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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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Simon Toews » Fri Aug 16, 2019 8:11 pm

Simon rose up in front of the bathroom mirror, water dripping from his face. The beard was gone. He barely recognized the face looking back anymore. He’d finished packing minutes before, deciding that he really needed to up his wardrobe. Almost every stitch of clothing the man owned was in one bag. Kind of sad when he thought about it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Simon tilted his head curiously.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He probably does.” Anna nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Once again they embraced. If the last memory he had of her was the feel of her arms, the scent of her hair and the warm, safe feeling she always left him with, he supposed that was more than enough.
"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 Miles » Fri Aug 16, 2019 8:41 pm

The sun was just beginning to rise when Miles awoke. Blonde hair draped over his bare chest, tickling his skin. Tessa’s arm draped limp across his scarred abdomen, her breath warm and humid upon his collarbone. She was out cold, but her body was hot as an oven. Amazing how someone so tiny could produce so much heat.

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

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

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

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

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

“Hey there.” She whispered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And go where?” She chuckled.

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

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

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

“Miles…”. She started.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miles desperately wanted to believe that. He’d have given anything to make it true. But, Tessa was dead set on staying, and he would have to do what he could to protect her. Even if it killed him.
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Simon Toews » Fri Aug 30, 2019 8:50 pm

The city seemed so much bigger and louder now. The quiet of the ranch was peaceful, only broken by the happy sounds of those with whom he shared it. It felt faster, more alive here. But, he noted, it also felt angrier, dirtier. The rot of this place was deeply ingrained in the city’s being, causing him no small amount of anxiety. Winter was nearing its end, the snow turning from fluffy white to a slushy grey. At least the bite of the cold had dulled some.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paige’s smirked. “Who knew?”

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

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

“Coulda been your’s.” He said.

Corrine’s smile faded, her eyes lowering.

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

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

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

“It’s in the past.” He reassured her.

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

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

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

“What’s she like?” Paige asked.

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

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

Simon snorted. “No. No, come on.”

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

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

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

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

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

Simon smiled.

“You too.”
"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 Miles » Sat Oct 19, 2019 11:22 pm

Miles gripped the wheel of his Mercedes, his mind preoccupied with Falk and the increasingly dire situation at their feet. Two more of their operations had fallen and his boss was not handling it well. That confident, cool facade had begun to show cracks. He wasn’t sure how this would all play out, but Falk repeatedly assured him it would be fine. Miles wasn’t so sure. Worse than that, he wasn’t sure if he cared. After all he’d seen and done, the kid wasn’t certain he wouldn’t enjoy seeing the old man get taken down. A lifetime in lockup was the least he deserved.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Maybe a bit.” He joked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Miles.” He said simply.

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

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

“...Simon?” Tessa said, confused.

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

“Miles!” Tessa screamed in shock.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m your father.”
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Simon Toews » Fri Nov 29, 2019 7:44 pm

The office was a wreck. Furniture toppled over, shelves and bottles shattered in a pool of exorbitantly expensive booze on the floor, and what Simon was certain was a very expensive coffee table broken into a million pieces. He held a rag up to his face, the bleeding mostly stopped, but the ache lingered.

Tessa knelt beside Miles, tending to his wounds. She couldn’t help but glance Simon’s way every now and again. How had she never noticed it before? All the time she’d spent with both men and she never picked up the resemblance. Now, it was clear as day.

“You got a mean right hook, kid.” Simon muttered around the bloody rag.

Miles glared at him from the other couch while Tessa picked glass from his hair. The kid had been silent for a while, but his eyes never left Simon.

“You hate me. Don’t you?” Simon smirked. “I can smell it coming through your pores.”

Miles didn’t respond. Simon pushes away from the desk. “Probably not used to losing, are you?”

The sullen look on the boy’s face was all the answer he needed. It was a sentiment he could identify with. After those first few loses in Falk’s pit, losing wasn’t something Simon was willing to accept. Miles was like him more than he cared to admit. Both survivors. Both tough. Both victims of the same sick, manipulative man.

“We gonna talk about this, or just glare at each other all night?” Simon asked.

“What is there to talk about?” Miles muttered.

“Come on, Kid.” Simon eyed him.

“What do you expect? Big, happy family reunion?” Miles spat.

“I suppose not. Big, happy reunions aren’t exactly a recurring theme for us, are they?”

“Don’t y’all like you know me.” Miles glared.

Somewhere deep down that stung. Simon wasn’t sure why. It was true. He knew next to nothing about the boy. But still, given the life he lead and company he kept, it wasn’t hard to piece together.

“You’re right.” Simon said. “I don’t. But I want to help.”

“Help with what?” Miles stared a hole through him. “Huh? What the fuck are YOU going to help me with?”

“I’m going to take him down. Get him back for you. For your mother. For me. For every broken, humiliated body he’s left in his wake for the past 30 years. I’m gonna make him hurt, and when I’m done, I’ll send the son of a bitch screaming to hell.”

“You’re fucking delusional.” Miles said. “And you know what? You’re full of shit. You want to pretend like you’re some righteous, selfless hero? Fuck you. You need a way in, and you think I’m it. Otherwise, you’d probably line me up right next to him.”

“That’s not true.” Simon said. “I need to get you out of there.”

“You’re too fucking late!” Miles said, standing up. He’d stripped down to his undershirt, the back torn and stained in red. “You wanted to save me? Well, where the fuck you been for the past couple decades?”

He’d only known about Miles a short time, but question still hurt. “Drinking. Fighting. Getting into one scrape or another.”

“While I was getting my face beat in and my bones broken. And now you want me to betray the closest thing I’ve ever had to a father?” Miles said spitefully. Even as the words left him, he knew they were a lie. His doubts about Falk ran too deep now. But still, he’s stand by them. “Say what you will about Falk, but he was good to me. He didn’t abandon me.”

“He used you. That man does not give a fuck about you.” Simon said softly. “He only kept you for one reason: to hurt me. To turn you against me.”

Simon’s eyes turned distant. He’d tried his entire adult life to numb the pain of those years under Falk with sex, drugs, alcohol and violence. The horrors that woke him screaming in the middle of the night were all too real and all too familiar.

“Kid...if I had known about you, there isn’t a force in this world that could have stopped me from getting to you. I’d have burned the city to the fucking ground, cut through a million men to protect you from him. But I didn’t and there’s nothing I can do about that. I can’t make it go away. But, I’m here now, and I am going to rip that man’s world down around his feet.”

Miles scoffed. “You’re a gutter rat. Trash on the side of the street. What the fuck do you think you can do to him? Falk has an empire.”

“So did Cameron Cotter and Vincenzo Vicelli. You know where they are?” Simon asked him. “Dead. Dead because they hurt the people I cared about. He took my son. I’m not the one who should be afraid.”

Something Miles changed in that moment. Simon could see it in his eyes. “You’ll die.”

“Then I’ll die fighting.” Simon said.

“What’s the point?” Miles sighed. “Someone else will just take his place.”

“The point?” Simon squinted at him. “The point is that he takes and takes and we let him get away with it. The point is that the motherfucker took my life from me. From your mother. From you.”

Miles turned his eyes to his father, mulling it over.

“You don’t just fight the battles you can win. You fight the battles that need fighting.” Simon said. “This isn’t about changing the world. This is about drawing a line in the sand and not letting him step past it ever again.”

For a moment, the kid almost looked convinced. But then, he just slumped and shook his head. Simon lowered his eyes. He understood what Miles was going through. He’d spent most of his life feeling the same way, until he was forced into action. But the intervening years were spent in pain, fear, and anger. It wasn’t dying, but it sure as hell wasn’t a way to live.

