Author Topic: Ghosts (18+ violence, language, adult themes)  (Read 1053 times)

Corrine Paige

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« Reply #60 on: March 30, 2019, 04:07:55 PM »
Money was getting tighter as time went on.  After the agency shut down, there wasn't much work to be found for a former cop with one arm.  Paige was just lucky she knew how to save and live relatively frugally. Most of her days were spent looking at the help wanted ads, but nothing her disability would allow for.   She was not a woman comfortable with a sedentary lifestyle. She had to work, had to stay busy.  

While the days were spent in pursuit of a new gig, her nights were spent in research.  Falk's rise was damn near mythic. He'd come from nothing.  An orphan, much like Toews.  He'd spent the first 16 years of his life in an orphanage, but from there, he was a ghost.  No criminal record to speak of until one day he emerged as an associate of Byron Mares, a man with suspected mob ties throughout the city, every  bit as elusive as Falk would come to be.  When the Mares died, he took over.  Something about it sent chills through Corrine.  She had no doubt that Falk had something to do with his passage into the great hereafter, though the official reports were that he died in his sleep.  After that, Falk's legend grew.  Vague stories and unconfirmed reports of illicit activities he always had a way of dodging.  She'd heard them all, even considered looking into him early in her career, until she was advised to back off.  

There was frustratingly little in the public record.  Only his investments in several profitable businesses and connections to big names in high society.  Certainly nothing illegal.  Right now, everything counted on Jordan's ever-so thorough digging.  

Paige stared out the window of her car, eyes on the building that served as his legitimate headquarters.  A beautiful, old limestone tower, looming over the streets.  The son of a bitch was in there somewhere. She had no doubt if she went in to question him, she'd never make it past the front desk.  Even so, on what authority would she do it?   She wasn't a cop.  She wasn't even a detective anymore.  

Out of the corner of her eye she saw a limousine pull to the side of the street and slide to a stop.  Her pulse began to race as she waited, that detective's intuition telling her who was inside even before he rose from the back, fashionably dressed in a fine suit and cashmere overcoat.  That calm arrogance that he carried in his bearing at all times on display.  Even looking at him out on the street, he was intimidating.  A man afraid of nothing.  To hell with authority, she decided, and threw open her door.  

Falk was striding towards the glass doors of his building when she got within earshot.  "Mr, Falk!"  She called to him.  

The woman at his side whipped around to eye Corrine dangerously.  As the former detective approached, Ruby's hand drifter subtly back, those beautiful but sharp eyes locking with Paige's. It was enough to give her pause.  Ruby shook her head slowly, Paige stopping in her tracks.  Falk slowly turned, and amiable smile on his scarred face.  

"Good evening."  He greeted her.  "Is there something I can help you with?"

Paige's eyes stayed on his bodyguard a moment before turning to him.  That woman emanated danger.  "I'd like to ask you a few questions, if I may."

Falk was a consummate gentleman, nonchalantly nodding to her.  "I'd love to, Miss...?"

Like he didn't know exactly who she was.  "Paige.  Corrine Paige."

"Ah.  Yes.  Miss Paige." He smiled as if suddenly remembering an acquaintance. "I'd love to entertain, but I'm afraid I have urgent business to attend to.  If you'd like, you can call and make an appointment with my secretary. I'm sure we-"

"Please, Mr. Falk, it'll only take a moment."

"As I said, Miss Paige, I'm extraordinarily busy, so if you'll-"

"It's about Simon Toews."  She said.  That seemed to trigger a response.  He glanced to Ruby who spared him the slightest of glances.  When he turned his gaze to the one armed stranger, the smile was back.  

"Alright.  I suppose I can spare a few moments."  He said.  "Please.  Join me."

Ruby kept that predatory gaze on the woman before her, letting her know, in no uncertain terms that she was being watched and one false move would see her dead before she hit the ground.  Paige betrayed no intimidation, meeting her gaze head on and following them into the building.  Stepping through the doors was like entering a different era.  The original designs dated back to the 20's, and the place had been kept immaculately.  Only the barest hints of modern tech adorned the lobby.  It still had full,ornate wooden phonebooths among all the marble and fine decor.  

As they rode the elevator, Corrine began to wonder what, exactly, the hell she was thinking.  She should run as soon as they exited.  Really, she should never have even approached him.  Seemed Toews' impulsiveness had rubbed off.  Falk and his companion remained silent as they rose to his penthouse, the tension so thick, you could cut it with a knife and spread it on toast.  

Falk's office was every bit the sophisticated lair the rest of the building would imply.  Say what you will about the man himself, he surrounded himself in beauty and class.  Falk hung his coat on a dark, oak rack, making his way to a little bar along one wall.

 "Please.  Make yourself comfortable."  he gestured to the vintage, carved  wooden maroon velvet upholstered couch.  "May I fix you a drink?"

Paige wave him off, taking a seat.  "No thank you."

"Are you sure?"  He asked.  "This scotch is old enough for retirement." he joked pouring a glass of Glenlivet 50.  

"No.  I'm good."  Corrine said.  No way in hell was she going to imbibe something from him.  Besides, she needed a clear head.

Ruby stood at the door, her arms crossed, watching over the proceedings with laser-like intensity.  Paige could practically feel her eyes on the back of her head.  Falk settled in across from her with a groan, slouching in comfortably in his seat, a lazy smirk on his lips.  "Do yourself a favor, Miss Paige.  Don't get old."

"I'll do my best."  She smiled back politely.

Falk let out a mirthless laugh, eying her a moment.  "So.  What can I do for you?"

"I was wondering if you'd seen Simon Toews lately."  She said, carefully phrasing it casually.

Falk shrugged and shook his head.  "Should I have?"

"Well, I understand there was an altercation."  Paige said.

Falk sipped his scotch, an unfavorable look upon his face.  "Yes.  Unfortunate.  Mr. Toews was guest at an event which I was hosting.  I was not hoping for such unpleasantness."

"Mind telling me what happened?"  She pushed on.

"Not much to tell.  We spoke, he attempted to assault me, and my bodyguard was forced to intervene."  Falk explained.  

"Your bodyguard?"  Paige quirked a brow.  Hard to believe even a girl like Ruby could take Simon down.

Falk seemed to read her mind and chuckled.  "No.  Not my associate, Ruby."

"You have other bodyguards?"  Paige asked.

"I have many."

"Why's that?"  Paige tilted her head, playing up innocent curiosity.

"Come now, Miss Paige.  I'm well known.  A public figure.  You don't get where I am without making a few enemies."  He said amiably.

"So, Simon is an enemy?"

"He seems to believe so."  Falk grinned, taking another sip.

"Why's that?"

Falk rolled his eyes and shook his head.  "Mr. Toews is an antisocial misfit.  Surely you know this.  I once tried to help him, and it didn't work out, through no fault of my own.  Apparently, Simon is still carrying a chip upon his shoulder."

"Yeah, that sounds like Simon, alright."  She smiled to him.  Falk grinned and raised his glass in agreement.  "So..." she began, "Simon attacked you and you just let him go?  No charges pressed?"

"I think my point was well made."  Falk said.  "I saw no profit in vengeance.  I'm a reasonable man, Miss Paige.  There was no need for further unpleasantness.  Simon is a troubled fellow."

"That he is."  She nodded.

"What is your interest in Mr. Toews, Miss Paige?"  Falk asked her.

"He once saved my life."  She said, knowing he knew full well who she was to him.  "You might call him a friend."

"Well, we can all be thankful for that."  Falk plastered on that fake smile.

"We can indeed."  She nodded.  "So, anyway.  Friend goes missing, I'm gonna want to find him before something bad happens."

"Something bad?"  Falk furrowed his brow, feigning confusion.

"Surely you're aware of Simon's...reputation?"  She said.

"Mm." he responded with a mouthful of scotch.

"Then you know what he's capable of doing to those who wrong him?"  She said.  "And his friends."

Falk's lips curled in a tight smile.  He did not miss the implication that he'd wronged the man.  "I'm not worried about Simon Toews.  I'm well taken care of here."

"There are many men who might disagree with that assessment...if they were still alive."  She said.

Falk betrayed no hint of concern, just smiled and sipped his scotch.  He shifted to contents of the glass a moment, watching the carmel colored liquid swirl around, his tongue pulling the excess from his lips.  "I sincerely hope you find him...and get him the help he needs."


Corrine's smile faded.  It took her moment to realize she glaring at the man.  Jakob Falk had become accustomed to being untouchable.  A primal part of her wanted to watch him burn in the aftermath of Simon's inevitable onslaught.  He more than deserved it.  But, the rational brain took over as it always did.  Watching his world crumble, leaving him powerless and rotting in a cell for the rest of his life would be FAR more satisfying.  She forced a smile.

"Here's hoping."

Before another word could be said, a knock came at the door.  Falk's eyes flicked to the door as Paige almost jumped with a start.  The man returned his attention to her, rising from his seat..  "Now, as I said, I have a prior engagement."  he gestured to the door.

"Thank you for your time."  Corrine stood up and followed him to the door,

"A pleasure to meet you, Miss Paige."  He said, offering a hand.  

Paige took it, giving him a firm squeeze.  As she looked the devil in the eye, she thought "I'm going to see you burn."  But all she actually said was.  "Pleasure was all mine."

As she turned to the door, Falk spoke again.  "And, for what it's worth, I was sorry to hear about your agency.  Nasty world, business."

It took her aback.  She wasn't prepared for him to betray his ignorant facade so blatantly.  He knew exactly who she was, and he no longer cared that she was aware.  The smile never left his face, even as she nodded, forcing one of her own.  Ruby pulled open the door and Paige turned around.  Before she could take another step, she was greeted with a very familiar face.  Miles turned those eyes, Simon's eyes, up to her.  A chill ran through her body as they passed each other and he moved into the room.  Paige watched him walk off, Falk's hand upon his back as the door shut.
[img:fe41905133]http://i.imgur.com/C6tIFxT.jpg[/img:fe41905133]

Jordan

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« Reply #61 on: March 31, 2019, 01:29:49 AM »
Penelope Jordan was a bookworm.  A petite, plain, blonde girl with grey blue eyes most didn't give the time of day to.  But, as a former clerical aide turned investigator, she had been responsible for taking more than a few extremely dangerous characters off the streets.  She lived for it, devoted all her time to the job.  When the agency was shut down, she found herself forced back into the humdrum monotony of the nine-to-five workforce.  To say it was not idea was an understatement.  So, when the Corrine Paige called her to look into the young man seen galavanting around with Tessa Bradley, it was an absolute godsend.  

It wasn't easy, operating outside the system.   Most of her old resources were lost to her, and her access to certain contacts no longer an option.  But if there was one thing Jordan loved, it was a challenge.  It had been one of the reasons her boss, Orion Parker kept her around before her sabbatical.  The boy from the picture was certainly that.  There was little she could find on him.  The few in law enforcement who WOULD talk to her had nothing.  No criminal records to speak of.  In fact, no official records at all.  It was like he just appeared out of nowhere.  Not exactly an uncommon story in these parts, but still strange enough for her to question how someone from nowhere managed to find himself in the company of a girl like Tessa Bradley.

Jordan rubbed her tired eyes, running on her ninth cup of coffee.  Her apartment was far from clean, files and documents spread all around.  Aside from a fully stocked bookcase, there wasn't much to the decor.  There were even a few leftover boxes from when she'd moved in far too long ago.  The girl was hardly home anyway, she couldn't imagine when she'd exactly need her old yearbooks or the ancient quilt covered in ponies and cows her grandmother had patched together for her.  Reading over the screen in front of her, yet another dead-end article about Bradley scrawled on some sketchy gossip site, she grabbed another slice of pizza,stuffing it quickly into her mouth.  

She felt like she'd pored over every damn one of these sites in the past two days, reading some of the most ignorant, racist and frankly, creepy posts in the comments.  Dudes were gross, she thought.  Save for one or two, namely Coleman and Sam, she did not enjoy their company.  After the thirtieth slut-shaming post, she sighed and collapsed back against her couch with a sigh.  What she wouldn't give for unfettered access to the police database right now.

A rapping of knuckles on her door stole her attention.  Jordan pushed up off the seat, readjusting the messy bun that barely held her blonde hair in check.  "Yeah, yeah..." she said as the knock repeated.  As she opened the door, Paige practically pushed her way into the room, all piss and vinegar.  Jordan blinked.  

"Yeah, come right in.  Make yourself at home.  Good to see you too..."She muttered sarcastically to the oblivious former detective.

