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Ghosts (18+ violence, language, adult themes)

 
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Simon Toews
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PostPosted: Tue May 15, 2018 1:35 am    Post subject: Ghosts (18+ violence, language, adult themes) Reply with quote

(OOC: This story will contain material a lot of people may find disturbing. Fair warning.)

The young boy ran and ran and ran, rain pouring down on him in torrents. He was cold, wet and it had been days since he’d had a bite to eat. It was rare that he’d been caught stealing, but Old Man Hester had been on the ball. The last thing he’d expected was for the portly, old guy to bust out a shotgun.

Glass had shattered behind him as he let the door slowly close when he ran, the buckshot barely missing the boy. The kid ran, clinging to whatever edibles he could keep from dropping out the pockets of his hoodie. He ran until his legs felt like they might give up. And then he ran some more, a trail of junkfood behind him.

Hester hadn’t a prayer of keeping up with him, not with that big ol’ gut. The young boy dared a look back, just in case. His eyes should have been forward. He slammed into the unseen body of a man in black. The kid hit the pavement with a harsh grunt, the contraband falling from his pockets.

His eyes traveled up and up and up the tall figure, his face still shrouded in shadow. A hand reached out for him, sending up every red flag the young man had built in his young life. He was in survival mode. Quickly, he swatted the hand away and tried to scramble back, trapping himself in a corner.

“Easy, son. Easy.†The man said soothingly. “I’m not gonna hurt ya.â€

Those big hands were held up placatingly, a cigarette burning between two fingers. It was then that he saw it. A clerical collar. His all-black outfit that of a priest. He had a kindly face, but the boy had seen enough of those in his time to know it didn’t mean he was safe.

“Are you alright, lad? Are you hurt?†the priest asked.

The frightened young man just stared through wild, blue eyes, waiting for this man to make a move. The old man peered from behind glasses, noting the food scattering the ground around the boy. He couldn’t have been more than 10 or 11, he thought.

“That what you’re runnin’ for? You steal that?†he asked, but there wasn’t a hint of judgement in the old man’s voice. The boy didn’t answer. He just watched.

“I tell you what. How about, you come inside. Get a warm meal in you, Get out of this rain.†he suggested.

The kid’s fists tightened into little fists. “*** you. I ain’t stupid! I know you’re just gonna turn me in.â€

The old man’s brow furrowed. “You shouldn’t talk like that. That kinda bile shouldn’t be coming out a young man’s mouth.†His lips upturned in a little smile. “I tell you what. I’m going to head in. I have a pot of stew cooking inside. If you want to come join me? Please. You are more than welcome. If not...well, then you go right on your way. Sound good?â€

The boy didn’t answer. The man just stubbed out his cigarette and put it in a receptacle. “If I don’t see you...good luck, my son.â€

With that, the old man went inside. The boy sat out in the rain a long time, soaked to the bone. It was getting colder lately. The past few nights had been spent under cardboard boxes grabbing whatever scraps he could to make a blanket to sleep on. The father hadn’t been lying...he could smell the stew from out there. It might have been some bachelor chow junk, but to a starving boy, it smelled like heaven.

Slowly, he got up off the ground, took one look around for his pursuer, and headed inside. It was dead quiet, but for the sound of rain upon the roof and a crash of thunder. He looked around cautiously, the smell of food beckoning him into the kitchen. Every step seemed to take a lifetime as he slowly made his way in, just waiting for someone to grab him and haul him off to a home.

But it never came.

When he arrived in that dining area, the priest was pulling out a second bowl for the boy. He froze in the doorway, quiet as can be. The old man didn’t even glance back. “Sink is over there. You don’t have to, but I recommend you wash up a bit. Do you like soda? You’re welcome to whatever’s in the fridge.â€

Once again, no response from the boy. He just cautiously made his way to the fridge. He’d almost forgotten the taste of anything that wasn’t dirty water or the backwash left in a bottle. Those sharp, blue eyes taking the bounty before him in like it was the holy grail. His hands shook as he took an orange soda and cracked the top.

The boy chugged it vigorously, greedily. Nothing before and nothing after would ever taste so sweet.

“Easy now. You don’t want to go upsettin’ your stomach, lad.†The priest smiled,, setting a small portion for him on a chair. The kid didn’t move immediately of course, but eventually the call of cooked food was too tempting. He started over finally.

“Oop.†the father said, halting the boy. He nodded to the sink. Reluctantly the kid went and washed his hands and face. The water was warm, clean. It took every ounce of restraint for him not to put his head under the faucet and just drink.

The priest smiled, watching him as he finished. The little urchin stepped over and immediately dug in like a hungry dog. This kid hadn’t had a good meal in a LONG time, he thought. “Take it easy, son. Nobody’s gonna take it from you.â€

The boy looked feral when his eyes shot up to him, but he softened and slowed down.

“My name is Father Benjamin Mulcahy.†He introduced himself. “This is my home. You are welcome to stay here as long as you need. What’s mine is yours.â€

Those eyes showed he didn’t believe it. The kid was a tough nut to crack, Mulcahy thought.

“I know. It seems to good to be true, right?†He said with a self deprecating tone. “It ain’t a 5 star hotel or anything, but...it’s warm. It’s dry. It’s got food. You stick around, help out a bit...and I think you’ll see it’s not too bad.â€

God, but he was a quiet one. The boy still not speaking. He just shoved in another fork-full of stew.

“You got a name, my son?â€

Again, silence. Mulcahy nodded slowly. “I understand. When you’re ready, you can tell me.â€

The priest tucked a napkin onto his lap and started eating. For a long time it was silent between them. Just the sounds of forks clanking on bowls and the occasional chewing noise. This Mulcahy didn’t seem to have any ulterior motives. If he did, he wasn’t showing it. He just minded his business and enjoyed his meal.

“Simon.â€

Mulcahy perked, looking up from the bowl. “What’s that?â€

“My name is Simon.â€


=====================

November 14th, 2017

It’s funny how quickly things can change. How what you think you know can be flipped on its head. Coming home had been blissful...until it wasn’t. The moment he’d seen her in the arms another man, carried into his car and driving off...something broke. It didn’t take a genius to figure what most likely happened next. He knew who she was. How she was.

Even if he was wrong that night, he knew it wouldn’t be long until he was right. So, Simon did what he often did. He left.

In the past, he’d have gone to war. Used his fists to “solve†the problem. But he just didn’t have that in him. Simon Toews was tired of fighting. He left behind a picture and a note with a brief message. “I hope he’s enough.â€

Simon found himself with his few earthly possessions, sat behind the wheel of that beat up Charger, unsure of where to go. All he knew was that returning to that penthouse was absolutely out of the question. Simon was lost, and the phone currently occupying the bottom of bay ensured he would not be found.

Winter would be there soon, and it would be a bitterly cold one. A daunting concept when one was without a home. It wasn’t like he didn’t have friends...he probably could have given Orchid a call...but he knew what would likely happen if he did. And that wasn’t what he needed right now.

Almost instinctively, he reached to his pocket for a pack of cigarettes and found it empty. That was odd. He was never without a pack on him. To be honest, the last time he could remember lighting one up was back...back in Noble.

Funny how that podunk little town and that tiny farm could have had such a profound effect on him. He thought about what Kate and Millie were up to now. He hoped they had found more peace back home than he had.

Simon cursed under his breath. It just made him picture what was likely going on at that very second. He didn’t know the man currently spending an evening with the woman he’d sacrificed so much for. Frankly, he didn’t want to know.

Stop it. Focus on the next step, he reprimanded himself. Find somewhere to stay. The more he thought about it, the clearer the option became. The one person he never would have thought he’d have to depend on.

With a weary sigh, he turned onto the highway and gunned it to the only place he knew nobody would think to look.
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Corrine Paige
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PostPosted: Wed May 16, 2018 2:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Corrine Paige entered her living room, clad in yoga pants and a red tanktop. Paige liked her place neat and ordered. She wasn’t obsessive about it, she just liked everything in its place. Her feet were propped up on the ottoman, relaxed as one of the dozen or so crime procedurals she so enjoyed played out on the screen. They never got it right. There was always some sort of “triangulating†or hacking going on...and why in the hell would they allow an analyst to join the assault team? Who said that was a good idea? Still, it was entertaining enough.

The doorbell almost startled her. She didn’t get many visitors, so she wasn’t at all expecting it, especially at this hour. With a grumble, she pushed herself up with her one arm, the bell ringing again.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m comin’.†She muttered, limping on over.