“How are you sleeping, kid?” Simon asked. “Do you dream?”

Miles hadn’t even thought about it in a long time. The only dreams he could recall were nightmares. Back in that sweaty, grimey dungeon. Back in the ring. Or the images of people he’d hurt for his boss.

“Do you even see anything other than pain when you close your eyes at night?” Simon pushed. From the look on the boy’s face, he didn’t. The only times he ever slept well were beside Tessa. “Don’t you want to? Don’t you want that to go away?”

Simon walked over to Miles and crouched before him, looking him in the eye. “Help me.” he begged. “Help me take him down and we’ll NEVER have to be afraid again.”
"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 » Mon Dec 02, 2019 8:21 pm

Tessa stood in a room Tahlia had set aside for them. Simon was elsewhere on the phone with the blonde at the moment, catching a well-deserved earful for the damage to the office. As soon as her concerns for his well being were addressed, he got it both barrels.

Miles stepped out of the bathroom, freshly showered, a towel draped over bare shoulders. The scars dotting his muscular form suddenly made a new kind of sense. He seemed different. Like the confidence he’d once had in spades was suddenly converted to something else. He wouldn’t meet her eyes, try as she might. It wasn’t weakness, she decided. It was shame.

“Miles.” She said softly. The boy didn’t look up. He just reached for a t-shirt, doing his level best to ignore her. Her hand lay over the shirt before he could get to it.

“Hey.” She cooed, a hand gently resting along his jaw. She lowered her head, forcing him to make eye contact. “It’s okay. Whatever is wrong, it’s okay.”

“You don’t know that.” He whispered. “You don’t know anything.”

“Then tell me.” She pleaded. “Help me understand.”

Miles’ lips parted but nothing came out. Tessa rested her forehead to his. “Please, Miles. Tell me.”

“He’s right.” The boy finally muttered. “I don’t...I don’t sleep without you.”

“Why?” She asked.

“When I was a boy...I did things.” The words felt almost strangled out of him. “Mr. Falk...he…”

Tessa ran her hand through his hair, encouraging him to go on.

“I fought for him. Fought other boys...girls. All of us, kids. I killed them. Because it was what he wanted. And when the fight ended…” the rest would never come, but she could guess.

“I did it for so long that it just...stopped feeling wrong. I didn’t question it. I didn’t fight back. I just hurt people and let...them do what they wanted to me.” His voice wavered. “I still see them sometimes. When I got to sleep at night, those little, broken faces are there. All of them, from back then, and all the ones since. I never fought back. I never said anything or tried to stop it. I just did what he told me. Or I watched it happen.”

“It’s okay.” She assured him. “I promise, it’s going to be okay.”

He reached up suddenly and grabbed her wrist, startling her. “It’s not! It’s not okay at all. Do you want to know the truth? The only reason we met is because he TOLD me to get close to you. You were leverage, because Toews cares about you. You were a mission.”

Tessa couldn’t be sure what hurt more, his grip or that admission. “Miles. Let. Go.”

“Why? Am I scaring you? Good! You should be scared. You should run. Run far, far away from me and never look back. You should get the fuck out of this town and never ever think of me again! Go! Go before I get you killed too!”

His grip loosened. Behind that enraged facade something else peered through. He was in pain. Real, horrible pain. Tessa pulled her hand free and pulled him close, holding his head to her shoulder. Her fingers stroked his hair gently. “I don’t run. And I’m not afraid. I know you. The real you.”

“No, you don’t.” He insisted, clinging to her.

“You are a kind, sweet person. No matter what he tried to turn you into. Whatever brought you to me doesn’t matter. You’re here now. And I’m not letting you go.”

Tessa pulled back and looked into those pretty blues of his. “I love you. And I’m not going anywhere.”

Miles was a ball of turmoil, a war at play between his brain and his heart. Tessa just kept that lock on his eyes. “Let Simon help. Let’s make that man realize how big a mistake he made putting you and me in the same room.”

“I can’t risk losing you.”

Tessa smirked and gestured around them. “I’m in a fortress here. Let him come.”

That got the slightest grin from him. Tessa pulled him close and kissed him hard.

“Hey, guys. It’s-whoooooaaaa….”. Simon turned away uncomfortably. The pair glanced over, annoyed at the untimely intrusion. “Sorry.”

“It’s fine.” Their eyes never left each other.

“It’s, uh, it’s time.” Simon stammered.

Tessa peered up at Miles, scanning every inch of his face. “Be careful.”

The boy nodded. “Always.”

With one last kiss, they parted, Miles throwing on a shirt and moving to his jacket. Tessa turned and walked over to Simon. “You look different.”

“You too.” Simon replied.

“Yeah? Thinking of revamping my image.” Tessa smirked up at him.

“Going death metal?” he smirked.

“No, Polka.” She shot back.

“Really? Didn’t peg you for an accordian girl.”

“I am a woman of many talents.” Tessa spread her arms wide, presenting herself. “Where you been?”

“Hiding out in a farm in the ass end of nowhere.” He told her.

Tessa’s brow furrowed with surprise. “Must have been going crazy.”

“Actually, it was the best time I’ve had in a long, long while.”

“Suits you.” She smiled, but it didn’t last. Quickly, her face turned grave. “Bring him back to me? Please?”

“Or die trying.” Simon assured her. Tessa wrapped him in a tight embrace. She could feel the look Miles shot them. There was still some residual resentment there.

“Let’s go.” Miles said, brushing past Simon. He took Tessa’s hand, gave it a squeeze and smiled.

“Good luck.” She said. “Both of you.”
Simon watched as Miles left through the door, offering her one last glance. “You too, kid.”
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Corrine Paige » Sat Feb 01, 2020 2:17 pm

Paige stepped out of the passenger door of Sam Piper’s car, body armor strapped to her torso. The Ingersol Textile plant looked as non-descript as a dozen other factories in the industrial sector of the city, but at its heart was something far darker than most could imagine.

Falk had shuffled his various enterprises around rapidly when things had gone south, but desperation made men sloppy. Paige and Jordan tracked him down. There were dozens of children in that building, and it was far past time they were freed.

Sam removed an M4 from the truck of the car and slapped in a fresh magazine. Coleman and Jordan armed themselves from the rear of their SUV. The mousey hacker didn’t look like a warrior, but she’d served on a fire team before. She preferred a small SMG to the bigger weapons like Coleman’s shotgun.

Paige stood before them, looking from one to the other. Over the past two years, they had proven to be loyal, trustworthy friends. That they were willing to follow her into this mess meant more than she could say.

Before a word could be said a black SUV screeched to a halt, followed by a team of squad cars. A boiling dread filled corrine’s belly. Falk was connected, but did he really have the cops under his thumb?

The door to the SUV opened, and a familiar face stepped out. Evan Stanton. It had been a while since she’d seen him. The brown hair had begun to gray and recede a bit at his temples, but he looked how she’d remembered way back when they faced down Cameron Cotter.

“Well, well, well…” he said with the grin she knew so well. “Corrine Paige. You look like you’re gonna cause some trouble.”

“Heya, Evs. Long time.” She said, guarded.

“Where ya headed with that artillery?” He asked her.

“There are children in that building. We’re getting them out of there.”

Stanton nodded to the factory. “That building? You know who owns this property, don’t you?”

“Damn right I do.” She said, eyes locked on him. “Don’t get in my way, Evs. I don’t want to go through you to get to them, but I will.”

Stanton chuckled. “Get in your way? Hell. I was going ask if you’d like some backup.”

Paige’s nerves suddenly settled, a smile forming on her lips. “Like old times?”

