, taking his rough hands in her's.  "Look at us."  

She stared into his eyes, her face marred by scars that seemed dim compared to the ones people couldn't' see.  "Look at what what he made us.  How much more do we have to give before we stop letting him control our lives?"

Something in the core of him ached. It sounded so easy when she said it.  He wanted so very much to believe it was possible to well and truly let go.  To put Falk and everything he'd taken from them behind.  But he couldn't.  The hatred, for Jakob Falk and for himself was too much.  He didn't deserve peace.

Anna could see it in his eyes, sadness settling in as she released his hands.  She'd never give up on him, but he had to want her help if she was ever able to make a difference.  

"Do me a favor?"  She asked.  

Simon glanced up to her.

"Stay."  She said.  "Just a few days.  And keep an open mind.  Think about what I said."

Simon nodded slowly. "Okay."

"Yeah!"  That smile returned, bringing out his own.  There was still some kind of love in those green eyes.  Some affection.  "It really is good to see your face again."

The weary fighter ran a hand through his short cropped hair. "You have no idea."

"You can run on for a long time.  But sooner or later, God'll cut you down."

Miles

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« Reply #51 on: February 19, 2019, 11:29:19 PM »
The snow-covered city sprawled outside the window of Falk's office, a crackling fire giving warmth while outside, it was frigid.  Was hunched over his desk, going over reports of some kind.  The sort of business Miles found terribly dull and uninteresting.  He was a physical creature, with not much of a mind for numbers or the complicated ins and outs of running an operation like Mr. Falk's.  His role was simple.  Go there.  Hurt that person, or bring back information.  He didn't need a degree to do that.  He'd had his education growing up under Falk's watch.
Ruby sat, her Italian Leather booted foot propped upon a vintage, ornately carved coffee table as she sharpened the little flip-out knife in her hand.  The whetstone scraped along the sharp edge of that blade, ending with a "shink!" each time.  The sound was beginning to grate on him.  Miles knew she did it on purpose.  If one didn't know the truth, they'd think it was almost flirtatious.  But the reality was that there were rules to working for Jakob Falk.  In-fighting amongst his inner circle was forbidden.  No matter the ill will.  Those who broke the peace paid for it dearly.  So, they skated the fine line.  Passive aggressively poking and prodding each other in small ways.  Part of Miles thought it was in the attempt to get him to slip up and try something stupid.  Give her permission to put him down.

Miles was elsewhere today.  His mind on the blonde pop star he'd be seeing tonight.  On things far more exciting and fun than standing around in dreary silence.  The scribbling of pen mixed with the ticking clock and the "shhhhhhhink!" of Ruby's knife.  Over and over again, seemingly onto infinity.

Falk cleared his throat and closed his ledger finally., leaning back in his chair, hand going to his forehead as he sighed.  Heavy weighed the head that wore the crown, Miles supposed.  He turned to his boss.

"Alright?"  he asked.

Falk swiveled around to face him, eyes upturning to the young man.  "Mr. Grieger is short again."

Miles knew what that implied, what would need to be done.  Those who didn't come through on their debts faced a varying scale of retribution.  Jonathan Grieger was a wealthy CEO of a failing company.  Falk had seen to it that he had the funds to keep going...for a bit of a kickback.  Thus far, the good Mr. Grieger was not living up to his end of the bargain.  Twice before, he'd failed to pay up on time.  This was strike 3.

"You and Ruby."  Falk nodded to the assassin on the couch.  Those predatory, hawk-like eyes glancing up from her blade, sweeping that a bit of hair from the short bob behind her piercing-riddled ear..  "I want you to go talk to him.  And if there are any issues...make it quick.  He's a friend.  We owe him as much."  

Friend.  A swift death was the mercy being Jakob Falk's friend earned you.  Ruby closed the knife and slipped it into her back pocket, standing up from the couch.  She was always game for a hit.  But, Miles...he had a date.  Falk saw the hesitance on his young protege's face, his head tilting curiously.

"Something troubling you, my boy?"  He asked him, those eyes burning into his very soul,that laser focused intensity that leaving him feeling utterly exposed..

Miles snapped out of it and shook his head.  "No.  No...just...um.  I had a thing."

"A *thing*?"  Falk's eyes narrowed slightly.

"He wants to go off and plow the Barbie doll." Ruby smirked, pulling on her suit jacket.  Miles shot her a dangerous look.  Dangerous for her...and himself.  

"Miss Bradley."  Jakob said and nodded slowly, rising from his chair.  "You've become quite close, is that right?"

"Yes,sir."  Miles said, his nerves on-edge, a terror growing at what Falk might do.

"That's good."  Falk smiled to the young man, patting him lightly on the shoulder.  "In this life, we must take what pleasures and joys we can.   They're so easily snatched away."

Something about the way he said that chilled Miles to the bone.  Falk walked to the window, hands clasped behind him as he looked out over his domain.  "I worry though, that you have misplaced your priorities.  Ms. Bradley has not yet outlived her usefulness to us, Miles.  Toews lives.  Until we can dispose of him, he is a danger.  We will need...leverage.  The girl is that leverage."

Miles smirked, putting on a false bravado.  "Didn't seem too tough to me."

Falk turned to him, he did not look amused.  "You were lucky.  You caught the man off guard.  Next time, you won't be so fortunate."

"I can handle him."  Miles was almost insulted, his eyes narrowing.  

"You aren't listening.  Do you have any idea what Simon Toews IS?"