The last face she expected to see was on the other side of that door. Her lips parted, staring up at the man before her. Yes. Definitely the last person she would have guessed. Simon stood there, looking a bit like a lost puppy. His face was stoic as always, but there was a pain in his eyes she hadn’t seen in a long, long time.

“Hey, Corrine.†He said softly.

She eyed him a long moment. “Toews. What, uh... “ She considered him a moment, her brow furrowing. “What the hell you doin’ here?â€

“Um…†he wouldn’t meet her eyes. In fact, he looked pretty much everywhere she wasn’t. “I need a place to stay.â€

That was discomforting. The only time Toews ever contacted her was when he was in trouble. And even then he NEVER came to her house. Corrine was almost afraid to ask the obvious.

“Well,†she said, “Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t you have a big-ass penthouse you’re shacking up with the blonde chick in?â€

Simon was silent. It was as if the words were there, but he couldn’t make them leave his lips. It wasn’t difficult to suss out what happened. She could see it in his eyes. Against her better judgement, she stepped aside, making room for him.

Simon forced an appreciative smile and stepped on through, a dufflebag slung over his shoulder. Paige followed him with her eyes, shutting the door behind him. He seemed lost, unsure of where to go and what to do. She was pretty sure he hadn’t expected to get in through the door.

“So.†She said, deciding to cut that tension. “You in some kinda trouble again? There a blonde out there handcuffed to a train I need to go rescue?â€

“Oh, she might be handcuffed to something, but it probably ain’t a train…†he tried to joke, but it just came out hollow.

Suspicions confirmed. She nodded. “So, what, you run outta **** buddies to crash with?â€

He set his bag down and leaned against the wall, letting out a sigh, the weight of the past few hours finally hitting him. “I’m sorry to come here like this. I don’t mean to inconvenience you or nothin’. I just needed to go somewhere...safe.â€

“Safe from what?†She asked, trying not to pay too much attention to the boots that were on her clean carpet.

“From me.†Simon responded. “Normally, you’re right. I’d just go out, crawl into a bottle or on top of a stranger...maybe find a face to mess up with my fists...but…†Blue eyes slid shut and he shook his head slowly, wearily. “I just can’t do it anymore.â€

He was hurting bad. The blonde must have done quite a number on him. Now didn’t seem like the time to push.

“You can stay here tonight.†She said. “I’ve got a spare bedroom down the hall.â€

“Thank you.†he managed, hefting that bag up and starting down the hall.

“Toews?†She called after him, the man freezing where he stood. “You gonna bring trouble my way?â€

He glanced back over his shoulder, his eyes meeting her’s. “No. I promise.â€

Paige gave him a stern look that told him “You damn well better not.†Finally, she gave him a curt nod.

As he started away again, she called him once more. “Toews.â€

Once again, he met her eyes. “Take your damn shoes off in my house, what do you live in a barn?â€
=========================
That first night at Mulcahy’s parish was the best sleep Simon had in weeks. He hadn’t told the man what brought him there. He hadn’t told him of the images that stuck in his head. The screaming of his foster mother. The low, stomach turning grunts and gurgles of his Tim...the drunken, violent man who had been his foster father. The sound as the bat connected with flesh and bone and blood.

He was almost certain he’d killed him. Though, through the grapevine, he’d found out the son of a bitch lived. If he had the chance, Simon would have finished the job. Too many nights, he’d heard their fighting. Seen her with black eyes, bruises, a broken finger. Too many nights, he’d gone to bed to the music of her sobs. Even at 11, it ate him up. He might have been a child, but for years he cursed himself for not doing anything.

That night, Simon did something.

The church was quiet in the morning. The sounds of the world outside filtering in to the perfect acoustics of the chapel. Light shone in through the colorful, stained glass windows. It occurred to him that he’d never actually set foot in a church as he moved through the oaken pews, his fingers trailing upon the wood. He stepped on up the altar and gazed up a the man upon the cross. The Ingrams hadn’t exactly been practicing Catholics, though they identified that way. Even holidays, they’d neglected their faith. A big no-no, or so he’d been told.

“Did you sleep well?†Mulcahy’s voice echoed into the large room, startling the boy.

Simon whipped around, gripping the altar tight. That flight response kicking in almost immediately as he looked for exits. It took a moment for him to calm himself. He just nodded.

Mulcahy nodded with that friendly smile upon his face. “I managed to find you some clothes in the donations that should fit you. After breakfast, maybe you can go through them? See if there’s anything you like.â€

Breakfast. Oh GOD, did he miss breakfast.

All throughout the day, he waited for the other shoe to drop. Mulcahy gave him little chores to do. Halfway through the day, they had cheeseburgers. The priest even complimented him on a job well done. It should have uplifted the boy, but it just made him more suspicious. As the sun set, it became apparent that this man wasn’t going to throw him out onto the streets.

Mulcahy talked to him, tried to pry more than a word or two from his young friend. It was mostly in vain, of course, but he shared about his life growing up in poverty and getting into trouble as a youth before taking his vows and choosing another path. He talked about his parishionerand how they impacted his life. Simon just listened.

Every now and again, the priest snuck in a cigarette. It seemed odd, the boy thought. A judgement the father seemed to notice. Mulcahy held up the burning butt with a frown.

“We’ve all got our vices.†He explained. “I’m a priest. Not a saint.â€

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PostPosted: Thu May 17, 2018 1:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Simon woke the next morning, memory of the previous night blissfully forgotten for just a moment. He turned and reached for the spot Tahlia would have occupied only to discover an empty space. The confusion and panic lasted for only a second, but it set his heart racing as he sat up quickly.

The pristine room around him seemed unfamiliar in the morning light. It was quiet. Only the sound of a clock gently ticking away occupied his ears. Simon let out a sigh. She was gone. Moved onto the next guy. He’d seen her. Push it down, he told himself. There would be time for this later.

When he finally made his way downstairs, Paige was already there. Paperwork was spread all over her kitchen table in neat piles as she thumbed through her tablet. She merely glanced up to him, offering a nod in greeting.

“Coffee’s fresh if you want some.†She offered, returning her attention to her work.

“Thanks.†He said, pouring himself a cup. For a moment, he almost took it black, but he remembered Kate and Millie. A smile spread across his face as he took the cream and sugar and poured.

Paige quirked a brow at him. “Thought you took it black?â€

“I did.†He nodded, stirring. “Apparently, it tastes a lot better this way.â€

“No ***.†She responded, her lips upturning in a lopsided smirk.

Simon took a seat across from her., glancing out the window as he sipped.

“So? What’s the plan?†She asked, flipping through her screen.

“Honestly?†He said. “I don’t have a ****in’ clue.â€

Paige clearly didn’t like that idea. Her eyes upturned from her tablet. “That’s not great.â€

“I just need to figure things out.â€

Corrine’s expression turned cautious. She knew what that meant. “Oh no. No, no no.â€

Simon grinned, one brow rising. “What?â€

“Look. I’m all for hospitality and helpin’ a brother when he’s down...but I ain’t runnin’ a half-way house for heartbroken ex-cons.â€

“I won’t stay long. I just need to find work and get some money and I’ll be out of your hair. I swear.â€

Paige rested her hand on the table. “You think I’m stupid? I know you. Trouble follows you like flies on ****. I worked my ass to the bone to get what I got. My debt to you, far as I’m concerned, has been repaid tenfold. I ain’t puttin’ my life or my career on the line for you again.â€

“I’m not asking you to. I’m just asking you, as a friend. Just let me crash here for a while. I won’t cause you any trouble. I promise.â€

“Oh, we’re friends now?†she said with a bitter little laugh. Paige shook her head. “You call when you need somethin’. I ain’t your friend, I’m your safety net, Toews. I don’t think you know what a friend IS anymore. I’m just the one thing with tits and two legs you ain’t tried to bed.â€

She wasn’t entirely wrong. He knew it, too. Simon blinked, lowering his eyes. “I’m trying to be better. I want to be better.â€

Whatever had happened since that night he wiped out Vicelli’s organization, Simon Toews wasn’t the same angry lost soul she’d gotten released from prison all those years ago. This was a different man. He was distraught...but not broken.

