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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Tessa Bradley
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Tessa Bradley » Wed Jan 23, 2019 12:22 am

They'd gone all over the city, until he stopped at a high-class whiskey bar. Tessa had worried about getting in, but the bouncer seemed to know Miles and let them right in. She had to admit...she was impressed. A woman, impeccably made-up like a 1940's singer, but for the tattoos on her arms. She had a voice like silk, crooning out a swaying, melancolie tune. The men were all in suits and ties, and she could see in their coats that they were all armed. Likewise, the women were impeccably dressed, Something about them said they were every bit as dangerous as the men.

Tessa could feel her phone vibrate in her pocket and knew exactly who it was without looking. Her mother must have been losing her mind. She reached in and silenced the device. As they moved into the dimly lit, vintage tavern, she became aware that there were many sets of eyes upon her. She felt super underdressed.

Miles found them a table toward the back, pulling her chair out for her. She smiled up at him and took a seat. "Gentleman. I like it." she said.

"If I had a hat, I'd doff it." he joked, sliding into his own seat. A candle flickered beneath a maroon colored shade in the middle of the table.

"So. You can get anywhere, huh?" She said, leaning back in her chair.

"That's the rumor." he said with a shrug.

"How's that work?"

"Incredibly well." He said, nodding with a playful sincerity.

Tessa grinned, stifling a laugh. "No, I mean-"

"I know what you mean." Miles chuckled. "Mr. Falk has a lot of pull in this city. He does business with a lot of folks in power. Means we earn certain privileges."

"Like the layouts of concert venues?" she quirked a brow.

"Among others." A waitress in a form-fitting 40's style cocktail dress stepped up to them.

"Good Evening." She said, a hint of French in her accent.. "Welcome back to the Atlantis, sir. May I get you a drink?"

Miles smiled up to her, a familiar vibe between them. "Sophie. Good to be back. We'll take two glasses of Glenfiddich 1937. Please."

"Oui, Monsieur. A splendid choice. Right away." She said with a bow of her head.

Tessa was completely out of her element, but Miles was right at home. "Mercie." he responded before the woman left. Tessa watched her sway away from them. That woman knew exactly what she was doing and how to do it. She turned to her new friend, quirking a brow.

"And you speak French now?" She asked him.

Miles scrunched up his face and held up his thumb and forefinger a tiny bit apart. "Un petit peu."

She couldn't help the laugh that left her. "Man. If you were going for impressing me, you coulda stopped at the door."

"Hey, nothin' wrong with swingin' for the fences, right?" He asked, that little smirk on his face.

" did YOU end up working for Jakob Falk?" She asked.

Miles seemed to consider that. It wasn't that he had to think about the answer...more with how much to say. In the end he decided to trust her. "I've always known him."

"Always?" She asked.

"Since I can remember." Miles nodded.

" just slid on into this...position?" The waitress returned, sliding a pair of glasses before them. Tessa smiled up to her, but the woman, had a hint of something...disapproving in her own smile. She did not belong. Not yet.

Miles nodded to Sophie and took up his glass, taking a sip of the exorbitantly priced whiskey. His gaze again fell on Tessa. "I earned it."

There was something dark in his voice. A sort of harsh pride, that was borderline insulted by her insinuation. "With Mr. Falk, you are handed nothing. It took a lot, but...I convinced him of my worth."

Tessa's smile fell, then, feeling she'd crossed the line. "Sorry."

Again, that charm returned, Miles looking apologetic. "No, I'm sorry. It's, uh...I get a little...defensive about it. He took me in, made me the man I am today. I owe him everything."

Tessa forced a smile and took a sip of the scotch, her eyes widening as it burned down her throat. She was certainly not used to that, and started coughing. Miles laughed.

"Not a big scotch girl, huh?" He asked with a grin.

Tessa finished her coughing fit and chuckled. "Mm. No. Not exactly."

"It's an acquired taste." He nodded. Tessa blew out a lungful of air and took another sip, this time taking it a bit better, her eyes narrowing just slightly. "So. How'd you get into the music biz?"

Tessa shrugged. "My mom. As soon as I could talk, she had me in voice lessons. Entered me into competitions and school plays and all that stuff...."

Miles lifted his chin, getting a read on her. " let me guess. Wanted to be a singer herself, but-"

"Never had the talent?" Tessa finished for him. "Bullseye."

"And she saddled you with the career she wanted. Class." He scoffed with a shake of his head.

