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The Only Road I've Ever Known (18+ GraphicViolence\Language)
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Simon Toews
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 05, 2017 5:20 pm    Post subject: The Only Road I've Ever Known (18+ GraphicViolence\Language) Reply with quote

Nothing was the same. Tahlia was off on some vague scam with another man, and while the occasional visit or phone call was great, he was left sitting alone in an apartment that she got from a different �other man�. The place was a reminder that, despite everything, despite the L word getting dropped, she wasn't entirely his. Such time only brought images he didn't, couldn't bring himself to face.

He knew what often happened on cons she ran. He didn't want to hear the moans, envision the wandering hands. He didn't want...many things. What he needed was a distraction. He needed to clear his head, learn to live without carrying the self destructive hatred that he fueled him for so damn long.

He had vehicles stashed all over the city. Granted, none of them were really his, per se, but he had a way out. One call and a promise to Tahlia later, and he was ready to go.

Sliding into the driver's seat of a black 72 Charger, he felt a bit more comfortable. This felt familiar. The engine roared to life, the vehicle seemingly trembling and ready for their journey. There was no destination, but at the moment, that suited him just fine. A bit of Whitesnake crackled to clarity through the speakers, bringing a smile to his lips.

�Here I go again.�
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 05, 2017 6:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

There was so much out there he'd often failed to notice. The relatively small area that made up the central hub of Rhydin could sometimes feel like the entire universe. But there was so much more.

There wasn't a building in sight on the dusty road. Just the sand and a sprawling, blue sky, cloudless and perfect. His tattooed arm hung out the window, the warm air whipping at his skin. This was good. This was peaceful. This was free.

The only thing he had to focus on was the road ahead, the white lines whipping past in a sort of visual staccato. Blue eyes stared out from behind dark sunglasses, for the first time in a week the doubts and confusion in his mind silenced.

As he continued on, the sun began to slowly disappear in the horizon, the sky turned to brilliant masterpiece of oranges, blues and purples. It called so many memories to the forefront of his mind. Things he'd forced himself to forget over the years. When he glanced over, he could almost see her sitting there. A tiny, smiling little one, her dark hair in pigtails, singing along to the radio, just a hint off-key. He'd thought it was the most beautiful sound in the world.

Cici. His Cici.

“Where are we going, Daddy?” She’d ask him.

He would reach over and flick one of those dangling tails, making her giggle.

“I dunno, baby girl.” He'd say with a grin. “That's why it's an adventure.”

“Like the stories?”

“Just like the stories. You and me, baby girl.”

“Always?” She'd ask.

“And forever. “

But she wasn't there. She hadn't been there for 11 years, and she never would be again. So many years had been spent trying to bury that pain. To avoid it. So many years in a haze of drugs, booze, women and violence. Then along came Tahlia.

The woman he never saw coming. Without meaning to, she'd filled a hole deep in his soul. Given him something to fight for, something to live for. So much time spent pursuing an end and suddenly there was this whole other purpose. A fire that spread and consumed him. That was Tahlia Faras.

Suddenly, none of the other things seemed to matter. Not the fights, not the next drink, and most definitely not the end.

The phone chirped out its warning, the smirking face of the redhead appearing on the screen, dressed to the nines. A grin crossed his lips as he snapped a quick shot of the sunset, his thumbs typing out a quick message.

“Wish you were here.”
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 10, 2017 4:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Day turned to night turned to day over and over again. Roadside motels, small town inns, and truck stop eateries became the way of life for the next week. All the while, he kept in touch as best he could with the redheaded con artist who he called his. Not particularly anxious to dwell on the particulars of what she was doing (or really, who), he kept conversation to the basics. Stuff he'd seen, how he was doing, where the next stop was. It wouldn't do to get all jealous and worked up. That was completely contrary to the agreement! The almost entirely unspoken agreement they'd made when they started shacking up together.

But, then...that was before the “L” word got dropped. Now, everything was far more complicated. Now he wanted her. He wanted her for himself, not to share. It was stupid, and naive, and completely against who he knew her to be. Simon had her love...but exactly what in the hell did that even mean with people like them? And was he even still that person? Was he even in a place to know what he wanted when even he wasn’t sure the man he’d been hadn’t been lost in that fire?

He shook his head, coming out of those dangerous thoughts and back to now. The window down, sunglasses upon his face, and wind whipping through his hair, Simon drove on. His attentions returned not a moment too soon as the engine made a whining noise and the Challenger began to cough and sputter. A frown pulled his lips downward as the vehicle rolled to a stop along the gravel shoulder of the road. “Great…” he muttered to himself, unbuckling his seatbelt and sliding out of the car.

The moment he popped open the hood he was hit in the face with smoke. He waved it away, coughing and peering down into the engine. Simon had many talents, but he was not a mechanic. He looked around, finding nothing but road stretching miles in front and behind him, and just miles of sand and dirt to either side, fading off into distant mountains. In short, he was a screwed. “Mother ****er!” he yelled kicking the tire in frustration.

Alright, he decided, you let the bad in, Simon. Now let’s deal with it. He could start walking onward and hope there was a town nearby...or go back 25 or so miles in the other direction...either choice wasn’t exactly appetizing with that sun beating down upon him. At least he had a few bottles of water stashed in the cooler, but even then...walking.

He decided to take one last look at the engine. Maybe a hose came loose or something simple. No harm in checking. Simon leaned in, peering down, not entirely sure what he was looking for, but dammit, he was looking. He barely even registered the sound of a truck pulling up ahead of him, grinding to a rest along the shoulder with him.

“Havin’ a bit a’ trouble?” A feminine voice called out to him.

Simon glanced over his shoulder, catching sight of her. 5’7”, brown hair streaked with dirty blonde highlights tied back in a pony tail, eyes hidden behind a pair of aviators. Her slender frame clad in a pair of tight blue jeans and a black tanktop. Behind her, a big Ford pick-up rumbled. It oddly seemed to suit her.

“Yeah…” he grumbled. “Was just rollin’ along and she took a ****.”

“Mind if I take a look?” she asked.

“You know about cars?”

“No, I just ask to see strangers broken down engines for fun.” She said, a little smirk appearing as she approached. The stranger pulled off her glasses, revealing big, round eyes that held a myriad of colors. Blue, green, brown...it was hard to pinpoint an exact color. Her brows knit together as she looked down. “Well...definitely somethin’ goin’ on with your radiator. Might be cracked somewhere. You been gettin’ this beauty take care off on the reg?”

He scrunched his face, and it was all he needed to tell her. The woman chuckled and shook her head. “C’mon, man...gotta give a little love to these older gals....”

“Well, I just kinda...picked this one up.” He explained. No need to tell her that it wasn’t...entirely legally procured.

“Tell you what.” she said. “My father-in-law loves this kinda stuff. He’s way better at this than even me. So, whattaya say we hitch the old girl up and I bring it on over them?”

Good lord, and he thought HE was naive. Part of him wanted to lecture her about picking up a stranger on the road. The old broken down car bit was a favorite of carjackers and thieves. And he would know...he was one back in the day.

“You sure?” he asked her.

“Yeah, not a problem.” She said, turning. That was when he saw the grip of a pistol out the back of her jeans.

Okay, he thought maybe not so naive.

The pair of them managed to hitch the car up and he climbed into the passenger side.

“What’s your name Sleeves?” she asked. Simon glanced at his tattooed arms a moment before responding.

“Simon.”

She put her sunglasses back on and threw the car into gear. “Kate. Kate Wilder.”
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 11, 2017 6:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kate gripped the wheel, side eyeing the man she'd picked up, his beautiful Charger dragging like a corpse behind them. A shame, she thought. Car like that would've been a dream for her.

Then there was the owner. Tough, rugged good looks drew you in, despite the tattoos covering his arms and creeping out beneath his collar telling you to stay away. But he was quiet. Reserved. Most men she'd met in these parts would've been staring at her tits or ass…made some sort of pass at her. But he looked her in the eye, spoke respectfully. That earned the stranger some points in her book.

“So, where about you from, Simon?” She asked, breaking the lingering silence.

“Out east. Towards the coast.” He informed her.

“City boy, huh?” She smirked.

“Somethin’ like that.” He grinned, hooking an arm out the window as he fished around his pocket for a pack of smokes. He drew a cigarette out with his teeth and paused. “Do you mind?”

Kate waved him off and he lit the cigarette. Simon blew the smoke out the window. “How ‘bout you?”

She nodded ahead. “Little town we're headed to called Noble. Few miles up ahead.” Kate knew Noble was a dead end. The sort of place where dreams went to die. If not for Pops and Nan, she'd have gotten the hell out years ago. She'd broached the idea to the old man, but Pops was nothing if not stubborn. “No,” he'd said, “This my home. I was brought into the world here, and the good lord’s gonna have to drag me out to get me to leave.”

She’d been immediately taken in by Charlie’s parents when they met. Her own were practically strangers. But the Marstons were good people and they loved her. That’s all that mattered and that was why she stayed.

She glanced over to him as she drove. “So, what brings a guy like you out to my little piece of nowhere?”

Simon turned his gaze to her. “Just needed a change of scenery, I guess.”

“Mm.” She nodded. “Vague.”

SImon laughed a bit. “Yeah, well, that’s kinda my way. I’ve been through some stuff lately, needed to clear my head. Let’s leave it at that.”

“Well, THAT, I can get my head around.” She smiled. God knew she’d seen her share of troubles that made her want to just pack up and drive and never stop. “And how’s that going for ya?”

“Not great.” He deadpanned.

Kate couldn’t help the chuckle that left her. “Well, hopefully Pops will take a looksee and get you back on the road to self-discovery.”

“You put it that way, sounds like I should be writing a book.”

“Oh yeah. A book full of vague references. 200 pages of ‘And then someone who mighta been me did a thing and there were consequences for better or worse.’” She said with a smirk.

Simon eyed her a moment, a little smile on his lips. “You’d read it.” he said in a confident tone.

“Oh yeah, stranger. Cover to cover.”
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 28, 2017 11:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The truck rolled to a stop at the foot of a dirt road right before sunset. The farm spread out far and wide, stalks of corn surrounding the place like a miniature forest. A barn and a stable off to one side while a cozy two story farmhouse was set in front of them. Simon peered around as Kate hopped down. “Here's home.”

“Katie-girl? That you?” An elderly male voice called out from the barn.

“Yeah, Pop. I brought company.” She called back.

The man who stepped out looked every bit like an old cowboy. Tall, lean, with silver hair swept back and a thick grey mustache upon his upper lip. “So I see.” He said, looking over the stranger on his property.

Simon could tell the man immediately smelled trouble on him. He moved over to him and offered a hand. “How's it goin’? Simon Toews.”

The old man glanced at his tatted, deformed hand a second before taking it in a firm handshake. Not to be outdone or mocked as a city boy, he squeezed right back. That got a little grin out of the old cowboy. “Ya got a good handshake, kid. Too many young'uns come at ya with a dead fish. I can respect that. Virgil Marston, though most folks round here just call me Pop.”

Simon smiled and released his hand. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Marston.”

Virgil laughed “****, kid, you ain't the girl’s prom date. Virgil. Or Pop. Whichever suits ya.”