Even the LOOK on the man's face had Miles take a step back.  He just shook his head in response.  He'd heard bits and pieces about Simon Toews.  The boy who'd dominated in the ring.  The one who'd escaped.  Falk had done a good job of keeping the rumors and legend at bay, lest they inspire some other misguided kid to try the same.  Now, though, he was confirming every rumor Miles had ever heard.

"He's a bomb waiting to go off.  He's the storm that leaves ruin in his wake.  You have no idea what he is capable of."

Miles had never heard Falk speak like this about someone.  The man was always so self assured and confident in his untouchability.  Falk feared nothing, but he was afraid now.

"Toews was like you once.  Groomed for the position you now hold.  A man of singular purpose.  Focused.  Determined.  He's brought men of immense power to their knees and wiped entire empires off the map."  Falk looked him in the eye and spoke quietly, but gravely.  "We live in a world of gods and monsters and the only thing I truly fear is Simon Toews unleashed.  Do you understand me?"

Miles swallowed hard and nodded.  "Yessir."

"You would be a fool to underestimate him."  Falk said.  He reached out and placed his hands on the young man's shoulders, looking him hard in the eye.

"You'll continue your relationship with her.  Keep her as close as you wish.  But...when the time comes, I expect you to do your duty.."  That steely gaze never left him.  Falk was capable of terrible things.  With a word, he could see Miles dead in the gutter or just flat out disappeared.  As if he'd never existed.  He hated the idea of using Tessa.  To make her a pawn in this game just felt wrong.  She was sweet.  Innocent.  She deserved better.

"You will call her on your way.  Reschedule, yes?"  Falk asked him, though it wasn't a question.  Miles nodded again, slowly.  "And then.   You will go and do your job."

Miles pushed the doubt deep down as he'd done many times in his young life.  With one last nod to Falk, he turned and walked out into the hallway to join Ruby.
[img:f990646549]https://i.imgur.com/fp1UJGz.gif[/img:f990646549]

Ruby Osbourne

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« Reply #52 on: February 24, 2019, 12:00:37 AM »
Joan Jett blared in Tessa's dressing room, the blonde bopping along to "Bad Reputation" as she dressed for an interview.  Simon had broadened her musical tastes quite a bit and lately she noted a different style creeping into the songs she wrote.  It caused arguments with the label, but she was determined to take control of her own life.  

The music was interrupted by the incoming call, Tessa getting annoyed before she saw Miles' name on the screen.  A smirk crossed her face as she picked it up.  "New phone, who dis?"

Miles snickered.  "Hey, Tess."  She could hear the sound of a car engine in the background, he must have been busy.  

"This is.  Who is this?"  She said playfully.  On the other end, Miles grinned.  

"That really, really...ridiculously handsome guy from the other night.  Remember?"  He played along.

"Mm....no.  Doesn't ring a bell."  

"Alright, alright.  I'm the toothless hick who wouldn't leave you alone."  He said, pretending to clarify.

"Oh, MILES!"  She chuckled.  "What's up?"

"Listen, uh...I've got some bad news, babe." He said.  "I can't make it tonight."

"You're standing ME up?"  She said with mock offense.  "I'm KIND of a big deal, you know?"

A rueful smile crossed his lips.  "Yeah, so I've heard.  I'm sorry.  I hate to bail on you, but...I gotta work."

To say she was disappointed was an understatement.  She could only guess as to what that "work" required of him.  Whatever it was, she was certain it wasn't pleasant.  Still, she kept a stiff upper lip.  She liked the boy.  Something about her putting her at ease.  He was the perfect blend of dangerous and sweet that just hooked her in, made her want more.  "Well, you'll just have to owe me a night out, then won't you?"

Miles breathed out a laugh.  "Guess I will.  Alright, I gotta go, but I'll call you later, yeah?"

"You better."  She said before hanging up.

Miles stared at the phone in his hand a long moment.  He could feel Ruby's eyes on him, that mocking little smirk.  "Oh, Miles, you big knight in shining armor"  She said in a high pitched, mocking voice.  "Let me come over there and suck your cock and **** you on my Disney princess bed sheets!"

"Shut up."  He glared at her, no playfulness to him at all.

"You're ****ing disgusting."  Ruby said.  "What is she, like 12?"

"17."  Miles responded, an annoyed tone in his voice.

"Yeah?  You like 'em young, huh?"  She smirked.  The girl was only two years his junior, but she loved to push his buttons.  "Tell me...what's it like getting Toews' sloppy seconds?"

"I said shut the **** up."  Miles snapped at her.  "You say another word about her, I'll ****ing kill you."

Ruby scoffed, that taunting little sneer on her face.  She pulled the wheel, turning down the long road to Grieger's mansion.  "Yeah.  That'll be the day."

The car rolled to a stop out front of the posh estate.  Ruby slid a clip into her H&K USP compact, slipping it into a holster mounted on the back of her belt.  "Put your game face on.  Don't need you going all pussy in there."

"I know my role."  He said simply.

Ruby side-eyed him.  "Yeah.  We'll see."

Once inside, they were greeted by a doorman. A tall, polite man in his sixties. Every bit the stereotype. He ushered them into the parlor to wait.  Ruby immediately plopped down onto a huge, comfy looking couch, her feet unceremoniously propping up on a disgustingly expensive looking coffee table.  Miles looked about the pristine, white room, scanning over the sparse, modern decor.  They must have spent a fortune on so little, he thought.  People like this made him sick.