“You know…†she began. “I waited a long, long time for you to...I don’t know...try again. Kept my eye on you best I could. Saw you drinkin’ yourself stupid. Saw you disappearing and coming back around all beat up. You had a lotta potential, Toews.â€

Corrine sighed, shifting her eyes out the window. It seemed like minutes as she stared out into the world outside. “I think there’s a decent guy in there. Maybe you’re finally lettin’ him out.â€

Simon studied her, a bit of hope rising within him. “I’m tryin’.â€

The one-armed P.I. mulled it over, chewing lightly on the inside of her cheek. Finally, she turned to him. “You can stay. But there are rules in my house.â€

Simon smiled. A few hours ago, it felt like he never would again. This took him slightly by surprise. “Absolutely.â€

“One...you do not smoke in my house.†She said, pointing at him. “Two...you come in blind stinkin’ drunk? You’re out.â€

So far so good, Simon thought.

“Three.†She leveled her gaze on him, those eyes intense and serious. “You don’t bring women here. You want to go get laid, you get a hotel room. I ain’t facilitatin’ that ****. You got it?â€

Sex was the LAST thing on his mind. Even thinking of it brought up unpleasant images that turned his stomach. “That won’t be a problem.â€

“Four. You clean up after yourself, keep your room neat and you keep it clean.†she said, tapping her finger to the table. Simon nodded along, agreeing to every bit of it.

“Last...I find out you been fightin’? I see you come in here bleedin’ with a black eye, a hitch in your step...so much as a scraped knuckle...and I’m going to be very. VERY...upset. That **** is over. You get me?â€

Simon nodded. “I do. I swear. I will not let you down. I will do whatever it takes.â€

Paige t out a breath. She knew this was probably destined to fail. She wasn’t even sure why she was once again sticking her neck out for him. She knew his history. She knew about the things he’d done. But Toews had a way about him. He drew people to him. Made them want to help him, be around him, even if it might not be the smartest choice.

“Alright, Simon.†She said quietly. “You can stay.â€
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PostPosted: Fri May 18, 2018 12:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It was weeks before Simon got truly comfortable living with Mulcahy. Almost two months before he really let his guard down. Mulcahy was a decent man and he treated him well. Simon helped maintain the church, working hard for the man, even beginning to enjoy the structure living there provided him.

Mulcahy took time out of his day to educate the boy. Some days, they would go to the local park and play a little basketball. It did wonders to comfort Simon. Eventually, he began laughing again. They had long talks about life and the world. Looking toward the future.

Simon had found a home. Simon felt safe once again.


May 2018
Simon rose up from the sink, water splashed upon his face running down his skin. A deep breath left the man slow and long. The past six months had been a game changer. It was difficult to fight every urge he’d always indulged, but he did it.

Living with Corrine Paige had turned out to actually be a decent situation. She was a good roommate, and when she wasn’t being a smart-ass or a hard-ass, she was actually pretty fun.

A knock at the door stole his attention away. “Yo! You ready?†her voice called out.

Simon stood up and took one last look. He was dressed in a black suit. Just the mere hint of his tattoos creeping out from the rim of his collar. He adjusted his suit jacket with a little shrug of his shoulders.

“Yeah. Yeah, I’m good.â€

A few minutes later, they were in the car, Simon behind the wheel. Paige had her tablet balanced on her lap. “Alright. Client’s name is Tessa Bradley. You heard of her? Young singer, climbing the charts.â€

“I don’t think I’m exactly her demo.†He said with a snicker.

“Not unless you’re secretly a 14 year old girl.†Paige smirked.

“She’s 17. Bit of a wild child. Last four bodyguards bailed, citing reckless behavior and extravagant demands.†Paige read from the digital file. “Frankly, she sounds like kind of a bitch.â€

Simon smirked, turning the wheel. Paige had pulled a LOT of strings, called in a lot of favors to land him a job as private security. His jobs were often one-nighters, or at most a week. The Bradley Job would be at least a month. If he was successful, longer.

“Uh oh.†Paige said. “Sounds like we got a stage mom.â€

“Overbearing never-was trying to live through her vastly more talented kid?†It was more of a statement than a question.

“Bingo. Mary Bradley. 48. Former nail technician turned manager.†Paige continued. “Dollars to donuts, she’d got an iron grip on that kid’s finances...when she isn’t blowin’ it on stupid ****.â€

“Sounds like a dream.†He muttered.

Paige smirked over to him. “You sure you’re ready for this?â€

Simon snorted. “I’ve faced down mobsters with guns. I think I can handle a 17 year old girl. Besides. I’m good with kids.â€

Paige rose her eyebrows and slowly laughter built from her until she was full on belly laughting. “Oh...sweetie. You poor, optimistic man.â€

He made a face anglanced over. “What?â€

She suppressed her laughter and focused ahead. “Nothin’. We’ll talk when you get home.â€
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PostPosted: Mon May 28, 2018 2:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The shrill roar of a sold out stadium washed over her as she rose her hands into the air. Her cheeks hurt so bad from smiling so damn much, she wanted to scream. Thousands of young girls screamed for her chanting her name as the colorful spotlights traveled all over the stage. She was vaguely annoyed, noticing that it shone off the beads of sweat.

“Thank you! I love you all! Good night!†She said in that saccharine sweet voice, that “aw-shucks†southern accent dialed up to 11.

Tessa husseled of stage and slowly the lightshow ceased, marking the end of the evening. Immediately, the act dropped. The cheerful face was suddenly filled with disdain as one of her endless line of assistants rushed up.

“That was great, Tessa! You were amazing!â€

Tessa looked at her as one might look at a bug in their path. “Ugh. Water.â€

“I’m sorry?†the girl looked confused.

“Why are you talking to me and where is my WATER?â€

The girl stammered, looking horrified. Tessa reached out and put on that sweet voice again. “Sweetie? Sweetie? Look at me.â€

The girl finally managed to meet her eyes.

“Listen, sweetie. You’re stupid as ****. And I don’t really feel like putting up with that. So...you’re fired.â€

“But...but…â€

Tessa mocked her, repeating her words. “No. No, no. Go on. Get your stuff and get away from me. Bye bye.â€

The assistant rushed off in tears as her mother sidled up with a cold bottle of water for her. She was cold, distant, barely looking up from her phone. The pair of them walked down the hallway side-by-side.
“I don’t know what you call that display tonight, but it sure as hell isn’t singing.†the older woman said. Tessa rolled her eyes and took a long pull off her bottle. “If you WANT to blow your contract and wind up a punchline some snarky series about remembering has-beens, by all means. Keep it up. But I will not allow you to embarrass me.â€

The backstage crew gave them a wide berth as they passed.“You have an interview in 45 minutes. Get yourself cleaned up, you look like a whore at closing time.†Her mother muttered icily, pulling out a cigarette case and placing one between her lips.

Tessa shoved her way into her dressing room, leaving her mother behind outside, continuing to futz on her phone when the cigarette was lit. She barely noticed the pair who approached her.

“Excuse me, Miss Bradley?†The woman said.

Her eyes trailed up to her, she was a slim, pretty woman with dark skin, nice eyes, big hair...and one arm. Most people with common decency would at least pretend not to notice. Not Mary Bradley. She stared at it and scrunched up her face like she’d smelt something offensive.

Paige leaned into her view, giving her no option but to look her in the eye.. “I’m Detective Corrine Paige. Nice to meet you.†she offered her hand. The older woman glanced down a moment and plastered on a phony smile.

“Forgive me for not shaking. Idle hands.†She said, cigarette bobbing between her lips as she held up her phone.

Corrine kept professional, but this bitch clearly did not know death when it was 2 feet away. Mary’s eyes turned to her counterpart, taking Simon in. That impeccably tailored suit barely hid those sprawling tattoos, but Mary saw them and she did NOT approve.

“This is my daughter’s bodyguard? What gutter did you scrape him out of?†She said, appalled.

“Only the very best of gutters, Ma’am.†Simon said before Corrine could get in a word. “You’d be right at home.â€

She either didn’t understand or ignored the insult, turning haughtily to Corrine. “And what are his qualifications?â€

Paige’s brow furrowed, glancing to Simon and then back to Mary. “Qualifications? What, you want to know if he attended the Juilliard of kicking ass?â€

“If I’m going to trust my daughter’s life to this….†She made another face that made Corrine just want to choke the life out of her. “This man, if you can even call him that...I want to know if he’s good at what he does.â€

Corrine and Simon exchanged amused grins.

“He’s more than capable.†Paige assured her. The conversation was interrupted as the door opened and Tessa stepped out into the hall, much of her stage make-up removed.

Baby blue eyes swept over the scene in front of her. Her mother held the smoke between her fingers, that obnoxious ****ing look on her face. The other two she didn’t know. The black woman had that look about her that screamed “copâ€. The man, however… He told a different story.

“Who is this?†She asked, keeping that cold cool in her voice as she regarded him.