The old man glanced around him at the downed vehicle, grey eyebrows rising as he stepped around. He whistled, approaching the vehicle. “Now, that is a thing of beauty. What is she? 71?”

“72.” Simon corrected with a smirk. He watched the old cowboy lean into the window and look around.

“What’s wrong with ‘er?”
“Well, that’s what I’m hopin’ you can tell me.” Simon responded.

Virgil snickered, shaking his head. “Damn kids. Driving a work of art around, don’t even know how to take care of it. Pop the hood will ya?”

Simon walked up to the door, leaning in and hitting the release. Virgil planted himself over the engine compartment. “So, where’d Katie find you, kid?”

Simon came over, watching him with his tatted arms crossed. “Broke down in the ass end of nowhere.”

“Yeah...that’s where she finds most of her strays.” He said, squinting. “What brings you out to my little piece of nowhere?”

“Had to get away for a bit.”

Virgil eyed the tattooed stranger. If trouble were personified, it would look like Simon Toews. “You in bad with the law?”

That gave Simon a laugh and a shake of the head. In all reality, he probably should have been...but this was Rhy’din and Calloway was gone. The Watch didn’t seem to have much interest in taking him down, so...no. The law wasn’t what he was running from.

“Ah.” Virgil said with a knowing smirk. “Lady, then?”

“Something like that.” He responded.

“Well, kid...not much I’m gonna be able to tell ya right now. I’ll wanna get ‘er in the garage and get a better look at what’s gone wrong here. You’re welcome to stay, if ya want.”

Simon shot him a bemused look. That wasn’t an offer he’d much recieved from random strangers. Not when you looked like him. “In your house?”

Virgil shrugged. “Don’t see why not.”

“You ain’t worried I’m gonna do somethin’?”

“You plannin’ on it, kid?” Virgil eyed him...Simon knew that look. It was one he’d often used. It was confident and threatening and calm all at once. Virgil wasn’t one to mess with.

“No, sir. Just sayin’.”

“Kid, one thing you oughta know about me...I’m always ready, I’m always armed...and if ya make a move on me, Katie, or my little Millie, I’ll put ya down before you even know what hit ya.” Virgil said cooly. Nothing in the man’s tone suggested that it was an idle threat or hot air. Simon liked him.

“Millie?” He asked. He hadn’t been told of a Millie.

“My granddaughter. Katie’s girl.”

Something cold spread through Simon’s chest. He hadn’t really spent any time around a kid since Cici. The mere idea gave him an uncomfortable, panicking chill.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 01, 2017 1:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Simon stepped into the guest room of the cozy little farmhouse. The smell of mothballs and wood on the fire permeated throughout the place. The room was sparsely appointed, a dresser with a mirror, a night stand, and a brass framed bed the only furniture to be found.

He set his bag upon the bed and looked in the mirror. The bags under his eyes showed a man who had pushed the limits of how long he could stay awake behind the wheel. The car breaking down was probably a mixed blessing. What he wouldn’t give for the redhead back home to wrap her arms around him from behind, press her cheek against his back, and then curl up against his side in bed.

Simon was pulled out of his revery by the sound of a creaking floorboard. He turned his gaze toward the sound finding a young girl, maybe 8 or 9. Dark brown hair, light blue eyes and her hair up in the same kind of pigtails Cici used to wear. Something squeezed at his heart seeing the kid, words completely escaping him as he saw her.

“Who are you?” She asked him in that sweet, curious tone.

He eyed her a moment before putting on a friendly smile. “I’m Simon.” He said turning toward her. “And you must be Millie.”

Her brows raised. “You know me?”

He couldn’t help the chuckle as he crouched before her. “The famous Millie? Sure do, little lady. Your ma told me all about ya.”

She grinned bashfully, a little giggle leaving her. Simon offered a hand to her, the little girl taking it. “Nice to meetya, kiddo.” He said

Millie cocked her head, looking at his tattoos. “You got lotsa drawings on you.”

He glanced down. “Yeah, s’pose I do.”

“You use a marker? I did that once and mama was ready to whup me.” she said with all the seriousness of a secret agent.

He couldn’t help but laugh, his head shaking. “No, these were a little more difficult to get than just a marker.”

“...a crayon?” she asked with a squint, trying to imagine what would be more difficult than a marker. That one had Simon belly laughing.

“Millie.” Kate said stepping up the stairs. “Don’t bother the nice man.”

Simon waved her off. “Ahhhh, she ain’t no bother. We’re fast friends, right?” He said raising a hand for a high five.

“Right! Simon was telling me his doodle arms!” Millie said and slapped his hand.

She gave the stranger a questioning look and he mouthed “tats.”

“Oh, he did, did he? Well, fast friends.” She said, a pointed look at Millie. “I hate to break up the gab sesh, but it’s time for someone to go wash up for supper.”

The little girl whined, but Kate just shot her a look. “Go on, now. Git.”

As Millie ran off, Kate turned those brilliant eyes on Simon, a little smirk tugging at the corners of her mouth. “You’re pretty good with kids, I take it?”

“Yeah, I’m alright.” he shrugged.

The single mom leaned against the doorway, eyeing him. “Got kids of your own?”

His face barely changed, despite the sinking feeling inside. “No. Not anymore.”

Her lips parted, her face flooding with sympathy. “Oh...oh, Jesus. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean-”

“It’s fine. It was...a long time ago.” He said, holding up a hand.

“Well...I’ve got some dinner cooking, if you wanna get settled in and join us, you’re more than welcome.” She smiled. “Until then...make yourself at home...Doodle arms.” A smirk played across her lips as she left Simon standing there.

Cici weighed heavily on his mind. How that little girl reminded him of her. It brought that old, familiar ache. The one he used to suppress with violence, drugs, alcohol or women...now, he didn’t know just how to deal with it.
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 09, 2017 2:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Heat. Screams. Gunfire. It was all around him. Simon ran towards the door, back in his room at the old factory. The second his hand touched the knob, he was scalded and withdrew. Smoke filled his vision, his nose, his lungs. Those screams continued from the other side, urging him on desperately..

Simon reeled back and kicked the door open with all his might. Fire filled his old living space, so bright and hot he could barely see. The screams continued as he brought his arm to shield his face and pushed onward, his limbs becoming heavier and heavier with every step. It was like somebody had attached a chain to his back and kept pulling. Figures ahead were barely silhouettes in the raging flames as he fell to the ground on his hands and knees.

He remembered that scream. It was one he’d heard in his nightmares for years. Simon couldn’t see her face yet, but it was etched on his memories, clear as day. Cici. Terror in her young eyes as he crawled, helpless to save her.

And the other...blonde. Curvaceous. Trouble personified. Tahlia had swept through his life like a tornado. Reawakening a fire in him that had died with Cici. Now, the two were together, struggling against invisible bonds, screaming for him to help them.

Simon’s muscles ached and strained, dragging his impossibly heavy body across the hot floor. Every bit of his body and soul felt overexerted, drained. And then the third figure stepped forward. He’d half expected to see Cotter standing there. Just as it had been the day Cici was ripped away from him.

But it wasn’t.

As Simon’s gaze turned upward, all he saw was himself.

A cigarette hung from his lips, his eyes lost to shadow. The cherry glowed with a hellish orange light as he took a drag. The smell of gasoline filled his nostrils suddenly, and he wasn’t in his old home anymore. Suddenly, he was in that old warehouse from 11 years ago. Cici and Tahlia knelt in the puddle of gasoline, both of them drenched and wailing.

“Please…” he tried to shout. But his voice only came out as a whisper. His doppleganger stared down with those dark eyes and flashed a bright, toothy grin. The shadow Simon held up that cigarette as if presenting it.

“Please…” Simon begged again.
Simon’s stomach turned as the shadowy version of himself flicked the cigarette away, sending it tumbling slowly into the puddle. The trapped fighter screamed and writhed, trying to move, but couldn’t budge even an inch as the flames burst to life, rushing towards Tahlia and Cici, his cries echoing into nothing as the inferno engulfed them.

He lurched upright in his bed, his body covered in a cold sweat. That world was gone. Here, it was quiet. Peaceful. The sound of crickets creeped in through the window as he tried to catch his breath. A dream. It was only a dream…

Simon wiped the sweat from his brow and tried to even out his breathing. He closed his eyes and then grabbed his jeans.

Moments later he stood out on the porch, the sky littered with bright, brilliant stars. A cigarette raised to his lips, the flame illuminating his face briefly as he lit the tip. It *was* incredibly peaceful out here. Coming from a place that was full of noise and bodies, standing along in the middle nowhere surrounded by nothing but open land as far as the eye could see was an odd comfort.

The screen door behind him creaked open, drawing his attention back. Kate stood in a pair of PJ pants and a tank top, her hooded sweatshirt pulled tight around her slender frame. She lifted her chin toward him, a little smirk on her face.

“Night owl, huh, Doodlearms?”

Simon grinned. “Yeah, that’s me. Burnin’ the midnight oil.” He took a drag and blew it out the corner of his mouth. “Didn’t wake you, did I?”

Kate shook her head and stepped out, surveyed her property a moment. Simon had to admit, she was a looker. There was a time not so long ago, those eyes alone might have done him in. She turned those multi-colored hues upon him, glancing at the cigarette in his hand. “You bring enough for the rest of class or what?”

“Oh. Right.” He said, fishing in his pocket. “My manners.” He let her draw one out and quickly lit it for her.

Kate took a drag, holding that smoke in a while before letting it glide out from her nostrils as she gazed at the farm in the moonlight. “So, what do you do, Simon?” She asked appraising his tatooed form. “I don’t imagine you’re a kindergarten teacher or a preacher, lookin’ like that.”

Simon looked down at his arms a moment. “You implyin’ somethin’?” he said, feigning offense.

She snorted. “Nah. You’re a picture of well-adjusted. The tats and scars wouldn’t terrify a room full of children at all.”

Simon smirked, a quiet laugh escaping him. “I’m sorta in-between things at the moment...”

Kate watched as if waiting for him to finish. When it became clear he hadn’t planned to, she continued for him. “Buuuut, Kate, I used to...what? Ride dirtbikes for a living? Hand-model?”

That got a genuine laugh out of him. “I don’t imagine they’d want mangled hands for that gig.”

“Hey, you don’t know.” She smirked. “Those meat hooks are so messed up, they’ll make the jewelry look even better.”

Kate leaned her hip against the railing and looked him in the eye. “Come on. Level with me.”

“I was a fighter.” He admitted.

“Like a boxer?”

“Cage. Bare knuckle.” he clarified.

“That makes sense.” She said, squinting and nodding. “Were you good.”

“Well, not to brag, but oh yeah. I was awesome. Totally blow your mind.” He nodded with faux vigor.

Kate shot him a toothy grin, taking another drag. “So? What made you quit?”

He snorted. “What makes every man quit something he’s good at?”

“Castration?” She deadpanned, getting a laugh out of him. “So. You found yourself a girl, huh? And where is she on this road to self-discovery?”

“Off somewhere with some other guy.”

Her brows raised. “Wow. Damn. That’s some ****y luck.”

“No,” Simon laughed, “It’s not like that. She’s working a job.”

Kate leveled a stare at him. “Why do I feel like that job’s not entirely legal?”