"You're not gonna believe this..."Paige said, pacing.  

"What's up?"  she asked, watching her friend with a quirked eyebrow.

"I sat down with Jakob Falk."  Corrine said breathlessly.  Jordan's eyes widened.

"No."  She said, disbelievingly.  "And you're still alive?  What happened?"

"I saw him outside his building, and I made him talk.  He brought me inside-"

Jordan shook her head and waved her hands around.  "Whoa...whoawhoawhoa!  You went INSIDE with him?"

Paige nodded, frantically.  "Yeah."

"Are you CRAZY?"  She exclaimed.  "Have you HEARD some of the rumors about him?"

Corrine furrowed her brow, almost annoyed.  "Jordan.  Focus."

Once again, Jordan quirked that brow.  Did the former detective not know how much danger she'd placed herself in?  Whatever, now was not the time.

"So," Corrine started again.  "I talk to him, and...really, just as I thought, he was calm, cool and pretty much useless as ****."

Jordan's brow creased, letting the silence hang.  "You came rushing over here because he was useless as...eff?"  Not a fan of swearing, Jordan.  There were rare moments when she'd allow herself profanity, but those were few and far between.

"Well, hold on."  Paige said holding up a finger.  "I'm walking out the door...and who do I see?"

Jordan blinked, apparently she was supposed to guess.  "...Elvis?"

Paige gave her a withering look.  "Our guy."

Jordan shook her head as if in a daze, her fingers going to her temples.  "No, Wait.  What?  How...what?!"

"I'm about to walk out and he's on the other side of the door."  Paige said slowly, a grin forming across her lips.  "He works for Falk."

A wave of realization crossed over Jordan's face.  She practically charged for her laptop, plopping down onto the couch, her fingers flying over the keys in a frenzied pace.  How she worked so fast, Paige would never understand.  Computers weren't her strong suit, even when she had two hands.  Within moments, Jordan had dozens of pictures pulled up.  Falk at various events over the years, and in the past 3 years a familiar face began showing up at his side.  The boy never spoke publicly, never appeared as more than a face in the background.  

Jordan grinned brightly, a giddy laugh leaving her.  "Oh, it is ON now."

Paige pulled off her jacket and tossed it on a chair, taking a seat beside her and the two of them went to work.

Anna Simmons

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« Reply #62 on: March 31, 2019, 03:03:26 PM »
The past was never far from him.  In his dreams, Simon relived the most vivid parts.  Some good, some bad.  The horrors of a life spent in conflict after conflict left more than a physical scar.  He stirred in his sleep, the images of Anna, Cici, Brianna, Tahlia, Millie and Kate rushing through his mind's eye.  Horrors inflicted upon them, lives destroyed.  He saw them suffer, those who survived and those who did not.  The fire of his own making burned them all. His breathing escalated, his body twitching and writhing. Cries of agony echoing through the room.

Anna couldn't help but hear.  It wasn't an uncommon occurrence given the lives of the people who often showed up at her doorstep.  Trauma was practically a prerequisite.  It was when she located the source when something deep inside ached.  She quietly cracked the door open, peering in.  Simon lay on the bed, his shirtless torso exposed as he jerked as if against some unseen attacker.  It was the first time she'd seen the tattoos and scarring spread all across his upper body.  

"Jesus, Simon.  What kind of hell has your life been?"  She thought.  

As she approached, she made a few of them out, the most prominent over his heart.  "Cici."  Beside it was a bullet wound that probably should have killed him.  He was always stubborn, but apparently death couldn't even make him do something he didn't want.  

Simon grunted painfully, muttering to himself.  "Anna...Anna!  No!"

He was dreaming of her.  Suddenly the memories flooded back and he was that scared kid she'd known in her youth.  It was hard not to get lost in it.  Carefully she approached him, gently reaching out.

"Simon."  She whispered, her hands coming closer to an inked bicep.  He stirred again, gasping and turning on his side away from her.  Anna recoiled at first, but calmed herself.  Again, she reached out, swallowing her concerns, the moment her fingers touched him, he went silent,calm.  A little smile spread across her lips.  "How about that...still works."

She went to leave, but again, as soon as her hands left him, he started up again. Anna swallowed hard, watching her old friend.  "Okay."  She whispered.  

As she had so many times in their youth, she slid into bed behind him, slipping up close with her arm wrapped around his waist.  Simon eased into the warmth of her embrace, all the tension and fear in his body melting away.  She rested her face against his shoulder, letting her eyes slide shut. Unconsciously, his hand slipped over her forearm, holding on gently.  For a moment, they were kids on that cold, filthy floor, clinging to each other in the one escape they had from that life.  It was warm, familiar, and comfortable.  It felt right.  It felt safe.

Corrine Paige

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« Reply #63 on: April 04, 2019, 10:05:06 PM »
Hours passed, public records were scoured, and several slices of pepperoni were devoured.  For Paige, fatigue was setting in, but Jordan was a machine.  The girl was an endless fount of energy, every new bit of information gleaned like fuel, sustaining her for another hour.  Paige paced around the room, trying to keep the adrenaline flowing.  She studied her former colleague's place.  Mainly its perpetual state of disorder.  Newly washed clothing hung wherever she could find space after doing the laundry.  Near the front door was a pile of take-out boxes and two or three plastic trashbags that she kept forgetting to take out to the dumpster.  Along the back wall, boxes were stacked, with various rooms and the contents scrawled in red permanent marker.  The only one that seemed open was marked "dishes".

 "So, you just move in, or...."  Paige asked.

Jordan glanced over her shoulder, a mouth full of pizza, her eyebrows raised curiously.  "Hm?"

Paige gestured to the boxes and Jordan realized what she was asking.  "Mm!"  she exclaimed, swallowing the big chunk of cheese and dough as her head shook.  "No.  Been here a few years."  She covered her mouth and then wiped her lips with a napkin.

"Seriously?"  Paige said incredulously, looking at the scattered files, makeshift furniture  and stacks of paperwork.  Their boss, Parker would have a nervous breakdown if she ever came here.  "How do you keep track of everything in here?"

Jordan smirked and tapped her temple.  "Got a system."

"A system."  Paige quirked a brow.  "Does it involve lots of never finding things again?"

"Hey, you do what works for you and I do what works for me."  Jordan said.  "Frankly, MY record speaks for itself."  

That wasn't up for argument.  Jordan had a hand in bringing down some seriously bad dudes, including a serial killer and few drug kingpins.  Corrine shrugged and walked to a stack of magazines.  Tech publications mingled with old issues of Cosmo and one issue of "Guns and Ammo".  Penelope Jordan was an enigma.    In the office, she was meticulous, almost obsessive.  Everything put in its exact right place.  She supposed that was Parker's influence at play.  Or the girl's insistence at always being on her good side.  Paige always assumed she was probably the ultimate teacher's pet back in the day.

Jordan snapped her fingers repeatedly, waving Corrine over.  "Hey.  Heyheyheyhey, check this out, check this out."  She pointed down at her screen, an obituary on-screen.  Benjamin Comstock, disgraced doctor, died of an overdose right around the time they knew Simon to have escaped.  

"Yeah?"  Paige didn't see the connection.  "And?"

Jordan closed the window to show a picture from the funeral.  In attendance were Jakob Falk and several known accomplices.  Paige suddenly found the thread her younger friend was following.  Simon hadn't mentioned names, but he'd mentioned a doctor once or twice during their discussions while he was locked up.  If everything Toews had said about his time under Falk's watch was true, they would need a doctor to patch the kids up.  And if Comstock was dead, there had to be a replacement.  

Jordan reached for another slice, finding the box completely empty.  "Aww..."  She frowned in disappointment, but pushed on.  "Any way, I've got a few leads.  Nothing concrete."

"Well, from what Toews told me about what went on there, no respectable doctor is going to take up a gig like that."  Paige yawned.  "Can you pull up anything about doctors who lost their licenses from around that time, specifically within the city?"

"Who you talkin' to?" Jordan smirked brightly, given the shot in the arm she needed.  For the next half hour she was in her element.  Paige's pacing eventually came to an end.  She curled up in a loveseat, her eyelids getting heavier and heavier.  She was almost asleep when she heard Jordan speak again.

"Hey.  Aurora"  she said to her friend.  Paige's eyes snapped open.  

Corrine struggled to sit up, her brow furrowed in confusion and discomfort.  "Aurora?"

"Yeah. You know?  Sleeping Beauty?"  Jordan said as if Corrine were the weird one for not knowing this.  Paige just stared.  "Jesus, watch a freakin' Disney movie, woman..." she grumbled.

"You wake me up just for Disney trivia?"  Paige asked.

""Fun as that sounds...I Found something." Jordan grinned.

Paige groaned as she stood, stretching her back.  "What's up?"

"23 results, most of them dead."  Jordan told her.  "But these three..."

She turned to computer toward Corrine.  David R. Olsen, 72.  Patrick T. Healey, 58.  David K. Steinman, 55.  "Olsen runs a car lot and Healey's in real estate...but Steinman...he's a bit of a ghost.  Lost his license for pilfering his hospital's stash.  Somebody loves him some oxy..."

"Yeah?  That's a good start.  Work history?" Corrine leaned forward, her arm propped on her knee.

"After getting s***canned?  Nada.  That's where the well runs dry.  I have a residence, though.  Owns an apartment on the North Side from what I can tell.  Not a bad neighborhood, either."  Jordan said, glancing over her shoulder.  "Too nice for an unemployed junkie."

"You think somebody's bankrolling him?"  Paige inquired.

"Well, he ain't running a fortune 500, that's for darn sure."

That detective's intuition was kicking into overdrive.  That was their guy.  Something inside of her just knew it.  But hunches didn't amount to much in the real world.  They needed proof.  "It's not enough."  Paige sighed.

"Then, we need to find something more.  But...I'm kind of at a wall here."  Jordan muttered.

Paige smirked up at her, teasing.  "Wow.  Penelope Jordan.  Admitting defeat.  Never thought I'd see the day."

Jordan scrunched her name.  "Ugh.  Don't call me that."  She despised her first name.  Jordan just sounded so much cooler.  "Besides...there are some things even I can't do."  OH, did she ever lay on the haughty, self-satisfied tone.

"Mmhmm."  Paige shot her a look, barely suppressing the grin.  Those wheels in Paige's head turned at mean rate.  They could pore over public records until they went blind or mad, but eventually, they'd need someone who could do what they could not.  Someone who knew how to operate beyond the legitimate and get into places...and company they could not.  And Corrine had a feeling she knew exactly who to turn to.
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Simon Toews

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« Reply #64 on: April 07, 2019, 11:58:08 PM »
Sunlight shone in through the windows of Anna's house, stirring Simon from the first good night's sleep he'd had in what felt like years.  He rolled onto his back and rubbed his eyes, noticing just then that the other side of the bed was warm.  More than that, it was the scent.  A mixture somewhat like strawberries and vanilla.  It took a moment before he placed it.  Anna.  

For a moment there was panic.  Had he gotten drunk and-

No.  No, he hadn't gotten so much as tipsy since he got here.  Slowly, bits and pieces flooded back. That warm, safe feeling invaded his nightmares, fighting them back and letting him enjoy a peaceful, dreamless sleep.  The same feeling that had kept him sane and alive as a child, a feeling from the past rushing back, every bit as effective as it had been then .  He must have been squalling something fierce.  She'd come in the night and held him, stayed with him once again.  All these years later, and it still had the same affect.  

He ran a warped hand through his short-cropped hair, letting out a sigh.  Part of him was certain there would be awkwardness between them.  That, somehow even unconsciously, he had crossed a line.  Still, he forced himself out of bed and dressed.  If he had to face it, better to get it out of the way.  The moment he stepped out into the hallway, Anna was exiting her room, her hair still wet from the shower.  The pair of them freezing in place.  For a moment, he was sure she'd tell him to go. Leave and never come back.  Instead, she just smiled, shutting the door behind her, those green eyes staying on him.  

"Good morning." She said softly, leaning back against the doorway tucking a strand of red behind her ear.

Simon searched for the words, running through a thousand different things he could say to her. All he managed was "Hey."

Anna's smile brightened as she let out a little laugh. She knew him too well not to notice the tension radiating off him.  "It's alright, big guy.  Relax."

Simon couldn't help the little grin that followed.  

"Sleep well?"  She asked.

"Better than I have in a long time." He nodded.  

For a moment, she just appraised him.  So much of the boy she'd known was still in him.  Even after all he'd been through, the women he'd spent time with and battles he'd fought, Simon was still...Simon.  