Her mother gestured to them. “This is the bottomfeeder the agency has found to protect you. Don’t get cozy with him.â€

Simon chuckled softly to himself. Tessa could see that it pissed her mother off. She liked that. She smiled sweetly to him and offered her hand.

“Hi, I’m Tessa.â€

He took it, giving a firm squeeze. “Simon Toews.â€

He could see the look of disgust on her face as she felt how rough his hands were and the misshapen form of his knuckles. To her credit, it was only momentary. She hid it almost immediately with that charming, phony smile.

“Nice to meet you.†She said, that sweet exaggerated accent affecting her voice.

A darkness crept into her mother’s eyes. Mary Bradley didn’t like this man, and Tessa revelled in it.
~~~
Mulcahy liked his booze. It was hard for the young Simon not to notice, and it didn’t exactly sit well with him. The Priest did his level best to keep it from his young charge, but a night or two had come when Simon found the man passed out with an empty whiskey bottle in-hand.

Every man had his vices. Mulcahy certainly had his. But he wasn’t a violent man. The second he laid a hand on Simon, the boy decided he would be gone. For now, he could take the evening disappearances of his friend. He could deal with the fact that the man would stumble home late at night and find sleep curled up with a bottle. Over the course of a year, he even became accustomed to it.

It was a hot afternoon, the summer sun beating down upon him as the boy did his chores. The parking lot needed cleaning, so out with his broom he went. A lot of work went into the cleanly facade of the place, removing the trash and grime that always threatened to consume it. But it was important, Mulcahy told him, that it serve as beacon to the lost in hopes of something good and pure.

Simon was sweeping up spent cigarette butts when the shadow slowly loomed over him. Something about it gave him a chill, even in that searing heat. The boy glanced over his shoulder to the man who stood behind him.

He had a kind face, eyes hidden behind a pair of a dark sunglasses. Taller than Simon, but not a tall man, topping off at 5’9â€.

“Hello there.†He said, the hints of an accent Simon couldn’t place.

The boy didn’t respond immediately. Something about him just didn’t sit right. That smile seemed plastic and phony. The facade didn’t fool Simon. Somehow, he could sense the rot beneath the surface.

“You should respond to an adult when he addresses you.†The stranger told him, that smile faltering only slightly. “You must be Simon.â€

Simon clenched his broom with white knuckles. He knew his name.

“Father Mulcahy’s told me a lot about you.†He said. “I hear you’re quite the worker. That’s good. A boy should have a good work ethic.â€

Simon wanted to hit him with broom and run. Run and never stop running. The stranger’s eyes flicked to the broom, one corner of his mouth twitching upward.

“Jakob.†Mulcahy’s voice rose from the doorway, stealing the man’s attention.

“Father.†hed in greeting. “I was just meeting your friend.â€

“Come on inside.†Mulcahy said, a cautious tone in his voice. “You finish up here while we talk, Simon.â€

Everything in that tone confirmed what Simon had suspected. This man was dangerous. Jakob looked down to the boy with a grin.

“Be seeing you. Simon.â€

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 14, 2018 12:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It wasn’t the last of the stranger Simon would see. Over the coming months, he would pop in and out on occasion. Simon would keep scarce when the man came around, though it wasn’t always so simple. He would catch a glimpse, plaster on that fake smile, and try to strike up a conversation. Simon would remain silent and Mulcahy would always place himself between the man and the boy. Whatever else could be said about the priest, he was protective of the boy.

The pair of them sat down for dinner one night after such a visit. Silence had settled over the dinner table, the sound of silverware tapping dishes echoing throughout the kitchen. Simon couldn’t get the image of the man out of his head. That tailored, pleasant facade couldn’t hide what Simon saw in his eyes. He’d seen them before, even at 12. He was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. A predator.

It was odd. He wanted nothing to do with the man, cowered in his presence...yet, he wanted to know more. Like the sight of a dead body in a car wreck, he was something he both did and did not want to see. A paradoxically alluring figure.

Blue eyes turned up to Mulcahy, watching the older man eating for a moment. The curiosity was too much to ignore.

“Who is he?†Simon asked.

Mulcahy looked to the boy, dread in his eyes. He’d feared this conversation for a while now, but it could no longer be avoided.

“He’s a very powerful man.†Mulcahy told him. “A dangerous man.â€

Yeah, no ****, Simon thought. “But who is he?â€

“His name is Jakob Falk. He deals in information...and other sordid activities. Do you know what that means?â€

Simon shrugged. “Bad stuff?â€

Mulcahy smiled, but there was a sadness behind it. “Precisely. Information is the most powerful currency in the world, my son. And he collects it on everyone. There isn’t much that goes on in this city that he is unaware of.â€

“So, he knows things?†Simon asked as if it were a ridiculous assertion.

“Knowing the right things about the right people can bring empires to their knees.†Mulcahy explained. “Do you remember what I told you about vices?â€

“That all men have them.†Simon nodded.

“Yes. Well...he is aware of this as well. Powerful men tend to have these vices and want to keep them a secret. To have them brought into the light would be disastrous. Jakob knows how to weaponize them.â€

Simon realized now exactly how dangerous such a man could be. There was no doubt in his mind that Falk knew about his foster parents and what he’d done. If the man so chose, he could have Simon’s ass in juvenile detention by the end of the day.

The boy’s brow furrowed as he mulled it over. “But...how do you know him?â€

“I watched over him.†Mulcahy said. “I was the headmaster of his orphanage.â€

“He’s an orphan? Like me?†Simon asked.

The priest was quiet. He just nodded. “Very much like you.†Mulcahy said distantly. “He was a troubled young man from the start. No families wanted him. When he finally came of age, Jakob chose the only path that lay before him.â€

That wasn’t the whole story, Simon knew. He wasn’t stupid. He squinted at the older man.

“So? You knew each other when he was a kid. Why does he keep coming here?†Simon asked.

Mulcahy had somewhat underestimated the boy. A pained look crossed over his features. He ran his hand over his lips, letting out a deep sigh. “A few years back...I...I made some bets.â€

Simon quirked a brow. “But...but aren’t priests supposed to be poor? Isn’t that part of the thing?â€

“As I have said...I have my share of weaknesses.†He shook his head slowly. “I lost. I lost big. I didn’t know the money would be going to him.â€

The boy considered this, his young brow furrowed as the wheels in his mind turned. “He came to get it?â€

Mulcahy nodded, keeping quiet, shame in his eyes. Most of that payment came out of church donations. If anyone ever found out, he’d be ruined.

Simon nodded slowly and took in a breath as if to steel himself. “Okay. So what do we do?â€

“We?†Mulcahy said, eyes narrowed. “No no no. You stay away from Jakob Falk.â€

“Father, we can't just let him get away with it!†Simon demanded.

“I said no.â€

Simon didn’t like his response, but could see it was pointless arguing. They just sat and ate in silence.

--------
Simon recoiled as he pushed the door open. Crowds of prepubescent girls waited outside for Tessa outside, their high pitched joyous screams were damn near deafening. They were everywhere, hands reaching out for her. A bodyguard’s nightmare.

Tessa made a peace sign with both hands and let out a long “woo!†The crowd, somehow got wilder, louder. Those blue eyes alert as ever, he maneuvered the girl out into the stairwell. Their car waited, twin barricades leading right to the door. Simon did his damndest, putting himself between the crowd and the girl as best he could, and batting away grabs when he could. Absolute pandemonium.

The girl laughed as she piled into the car, Simon slamming the door and rushing around to the driver’s seat. Tessa immediately climbed up, and stood out of the sunroof. “See ya next time, Y’all!†She shouted, waving wildly to ear-splitting shrieks. Simon’s shouts to get down were drowned out by the deafening, high pitched roar of the crowd..

She plopped down into the seat and let out a breath. As the car rolled away, her entire demeanor changed. “Ugh. There ain’t enough fire in the world to get the grime from their filthy little claws off me…†She said, scrubbing hand sanitizer on herself like mad. “Why are they ALWAYS ****ing sticky? Bunch of ****ing bumpkins in this ****hole town.â€

Simon’s blue eyes flicked up to the rearview,staring at the spoiled little brat. If she was his kid, he’d smack the **** out of her. But, of course...she wasn’t. Frankly, he had no idea what to talk about with her, but the silence was getting a bit uncomfortable.

“So.†He said, making the first step. “You been in the business long?†He immediately cringed. He could almost hear his teenage self tell him to **** off, so her response was almost not surprising.

Tessa looked disgusted. “Ugh.†She exhaled. “Who told you you were allowed to talk?â€

Yes. Almost not surprising. His eyes narrowed into the mirror. “Excuse me?â€