"Hello."  Came the voice from the room's expansive archway.  Johnathan Grieger was a handsome man, y'all, in fantastic shape.  His dark brown hair kept short and perfectly coiffed.  He had a five o'clock shadow that Miles was certain was deliberate. The loose, linen shirt exposed the hint of chest hair rising from beneath.  Everything was image.  Everything was false.  The man was rich, yet he couldn't fulfill his financial obligations to Falk?   Bulls***.  It was nothing less than pure, stubborn impudence.  And Jakob Falk did not stand for disrespect.  

Miles glanced over, his jaw tightening.  "Mr. Grieger. Good afternoon."  

The rich man made his way over, shaking hands with the goon Falk had sent, making certain to squeeze extra hard.  This was his house and he would not be intimidated in his home.  But when the young punk squeezed back, it was like his hand was in a vice. It took every ounce of restraint to not flinch, let alone yelp in pain.

Those piercing blue eyes stared at him, Miles letting him know exactly who was going to be in charge here.  A wave of relief rushed over Grieger when The boy released him from his grasp.  

His face dropped at Ruby, lazily reclining on the couch and those boots on his furniture. "Excuse me, young miss?"

Ruby shot him a narrow eyed glance, the corner of her mouth screwing up into smirk that just chilled him. He thought better of asking her to remove her feet from the table.

"Can I fetch either of you a drink?" He course corrected, trying to reclaim what scraps of dignity he had left.  

Miles picked up a round, perfectly smooth stone ball from a decorative glass bowl.  It's surface was polished, black and white marbling throughout.  What purpose did this even serve?  How much money had the supposed millionaire pissed away on this thing.  He turned his gaze to the man, staring a moment before shaking his head slowly.

"Mr. Falk is very unhappy with you."  He said quietly.  

Grieger put on something vaguely resembling remorse, his head hanging low.  "Ah.  Yes.  I apologize.   Money is rather...tight these days."

Miles cracked a grin, approaching the man. "Is it?"  He looked around the room seems like you're doing pretty well for yourself to me."

Those dark eyes rose to meet Miles'.  "Appearances are not always what they seem.  I've dealt with labor difficulties and the constant badgering of shareholders.  Not to mention renovations and the bloody, goddamned lawsuits.  Now, I will pay what I owe to your employer.  But it will take a while.  I have to move some things around.  I just ask Mr. Falk to be patient."

"Mr Falk has been patient.  Time and again.  He's tired of waiting." Miles said, locking eyes with him.  

"I don't have the bloody money!  What do want me to do?  Pull it out of thin air?" Grieger insisted.

Ruby chuckled to herself.  "Aw, would you look at that?  He thinks we're here for money."

Grieger's face paled noticeably, his dark eyes flicking back and forth between them.  "Now, now, now..this doesn't need to turn so grim.  I can grab my checkbook-"

"You had your chance to pay up." Miles shook his head. "No more chances."

Grieger set his jaw, a grim look upon his face.  "I had hoped we could be civilized about this.  That we could settle this as gentlemen."

Four armed men, clearly mercs, stepped out behind from the two exits.  They wore tactical vests and carried automatic weapons.  A smirk formed on the millionaire's face as Ruby shot up to her feet, no longer wearing her trademark grin.  "But you wouldn't have that.  Would you?"  Grieger said triumphantly.  

Miles glared, his adrenaline suddenly flowing, his blood pounding in his ears.  Ruby eyed the mercs one by one, calculations and trajectories running wild through her head.  Miles glanced back at her, those sharp, alert eyes of Ruby's connecting with his.  An entire conversation had in an instant, silent, between the two of them.  As one they moved, Miles grabbing Grieger with one arm and pulling a pistol from behind with the other while Ruby drew her blade and let it fly without looking.  The merc's opened up, perforating Grieger's chest with a burst of bullets and knocking Miles onto his back.  Ruby's blade sank into a merc's throat before he could get a shot off, but the man beside him let loose.  Ruby was already dropping dlow behind the couch as the bullets tore through the upholstery, shredding the couch like tissue paper.  

Miles leaned up, still behind his gasping, bleeding human shield.  Grieger was dead, he just didn't know it yet.  Miles opened fire on his foes, making them duck for cover as the bullets ripped into the drywall, sending dust and debris flying about the formerly pristine room.  

Ruby's remaining enemy turned his sights on Miles, the younger man laying back and aiming as best he could with his vision upside down.  Ruby was already on the move, propelling herself off the coffee table, over Miles and Grieger, and dropped into a roll.  Mile's pistol discharged one shot, two shots, three, connecting with the lone merc's armored stomach, chest and then finally, connecting with his thigh.  Ruby came up on one knee, drawing another blade just as the remaining mercenaries came back for the kill.  She redirected the first man's weapon skyward.  She stabbed upwards through the back of his arm, slicing through flesh, muscle and severing his brachial artery. The other wheeled around on her, ready to blast her full of holes.  Ruby ducked under his bleeding, agonized comrade's arm and behind him just as the trigger was pulled.  The force of the gunfire, knocked them both against the wall, her human shield's body armor absorbing the burst of gunfire.  She grabbed his arm, still clutching the rifle and forced him to fire upon his teammate.  

The last remaining mercenary, stumbled back against a pillar as Ruby ripped the blade free.  Before he could recover and fire upon her, she stabbed upward through his jaw, a gurgling scream rent from the man.  Ruby glared at him, blood spattered and vicious, and then struck the handle of the knife with her palm, slamming his jaw shut and driving the blade up into his skull.  The mercenary dropped, his lifeless body twitching involuntarily.