“It probably isn’t.” He admitted. If he was honest, he didn’t quite understand the point of the whole thing, other than getting money, but it wasn’t like he was some pure, good intentioned angel his whole life either. Hell the amount of blood on his hands alone would terrify Kate if she knew.

The young mother took a long drag, studying the stranger before her. “Do I need to worry about you, Simon?” She asked slowly, pointedly. “Are you gonna be a problem for me?”

The corners of his mouth twitched just a bit before he shook his head. “No. I’m just a guy trying to figure things out.”

Kate nodded. “Good. Because you do anything to put me, Pops or my little girl in trouble? They ain’t gonna find your body. We clear.”

She was ballsy. Tough. Simon liked that. “Crystal.”

“Good.” She said stomping out her cigarette. “Then we can be friends!”

Kate smiled and went past him, giving his arm a squeeze. “Don’t stay up too late.”

“Ugh, fine, Mom.” He whined.

“Don’t you use that tone with me!” She called back, playing along.

He made a noise like a whiny teenager.

“Hey, I brought you into this world, I’ll take you out!” She said with faux anger. “Little ****...” she muttered, heading on in.
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 14, 2017 6:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Morning came early on the farm. The unwelcome sound of a rooster letting out an ear-splitting crow tore Simon out of a dreamless sleep. He bolted upright in the bed reaching around frantically for some kind of weapon that wasn’t there.

It took a moment before he got a grip on where he was and the embarrassment set in. Well, he thought, at least nobody saw. Simon stood, clad in a form fitting tanktop and pajama pants, and walked to the window looking out on the sprawling field, the early morning sunlight warming his inked skin. Virgil was heading out to start his work in the fields.

A knock came from the door. “You decent?” Kate called.

“Yeah, I do alright.” He joked.

She mimicked the sound of a rimshot and peeked her head in. “Breakfast is on if you’re hungry.”

“Breakfast.” He said with a squint. “I gotta say, I cannot remember the last time I had a real breakfast.”

“Oh, hoho…” Kate chuckled. “Well, you’re about to enter the thunderdome of Breakfasts, my friend. Bacon, eggs, toast, pancakes if you want, I made us up some ham hash, and we got fresh milk and freshly squeezed orange juice. The woiks.” she said, affecting an accent.

“Jesus.” He said, dumbfounded. “That’s a lot of food,”

“You’re gonna need it, doodles. Trust me.” She said ruefully.

“How about coffee?” He asked with a smirk.

“I think I can arrange that.” Kate told him, pushing off the doorway. “See you downstairs.”
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"And it's sick that all these battles
Are what keeps me satisfied"
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Simon Toews
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 16, 2017 12:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kate brushed past Millie, leaning down and planting a kiss atop her head without breaking stride. The little girl put on a big cheesy grin, letting out one of those little kid “heheeeeeee” giggles that never failed to get a chuckle out of her in return. The stranger in her house probably should have been some concern to her. The tattoos, the scars, that quiet sense of danger about him...it should have been off-putting.

But here she was, making a space for him at her breakfast table, letting him sleep in her home. Maybe it was the kind, quiet way he spoke to her, or the somewhat sad, weary look in his eyes, but there was something about him that she trusted. Most men seemed to only have eyes for specific parts of her body, but he didn’t seem to give her a second glance in a way that suggested an attraction. Plus, he’d earned points by being nice to Virgil.

Pops was the one man in her life she truly counted on. Tough, seemingly fearless, but kind, protective of those he loved. How he’d managed to retain such a good heart with everything that had happened…

Her thoughts were interrupted as a creak came from the stairs. Simon stood at the foot of the staircase, a plain white t-shirt and blue jeans on his slim, toned form, his blonde hair just short of messy. That man must have broken hearts wide-open back home, she thought.

“Mornin’ Doodlearms!” Millie said with a happy little wave as she loaded up her plate.

“Millie!” Kate exclaimed, a little mortified, but also trying not to laugh. “Rude.”

“I’m sorry. MISTER Doodlearms.” Millie corrected herself with a sullen tone.

Simon’s face lit up in a laugh. “Mornin’ Ms. Munchkinface.” He said, moving into the kitchen and to the plates, offering a nod to the blushing single mother. “Kate.”
“Don’t encourage her.” Kate gave him a comically weary look. “How do you like your coffee?”

“Black.” he responded.

Kate let out an exasperated sound and rolled her eyes. “What is it with guys and black coffee? Is that supposed to make you tough because you drink something that tastes like burnty, sweaty ass?”

Simon laughed, loading up on ham hash. “I don’t know, I just like it like that.”

“Well, have you TRIED cream and sugar? I promise, it’s WAY better.”

He put on that bemused little smirk and shook his head. “Can’t say that I have.”

Kate’s eyes bugged out. “Okay. That’s it. You’re trying this.”

Simon looked over to Millie, deadpanned. “She always like this?”

Millie’s eyes flicked from her mother and back to Simon. And she nodded.

“Hush, you. You’re supposed to be on my side.” Kate said, pointing at the child while pouring the cup. She added two cream and sugar, stirred it, and slid it over to him, a smug, confident look on her face as she crossed her arms.

Simon’s blue eyes stayed on the light brown concoction a moment before shifting up to her. He reached over and took the cup in his hand. The mug was raised in a form of salute to her before being brought to his lips for a sip.

Simon froze for a moment, staring off at nothing as Kate waited with bated breath.

“Ohmygod…” he whispered.

“RIGHT?!” She said, slapping the counter.

“Seriously?” He said, taking another sip. “Yeah. Yeah, that is WAY better.”

“Told you! I told you!” She grinned ear to ear. “Next time we’re going out and getting a fancy coffee.”

Millie just gave them both a look like they were crazy. Kate sipped her own cup, catching the look. “What?”

“Coffee’s gross and you’re both weird.”

Simon snorted into his drink.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 27, 2017 10:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

To say that working on the farm was hard would be an understatement. Every bit of that big breakfast served him well as Virgil ran him ragged doing odd jobs. How the old man had the energy and strength to do it all was beyond Simon, especially with the hitch in his step. It was sunset when he was finishing up repairs on a gate. 4 hours had spent wrangling up escaped pigs.

Simon was hot, sore and exhausted. His shirt left hanging on a fence post, his tattoos and scars were left on display. The sound of boots crunching on the dirt caught his attention. When Simon looked back, Virgil was approaching. “How’s it goin’ kid?”

Simon rose up, turning to face him. “I feel like I went 20 rounds with a minotaur.”

“Pigs get the best of ya?” the old man asked with a smirk.

Simon grinned and glanced over his shoulder. “Bastards are persistent, I’ll give ‘em that.”

Virgil glanced over the ink that covered his arms, shoulders and creeped down onto his chest like tendrils. “I gotta ask kid...what’s with all the ink?”

“Reminders.” Simon said simply.

“Well, ****, kid, that’s why they got these little gadgets called notebooks...” Virgil chuckled.

Simon shot him an amused little smirk. “I been through some things. Things I need to carry with me. These are my way of keeping them alive and owning them.” He grabbed the shirt and pulled it on, buttoning it closed a he went.

Virgil regarded him curiously. “Who are you, Simon?” He asked, walking with him. “What did you get yourself into?”

“Long story.” Simon responded. “What about you, Virgil? What’s your story? You don’t strike me as a lifelong farmer.”

“I don’t? What makes you say that?”

Simon shrugged. “Seen a lot of injuries in my time. Don’t imagine that limp came from a milking mishap.”

Virgil studied him, considering whether or not to share that with him. The boy had a lot of questions for someone who played things so close to the vest. “I was a sheriff.” he said, finally.

“That makes sense.” Simon nodded. “What happened?”

“Town went corrupt. Most of the department went corrupt. Those who didn’t...well.” Virgil canted his head toward his leg. “Katie n’ me packed our bags and hightailed it outta there.”

Simon furrowed his brow in surprise. “You ran?”

“You disapprove?” Virgil asked with that sly little smirk of his. “Suppose you think I shoulda gone in guns blazing. Takin’ the whole corrupt system down or died tryin’?”

Simon shrugged. He had to admit...it WAS what he’d have done.

“I had Katie and Millie and a bum leg to worry about.” He said. “Those girls are what matter to me. Protecting them is what’s important to me, not revenge. I ain’t sayin’ I’m entirely proud of what I did...but they’re alive and safe because of it and I’d do it again.”

“You don’t wish you’d tagged ‘em back?”

Virgil’s grin dropped slowly, his eyes drifting away. There was something there behind his body language. A sadness or more likely, regret. The old man turned his eyes back up at him and shook his head. “No.”

Nothing about it suggested that Simon should press him further, so Simon just walked with him back to the house.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2018 1:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Simon stepped out of the bathroom, freshly showered, drying his hair with a towel. His muscles ached from the strain of a hard day's work. Even for a man in his physical condition, it wasn’t easy working on a farm. He snatched up a t-shirt and walked up to the window. Virgil was out in the barn already, working on the car.

Old man had more energy than he would have imagined. Simon smirked, shaking his head.

“Darn it!” He heard a young voice exclaim across the hall. Simon stepped out and into the doorway, leaning a shoulder on one side.

“What’s with all the not-cussin’ in here?” He asked. Millie sat at her desk looking frazzled, a math book open in front of her. The little girl looked up at him pitifully. “Math. I hate it.”

“Yeah?” Simon pushed off the doorway and stepped over, peering down.
“Multiplication, huh? Never really got the hang of that one, myself.”

Millie frowned up at him. “It’s hard.”

“Well, let me take a look…” he squinted. “Alright...5 times 13…”

Simon screwed up his mouth, thinking. “That’s...18, ain’t it?”

She gave him an unimpressed look. “That’s addition.”

“Oh, right, right. Which one is multiplication?”

Millie did not look amused.

“Hey, I didn’t get much schoolin’ growin’ up.” Simon said, hands up. “Explain it to me.” He at least looked genuine.

Millie eyed him a moment before speaking again. “Okay. So, like, you have...like...2 times, I don’t know...4. That’s like going two plus two, but four times in a row.”

“Ohhhhh…” He said, feigning like he just figured it out. “So...basically, what we have here is…?”

“It’s double digits.” She said dejected. Simon smirked. The doubt was in her head.

“Right, but it’s pretty much 13 plus 13, but five times in a row. Isn’t it?” He rose his brow, looking to her. “Ooh, or 5 plus 5 thirteen times?”

Millie furrowed her brow “No, because…”. And then it clicked. Her eyes went wide. “I get it! I get it!”

She went right to scribbling down the problem. There weren’t very many academic topics he could help out with, but finding easier ways to get an overthinking mind around simple math concepts was a specialty.

He slinked out of the room as she worked. Even from the hall, he could hear the tension in hushed voices coming from downstairs. Something was up. When Simon reached the bottom of the stairs, Virgil and Kate were in the midst of an argument.

“Look, she told me they’re out of town. I haven’t been into town in-” Kate was saying, pushing through the screen door.

“You don’t know when they’re comin’ back, kid! What happens if they do?” Virgil asked her.

“They won’t!” Kate countered.

“You don’t know that!”

Kate wheeled around on him. “Look. I can’t just stay here and hide the rest of my life. That town is my home. I should be able to go back there when I want.”

“Yeah, kid. You should. In a perfect world, ya would. But this ain’t a perfect world.” Virgil’s tone changed from chastising to soothing.