“Seems I remember old times involved one of us losing a limb. How about we avoid that this time?” He whistled and a dozen cops exited their vehicles and began arming up.

“Boys and girls?” He called out. “Detective Paige is gonna run point on this one. She talks? You listen.”

Corrine smirked and walked over to him the pair of former partners embracing. “All yours, detective.”

Corrine smiles up at him before putting on her game face and looking over the faces of the men and women gathered. They were ready for war.

“Listen up.” She said. “I don’t know exactly what we’re gonna be facing in there. I don’t expect to walk out of this thing without a firefight. I won’t lie, this will be dangerous, but there are a lot of kids in this building who need us. A lot of people would say we’re stupid to even think about doing this.”

“Fuck em.” Coleman said. “This is my kinda stupid.”

Laughter spread through the group. Corrine grinned.

“Jakob Falk has hurt enough people. Here and now, We’re putting our foot down. Not. One. More. Tonight, it ends. You with me?”

The cops let out a yell of agreement.

“Alright!” Paige bellowed. “Let’s take these motherfuckers down!”
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Simon Toews » Wed Apr 15, 2020 4:28 pm

Simon glanced toward his son, eyeing him a moment. There were no doubts this kid was his. I’m every small tic and every breath, he saw himself. He wondered what could have been had fate not intervened. What would their life have been like if he and Anna had just left town? It certainly would have spared all of them a lot of anguish. He’d have watched his boy grow into a man. He’d have fumbled and screwed up, for sure, but he’d have died to keep him from a single moment of pain. The universe, it seemed, had other plans. These were the cards they were dealt, and if he was to keep his son from pain...better late than never.

“You gonna gawk at me the whole damn night?” Miles asked.

“Tahlia said you looked like me. I didn’t really believe her.” He said, “But I see it now. And a little bit of your mother.”

Miles was silent for a long while. The topic still remained uncomfortable to him. Yet, there was a part of him that had always wondered about his parents. It was that nagging curiosity that made him ask, “What’s she like?”

“Strong. Stronger than I ever was.” Simon said. “Very warm kinda woman. Takes care of…”

Miles glanced over. “Of what?”

Simon searched for how to phrase it, unsure of the perfect way to put it until it came to him. Anna was a sanctuary for the broken, the lost, and the damned. A guardian angel for those looking to start again. “People like us.”

Miles wanted to argue that they were nothing alike. That his pain, his life was unique only to himself. But one look in his father’s eyes told him that wasn’t true. The tattoos and scars were a tapestry of the pain inflicted by Jakob Falk. The same pain that he carried every day.

“You were in there together?” He asked.

“From eleven to fifteen years old.” Simon nodded. “We escaped. Tried to make a real life for ourselves. We had only three months before it ended. But for those three months, we were free. We lived for ourselves and apologized for none of it. We were happy.”

“What happened?” Miles asked.

“I killed a man.” Simon said simply. “A former client of Falk’s.”

He didn’t need to elaborate. Miles knew exactly what that meant.

“Drew too much attention and his people came after us.” Simon explained. “They grabbed Anna and I tried to fight, but she shoved me into the train right before the doors closed. That was the last time I saw her for years. Had no idea she was pregnant with you at the time.”

Miles remained silent, lost in his thoughts.

“It was my fault.” Simon said. “What happened to you. To your mother. If I had just...stopped myself that day...maybe things would have been different. I’m sorry.”

“You’re sorry?” Miles snorted. “Well, water under the bridge, then. Look, Falk’s a sick fuck and he deserves whatever happens to him. That’s the only reason I’m helping you. There’s nothing in this plan about having a catch with the old man, alright? Let’s just get this done.”

Yeah, Simon thought, that’s my kid. That stubborn, combative streak was trademark Simon Toews. The thought was interrupted by Miles’ Ringtone. A Tessa song. Simon shot him a crooked eyebrow. The younger man visibly blushed.

“Oh, fuck you. We’re dating, alright.”

Simon grinned and held up his hands. “Hey, man. No judgement , I get it.”

“Yeah, yeah.” Miles said, hitting the answer button on the unknown call. “Hello?”

“Miles.” Falk’s voice came from the car speakers, immediately sending a chill down Simon’s spine. He and Miles shot each other a look. The game was on.

“Jakob.” Miles said. “I’ve got Toews. Son of a bitch put up a hell of a fight, but I’ve got him. Heading your way now.”

“Incredible work. As always.” Falk said. “Simon? Can you hear me.”

His fists clenched tight, his heart beating so fast he swore he could feel it. “Jakob.” He managed, adding a weary rasp to his voice.

“It’s good to hear your voice again, my boy.” Jakob said, the sadistic grin audible in his voice. “You and your friends have caused a lot of trouble for me of late, my old friend.”

“Yeah? Sorry for the inconvenience.” Simon retorted as the car came to a stop outside of Falk’s stronghold. Tahlia’s people were watching him from a nearby location, ready to make their move. “This doesn’t end here, Falk. Even if I’m gone, someone is going to take you down, you fucking parasite.”

Falk chuckled on the other end of the phone. Miles stepped around, leaving his phone on speaker, and ushered Simon out of the car, keeping up the facade in case anyone was watching.

“You still believe that don’t you?” Falk asked. “You still believe you are the righteous hero, taking down the evil villain, don’t you? I know who you are. What you’ve done. You, my boy, are no hero. Time and again, Simon Toews sows trouble, bringing those foolish enough to care for him into the fray. And then, he has the nerve to play the victim, charging off to war. How many of your friends have been dragged into the fire? How many of them killed and maimed in Simon Toews’ quest for vengeance?”

Simon wanted to reach through the phone and choke the life out of him. Miles lead him through the front doors, nodding to the two guards maintaining their vigil.

“Briana Morgan. Lyla Cotter. Detective Paige...your sweet little girl. Cici, was it?” Falk continued. “Even Ms. Faras paid a price for the simple crime of knowing you.”

“I’m well aware of my past. I know who I was.” Simon said, dismissively, stepping into an elevator at Miles’ side.

“‘Was?’” Falk said with a chuckle. “A tiger cannot change its stripes. You believe you are a different man? That you’ve...evolved? You are the same man who killed Doctor Comstock. And Mr. Stills. The same man who single handedly burned the Cotter and Vicelli empires to the ground. You’re a monster, Simon. A killer. THAT, son...is who you are. You believe spending a few months in the middle of nowhere absolves you of your sins? Delusions, Mr. Toews. You can hide from yourself...but not from me.”

Tahlia’s hacker was busy with Falk’s security countermeasures, one-by-one covertly shutting them down. He had some high grade tech, but it wasn’t a match for them. Something caught the hacker’s attention. An alert from the casino.

“You will still get people killed. Detective Paige and her friends. Anna. And, of course...Ms. Bradley.”

Miles’ attention snapped to the phone. “What did you say?”

“Oh.” Falk said. “And you, my little Judas. Did you really think I was stupid enough to fall for your little deception? Do you truly believe that I would leave ANYTHING to chance? I had such high hopes for you. Such grand plans. But you betrayed me, boy. And you will suffer alongside your father.”

Miles’ voice shook, “Jakob, I don’t know what you’re talking ab-”

“Don’t insult my intelligence.” Falk interrupted. “I’m going to hurt you. Both of you. I’m going to take that which you hold dearest.”

The hacker watched as every system at the casino suddenly went into massive failure. The entire building was essentially dead. Fingers flew across the keyboard, countering the virus that was wreaking havoc on the Casino’s mainframe.

Back in the penthouse, Tessa had been panicking in the sudden dark. Something was wrong.