"I mean, don't get me wrong...I love singing. I love creating music...but..."

"Sometimes you just want to be a normal girl?" he tilted his head.

Tessa was stunned by how observant he was. He read her like a book. She nodded slowly. His eyes flicked to one side and then back. It was so quick, she almost didn't notice. Almost. She looked where he had, the short-haired woman from the other night standing at the bar, glancing their way. Unlike the other women in attendance, she wore an impeccably tailored suit, those sharp features regarding her like a flea.

"Ruby." Miles said, calling her attention back. "She trained me. Only other person to sit at his side. Not big on conversation, but a good person to have backing you in a fight."

"You get in a lot of those?" Tessa asked.

"My fair share."

"You know, most people's fair share of fist fights generally sits" Tessa snickered.

"Yeah, I guess." He responded with a grin. "But you learn a lot about yourself in a fight. Ever been?"

"You inviting me?" She asked with a quirked brow.

Miles laughed and held up his hands. "Nonono. Wouldn't ever dream of it."

"You think I couldn't handle myself?" She asked, feigning offense.

"I think you're a decent person." He eyed her intently.

"I'm not. I'm really, really not."

"Who told you that?" He asked.

Tessa wasn't entirely sure how to respond, her lips parting and eyes dropping. She knew exactly who told her. Her mother, wasn't until Simon that she actually felt she could be better.

"They hit you?" Miles asked gently.

Now, this was getting freaky, she thought.For a moment, she was certain he had to have been spying. He could see it in her body language, the way she suddenly seemed wary.

"Okay." She said, narrowing her eyes. "What is this?"

"What?" Miles asked, genuine confusion in his eyes.

"Are you fucking with me or something?" Tessa asked.

"What? Tessa, no."

"Then how do you know all this shit about me? You can't possibly." She insisted. "Are you watching me? Are you spying on me?"

Miles shook his head slowly. "Tessa...I don't need to. I can read it in your eyes. I see it in the way you carry yourself. You've been through...something awful. And I'm willing to bet it was because of them. It doesn't take a mind reader or a spy."

"You swear to me." She demanded.

"Tessa, it's my job to figure people out on the spot..."

"Swear!" She said, standing. "Or I'm leaving."

"I swear." He said, holding his hands out placatingly. "Please. Just sit. Stay."

The girl wasn't sure how to handle it all, but there was no lie in his eyes. She sighed and slumped down into her chair. "I'm sorry. It's's not something I like to talk about."

Miles regarded her compassionately, quiet a moment. "Step dad?"

She nodded.

"I'm sorry." He said. Silence settled over the table until she looked up to him.

"Can we go?" She asked.

"Of course." He said, rising and calling to the waitress. "Sophie?"

The Frenchwoman nodded to him. "On Mr. Falk's tab. Absolument."

The pair grabbed their coats and headed out, Ruby's hawk-like eyes following them until the door shut behind them The ride home was silent. He seemed to know when conversation wasn't called for. They'd touched on an uncomfortable subject, and instead of trying to fix it, he let her have her space. The Audi rolled to a stop in the guest drop-off area. They sat there a moment, quiet.

"I'm sorry if I ruined the evening." Miles said, sparing her only a glance.

"No. It was...I actually really enjoyed myself. I'm sorry I'm a bit of a mess." She said.

"You were great." He assured her. Again that silence settled in. "Can I walk you to your door?"

Tessa couldn't help the grin that crossed her lips. "Walk me to my door? Am I going to get jumped on the way or something?"

Miles sniffed out a laugh and turned to her. "I'd just...feel better if I did. Can I?"

Tessa opened her mouth to say something sharp...but it didn't come out. "Yeah. Sure." she agreed.

They rode the elevator up to her floor and walked down the hall to the double doors of the penthouse. She turned to him, a hint of bashfulness suddenly taking her. "Well...I really did have a nice time. Thank you."

"You're welcome." Miles said. "Thank you for a nice evening. I promise, if we get to do it again, I'll keep the conversation a little lighter."

She laughed quietly and nodded.

"There will be a next time, yeah?" Miles asked hopefully.

"Oh...Definitely." She nodded sincerely.

Before another word could be said, the door was whipped open. Mary Bradley stood on the other side, haggard without her make up.

"Where the HELL have you been?!" She demanded of her daughter. "I have been CALLING you for the past two hours! Your bodyguard said you ran off on him at the concert! What the hell is wrong with you?!"