Kate’s eyes lowered a moment. “Pops…” Those brilliantly colored hues turned back up to the old man. “I’m going.”

“God damn it, girl, you ain’t got the sense the good lord gave a gopher.

Them boys find you there, how brave you gonna be?” Virgil rumbled.

Simon stepped into the room before Kate could respond. “What’s goin’ on?”

Kate gave him one look. “You. You’re comin’ with me.” She turned to Virgil with a smirk. “See? Now I got back up if somethin’ goes down.”

The old man gave Simon a once over. He certainly LOOKED the part of someone you didn’t want to tangle with. “Fine.” He finally relented. “But things go south, you get the hell outta there, y’hear?”

“We will, Pops.” She said, grabbing Simon by the arm and leading him away.

“Where...where are we going?” Simon asked, confused.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 11, 2018 7:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The actual town of Noble wasn’t exactly a metropolis. A few shops, a bunch of bars and a restaurant or two were about the only attractions. The police force was small, but everyone knew who was really in charge.

Emmett and Lyle Marks had used their daddy’s influence to treat the town like their personal playground. Cops were paid off to look the other way while Callum and his boys ran their illegal operations. Drugs, weapons, gambling were all rampant with no signs of stopping.

But with the boys and their gang off on business in Teleford, the place was safe. Simon wasn’t entirely sure what Kate’s history was there, but he could tell there were some lingering demons. Whatever those were, Virgil seemed pretty concerned. It would be up to Simon to help if they came back.

Kate was behind the wheel of her pickup, a palpable enthusiasm running through her entire being. “Usually, I have to go all the way north to Sterling to get anything. It’s, like an hour drive. Total pain in the ass.â€

Simon divided his attention between her and the setting sun. She seemed content in chattering away, so he just gave her a slight, amused little smile.

The truck passed into the town proper. A somber, wistful air fell over Kate. “I was born here.†She said. As they passed the grade school, she nodded. “My mama used to teach there.â€

“Where ARE your parents?†He enquired.

Kate frowned and didn’t look over. “Gone.†She said simply.

Simon watched her a moment before turning away. “Sorry to hear that.â€

She was silent for a long moment, her eyes focused ahead before a distant, wistful little smile crept onto her lips. “Mama was a teacher. Fourth grade. Loved her students, worked her ass off until she got sick. Used to say there wasn’t a soul alive could say they didn’t love Lily Wilder.â€

Simon could see the fondness and pride in her eyes as Kate talked about her mother. It was something he couldn’t exactly say he knew, given his childhood...but the loss and pain in her voice was something he knew all too well.

“What did your old man do?†he asked.

“Daddy was a miner.†she told him. “Had the hugest hands...hands the size a’ your head. He had one of those voices, sounded like he gargled rock salt for a livin’. Tough, hard-drinkin’ man, but a total sweetheart. One time, I wanted play beauty shop, ‘n he let me put all manner of terrible make up on him.†she chuckled. “Mama said I made him look like a two dollar whore.â€

Simon breathed out a little laugh. “I never knew mine.â€

Kate glanced over from the wheel. “Your fam?â€

“Nope.†he shook his head. “Ma never wanted me...don’t really know anything about my old man. Spent most of my time in and outta foster homes.â€

“That sucks.†She said sympathetically. It was simple, non dramatic, but genuine.

“Yeah, it does.†he sighed. “Made it alright, though.†Simon smirked to her.

Kate pulled into a parking spot in front of a bar. “Toddsâ€, the sign rea She pulled down the visor and checked herself in the mirror.

“Alright…†she said, fixing a stray hair. “Let’s do this.â€
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Last edited by Simon Toews on Tue Apr 10, 2018 6:14 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 25, 2018 11:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The bar was in full swing, country music blaring over the crowd. The haze of smoke hung heavy as they made their way in, more than a few eyes trailing the pair of them to the bar.

Kate smirked as she leaned against the bar, speaking to the busy tender. “Hey, sugartits, how about a drink.” She said gruffly.

The girl behind bar was a slim, sexy thing with black hair and big, brown eyes. Clad in a midriff-baring tight tank top and jeans that almost seemed painted on. Tattoos snaked up her arms and onto her neck. She wheeled around, an angry expression on her face.

The anger turned immediately to surprise the moment she saw Kate. “Oh my god, Katie?!”

“Heya, Maisie.” Kate grinned, the pair of them leaning across the bar for an awkward hug. The girl’s face dropped as she looked around, cautiously.

“What in the hell are you doin’ here?” she said quietly to Kate.

“Heard the boys were out of town tonight.” Kate responded, straddling a stool and settling down. “Figured I should come and enjoy the place while I can.”

Maisie eyed her worriedly. “You don’t know what this place is like now, Katie.” She looked around. “It’s dangerous. Especially for you.”

“It’s my home.” Kate said firmly. Maisie shut her eyes and shook her head. “Besides.” Kate continued, “I’ve got protection.”

Simon glanced up as she hooked a thumb back to him. As she spoke, he was looking around. Who were the biggest threats? Where were the exits? What could be used as a weapon? Maisie’s reaction to Kate set him on edge. Instincts could not be denied. He was a survivor for a reason.

“Simon.” Kate called his attention. His head snapped in her direction suddenly, it becoming clear that she had called his name more than once.

“This is Maisie. She’s an old friend.” Kate introduced him.

Maisie was eyeing him up and down, a barely contained interest in her eyes. Simon put on his best amiable smile and took her hand. “Simon. Nice to meet you.”

“Get you a drink?” Maisie asked, squeezing his hand.

“Sure. You got scotch?”

“I have Jack.” she said with grimace.

“Works for me. Bathroom?” Simon hooked a finger to the right.

“Yeah, right around the corner.” Maisie nodded. She watched as the tattooed stranger walked off, still eyeing him up and down.

“Hel-loooo, Simon.” she said in an intrigued sing-song. “So...what’s the deal there?”

Kate gave her SUCH a look. “It’s not like that.”

“Why the hell NOT?” Maisie asked like she was crazy.

Kate glanced after him. “Well, first off, I’ve only known him, like...2 days.” She said, turning back to her old friend. “Second, I think he’s got a girl back where he’s from.”

“I don’t see no ring.” Maisie said, pouring two glasses of whiskey with a smirk.

“Classy, Maze.” Kate rolled her eyes. The barkeep just grinned to herself.

“What have you been-”

Kate looked up from her drink, checking to see what had caused the sudden silence. Maisie was staring straight ahead, wide-eyed in terror. She didn’t need to know what her friend saw. She could sense him.

“Katie. Mae. Wilder.” The drawling voice said behind her. Much of the bar had hushed to a whisper. “My God. I must be seein’ a ghost, eh boys? Because last I recall...she up and disappeared.”

She turned and eyed him, the look of a cornered animal in her eyes. The man was tall, lean. Dark hair slicked back, a dark layer of stubble upon his face. He walked toward her, lighting a cigarette. “What’s the matter, Katie Mae? You ain’t happy to see me? I’m happy to see you.”

“Wyatt…”She said, her voice trembling. Whatever bravado she’d had was gone.

“Where you been?” He interrupted her. Those grey eyes stayed on her as he sat on a stool across from her. She just stared, her fingers clasping around her glass, ready to throw it. His eyes flicked to it and then back to her. “You gonna attack me, Katie? Hm? You gonna smash that glass on my head? Knock me out? Then what? Y’know...my buddies...they don’t like hitting women. But...you know what they say about bros and hos, right?” He sneered and glanced back, chuckling with his friends.

“So.” He said and nodded to her hand. “Why don’t you take your hand off that glass. And we’ll talk all friendly-like, yeah?”

Kate swallowed hard, still clutching the glass of whiskey so hard she thought it might shatter. Wyatt’s head tilted to one side. “No?” He nodded slowly and blew twin sets of smoke from his nostrils. “You know, you might be surprised to hear this. But they never found the old man’s body. You believe that? See, what I’m thinkin’...is that he might still be alive.”

Katie could feel her pulse racing, her adrenaline pumping. Fear telling her to attack or run...knowing neither would end well for her...but then...she was getting the feeling that there was no way out of this night that didn’t end badly for her.

“So.” Wyatt said. “Where is he? Where’d you two run off and hide, huh?”

Silence.

“Answer me.” When she didn’t respond, he slammed his fist on the bar, shaking the glasses and bottles. Before she could say anything a body stepped in between her and Wyatt. Simon took up his glass and looked to Maisie like he didn’t even see the situation happening between Kate and the man.

“Thanks.” He smiled to the bartender and took a sip of his whiskey.

Wyatt looked to his buddys with an incredulous grin, gesturing to the newcomer. Simon turned his back on him and looked to Kate. “So.” He said to her. “What’s up?”

Wyatt, looked at him, annoyance in his eyes. “Hey. Pal.”

Simon glanced behind him for only a second before continuing talking. “So, here’s what I’m thinking we do. Have another drink or two here, then maybe we go see what else is happening in town. They got karaoke around here?”

Kate just looked at him, terrified he was going to get them into a situation they couldn’t get out of.

“Hey, ***hole!” Wyatt said.

Simon turned to him. “Excuse me. I’m talking to my friend.”

Wyatt eyeballed him dangerously for a long moment before he gave him a toothy, sneering grin. “You’re not from around here. So...maybe you don’t know who I am. But this is my town. We run this ****ing town.”

“Yeah?” Simon said with a raise of his brows. “Nice place. You pick out the drapes?”

Wyatt narrowed his eyes. “Katie. You better tell your boyfriend here-”

“So, anyway.” Simon said turning back to her. “About that Karaoke bar?”

Wyatt grabbed him by the shoulder and in a flash, Simon whipped around and in one swift motion, pinned his face against the bar and pulled his arm out behind him. An audible gasp rose from the room. Wyatt grit his teeth, red coming out from between them. Simon got close, eyes up and watching the others. “I’m gonna tell you this once. Don’t ever put your hands me again. Do you understand me?”

Wyatt’s buddies began to move in but Simon yanked on his arm. “You take another step, I break his arm.” He leaned in again. “Tell me that you understand.”

“I’m gonna rip your f-AGH!” Simon yanked again.

“I’m not finished.” He snarled. “You go near Kate again. Talk to her. Look at her in a way I dislike...and things are gonna get very...VERY bad for you. You don’t know me. You have NO idea what I am capable of. Do not test me.”

Kate did not know what to do. Part of her wanted to tell him to break the son of a bitch’s arm. Or worse. She realized that wasn’t the part of her that REALLY wanted to leave alive. “Simon…” she said in a shaky voice.

He glanced her way and nodded. Simon yanked Wyatt to his feet, pinned his arm behind his back and grabbed him by the back of the neck. “We’re going to step outside now. And your little goon squad are gonna stay behind. Aren’t you?” He said. “Because if they don’t, one hard twist and you’re gonna need them to wipe your ass for the rest of your life.”

“You’re a dead man.” Wyatt said, spitting blood.

“Yeah.” Simon said. “I get that a lot. Move.”

Kate stuck close to him as they walked out carefully, through Wyatt’s friends. As soon as they got outside, Simon glanced to Kate.

“Go start the car.” he told her. She reached into her purse fumbling around for the keys as she ran. Every nerve was on edge, it felt like she couldn’t work her fingers properly, but she managed to get the keys in the door.