"Good."  She nodded, pushing off the wall. "Figured I'd let you sleep in today.  Not a ton to do anyways."

Simon watched her go off, wanting to say something.  Anything.  

"Thank you."  He managed, finally.

Anna stopped and glanced back at him over her shoulder.  She knew it wasn't about letting him sleep in.  "Always."  

With that, she walked down the stairs to the kitchen.  As they gathered for breakfast, there were a couple looks his way from the younger kids, but the adults were mostly understanding and simply greeted him kindly.  They must have heard him in the night.  It wasn't an uncommon occurrence to most of them.  A lot of trauma came through Anna's doors.  They understood and they didn't judge.  It was odd, he'd rarely felt that.  People who saw his damage and said, even wordlessly, "I get you."  The last time he'd felt it was with Tahlia.  He looked around the table, dishes being passed from smiling face to smiling face.  These people loved each other and helped each other.  It wasn't hard to tell why this place was starting to feel like home.  The young Daisy sat next to him, helping herself to some waffles.  She beamed up at him, her smile missing a few baby teeth.  Simon grinned back at her and passed the syrup, Anna's eyes on him, a certain smugness in her countenance.  

After breakfast, Simon set to work on his chores, clearing snow from the paths, feeding the horses and livestock.  The horses were his favorite part, Brutus especially.  He and the animal had bonded, the horse always eager and approaching the end of his stall when he walked through the doors.  Simon ran a hand along the big beast's neck, giving him a pat.

"Hey, there, boy.  How you doing?"  He said quietly, smiling up at him.  Brutus chuffed favorably at him, nuzzling towards his face.  Simon chuckled, gently pushing him away.  "Alright, alright, sweet boy."  

He hung the feedbag up for his newfound friend, giving him a little rub along the cheek.  From further back in the barn, there came a clang, stealing Simon's attention away.  He leaned out trying to get a better view.  Brutus gave him a nudge, drawing a little laugh.  Simon patted him again and walked toward the sound.

Further in the barn was a big tractor, Otis hard at work, bent over the engine compartment.  The sleeves of his grease-stained thermal were rolled up big, muscular arms.  Thick overalls were doing the bulk of the work of keeping him warm.  His work-gloved hands pulled at a socket wrench.  If he heard or saw Simon come in, he didn't show it.

"Hey, Otis."  Simon called up to him.

The big man barely spared him a glance.  "Simon."  he rumbled in that low baritone of his.  The man had a way about him.  You were never quite sure where you stood.  Sometimes, he was cordial, full of smiles and laughs...but then there were times when he'd regard you as if he might beat you to a pulp.  Simon had seen more than his share of fights in his day, but he was certain he didn't want to be on the receiving end of a beating from Otis.

"How's it going?"  he asked, leaning against the tractor and looking up at the man.

"Pump went out during harvest this year.  Finally getting around to replacing the damn thing."  Otis said distractedly.

"You have experience with this stuff?"  Simon inquired.

"Engines?"  Otis said.  "Yeah.  Worked for a guy once, fixing up cars and trucks."

"Mechanic's shop?"

"Sort of."  Otis said.  "Chop shop.  Took in a lot of cars, some of them needed fixing."

"No s***?"  Simon grinned.  "Who for?  I might'a known 'em."

"Ain't much for talkin' about it.  Just some bad dudes.  Did a lot a' stupid ass s*** I ain't proud of."  Otis said, glancing down to Simon.  "You know what that's like?  Doing a lot a' stupid thing you ain't proud of?"

Simon couldn't help but notice the hint of accusation there.  "I do."  he nodded.

"Mm."  Otis, eyed him.  "You leave it behind ya?"

He didn't have an answer for that.  Frankly, he knew he hadn't.

"See, Simon...we're simple folks here.  Just tryin' to get by.  Miss Anna been good to us.  Now, I left that life behind me.  Messin' folks up who cause trouble.  But anybody...*anybody* does anything to hurt that woman..."  Otis' eyes narrowed.  "Well, it ain't gonna turn out good for 'em.  You understand me?"

Simon's brows knit together.  "I don't know what idea you're getting from me but-"

"She's different with you."  Otis said.  "I seen a lotta folks come through here, but you...you got some kinda hold on her.  Now, I don't know much about you, you act decent enough...but I think you carryin' a lotta trouble with you.  You just make sure that trouble don't come down on her."

"You're very protective of her."  Simon noted.

"God damn right I am."  Otis said.  "Miss Anna saved my life when I needed it.  Gave me a chance, gave me a home.  I owe her more 'n I can give.  So, I see a dude lookin' like you roll in here, get her all outta sorts...I get a little ancy."

Simon grinned and waved his hands.  "Whoa, whoa, whoa...it ain't like that.  We're just-"

"Friends?"  Otis finished.  He didn't quite buy it.  There was history between them that couldn't be erased.  A bond that time and age did nothing to diminish.  "Just sayin'.    You hurt her, you and I gonna tangle.  Got it?"

Simon wanted to argue, but he just nodded.  A moment of silence hovered over them before Simon broke it.  "You need a hand?"

Otis looked a bit perplexed a moment before a low laugh left him.  "Yeah.  Yeah, come on up here and hold this in place."

Simon clambered up beside the man, and the two of them set out, repairing the engine of the tractor.  The rest of the day they would work side by side, chatting sparingly outside of the jobs at hand.  Otis was alright, Simon thought.  The big man was every bit as protective of Anna as he was.  He adored her, and would do anything to protect her.  For that, Simon was grateful.

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

Miles

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« Reply #65 on: April 15, 2019, 02:07:21 AM »
Miles stepped through as the elevator doors parted.  Jakob had called him in earlier in the day, forcing him to leave early from a nice lunch with Tessa.  He hated breaking plans with her, but when Falk came calling, you didn't say no.  

The doors to Jakob's office opened as he approached, Ruby on the other side, eying him with her usual disdain.  Miles only smirked to her as he passed.  It pissed her off that he didn't fear her and he knew it.  

"Miles."  Falk called out fondly.  He approached, clasping the young man by the shoulders, smiling as he appraised him.  "You look well.  Doesn't he look well, Ruby?"

Ruby only rolled her eyes as the door shut behind her.  Falk patted his arm. "Love suits you, boy."

Falk's phone beeped and he turned and walked to his desk.  A sense of foreboding rose within Miles. He couldn't place it, but something was off.  

"Yes?"  He said into the receiver, listening for a moment.  "Thank you."

Falk hung up the phone and turned to the boy.  "Miles.  Will you join me in a meeting?"

Again, that sense of dread rose like bile.  Miles pushed it down with a smile. "Absolutely."

"Good lad."  

Falk was leading him down to a meeting room on the 5th floor in silence, Ruby standing at the doors before them.  He didn't dare glance to Falk.  In his head, he was making plans should something go down.  Ruby would have to go first.  That wasn't the part he struggled with.  Killing her would be damn near satisfying.  But Jakob...could he go through with it?  The man was the closest thing he had to a father, to family.  Before he had time to consider further, they were entering the room.  Sat at the long table were the high ranking members of the Gargano Crime Family.  They had run a sizeable portion of illicit business in the west of the city.  Gambling, racketeering, drugs, prostitution, weapons and human trafficking among others in their trade.  
"Gentlemen."  Falk said amiably to them, ever the gracious host.

"Mr. Falk."  Carlo Gargano greeted him.  The man was well dressed, well put together, his thinning black hair slicked back, a permanent scowl on his round, doughy face.  Falk took his seat at the head of the table, gesturing to Miles to take the open chair at his side.

"It's good to see you all here.  Welcome to all of you."  Jakob said.  "I'm hope you're all well."

Gargano smiled to him as one of Falk's staff filled everyone's glasses.  "Same to you."

"Have you met my friend, Miles?"  Jakob gestured to the young man at his side.  "Miles here has been my protege for some time now.  Loyal...trustworthy...and one hell of a right hook."

Laughter spread throughout the mobsters sat around the table.  "Pulled him up from the pits.  Long, long climb, eh, Miles?"

Miles offered only a tight, nervous smile in return.  Falk eyed him like a prized possession.  "Loyalty.  It's all I ever ask."

"Hear hear."  Gargano raised his glass to murmurs of agreement amongst the others.

"Mr. Gargano and I go way back.  See, when I was coming up, younger than even you, Miles...Carlo and I ran together.  Back to...what was it, Carlo?  Beverly Street?"

"Back in the old neighborhood."  Carlo smirked, his thumb rolling across the ring on his pinky, gaudy and overlarge.  "We used to laugh at this guy, call him the neat freak.  Never liked getting his hands dirty."

A chuckle spread through them all, even Falk.  He grinned and raised a hand.  "Guilty as charged."  He said.  "I was the delegator.  Give the jobs to the workers, make sure they get done.  Play to your strengths.  That's always been my motto.  I never was much of a fighter, but Carlo here...well, he was like you, Miles.  Tough.  Bold.  You set him to a task, and he delivered.  Have a fellow who refuses to talk?  You send Carlo Gargano in.  That fellow has a knife?  Carlo had a gun."

"Guy had a gun, I brought a ****in' tank."  Gargano laughed with his men.  

"So."  Falk said with a grn.  "When I took over operations, I remembered Mr. Gargano.  Because...loyalty matters."

A long silence held the room as Jakob eyed the boy.  The smile returned as Falk raised his glass.  "To loyalty."

The others rose their own, repeating the word.  Miles brought his glass up, but before he could bring it to his lips, he felt a hand touch his forearm.  His eyes shot to Falk, who also did not drink.  Slowly he became aware of what was happening.

"In our world, loyalty is key."  Falk said.  "Discretion is key.  And if I ever found a friend...showing a lack of discretion...or betraying my trust..."  Falk's head cocked to one side, suggesting something brutal would happen.

Gargano chuckled...and coughed.  His face turned from jovial to concerned, his hand rising to his throat.  Again he coughed, as did the others in his party.  Falk rose from his chair.  "My trust is not freely given.  It is earned."

The coughing fits continued, giving way to gasping and wheezing as foam began to build in some men's mouths.  

"A pity Mr. Gargano could not live up to my expectations."  Falk said, staring into the betrayed, confused, terror filled eyes of Carlo Gargano.  "Should I ever find that anyone...and I mean anyone in my employ is betraying that trust...as Mr. Gargano has..."

Gargano climbed out of his chair, struggling to breath as his eyes turned blood red, his face beginning to purple as he clasped the table so hard Miles thought it might crack to wood.  The man jerked violently and suddenly vomited blood and foam all over the polished wood.  His men clawed at their throats, blood running out of their nostrils, ears, mouths and eyes, their bodies convulsing violently.  Ruby looked down in disgust as one of the mafiosos crawled to her feet, kicking him over into his back.

Falk turned his eyes on Miles, and not on the horror show going on around them.  "Should someone forget the price of my trust...forget the fortunes I've granted them...should they seek to betray me...supplant me...offer me up to my enemies..."

Carlo Gargano fell to the ground, his blue face, splattered and streaked with arterial red as he spasmed wildly upon the floor.

"And I will strike back at them a fire hell could scarcely imagine.  I will burn their world and all those within it to glass."  Falk said.  "Let this be a cautionary tale, Miles.  Should you forget your place and how you got there...I will not hesitate to remind you."

Gargano went still, his eyes red with burst vessels, staring lifeless up at the ceiling.  Falk stood, smoothed out his clothes, and headed to the door, stepping over the lifeless corpse of one of Gargano's men.  Miles was left there with their bodies, frozen in terror and disgust.  He never did find out the specifics of what happened to warrant this retribution, but then, he didn't need to.  The point was made.  Jakob Falk showed him well and truly what he was that night.  It was a lesson he would not forget.
[img:f990646549]https://i.imgur.com/fp1UJGz.gif[/img:f990646549]

Simon Toews

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« Reply #66 on: June 02, 2019, 08:26:13 PM »
Steinman was a skinny, jittery wisp of a man.  Narrow shoulders and long limbs combined with the gaunt cheeks and sunken eyes giving him the appearance of a cancer patient on his last days.  Years of drug abuse had reduced him to a shell of a man, his hair thin and in dire need of a wash.  David Steiman wasn't exactly out breaking hearts all over Rhy'din.  It was doubtful that he'd ever felt the touch of a woman that wasn't paid to do the deed.  Those beady eyes never seemed to meet those of the rare person he conversed with, always low or s***ing around in that damn near skeletal noggin of his.  Long fingers fidgeted nervously as he nursed a bottle, his system clearly struggling with the lack of whatever substances he usually snorted, injected, or inhaled into it.  

