Chapter Four: Ghosts

A damaged man struggles against gangsters, criminals and his own demons, always on the run from his past and looking for redemption.

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Simon Toews
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Simon Toews » Wed Mar 13, 2019 2:42 pm

Anna stepped into the stables, finding Simon already hard at work. A brush was in his hand as he groomed one of her horses. The man never ceased to amaze. She tugged her brown suede, wool-lined coat shut and crossed her arms watching him, a crooked smile on her face.

"Well. Look at you." She said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yeah, there's always that." she laughed.
"I don't need to fight. To prove I'm right. I don't need to be forgiven. "
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Tessa Bradley » Wed Mar 13, 2019 11:49 pm

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

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

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

"You okay?" He asked her.

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

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

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

"Shoot."

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

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

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

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

She swatted his chest. "Dick."

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

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

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

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

Nothing in his tone exactly convinced her, but he clearly didn't want to talk about it. She lay there and tried to quiet her mind. She didn't know what he did for Jakob Falk, but she was certain it had something to do with all of this.
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Corrine Paige » Fri Mar 15, 2019 8:38 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Pick up. Come on, Toews. Pick up the fucking phone!"

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

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

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

""Yello?"

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

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

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

It was a long shot, but Jordan knew her shit, and research was like her drug. She knew how to dig up dirt. It was just a hunch, but if it meant what she thought, it could change everything.
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Anna » Tue Mar 19, 2019 1:34 am

Simon sat at the kitchen table across from Otis. The man was built like a wall, arms as big as Simon's head. And that face was stoic as a statue. His cards were dwarfed by his huge hands, the big guy just staring. Simon studied him in vain. Otis betrayed absolutely nothing.

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

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

"Well...fuck."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Any time, anywhere!" Otis called back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What about me?" He asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What?" Simon asked.

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

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

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

"Anna..."

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

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

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

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

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

"What do you mean?" Simon looked perplexed

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Is that enough?" Simon asked quietly.

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

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

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

Post by Corrine Paige » Sat Mar 30, 2019 4:08 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.
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Penelope Jordan
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Penelope Jordan » Sun Mar 31, 2019 1:33 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 fuck."

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.
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Anna
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Anna » Sun Mar 31, 2019 3:04 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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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Corrine Paige » Thu Apr 04, 2019 10:04 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 shitcanned? 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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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Simon Toews » Sun Apr 07, 2019 11:57 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 shit?" 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 shit 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.
"I don't need to fight. To prove I'm right. I don't need to be forgiven. "
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Miles
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Miles » Mon Apr 15, 2019 2:08 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 fuckin' 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.
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Simon Toews
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Simon Toews » Sun Jun 02, 2019 8:27 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 shiting 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 shit 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 an 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.
"I don't need to fight. To prove I'm right. I don't need to be forgiven. "
Corrine Paige
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Corrine Paige » Sun Jun 02, 2019 8:45 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."
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Jakob Falk
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Jakob Falk » Fri Jun 14, 2019 8:43 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!"

"Fuck 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 fuck 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 shit. 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.
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Simon Toews
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Simon Toews » Fri Jul 19, 2019 11:41 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 fucks 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 shit.”

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 circumstances 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 shit 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 fucker. 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 shit 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.
"I don't need to fight. To prove I'm right. I don't need to be forgiven. "
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Ruby Osbourne
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Ruby Osbourne » Mon Jul 22, 2019 4:33 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 fucking 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.
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