Miles ripped Grieger's body from him.  The man was still alive, gasping and wheezing.  Miles checked himself for wounds, finding only Grieger's blood staining his clothes.  The mercenary Ruby had stabbed through the arm clutched his wound, bleeding freely.  The androgynous assassin took up a rifle and put him down with the merciless pull of a trigger.  

"You good?"  She asked Miles, businesslike.

"Five by five."  He responded, glancing back to  Grieger.  The mortally wounded man was crawling to the couch, leaving a bloody trail behind him, with a great deal of effort, managing to prop himself up and lean back against it.  His eyes flicked wildly about.  Everything he'd planned, every bit of power he'd THOUGHT he had was up in smoke.  Miles knelt before him.  

"John?  Can you hear me?"  He asked.  "John."

Those eyes snapped to him.  Miles frowned, watching him gasping his last breaths.  "This could have been avoided.  I'm sorry it had to end this way."
There was a sudden panic in his eyes then...but he wasn't looking at Miles.  The young fighter glanced over his shoulder and back at Ruby.  Behind her was a woman, her blue eyes wide with terror, and behind her, a boy no more than 10.

"Daddy!"  he screamed.

Miles heart sank.  This was not part of the plan.  The family was supposed to be gone.  Ruby whipped around as the mother ushered her son down the hall as fast as she could.  Ruby didn't think.  She just shouldered the rifle and stormed after them.

"Ruby!"  Miles called after her.  "RUBY NO!"

The sound the rifle burst echoed through the cavernous mansion...followed by a pair of thuds.  Miles stared in wide-eyed horror at what had just happened.  Ruby, though...she thought nothing of it.  Miles tried to control his heartbeat and breathing.  

Calm down.  Find your center.  Don't panic.

Grieger finally died with a bottomless,  unfathomable sadness upon his face.  He'd watched his family murdered just before he finally slipped away.  

Ruby regarded Miles coldly.  "You going to sit there and gawk or are we getting the **** out of here?"  

Miles despised her more than ever in that moment.  The way she looked at him was so cold, emotionless, like she was reading his mind.  For a moment, he thought she might use that weapon on him.   He could see she was considering it, her finger leaving the guard and hovering over the trigger.  

"I said-"

"I heard what you said."  He snapped.  Now was not the time.  "Let's get the **** out of here."

Anna Simmons

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« Reply #53 on: February 24, 2019, 05:14:27 PM »
Anna woke up before the sun rose, as she always did.  She showered and dressed in a lavender colored sweater and faded old blue jeans, readying to wake Simon.  She had to admit a playfully antagonistic eagerness to wake her surely spoiled and lazy city-dweller old friend to acclimate him to life here.  Anna pulled her hair back into a ponytail and stepped out of the room.

"Simon?"  She called out, opening his door a crack.  But Simon didn't answer.  She gave the door a little push, stepping inside.  The bed was made and he simply wasn't there.  A chill of disappointment ran through her then.  Had he really gone already?  That was when it hit her.   The smell of coffee.

She descended the staircase and walked into the kitchen.  Simon was stood at the counter, a dark grey sweater clinging to his slim, athletic form as he poured cream into his cup.  Anna had to admit, she was impressed.  Her old friend glanced over his shoulder.  "Morning.  Coffee?"

A smile tugged at her lips, she walked in.  "Please."  Anna made her way to the table, sliding into a seat.  

"You're up early."  She noted.

Simon sighed, pouring for her..  "Yeah.  I know."   He said with a chuckle.  "I spent some time on a farm a year or so ago.  Got used to the early mornings.  Now I can't sleep past 4 or 5 most days."

Anna narrowed her eyes in mock suspicion.  "Man, what IS your life?"

"Chaos?"  He responded, turning around with their cups and walked over, setting it front of her.  

"How'd you like it?"  She asked.

"Honestly?"  he said.  "Best time I've had...while it lasted."

Anna didn't need clarification of what probably happened.  She could guess.

"Having that kind of structure and...purpose every day was the most peaceful I've ever felt."  Simon said, taking a sip from his cup.

"What?" She feigned offense, tucking a loose strand of red behind her ear, "Our time in and out of motels, running from our captor WASN'T peaceful?"

That little smirk crossed his lips.  "Not exactly."

Anna put her hand to her chest and gasped.  "I'm heartbroken."

Simon snickered and shook his head. "How the hell'd you end up out here?"

Anna eyed him over the rim of her mug. "Our mutual friend.  Was still kinda busted up from...well.  I was in bad shape.  Heard tell of people going to men of God in their moments of need.  Mulcahy helped me out.  Guy was a wreck after what happened to you."

Simon pitied the old priest.  He never wanted that for him

"I think he was just happy to have someone visit and confide in him again. Someone who hadn't even heard the rumors."  Her finger trailed along the ceramic rim, thinking back. "Anyway.  He got me healthy again. But once he figured out where I'd came from something changed.  He was scared.  Took a while before he told me about you."

"You tell him about us?"  Simon asked.

"Not specifically."  She admitted. "Wasn't even sure it WAS you, and I didn't want to pry."

Anna sipped her coffee and sighed.  "Anyway.  He told me I couldn't stay.  That being with him was dangerous.  But he knew a guy out west, farmer with a wife. They owned this land.  Good people.  Took me in gave me a home in exchange for my help around the place.  When I got old enough, I started bringing home what he called 'strays'."

"People in trouble."  Simon pieced it together.  "And these people, they didn't mind this?"

Anna shrugged. "Not really.   They saw how much it meant to me."

Simon grinned. "So, you got them hidden around here, or what?  I'd love to meet them."