The doctor had secrets, decades of them, buried within that drug-addled mind of his.  Secrets that could bring down one of the most powerful men in Rhy'din's criminal underworld.  All it would take was a little prodding, a little schmoozing...and the application of fear to loosen his lips.  

"Nowhere To Run" by Martha and Vandellas blared over the dingy bar, mingling with the sound of pool cues and boisterous talk of self-proclaimed alpha males.  Neon lighting cut through the haze of cigarette smoke.  Tahlia Faras had risen and fallen a hundred times in her life - now, she was heading her own empire, gotten through the proper application of stealth and smarts, and being in just the right bed at just the right time.  It was a skill she excelled at, or had, before she'd entertained, and finally executed her transition from entertainment to mogul.  It was also not a skill she could have been paid any amount of money to display to David Steinman.

No, tonight she was there to exercise talents under a very different umbrella.  Leather pants tucked into stiletto boots, a purple tank top riding low enough to perfectly frame curves that men had both killed and died for, and a leather jacket over it all.  The boozed up eyeballs of most men in the joint turned to the bombshell who'd just come sauntering in.  Equal parts angel and devil stealing their attention  away from the game and conversation.  The aged, doughy barkeep eyeing her a moment too long.  Girls like this didn't often set foot in his establishment, but he sure as hell wasn't upset to see her.  Blonde hair swept her shoulders, and she sidled up to the bar.  "Bourbon, please - most expensive thing you've got..."

"You got it."  he said, flashing a gapped grin.

The most expensive thing on his shelf might as well have been rotgut to her refined tastes.  Hands that seemed large as catcher's mitts upended the bottle and filled her glass to a normal human's two fingers before setting it down.  She'd drunk worse - but it had been a while.  Laying a twenty on the bar, and assuming that it would be enough,  

Steinman scratched at the back of his neck, a glass of whiskey on the rocks sitting before him.  He must have thought he was being sly as he glanced her way out of the corner of his eye.  There was no confidence there, none of the swagger that men who had been lucky enough to occupy her time possessed.

Tahlia brought the amber liquid to her lips, and took a sip.  It was not in fact, the worst she'd ever had, and if it burned more than she was thrilled about, it didn't show.  Selecting a stool just one down from her target, she was quiet for a moment...evaluating.  Weighing.  Deciding on a course of action.  Spying a bowl of long abandoned nuts, or pretzel nuggets or...something.  The what didn't really matter.  What mattered was that when she touched his arm, he met her eyes as she asked him to pass it to her - every desire the fool had ever harbored playing across her irises.

Damned if he wasn't twitchy.  Her slightest touch, snapped his gaze to her almost like a beaten dog.  It wasn't just the body, built to make men weep...it was the eyes... So skilled at bending even the strongest men to her will without even a word spoken.  It took a second for him to calm and force an uncomfortable smile, but he didn't speak.  That, alone was probably the most action the man had seen in a long time.  Well, she figured, this wasn't going to be quite as easy as she'd expected...the problem with beaten dogs is that they are almost immune to pain.  And they don't trust kindness.  But if Tahlia excelled at anything at all, it was being precisely what she needed to be to  get what she needed.

"Hi...you ok?   You look like you've had a rough week..."

A nervous laughter escaped him, the grin faltered back and forth into existence.  "Y-yeah.  Uh, no.  No. "   It was almost sad.  This was a guy utterly controlled by some...or all manner of substance.  Those dark, sunken eyes had seen things, none of which were quite as pleasant as her.

She almost felt sorry for him.  Almost.  But she was here for a reason - for the only person who meant anything near what the giant Selkie she shared her life with did.  The only person for whom she would work for free.  Not that he knew she was here.  But he would.  Her fingers danced across his sleeve until she found his wrist.  Her touch sent a wave of endorphins cascading around within him.  Only in his wildest, most depraved dreams would a goddess like this even look upon him, let alone make contact.

  "Really, David, what I think you need...is a friend. Do you want a a friend?"  Something in that smoke-sweet voice implied he very much wanted to answer 'yes'.

It almost overrode his paranoia...but then he realized she'd used his name.  That faltering smile came and then went, replaced with suspicion in his eyes.  "H-how...how did you-"

The smile was sugar sweet, but there was a honey glazed edge to her voice.  "Know your name? I told you - you look like you could use a friend.  And I'm really good at being a friend - you know what I mean?  Especially when people have things I want.  Like information.  I can be very, very friendly - if you give me what I want."

That hope and excitement were now replaced entirely with fear.  The warning bells in his head were going off like fire alarms.  The skinny little junkie moved to pull away from her, but she was also stronger than she looked.  

"Aw, David...you're going to make me cry.  And I'd like you to think, just for a minute, what might happen to you if I start bawling in the middle of this bar right now."  Her free hand moved, caught under his chin and locked the silver edged jade eyes on his.  "Don't you want to help me?"

She could feel him trembling in her grasp.  Those beady little eyes darted around wildly.  Any one of these bruisers would take great pleasure in beating this little man into a pulp to gain her favor.   Frankly, they all seemed vaguely creeped out by him.  He swallowed hard, her eyes beckoning him.

"What do you want from me?" he asked, his voice quaking with primal terror.

"Just some information.  About a child.  About...20 years ago, now?  He works for your boss.  Who I think we can agree should go unnamed."  Tahlia did not let him go, even as she moved closer, her head bent to his.  "Boy's name is Miles.  I need to know everything you know..."

His chest rose and fell rapidly, the fear coursing through his veins, his eyes wide and damn near feral.  "I tell you anything and I'm a dead man."

Tahlia let out a laugh.  "Trust me, sugar.  I know that boy's daddy - you DON'T tell me...and you're a dead man.  You play nice and talk to me...and your boss never hurts anyone ever again."

"You have no idea what he's capable of.  He'll find you.  He'll find everyone...everything you care about.  Everything you love.  There is no running.  No hiding.  I talk to you, and he'll find me."  He was panting like an overheated dog.    "And when he does, I'll only wish I was dead."  A five-o'clock shadow had grown over his morning shave...but a small cut was still visible.  Those shaky hands probably were the culprit.

It was barely a whisper, but the cut obeyed, leaking just the slightest trickle against his skin.  "I don't need to.  I know where Miles got those eyes.  And I know what Simon Toews can do, when he has reason." She tapped his chin with a finger.  "The Vicelli's are gone, and you know why.  So is Cameron Cotter. Everyone who has ever crossed my friend has ended up in a pine box, six feet deep.  Your boss is next - you can either go with him, or you can live long enough to go to rehab once you tell me what I want to know..."

Confusion covered his face as he reached a quivering hand to the bleeding cut.  His fingers returned, glistening with blood.  He stared at it a moment and then turned his gaze up to her, silently asking the question he already knew the answer to.  "What are you?"

That saccharine sweet smile crossed her perfect lips, peaches and cream sweetness touching her voice.  "Me?  Well, darlin'...I'm your guardian angel.  And that right there?   That isn't a tenth of what I could do to men like you.  Men like Jakob Falk."  Her voice dropped into a low, ominous purr.  "See... I'm not some weak, pathetic piece of s*** who needs to prey on children. You think your boss is a monster?  See what happens when I don't get what I want."  

There was nothing in her voice or her bearing that said she was bluffing.  Tahlia was an angel of death...and she was giving him an option.  "So - David - I ask you....do you think I am terribly worried about what am underhanded coward with a small dick and delusions of grandeur can do to me?"

Oh, the terror behind those substance-addled eyes.  It was what she needed, what she wanted.  He would talk.  Jakob Falk terrified him...but Tahlia Farras put the fear of God into the emaciated little man.  He spilled everything.

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

Corrine Paige

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« Reply #67 on: June 02, 2019, 08:45:43 PM »
Corrine Paige leaned against her car, parked outside the casino.  It had felt like a lifetime since she'd picked Tahlia up from that train station.  She'd never figured she'd see the woman again after that night, but once again Toews had drawn them back into each other's lives.
It certainly wasn't her first choice.  And certainly wouldn't have been the route she'd have taken operating inside the law.  Ms. Faras didn't have quite the squeaky-cleanest of reputations...but treading in dangerous waters as she was...Tahlia was the exact right kind of disreputable.

Tahlia was dressed not too dissimilarly to what she'd worn at the bar - purple silk instead of the tank top, and that blonde hair swept up into a ponytail.  Her casino - and it was nearly open.  Meetings - so many meetings, but she'd made a point to step away when she knew Corrine was downstairs.  Crossing over to the former detective, she smirked, and rolled her eyes.  "You know...you could have come in."

Corrine put on that tight little smile.  "Mm...not my scene."    Her eyes trailed over the glowing lights and glamour of the place.  She'd spent enough time as a cop to know there was always something under the glitzy beauty of a places like these.  But the grin that peeked out was clearly teasing.

"Been a while, Ms. Faras."  She said, the smile becoming a little more genuine.  "Looks like you're comin' up in the world."

"Please - you handcuffed me and pulled me off a train.  I think you can call me Tahlia." Nevermind what had happened after.  Vicelli.  Simon.  The bastard FBI agent.  Her hand rubbed across her ribs, over her oak leaf seared into her skin.  "Yeah - well.  Being the last mistress of an entertainment tycoon has some perks."   What else Samuel Adder had been she left unsaid.  "You looking for a job, Corrine?"

A little laugh left her.  "Don't imagine you have much use for a one-handed card dealer."    She had a feeling Tahlia was at least vaguely aware of the situation with the agency, but said nothing of it.
You didn't get to Tahlia's position without having a bit of knowledge...especially about friends and acquaintances.

"Actually - I meant as security.  I need people I can trust.  And - well, Simon trusts you."  It went without saying that if Simon trusted her, Tahlia did too.  After all, she hadn't turned either of them in.  And yes, she did.  She knew a great many things she should, and shouldn't.  All knowledge, as far as the blonde was concerned, was worth having.


"Tempting."  She made a little show of considering it, clenching her lips between her teeth, before shaking her head.  "But I've got other plans."  She offered a smile to the blonde.  

"So."  Corrine continued, "Find anything interesting?"

The usb drive was small, and slid out from under the edge of her bra, before being held out to the other woman.  "I think this is everything you were looking for.   Possibly more then.  The man was - chatty, after he realized where his interests were."  And Tahlia had been as good as her word.  There was a paid spot for him in the best rehab in Rhydin.

Corrine took the drive and stared at it a moment.  Her eyes shifted up to her.  "This information could put you in a lot of trouble with that man.  You put yourself in a lotta danger getting this.  Thank you."

Tahlia smirked, and shrugged, rolling her shoulders.  "You know what he did, for me.  Falk can't touch me.  I won't let him touch Simon.  Or anyone else."

"I hope you're right."  She said gravely.  "I'll go through this...pass the info onto a friend I can trust.  See if we can't put a bit of a hurtin' on Falk's business.  You find anything on the kid?"

"Miles?  Yeah.  It's what we thought."  Tahlia looked over to where the valet was bringing up her little Spitfire.  "If you need anything, call the casino.  Ask for Pop Tart.  He'll get you what you need. I have a little trip I need to take."

The corner of Corrine's mouth twitched upwards into a little smirk as Tahlia passed.   She knew exactly where Tahlia was headed.  The former detective glanced over her shoulder just barely.  "Tell Toews I said hi."

"Will do." Tahlia saluted, and turned on her heel, tossing a wink back over her shoulder as she took the keys from the valet, and slid into her second favorite ride.

"Tahlia?"  She called after her, turning around to face her before she could shut the door.  "And tell him I'm sorry."

She regretted sending him off the way she did.  There was no telling what was to come or if she'd ever get the chance to say it herself.  She didn't want to die without apologizing to the man.  With one last look she nodded.  "Good luck."

Tahlia closed the door and fired up the engine.  She nodded to the one-armed detective.  "You too."
[img:fe41905133]http://i.imgur.com/C6tIFxT.jpg[/img:fe41905133]

Jakob Falk

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« Reply #68 on: June 14, 2019, 08:42:17 PM »
"You mean to take your business elsewhere?"  Falk said into the receiver of his phone, an unamused look upon his face.  On the other end was a manufacturer he'd had in his pocket since the old days.  The very idea that this man now felt confident that he didn't need him was concerning to say the least.

"I don't think I need to tell you what a bad idea that would be,Thomas."