Tessa glared and walked in right past her. "Mom, not now."

"No, God damn it! I want to know! You're not to be on your own and you know it! You're not running around with that guttertrash Toews anymore. I'm not having you end up on some fucking tabloid, ruining this for me!"

"Ruining it for YOU?!" Tessa shouted back in disbelief. "You think this is about you?!"

Tony came swaggering out of their room. "Oh, here we go. Let's hear it. Run your fuckin' mouth again you little tramp. Come on."

"Fuck you, Tony." Tessa muttered under her breath.

"What was that?" He asked, hands going to his belt buckle.

Miles stepped in then. "Mrs. Bradley. Hi." He turned to Tony. "Hello, there."

The adults turned to him. Why was he addressing them? Probably another redneck piece of shit like SImon, they thought.

"Who the fuck are you?" Tony asked.

Miles played it aloof, smiling to the man. "Oh. My manners. I apologize. My name is Miles. Tessa and I went out for a bit tonight. Just to blow off some steam. I assure you, I took good care of her and, I'm sure you'll be pleased to know, made certain she was never in any danger."

Tessa gave him a pleading look, but he just gestured, saying he had it well in hand.

"So you're the little son of a bitch who helped her get outta there?"

Miles tilted his head to one side, eyeing the man curiously. "Sir. There's no need for that kind of talk."

"Listen, you little needle dick, you have exactly five seconds-"

"I'm sure Mr. Falk will be happy to confirm the strength of my character." Miles said, with a smile, looking Tony right in the eye.

"Mr. Falk?" Tony said, stopping in his tracks, a shadow of fear creeping across his face. "Jakob Falk?"

"Yes." Miles said amiably. "My employer."

A wave of realization came over Mary and Tony. This was not Simon Toews coming in guns blazing and cowing to their daughter's demands. This man could see them ruined beyond the physical.

"Now...Tessa just needed a night out to relax. I assure you there was nothing untoward going on, and as you can see, she has arrived safely. Farbeit for me to...intrude upon your parenting, but I believe you should just let her get some rest. Wouldn't you agree?" He looked from one to the other, that fear set deep in their eyes.

Tony swallowed hard and nodded. Miles smiled to him, like they were old friends. "Excellent. I'm glad we could agree."

He moved into the room, over to Tessa. "Again. I had a great time. We'll have to do it again soon." He leaned in and kissed her cheek. She was completely taken aback at the change that had come over her parents. They were actually scared.

"Ms. Bradley." He nodded to Mary and then Tony. "Sir. It's been a pleasure."

He started toward the door, stopping as he reached the handle. "And I just wanted to make sure you understand...I'll always take good care of your daughter when we're out. Mr Falk would be very upset if I allowed something to happen to her." He glanced back and looked at Tony. "Anything."

Tessa was almost certain the man was about to piss his pants. That macho bravado was a distant memory all the sudden. He nodded and Miles smiled to him.

"Good evening."
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Simon Toews » Sun Jan 27, 2019 1:31 am

Winter was in full effect, blanketing the city in sheets of white, a chill moving through the air even in the sunlight. Simon pulled his peacoat closed as he stepped outside, his breath visible as he exhaled. Falk taking down Orion Investigations was a warning. Once again, the people in his life were in danger because of him. There was no one to run to. Nowhere to turn for shelter. Over the past year, every car he'd stashed aside, every weapons cache he'd hidden throughout the city had been turned in and impounded. Now, he was regretting it. Time was, he'd just steal a new one, but even in this desperate state, he was pretty sure that was no longer him. It was time to leave. Time to pack his bags and never come back. He couldn't beat Falk. Not alone. And he most definitely WAS alone.

His Uber waited for him in the parking lot, a blue Honda Civic painted with the white of road salt. Simon pulled the door and slid inside, exchanging a few words and directions with the driver before they headed out onto those crowded, busy streets. Memories had come rushing to the front of his mind since Jakob Falk walked back into his mind. Most of them were unpleasant, but every now and again, one good one popped back up. Usually, involving Mulcahy. He wondered if the old priest was still around. Over the years, he often thought back to him, wondering what happened after he was taken.