“Listen.†She said, that obnoxious little bad-girl sneer on face, and her dripping with condescension. “The only reason you’re here is because you piss off my mom and I think that’s funny. I’m not looking to find myself some half-assed ex-con surrogate brother. You are a punchline. Got it?†She asked him with that spiteful venom on her lips. â€So, stop talking and drive the car like a good boy.â€

Simon gripped the wheel tightly. It was no wonder this girl had been through a half dozen bodyguards in the past year. She was a terror. His eyes moved away from her and back on the road while she took selfies, a smug look of self-satisfaction on her face as she read the anger in his body language.
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 19, 2018 11:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Paige sat with a couple of her coworkers at the bar as Simon stepped in around 12 AM. She could see it in his eyes. A long night carting around his charge had taken its toll. Corrine wasn’t a sadist, but she couldn’t help the sly little smirk that formed on her lips as he approached.

“Hey, there, Toews.†She said, leaning around the tall man in front of her. “How’d it go?â€

Simon grunted and settled onto a bar stool. “Scotch.†he told the bartender, almost telling him to leave the bottle.

Paige quirked a brow as her companion glanced back. He was tall, handsome. His clothing impeccably tailored and fine. His beard was neatly trimmed and short, brown hair flawlessly combed. Unlike Simon, he looked like he was MADE to wear a suit. Simon kind of wore them with disdain.

“Simon, have you met Sam Piper?†Paige introduced the men. Piper swiveled around, every inch of the man screaming ‘COP!’ as much as Simon screamed ‘criminal!’ Sam’s winning smile probably charmed many a lady, but it made Simon weary.

“Hey, Simon. How’s it going?†He offered a hand to the weary bodyguard. It took a moment before Simon took the offering and shook his hand.

“Pretty *****y. Nice to meet you.†He said, offering a nod of thanks to the barkeep before taking up his drink and taking a swig.

“Sam is my boss at the agency.†She said. She left out the “So behaveâ€, but it was HEAVILY implied.

“Coworker.†Sam corrected her over the rim of his beer bottle before taking a swig. He glanced over the tattooed man. “Corrine tells me you’re on the Tessa Bradley job. Not a great gig, I’m guessing?â€

Paige suppressed a smirk as Simon let out an exasperated sigh. He wheeled around on them. “THAT girl and her mother are about the worst people I’ve ever met. She’s rude, she’s mean, she’s a complete fraud...I mean, you should hear how she talks about her fans.â€

Corrine’s brows raised amused. “Wow. She really got to you, huh?â€

“No!†Simon exclaimed. “I’m not mad-â€

“You’re just disappointed?†Sam finished, one corner of his mouth upturned in a lopsided grin.

Simon was not amused. He just looked between the two obnoxiously amused detectives and tilted back his glass, downing its contents in one gulp. “Screw y’all.â€

Corrine couldn’t help but laugh. “I told you, Toews. You might be able to face down a room full of armed gunmen, but you ain’t prepared at ALL for a teenage girl.â€

Simon put in for another glass of scotch. Another man sauntered on over to them. He was older, a bit stockier with a bit of a belly on him. His head was shaved bald, his dark skin gleaming in the soft light of the bar.

“Who’s dealing with a teenage girl?†He asked them.

“Simon here’s working with Tessa Bradley.†Sam told him.

The older detective’s eyes widened as he let out a long breath and a little laugh, popping a cigar between his lips. “Oh, ****...†He chuckled and shook his head. “Good luck with that one, kid. Bunch a thugs might leave you with some bruises and a few scars, but teenage girls will go for the damn soul. I’ll take a gunman over that **** any day.â€

Paige grinned and gestured between the two. “Barry, Simon. Simon, Barry.â€

“Cole.†The older man corrected her. He hated his name. Barry Coleman. It was too close to the guy from Diff’rent Strokes for his liking. “Simon Toews?†Cole asked him, running through the rolodex of his mind.

Simon glanced over with a quirked brow. “You know me?â€

“Only by reputation.†The detective said around his cigar. “Heard you took down old man Vicelli.â€

“That’s the rumor.†Simon nodded.

“And, back in the day, Cameron Cotter.†He added.

Simon took a sip and nodded.

“Also heard you were a bit of a troublemaker.†Coleman said, that warning tone in his voice. Old man SOUNDED like a cop.

“You hear a lot, Barry.†Simon shot back, cooly.

“Well, I keep my eyes and ears open, Junior.†He nodded, a measure of distaste on his face for the tattooed bodyguard. Those dark eyes flicked to Paige. “He your buddy?â€

Paige glanced over and shrugged. “He’s more like a roommate. Or a lead weight.â€

Simon smirked and took another sip. “You love me and you know it.â€

Paige chuckled. “You’re tolerable these days. I’ll give you that.â€

Cole grinned to himself and gestured to the bartender to pour him what Simon was drinking. “So, what makes Simon Toews: Troublemaking destroyer of criminal empires go straight?â€

Simon plastered on a phony smile. “I just wanted so very badly to follow the good example set by such virtuous men as yourselves.†The sarcastically earnest tone did not go unnoticed.

Cole smirked and eyed him a moment. “Girl. Had to be a girl.â€

Simon rolled his eyes and let out a sigh. “It wasn’t-â€

“It was.†Paige interrupted.

“It was not!†Simon protested.

“Please.†Corrine snorted. “The second she dumped your ass, you stopped ****in’ everything with tits and two legs.â€

“First off,†Simon said. “I stopped that when we got together. And second...I left her.â€

“Ohhhh, that’s right.†Paige said, horribly amused by the whole thing. “Simon here caught her with another man, leaves a note, and winds up on my doorstep.â€

Coleman snorted, looking slly perplexed. “That’s some passive aggressive **** for a guy who burned down two crime families.â€

“Three.†Simon croaked.

Cole exchanged glances with Paige, the latter signalling that it was a long story.

“I just got tired of being angry all the time.†Simon said a bit distant.

Cole lifted his glass in a toast. “Love. Ain’t it a bitch?â€
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 08, 2018 2:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Simon stood in the elevator, steeling himself for the day ahead of him. The kid didn’t cheap out on accommodations, that was for sure. The penthouse had to cost an arm and a leg, he thought. It was the kind of place Tahlia would have just salivated over, richly appointed, high class, the ultimate in luxury. To him, it was a little bit ludicrous.

The ding announced his arrival on her floor. And it was her floor. The penthouse took up the entire top floor of the hotel. Because apparently, a teenager needed that amount of space. Simon stepped off and immediately heard the screaming argument between Tessa, her mother and a man he didn’t know.

“You better shut that little bitch’s mouth before I do it for her!†He called out, backing into the room.

“**** you!†Tessa shrieked back at him.

Whoever he was, the guy was built solid. He clearly took care of himself, but something about him just screamed of insecurity. For all his muscle, his tank-top clad form bore no visible scars. This guy had probably never seen a fair fight in his life. Simon appraised him silently as he approached, running a hand over his shaved head. He lifted his chin in greeting.

“What’s up?†He said to Simon, that faux tough-guy tone in his voice. “You the new guard?â€

Simon remained passive, unimpressed. He could destroy this guy in three hits if he so chose. And something about this guy made him want to. Simon nodded once slowly.

The stranger looked him over, clad in that suit he hated, eyes hidden behind a pair of aviators. Simon didn’t look intimidating to him. Any hint of lean muscle was well-hidden beneath that outfit. If anything, he thought this new bodyguard was scrawny. He gestured to the couch in the main living area.

“Take a seat.†He offered. “Tess will be out in a minute.â€

Simon strode over and took a seat, the brawny douchebag taking one across from him, making sure to show off his muscles as he sat.

“Everything okay up there?†Simon asked him.

The guy scoffed and rolled his eyes. “Little **** is runnin’ that big ****in’ mouth again. Oughta keep her thoughts to herself.â€

“What thoughts would those be?â€

He narrowed his eyes at Simon, hoping to intimidate him. “What’s your name?â€

“Simon Toews.†He responded. “You?â€

“Tony.â€

“You her father?†Simon asked.

Tony snorted and shook his head. “No.â€

Simon slowly pieced it together. “Mom’s boyfriend?â€

“Yeah, somethin’ like that.†Tony nodded.

One corner of Simon’s mouth upticked. “Somethin’ like that.†He repeated the man’s words.

Silence hung between them, Simon’s face unreadable behind those glasses. He enjoyed how uncomfortable he made this guy. The insecurity raging within this alpha male wannabe was hilarious to him.

“So.†Tony said. “You some kinda tough guy.â€

Simon smirked and glanced toward the sound of stomping and muffled voices. “Real tough guys generally don’t go around telling people how tough they are.â€

Tony grinned and nodded, like they were bonding or something. “Yeah!†he pointed with a chuckle. “I feel that! Listen. That girl’s got a big mouth and bad attitude. You ever need to smack some respect into her, you just gotta steer clear of her face, yeah?â€

Simon was still, his fists clenching. “You put your hands on her?â€

Tony didn’t see death sitting a few feet away and just laughed. “Gotta do what you gotta do, y’know?â€

“I do.†Simon nodded slowly. “I once knew a guy. Tough guy. Had this wife with a mean streak and a uh...difficult attitude.â€