"I'm not afraid of you, Falk."  The man on the other end insisted.  "Your days as the king of your sad, little hill are numbered."

"Do you have any idea the destruction I could rain down upon you with a mere word?  The devastation I can bring to your doorstep if I get even the slightest whim?"

"Yeah, go ahead.  Make your threats, Falk.   I'm out."

Falk's hands trembled, rage contorted his face and his hands clenched the phone like a bludgeon.  "You are out when I say you are out.  Do you understand me?   I own you, you pathetic little worm!  You call me a king?  I am no king!  To you, I am a god!"

"**** you."  

The line disconnected.  Falk raged, slamming the phone on the desk repeatedly, ringing sound lingering in the air afterwards.  He clenched his jaw and tried to breathe, tried to calm himself.  

"Jakob."  Ruby's voice came from the other room.

"WHAT?!"  He snapped.  

"...you better come in here."  She said, a hint of fear in her voice.

Falk pushed away from his desk and stormed into the room.  "What do you want?  I'm incredibly busy."

Ruby turned those sharp eyes to him and nodded at the TV.  On the screen police were seen busting up one of their drug operations.  The scrawl beneath told that it was the third such bust that day.  Suddenly things made sense, and for the first time in longer than he could remember, Jakob Falk felt fear.  He stared blankly, Ruby looking to him for orders.  

"Call Steinman.  Tell him to close things up and move the merchandise."  He ordered as calmly as he possibly could.

"I tried.   He's not answering his phone."  Ruby informed him.  

The noose was tightening and he was beginning to fray.  For once in his life, there was no plan.  "Call anyone you can.  We need to move quickly.  Make certain to remind our connections who they work for.  I want this shut down now."

Ruby nodded and went to work.  It was only a matter of time before they tied everything back to him.  Jakob rushes into his office and immediately picked up the phone and dialed.

"Pick up.   Pick up, God damn it!"

"Hello?"  Miles' voice came from the other end.

"Miles, where are you?"

"Jakob?  You alright?  You sound weird."

"I said where the **** are you?!"  Falk exploded.

"I'm with Tessa, why?"

Falk paced like a feral beast. "Have you seen the news?"

"No, we're heading into eat.  What's up?"  Miles asked.  

"Somebody screwed us.  The police are hitting a lot of our operations."

"Holy s***.   What do we do?"

Falk thought a moment before continuing.  "Keep an eye on the girl.  We're in a dangerous place.  I'll take care of everything."

"...alright.   Do you need me to come in?"

Falk stared out at his city.  Someone was trying to take it from him, and he just wasn't going to have that.  "No.   Just look after her.  We may need her."

Finally, he hung up the phone.  Ruby stepped into the room, silent.   He didn't even look back.  

"Find Steinman.  Silence the little Judas."

Ruby smirked and nodded before turning and disappearing out the door.
[img:14af213a26]https://i.imgur.com/LxEVeLc.gif[/img:14af213a26]

Simon Toews

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Re: Ghosts (18+ violence, language, adult themes)
« Reply #69 on: July 19, 2019, 11:43:04 PM »
(Thanks to Tahlia for her help with this one!)

Snow blanketed the entire area in a sheet of frosty white.  Night was falling and the moon cast its glow over the widespread landscape.  Aside from the barely plowed roads, there were no signs of civilization out here, the nearest town several miles back.  If he’d been looking to disappear, he’d chosen a helluva place to do it.  The path to Anna’s place was even less maintained than the main roads, the Spitfire struggling against the snowy path.  If it weren’t for the tracks previously made by a truck, She might have lost it into a ditch.

The warm lights of the ranch came into view as she exited a clearing, smoke rising gently into the gathering dark from the chimney.  Cozy little place with a barn and tons of land.  Not the sort of joint she’d ever expect to find a guy like Simon.  His scene was more dingy, raucous clubs or some rathole basement where he could pound some poor bastard’s face in.  Little House On the Prairie was not exactly what one pictured.

She'd piloted the Triumph through a lot.  If this trip broke her baby, Simon was going to be in for a lot less friendly greeting.  But she made it, and sat in stunned silence, just staring at the house for a moment.  The farm. The..."For ****s sake - "  She was having flashbacks of the months she spent hidden away at the ranch, with Tex.  Months only made bearable by the time she'd spent sinning like their lives depended on it with Simon.

Sighing, she stepped out of the sports car, grateful she'd grabbed a fur-lined leather jacket, and looked around at the rural edition of My Blue Heaven.   "Killer, if you ever for a minute, doubt how much you mean to me again..."  Not that he was there to hear her.

The sound of hooves upon the snow came from behind, one of the horses letting out a little snort, sending the steam of its breath jetting out in a mist through its nostrils.  Astride one of them was a woman.  Fair skin marred by a few scars, yet undeniably beautiful.  Her red hair was tucked under a light grey knit cap.  She looked down at Tahlia with caution in her green eyes, as she often did with strangers on her property.  But it was the other rider Tahlia would recognize.  A few weeks of beard was upon his face, more than she’d ever seen him with, but those eyes were undeniably Simon’s.  His brows knit in confusion,beholding the woman before him. 

“Tahlia?”

"Heyyyyyyy Killer."  She turned, and there was a long slow blink.  "Oh.  Wow.  I should have brought you one of Tex's hats."  She had one.  Or two.  Nevermind how she got them.  There was a flick of silver-green eyes to the woman, but, really, she'd come to see him.  Anyone else was incidental.  If Tahlia was capable of feeling overdressed, or out of place, she might have been.  But she was, for the moment, mission focused. "Surprise."

Simon slipped off his horse, boots crunching in the snow as he immediately strode toward her and threw his arms around her.  He clung to her tightly, a smile on his rugged, scruffy face.  For a moment he was content to just embrace her, earning an...interesting look from the woman upon the horse. He looked and felt healthier than she'd seen him, even compared to their last meeting.  He'd always felt a little thin, lean.  His time on this farm, eating good home cooking and working hard every day had clearly done him a bit of good.

She hugged him tightly, burying her face into his shoulder and tucking her nose against his skin.  The smoke and booze and everything else was gone, replaced with hay, and clean air - but he was still him beneath all of it.  She hadn't bothered with gloves, and light caught an obviously expensive purple and gold band around her left ring finger as she clung to him.  "You look good, Killer.  Real good.  Not sure I like the beard though...scratchy in the wrong spots..."

He pulled back and looked her over, a smirk on his face.  "You don't like the Grizzly Adams beard?"  He chuckled, running a hand over it.

"I do not."  She was smiling though, and reached up to run a hand along his jaw, her thumb just at the corner of his mouth.  Finally, her gaze pulled to the other figure, "Guessing it's not for me though..."

Anna threw a leg over one side and climbed down from her steed, approaching them.  "Simon's a man of manners, isn't he?"  She said sarcastically and offered a gloved hand.  If this was who he had shacked up with, she was as far from Tahlia as he could get.  None of her glitz, glamour, or expensive fashion sense...yet it worked for her.    "Anna Simmons.  Welcome."

"Nice to meet you.  Tahlia Faras.  For a little longer, anyway."  Actually, she and Eddie hadn't discussed names.  Tahlia Blake wasn't too bad either.  She hadn't, however, let go of Simon, not least of which because she was cold.  "He's better than he was, before..." Of course, then...well best not to think about that.

Her grip was strong.  No doubt from running this place for so long.  There was an intensity to her that was hard to miss.  Polite, certainly, but she carried herself with confidence and strength.  Yeah, in that at least, she was definitely his type.  "Pleasure."  She said.

Simon noticed then, for the first time, the ring.  His eyes widened as he looked her in the eye.  The corner of his mouth upturned.  “Really?   Tahlia Faras is getting hitched?  Holy s***.”

There was a, well, bashful was about the only way to describe that look.  "Yeah, shocked us too.   Golden Gala he just...decided I needed one.  Didn't...actually ask.  But apparently there's some Selkie tradition."  They'd at least been able to talk about the reality of how she and Eddie had become she and Eddie, so that helped.  A little.  "You're coming."  It wasn't a question.

The cir***stances that had led to it all were left in the past.  Whatever pain he had held onto from their initial parting was ancient history as far as he was concerned.  The smile on his face was 100% genuine.  "Wouldn't miss it."

A low voice came from behind.  "Miss Anna?"  Otis asked curiously.  "Everything alright?"

Anna turned her eyes up to Otis and a polite nod offered.  "It's fine, Otis.  We have a visitor.  Mind taking the horses back to the stable while I welcome our guest?"

The big man was happy to oblige, taking them by the reins and leading them off.  "Thanks, O."  She said fondly, approaching Tahlia and Simon.  "What say we get out of the cold?  Dinner should be about ready if you're hungry."

"Dinner? Oh I...it's a long drive back.  I actually came out here to deliver some information.  I have, unfortunately, a casino to rebuild and open."   Tahlia took a step back, keeping her hands clear. There was a - readiness - that hadn't been there before.  A subtle shift of weight and focus that Simon might recognize, or Anna - it was the way you moved when things had consistently, actively, tried to kill you, recently.  Tahlia had always been a fighter.  A killer.  Now she was becoming a warrior.  It took effort to stand down, and she gave a half smile.  "Not to be rude.."

Simon shot her a curious look, but didn't get a chance to say anything before Anna interjected.  "Well, at least come out of this cold.  You've come a long way.   I insist."  She smiled to the relative stranger.  Never one to let a tiny bit of jealousy get in the way of being a gracious host.

"That I will do.  And thank you.  I didn't realize I'd be surprising Ki-Simon with company.  Although from the looks of it, he's yours, and not the other way around." Tahlia winked, and looped her arm into Simon's for the walk to the house.  For balance.  Those heels were not meant for rough terrain.

The house was warm in more than temperature.  It felt alive, in a way.  The smell of a beef stew and sounds of mirthful conversation emanated from the kitchen.  Not just men and women, but children as well.  Simon slipped off the olive green ranch jacket from his upper body, his thick, waffle-knit henley straining against the added muscle the place had graced him with.  Before he could address Tahlia, a small girl ran up to him.

“Simon!”  She said in that little, excited voice.

“Miss Daisy.”  Simon smiled down to her.  “What’s up?”

She was practically vibrating with excitement.  “I gotta show you what I learned!”

Despite all the stories he’d told her, everything she knew about him, Tahlia had never seen him with a child.  He held a finger up to Tahlia.  “One second.  I’ll be right back.”

Daisy grabbed him by the hand and dragged him off, Anna watching after them.  She undid her scarf, glancing sidelong at the blonde visitor.  “So.  You’re Tahlia.  Simon’s told me a lot about you.”

"Has he now...and I would be curious to know just what that was."  Those oddly ringed jade green eyes fell on Anna as the jacket came off, revealing purple silk and leather.  There was the hint of a brand peeking out as she fluffed her hair.  This was...just Tahlia.  No glamour.

Anna slipped that slightly oversized jacket off and hung it on a coat rack, a little grin on her scarred lip.  "Don't worry.  Not ALL bad."  Beneath the coat was a loose, pink knit sweater that hung down to her denim-clad hips.  "He cares a lot about you.  Said you saved his life...in a lot of ways."

In the other room, she could see the girl placing a cashew on one end of a spoon and instructing Simon.  When he brought his fist down on the curved end, it launched the cashew into the air and Daisy managed to catch it in her mouth.  Simon made an impressed face and gave her a theatrical slow clap. 

“My turn.”  He insisted.  Daisy rushed over and set it up again, firing it off.  Simon had to get under it, but he managed to catch it, throwing his arms up like a referee.  “That’s it.  We’re the greatest.  Greatest in the world.” he said in a matter of fact tone.

Daisy giggled and exchanged high fives with her older friend.  Anna smiled at the little scene before turning her attention back to Tahlia.  "He's come a long way, Simon.  We both have.  He's seen enough pain.  I hope you're not here to cause him any more."

Her eyes were on the scene in front of her, but if it tugged any chords, there was no sign.  Her voice sharpened, just a little.  "Pain and joy can come together.  And sometimes - you can't get to that joy, without it hurting a little.  Or more than a little.  I have an empire to run, and a wedding to plan.  Do you think I would be here if what I had to say could be said by anyone else?" 

Anna nodded slowly, just observing her a moment.  She wasn't threatening or accusing, just trying to suss the strange woman out.  But there was also no fear.  Anna had the look of a woman who had stared the Devil in the eye and never once blinked. 

"There's only one other man in the world I would do more for, and I'm marrying him."  She said it matter of factly, one hand falling briefly to the pearl that nestled in her navel.