Falk continued into the phone. “You both stole from me. Things I enjoyed…”

The penthouse door pounded hard, drawing a quick, startled scream from Tessa. The young starlet backed away toward the balcony. She was supposed to be safe here, what the hell had happened?

“Things I loved.” Falk continued.

Tessa looked frantically for anything she could use to defend herself as an axe burst through the wood of the door. Again and again, it hit with a loud crack, sending splinters into the air. Finally, the doors of the penthouse burst open just as the lights flickered back to life. Ruby stood on the other end, her hair out of place and hanging over her right eye. She dropped the axe to the ground with a loud clatter. The battered, lifeless bodies of two guards behind her, pools of blood gathering from where she had cut them down. Her eyes were alight with vicious intent. Tessa backed through the kitchen, grabbing a long knife. Ruby only smiled. Tessa shoved through the door, out onto the deck overlooking the city, rushing up to the balcony. She was trapped.

“Now, I am going to take away the things you love. Detective Paige is walking into a trap. Tessa Bradley will soon be in my hands. And your Anna...I will finally do what I should have done 20 years ago.”

Simon and Miles shared a horrified look. They’d been played. “Fuck.” They said in unison. The doors opened and the pair ran out, rushing toward Falk’s office, Simon drawing his phone and immediately dialing Paige’s number.

A few blocks away, Corrine and her team were advancing through the seedy hub of Falk’s underworld. She could smell the corruption in the air. The putrid stench of unwashed bodies and years of filth seemed to have saturated into the very foundations of the place. Resistance was non-existent as of yet, but they were coming to the main arena now.

“Come on, pick up, Corrine!” Simon yelled into the phone.

In the warehouse, Paige ignored the vibrations in her pocket. Only the mission mattered now. The metallic door to the arena sat locked before them. “Breach it!” She ordered her men. They quickly secured charges to the hinges of the door.

“Fire in the hole! Clear the door!” They called out.

Simon and Miles shoved through the office doors. Falk was nowhere to be found, his files, computer, and personal effects cleared out. Simon’s heart sank yet again as Paige's phone went to voicemail.

The metal door fell off its hinges, smoke obscuring their view. Paige drew her weapon and pointed it at the doorway. “Attention! This is Detective Paige! You are under arrest! Throw your hands up and step out of the room! I repeat! Throw your hands…”

The smoke cleared and she saw what awaited them on the other side. It was hastily created, but there was no doubt in her mind what it was. A bomb.

“...Up.” The word left her in a defeated sigh.

The phone attached to the bomb rang. Corrine heard someone shout her name and felt a pair of arms wrap around her from behind and try to pull her away just as the blast went off.

“Farewell, gentlemen. I shall tell the ladies you said goodbye.”

“Falk, don’t do this.” Simon begged. “FALK?!”

He’d already hung up, leaving the pair of them to their horror. The entire world seemed to shudder as the explosion lit up the night sky a few blocks away, sending flaming debris scattering over the city. The color drained from Simon’s face along with the air from his lungs. They’d failed. Every bit of planning, every bit of hope, now wiped away along with the life of Corrine Paige and her team. Falk had won.
"I don't need to fight. To prove I'm right. I don't need to be forgiven. "
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Jakob Falk
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Jakob Falk » Wed Apr 15, 2020 4:29 pm

Falk stared down at his phone for a long moment, the muted sound of the helicopter rotors outside a repetitive ambience to his moment of victory. The door slid open to reveal Ruby and a bound Tessa, the girl sporting a fresh gash at her temple and terror in her bright blue eyes.

Ruby shoved her forward into the chopper. Below, the casino was in a panic while his viruses ran rampant through their systems. Ruby strapped the girl to a seat and took her own. Jakob eyes the young girl a moment, his smile fading.

“Ms Bradley.” He said softly. “My apologies. This was not how I’d intended things to end.”

Tessa struggled to speak around the duct tape covering her mouth. Jakob nodded to his assassin. Ruby ripped the tape off in one quick jerk, drawing a wince and a squeal of pain from Tessa.

“You probably think me monstrous.” He said. “And I...I cannot say I blame you. But none of this is my fault.”

“You’re a sick, deluded bastard.” She snarled.

Falk shut his eyes as if the words stung him. “There’s no need for such rudeness.”

“Simon and Miles are going to find you.” Tessa said. “And when they do, you’re going to end up in the fu-“

Falk lashes out suddenly grabbing her face so hard it hurt. “If it weren’t for Simon Toews and your traitorous boyfriend, you would be sitting at home! Safe! You would have a future to look forward to! It is their fault you are here!”

He let her go roughly, tears streaming down her face.

“Your friends took from me. For that, they will suffer.” Falk said, leaning back in his seat. “I regret what must happen to you, but the debt will be repaid.”

“You’re a psychopath.” She managed with her quivering voice.

“I am a survivor. I will do what I have to in order to survive. Steal. Maim. Kill. Even if it repulses me. Not unlike your friend, Mr Toews.”

“You are nothing like him.” She retorted.

Falk smirked. “Are you so sure? Has he ever told you what he did? How he managed to survive this long? There’s a river of blood that flows to Simon’s feet. You think he’s an angel because he puts on his little broken hero act?”

Falk shook his head. “You have no idea who he is. If you’re looking for the monster in all of this, you need look no farther than him. He’s a liar. A philanderer. A killer. All the easy smiles and clever little quips can’t change that.”


“No. He’s a good man.” She insisted, still meeting his eyes despite the fear racing through her. “You tried to break him. But you failed. Because you’re weak. Because you aren’t half the man he is. It doesn’t matter what you do to me. Simon and Miles will kill you.”

“Such fire.” Falk smiled at her. “A pity your passions are so misplaced.”

Tessa sneered at him. “We’ll see.”

Falk nodded slowly. “Yes. We will.”

Tessa turned her head to the side looking out over the city. Another pair of helicopters pulling up beside them filled with armed men. Falk’s men. She didn’t let him see the fear in her eyes, but it came nonetheless.
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Simon Toews » Sat Jun 27, 2020 8:26 pm

Simon clutched the edge of Falk’s desk, silence hanging in the room between him and Miles, the weight of what just happened crashing down upon him. Miles stared at him, unsure of what to do next.

“What now?” the younger man asked.

Simon remained silent, his hands shaking.

“Hey.” Miles said. “I said-”

With a primal, agonized scream, Simon flipped the desk backwards, sending its contents scattering across the floor. Miles froze where he stood, watching as Simon panted, rage coursing through his veins.

The door burst open and Tahlia stepped in, a few of her people at her back. The team - four bull-necked bravos she would have called over-sized before she'd met Eddie, tensed their fingers around their weapons but remained arrayed behind the petite blonde, two facing in, two facing out, only barely relaxing as she held up a hand.

"Ugly desk... but I'm assuming that isn't why you just Donkey Kong'd it. Really, Killer... what is it with you and wrecking offices..." Teasing, yes, her voice low, smoky smooth as her gaze slid from Simon to Miles with a clear what did you do kid? glare.

Simon turned to her, a very familiar murderous rage burned behind those pretty blue eyes of his. She'd seen it when Vicelli's people came after her...and she'd seen what he did in response. Simon was ready to burn another empire to glass.

"He played us." Simon said, his voice dropping low into a growl. "The son of a bitch played us."

"So we play him back. You've got a hell of an ace up your sleeve... and I'm not really feeling kind and benevolent just at the moment..." She knew that anger, knew exactly what it had meant to the now-extinct Vicelli's... and she remembered how close it had come to ending him too.
Pale jade eyes, shot with silver, stayed fixed on Simon.