The Civic ambled down the street, Simon spotting Old Man Hester's store. Or, rather, the porn shop that had once been Hester's. It had been decades since he'd been near this part of town. It was never what you'd call "nice", but it had gotten a lot more run down in the intervening years. He saw a dumpster he'd once eaten from on those months he was alone. Before Mulcahy. Before Falk. A little over a mile away was the industrial district and Falk's little dungeon. Being so close to it again was an odd feeling. A sense of dread creeping into the back of his mind. He was 35 years old now. He'd taken down criminal empires and gangs. He shouldn't be afraid of them capturing him again. Yet, here he was, feeling again like he was that same 15 year old boy, on the run for his life.

The old church came into view and something inside of Simon swelled. "Stop." The driver hit the brakes as Simon stared at the place. It had fallen into disrepair over the years, Some shoddy paint work that barely covered the graffiti on the walls, litter strewn all over the parking lot and clinging to the chain link fences. A high window had been broken and just boarded up, rather than being replaced. Simon paid the driver and stepped out of the car. If Mulcahy was alive...he might be in there. Right across the street. He could almost see him now as he did that first night. A tall, strong figure in the light of the moon, a cigarette between his lips. That night, he'd given Simon a roof over his head. Over the next few months, he'd given him purpose. Try as he might, Simon still never blamed him. It had been gambling debts that put him in Falk's possession, but Simon understood a fair bit about compulsion and how it affected one's life.

He stepped across that street, watching for traffic. He could remember Sundays after service, out there sweeping after everybody had left. Now they were buried in snow and leaves from Fall. Nobody had seemed to be trying there anymore. Standing outside and looking up at those massive, ornate oak doors still made him feel small. His boots sank into the pile of snow as he ascended the stairs, giving one of those doors a push. They had seemed so heavy back then. It was like trying to push a car. Now, of course, they were no big task. The inside wasn't much different than he'd remembered, aside from there being a bit more dust on everything and that big organ's pipes were showing hints of rust. The door shut behind him with an echo ringing out in that cavernous room. He walked down the aisle, fingers trailing along the pews. He could see there was damage to the pulpit, chips in the wooden corners, as if it had been knocked down a time or two. That life-sized cross with the realistically painted Jesus remained, just as it had over 20 years ago. Simon wasn't a believer, but somehow, seeing it gave him a comfort he couldn't explain.

"Sir?" A voice echoed through the room. "Can I help you?"

There was an age to it. A weakness. But that rumble was unmistakable. Simon turned slowly, gazing upon the face that greeted him. He was hunched a bit, clinging to a cane. Glasses covered his blue eyes, one clouded over almost completely with milky white. Wrinkles had carved into him and his hair had gone completely grey. But there was no mistaking him. It was Mulcahy.

"Can I help you, son?" He asked.

"Yeah." Simon said, stepping toward him. "I'm looking for someone."

"Well...not many people come around here anymore, but I'll see if I can help." Mulcahy smiled. God, he looked so frail. So weak.

"Tall guy. Brown hair. Blue eyes." He said.

Mulcahy chuckled. "Not much to go on."

"Decent fella. Old friend of mine." Simon continued. The old man squinted, still trying to figure him out. "You'd like him, Father. He's priest. But not a saint."

Mulcahy's face fell, his breath shuddering as he stepped back, bumping into the pew. He remembered those words and who he'd said them to. He couldn't forget the boy, even as age and life took so much from him, Simon Toews remained. "No." He said. "No, no. It can't be."

"It's been a long time, Father." Simon said, a smile spreading across his face as he reached out and steadied the old priest. Mulcahy took his arms in his hands and stared at him with saddened eyes. So many years had separated them. So much life. So much loss. It clearly hadn't been easy for either of them. Tears streamed down the old man's eyes as he wrapped his arms around Simon, pulling him close and clinging to him, completely overtaken. "I'm sorry." He said, his voice shaking. "I'm so, so sorry."

Simon was taken aback a moment, but slowly returned the hug.
"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 Simon Toews » Mon Jan 28, 2019 1:29 pm

Mulcahy was hard at work, preparing coffee for his guest. Simon sat at the old table, looking around and remembering. He could see the spot where Falk’s goon had thrown him and knocked him out. There was a gouge in the wood where he’d connected and, for a moment, that pain felt fresh. He shut his eyes and shook it off. Even the kitchen was messier. Mulcahy moved across the tile with a severe limp, favoring that cane greatly. Things had certainly gone to shit.

“What the hell happened here, Father?” he asked, shaking his head.