Simon’s eyes locked onto the pick up that wasn’t there when they’d arrived. That was definitely theirs. He slammed Wyatt up against the door, pinning him there, and drew a knife. He flipped the blade out, panic filling Wyatt’s eyes momentarily before he plunged it into the tire. He rose up and grabbed him by the back of the head. “You forget you ever saw me or Kate. You go on with your life...or I’m going to rain hell upon this town like you ain’t ever seen. I promise you. Do not **** with me.”

Simon wheeled him around and shoved him to the ground as Kate pulled the truck up behind him. Wyatt hit the floor, scraping his face on the concrete with a grunt. Simon quickly hopped into the truck. “Let’s go.”
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 18, 2018 6:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It was dark. Oppressively, ominously dark. Aside from the headlamps, the moon was the only source of light to be had. It had been a few miles and there was no sign of them being followed. The pair of them silent. Not even a glance was shared between them the entire time, until now. He could feel her looking at him even if he didn’t see it.

“You shouldn’t have done that.” She said. “You don’t know what he can do.”

“Yeah, well, we shouldn’t have been there to begin with, should we?” He snapped back.

She stared. “I wanted just one night. One night where I wasn’t cowering away on that farm. One night where I could see my friends and not have to be afraid of him. He wasn’t supposed to be there. They were supposed to be gone.”

Simon glanced over to her, quiet for a moment. She was heartbroken, embarrassed, but worst of all, defeated. She didn’t need his badgering. His eyes returned to the road. “Who is he?”

She glanced over, not responding at first, until they made eye contact. “Who?” He asked again.

“He’s Millie’s father.” She said quietly.

Simon couldn’t help notice that Millie never came up the entire time. “He know that?”

“No. He doesn’t know she exists.” Kate responded. “When I found out I was pregnant, I went to Virgil. Told him I had to get away from him.”

He glanced over. Most of it he could piece together. Who Virgil was to Wyatt and the relationship they shared.

“He came for me. Showed up at Virgil’s old place. So, I hid. He demanded to know where I was…” Kate looked out the window a moment, for a moment she was back there. “Virgil lied and said he’d sent me away. So Wyatt shot him. Left him for dead.”

Kate swallowed hard and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. “He barely survived the trip out of town.”

Simon’s brow creased in disbelief. “He shot his own father? Where the hell did you pick this guy up?”

“He wasn’t always like that…” She said.

“I hate to break it to you, but yeah he was. ****er was just good at hiding it.” He scoffed, eyes ahead as she stared daggers, though she knew he was right.

“I was young. He was...dangerous.” She said.

“And that did it for you, huh?”

Kate watched him a moment. “I said I was young. I should have known what he was then, but whatever the reason, I didn’t. I just...I was lonely. I wanted to be loved and I thought that’s what it was. By the time I figured things out, I was too deep.”

Simon smirked and shook his head. “Happens to the best of us.” He knew damn well, he’d gotten hooked up with the wrong person a time or two in his life. Or...you know...was the wrong guy for a few girls. “He hasn’t found you?”

“He doesn’t know about the Farm. We’re far enough out of town and off the main road to avoid him getting curious...So, we’ve been safe.” She told him.

“Until now.” Simon said.

She glanced to him. “No. No, we’re...we’re still safe.” Kate nodded, almost numbly.

“I hope so.”
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 17, 2018 4:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kate and Simon came home surprisingly early that night, and with barely a word said outside of “Good night”, she retreated to Millie’s room and closed the door. Simon himself just gave the old man a nod and went to his room.

Virgil could guess how the night went. It wasn’t like Katie to be so short and distant. Something had to have happened back in town and he was pretty sure he knew what. Wyatt had once been the old man’s pride and joy. A strong, confident kid with all the potential for greatness in the world, corrupted and broken down into the beast he’d become.

He could still remember that night when his own son and the group of thugs he called friends showed up at his doorsteps demanding to know where Kate was. That night, he’d talked to his son, his own flesh and blood from in front of the barrel of a gun. The moment that trigger was squeezed, his son died. Replaced by...this. The wound healed, with Kate’s help, but the real and emotional scar would never go away.

Virgil sat upon the porch, an acoustic guitar in his hand, and a cigarette hanging between his lips as he tuned the instrument by ear. Those sharp, hazel eyes flicked up over the miles and miles of farmland, leading out into the prairielands. The guitar tuned to his satisfaction, he took the cigarette from his lips, rested it on the bench armrest, gave the guitar a strum and began picking away at the strings,

“Oh, bury me not on the lone prairie
Where the coyotes wail and the wind blows free
And when I die don't bury me
Beneath the western sky on the lone prairie…”

His voice was that low rumble, yet somehow melodic and full of sorrow. His eyes glanced down to his plucking, fingers.

“Oh, bury me not on the lone prairie
These words came soft and painfully
From the pallid lips of a youth who lay
On his dyin’ bed at the break of day...”

Virgil picked up and took a drag of his cigarette, eyes sweeping across the expanse of land again. He exhaled in a long stream of smoke before resuming playing.

“But we buried him there on the lone prairie
Where the rattlesnakes hiss and the wind blows free
In a shallow grave, no one to grieve
Beneath the western sky... on the lone prairie.”
The bang of the screen door snapped the old man back in the moment. Simon stood there, drawing a smoke out for himself with his teeth. He gave the old man an upnod and stepped out on to the porch.

“I like that. Nice song.” He nodded, accepting a lighter from Virgil and lighting up.

“Old cowboy song. One a’ my favorites.” Virgil said, taking back his lighter and lighting another one for himself. “My Granddad used to sing that to us when we was kids, my brother n’ me.”

Simon grinned through the plume of smoke.

“You got family, kid?” Virgil asked, eyes redirecting into the night.

Simon shook his head, “Nah. Never knew my parents. Bounced around foster homes for a bit, but them people weren’t ever family. Mostly violent, drunken losers who beat my ass half-to-death or sold me off.”

Virgil’s eyes flicked his way a moment. “Sorry to hear it.”

Simon shrugged. “Never had much use for family.”

The old man regarded him with an amused little laugh. “Yeah...complicated thing, ain’t it?”

Simon thought back to what Kate had told him. Virgil’s own son...he couldn’t imagine what that had to be like. This wasn’t some drunken, violent *** hole like the people he grew up around. Virgil, for all intents and purposes, was a decent, kind man. Probably poured every bit of love into that kid, just as Simon had done with Cici. Having that kind of love be thrown aside...that couldn’t have been easy.

“I saw him.” Simon said.

Virgil didn’t even look over. He just took a drag and exhaled a moment later. “I figured you might’a.”

“No offense. But he’s kind of an *** hole.” Simon said wryly.

Virgil snickered. “Yeah. Yeah, he’s kind of a little ****, ain’t he?”

“How does that happen?” Simon asked after a good laugh.

Virgil seemed distant as he stared off, collecting his thoughts. “Man named Callum Marks. Lowlife with deep pockets and a con man. He rolled into town, got a bit of a crew...threw his money around. He was bleedin’ the town dry with debt to him. Eventually, he even had the sheriff’s department in his pocket.” The old man took one last drag and flicked it away.

“I saw what he was doin’. Saw the strongarm tactics he used to extort the people there and watched the goons with a ****in’ badge look the other way. Wyatt was tough. But young and angry. Perfect mark for a man like Marks. Promised my boy the world. Promised him power. When I started actually enforcin’ the law, messin’ with his business, he didn’t like it very much. By the time I was able to talk to Wyatt, he’d been turned against me.” He sighed and ran a hand through his silver hair. “I just didn’t know how far he’d fallen.”

Simon nodded slowly, stomping out his cigarette with heel of his boot. “Did you know Kate back then?”

A smile crossed the old man’s lips then. “Oh, hell. I known Katie all her life. Bein’ a cop in a small town, meant knowin’ everybody. And bein’ the one honest cop in that town later on, meant everyone knew, too.”

“She knew to go to you.” Simon asked, though it wasn’t really a question. Virgil nodded in response. “That had to be a tough decision.”

Virgil sniffed at the air and shook his head. “She had my grandbaby in her.” Those hazel eyes turned to Simon. “My son might have been a rotten sumbitch...but that girl was family now. Wouldn’t take it back for the world.”

Simon smiled, but it faded. “If you saw him again...what would you say?”

The old man looked distant, sad for a moment, but a smile crept on out. “I’d tell him I love him. Even after all he done. I’d tell him I was sorry I wasn’t good enough a dad to keep him decent. I’d tell him…” A weary sigh made its way out of him. “I’d tell him he’s got a beautiful baby girl. And it’s a shame he’ll never know that.”

It was odd to hear, the amount of affection in Virgil’s voice. Even after all the bad that had been done, he still loved his son. It was odd, but Simon got it.

“Fatherhood.” Simon said. “****ed up, ain’t it?”

Virgil grinned up at him. “Damn right, kid. Damn right.”
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2018 10:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another early morning and another day of hard work ahead of him, Simon rose from his bed. The floorboards creaked as he made his way into the bathroom, those battered, misshapen knuckles turning on the faucet. The cool water splashed up onto his face removed what little sleep was left in him. As he straightened back up, he saw the man on the other side of the mirror.

As much as he’d like to pretend otherwise, that reflection was still the man he’d always been. Last night was only proof of it. All it took was one push and *that* guy stirred right awake. The dangerous, angry, violent bruiser who wanted to bash that little prick’s face into mush. It was only Kate and the man’s little posse that had held him at bay.

It was supposed to be done. It was supposed be left behind, he thought. A knock at the door pulled him out of his thoughts, his attention snapping to the sound.

“I gotta potty!” Came that little girl’s voice from the other side.

Simon breathed a little laugh. “Be right out.” He dried his face, took one last look and opened the door. Millie beamed up at him and gave a little wave. “Hi.”

“Heya, little sprout.”

“Move. Gotta tinkle.” Her sweet, polite demeanor completely dropping as she brushed past him and slammed the door behind her, leaving him standing out in the hall.

Simon didn’t see Kate before he went out into the fields. Nor did her see her all day as he worked with Virgil. There was little conversation to be held there beyond the job. They were focused on the tasks at hand, which suited Simon just fine.

It was about 2 PM when he finally went in to take a break and grab something to drink. Kate was in the kitchen, pouring herself a glass of lemonade. Both of them stopped at the sight of each other, an awkward moment of panic between the two that neither truly understood.

She managed a smile and offered the jug to him. “Somethin’ to drink?”

A little grin worked its way out and he nodded. “Please.”

Kate grabbed a glass and went to work as he made his way to the sink to wash up. He heard the glass clink down hard on the countertop and glanced back to find Kate propped up on both hands, her back to him. Something was up.

“Look…”She started. “I’m sorry about last night. I…” the words caught in her throat and she shook her head. “It was stupid to go back there.”

She turned around and wrapped her arms around herself, looking entirely vulnerable. “I just...that was my home. I wanted-”

“I know.” He said simply. “I get it. I’m sorry I was short with you. Just...nerves.”

Her eyes shut as she clung to herself. “God, I am just so...scared. What if he comes here? What if he finds out about this place? About Millie?”

“Then I’ll deal with him.” There was no hesitation or doubt in his voice. The things he’d done in his life, the men he’d killed...Wyatt Marston was nothing.