“Sounds familiar.†Tony said with that slimy grin of his.

“She used to have to hide her black eyes behind a pair of sunglasses whenever he beat the **** out of her.†Simon told him.

Tony chuckled. “God, I wish.â€

Simon’s restraint was being sorely tested. He wanted more than anything to lunge over and beat the life out of this dirtbag. Instead he kept his voice level, his rage tempered.

“See...he made a mistake.â€

“Yeah? What? He leave the broad with a gun?†Tony asked.

“No.†Simon told him. “He hired me to protect her.â€

Tony suddenly didn’t look so amused. He got the distinct feeling he’d just been threatened. Before he could say or do anything about it, Tessa came down the stairs in a huff, dressed and tressed to the nines.
“Let’s go.†she demanded.

Simon stood up, giving Tony one last look before following her over to the elevator. Simon stood in front, removing his glasses and locking eyes with the man as the doors slid shut, Tessa immediately getting on her phone.
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 19, 2018 10:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It was a warm night in Summer when Simon's life changed forever. Mulcahy sent him out on a few errands in preparation for the weekend's festivities. The church was putting on a festival, bringing the community together for a night of food, games and fun.

A festival Simon Toews would never see.

He knew the cars that sat, parked along the street before he even saw their owners. That gnawing feeling at the pit of his stomach roared to life immediately as he approached the entrance, bags of groceries clenched tight in his fists.

The voices he heard echoing from within were exactly those he expected. The young lad kept quiet as possible as he approached the kitchen. When Falk came around he always thought it best to keep a low profile. Slowly, he leaned up against the doorway, listening in.

"It's really not what you think." Mulcahy said, that familiar raspy voice tinged with fear.

"It isn't?" Falk asked, an almost genuine curiosity in his voice. Simon knew better to believe it. "By all means, Father. Enlighten me. Because it appears to me, that rather than pay your debts, you've opted to...organize a little carnival?"

This was not good. He could almost see the fear in Mulcahy's eyes.

"The money-"

"My money." Falk interrupted.

"The money belongs to the church." He said, foolish bravado sneaking into his tone.

Falk was silent a long time. Simon feared the worst. Was he taking out a gun? A knife? Was it time to run? Briefly he considered running out and getting help. But then he remembered what Father Mulcahy had told him about Falk. Who *could* help against such a monster?

"Benjamin..." Falk said. "Am I an...unreasonable man?"

If Mulcahy responded, Simon didn't hear it.

"Have I not been patient and fair regarding your rather sizeable debts?"

Again, silence.

"You know what happens to those who don't pay me what I'm owed?" Falk asked.

Mulcahy knew and Simon could guess without being told, but the man went on. Simon could hear his shoes upon the tile.

"Once a man refused to make good on what he took. So, I sent some of my friends to his home." Falk spoke calmly and evenly, but there was no missing the menace in his voice.

"You killed him." Mulcahy practically spat.

"No." Falk said. "We didn't lay a finger on him. I let him watch. He got to see his wife...his children. He watched as I collected what I owed through them. And when there was not much left of them? The debt was paid. Death is easy, Father. So..." he searched for the word, "Final."

Simon was trembling wildly barely able to move.

"Not good for business." Falk said, the smile on his face evident in his voice. "There is no 'Church's money while you still owe me."

Mulcahy worked hard to even out his voice. His sins had come back to bite him in the ass and he knew it. "I will pay you back in full afterwards. I promise."

Falk chuckled lightly. "I have your word on this?" He asked. "As a man of the cloth?"

"Yes." Mulcahy said firmly. "On my honor."

Once again silence settled over the room. Simon swore he could cut the tension with a knife.

"Honor." Falk said with bitter amusement. "The honor of a man who swore an oath of poverty? The very same man now begging to pay off his debts with money he stole from the people who entrusted him with their salvation? Tell me, Father. What honor do you believe you have?"

Simon swallowed hard and tried to peer in through the crack in the door. His mind rushed a mile a second, trying to come up with some way to save the day. But he was a child. There would be no such heroics.

"If you're going to kill me, get it over with." Mulcahy rumbled.

Simon could see them now. Falk stood inches away, hands in his pockets as a little smile crossed his lips.

"No, Father." He said quietly. "As I said. Death is too final."

Simon didn't have time to think with what happened next. A big hand grabbed him from behind and roughly shoved him forth. His head slammed against the door, knocking it open and sending him stumbling in, spilling the groceries all over the ground before him.

For a moment, he could only think of the pain in his head and where he'd landed upon his arm.

"Well." Falk said in that cool, light voice. "Hello, Simon."

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 26, 2018 11:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Simon stood backstage, leaning up against the hallway wall, waiting for her to finish whatever saccharine, phoney interview Tessa was doing now. The girl certainly knew how to play her audience. Those people just ate it right up.

If she had been around 12 years ago, he was sure he'd have been subjected to the Tess show with Cici. Those inane but catchy tunes blaring everywhere they'd go, sticking in his head like a bad migraine that he just couldn't shake.

No, he told himself. Cici had better taste than that, even back then. It was a lie, of course. The little girl loved her some High School Musical. It was impossible to get away from it. Try as he might, she never quite took to the 80's ballads, 70's rock, and Johnny Cash tunes he tried to get her into. Though, she DID enjoy some Zep, "Immigrant Song" being a fav.

Cici. The thought of her brought a smile to his face. It had felt like such a long time since he'd smiled thinking about his daughter, he barely recognized the feeling. Usually, it just brought pain. Loss. He'd only had her a relatively short time, but there wasn't a second of it, he'd trade. And there wasn't anything he wouldn't give to have her back.

The sound applause brought him back to the moment, Tessa stepping off-stage with that big, sweet smile, dropping it immediately as stage-hands rushed up and set to unclipping her mic.. Damn, she was good. She kept up the glamour exactly as long as she needed to. It was almost impressive.

Simon approached her with her jacket, holding it for her to slip into.

"Ugh!" She sighed. "I need a drink."

"I can stop somewhere on the way back. Get you a soda." He said, voice devoid of any discernible emotion.

"Uh, No." She said in that obnoxious little sing-song that dragged out the end of the sentence. "I need a DRINK. Vodka, tequila, rum. ****ing SOMETHING strong."

"Yeah. That's not gonna happen." Simon dismissed her.

She adjusted her hair, looking back over her shoulder, aghast. "Excuse me?"

Simon smiled to one of their contacts as they passed, accepting an envelope. Something to deliver to her people the next time they met.

"Who do you think you are, telling me what I can and cannot do?" She asked incredulously.

"I'm the guy in charge of keeping you safe. And you're not getting wrecked and into **** on my watch." Simon was all business, checking the hallway, running over the path to their exit in his head.

"How DARE you!" She said as if he'd asked her something inappropriate. "Let's get this straight, *Simon*, you're here-"

"Listen. I dig the bitchy mean-girl thing. Really. It's very cute." He told her. "But we've got a schedule to keep. So, you wanna bark? Do it while walking."

Tessa searched for JUST the right comeback, but it wouldn't come. Usually, they just cowered and quit. She wasn't used to this. She wouldn't go without SOME duress, of course. The starlet let out a disgusted groan. "This is SUCH bull ****."

"Yeah. Life's full of little tragedies." He said, dripping with sarcasm.

"Yeah, well, you're gonna be living one when I get you thrown out on your ass, you trailer trash." She muttered.

Simon stopped and glanced back, a dangerous look in his eye. "What was that?"

Tessa recoiled like she expected to get hit, but stayed resolute. Simon could see that in her eyes. It didn't take a genius to figure out where she'd picked that up. She kept her head high and just passed him, heading down the hall. Simon watched the girl go, keeping quiet.

Once again, there was a massive crowd awaiting them as they stepped outside. The studio valet had the car waiting and a few armed officers were struggling to keep the crowd at bay. There would be no autograph line tonight. Simon placed a hand at her back and ushered her forth, trying to move quickly.

"Come on." he told her, moving briskly.

It was deafening, oddly claustrophobic. It felt like flood waters were just waiting for the damn to burst and sweep them away at any moment. It was a powderkeg. One little spark...

"HEY, TESSA!" A male voice called out. "**** you, whore!"

Simon didn't see where the bottle came from, couldn't here which direction the voice originated. All he knew was that something sailed right past his ear and shattered upon the metal fencing keeping the crowd back. Screams rose up and the pushing began. A few of the security officers abandoned their posts moving into the crowd.