"We have that in common then.   When I had nothing, not even the will to keep living...he was there.    He's a good man.  Even if he doesn't want to believe it.  Ain't a thing I wouldn't do to protect him."

Simon came wandering on back before they could continue their conversation.  "Sorry about that.  So, what's up?"

Anna offered that tight, uneasy smile to him.  "Why don't you two take the nook.  Give you some privacy.”

Simon lead the way through the darkened family room.  Worn leather couches and bookshelves adorned the space, a small overhead light dimmed to almost nothing.  Through a set of glass double doors, was round, sturdy oak table before a big bay window looking out onto the rear of the sprawling property.  The cozy, rustic quality of the place might never seem like "him", if you knew Simon.  But then, the Simon before her didn't much LOOK like the man she'd known.  His bulkier, muscular physique aside, his smile was easier and there didn't seem to be as much weight upon his shoulders.  Those eyes, once always so alert and haunted were at ease.  Comfortable.   What horrors he'd been carrying most of his life seemed to be left in the rear view.
 
Tahlia followed him into the room, those strange pale eyes of her playing over a form at once intimately familiar and all together different.  There was a time they'd known every inch, every scar on each other's bodies with more intimacy and familiarity than they'd known their own.  A lot had changed though, since then.  She hadn't had the same silver cast to her eyes, and the blonde she'd used as camouflage then was permanent now.  Her glamour was gone.  But if she hadn't gained the same serenity he had found, there was a sense of permanence to her now.  His Tahlia had been a forest fire - sudden and fickle, burning out and popping up elsewhere at a whim.  Uncontrollable.  He'd been the one to show her the value of finding a hearth to call home, but it had taken something else - someone else to turn her into the creature who stood before him now.

  She didn't know just where to start - not with him.  Anyone else and she just would have blurted it out, feelings and consequences be damned.  But this was Simon.  "Killer..."  It was his nickname, only his - sighed out of her like it would somehow make this easier.
 
As he turned to face her, his face lit up.  Those arms, bigger and somehow stronger than they had been wrapped around her again.  There was a time when they would have just been tearing each other's clothes off, but now it was different.  He just enveloped her.  "Christ, I missed you."
 
Her arms found their place around his ribs and she held on tight, head on it's natural spot on his chest, the one she'd always think of as hers.  "I missed you too.  You know you've always got a place if you want it."  She knew, seeing him here, like this, that he wouldn't come back.  More importantly, he shouldn't come back.

"I can't believe you came all this way."  He said with a little chuckle.  "Ride's a rock polisher, ain't it?"

"Out here? Yeah - worse than the ride out to Tex's..."  Of course, the last time she'd done that drive had been the night she still didn't like remembering.  "I can't believe you're playing country mouse, Killer..."
 
His scruffy cheek rested against her blonde hair, a little snicker leaving him.  "You and me both, sweetheart."   She still smelled and felt the same.  No matter what she did or how her life had changed, he could still remember the smell of her hair and the feel of her embrace.


"Turns out?  I'm pretty good with horses.  Who'da thunk it?"

"It's that animal magnetism of yours."
 
Simon smirked down to her  "I like it though.  Hard work, good people, great food.  Obviously good food."  He said joked regarding the additional bulk he'd put on.

 
"I wasn't going to mention it..but since you did - you look good though.  And I was also not going to bring up how much s*** you used to give me about being out in the sticks.  Playing at being a good girl." There was a definite bubble to her voice, laughter hiding just below the surface.  She didn't want to let go yet, so she didn't - he'd always have a piece of her, and since she didn't know how the conversation was likely to end, she wanted to soak in every minute she could.  Lifting her head, she snuck her hands up to comb through the new-to-her beard.  "Yeah...think I'll remember you without this though..."
 
Part of him had forgotten about all the drama with Tex.  It felt like a lifetime ago.  It was amazing how quickly time could change a man.  There were things he'd done and said back then that would make him cringe now.  Still, though, he could smile and laugh, shaking his head.  "I think Anna agrees.  She said I look like I should be out brewing beer or chopping down trees."
 
"She's not wrong."  She wouldn't, maybe couldn't, say the other woman was right though.  Maybe someday, if the four of them ever sat down with drinks and a fire, five, if they could convince Corinne to come out, six, seven, if she and Eddie dragged Pop Tart and Lola out with them, a little nature would do them good.   Thinking about her strange little family led her back to the one armed cop, and why she was here.  "I saw Paige.  She said to tell you she was sorry."
 
He blinked at that, eyes lowering a little.  A million things had to be going through his head in that moment, but he just returned to her with that warm little smile.  "How is she?"
 
Tahlia considered her answer for a moment, and just - shrugged.  "She's herself.  Ok, I guess.  Sticking her nose in things, although she said she hasn't had to pull anyone off a train lately..." 

He managed a slight laugh at that.  Not his finest hour or best decision considering it almost got him killed.


"We didn't uh..." his brow furrowed a bit as he searched for the words.  "Didn't really part on the best of terms."

The admission brought a nod. "I know.  I saw the tape." Of course she had, even if it hadn't made the news.  Her web, never insignificant, was substantially larger now.
 
It was the first time she'd seen him frown since being there.  A bit of the old Simon crept to the surface.  "Yeah.  Little bastard jumped me.  Gotta hand it to the ****er.  He was quick.  Damn good right hook."
 
It was an opening, too perfect not to take.  "Pretty sure that's hereditary.  His daddy used to be a bit of a badass.  Hell of a fighter."  Some perverse little voice wondered if he'd gotten his father's other skills, but she was an all-but-married woman now.  And she sure as hell wasn't curious enough to ask Tessa.
 
"How the hell do you know his-"  Lightbulb.    Suddenly things came together.  Everything Anna had told him about the baby she'd lost all those years ago, even what little he could remember of the boy's face.  It hadn't been chance that Falk brought him there.  He was set up.  It was all a show, to pit his son against him.  Even if he'd won, he'd have been crippling, possibly killing his own flesh and blood.  Yeah...that had Jakob Falk written all over it.

"You're certain?"  He asked, full well knowing the answer.
 
"He's got your eyes."  Research and corroboration aside, she'd known as soon as she'd seen those eyes staring out from a different face. A hundred years from now, she'd still recognize them anywhere.  "Yeah, Killer.  I'm certain.  I've forgotten a lot of things, but not that blue.  And you know I wouldn't have come all this way if I wasn't."  Nevermind that if she'd sent anyone else, he wouldn't have believed them.
 
There was war behind those blue eyes now.  Whatever emotions that were coursing through him, though, were kept in check.  "Corrine sent you.  Didn't she."  It was true, he wouldn't have believed anyone else.  Paige knew that damn well.   It wasn't even a question, it was a statement.  Simon was quiet a long, long moment before looking up to her.  "What do I do?"

It was an odd question coming from him.  Once upon a time, he'd have rushed back, armed to the teeth and burned Falk's world to the ground...or died trying.  But...this was different.  HE was different.  For the first time in a long time...he was afraid.  Jakob Falk wasn't some lowlife mafioso.  Falk had scarred him in a way nobody ever could.  He'd spent most of Simon's childhood hurting him, and his entire adult life haunting him.  And now, he just didn't know what to do.
 
The tiny blonde reached up, thumbs resting along the hinge of his jaw, her fingers laced lightly across the back of his neck.  Gently, she brought his head to hers, forehead to forehead until those silver-tinged green eyes locked onto the blue she knew better than anyone.  There was a slow, soft breath before she answered, her gaze never leaving his.  "You let me handle it.  Okay, Killer?  You stay here, with her, and these people, and the horses, and you let the monsters fight it out.  He doesn't know what he's up against, now."  It was maybe the first time he'd heard her own her heritage, but not the first time he'd heard that anger-tight quaver in her voice.  "Paige and I, we'll get him out, and then..." The smile, the smile was new.  Vicious. Predatory.
 
For a moment, he almost agreed.  It would be easy to stay here.  Live in this bliss and pretend that a war wasn't going on and his friends weren't likely dying or hurt.  To let someone else fight his war.  If he stayed he'd be safe.  Anna would be safe.  But he'd always carry the spectre of Jakob Falk.  The monster might be dead, but he'd always be there for him.

No.  Simon had to see it through.

He simply shook his head.  "I'm coming with you."
 
"You're not.  Someone taught me this great little trick for keeping people where you want them.  You  remember Rocco, don't you - what I did to him?  That little piece of s*** motel you got me from? Killer..."  Tahlia took a breath, fighting every instinct she had - the truth was that with Simon on one side, and Eddie on the other, nothing could, or would, stand against them.  But she knew in her heart that she and Eddie couldn't live any other way than the one they had.  They didn't want to.  Simon had a chance, here.  "I didn't save you in Vicelli's office so you could keep fighting the same war."

"This...isn't...the same."  he said sternly.  There wasn't just the rage and vengeance-fueled maniac that Simon used to be in his voice.  It was something she'd never seen or heard from him.  This was a father.  Regardless of how long or how well he'd known him, Miles was his son.  "It's not enough that my son survives.  I want him to live.  I want him to know who I am.  I want him to know that when his father found out about him, he did everything in his power to be there.  To protect him.  I won't sit quietly and wait for someone else to save my son.  Not when I can make a difference.  I need to look Falk in the eye and tell him 'no.'"  That fire was back in his eyes.  "'No, you did not break me.  You do not own me.'"

His voice tinged with pain, becoming more frantic and agonized.  "I need to go to sleep at night and not see his face.  I need to know that I can close my eyes and feel safe again.  I need to be free of him.  Once and for all.”

He searched her eyes, pleading.  “Can you understand that?"

If it had been anyone else, Tahlia would have reminded them just who and what they were talking to.  As it was, the smoky-sweet purr hardened and cooled.  "An entire village lost to history, entire bloodlines erased.  All for the loss of one woman.  Because she was my mother and she was all we had in the world except each other.  And you ask me if I understand?" Her fingers flexed, and for a moment, images flashed and flickered against jade-tinged silver instead of the other way around.  Just a heartbeat, and then it was gone.

They'd held each other as they fought their own demons, and sometimes each others - as they clawed their way to each other sleeping or waking.  She knew.  For him to even question that she would stung, and she took a step back, letting go of him and raising her chin, drawn up to her full, still petite height, even in heels.  "Fine."

He was hurting.  That much was obvious.  He hadn't meant to question her.  Not really.   He looked her in the eye, the one person he trusted as much as Anna.   "This has to end."

Simon turned, and stopped in his tracks.  The scarred redhead stood in the doorway, her expression a mixture of anger and unfathomable sadness.  She'd heard everything.  He could likely hear the walls slam back up and into place the moment she was aware of Anna's presence.  Letting him see beneath her armor was one thing.  Anna was a stranger.  She'd seen too much already, and the only reason there was, would be, no consequence to that was out of love for the man between them, and the people she watched over.   Everyone needs a sanctuary.

No doubt, Anna would try and stop him.  Tell him to take Tahlia up on her offer and stay safe.  To finally just let go of it all.

"Anna-"

She held up a hand then, stopping him.  Silence settled over the room as she took in a deep breath.   When those green eyes opened, she looked into his in that way only she and Tahlia could.  Deep down into the depths of his soul.

"Bring our son home."  her voice was quiet, quavering, but resolved.
She had her own people to protect, and she had learned to let Falk go a long, long time ago.
Anna looked to Tahlia, then.  Not a word spoken, but a plea in her gaze.  "And please...bring Simon home, too"

There was a sharp nod, those eyes once more silver glazed with green beneath the sweep of gilded bangs.  There had been too many losses.  Enough to stain the sands of her favorite beach red.  That battle wasn't over yet either, although she felt the pull of it.  Wedding.  Casino.  War.  One wasn't acceptable, not when they were her people.  Hell was going come to Jakob Falk, and God help anyone who got in their way.
« Last Edit: July 20, 2019, 08:03:32 AM by Simon Toews »

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

Ruby Osbourne

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Re: Ghosts (18+ violence, language, adult themes)
« Reply #70 on: July 22, 2019, 04:33:55 PM »
Steinman was a ghost.  The man ran to the right people, Ruby had to admit.  Jakob was laying low, his building like a fortress and his staff armed to the teeth ready to unleash armageddon upon anyone who was stupid enough to come to their doorstep.  His empire was in grave danger, many of his various operations either falling or going dark for the time being.  Desperation was setting in and several of his “clients” were reminded of why they served him in the first place.  Ruby paid a visit to many of them, looking for anything on Steinman’s whereabouts.  Eventually, she found her lead. 