The old man glanced over his shoulder. “Falk, I assume.” he said. “Let leak certain lies about you and me and your disappearance.” The rumors of impropriety had been especially painful. Never once had he behaved in an untoward manner with anyone. He prided himself on being someone who could be trusted. “People stopped coming around. Soon, they started moving with their kids to the other side of the street when I came around. Eventually, I got vandals and thieves...had to start locking up at night.”

Simon frowned. He might not have been a man of faith, but such disrespect to a church still seemed wrong to him. Mulcahy ran a hand through that silver head of hair, as beleaguered sigh escaping him as his shoulder slumped.

“This town started to change after that. Businesses got boarded up. Crime went through the roof. Wasn’t uncommon for me to go to sleep at night to the sound of gunshots. Just…” The priest turned to Simon. “There’s a rot in the heart of this city and Jakob Falk is at the center of it all.”

The old man looked to his leg and grimaced. “Even if this place weren’t going to Hell,...hard to get out and clean graffiti and trash with a bum leg. Tried for a bit, but it got to be too much. And it gets even harder when you start getting older. Eventually, everything else starts falling apart.”

The coffee maker beeped, signifying it was finished. Mulcahy turned and grabbed two mugs.

“How’d it happen?” Simon asked.

Mulcahy lowered his eyes, propping himself up on the counter, silent for a moment. “You don’t remember? It happened that night.”

Simon didn’t have to be told which. Not many nights they’d spent around each other were exactly worthy of the tone in the old man’s voice. It would be one of the last things SImon saw before being knocked unconscious and dragged away. The Father trying to protect him and taking a vicious blow to the back of the knee.

“Musta hit me just right, because he whacked me with that Baton and I never got right again. Doctor said there was a dislocation, torn muscle and some nerve damage and...just a mess.” Mulcahy shook his head, letting a weary breath flow from him. “That night changed everything here. It all fell apart so damn quickly…”

Simon furrowed his brow. “I gotta ask. After was 24 years… Why stay?”

Mulcahy turned and looked him in the eye. “Because, I don’t give up. I won’t let men like Jakob Falk see me run. Not again. I still believe in the good of people. There’s a lot of decent folks out there in need of guidance, and I intend to be here to give it to them to the best of my abilities. There’s a lot of darkness in the world, Simon. It’s never too late to be a light.”

Simon had to admire his optimism, even if he didn’t quite share that outlook on the world with his friend. After everything he’d seen and lost...he was pretty sure people were just people. Neither good nor bad, but capable of both. It just seemed like, more often than not, the bad deeds far outnumbered the good.

Mulcahy approached with the mugs. “Still take it black, I assume?” he asked.

A smirk spread across SImon’s lips. “No, actually. Two cream, two sugar. Thanks. “

“My. You HAVE changed.” Mulcahy joked, getting a laugh out of Simon.

“So…” Mulcahy said. “Tell me about yourself. You married? Kids? Any of that?”

A bitter little laugh left Simon’s throat as he smirked to the priest. “No. Not exactly. Had a girl for a while, but things went south. Like they always seem to.”

“Sorry to hear that.” Mulcahy eyed him, sensing there was more.

“I...I had a daughter.” Simon said quietly. Mulcahy just watched him and listened. “Sweet girl. Smart. Her name was Cici.”

Mulcahy hazarded a little smile. He could feel the love in Simon’s voice as he spoke of his daughter...but he noted his young friend referred to her in the past tense.

“I got into some trouble with a fella named Cotter. I crossed him and Cici and his wife paid for it. Threw the woman to her death and...and burned my little girl alive.”

“God, I’m so, so sorry, Simon.” Mulcahy whispered. “What did you do?”

Simon glanced to him. For a moment he considered whether or not to tell, but deep inside...he felt no shame for his response. “I wiped out every last one of those motherfuckers out. Cotter, his men, his whole operation.”

“That was you?” Mulcahy asked “I remember hearing a bit about that here and there.”
Mulcahy was silent. It wasn’t that he approved of it...but he could certainly understand.

“Besides,” the Father said, “God forgives us all, even in our moments of greatest weakness, as long we repent.”

Simon turned his eyes up to Mulcahy then, a fire burning behind those baby blues. “I’m not looking for forgiveness. He took everything from me. So, I took everything from him. My only regret is that it didn’t last long enough.”