He knew what would happen next before it did. Those who weren't trying to run were rushing in. Simon wrapped his arms around Tessa from behind shielding her as the bodies piled in at them. A mob, even one formed out of admiration was a dangerous thing. They didn't think about those around them, nor their own size and weight as they descended upon the object of their admiration. Simon pushed forward as the hands grabbed and pulled and scratched. His shoulder brought to bear against the throng, moving slowly forward in the symphony of shrieking teens and tweens.

Even in that chaos, Simon could feel Tessa clinging tightly to him, her own screams of terror drowned out in the sounds and buried against his chest. That pretense of the tough girl dropped pretty damn quickly now that her life was on the line.

Simon lurched forth, a body landing on his back. Whoever it was beat at him wildly, screaming "Let her go! Let her go!" in a shrill voice. Some dumb kid, way too fired up on hormones, adrenaline and sugar. He didn't want to hurt her, so he tried to shrug her off as best he could, but she was on him like a tick on a dog. Finally, one of the officers grabbed her and pulled, but took Simon with her just enough for Tessa to be exposed. An adult male, doughy, unkept and clearly under the influence shoved through the crowd. His arms wrapped around her waist as he pulled her away.

Simon stumbled forward as the girl was finally removed from his back, to his horror seeing Tessa being dragged away, a doughy hand clamped over her mouth, terror in her eyes. He snapped right to action, shoving his way through the crowd Tessa reached out to him as best she could.

Simon grabbed her hand and tried to tug her free, but the man just kept holding on. The abductor wasn't giving her up without a fight. It was a poor decision. Simon drew back his fist and threw a vicious right, straight into his face. He didn't have to hear it, her FELT the nose break from the impact. He saw the blood burst as he landed another punch. The man's grip loosened then. He was done. Simon ripped Tessa from his arms and pulled her to him, the cops clearing enough of a path for them to get to the car. He put her inside as carefully as he could.

"Lock the door!" He ordered her and slammed it shut. Tessa scrambled immediately, making sure every one of the rear doors was locked, taking panicked, strained breaths.

A teenaged boy climbed up onto the hood of the car and began kicking at the windshield. As his leg lifted up to kick again, Simon grabbed the other and yanked it out from under him, the young hooligan faceplanting into the roof with a solid thud. He dragged the kid off and threw him down onto the pavement. Quickly, he did a full on 70's cop movie slide across the hood and to the driver's side. They'd gotten lucky. Nobody had tried to climb in through the driver's side.

Reinforcements arrived and cleared a path for them to drive. Simon hit the gas and took off into the night.
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 02, 2018 9:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Monsters aren't real. It's told to children to assure them they are safe. Secure. It is told to assure them that nothing bad can possibly happen to them.

It's a lie. The first lie children are told. Monsters are real. They don't hide in closets or under beds. No. They hide under the skin. Behind plastic smiles and shining eyes. They hide behind gentle voices and easy laughs. They hide behind the charismatic, outgoing personalities of so-called "good men." Monsters are real.

They towered over the young Simon like a nightmare made flesh, Falk at the center. The boy tried to scramble backwards and bumped into the man who'd thrown him into the room. He was surrounded.

"I suppose you were eavesdropping a while, my young friend?" Falk asked, but there wasn't much in way of question in his tone.

Simon looked to Mulcahy for help, but the man wouldn't meet his gaze. He would be no help.

Falk lifted his chin to his goon, the big man yanking Simon to his feet. Falk leaned down to Simon's height, hands upon his knees and looked him in the eye.

"Do you understand what's happening?" He asked the boy. "Do you understand why I'm forced into this position?"

Simon didn't respond. He stared hard at the man. Even in that moment, he showed no fear. He was like a cornered dog, waiting for any reason to lash out. Falk had to admit, he admired the kid's courage.

"Leave. Us. Alone." Simon snarled with as much bravado as he could muster.

There was something resembling pity in Falk's smile. His head hung low for a moment, it was quite the performance. "You can thank the good father for this. You think I want to do this? Believe me, Simon. I take no pleasure in splitting this happy home up. But debts...must be paid."

Falk nodded to his men. They reached down to grab the boy, but Simon was quick. He slipped right out of their path, making a beeline towards the other side of the kitchen. The boy felt his collar catch at his throat as Falk grabbed him.

"Get your hands OFF of him!" Mulcahy shouted, attacking Falk from behind, his arms going around his neck. It was enough of a distraction for Simon to yank himself free and reach the other side of the room.

A loud crack accompanied a painful yelp as one of the goons took a baton to the back of the priest's knee. The old man crumbled as Simon desperately grabbed for a knife, Falk gaining ground.

"Simon!" Mulcahy shouted, just as Falk was on him. Simon whipped around and slashed blindly. That razor sharp blade cut deep through Falk's right cheek from ear to cheekbone. Blood poured freely and splattered across the wall as the man howled in pain.

Simon moved toward him, ready to end it, ready to kill. Falk crouched low, blood streaming in red rivulets through his fingers. The boy brought the knife up, ready to plunge it directly into Falk's heart. He didn't notice the figure behind him. Strong hands gripped him, twisting the weapon from his weaker grasp. He did his best to fight back, but he was no match.

The thug's grip was like a vice clamped upon his arm, the other hand fumbling for the boy's face or neck. This was his chance. Simon opened his mouth and bit down upon that hand as hard as he could. Teeth pierced flesh and muscle, blood ran down his chin and onto his shirt. The grip upon him loosened and he ran for it as best he could...but he was not quick enough.

The last thing Simon Toews remembered was the sight of Mulcahy watching in horror as the boys body was thrown like a rag doll into the table. He reached out as if it could stop what was about to happen. It would be the last time he'd see the man.

As the back of his head connected with the table, Simon's world went black.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 07, 2018 2:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"What the hell were you thinking?"

Corrine Paige was livid. The one-armed detective paced around the room, running her hand through her dark curls in frustration. Simon sat before her upon a couch, looking a tired and more than a little bored. Mary Bradley's rented penthouse was richly appointed with a beautiful view of the city, though neither of them was exactly appreciating it now. It had been a long night and an even longer morning. It wasn't long before word spread of the violent crowds following the girl's late night appearance. Footage of Simon taking down a teenage boy from several different angles played out over the news. It was not a good look, Corrine decided.

Simon sighed, leaning forward wearily on his elbows. "Look. It was chaos. I had people grabbin' and clawin' at me from all angles and then this guy gets up there and starts tryin' to kick in the windshield. What am I supposed to do? Reason with him?"

Paige's brows rose, a little laugh. "No, you're right, that car needed an indent in the shape of his face on the roof. Good call." She SO badly wanted to cross her arms in that moment, but settled on placing her hand upon on her hip. "You could have pulled him down without hurting him. That boy's parents are pressing charges."

Simon scoffed. "Yeah, well, maybe they should spend more time disciplining the little bastard..."

"You broke his nose and fractured his eye socket." Corrine leveled her unamused gaze upon him, almost daring him to speak.

"I was tryin' to protect her." He muttered, shaking his head.

Paige sighed, her fingers pinching together at the bridge of her nose. He had a point. He'd done an exemplary job of protecting his charge. And it wasn't like she didn't know what she was getting into with him. Simon was not subtle. He wasn't a scalpel. Simon was a hand grenade. She shouldn't be surprised that he'd hauled off and laid an attacker out in a riot.

Their conversation ended when Mary Bradley, her boy-toy Tony, and her assistant came in, phone to her ear. "Yes." She said to the other end of the call. "Excellent. Thank you."

Mary didn't bother greeting them. She barely even looked up as she ended the call and went right to texting. Simon and Corrine shared a glance. Neither of them was a huge fan of Tessa's mother. Frankly, Corrine often stuffed the urge to break a bottle over the bitch's head. But, that might not be great for business.

"I talked to my lawyers." Mary said, disinterestedly. "The kid's family is willing to drop charges if we pay his hospital bills and kick a little extra their way."

She seemed a little too casual about all of it. Rich people, Corrine thought. No way could she just blow that kind of scratch like it was nothing. If she ever did, Corrine was fairly certain her Mama would come back from the grave and slap her silly.