Anna's eyes turned downward. "  Would if you could.  They were older, he was sick.  Six years after I showed up, he passed, and after that...well. She wasn't far behind.  Left me everything.  Time went on and I developed a bit of a rep."

"The savior of the ass-end of nowhere."  Simon said theatrically.

Anna snorted, finishing off her cup.  "I do what I can."

Simon couldn't help but smile.  Her life had become real, whole.  Something he'd spent decades chasing and never could quite get ahold of.  "Are you happy?"

Anna looked around, catching sight of the orange sun peeking out of the horizon, a warm smile forming upon her lips.  "Yeah.  Yeah, Simon, I am."  She returned her attention to him.  "Are you?"

He knew damn well she knew the answer.  His silence was all the response she needed.  "Come on."  she said, pushing off from the table.  "Let's get to work."

Ruby Osbourne

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« Reply #54 on: February 25, 2019, 12:36:19 AM »
Jakob was talking to some politician Ruby didn't recognize when she arrived.  She didn't keep up with such things, nor did she care who the man was.  They were pawns.  Objects in Falk's grand game to be moved and utilized as he saw fit.  Disposable.  

Falk caught sight of her and immediately excused his guest, shaking his hand with that winning, fake smile before sending him on his way.  Ruby's predatory eyes followed him coldly out the door before returning to her boss.  Falk leaned back against his desk, smiling pleasantly to her.  

"So?"  He said.

Ruby raised her brows.  "Done."  she told him.  "Son of a bitch laid a trap for us.  Knew we'd be coming.  He had some boys waiting for us."

"Given that you're here talking to me, I assume it went well."  Falk said.

Ruby nodded, screwing her mouth a bit.  "It got messy.  Wife and kid saw it."

That didn't sit well with him.  It wasn't panic on his face, but there was concern there.  "And?"

"They won't be talking."  She assured him.  He knew exactly what she meant by it.

"Unfortunate."  He said.  "But necessary.  Where's Miles?"

"Said he had something to take care of."  She said distastefully.  "Jakob...I don't get what you see in that kid.  He's weak, and that girl is only making him weaker.  Sooner or later he's gonna be a liability."

Falk's expression darkened. "The boy is loyal.  He's earned his place at the table."

"He shies away from what needs to be done.  He hesitated.  That ****er should NEVER have been able to call in his mercs.  And when the kid and Grieger's wife showed up?  You should have seen the look on his face."  She said.  "I almost put him down right then and there."

"You will not lay a finger on him unless told to."  Falk said.  "I have use for the boy.  And I will not have you fowling up my plans, do you understand me?"

"Jakob-"  

"No!"  Falk slammed his palms on the desktop and stood up, suddenly cutting an imposing figure.  "You do not ask questions.  You do as your told.  As does the boy.  If and when his usefulness to me is at an end, then...and ONLY then will he be cut loose.  Until then...you will not touch him.  Is that understood?"

Ruby didn't like it.  Nor did she like the way he was talking to her.  But she was aware of the hierarchy.  She respected it.  Finally, she nodded.

Falk turned and walked to his window, calming himself.  "That will be all."

Ruby watched him a moment.  Miles would get him killed someday, she thought.  And it would be all his fault.

Tessa Bradley

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« Reply #55 on: March 12, 2019, 11:54:35 PM »
Her mother and Tony had gone for the night.  Since Miles put them in their place, they gave Tessa a wide berth.  She preferred it that way.  Tony's eyes stayed off of her when she was around and her mother barely spoke to her at all.  The conversation was not missed.  

She sat in her room, strumming her acoustic guitar.  Tessa was learning a new song she wanted to cover, her fingers plucking the strings slowly.  Her voice lowered a bit, smooth and warm.  "Tell me somethin' boy..."

She ran her tongue across her lips. "Aren't you tired tryin' to fill that void?"

The song put images of both Miles and Simon in her head.  "Or do you need more...ain't it hard keeping it so hardcore?"

She took in a breath, eyes closing slowly.  " I'm fall-ing...and in the good times, I find myself longing...for change."

Her eyes opened then, looking out the window at the chilly city.  "And in the bad times, I fear myself..."

Before she could belt out the chorus, a knock came from the door to the hall.  Instantly she was taken out of the song, a grimace on her face.  She hated interruptions.  With a grumble, she rose off the bed and walked down the penthouse steps.  

As she peered out the peephole, her heart leapt. Tessa threw open the door lunged forth, her arms wrapping around Miles's neck.  "Hey, you!"  

He didn't seem prepared, stumbling back and barely managing to avoid crashing to the ground as they collided. As she pulled back, she didn't see a man happy to be there.  No, he looked pale.  There was a pain in his eyes she didn't expect.  A far cry from the fearless, cocky boy she'd been spending time with.  "Miles?  What's wrong?"

A voice deep inside of her was certain he'd come to end things.  She almost didn't want him to answer.  His eyes finally met hers.  Something had changed in him.  Something was broken.

"Miles?"  She said again, her voice small and afraid.  Those strong arms wrapped around her and pulled her close, his mouth pressing to her's.  The kiss was desperate, needy and passionate.  Whatever was on his mind, he needed to escape.  

Tessa was a bit confused at first, but eventually instinct took over and she reciprocated.  They backed into the room, furiously making out, hands tugging at clothing, baring flesh as they went across the lavish penthouse.  The moment they hit the big, cozy couch, all her worries and concerns went away.  She'd worry about that look in his eye another time.  For now, it would just be about them.  Coming together in a moment of need that was solely for themselves.
[img:591622f109]https://i.imgur.com/3ZGsZkF.gif[/img:591622f109]

Simon Toews

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« Reply #56 on: March 13, 2019, 02:38:18 PM »
Anna stepped into the stables, finding Simon already hard at work.  A brush was in his hand as he groomed one of her horses.  The man never ceased to amaze.  She tugged her brown suede, wool-lined coat shut and crossed her arms watching him, a crooked smile on her face.