Mulcahy could hear the pain in his voice. The rage that had burned nearly all his life and never completely went away. He felt for him. Part of him wished he’d been there during that time. To talk and console him. Maybe help keep him out of a life that would destroy the person he loved most. The younger man, sighed and stood, finally removing his jacket. The sleeves of tattoos covering his arms were revealed, disappearing under the sleeve of his t-shirt. Mulcahy paused a moment, looking at them.

“Mother of God, son. What are those?” He asked.

Simon shifted his gaze to his arms a moment. “Reminders.”


“Every fight I ever won...and lost.” He said, a bit distant. Mulcahy stared at the elaborate designs that snaked all across the canvas of Simon’s skin.. They covered his arms and he could spy them creeping out from beneath his collar. He noticed, for the first time then, Simon’s hands. There was no missing the fresh black eye and the fresh stitches, but this was...horrific. Raised scars littered his forearms beneath the inked skin. “Some of them are pretty recent. Some of them...some of them go back to our mutual friend.”

“Jesus, Simon. What did they do to you?” Mulcahy asked sadly, not entirely sure he wanted to answer.

“Locked me up. Put me into cage matches with other kids. Had to get real comfortable with beating other kids half to death. Sometimes all the way. Eventually, you had to just square it with yourself that it was survival. That you couldn’t really be blamed because some 8 year old would never take another breath because you crushed his windpipe with your foot. Didn’t always work so well. Lost at first more than I won…that was pretty bad.” Simon said. “But the worst nights were when you won. See...some men never see consequences for what they they think they can do anything. Take anything. Well...they took from me. Me, Anna...all of us.”

Mulcahy tilted his head, something perking him up. “Anna?”

Simon nodded slowly, his eyes lowering. “She was my friend. More than that, really. She kept me sane. Kept me alive...gave me hope. We escaped together. Made it 3 months on our own before I slipped up. We had to make a quick getaway and Falk’s people were on our backs. Almost made it to the train when they grabbed her. I tried to save her, tried to pull her away...but she just knocked me into a train car right before the door closed.”

“You ever see her again?” Mulcahy asked.

Simon shook his head. “Tried to make plans to go back and rescue her, but Falk had people out looking for me. I couldn’t get close without them spotting me. Even had a few near misses over the next few months, but always managed to dodge it. When they found my room at a motel, I had to leave for a while. Eventually, they must’ve given up, because I stopped seeing them around. Even when they were gone, I wanted to go back, but...I was just too afraid.”

“You don’t have to explain yourself to me. I completely understand.” the Father had heard rumors about what went on in Falk’s Fighting Pits. It was a poorly kept secret, but nobody with any real power seemed to give a damn. He seemed to mull something over in his head for a moment before he finally spoke. “Tell me more about this Anna.”

“Not a ton to tell.” Simon shrugged. “We fought for him, got each other through the aftermath, and tried to survive. She was strong. One of the strongest people I’ve ever known. Smart. Kind. Even when she was trying not to be, it was...somehow still kind, if that makes sense.”

The younger man smiled, remembering her. “She could be funny when she wanted. Kind of a dry sense of humor, but my God, Father...when she smiled…”

A lopsided grin formed on Mulcahy’s aged face. “I...I need to ask you something, Simon.” he said.

“Shoot.” Simon said, sipping his coffee.

“Did...did she have red hair?”

Simon tensed visibly, the mug lowering slowly from his lips. “How did you know that?”

“And...a scar on her left cheek in the shape of a T?” He didn’t need a verbal confirmation. The look on SImon’s face was enough. “I know her.”

Everything he’d said about her was dead on, as far as Mulcahy was concerned. She was every bit the strong, funny, kind soul Simon described. The younger man blinked, processing everything he’d just been told.

“ said...know. Not knew. You...KNOW her?” Simon asked.

Mulcahy nodded, that little smile returning. “We write twice a year.”

He didn’t know exactly how to process it. Anna was a piece of him he was certain was just gone for good. To hear she was not only alive, but well? That was a prospect he hadn’t counted on.

“You ought to look her up.” Mulcahy said.

Simon’s gaze shifted up to the priest and he shook his head slowly. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

Mulcahy barely missed a beat. “Why?”

Those blue eyes turned downward. “I shouldn’t even have come here. Everything I do, everything I touch suffers because of me. I can’t do that to her. Not again.”

They were silent a moment, Mulcahy just watching his old friend. The weight of so many dead and hurt sat on Simon’s shoulders, dragging him down.

“I think you should go see her.” Mulcahy said. He took Simon’s hands in his and looked him in the eye. “I think it will help.”