Miles seemed more pragmatic. The anger was there, but he'd tempered it. "So, what the fuck are we going to do about it?" The younger man insisted. "He's got Tessa and he's on his way to your girlfriend's place right now."

One corner of her mouth twitched upwards... she was guessing Miles didn't know what his father was truly capable of. "So he's got your girlfriend and your mother, is what your saying..." There was no patience in her for whatever coming to terms Miles had to do. "You get them back. Obviously. And you send him to join the ones he was too stupid to learn from."

It wasn't a concept Miles was at all in a place to acknowledge...and now certainly wasn't the time. He regarded the blonde bombshell a moment, his jaw set. "Fuckin' A." He nodded. In that moment, she could see his father in him. More than the boy would likely care to admit.

Simon was staring a hole through the window, trying to calm those nerves that so often fueled him before. He turned to Tahlia, a multitude of information that she was likely the only one in the room capable of reading. Behind that rage was pain...and fear. He walked up to her, placing his hands upon her upper arms. "I have no right to ask more of you. You've already given so much...but I need one last favor."

Her head tilted up and back, green meeting blue and her slim fingers curled over wrists they could barely close around. The change in her was slight, the minute tilt of her head, the way her breath held, the swell of her bottom lip disappearing inward for a moment. It had been a while since she'd seen that look in his eyes, the blend of burn it down and an aching loss - not since "No handcuffs, Killer. Need my hands free." There was a shift in the crew behind her, sausage finger tightening into place, spines straightening - whether she included them or not, it was clear they were on someone's orders not to leave the little blonde alone. "But whatever else you need...if it's in my power to provide, it's yours."

At the mention of handcuffs, there was a nigh imperceptible uptick of the corner of his mouth. Those intense eyes staring into a place deep inside of her. The message was received. He was barely aware of the massive trained killers watching them with fingers hovering just above the triggers of their weapons. "I need guns." He said, "And I need a ride."

He didn't need to elaborate on what kind. Ground travel wasn't going to cut it. No, he needed to be airborne.

"Poptart." She didn't bother subvocalizing the request - there was no one in the room who should be surprised she was wired - although it likely sounded a little non-sensical to the two blue-eyed men in front of her. A half-second, and she tried again. "Poptart".

"Yeah, Ha-Tah-Boss lady - what's up? Kinda got a -ohyousunnuvabitchnoyoudon't - sorry...not you..."

"I know, Reg. Couple of things. One, do I own a heli-no, scratch that - we must." Everything that had been Adder's was now hers, and the unmourned former almost-mayor was definitely the helicopter type. "One. Get me a helicopter, loaded, please, with whatever we might have in the portable and deadly department. Two." Deep breath. "I'm going to need you to patch me through to my Puddin, in a minute." Because she wasn't going to make him tell Eddie what she was about to do. "And three. Where are we on the casino?"

There was the tap of keys, a slurp of something and then the familiar crunch of cold toaster pastry. "You own three - Black one's on the way...looks liiiiiike - yeah, looks like it was preloaded for trouble. ETA in 5. Just gotta let me know where to meet. I've got a direct comm to comm set up, private line, just...say the P word when you're ready." He was not using that name for the big Selkie - no one but Tahlia could and live. "Aaaaaaand I'm working on it. Like you told me. I don't like it, but they're better than I thought. Eddie's sweeping for pockets, so far...so good..."

"Good. Stick to the plan." Tilting her chin up, she focused back on the blue eyes in front of her. "Ride in 5, fully loaded - we just need a pick up point."

As she spoke, Miles walked about the room. He'd spent many hours here in service of Falk. Listening to his schemes and his pontificating. At any moment, he could have prevented all of this. He could have ended the man within a second if he so chose. It was fear that kept him in line. The same fear that allowed a relatively unimpressive man to survive in the cut-throat world in which he dwelled. Tonight, there wasn't anything he wouldn't give to go back and correct that misstep. Upon a shelf he found one picture, likely left there as one last taunt to Simon. Jakob stood with him, an arm around a stoic looking Miles. All his life he'd been groomed, manipulated to be the man's lackey. No more.

He picked up the picture and stared for just a moment. Simon eyed his son, quiet for a moment. The pair of them made eye contact. He could see understanding behind those similar blue eyes. Simon simply nodded to him. Miles took one last look and dropped it to the ground, the heel of his boot shattering the glass. It was then that he came to, hearing Tahlia speak. "There's a helipad on the roof."

"Wonderful. Poptart, there's a spot on the roof. We're heading there now." She hadn't moved, save for a slow, deep breath, her spine straightening at the crack of glass under a boot heel. She'd fill Eddie in once they got upstairs. She didn't like it - she knew he wouldn't either, but she wasn't letting Simon head into what was certain to be another trap without her. Not after the last time. Besides - given what he'd done to her home - she figured she'd earned being in on the kill.

"Lead the way, pretty boy." She didn't know the building, not the way Miles did - and while she was certain Poptart could get her schematics, the return of the muttered cursing in her ear told her he had his hands full doing what he was supposed to be doing. And right now, that was more important.

It wasn't long after that the metallic door to the roof opened to the sound of the helicopter setting down, the wind kicked up by the propeller whipping at their clothes and hair. Miles wasted no time, rushing up to the door and sliding it open. He climbed inside and started going over the weaponry she'd procured.

Simon walked with her, that purposeful swagger in his gait. Behind her, one of her big lugs was talking into his ear piece, just barely audible as they approached the vehicle. Simon had just grabbed a handle to pull himself up when he heard it. "Ma'am, I've just gotten word from home base. It's a real mess back there. They need you back at the casino right away."

She hated when they called her that. She was old enough, sure, even if she didn't look like it, but apparently it came with the empire she'd 'inherited'. Shit. "Poptart. How big of a mess are we talking?" It wasn't that she didn't trust the guards at her back - except that she didn't, not as much as she trusted the wiry techie.

"Pocket on the 10th floor. I think. They're messing with the environmental systems so it's hard to tell what's that and what's - fuck - goddammit, you are not getting the elevators you -" What followed was a stream of invective she was certain he'd learned from Eddie that left her shaking her head. "Eddie's around there...somewhere...but we're getting static..."

"Send another chopper. Now." The words were out before she finished thinking. "Ok, we're..." Shit. "Ride's on it's way, just..." Tahlia stood, fittingly, alone between two choices. Go with Simon, and Miles, and hunt down the snake. Or answer the call of her people. Her home. Eddie. Poptart was in the Pearl, so was Lula. Everything they'd worked for, built - and she realized she'd already made the only decision she could. There were no handcuffs, this time. "Simon." Right here, right now, and everything but the tattooed fighter already halfway gone went fuzzy and indistinct around the edges. "I have to go back..."

Simon watched her silently as she assessed the damage. He didn't exactly know the ins and outs of the place...but he could guess it was substantial. When she looked back at him, she could see in his eyes that he understood. Everything they'd been to had led them here, to the moment she REALLY had to choose. He'd always imagined it would hurt more. Instead, there was vague sense of everything being in its right place. He nodded to her.

"Toews!" Miles called out. "We gotta move!"

Simon barely spared him a glance before returning his attention to her. "Tahlia..." he said over the waf-waf-waf of the propellers. But the rest didn't come. Was it goodbye? Was it "I'm sorry?" Neither would ever know. The only thing that followed was... "Go." and a reassuring nod.

She rocked back on a heel, one hand outstretched, hearing the mutter of voices as the head of her team talked in the second helicopter. He had to go. They both - had to go, just in different directions. There was a slow nod - there were so many words caught behind her teeth, too many to get out in the seconds they had left. And who knew if they would ever - the shift of her weight reversed, and she was moving forward, her outstretched hand curling at the base of his skull and drawing him down to her.