"Well.   Look at you."  She said.

Simon glanced back at her, grinning.  "Hey."

"You look right at home."  She told him, walking over to the horse and running her hand along its neck before giving it a pat.

"One of my jobs when I was on that farm."  He explained.  "One of my favorites."

"You're good with him."  Anna said.  "You ride?"

Simon made a face and wavered his hand, so so.  "Let's just say I won't be entering any competitions any time soon."

The grin that formed on Anna's lips unsettled him.  She stepped past him and the horse to a chestnut and white mare, leading her out from the stall.  "Come on, Nevy.  That's a girl."  She cooed to the giant beast.

Simon cocked a brow up at her.  "Going for a ride?"

"Yes."  She said.  "We are.  Saddle Brutus up.  Let's go."

She took a sort of sick enjoyment at the look of slight panic in his eyes them.  She wanted to see just what other fun secrets her old friend was hiding.  "I mean..." he said.  "There's a lot of work to do..."

Anna rolled her eyes, pulling herself up onto horse.  "All work and no play.  Come on, Sally.  Let's go!"  

With a "Yah!", she kicked the beast into motion, galloping out of the barn into the snowy field.  Simon watched her as she went, a rueful look on his face.  "Yeah.  This is a good idea..." He muttered sarcastically and pulled himself onto Brutus's back and chased after her.

Snowy chunks kicked up behind him as he pursued after Anna.  Despite the chill in the air whipping by him , it didn't bother Simon.  The property was huge, Anna leading him across the sprawling snow covered fields.  As he pulled beside her, she glanced over with that crooked little grin on her face.  Simon couldn't help but laugh.  She was loving this.

Suddenly, she broke off to the right, Simon struggling to follow suit.  Brutus made an annoyed sound as he turned.  Simon swore he shot him a dirty look over his shoulder before taking off again.  

Anna and Nevy shot into the woods, following a trail.  She'd clearly run this path before, ducking under twigs and branches before they even came close.  Simon barely escaped getting clotheslined by a branch.

"Heads up!"  Anna called out teasingly behind her.  The pair of them tore through the wooded trail, Simon catching up alongside her.  He had to admit, it was exhilarating.  Anna's face was aglow.  This was where she belonged.  Finally they burst out of the tree line, heading up a hill.  When they finally came to a stop, Simon looked out over a vast canyon.  Winding and impossibly deep into the earth, a brilliant display of reds and browns, forged by millennia upon millennia.  

Simon's breath left him in a mist, the sight overwhelming him.  He'd never seen anything quite like it.

"Helluva view, isn't it?"  Anna said breathlessly.  Her green eyes were shining, possibly from the cold, but also the sight.  "This is where I used to come when I first came here.  It just made me feel like, everything we went through was just a blip in time and everything would pass.  It gave me hope."

Simon was happy for her.  She deserved something like this. Looking out into the winding valleys and cliff faces, he completely understood.  "It's beautiful."

"Yeah," She said with a wistful smile.  "It is."

For a moment they sat and took in the splendor of it all.  Soon after, they were riding back at a leisurely pace.  "You ride well," she told him.

"Not as good as you."  Simon snorted.  "When did that start?"

"I was about...17 I think?" She looked to him.  "Sam and Maggie saw how much I liked the horses, so Maggie started taking me out."

"Well, you clearly took to it."  He said.

Anna laughed bitterly.  "Took my fair share of falls.  Got tossed a couple times.  Spent about a month with a busted arm thanks to one particularly ornery horse."

"Eeesh..." Simon responded through clenched teeth.

"Yeah.  Not fun."  She said.  "Brutus likes you.  I think you made a friend."

Simon chuckled  "Yeah, right.  I think he was about to dump my ass into the canyon."

Anna rolled her eyes.  "Oh, he was not.  You're pretty good.  I half thought you'd have him walking backwards half the way there."

"No, I'm not THAT bad."  He snickered.  "He's a lot of animal to move around."

"Yeah." Anna smiled. "He's my big boy."

"You ever miss the city life?"  Simon asked.

Anna shrugged.  "Not really.  The city's a place of bad memories for me.  Out here, it's peaceful.  Safe."

He could understand that.  How different would his life have been if he'd found her earlier?  How much pain would he have avoided if he'd just left with Cici?  

"Plus, you'd probably piss a few people off racing a nearly one ton animal down Main Street."

"Yeah, there's always that." she laughed.

"You can run on for a long time.  But sooner or later, God'll cut you down."

Tessa Bradley

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« Reply #57 on: March 13, 2019, 11:50:06 PM »
Tessa lay, pressed up against Miles' side, her head resting upon his chest, just listening to his heartbeat.  Her fingers trailed along a scar along his ribcage, one of many that rose here and there upon his body.  A rough thumb stroked her shoulder gently.  For how aggressive and passionate the night had started, now he was incredibly tender.  Those blue eyes peered up at him, taking him in.  Miles stared up at the ceiling, looking lost in thought.  

What was going through that head?  What had charged him up so much that he needed this so badly?  It took a moment for him to sense her gaze, his eyes flicking down to the blonde wrapped in his arm.  A warm smile spread across his face, the mask back on.  His lips pressed to her forehead.  "Hey, there."