“I can’t.” Simon insisted.

“You know that isn’t true.”

Simon opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out for a moment. He would kill to see her again. But he just knew it would bring the mess he’d created crashing down around her. “What if I go...and I just lead him to her?”

“You think he cares about her anymore? He didn’t when she came to me.” He said, softly.

Simon tilted his head curiously. “What do you mean?”

“Not my place to say.” The old man said. “Not my story to tell.”

God, the conflict boiling inside was on the man’s face as clear as day. “Simon.” He whispered, gripping his hand a little tighter. “Sooner or later, you’re going to have to stop blaming yourself. Go. Talk to her. I promise, you won’t regret it.”
"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 » Thu Jan 31, 2019 11:56 pm

Miles walked up the steps to his apartment, the memories of the night before fresh in his mind. After leaving Tessa at her apartment, he went out, wandering the city, spending his time in a few low-key bars and eventually stopping at a 24 hour diner. He wasn't big on sleep, and only did so when absolutely necessary, but tonight was different. He was still running on his 6th cup of coffee. His night out with the young starlet had been one of the best he could recall. It wasn't something he was used to. Part of him couldn't quite process what was so different. When he talked, she actually listened, rather than waited for her turn to speak. As far back as he could remember, people expected something of him. Usually, it was his body, his worth boiled down to simply fighting and sex. It was all he knew. Only Tessa seemed to genuinely enjoy being around him. She demanded nothing, expected nothing and he didn't exactly know how to react. He supposed that was why he'd insisted on walking her to her door. Why he'd put on that display with her stepfather. But even then, she didn't seem grateful for the subtle threats of violence. She seemed concerned. He couldn't understand that. That man would never lay a hand on her again, and she seemed...sad. Never let it be said that Miles had an understanding of the fairer sex.

His keys jingled in the door, unlocking it and giving it a push open. He could sense her there before he even walked in. A dark figure silhouetted by what light could pierce the drawn shades. Ruby sat in a chair, still in her immaculately tailored suit, those sharp, cold eyes showing a hint of disapproval. Miles took a moment to look at her. Those high cheekbones, full lips, and light green eyes locked on him with a steely gaze. Her short, dark brown hair was parted on the left, hanging longer on the right. The somewhat androgynous Ruby was petite, hiding her athletic form beneath those suits, the hints of her tattoos sneaking out from under the sleeves, but he always found her to have a sort of severe beauty. Most underestimated her, but he knew what she was capable of.

"Ruby." He said, casually, shutting the door behind him.

"What the fuck do you think you're doing?" She asked him coldly.

"How'd you get in here?" He ignored her question and moved into the kitchen, scavenging in the fridge for a drink.

"Through the door." she said, eyes narrowing. "Answer the fucking question. What are you doing with that girl?"

"None of your fucking business." He said, pouring himself a glass of orange juice.

"That isn't your job, Miles." Her eyes trailed to him, disapprovingly.

"Never said it was. I met a girl, we had fun. End of." He said calmly.

"Tessa Bradley is a high value asset. Nevermind her connection to Toews, she's a public figure. People see you out there and it can bring the wrong kind of attention on Mr. Falk." She explained, standing up and walking over to the counter, stopping across from him. "If you need companionship, talk to Mr. Falk and he will arrange for it.

"I don't need him to get me a girl." He said, staring daggers. "And I don't need his permission."

"Your job is to serve as Mr. Falk's right hand. Your loyalty is to him and him alone. There's no room for this young lovers bullshit. Either you're with him or you're not." She said cooly.

"I've given my life to him." Miles eyes darkened. "My loyalty is beyond question. As for the girl...don't worry about it. She's fun. But that's it" He knew it was lie even as the words left his lips. He didn't know why, of course. It wasn't like he'd ever experienced anything like it before.
"That so?" She asked, a knowing smirk on her lips. "Let's say, for the sake of argument, Mr Falk has use of her with Toews, I can't help but wonder how firmly that loyalty lies. Would you turn her over? Harm her? Kill her if he had need? Personally? I have my doubts."