It wasn't at all what they were capable of - those days were long gone, and they'd both acknowledged it, come to peace with it. But when there wasn't time to say all the things that needed saying - well, they'd never really had to talk, had they. Kissing him fiercely, she held on until she knew she had to let go, and leaned her forehead to his. "No dying, Killer." Because she wouldn't be there to make sure - there was no possible way she could get to him in time if it went south. "You promised to walk me down the aisle."

He didn't fight it whatsoever, his arms wrapping around her, possibly for the last time. He clung tightly to her for as long as he possibly could. If this was goodbye, it was a damn good one. His forehead rested against hers for a long moment. "Wouldn't miss it." That little smile tugged at his lips, and his eyes opened. The world came back into focus and that sense of urgency returned to his demeanor. "Thank you. Now...go. Kick some ass." He smirked and stepped back from her arms.

There was one last, hard look at the kid. One that said in no uncertain terms that if Simon didn't come back - Miles might want to find the farthest spot from the leather-clad blonde he could find and spend his nights praying she didn't blame him. She'd already let go, already started moving backwards, clearing the pad so her own transport could come in. "You too." She didn't think she needed to tell him to let her know when it was done.

"SIMON!" Miles cried out.

"Comin', Kid." He climbed into the helicopter and took one last look at Tahlia as the chopper slowly lifted from the helipad and took off into the night.

There was a quick twist, blonde ponytail whipping in the downdraft, as she closed the distance between her and the four figures coming up with their own battle plan. She didn't need to listen, they knew what they were doing, and she had her own arrangements to make. "Poptart."

"Yeah?"

"We're coming back. Once we hit the roof - Atomic Blonde. I'm done playing games with these fuckers." She could hear the grin. "YES! Finally. They're not gonna know what hit em."
"I don't need to fight. To prove I'm right. I don't need to be forgiven. "
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Anna
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Anna » Sat Jun 27, 2020 8:29 pm

Anna stood in the kitchen, putting away dishes. It had been days, yet Simon still lingered in her mind. Even with a house full of people, it still felt empty and quieter without him there. It was amazing how accustomed to him she’d grown again. It had been like getting a piece of herself back that she didn’t know was missing. Even Otis had said she smiled more with him around. A part of her wanted to hop in her truck and drive out to help her old friend. There was a time she would have. But Anna knew her responsibilities lay here with the family she’d made.

“Horses been fed, Anna.” Otis said. She was so distracted hadn’t even heard him come in. “Barn’s locked up for the night. You need anything else?”

Anna smiled at him. “Thanks, Otis. No, I’m good.”

The big man nodded, but didn’t leave. She could feel his eyes on her. “You thinkin about him?”

“That obvious?”

Otis chuckled. “You definitely thinkin’ about somethin’ the past few days. Ain’t hard to guess what. Or who.”

Anna dried her hands and turned, leaning back against the counter. “I miss him.”

“Yeah.” Otis said. “He ain’t a bad guy to have around.”

Anna smirked. “Really? *You* liked him?”

Otis shrugged. “He been good to you and all the folks here. Put in a lotta hard work. Ain’t got no problem with him.”

“I’m just hoping he makes it back.” She sighed.

“You think he might not?”

“I don’t know.” Anna shook her head. “The man he went after...you don’t know what he’s like.”

“Yeah…” Otis pulled out a seat at the table. “You don’t talk a lot about that.”

It wasn’t an accusation, more of an acknowledgement. Anna frowned, dropping her gaze.

“Yeah. With good reason.” She said. “He’s dangerous. Smart. Ruthless. Simon’s not afraid of much, but what that man did to him...to us...well. It’s something we’re both still carrying.”

Otis could see she wasn’t up for elaboration. He let that moment hang in silence. It lasted until he heard a peculiar sound. His brow furrowed.

“What’s wrong?” She asked.

“You hear that?”

Anna peered up, hearing the waf waf waf waf growing steadily louder. Instantly warning bells sounded in her head. She spun around and looked out the window. In the distance she saw the lights of three helicopters approaching. Her stomach turned.

“Miss Anna?” Otis said. “What is it?”

Anna’s skin paled. “Otis. You remember that day I told you might come?”

“Yes.” He whispered

“It’s here.” She said. Otis shot up out of his chair. “Get everyone together. We’re going down.”

In the helicopter, Falk peered our the window, looking down at the trees and a vast white landscape. Anna had certainly hidden herself away. The dossiers had said as much, but now he could appreciate just how remote it really was.

“Mr Falk, we’re approaching the site.” His pilot informed him.

“Good.” Falk said. “Set us down. And ready our people. Anyone gets in their way, kill them, but I want Anna alive.”

Meanwhile, the farmhouse was alive with panicked activity. People were scrambling, gathering what few belongings they could carry. Anna was ushering them around, trying desperately to speed up the process.

“Take only what you need.” she called over them. “We don’t have a lot of time. We get down there, you keep moving until you reach the safe room. Grown ups, help the little ones.”

The cries of children forced to leave their belongings behind tore her apart, but she had to protect them. She moved through the main floor to the kitchen. An unremarkable pantry door opened to another, thick and metal with a keypad. The helicopters were close. They’d be landing any moment. She punched in the code and a heavy door slid open to reveal a hidden basement. It was always a long shot, and few were told about it, but Anna had been prepared for something like this. Quick as she could, she moved everybody down to a tunnel that stretched out under the property. Otis was the last in, leaving her at the doorway. Anna looked outside to see the helicopters touch down on the snow-covered front lawn. The bastard wasn’t even attempting stealth. She knew the coded lock wouldn’t hold him long, but it would be enough to get them into safety.

“Anna!” Otis called to her from the bottom of the staircase.

“Get them to the safe room!” She called back to him. “Go!”

Otis clearly didn’t like it, but he nodded and ran off to join the others. He’d helped her build the tunnels. He knew every correct turn. If there was one person to get them to safety, it was him.

Outside, Falk stepped down from the chopper, looking out over Anna’s property. Cozy, he thought. Not a bad place for her to die. His men advanced on the house, weapons drawn. Anna saw him from inside, her blood running cold as it had so many years ago at the mere sight of him. She glared at him, an old hatred rushing to the surface, and shut the door behind her. The idea of him and his cronies tearing apart her home made her sick, but nowhere near as bad as the horrible feeling that something terrible had happened to Simon. If Falk was here, then where was HE?

The front door burst open, sending glass and wood splinters flying. The thugs stepped in and spread out, making way for Falk, Ruby and Tessa. The house was silent, otherwise. Too silent. “Tear this place apart. Find them.”

Anna stood at the bottom of the stairs, listening to them ransacking the place. Her fists clenched into tight balls. Part of her wanted to go up and fight, despite being utterly unarmed. Falk walked up the steps to the second floor. Pictures of horses and charming, rustic scenery adorned the walls. He stopped at a photograph. Anna stood with a group of children, a tight, contented smile on her face. She’d grown into a beautiful woman, he thought, despite the scars. His fingers trailed along the railing as he walked toward the main bedroom. Every room he passed looked hastily packed, bits and pieces left behind. She knew he was coming, but they couldn’t have gotten far. The floorboards creaked as he entered her bedroom, the scent of her perfume still lingering in the air. Strawberries and vanilla. More pictures of her were set up around the room. One of her standing next to a large horse. Another of her silhouette standing in the setting sun atop a stack of hay in a cowboy hat. She’d made a whole life here, it seemed. A shame for it to all end like this.

“Mr. Falk!” a voice called out. “We found something.”

Falk took one last look around and headed downstairs. His team were all gathered at the basement door. Large and metal, it hardly mixed with the homey, rustic decor.