Paige cleared her throat and stepped forward. "Ms. Bradley, I'm very sorry about what ha-"

"Why?" Mary asked, looking perplexed.

Corrine was unprepared for the question and just blinked. "I'm sorry?"

"Yes, I heard that part." Mary waved her off. "But why? You can't buy this kind of publicity."

Simon looked up, his expression bordering on anger. Had she really just said that. This bitch's daughter was almost kidnapped and...god knew what else. The girl was terrified and in danger and her mother seemed to think it was all theater.

"Well..." Corrine, stepped forward all the same. "We'll be in touch with the security teams at the venues from now on. Draw up multiple extraction routes."

Mary glanced up with a crooked eyebrow. She stared at Paige as if she just did not get it. "That won't be necessary."

"Excuse me?" Simon said, rising from the couch. Paige could tell from his body language that he was agitated and on the verge of something stupid. She held up her hand as if to say 'Let me handle it.'

"With all due respect, Ma'am." Corrine said, turning to Mary. "We were hired to protect your daughter. The crowds make that difficult."

Mary sighed heavily and gave a withering glance to Tony. The sketchy man just shrugged in agreement. Mary put on her most condescending little smile. "Listen. Sweetie?"

Paige narrowed her eyes. "Detective Paige." Sure she was retired, and it wasn't an official title anymore, but...**** this lady.

"Detective." Mary corrected herself. "Let me explain how this works. Tessa is an entertainer. She's in the public eye, and the more the public sees of her, the more people that show up, the longer she gets to STAY in the public eye."

A muscle below Corrine's jaw shifted as she clenched her teeth, her knuckles cracking as her fist tightened into a little ball. "They're a danger to her life, Ms. Bradley."

"Well, that's why your trailer trash friend is there, isn't it?" Mary said, dripping with that condescendingly sweet tone. "If he can't handle it, I'll find someone who can."

"You can't be serious." Corrine said. "You approve of this?"

Simon was fuming, like a balloon about the burst. His eyes narrowed, his body tensed and those battered fists clenched tightly. Mary Bradley didn't see death five feet from where she stood. She finally tucked her phone away and stepped up, looking Corrine in the eye.

"Sweetheart." She said. "Who do you think told them where to find her?"

"You sold out your own daughter?" Simon asked, but it came out in a snarl.

Mary scoffed at him like he was a child. "I guaranteed her the sympathy of millions. This is how it works in this business. Don't like it? Go guard a mall. But don't think, for one second, that you get to judge me. I do what's necessary for that little brat, and I'd do it a thousand times over."

Corrine was almost tempted to step aside and let Simon do what he wanted. Almost. She turned to him and gave an almost imperceptible shake of her head. He didn't like it, but he followed her lead.

"If you'll excuse me. We have a meeting with a record exec." Mary said, scooping up her jacket. "I trust you can see yourselves out?"

Paige nodded to the woman and watched her and her boyfriend leave. It took a moment for her to process what she'd heard. All the slimy, disgusting details of it. It made her sick to her stomach to even think about.

"God, I hate that bitch." Corrine spat.

"Should've let me slug her." Simon said.

"Yeah. That would've been smart." Paige snorted. "That woman would see us out on our asses without a penny to our names for the rest of our lives."

"Still." Simon said. "It'd have been worth it."

Corrine lowered herself onto the couch, her body drooping with a heavy sigh. Her hand ran down over her lips as her head shook. "Yeah..." She let out a bitter little chuckle. "What do we do about this?"

Simon stepped over to the large window, staring out over the city. "Maybe we should quit. Find another gig."

Paige laughed. "Yeah. Right."

"I'm serious." Simon told her with a furrowed brow.

Corrine didn't buy it a second. She just rolled her eyes and glanced up at him, a wry, knowing smirk on her face. "No you aren't."

"How do you know?" He asked, annoyance in his voice.

"Because that's not you." She said. "Never has been. You see danger, you run right into it. You see someone...like Tessa Bradley....like Tahlia Faras...like Lyla Cotter, " she said, "Hell, like that farmer chick you were shacked up with. You see them in trouble and you HAVE to help them. You're the big hero."

"I'm not a hero." He demanded grimly. "That's not me. I just get pulled into this ****. Maybe I'm tired of it."

"Maybe." Paige shrugged. "But I don't buy it." She glanced his way. "I think you heard her loud and clear. If we bail, she'll just find someone else. And someone else probably won't give as much of a **** as you. Someone else might get that girl killed."

"That woman's gonna get her killed." Simon insisted. "Why should I stick my neck out?"

"Because." She said simply, hitting every word for impact. "It's who. You. Are."

Simon was quiet a long moment before he obstinately shook his head. "No."

Paige stood up and leveled her gaze at him. "You want to pretend you don't care? Go right ahead. But I don't buy it. Sorry." She said, picking up her purse and slinging it over her shoulder. "I'll meet you at the house later. I've got some running around to do."

She started toward the door, stopping with her hand upon the knob. She didn't look back at him, but still addressed him. "Simon?"

He glanced her way, remaining silent.

"If it wasn't you. If you weren't the guy I said you are...I wouldn't be here." She said, throwing a look back of her shoulder. "I wouldn't be here at all. Just think about that."

Paige opened the door and stepped out into the hall, leaving him to think about that. They didn't talk about that day very often. Neither of them enjoyed thinking of it. She'd lost an arm and a career and he'd lost...everything. But it was because of him that, because he took care of her until the ambulance arrived that she even had a future. Despite the **** she gave him, despite the fact that she found him irritating, he would always be a hero in her eyes. Even if he didn't see it.
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PostPosted: Sat Aug 11, 2018 10:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The dingy light fixtures above passed by with lingering tracers as young Simon was dragged down the hall. Whatever drugs they'd given him had rendered his legs useless and his head woozy. Even if he could think straight, his limbs were just not responding. Simon was completely and utterly trapped.

The cell door screeched like nails on a chalkboard as it was dragged open. The sound hung in Simon's head for far too long afterwards, needling away like tiny miners hacking away in his brain. His captors were not too concerned with being gentle, as soon as the gate had opened, he was tossed onto the damp, filthy concrete floor. He lay there, trying to breathe normally as the ringing in his head finally began to fade.

The boy couldn't be sure how long he lay there, but eventually, the world began to clear and feeling returned to his limbs. But, along with it, came the ache. Everything in his body hurt. Spots where his limp limbs had banged against doorways or scraped against the ground were raw and sore. He was certain that, beneath his clothing he was bruised all over. Simon winced as the pain at the back of his head pierced through that dazed fog, his hand reaching back and returning smeared with formerly dried blood.

His arms shook as he tried to push himself up, but the drugs in his system weren't quite done. He felt his limbs betray him, dropping him face first into the floor like marionette with its strings cut. Simon did his best not to think about the acrid smell in the air and wetness of the ground.

Where was Mulcahy? What had they done to him? Surely, he wouldn't just let them take him without a fight. The Father was his friend. He'd come for Simon soon, the Police in tow and take every one of these bastards down. The boy just knew it.

Hope. It was a precious commodity, especially there. It was hard fought and easily taken, as Simon would learn. Once again, he tried to get up, but was halted by a small hand at his back.

"Don't." a girl's voice said softly. "You've still got that stuff in you. You need to relax."

For the first time, Simon noticed the other kids in the cell with him. There were about 6 of them there, ages varying from 10 - 13, boys and girls. Most of them were looking everywhere BUT his direction. Some of them were cowering, some were glaring, some barely paid him any mind whatsoever.

"Here." the girl said, slipping her small hand under his shoulder and rolling him onto his back. "Better?"

The girl above him was pretty, he thought. Probably a year or so younger than him. Freckles dotted across her nose, her red hair was greasy and dirty in the tight ponytail she kept it in. Pale skin was marred with small scratches, bruises and dirt.

He nodded, wincing once again as the sharp pain stabbed to the forefront. The stranger grabbed a blanket and made a makeshift pillow for him. "Just rest." She told him. "You're gonna need it."

Simon watched her push up onto her feet and start away.

"Where are we?" he called after her.

The girl stopped and glanced back at him, a sad smile on his face and pain too great for one so young behind her eyes. "Later. Rest now."


"What's your name?" He asked.

"Anna." She said. "My name is Anna."

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