“Simon…”she said as if he were being obtuse. “He’s a killer. You were lucky you got out alive last night. Now he knows who you are and what you can do. And he won’t come alone.”

Oh, the irony, Simon thought. He stepped up to her and put a hand on the worried mother’s shoulder. He leveled those blue eyes on her’s. “Kate. I will not let that son of a bitch do anything to you or Millie. I swear.”

Her face wrenched up as the tears came and her arms wrapped around his shoulders, clinging to him tightly. Hesitantly, his arms went around her, comforting her as best he could.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2018 11:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wyatt sat on the front porch of Callum’s Ranch, a wet rag wrapped around ice pressed to his scraped face, his dirty cowboy boots kicked up on the railing. Whoever that punk rolling with Kate was had got the drop on him. He admitted it. He’d underestimated the stranger, but it wouldn’t happen again.

“You look like hammered ****, kid.” Came that familiar, raspy old voice. Wyatt glanced up to see Callum standing over him. The old man was a bit paunchier than he had been when they met and his hair gone silver and thinning, but that scarred face still had that trademark sneer.

Wyatt set his feet down to let the man pass and take the seat beside him. Marks sat down and handed a beer bottle his way. “Wanna tell me what happened?”

Wyatt glanced down at the bottle and then back up a moment before taking it and knocking it back for a good swig. “Saw Katie last night at Todd’s.”

Callum snickered and took a drink himself. “Katie Wilder. Well, I’ll be God damned. How she lookin’ these days?”

Wyatt’s brows rose. “Oh...she’s lookin’ plenty good.” He admitted. “Runnin’ around with some sawed up prick covered in tattoos.”

“And he’s the one who sandblasted your face with concrete, eh?”
Wyatt looked off, his ego hurt worse than his cheek and brow. He twisted his mouth around and spat to one side. “Yeah.”

“How, may I ask, in the **** did you let some punk get the best a’ you?” Callum asked, a theatrically perplexed expression on his face. “That ain’t like you. I thought you was a bad-ass, through n’ through. Ain’t nothin’ Wyatt Marston can’t handle. You know that’s what I tell ;’em. So, how does some ****-kickin’ inked up little **** get one over on YOU?”

Wyatt gave him a look that was pure fire. “I underestimated the sumbitch. Next time I see the ****er, he’s dead.”

That toothy, scarred sneer came back as Callum nodded slowly. “Hell yeah. That’s the man I’m talkin’ about.” Marks took another pull off the bottle and stared off a moment.

“So. Where’s your girl been hidin’?” Callum asked. “She got your old man with her?”

Wyatt shook his head. “No idea. They took off before we could get after ‘em.”

“She talk to anybody?”

Wyatt glanced over and shrugged. “Maisie, I s’pose.”

“Dark hair? Brown eyes as big as her tits?” Callum asked.

Wyatt chuckled and nodded. “Yeah, that’s the one.”

Callum gnawed on the inside of his cheek, thinking. “Maybe you oughta pay her a visit. See what she knows.”

“Didn’t seem like she-” Wyatt began to say before being cut off.

“Maybe you misunderstood me, Wyatt.” Callum said and polished off the beer bottle. “Last night, you got embarrassed in a room full of the very people we need to keep in ****in’ line.”

Wyatt froze. Cal’s voice never rose, but the threat there was absolutely unmistakable.

“That ain’t gonna fly.” he said shaking his head. “You find that little **** and you ask her how in the Hell Katie Wilder knew we was s’posed to be gone last night. You find out where that little bitch lives. You round up some boys and you go there and you burn that ****in’ place to the ground and kill your sumbitch daddy and her boyfriend along with ‘er.”

Wyatt nodded slowly.

“And…”Callum added, pointing upward, hesitating a moment and shaking his finger. “Maisie Travers decides she don’t wanna talk? You break her ****in’ jaw so everyone knows what happens when you cross us. This ain’t kiddie play time. This is the big show, kid. Either these people *fear* us...or we might as well be like them useless pricks in the Sheriff’s department.”

Callum tilted his head, catching Wyatt’s eyes. “You understand me?”

Wyatt turned his head toward the older man and nodded. “I’ll take care of it.”

Cal nodded, the sneer back in place. “Atta boy. Knew you would.”
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 22, 2018 11:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Virgil wiped the sweat from his brow on his sleeve, squinting at the setting sun. He’d sent Simon inside while he finished up with his duties.

Strange young man, that one. Looked like a punk, but he seemed a decent enough fella. Good worker, respectful. Outgoing, friendly, but also sorta sad. There was just something he liked about the stranger.

The sound of laughter drew his attention toward the house. Katie was leaning against the kitchen counter, smiling brightly as he and Millie were goofing around. It had been a while since he’d heard the woman laugh like that. Even longer since he’d seen that smile. And Millie was quite taken with the fella, too.

It should have filled him with joy, he thought. But, instead, it just worried him. Those sharp hazel eyes lowered a moment and he set off to go inside.

They were sat around the dinner table, quietly eating, a bit later. Simon glanced beside him to Millie. The little girl gave him a saccharine sweet smile. He quickly stuck his tongue out at her, a small smirk forming.

Millie’s face scrunched up like she was comically angry. Simon grinned and crossed his eyes at her, so she tucked her lower lip over her bottom teeth and rose her brows, looking at her nose.

Simon suppressed a laugh and mimicked the same look, jutting his jaw to one side and tilted his head, getting a giggle from the little one.

“Kids.” Kate said with a playfully reproachful tone. “Knock off the theatrics and eat your dinner or no dessert.”

“She started it.” Simon said, acting all put out.

Millie’s eyes went wide as she gasped. “Nuh Uh! Oh, You’re a liar!”

He gasped theatrically, putting a hand upon his chest, mouthing “Me?!”

Kate smirked at them both. “Eat.”

Simon smirked to Millie and gave her a little wink, a giggle leaving the girl.

Virgil couldn’t help the smile that came to his face, despite the misgivings he felt. Dinner finished, he nodded to the girls. “We’ll get the dishes, ladies.”

Kate blew a raspberry. “Oh no. I’ll get it, Pops.”

“Nah, go on kid. You cooked, we’ll deal with this. And get this girl some ice cream. She looks famished.” He smiled to his granddaughter.

Millie was thoroughly onboard with this plan. She immediately tugged her mom’s arm and got her to make them a couple bowls.

Simon wasn’t stupid. He could tell something was up, but he could play along. The two men were at work again, cleaning the dishes as the sound of tv filtered in.

“So.” Simon said. “We don’t have long. What’s wrong?”

“You ‘n Katie seem to be gettin’ on.” Virgil said.

“Yeah, she’s a lotta fun.” Simon nodded. “That a problem?”

Virgil glanced up from his plate a moment. “I don’t know what your angle is, kid. What you’re plannin’ on doin’ here.”

“I’m not-“

“Listen. Them girls been through enough. Katie especially. She’s seen more’n her fair share a’ hurt. And I think you’re just settin’ her up for more.”

Simon looked taken aback. “Whoa, whoa, Virgil...it ain’t like that. We’re-“

“Friends. Yeah. I get it.” The old man nodded. “And I’m sure you mean well. Sure you ain’t out hurt her none...but some men are born unto trouble. Ain’t always their intent, but…no matter what they do, trouble follows ‘em.”

Virgil looked him dead in the eye. “I smell trouble comin off you like stink on a cow pie.”

Simon opened his mouth to speak but changed his mind, opting to remain silent.

“Them girls are all I got. All I’ll ever have. Don’t you dare put yourself in a position to hurt ‘em.” He rumbled. “You understand me?”

Simon simply nodded.

“Remember...one day, you’re gonna leave. And, if you break their hearts n’ leave me to pick up the pieces…”

“I get it. I do.” Simon turned those blue eyes down to the sink. “Just been a while...forgot what it felt like. Family. Kinda got lost in it…”

It wasn’t that he loved Kate or anything. They were strictly platonic as far as he was concerned. This was something else. But Virgil was right. Trouble followed Simon wherever he went and good people paid the price.

Virgil watched him a moment. “You’re a good man, Simon. Don’t let nobody tell ya different.”
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 24, 2018 12:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The sun was just rising when Maisie finally returned home from a long shift behind the bar. Working that bar was absolutely draining sometimes and last night was no exception. Everything hurt, from the throbbing in her temples, the burning in her eyes from the haze of cigarette smoke, and the aching muscles of her legs from being on her feet all night. She was ready for a long bath and a full-day’s sleep to recharged.

That was the plan, anyway.

She stepped into her crummy little apartment, tossing the keys on the table by the door, completely failing to notice the figure sitting in her kitchen. She just walked to the closet and pulled off her hoodie.

It was the drum of fingertips on the cheap wood of the table that snapped her into reality. Maisie’s heart nearly leapt out of her chest, a startled yelp escaping her as she rapidly backed up into her front door.

Wyatt sat there, those aqua blue eyes, regarding her with a touch of amusement. “Heya, there, Maisie.”

She hadn’t seen him in the two days since Katie came back to town. The usually ruggedly handsome man was looking a little worse for wear. One side of his face was scraped and scratched to hell, a nasty bruise circling his left eye. Something inside of her screamed for her to run, but the terror she felt stayed her tired limbs and all she could do was try not to tremble. Besides, he was no doubt armed...and if he so chose, she could not outrun a bullet.

“W-Wyatt...what-what are y-you doin’ here?” She stammered.

Wyatt sniffed at the air of the place. A musty, old smell that mingled with the scent of her perfume and beauty products. It probably could use a good cleaning. “Nice place you got here.” He said.

Her eyes were darting like mad, probably searching for a weapon to defend herself, he decided. “Thanks…”

A derisive laugh escaped the intruder. “I’m kiddin’. It’s a ****hole.”

Maisie didn’t so much as blink in response. Just waited.

“But hey.” Wyatt said, holding up his hands. “Ain’t my place to judge. You should see my place. Makes this your’s look like a royal ****in’ palace.” He grinned to her, letting that oppressive silence hang between them.

He gave the chair beside him a little kick, pushing it out for her. “Why don’t you have a little seat, Maze?”

She hesitated, looking very much like a dog who’d caught one too many beatings in its time to trust him. But those eyes stayed on her, promising all manner of unpleasantness if she refused. Finally, she made her way over and sat.

He kept up that amiable facade, smiling to her from the other side of the table. “So. Hell of a thing the other night, huh? Katie Mae. Runnin’ around town again after all these years. You believe that?”

Maisie didn’t respond, she just watched him with those wide, terror-filled eyes.

“And on the night we was supposed to head out of town, too! Don’t that just beat all?” He asked her, knowing damn well she wouldn’t say a word. “Y’see….that there? That bothers me.”

Wyatt ran his tongue along his teeth and squinted as if thinking. “How does the illusive beauty...know that? Hm?” He asked her. “How? Unless...well...she knows someone in town. And they mentioned it to her.”

Maisie’s eyes flicked to the knife block by the stove. She tried to do the math on how quickly she could get to it before he got her. It just wasn’t in the cards

“But...that can’t be right? Because ain’t a soul in town don’t know that I been wantin’ to know where the hell that little bitch gone to back in the day, right?” He leaned into her field of vision, making her look at him. “Right?”