“Can you open it?”

“I need a few minutes.” His tech guy said, attaching a hacking tool to the key pad.

Behind him Tessa struggled in Ruby’s grasp, until the assassin gave her a good, firm shake.

“Control her.” Falk said with a pointed look directly in Ruby's eyes.
Corrine Paige
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Corrine Paige » Sat Jun 27, 2020 8:30 pm

The heat was the first thing Corrine noticed. Something was burning. The only sound she could hear was a steady, incessant ringing in her ears. Slowly, feeling came back and her body ached. Her head pounded. Something heavy lay atop her. When she tried to open her eyes, it was a blur. A red blur. He hands patted around the object pinning her. She knew the feeling to be fabric, but it was charred, wet.

The ringing died down a little, letting in a muffled scream that she barely recognized as her name. A blurry shape that must be a man hovered over her, yelling something she couldn’t make out. The weight left her body suddenly, rolling off to one side. Again and again the shape cried out to her. Corrine blinked, trying to regain her sight. Finally, her vision cleared just enough to make out what had been pinning her down. Coleman’s eyes were open, but lifeless, half of his face burnt and streaked with blood. His horrifically burnt and mangled back still smoldered. Corrine tried to scream, but the noise caught in her throat. It felt like she’d swallowed glass. Sam stood over her, wounded, but alive. It was rare to see him not impeccably put together, and horrific to see him blood spattered and his tac gear peppered with burns. He helped Corrine sit up, a searing agony coming from her right leg. He almost dropped her before Jordan stepped up. She looked a mess, but at least she was still breathing. The girl spoke softly and soothingly, for all the good it did.

The building was burning around them, threatening to cave in at any moment. Sam flinched as a piece of metal crashed to the floor in a shower of embers. Corrine felt his arms wrap around her and heft her up. The pain was unreal but she couldn’t scream. She stared back at Coleman’s lifeless body as she was carried away to safety. She couldn’t be certain the kids weren’t all dead along with him. At this point she clinged to the hope that wherever Simon was, he was faring better.
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Jakob Falk
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Jakob Falk » Sat Jun 27, 2020 8:31 pm

The door clicked and the knob loosened. Falk’s tech glanced back nodded. Falk gave a push, revealing the wooden staircase down into the basement. Without a word he signaled his people to head down. Anna was resourceful. One didn’t hide for so long without such a trait.

They filed in one by one until finally Ruby and Tessa stepped down, leaving him to follow. The room was mostly concrete but for the entrance to the tunnel. Wooden beams supported the mostly rock and mud structure, lanterns lighting the way in.

Clever little minx, he thought. The girl had been busy. These tunnels couldn’t have been easy or quick to build. She must have spent years constructing them. He could see a little ways down, they splintered off into three different directions.

“Teams of two.” Falk ordered. “Find them. Go.”

His men separated and moved down the different halls, their weapons raised, yet completely unprepared for what awaited them. Falk turned to Ruby and the girl. “Come.”

Two of his people were moving down a corridor. How the hell deep did these go, they wondered? The lights above them began to flicker, their eyes drawn upward. A clank echoed from ahead. The men exchanged nods and stepped forward, but they didn’t see the trip wire right in front of them. They only heard the snap before a pallet covered in jagged metal swung down from above and skewered them where they stood with one swift motion. Their brief screams of terror and pain reverberated throughout the tunnels. Suddenly, section by section, the lights all switched off, plunging the entire system into darkness.
Falk brought his radio to his lips. “Mills, Osbrink, check in.”

“Still here, boss.” Their voices crackled back.

“Everett, Paxton. Check in.”

Silence followed.

“Repeat. Check in!”

“I don’t think your buddies are going to be calling you back.” Tessa taunted her captors. Ruby gripped her tighter as the young girl began to smile. “Better watch your step.”

“Shut the fuck up.” Ruby grabbed her by the hair and yanked her head back roughly. Falk looked around a moment, trying to let his eyes adjust as well as the could, but blackness was all he saw.

“Don’t move.” He ordered.

“What do you want to do, Jakob?” Ruby demanded.

“We wait.”

Down another tunnel, two more of his people flicked on the flashlights of their weapons. “Watch yourself.” He said to his partner, pointing down at the trip wire the were inches away from setting off. With a shuddering sigh, one of them pulled out a flare, sparking it to life, and dropped it by the wire. Carefully, they stepped over it and slowly moved onward. They rounded a corner, spying a faint light ahead illuminating a metal door.

“Hey.” One nudged the other. The pair exchanged a nod. “Boss!” he called out. “We found ‘em!”

Falk grinned and commanded the women to follow, backtracking. Down the tunnel they went, avoiding the trap with the aid of the flare. Just ahead, he saw his two men at the foot of the tunnel, weapons trained on the dim light ahead. This was it, he thought. All your little plans, your little traps. For nothing.

One of the men stepped forward, ready to light up everyone in the room. Two of their friends had been killed and these people would pay in blood.

Click.

Falk’s eyes went wide and his lips opened to call out, but it was too late. An explosion burst through the door and engulfed the two men, the force of the blast sending him, Ruby and Tessa flying backwards down the tunnel. Falk landed on the trip wire, a shotgun one one side erupting with a blast that just barely missed him as the world turned black.
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Simon Toews
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Simon Toews » Mon Jun 29, 2020 1:13 am

Simon’s legs tapped impatiently as the chopper made its approach on the farm. He peered out the window, looking below at the grounds. Another pair of helicopters sat in the field. Falk was already here.

“Bring us down!” Simon ordered.

Miles slapped a magazine into an AR15, his eyes flicking up to his father. Simon turned to him, a fire in his eyes that had been gone for well over a year. Not one of excitement, but pure murderous intent. It was a look that had been the last thing many men had ever seen over the years and something about it unsettled the boy. But now was not the time. They were going to war. He reached over, grabbed a shotgun and tossed it to Simon. He grabbed it out of the air and racked it as the helicopter set down in the snow.

Miles threw the door open and hopped out, his boots crunching in the snow. The two of them advanced across the field toward the other chopper, weapons trained ahead as Tahlia’s pilot took off behind them. The second Falk’s pilot stepped out, pistol in hand, Miles dropped him with two shots to the chest and one more to the head as he got closer. A quick check of the cockpit and crew cabin showed it to be empty.

“Clear!” Miles called out.

The other copter’s pilot was immediately cut down by Simon with a shotgun blast to his chest. “Same!” Simon responded from the other empty vehicle. “They’re inside, lets go!”

Adrenaline pumped in their veins as they rushed towards the house. Miles immediately kicked in the door to find a straggler standing the in the foyer. He immediately put a round into his face, blood and brain matter splattering across the wall and pictures. The two of them had just stepped inside when, from the kitchen, two of Falk’s goons opened fire. Simon and Miles barely ducked out of the way, seeking cover on different sides of the hallway. Simon leaned his shotgun around the corner and blind fired, hitting nothing but dishes and furniture. The goons returned fire, a bullet ripping through the drywall mere inches beside Miles’ head. He turned away quickly, his face coated in dust.

“Fuck!” Miles growled through grit teeth. He leaned around and opened fire, rushing across to Simon’s side.

“Well, I think if they don’t kill us, your girlfriend will.” Miles grinned. “Wanna go fuck up the living room while we’re at it?”

Simon grinned at his son, a wave of realization running over his face. “That’s not a bad idea.” He peeled away toward the living room.

“...I wasn’t being serious.” Miles muttered before following.

The two goons turned the corner, ready to open fire, but were met with only the empty foyer, the windows on the front door shattered and the wall riddled with bulletholes.