Miles stared daggers at her. She'd been there since the beginning. A fighter a few years older than himself. One of the fiercest to come up through Falk's ring. The first of the men who tried to bed her ended up castrated. When asked about it afterwards, she only bared her bloody teeth. It solidified her reputation among the crowd as a girl not to mess with. The men certainly kept their distance, which suited her fine. She was more interested in the women anyway. She never allowed herself to be their victim. When put in a room with them, she controlled it all, just as she did every weekend in the ring. There was a sick pleasure for her in taking power away from the powerful. When Miles had become strong enough to win, he rapidly became her biggest competitor. Even in their brutal climb to the top there was a measure of respect there, despite a complete lack of warmth between them. Still, he knew that she would relish the opportunity to take him out if given the chance.

"Mr. Falk doesn't need to worry about me. When called upon, I'll get the job done."

"Of course you will." She said, those bright, cold eyes never leaving his. Miles didn't so much as blink. Ruby stepped back from the counter.

"You're being watched, Kid. Watch your step. All I need is a reason." she said quietly and walked across the room.

Miles stared straight ahead and not at her. "Ruby?" He called after her, the woman halting at the door. "Don't ever threaten me again."

A smirk played across those sharp features and she brought her middle and pointer fingers to her temple, throwing off a little salute to him, leaving him alone as she stepped out.
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Simon Toews » Fri Feb 01, 2019 12:39 am

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Hey, Anna." he said quietly.

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

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

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

(OOC Note: Written to this music, if it helps. Writing this scene utterly destroyed me)
"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 Simon Toews » Sun Feb 03, 2019 7:47 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Nice to meet you." She said politely.

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

Daisy giggled and ran off.

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

"Horses, huh?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

"She, uh..."

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

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

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

"Not a nice guy?"

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

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

"Smells great. Thanks, Otis."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Anna..." he said.

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

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

Her eyes slid shut, Anna remaining silent for a long moment. When she opened them again...she was there.
"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 Anna » Sun Feb 03, 2019 11:05 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I made you stronger."

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

"I do." He nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"You'll die." He said plainly.

"Then I'll die on my own terms."

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

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

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

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

Post by Jakob Falk » Tue Feb 05, 2019 10:57 pm

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

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

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

"Come." He called out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

" girl. She...she's um...she's...pregnant."

Falk's interest was piqued. "Pregnant?"

"Y-yes, sir." Steinman nodded.

"You're sure."

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

Well, that was a development. There was no doubt in Jakob's mind who the kid's father was. Given the timeframe, there was only one person it COULD be. A small smile played across his scarred face. In an instant, his concerns went away. He had his way in. Anna had something to lose.
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Anna » Tue Feb 12, 2019 11:57 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

"It's a boy."
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Simon Toews » Fri Feb 15, 2019 8:44 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I'd never have hurt you." He said.

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

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

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

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


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

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

"Pretty damn good." he said defensively.

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

"I do what I have to."

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

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

"Oh, I don't?" She nodded bitterly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Do me a favor?" She asked.

Simon glanced up to her.

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

Simon nodded slowly. "Okay."

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

The weary fighter ran a hand through his short cropped hair. "You have no idea."
"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 » Tue Feb 19, 2019 11:28 pm

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

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

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

"Alright?" he asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miles swallowed hard and nodded. "Yessir."

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

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

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

Miles pushed the doubt deep down as he'd done many times in his young life. With one last nod to Falk, he turned and walked out into the hallway to join Ruby.
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Ruby Osbourne » Sat Feb 23, 2019 11:53 pm

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

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

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

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

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

" Doesn't ring a bell."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"You better." She said before hanging up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I know my role." He said simply.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"You good?" She asked Miles, businesslike.

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

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

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

"Daddy!" he screamed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I said-"

"I heard what you said." He snapped. Now was not the time. "Let's get the fuck out of here."
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Re: Chapter Four: Ghosts

Post by Anna » Sun Feb 24, 2019 5:15 pm

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

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

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

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

"You're up early." She noted.

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

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

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

"How'd you like it?" She asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"You tell him about us?" Simon asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Post by Ruby Osbourne » Mon Feb 25, 2019 12:35 am

Jakob was talking to some politician Ruby didn't recognize when she arrived. She didn't keep up with such things, nor did she care who the man was. They were pawns. Objects in Falk's grand game to be moved and utilized as he saw fit. Disposable.

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

"So?" He said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Post by Tessa Bradley » Tue Mar 12, 2019 11:53 pm

Her mother and Tony had gone for the night. Since Miles put them in their place, they gave Tessa a wide berth. She preferred it that way. Tony's eyes stayed off of her when she was around and her mother barely spoke to her at all. The conversation was not missed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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