The Golden Pearl Casino glowed outside the window of her Audi, it’s flashing, brilliant lights obscuring her angular face from the outside world with their reflection.  Ruby hated the places.  They were a beacon for the foolish and deluded who might as well set fire to their wallets in exchange for a slim chance at a relatively minor profit.  Ruby never liked to gamble.  She disliked situations she couldn’t control.  This place was, in every sense of the word, a shining example.  Faras and her partner, Blake were not among those under Falk’s shadow, despite her boss’s constant scheming to wrangle them in.  Not only that, but the pair had themselves a small army and the joint was well-guarded.  It was unlikely she’d be able to get in the door without a scene, much less make it through the rest of the security measures in place.  Casinos were always heavily surveilled, and this would be no different.

Ruby’s jaw tightened, a million scenarios running through her brain at a feverish rate.  None of them ended in her success.  The doors to the casino opened and a familiar face appeared, speaking to a man Ruby estimated to be about the size of a goddamn semi-truck.  If the mass of braids didn’t give her away, the hobbled steps and stump of a left arm most certainly did.  Corrine Paige. 

Of course she was behind this.  Ruby’s contact with her was severely limited, but she had an immediate dislike for the crippled little girl scout.  Many cops could be bought, or otherwise brought to heel, but Corrine Paige was not one of them.  She was a rogue element, a wrench in the cogs moving their plans forward.  There wasn’t a doubt in her mind that she was to blame for everything that had happened in the past 24 hours.  Ruby would have taken great pleasure in gutting the bitch right then and there.  But that was not the plan, and those were not her orders. 

Nimble fingers flew over the numbers on her phone, dialing up her boss.   The phone rang twice before he answered, silence following before a cold, emotionless voice responded a “hello”. 

“Jakob.  I found him.”  She said.

“Has he been dealt with?”  Falk inquired.

“No.  They’ve got him shacked up at Tahlia Faras’ casino.  This place looks ready for ****ing war.  There’s no way in hell I’m gonna be able to work my way in there.”  She told him.

Silence again.

“Jakob?”  She said, uncomfortable with his silence.

“Come back.”  He ordered, finally.  “I’ll deal with her.  I still have friends in the Commission.  We do this the hard way.”

“You’re going to get her license revoked?” Ruby said with an arched brow.  It seemed...improbable, even for him.

“I’ll see that bitch run out of town by the end of the week.  And when that happens, we can waltz in and take what’s ours.”

It wasn’t her style, but sneaking in a slaughtering everyone wasn’t exactly in the cards.

“There’s another problem.”  Ruby said.  “Paige is here.”

“Of course she is.”  He replied.  The woman had threatened to bring him down and Toews was off playing house in the middle of nowhere.  Who else could it be?

“I have eyes on her.  Want me to take her out?”

Falk was quiet.  No doubt, he’d relish in having her off his back.  But, instead, he simply replied “No.”

Of course, Ruby thought.  We can’t do anything the easy way.  If Jakob had a fault it was his sense of poetic justice.  It wasn’t enough to kill his opponents, it had to be sadistic.  They had to know why they were dying and who ordered it.  They had to despair.  One quick slash with her blade and Paige’s guts would decorate the sidewalk like a busted pinata, but Falk wanted to toy with his prey.

Ruby’s fists clenched on her steering wheel, but she shoved down her distaste for his games and responded.  “Understood.  On my way.”

Her thumb pushed the button, starting up the ignition.  She could feel it before she saw it.  Paige’s eyes were on her.  There was no way she could have made out Ruby’s face through the reflections on the tinted window...but there was a smirk on her face that said otherwise.   

“Keep grinning, bitch.”  Ruby snarled and threw the car into drive, taking off into the night.

Simon Toews

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Re: Ghosts (18+ violence, language, adult themes)
« Reply #71 on: August 16, 2019, 08:13:00 PM »
Simon rose up in front of the bathroom mirror, water dripping from his face.  The beard was gone.  He barely recognized the face looking back anymore.  He’d finished packing minutes before, deciding that he really needed to up his wardrobe.   Almost every stitch of clothing the man owned was in one bag.  Kind of sad when he thought about it. 

He knew something would drag him back there.  Even as he grew more comfortable here, he knew something would go wrong and he’d be right back in the game.  It was just a matter of time.  Only, this time, he really didn’t want to go.  It wasn’t something he’d expected, but nevertheless, the ranch had become home.  He belonged here.  People liked him and wanted to help him get better.  He could breathe here.  Here, he was free. 

Simon knew he could die going back to the city, and everything he’d discovered here would be lost to him.  Fate brought him the one thing that could bring him back.  The kid might have been a little s*** who beat the living hell out of him, but he was still Simon’s son. And he was Anna’s.  The two of them had created a life.  Something amazing out of the horror that brought them together.  But Falk took that from them, too. There was only one more thing could take, and if it had to happen, Simon wasn’t going to sit and wait for some goon to come and try to kill him in his sleep.  That was never his style.  There would be no more hiding. 

A figure appeared in the doorway.  Of course it was Anna.  Her arms wrapped around herself as she studied him, a distant look in her eyes.  Simon cast his gaze to her in the mirror, watching her force a smile that quickly faltered.

“Hey.”  He greeted her.  Immediately he chastised himself for the lameness off it.  He never was much of a speaker.

Anna spared a slight smile for him.  “Hey.”

There were a million things both wanted to say, but neither could vocalize.  “She’s right, you know?”

Simon tilted his head curiously. 

“The beard. You look better without it.”  Anna grinned, but it looked as hollow as it felt. 

Simon chuckled and ran a hand along his freshly shaven jawline.  “You gonna be alright?”

“Why?  Cuz you’re leaving?”  She said with mock indignation. “I’ve been doing just fine without Simon Toews for decades now.  I think I can manage.”

A laugh left him and he nodded.  “Right.  Business as usual.”

“Damn right.”  She responded, clenching and shaking her fist like a boxer.

The joking bravado faded the longer they stared.  Both knew things had changed.  Reuniting had given them both a piece of something they’d lost long ago.  Neither was really ready to let it go again.  Simon stepped forward, Anna following suit.  They embraced tightly, as if it could stop everything that was to come. 

Anna rested her head upon his chest, a million thoughts in her head.  “Come back.”  She whispered. 

He knew it was a promise he couldn’t be certain he could keep.  He wouldn’t be going in alone and Paige and Tahlia had his back, but Jakob Falk wasn’t going down quietly.  He could die there.  Frankly, he wouldn’t be surprised if he did.  But his main concern was not with himself.

The pair pulled back.  “Be careful.”  Simon said. “By now, he probably knows where you are.”

“He probably does.”  Anna nodded.

“If he sends people, trying to hurt you to get to me…”

“Then they’ll regret it.”  Anna said.  “I know how to defend my own.”

Simon knew from the look in her eye that it wasn’t bluster.  Anna lived with the knowledge that he could have come for her at any time.  She was prepared. 

“So…” she said, that fake smile trying in vain to hide her sadness.  “This is goodbye.”

“Nah.”  Simon brushed it off. “Just...catch you later. ”

Anna nodded and grinned.  “Yeah.  Catch you later.”

Once again they embraced.  If the last memory he had of her was the feel of her arms, the scent of her hair and the warm, safe feeling she always left him with, he supposed that was more than enough.

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

Miles

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Re: Ghosts (18+ violence, language, adult themes)
« Reply #72 on: August 16, 2019, 08:43:34 PM »
The sun was just beginning to rise when Miles awoke.  Blonde hair draped over his bare chest, tickling his skin. Tessa’s arm draped limp across his scarred abdomen, her breath warm and humid upon his collarbone.  She was out cold, but her body was hot as an oven.  Amazing how someone so tiny could produce so much heat. 

Sleep had been fleeting of late, and Falk’s vague, open-ended phone call had done nothing to calm the young man’s anxieties. 

“We may need her.” Jakob had said.  The words repeated over and over in his head, pounding away like a jackhammer.   What did he need her for?  What plans did Falk have for Tessa?   Given the news, Miles assumed it was anything but good.  For as long as he could remember, Falk was there for him.   When the fights ended and in the aftermath of certain victories, Falk had been there to help nurse him back to health.  When he was younger, the man was a calming, safe presence.  But as the years went on, he began to see through that exterior.  Falk was powerful, and Miles respected and admired that, but the more he saw the more he began to fear the lone father figure in his life.  Jakob Falk was ruthless, remorseless. The things Miles saw him do and plan could only be described in one word: evil.

Tessa brought him into a new world.  A world where he had worth as a man, and not just as a tool.  When she looked at him the way she often did, he felt alive.  He felt whole.  For the first time in his life, he felt, not only loved, but like he could love.  If Jakob ever tried to take her from him…

For a moment, he panicked as if someone there would hear his thoughts.  It was a fear he’d had a lot whenever questioning his boss.  Jakob’s reach was long, somehow it seemed possible that he could even see into the boy’s thoughts. It was ridiculous, of course, but fear and reason rarely went hand in hand. He looked down at the slumbering blonde, her lips parted slightly as she breathed evenly against him.  Nobody will ever touch you, he promised silently.  Not Ruby, not Falk, not even the gods themselves would ever harm her.  Not if he could help it. 

Tessa’s bright blue eyes opened slowly looking up at him in the darkened room.  A smile curved her lips, love and warmth in those eyes.  The growing light from the sunrise behind her cast an orange glow over the snow-covered city.  A hell of a view.

“Hey there.”  She whispered. 

It took a moment for him to stop staring and will his own smile to appear.  “Hey.”

“You okay?”  She asked, reaching up and brushing her fingers along his jawline. 

Miles traced her face, etching every inch of her into his memory.  “I am now.”

Tessa’s face lit up the way it always did when they were together, the young starlet climbing upwards and pressing her lips to his.  Tessa let the kiss linger before finally parting.  Miles’ fingers ran through her hair and along the back of her slender neck, his thumb grazing her earlobe. 

Miles stared down at her, images of the room full of men Falk had slaughtered fresh in his mind.  He couldn’t help but picture her among them.  Tessa saw it in his face. 

“What is it?”  She asked.  “What’s wrong?”

Miles wanted to tell her.  Just spill everything.  The family he’d watched Ruby kill, the boardroom, the lives he, himself had taken over the years.   But he couldn’t bear to even imagine her looking at him in horror.  If she knew what he’d done, what he’d allowed to happen, she’d justifiably run.

“What if we left?”  He said.  “What if we just got in a car and left town?”

“And go where?”  She chuckled.

“I don’t know. I don’t care.  Just...what if we hit the road and left all of this behind?”  He asked.  “Would you?”

She looked at him as if he were crazy.  “We can’t just leave.   You have your job, I’m under contract…”

“**** my job.  I want to be with you.  I don’t care about anything else.”  He said.

“Miles…”. She started.

“Tess, I feel like something really bad is gonna happen.”  He interrupted.

Tessa stared at him, that fear he dreaded coming into her eyes.  “What are you talking about?”

“I don’t know.  I just have a really bad feeling.”  He said.  He couldn’t tell her exactly why.  Not without risking losing her.

She took his face in her hands and placed a kiss upon his lips.  “Miles.   Everything is going to be fine.  I promise.   And...maybe later, I’ll finish out my contract here and then...then we’ll go and see the world together.  Okay?”

He didn’t answer. He could only see a million terrible things happening to her. 

“As long as we’re together, they can’t hurt us, right?”  She smiled and stroked a thumb along his brow. 

Miles desperately wanted to believe that.  He’d have given anything to make it true.  But, Tessa was dead set on staying, and he would have to do what he could to protect her.  Even if it killed him. 
« Last Edit: August 21, 2019, 10:51:53 AM by Miles »
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Simon Toews

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Re: Ghosts (18+ violence, language, adult themes)
« Reply #73 on: August 30, 2019, 08:52:03 PM »
The city seemed so much bigger and louder now.  The quiet of the ranch was peaceful, only broken by the happy sounds of those with whom he shared it.  It felt faster, more alive here.  But, he noted, it also felt angrier, dirtier.  The rot of this place was deeply ingrained in the city’s being, causing him no small amount of anxiety.  Winter was nearing its end, the snow turning from fluffy white to a slushy grey.  At least the bite of the cold had dulled some. 