“R-right…” She nodded quickly.

“So.” He nodded with that joyless smile. “I’m not sayin’ I don’t trust you, Maze. But...I gotta ask. Do you know where she is?”

Maisie shook her head almost desperately. It was the truth. She kept in touch with her, but she had no idea where her friend was living. Kate was being careful.

“No.” He nodded. “Damn. That would’a made it easier.”

Wyatt stood up slowly, towering over her as she began to whimper, the tears filling her eyes. “Please….”She managed in a strangled whisper.

“Please, what?” He said with a theatrically puzzled expression.

“Don’t hurt me…”

Wyatt’s lips curled up in a bit of a sneer, not too far removed from Cal’s. “You been talkin’ to her.” He said simply.

His hands ran through his hair as he paced. “God damn it, Maisie! I-” He sighed, like he was just annoyed. “That was stupid.”

For a moment, he put on a show of mulling over his next move until finally, he turned to her. “Your phone.” Wyatt held out of his hand.

She fumbled through her purse but managed to pull it out, handing it over with shaking hands. Wyatt flipped through her contacts and landed on his target. He smirked and then held the phone up, gesturing with it.

“I’m taking this. I’m gonna have one of my friends in the department run this number. And you’re gonna keep your mouth shut.” He said. “I hear even a hint that you called her and warned her? It’s gonna get very bad for you.”

Maisie’s eyes clamped shut as she tried not to sob. Wyatt took her gently by the chin. “Hey. Look at me.”

Those big brown eyes slowly opened, red with tears. She was a cute little thing, he thought. She had all those tattoos, trying to toughen herself up, but at heart, she was just some scared little girl. All he had to do was press her a bit. Like so many others, she fell in line.

That gentle smile spread across his battered face. “Hey. Smile. I just saved your life.”
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 01, 2018 1:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

His name was Hank Austin. A thin, wiry, jittery sort of man. He constantly seemed on the verge of snapping, his nervous energy setting people on edge. The drugs that nearly always inhabited his system didn’t help, nor did that lack of sleep. Dark bags under his eyes were hidden under dark sunglasses while his fingers drummed agitatedly against the steering wheel. Blonde, receding hair was kept short and bristly atop his head.

People underestimated Hank, due to his appearance, but he was equal parts brilliant and dangerous. One time a rival crew tried to jump him and Hank killed all of them with a pocket knife and left a severed head upon the hood of their leader’s old Buick. He then went to the leaders house, bound and gagged his wife and children, and caused a gas leak that killed them. Nobody messed with him from that day on.

Hank was a killer, an assassin. When a situation called for scorched earth, you called Hank. Today, he was there in case Maisie said no. Wyatt opened the door and slid into the passenger seat. Hank recoiled in surprise before he saw who it was.

“Easy, Panky.†Wyatt said. “Just me.â€

Panky. He hated that ****ing nickname. “Hanky Panky†had followed him since childhood, and Wyatt loved to tease him about it. Most people would have been too afraid to even dare, but not Wyatt. Hell, most people would have gotten a knife to the jugular, but Hank liked Wyatt. He was solid, and despite the teasing, he was dependable.

Hank scratched his neck and let out an annoyed sigh. “I have asked you repeatedly to stop calling me that.â€

Wyatt smirked. “Lighten up, Panky. It’s a beautiful day.†He leaned over, pulling Maisie’s phone from his pocket.

Behind those dark sunglasses, bloodshot green eyes flicked to the phone and then back up to Wyatt. “She put up a fuss?â€

“Did your phone ring?†Wyatt smirked to him,. “No. I might have mentioned something...unfortunate might happen if she didn’t start runnin’ her yap, and she spilled like a broken dam.â€

Part of Hank was a little disappointed. He wasn’t fond of playing the part of chauffeur. But Callum paid well, so how much could he really bitch about it? Wyatt fished a cigarette out of his pack and started lighting it.

“I want you to take that phone, trace that number, and find where they’re hiding.†he finally got the cig lit and took a long drag. With an exhale through his nose, he glanced to Hank. “Then I want you to go there and do what you do.â€

“Quick?†was his only question. Wyatt’s expression softened, then as he considered.

“For Katie...yeah. The old man and her boyfriend...go nuts.â€

Hank had heard about the guy. He’d taken the job out of town on his own, that night. He was almost impressed when he’d heard some tatted up city *** hole got one over on Wyatt Marston. Hell, the kid might even prove to put up a fight. If there was one thing Hank liked, it was a challenge.
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PostPosted: Sun Apr 01, 2018 2:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

He sat on the porch, a sandwich in one hand and a butterfly knife in the other. Simon chewed his lunch, staring out at the mid-day sun. Virgil had gone to meet a contact out North to get the parts for Simon’s car. The old man had insisted he stay behind “just in caseâ€.

The knife whirled around, blade out and then just as quickly, the knife was closed.

“What’s that?†He heard Millie’s voice.

Simon glanced over to find the girl standing in the doorway. He smirked and held up the sandwich. “Ham and salami with swiss.â€

Millie gave him an unamused look. “No. That.†she pointed to the knife. The tattooed man glanced to his blade and whirled it shut, offering the object to her. As she reached for it, he moved it out of her reach, looking authoritative. “Be careful with this. It ain’t a toy. Got it?â€

“I got it. I’ll be real careful.â€

“No lost fingers?†It was more of a command than a question.

“All of ‘em.†Millie nodded firmly and took hold of the folded knife to her.

With two hands, she unlocked it and unfolded the blade. There was a hint of annoyance in her face. “How’d you do it? I wanna do it like you.â€

“You want to know how to flip it like that?†He grinned. Millie nodded excitedly. Simon smirked, thinking about it a moment.

“Eh. What the hell.†He shrugged.

“That’s a bad word.†She said. “You shouldn’t say ‘hell’.â€

“You’re right. Heck. What the heck.†He nodded to her. “Alright. Close it up.†Simon gestured to her weapon.

Carefully, she folded it shut and held it in front of her, looking a tiny bit awkward.

“Make sure you got that clasp on there.†He said as she double checked. “Good. Now...with your pinky, flip the clasp and give it a flick with your wrist.â€

She looked at him like he was a madman. “We said no lost fingers.â€

Simon chuckled. “I promise. You’ll be fine. It’s the blunt part of the blade, it won’t cut you.â€

Millie gave him SUCH a look. She was going to trust him, but she had her eye on him. She gave it a flick and the knife opened, but the other side of the handle dangled over her knuckles.

“Good job.†He said. “Rotate it around...and then flip it back and catch the other side of the handle.â€

Millie did it and gasped, her eyes wide and excited. “I did it! I did the thing!â€

Simon glanced around with clenched teeth, though his amusement was impossible to miss. “Easy with that, I don’t wanna get in trouble with your mama.â€

Millie hunched up and looked around in mild panic, her voice dropping to a whisper. “Oh right...right. But yaaaaay.â€

“To close it, basically do the same thing.†Once again, she did it in slow motion. Simon smirked to the kid. “You’re a natural, kiddo.â€

She looked SO proud of herself. “Now,†Simon said. “Can you do it quick? Like all in one motion, no stoppin’?â€

Millie’s brow furrowed as she stared at the object in her hand. She was determined. She really went for it and just kind of ended up flopping the thing about.

“Grrrr….†She snarled, frustrated. “I can do this.â€

Again and again she tried until finally, in a whirl of motion she had it. A gasp left the little girl as she looked up to him with an ear-to-ear grin. “That was COOL.â€

Simon chuckled and took one looked around. “Yeah, that was pretty cool.†He agreed. The events of the past few days went through his mind. Dangerous men were no doubt looking for them. Millie’s father would be one of them. It wasn’t enough to hope for the best right now. They would have to be prepared.

“Millie?†He ventured.

The girl was busy practicing. “Yeah?â€

“I want you to hold onto that knife.†He said.

NOW she looked at him like he was insane. “You…you’re giving it to me?â€

Simon nodded. “There are bad men out there in the world. Any of them tries to take you, hurt you...whatever. You keep that on you, and first chance you get...you put it right here.†He pointed at the spot just above his knee. “You bury that thing all the way in and you run. Got it?â€

Millie looked concerned. She wasn’t sure what was going on, but she wasn’t stupid. Her mother had spent hours crying after the trip into town. Now, their new visitor was giving her a knife and telling her to stab “bad men†who might try to take her.

Are we in trouble?†she asked him.

Simon did his best to give her a reassuring smile. “No. But it’s good to be prepared, right?â€

Millie didn’t look convinced but she nodded anyway.

“You keep practicing. Get real good with it...and remember… don’t tell your mom.â€
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 03, 2018 1:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Simon stirred in his sleep. He was back there, in that old warehouse, the smell of gas in his nostrils. He tried to crawl, to beg as Cici’s screams filled the air. She begged for help, begged for salvation that would never come. Simon screamed for her without sound as the flames engulfed the car, his little girl struggling and fighting in vain.

And suddenly, he was awake. Kate hovered over him and she was shaking him. “Simon!â€

He panted, looking around, his tank-top drenched in cold sweat. Kate looked a bit panicked, trying to calm him. “What the hell were you dreamin’ about? You were practically screamin’, I thought you were possessed or somethin’. I was two minutes away from gettin’ a pair a’ priests out here!â€

Simon looked around perplexed, his fingers going to the bridge of his nose as he took in a breath and released it with a “Guh….â€

His chest rose and fell evenly as he caught his breath. Those blue eyes landed on her’s, staring a moment. “Sorry...Just...just a bad dream.â€

“No ****.†She said. “Come on. Let’s get some air.â€

Moments later, Simon was sat upon the porch steps, a cigarette dangling between his lips as he fished around for his lighter. Kate stepped out, pulling on a hoodie, though she still wore shorts. She settled in beside him as he lit up.

“I thought we were getting FRESH air.†She said wryly.

He took in the smoke, holding it in his lungs a moment before letting it come out in a plume, a smirk forming.

“Does this not count?†He asked.

Kate watched with those brilliant eyes of her’s. She glanced back at the house and stole the cigarette from him and took a drag herself.

Simon grinned over to her. “You know those things ain’t good for ya?â€

Her eyes widened as if he’d told her something she didn’t know. “What?!â€

Simon chuckled and shook his head. “Hypocrite.â€

“So.†Kate said, letting the smoke leave her nostrils. “What was it? The dream.â€

For a moment he didn’t answer. Simon sat and thought...but finally decided to trust her. “My daughter.â€

Kate’s brows knit together as she passed the cig back his way. “You don’t talk about her.â€

“Ain’t exactly a pleasant story.†He said.

Kate looked him in the eye and steeled herself. “Alright.â€

“‘Alright’ what?†He asked.

“Alright, Tell me.â€

He turned to her gravely. “You don’t wanna hear this.â€

“Simon...what happened?†She asked as gently as she could muster.