Tessa's eyes closed, a contented smile upon her lips.  "Hi."

"You okay?"  He asked her.

Tessa rolled over, her arms draping over his chest, her chin upon her hands.  "Mmhm."  She nodded.  "Are you?"

Miles made an odd face, a little scoff leaving him.  "Yeah, I'm good."

"Good."  She grinned.  "Can I ask you something?"

"Shoot."

Tessa licked her lips, working up to the question.  "Not that I'm not completely satisfied with it...but...what brought this on?"

That smile of his faltered just a hair.  It was almost imperceptible, but she caught it.  He mulled it over in his head before finally speaking.  "I just had one of those days...where nothing goes quite right.  I wanted something...perfect."

Her brows rose.  "Perfect, huh?"  She smirked.  "Lil' ol' me?"

Miles grinned and shrugged.  "Eh.  You're alright."

She swatted his chest.  "Dick."

Miles chuckled and adjusted his position, getting more comfortable.  Tessa rested her cheek upon his chest.  "Is everything alright?"

"I think so."  he nodded.  "Just a bad day."

Tessa's brow furrowed in concern.  "You'd tell me if it wasn't...right?"

Miles' fingers ran through her hair.  "Yeah...Yeah."

Nothing in his tone exactly convinced her, but he clearly didn't want to talk about it.  She lay there and tried to quiet her mind.  She didn't know what he did for Jakob Falk, but she was certain it had something to do with all of this.
[img:591622f109]https://i.imgur.com/3ZGsZkF.gif[/img:591622f109]

Corrine Paige

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« Reply #58 on: March 15, 2019, 08:37:39 PM »
Paige tried the number once again.  For days, she tried to get ahold of Simon, but the man was a ghost.  A long talk with Coleman left her ill at-ease with how they'd parted.  Words had been said that stuck in her head.  He didn't deserve them, least of all from her.  In her heart, she knew the kind of man Jakob Falk was.  The rumors persisted for decades as he built his stranglehold over the city.  

Over the intervening days since his departure, she was able to piece together what must have happened.  Fall played Simon like a fiddle and she, with her coworkers, was a pawn in this game.  It had worked.  Simon was separated from those closest to him.  God knew where he'd gone to hide and regroup, but it didn't take a psychic to figure out what would come next.  War would break out in the streets, and Simon would be leading the charge.  It was only a matter of time.  

Contacting Toews was an exercise in futility.  Corrine's shoulders sank with a heavy sigh, the phone pressed to her forehead as she shut her eyes.  In her fantasies, she could convince him not to go through with it.  She could spare him more pain and blood.  She knew better. Once Simon Toews set his mind to something, he saw it through to the bitter, blood soaked end.  Even if she didn't, he wasn't picking up.

"Is Teen popstar, Tessa Bradley off the market?"  She heard from the television.  Corrine's attention was pulled to the screen, some gossipy garbage entertainment news show showing video of the girl singing on stage.

"Sources have spotted her with a mystery man getting cozy at popular night spots throughout the city for the past few weeks.  But who is he?"

Paige's breath caught in her throat.  The boy with her looked just like a young Simon.  She had to rewind and pause the image.  It was the eyes.  She knew those eyes.  As quick as she could she pulled up his number, listening to the ring anxiously.  

"Pick up.  Come on, Toews.  Pick up the ****ing phone!"

"This is Toews.  Leave one."  She'd heard that damn voicemail message a hundred times. Left messages that were never returned.  

"Toews, it's Paige.  You need to call me back!  I know I ****ed up, you need to hear this!  Call me back."

She ended the call, knowing full well he wouldn't.  Her head was spinning. She needed more.  She needed something else.  Corrine went to the first name that made sense.

""Yello?"

"Jordan." She said as the girl who worked as the clerk and bookkeeper at the agency picked up. "I'm sending you a picture.  I need an ID."

"I don't exactly have all my files..."

"Just do what you can.  Please.  This is important."

It was a long shot, but Jordan knew her s***, and research was like her drug.  She knew how to dig up dirt.  It was just a hunch, but if it meant what she thought, it could change everything.
[img:fe41905133]http://i.imgur.com/C6tIFxT.jpg[/img:fe41905133]

Anna Simmons

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« Reply #59 on: March 19, 2019, 01:33:28 AM »
Simon sat at the kitchen table across from Otis.  The man was built like a wall, arms as big as Simon's head.  And that face was stoic as a statue.  His cards were dwarfed by his huge hands, the big guy just staring.  Simon studied him in vain.  Otis betrayed absolutely nothing.

Those sharp blue eyes, shot to his hand.  Full house.  Good hand.  Otis stared like he was looking at a hidden image poster, waiting for everything to become clear.  Simon chewed lightly on the inside of his cheek and made his decision.  "Welp..." he said.  "Call up Danny Tanner...cuz, it looks like we got ourselves a Full House."  

He laid that full house on the table.  The moment Otis saw his hand, his facade cracked, those brows rose and a cocky smirk came to Simon's face.  That was...until the slow, low laughter started rumbling from the man across the table.  Otis layed down a straight flush, and Simon's face fell.

"Well...****."

Otis laughed loudly, collecting the pot.  "Better luck next time, Uncle Joey."

"Hey." Simon said firmly.  "Uncle Jessie.  At least give me that."  Simon joked bitterly.

Anna walked into the kitchen ,pouring herself a glass of water.  "Otis, you scamming Simon?"

"Just a friendly game, Miss Anna."  He assured her.

Simon made a face.  "Yeah, tell that to the five hundred I'm out now..."