“What the fuck?” one of them uttered.

BAM!

His body went limp as a bullet ripped through his skull, his body dropping to the hardwood. The other turned to find Miles and Simon with their weapons shouldered and leveled with him. He wheeled around to shoot the boy, but was Simon’s weapon erupted with an ear splitting blast that ripped half the man’s head apart in spray of blood and bone. The man’s body went still and finally crumpled to the wooden floor. Miles stepped into the kitchen and checked his work as his father followed. Simon watched him for a long moment, a pain in his chest as he watched his son, a near mirror image of himself, cutting men down as if they were nothing. This was a life he’d have died to spare the boy. He swore to himself, Miles would never have to do anything like this again.

“Where’s that go?” Miles asked nodding to the open metal door. Simon had seen it often in his time there, but Anna had always skirted the issue when pressed about it. She simply said “A safe place.” He peered down the steps curiously. There was no doubt in his mind where Anna had gone.

“Let’s find out.”
"I don't need to fight. To prove I'm right. I don't need to be forgiven. "
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Jakob Falk
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Jakob Falk » Fri Jul 24, 2020 9:00 am

Falk’s ears rang and his body ached terribly. The world around him was lit in the orange flickering light of fire. Where his men once stood was a pile of burning, smoldering rubble and mangled body parts. A rifle laying upon the floor lighting what remained of a crushed human face.

Ruby coughed as she looked up from the ground, dirt, soot, and a bloody gash at her forehead marring her usually flawless face. Her eyes were alight with hatred. Anna had played them for fools. She had to give it to the woman, it was a genius set up and they fell right into it.

It was then that she noticed Tessa was missing. The assassin slammed her fists on the ground with a frustrated grunt and pushed herself up, moving to Falk’s side and helping him up. “The bitch is gone.”

Falk was fuming. He rose, fresh blood blooming from his left sleeve where a piece of shrapnel caught him. He hobbled toward the rifle and snatched it up, turning toward his companion. “Find her.”

Ruby’s expression darkened as she nodded. The pair of them made their way down the tunnel, out for blood. Just as they reached the basement, a pair of footsteps creaked upon the stairs. They stopped at the opening of the only remaining tunnel. Falk’s eyes met Simon, both men freezing in their tracks. At the same moment, they brought their weapons off, but Falk got the first shot off. The bullet ripped through a post inches from Simon’s head, sending the man lunging forth into Miles. Their bodies in an uncontrolled tumble to the floor.

“Go! Go!” Ruby shouted to Falk. “I’ll deal with these assholes!”

Falk exchanged glances with the petite killer. Anyone else, he might have doubted their ability to handle Toews and Miles. But Ruby was ruthless. Cunning. She was a killer born.

Ruby strode toward the men scrambling to get to their feet. Miles looked up to see her coming and tried to raise his shotgun to fire at her, but she grabbed the barrel and thrust it back, hitting him in the face with a loud crack. Her boot planted on his chest and kicked him back into a support beam. Toews was almost on his feet. She quickly grabbed him by the hair and drove her knee into his face. He yelled in pain as she did it again.

Simon gasped for air, blood running down his mouth. His eyes were dazed, but alight with fury. Ruby stared down at him with cold indifference and punched him between the eyes. She was stronger than she looked.

Her fist cocked back again, but she never got to deliver the blow. Miles plowed into her, his arms wrapping around her slim waist. Ruby’s back slammed against the wood framing of the unfinished wall, her head snapping back and letting out a primal scream. Her elbow came crashing down into Miles’ neck twice before his grip loosened. She shoved him back, putting a little distance between them. Her fingers grabbed a fistful of his shirt and yanked him forward into a devastating punch that had his vision flashing. His knees wobbled, but he stayed vertical, throwing a wild punch that she easily dodged. She clenched her free fist and drilled it into his stomach.

Once again, Toews was on his feet. Ruby cursed under her breath, pushing the gasping Miles behind her. Even as she was about to square off against Simon, she threw her heel back as if it were an afterthought, catching Miles behind the knee and dropping him down. Those murderous eyes stayed on Simon, waving him on. “Come on, precious. Show me what you got.”

Simon advanced on her, those mangled fists raised like a bloody boxer. His arm crooked back to throw the punch, but she was already moving. In one, graceful series of movents, she spun out of the path of his fist, caught his wrist and threw an elbow into his throat. She was a flurry of violence, her right hand dealing repeated backhanded punches to his face again and again. She switched to the left, throwing a haymaker.

As Simon stumbled back, she heard Miles roaring as he charged toward her. Quickly, she whipped her belt off and swung it around, catching him across the face with the buckle, sending a splatter of blood across the floor. She repositioned herself and swung it upward catching him in the jaw, his head snapping back with the impact.

Toews was incoming, so she slung the belt around Miles neck, catching the other side with her free hand, and placed him squarely in his father’s path. Simon’s fist connected with Miles’ face, dropping him like a sack of flour.

Ruby immediately climbed on his back, and looped the belt around Simon’s throat, tightening it as hard as she could. The older fighter clawed at his neck, trying to gain SOME relief, but Ruby wasn’t letting up. She rode him as he stumbled around wildly.

Simon’s vision began to pop, the air just not able to get through. He grit his teeth and then slammed her backwards against the metal support beam in the middle of the room. Ruby roared in pain, but her grip did not cease. He tried again, to no avail.

“COME ON!” Ruby screamed. “JUST FUCKING DIE!”

Simon stumbled forth, his foot planting against the wall. With as much strength as he could muster, he kicked. Their bodies were sent flying back, Ruby taking all the force of the beam as they crashed into it. Finally, her grip weakened.

Simon reached back, wrapped his arm around her neck and threw her over his shoulder to the concrete so hard she bounced. Ruby’s back arched, pain radiating through her small frame. Simon coughed and gasped for air, ripping the belt away from his neck. He panted there, noticing a sledge hammer to his side. With a grunt, he pushed away from the wall and hefted the tool up. He hovered over Ruby and rose the hammer high, a vicious, throaty roar leaving him. Ruby’s eyes opened wide and her heel met groin. The sledgehammer clanged to the ground as Simon doubled over.

Ruby wasted no time. She kicked out his knee and bringing him closer to her level. The lithe assassin’s legs wrapped around his neck, squeezing as hard as she could. Simon struggled, trying to pry his way out of that vice-like grip. Ruby’s hand grabbed him by the hair and pulled his head back. Once again, she was throwing punch after punch increasingly wet impacts mingling with her grunts and his yelps.

The bigger fighter summoned everything he could, lifted her and drove her into the ground again. Her already aching back was in agony. Though her legs loosened, she still had a fistful off his hair. Ruby’s eyes were side and feral as she delivered two more vicious punches to his face. The pair rolled off to different sides, Simon ending up on his stomach. Dust rose from the ground as he panted, rage covering his bloodied face. He spat upon the ground, a low growl coming from deep inside of him. A hand touched his shoulder and he looked up. Miles stood above him, battered and bruised, but ready for more. He offered his father his hand. Simon took the offer, gripping tight. Miles pulled him to his feet.

Ruby glared ahead, an annoyed sigh leaving her. She wiped the blood from her knuckles onto her jacket. The burning hatred she’d always had for Miles was plain as day upon her face. It was time to end it.

“Get Falk.” Miles said. “Stop him.”

Simon looked to him, brow furrowed. “And leave you?”

Miles didn’t even look at him, “I’ve got this.”

He had to admire the boy’s confidence. Simon took one last look at Ruby, grasped his son by the shoulder. “Miles?”

“Yeah?”

“Put her in the fucking ground.”
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