“Same thing that always happens.†He responded. “Found somethin’ good...somethin’ pure...and I ****ed it up.â€

She tilted her head doubtfully. “I don’t think that’s true…â€

“You don’t know.†He said with a shake of his head. “I was supposed to protect her. Keep my little girl safe. But I couldn’t. Now, she’s gone and me? I’m still here. I’m ALWAYS...still here.â€

“You can’t hate yourself for survivin’. That’s insane. Being alive doesn’t make you a bad person, Simon. Frankly, from what I seen, you’re a damn good one.â€

“You don’t know a damn thing about me.†He snapped suddenly, making Kate recoil. “Who I am. What I done. You don’t know me. If you did, if you were smart, you’d run. Run and never look back.â€

She blinked at him, perplexed. “Simon…â€

“Kate. I ain’t any better than that sumbitch you ran from.â€

She gawked at him. “Okay. I ain’t one to rain on anyone else’s pity parade...but that’s bull ****. Wyatt is a murderer and a lowlife. He don’t have a decent bone in his body.â€

“And I’m not?†He looked away and off into the distance. “I’m a killer.†He said simply. “I’ve taken so many lives, I’ve long ago lost count. I’ve tried so many times to wash that blood off, but it just don’t come off…â€

She studied him a moment. “You don’t seem the type.â€

He snorted. “I don’t?†Simon knew what he looked like. He was a walking red flag.

Kate smirked at him and snatched his cigarette and took a drag before handing it back. Simon stared at the smoldering butt a moment, before bringing it to his lips.

“They burned her. Made me watch...as they burned my daughter alive.†His voice wavered. He flicked that cigarette away and looked to her. “So, I killed them. Every last one of ‘em. Burned the entire damn organization to the ****in’ ground. And a few weeks ago, others came for me. And I killed them, too. That’s why I’m here. Why I’m not sitting in a cushy penthouse, sipping champagne in a hot tub.â€

“You feel guilty about that?†She asked him. “Simon...you lost a child. They took your little girl from you. I can’t imagine how far I’d go if someone did that with Millie…â€

“And you don’t want to know.†He said simply. “It’s so easy. It’s disturbing how easy. You pull a trigger and they’re gone forever. Never hurt ya again. But after awhile, you end up carryin’ that weight. Because you know what?â€

Kate watched him with a furrowed brow.

“I killed all those people and my baby’s still dead. I didn’t feel like I won nothin’. I just felt empty. Aimless.†He said. “I wished I’d died instead. In some ways, I guess I kinda did…â€

She reached out and put a finger to his neck, feeling his pulse. “Still kickin’.â€

Simon smiled, his head lolling to one side. Kate pulled her hoodie over her legs and hugged her knees to her chest. “Look...I’m not going to pretend to know what it was like to go through and carry that for so long...but I think it’s important to...let the past be passed. You find something or someone knew to live for. For me it was Millie.â€

She swept a strand of hair behind her ear. “I lost my home, my friends, and everything I’d ever known except for Pops. I didn’t know what to do. I was just depressed and lonely. I cried myself to sleep every night… I considered ending it more times than I care to admit. But, 8 months later, there she was. My reason to go on. My purpose.â€

“I’ll have to go find myself a Millie, huh?†He smiled.

“Or you could just stay…â€. She said, not making eye contact.

“Kate…†he said.

“I know. You’ve got a girl back home, but...you could have a family here. Millie, Pops...me.†She l so hopeful, but the fear was impossible to miss.

“Kate...I would be lucky to be with you. To call this place home…†he said. “But I love her. Tahlia is...she’s worth it. I don’t know for sure, but she might be my reason. My Millie.â€

Kate lowered her eyes, her head hanging low. “I’m sorry. I just… You’re a good man. No matter how much you deny it. There are so few of you out there. I hope she’s worth it. I really do.â€

She wrapped her arms around his arm and leaned against his shoulder. “I’m glad I met you.â€

Simon rested his cheek to the side of her head. “Me too.â€
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 11, 2018 9:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This ****ing heat, Hank thought, sitting on the side of the road. His banged up 09 Charger was covered in dust and tiny dents. The trace he’d put in wasn’t exact, but it put the pair of them somewhere in the vicinity. Even the occasional gust of wind offered no respite. It just moved the heat around. He lamented the fact that he never got the AC fixed on the damn thing, as he was sweating like whore in church.

He leaned out the window and spit some of the dip out of the side of his mouth, most of it splattering against the outside of the door in big, brown, runny glop. If Hank noticed or cared, he didn’t show it. Behind those dark shades, those wired, sleep-deprived eyes flicked up and down to his phone, the rough location marked on his GPS.

But there was nothing. Just this long, dusty, lone stretch of highway that seemed to go on forever. No side roads, no signs anything had come around these parts in some time.

“Panky.†Wyatt’s voice crackled over his FRS. Hank glared down at the hand-held radio as if it could translate the pure burning hatred he had for that stupid ****ing nickname. Slowly, he brought it up near his lips.

“Yup.†He uttered around the wad bulging behind his lip.

“What’s it looking like out there?†he asked.

“A hundred fifty miles of dirt,farmland, and swamp-nuts with absolute butt-**** nothin’ in every goddamn direction. You?†the skinny man drawled.

“Ain’t nobody out here but us chickens. Keep your eyes open, yeah, Panky?†Wyatt said, the teasing tone in his voice barely evident toward the end.

One last wad of gooey spit splatted against the side of the car as Hank leaned out before he put it into drive. He squinted ahead, just barely making out something in the distance. Through the wavering heat, he almost thought it was a mirage. But, as he pressed the accelerator, he began to realize it was actually there. From the best he could see, it was likely a truck.

Best to keep his distance, he thought. It wouldn’t do to spook his prey. The Charger rolled along down the dusty road, his brain formulating a plan even as he pursued them. There was only one place they could be heading.

Sterling was about 30 miles down the road from Noble. The nearest semblance of society for a couple hundred, Give or take a rest stop or two.

So, hang back it was. The further he went, the more he questioned just where in the hell it was they had come from. There was no road on the map, that was for damn sure, and this ****hole wasn’t exactly crying for development.

The car slowed as he came to the “roadâ€. It could hardly be called a “roadâ€, in reality. Just a gravel path that lead off into the distance. Hank glanced to the shrinking dot down the road and turned his gaze back to the drive beside him.

The odds that it had actually been them were slim...but something inside Hank told him he was on the right track. He turned the wheel and headed down the path. If his hunch was correct Hank was about to have himself some fun.
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 11, 2018 7:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wyatt sat in his truck, a hand rolled cigarette burning between his lips. Those sharp, alert eyes scanning over widespread nothing. It was amazing to him that, at some point this expanse ended and became a city. None of that mattered out there. Out there, it was just Noble.

His gaze flicked down to the old revolver in his lap. “The Dead Man’s Gun†The thing was damn near ancient. Were it not so well cared for, he was certain it would be little more than a fancy paper weight. The colt revolver had been in his family for generations. It had been handed down from father to son since it was taken in a duel in 1882 by Wyatt’s great-great-grandfather, according to family lore. A stranger had wandered into town, thinking he was a real cold son of a bitch, when Edwin Marston drew down on him and put him, forever, into the ground. Nobody ever learned his name. He was just known as “The Dead Manâ€.

Wyatt had taken it from his father the night he shot him. It was his birthright. It belonged to him. He only expedited the process. The night he’d pulled that trigger hadn’t exactly been an easy one. If you asked him, that night, he’d been betrayed by his father AND his girl. It pained him to put the old man down.

Or so he thought. Virgil would never remember, but as Wyatt knelt over him, his hands shook and tears fell down his face. When he’d taken the revolver from the old man’s hand, he whispered to him, “I’m sorry.â€

It haunted him, even today. He could hide behind that false bravado and tough guy swagger to convince everyone else he was cold as ice, but deep down, it ate at him. Somewhere inside, he was terrified. Wyatt never thought he’d come survive. Never thought he’d see a reckoning, but here he was.

Virgil Marston was alive. And he hoped to God Hank finished the job first. Because he wasn’t sure he could face his father again.

Lyle Marks’ voice crackled over the radio, calling his attention away. “Wyatt? You around?â€

Wyatt brought the FRS up and thumbed the button. “Go.â€

“Nothing down south. Y’all got anything?â€

Lyle was the elder of Callum’s boys. A big, dumb brick of meat with a beer gut and a mullet that thinned up top. Emmett wasn’t much better, either. There was a reason Callum trusted Wyatt over his boys. He generally just gave them busy work like this to keep them from ****ing everything up.

“Nothin’.†He responded. “Panky’s going a little further out, but it’s looking like a bust.â€

“We’re gonna come out your way. Drop us a line when ya hear from him, hear?â€

He didn’t particularly need or want their help, not with Hank out there. Together, they were far more capable than the two boys put togther. But, they were Cal’s kids. “Yeah. I’ll hit ya back anything comes up.â€

Again, it was quiet.
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PostPosted: Thu Apr 12, 2018 1:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hank parked the car off the side of the road behind a few trees, keeping his distance from the farm. If they saw him, it could end up a firefight he didn’t have control over. That meant things would get messy. He didn’t want messy. Hank Austin liked to have a plan. To know the exits, the hiding spots. See the target in their comfort zone. He viewed it like directing a scene. He had to have complete control over everything.

No, he would keep his distance and watch. He settled into the tall grass, looking out at the cozy house surrounded by crops, alongside a large barn. He barely took his eyes off the place as he unpacked a rifle. He could see at least one figure moving from here, his hands pulling down the weapon’s tripod. At this range there wasn’t much to see.

Hank shouldered his rifle and leaned in, eye to the scope. His vision enhanced, he could now see who that figure was. Tight, white t-shirt clinging to a slim, muscular form covered in tattoos. That must have been the sumbitch roughed up Wyatt. Hank breathed a laugh. He wasn’t intimidated. All that muscle and tough-guy exterior wouldn’t matter when Hank got ahold of him. It never did.

A slash of a knife, the squeeze of a trigger, and they all crumpled, bleeding and wondering how the skinny little junky had brought them down and where the hell he came from. The hint of movement caught his attention and he swiveled the rifle to the left.

There she was. Katie Mae Wilder. Looking damn fine, if he said so himself. Litt’e black tanktop, long brown hair tinged with blonde swept behind her ears, and a pair aviators resting on top of her head. It was going to be a shame to kill her. He’d always liked her. Wicked sense of humor, kind. And smart. The average IQ among the women in Noble seemed to be in the double digits, he often mused. Katie Mae was sharp.

Yes. Killing her would be a shame. But it wasn’t personal. It was business.

If he could isolate the pair of them, he could work quickly. Wait ‘til nightfall...cause a distraction. It would be important to get him out of the picture while he did her in. Then when he came back he could-

The sudden movement from the door caught his attention. What the hell, he thought? There were supposed to be 3 of them, sure, but who the hell was it driving on down the road? But the figure who stepped out wasn’t an old cowboy. Wasn’t even an adult.

She was a tiny child. Maybe 7 or 8. Brown hair, cute little face that reflected so much of her mama. But those eyes...those were entirely her daddy’s. And that blonde bruiser was most assuredly NOT her father. No, he’d seen them all too often.

Well, that complicated matters. He wasn’t above killing a kid. Wouldn’t be the first time. But this was Wyatt’s kid. He’d want to hear about this. Suddenly, so much made sense about Kate’s sudden disappearing act.

He fished around by his belt and brought the radio to his lips. “Hey, Wyatt?â€

“What’s up, Panky?â€

Hank practically growled before responding. “I found ‘em.â€

“No **?! Where they at?â€

“Hold up. There’s somethin’ you should know.â€
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