"Hey, live by the sword, die by the sword, little man."  Otis collected his winnings with a chuckle  and stood up, leaving the room.

"I'll be wanting a rematch!"  Simon called after him.

"Any time, anywhere!"  Otis called back.

Anna grinned watching the big man lumber away.  "Sorry.  Shoulda' warned you.  Otis used to play professionally."

"Yeah, I kinda figured that one out the hard way."  Simon muttered, dejected.

Anna chuckled, making a pouty face.  "Aww...poor baby."

Simon shook his head, laughing quietly.  "Where'd you find him?"

"Otis?"  She said.  "About five years ago, he made a lot of the wrong people angry.  Hurt some folks pretty bad out East.  He needed some place to lay low and get away from it all.  I took him in, and he just.... fit.  He's a good worker, and he's great with the kids.  Plus anyone has trouble follow them to my doorstep, they take one look at him and think twice.  He's kinda the papa bear around here."

Simon nodded and laughed.  "Yeah.  He's a good guy."  

"He is."  She agreed.  "So, what about you?"

"What about me?"  He asked.

"You seem pretty happy here.  Fit in pretty well with the group.  And I won't lie, I'm alright having you around.  Think you might wanna stick with us?"  Anna asked.

Simon's heart ached at the question.  As much as he enjoyed this place and being with her again...it wasn't him.  Not yet anyway.

"I really don't think I can."  he sighed.

Anna's shoulder slumped as she sighed.  "Why not?  Isn't this better?  Isn't this enough?"

"I have unfinished business, Anna."  He insisted.  "I left a girl...someone I swore to protect...out there with him.  I can't just run away forever."

"A girl.  Of course."  Anna nodded, her green eyes slid shut as she attempted to compose herself.  She could understand wanting to help.  Hell, it was her entire life's work.  But she knew his methods.  She knew how he'd go about it.  "Okay.  So...what's the plan?"

"What?"  Simon asked.

Anna took in a deep breath, shrugging her shoulders.  "You go back.  And then what?"  She asked him.

"I finish it.  Once and for all."  There was that naive righteous, macho viciousness in his tone that unsettled her.

"More killing.  More bloodshed."  She shook her head.  Exactly what she'd assumed.  "You didn't consider a Goddamned thing I said the other night, did you?"

"Anna..."

"Bigger, more powerful men than you have tried, Simon."  Anna interrupted him.  "And still...there he is.  What do you think you're going to do?  Go in guns blazing, like some one-man army and take him down?  Try to kill your way to the top.  see how far you get?"

"It's worked so far." he said defensively.

"Has it?"  She nodded doubtfully, bitterness in her voice.  "Simon, he'll kill you."

"Not if I kill him first."  Simon knew the risks.  It didn't matter, he was resolute on seeing the life leave the man's eyes.

"Okay.  So let's say, by some miracle, you make it through his people.  You kill Jakob Falk.  Then what?"  She asked.

"What do you mean?"  Simon looked perplexed  

"You kill him.  He's gone.  And then...what?  You wait for the next one?  Bide your time living some...half-assed life you don't really want until the next damsel comes calling so you can repeat the cycle again?  Because there will always be a war for you.  Always someone to save.  Always a reason for you to jump back into it all."  

Simon didn't know how to answer right away.  "I...No.  No, when he's gone, then I'll be free."


Anna's eyes narrowed at him.  He just didn't't see it.  "You truly believe that?"

"You're damn right I do."  he insisted.

"Because that's worked out SO well, thus far, right?" She shot back.  "With Cotter, with this Vicelli, with that...hick out in the boonies.  That freed you from it all, right?  You were 'free' then?"  

Simon didn't have a response to that.  "Simon, answer me one thing...Has anything you've done in these pursuits of vengeance actually made your life any better?"

He thought a moment, a sinking, anguished feeling hitting him.  "For a bit..." he whispered.  "But then..."

"But then."  she nodded, speaking quietly.  "Do you think Cici would be proud of the man you've become?"

Anna could tell from the look on his face, it was a shot to the gut.  Maybe she'd gone too far, but it was a fair point.  She reached out and took his hand in her's.  "Look...you can do what you have always done.  Get attached, get involved, find someone to fight, and end up at yet another war.  Or you can choose a different path.  Well and truly free yourself of him.  Of this anger and shame.  You can be *more* than he brought you up to be."

Simon's eyes lowered to the table.  What other choices were there?  "How do I do that?  This girl is an innocent.  She has a chance at a good life...but if he gets his claws into her...I can't deal with that, Anna.  I can't leave her to that."

"And I'm not telling you to."  She said softly.  "You get your friend...and you leave.  Leave the city, leave Falk, leave it all behind.  Just let it go."

"And he still gets to stay?"  Simon asked incredulously.  "Gets to hurt other people?  Other kids?"

Anna sighed.  She once thought like him, in the early years.  But reality had to set in.  "I know you want to change the world.  Break the system down and create something better.  But sometimes...you have to know your limits.  Falk dies, another takes his place.  You can't save everyone, Simon.  But you can save her."

"Is that enough?"  Simon asked quietly.

"It will be everything to her."  Anna responded.  "Trust me.  I know."

He'd saved her once.  Fought for her, gave her a reason to keep going.  It meant more than she'd ever told him.  It was why she was the woman in front of him today.  Jakob Falk had tried to make her a slave.  A killer.  Simon Toews' kindness had made her human.  He had made her whole.

"He wants this.  He wants you to be...this."  She looked him in the eye.  "Don't let him win.  Don't let him keep dictating who and what you are."