Tahlia was off making arrangements while he was holed up in her casino.  The Golden Pearl would have been his kind of joint just a year prior.  But Simon wasn’t the same person anymore.  He felt out of place here now.  It was as if he’d been wearing blinders and finally taken them off.  Despite the flashy, bright veneer, Simon saw through to the darkness inherent in this place.   He pitied the folks sitting in front of slot machines pouring money in the slim chance that their fortunes could change.  He saw men and women at the tables blowing the kind of coin that could feed everyone on the ranch for months or even open an entire other, bigger location. 

He’d seen poverty before.  Hell, most of his life was lived in poverty.  He’d barely touched any of the money Tahlia had left him, except to help buy supplies when Anna allowed him to.  She was a stubborn, proud woman.  She preferred to pay her own way when she could.  Plus she was reticent to take money she thought might be I’ll-gotten.  But times were tough, and even dirty money could keep the lights on. 

Simon stares out the window of the penthouse suite, looking at the bright, twinkling lights of the city.  Somewhere out there, Jakob Falk was plotting his next move, hopefully unaware of what was coming for him. 

A knock came from the door.  He took one last look and moved to the door.  His heart sank when he saw the one-armed detective standing on the other side.  The pair of them just stared a moment, unsure of what to say. 

“Corrine.”  He finally said, in a hushed tone. 

She was usually the most unerringly confident woman he’d ever encountered, but here, she seemed...ashamed.  Her eyes struggled to meet his. 

“Heya, Toews.”  She said.  “Mind if I come in?”

Simon blinked and stepped aside.  Paige entered the lavishly appointed suite and looked around.

“Jesus.” She muttered. “Tahlia doesn’t **** around.”

Simon took it in as if for the first time.  “No, she does not.”

Her fingers trailed over the marble top of a fully stocked bar, her back to him. The detective glanced back and managed a smile.  “You look good.  You put on some pounds?”

“Yeah.  Turns out hard work and good food will do that.”

Paige’s smirked.  “Who knew?”

Simon chuckled and crossed his arms, leaning against the back of his couch.  “You sent Tahlia for me?”

Paige nodded.  “Figured you wanna see a friendly face.”

“Coulda been your’s.”  He said.

Corrine’s smile faded, her eyes lowering.

“Yeah.” She said. “After the way we left things, I didn’t think you’d be too thrilled to see me.”

“So you sent the woman I broke up with via note and ran out on?”  He quirked a brow.  “Solid plan.”

Paige laughed, but her expression turned somber again. “Simon, I’m sorry.”

“It’s in the past.”  He reassured her.

“No...no.  I was wrong.  I should have let you explain.  I didn’t listen to your side and-“

“Corrine.”  Simon stopped her. “He played us.  Falk played us both.  And...to be honest, it worked out for the best.”

Paige knew about Anna in only the vaguest terms.  He’d mentioned something about her during their visits while he was still in lockup and she’d heard her name during one of his night terrors.  She knew he’d found her again. 

“What’s she like?”  Paige asked.

“Strong.”  Simon said quietly. “Smart, funny.  Stubborn as hell, but in an endearing kinda way.  Still beautiful.”

Paige smiled. “Working on a little crush, are you?”

Simon snorted.  “No.  No, come on.”

“Mmhm.”  Paige leaned her hip on the counter.  “You’ve become a s***ty liar, Toews.  What’d they do to you out there?”

She saw right through him.   The truth was, Anna centered him.  She showed him a part of himself he’d thought was buried and gone.

“She gave me purpose.”  He said.  “She gave me a reason to live.”

Paige walked over to him and placed her hand on his shoulder.  He looked happier and healthier than she’d ever seen him.  For that, she was grateful. 

“It’s damn good to see you again, Toews.”

Simon smiled. 

“You too.”

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

Miles

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Re: Ghosts (18+ violence, language, adult themes)
« Reply #74 on: October 19, 2019, 11:23:40 PM »
Miles gripped the wheel of his Mercedes, his mind preoccupied with Falk and the increasingly dire situation at their feet.  Two more of their operations had fallen and his boss was not handling it well.  That confident, cool facade had begun to show cracks.  He wasn’t sure how this would all play out, but Falk repeatedly assured him it would be fine.  Miles wasn’t so sure.  Worse than that, he wasn’t sure if he cared.  After all he’d seen and done, the kid wasn’t certain he wouldn’t enjoy seeing the old man get taken down.  A lifetime in lockup was the least he deserved. 

Tessa sat beside him, humming along to the song on the radio, blissfully unaware of the whole crumbling mess.  God, he loved her voice.  Smooth like velvet.  Part of him wanted to tell her, but another was glad she didn’t know.  Being with him was dangerous for the young starlet.  When Falk did go down, he’d be sure to create as much collateral damage as possible.  She’d be better off if he just disappeared, but he couldn’t bring himself to do it.  Tessa centered him, made him feel safe.  She made him feel like he was more than Jakob Falk’s blunt instrument.  Like he had a purpose beyond doing damage with his fists.  Giving that up might kill him. 

The girl had come into their room, all fired up and talking about a new gig.  Whenever Tessa got excited she’d pace around the room and let loose, rapid fire, speaking so fast it was hard to keep up.  It was hard not to smile along with her.  The Golden Pearl was under new management and they wanted her there.  He didn’t know much about the place, but he was certain his boss did.  He knew about everyone and everything, it seemed. He supposed he should have told Falk where they were going.  He’d probably be pissed to know they went somewhere so high profile without his discretion.  Personally, Miles didn’t care.  Where Tessa went, so would he. Falk didn’t have to know.

The Golden Pearl was lit up like Christmas.  A bright beam of light in the inky black night of the city.  Not really his kind of place.  He preferred the cigar lounge.  That old-fashioned, quiet, refined sort of setting with a smoking hot singer crooning out a mellow tune over the well-dressed crowd.  A uniformed valet met them at the front, politely helping Tessa out of the vehicle.  Miles stepped out into the cool night air, still alert in case they were being watched.  The streets were clear.  If there were unfriendly eyes on them, they were well hidden.  Miles smiled to the valet and handed over his keys. 

The warmth of the casino wrapped around them like a hug as soon as they passed the threshold.  Music piped through speakers all over and the sounds of slot machines filled the cavernous room.  An impeccably groomed gentleman in a fine suit greeted them as they entered the main lobby.

“Ms. Bradley.  Welcome to the Golden Pearl.  We’re honored to meet your acquaintence!”  He said.

Tessa put on that beaming smile of hers and affected that slight southern twang she used at her shows.  “Why thank ya!  It’s absolutely beautiful!”


“Ms. Faras wishes me to direct you to the elevators, but if there’s anything I can get for you, food or drink?”

“Oh, bless your heart.   No, thank you, I think we’re fine.”  She said polite as can be.

Miles almost interrupted to ask for a scotch, but decided against it.  Better to keep his wits about him.  The man walked with them, talking about the history of the casino and its previous owners, but Miles was hardly listening.  This place was a nightmare for someone like him.  Plenty of places for an attacker to hide, lots of noise and light pulling at the eye.  It was distracting.  Distraction was bad.  Distraction got you killed. 

They stepped through the elevator doors and their guide placed a card into a slot.  “Ms. Faras will see you upstairs, this elevator will take you directly to her office.  Please, enjoy your evening.”  the man said.

“We will.  Thank you very much for your hospitality.”  Tessa smiled to him.  Miles only offered a tight smile and terse nod.  The doors slid closed and the elevator began to rise. 

Tessa immediately dropped the act, her eyes going wide.  “SOMEBODY likes his cologne.  Jesus.”

Miles chuckled despite himself.  She looked over at him with a smirk.  “Oh, come on.  You know you were thinking it.”

“Maybe a bit.”  He joked.

Tessa stared at him for a moment.  “You alright?  You seem kinda tense.”

Miles turned to her and forced a smile.  “Yeah.  Hell yeah.  Just...new place, new people.  I’m much better when I know where I’m going and who I’m dealing with.”

She wrapped her arms around his and rested her cheek against his shoulder.  “Relax.  It’s gonna be fine.  I’ve done, like, a million of these things.  Plus...if anyone gives us crap...you can always just beat ‘em up.”

Miles couldn’t help but smile.  He turned his head and laid a kiss on her forehead.  The elevator pinged, announcing their arrival.  The doors slid open to reveal the reception area of Tahlia’s office.  The receptionist looked up from her screen, looking professionally immaculate, aside from the headphones.  She smiled to them.  “Ms. Bradley?”

Tessa smiled.  “That’s me.” she said in a little sing song. 

The receptionist smiled politely and turned to Miles.  “And Mister…?”

“Miles.”  He said simply.

She stared a moment, taken aback.  “Mister...Miles.  Alrighty then.  Ms. Faras will see you now.”  she said gesturing to the double doors. 

Miles took point, reaching the doors first.  He didn’t notice the woman glance over her shoulder with a look concern before he turned the knob and gave the door a push.  The face on the other side was decidedly NOT Tahlia Faras.  It had been months and his hair had grown and he’d packed on some muscle, but he knew that face. 

“...Simon?”  Tessa said, confused.

Miles immediately snapped.  He charged at the blonde stranger, his forearm hitting Simon’s chest, driving him back into the office.  Simon went with it until he sidestepped and threw Miles into the back of a couch, his abdomen slamming into the hard backrest.  The young man grunted in frustration and a twinge of pain.

“Miles!” Tessa screamed in shock.

The boy swing wild, backwards at Simon’s head, but the older man leaned away and stepped back.  Their first fight had caught him by surprise, but now Simon was in control.  He kept his distance, staying as non-confrontational as possible while Miles squared off.

“Don’t, kid.”  Simon said.  “I’m not here to fight you.”

“**** you!”  Miles said, throwing a punch.  Tessa watched in horror as Simon knocked the attack aside, blocking everything her boyfriend was throwing at him with ease, but he never retaliated beyond a push.  Miles grew increasingly frustrated as they went.  With a feral yell, he threw a vicious right cross, but Simon leaned past it and shoved him into a glass shelf.  Bottles of expensive liquor fell to the ground, shattering with the shelves at they fell.  Oh, he’d definitely owe Tahlia for that one.

“Simon, please, stop!”  Tessa begged him.

“Ain’t up to me, kid.”  Simon said plainly.  He kept his gaze on Miles.  “We don’t have to do this.”

“Yeah.  Yeah, we do.”  Miles growled,  He charged at Simon, tackling him over the couch, flipping it in the process.  The pair of them rolled onto the floor, Simon clutching him by his jacket’s lapels.  Miles had the upper hand, finally.  His fist connected with the older man’s jaw, hammering his head to one side.  It was a good hit.  Simon was almost proud.

Before Miles could throw another punch, Simon rolled and pinned him.  “Stop!  You don’t need to do this!”

Miles snarled and ripped an arm free, once again, hitting Simon in the face and knocking him off of him.  Tessa turned to the doors, moving to get help, but found them locked.  “Help!  Help, please!  They’re going to kill each other!”

Simon scrambled away, putting some distance between the two of them.  Blood ran from his lip, his eye already red from Miles’ last punch.  He breathed heavily, eyes on his son.  “Please, Miles. Don’t make me hurt you.”

But the boy wasn’t hearing it.  Once again he tried to tackle Simon, but the older fighter’s leg braced backwards for it, taking the blow to his abdomen.  Miles struggled against his superior strength.  The farm had done Simon some good after all. 

Miles laid a few hits to Simon’s ribs, but he just took it.  Finally, he’d had enough.  Simon grabbed him by the shirt, whirled him around, hooked a foot behind Miles’ ankle and slammed him down through a glass coffee table.  Tessa’s scream echoed through the room.  Simon stumbled back against Tahlia’s desk, clutching his ribs and gasping for breath.  Miles stared up at the ceiling surrounded by broken glass.

“Look at us.”  Simon panted.  “Look...at what he made us.”

Bits of glass cut into Miles’ hands as he tried to push himself up.  His jacket was tattered and cut, blood seeping from his back.  For the first time, he really looked at the man before him.  Scars on his face and on those tattooed arms.  The same kinds of scars Miles bore all over his body.  Scars earned through the blood and tears of the boys in the pits.  Scars he’d be given as muscle for Jakob Falk, collecting from his victims and punishing his enemies.  And those eyes...they seemed haunted.  But most of all, they seemed familiar.  Like mirrors of his own.

“Who the hell are you?”  Miles asked, wincing as he sat up.

Simon eyed the boy before him.  The son he’d never known existed,  a piece of him right before his eyes.  A perfect reflection of himself and what he might have become had he not escaped.  The son he could not save.

“I’m your father.”
« Last Edit: October 20, 2019, 12:41:30 AM by Miles »
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