Campaign of the Month: October 2017

Blood and Bourbon

Master Logs Page

“You want to know how it starts? The same thrice-damned way it always starts. Somebody wants something. Bad. Bad enough to shell out clams, bullets, or blood. Maybe all three.”
—Louis Fontaine, retired NOPD detective

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Story One


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Prologue
Caroline Prelude I
Alice Prelude
Amelie I
• Amelie arrives in New Orleans to move in with a distant relative. (Fri, Aug 14, 2015)
Alice I
• Alice tries to answer a seemingly impossible question and investigates several rumored hauntings. (Mon, Aug 24, 2015)
Amelie II
• Amelie settles in to her new home and makes an auspicious purchase. (Sat, Aug 15, 2015)
Alice II
• Alice plans for a party and deals with a petty thief. (Tues, Aug 25, 2015)
Amelie III
• Amelie attends her first day at McGehee, the so-called “Southern belle West Point,” and sets her eye on a purportedly haunted house for a research project. (Mon, Aug 17, 2015)
Alice III
• Alice makes a potentially lucrative book sale. (Tues, Aug 25, 2015)
Amelie IV
• Amelie attempts to fit in among her privileged peers. (Mon, Aug 17, 2015)
Alice IV
• Alice attends a strained family dinner. (Wed, Aug 26, 2015)
Amelie V
• Amelie sets out to explore the Big Easy’s historic attractions and encounters some of its equally storied corruption. (Fri, Aug 21, 2015)
Alice V
• Alice attempts to help a restless shade pass on. (Fri, Aug 28, 2015)
Amelie VI
• Amelie receives a dire warning. (Fri, Aug 21, 2015)
Alice VI
• Alice competes with an unexpected rival for a mutual crush’s attentions. (Fri, Aug 28, 2015)
Amelie VII
• Amelie makes plans for an overnight stay in one of New Orleans’ most infamous haunted houses. (Tues, Aug 25, 2015)
Alice VII
• Alice makes a move on her long-held crush and deals with an angry vampire. (Fri, Aug 28, 2015)
Amelie VIII
• Amelie eavesdrops upon a cruel truth. (Thurs, Aug 27, 2015)
Alice Epilogue
• A final accounting of what has come to pass.
Amelie IX, Caroline I
• Stripped of all illusions by her furious aunt, Amelie takes a hard look at the Big Easy’s hidden ugliness. (Fri, Aug 28, 2015)
• Caroline tries to cover up a minor embarrassment to her aunt’s alma mater. (Fri, Aug 28, 2015)
Amelie X, Caroline II
• Still determined to get ahead in the city, Amelie attends a privileged lunch. (Fri, Aug 28, 2015)
• Caroline gives a newcomer some helpful advice. (Fri, Aug 28, 2015)
Amelie XI
• Past and future converge as Amelie braves a night in the terrible LaLaurie Mansion. (Fri, Aug 28, 2015)


Interlude One

Louis I
• An old man drinks away another failure. (Sat, Aug 29, 2015)


Story Two


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Prologue
Caroline Prelude II
Clea Prelude
George Prelude
Julien Prelude
Emil I
• Emil receives a mysterious package and responds to an emergency. (Fri, Aug 28, 2015)
George I
• George deals with frenzying guests in his hotel and receives an invitation to visit his exiled clanmate John Harley Matheson from the enchanting young Becky Lynne. (Sat, Aug 29, 2015)
Caroline I
• Caroline gets a midnight phone call to bail some family friends out of trouble. (Sat, Aug 29, 2015)
Clea I, Julien I
• Clea and Julien compete for their sires’ favor and possession of a mysterious artifact. (Sat, Aug 29, 2015)
Caroline II
• Caroline frantically works to save two lives as new disaster strikes. (Sat, Aug 29, 2015)
Clea II, George II, Julien II
• Clea cuts a deal with George. (Sat, Aug 29, 2015)
• George and Julien pay a visit to the Midnight Bayou and its proprietor Sundown. (Sat, Aug 29, 2015)
Emil II
• Emil learns the way things are done among NOPD. (Sat-Sun, Aug 29-30, 2015)
George III
• George searches for companions to entertain Matheson in his exile, but finds not all of the candidates are what they seem. (Sun, Aug 30, 2015)
Julien III
• Julien returns to the French Quarter to tie up loose ends, only to receive a lesson in the nature of friendship from Antoine Savoy. (Sun, Aug 30, 2015))
George IV
• George violates a new victim, pays his respects to two Primogen, and swallows his pride for a miserable trek through Clan Nosferatu’s sewers. (Mon, Aug 31, 2015)
Caroline III
• Caroline pays a hospital visit to friends old and new. (Sat, Aug 29, 2015)
George V
• George smooths over a grudge with the Mafia, trades truths with an insightful Malkavian, and bears witness to another grim example of Vidal’s justice. (Tues-Thurs, Sep 1-3, 2015)
Julien IV
• Julien investigates rumors of hunters hunted, seeks atonement for his sins, and calls in a favor from the despicable Doc Xola to set up tentative peace talks between the Baron’s followers and the Tremere. (Mon-Tues, Aug 31-Sept 1, 2015)
George VI
• George receives a warning from an old flame and deals with unforeseen trouble on the road to Matheson’s. (Fri, Sep 4, 2015)
Caroline IV, Emil III
• Caroline keeps an eye out for a potential new ally. (Sun, Aug 30, 2015))
• Emil receives an auspicious visitor. (Sun, Aug 30, 2015)
George VII
• George races the rising sun back to the Windsor Court, only to face a second foe he cannot so easily avoid: his own Beast. (Sat-Mon, Sep 5-7, 2015)
Caroline V
• Caroline deals with an unexpected fly in her family’s ointment. (Sun, Aug 30, 2015)
Julien V
• Julien meets with one of the Baron’s lieutenants to negotiate a truce between their covenants, only for events to spiral far out of control. (Wed, Sept 2, 2015)
George VIII
• George convenes a meeting of Clan Ventrue’s elders to flush out a traitor within the ranks. (Tues, Sep 8, 2015)
Emil IV
• Emil begins a new investigation into an old mystery. (Tues, Sep 1, 2015)
George IX
• George confronts not one traitor, but three—to explosive results. (Wed, Sep 9, 2015)
Story Two, Epilogue
Caroline
Emil
George
Julien


Interlude

Cletus I
• Cletus deals with a trespasser on his land. (Wed, Sep 9, 2015)


Story Three


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Prologue
• An accounting of what has come before.
Caroline Prelude
Lou Prelude
Louis I
• Lou descends into the Crescent City’s seedy underbelly to find out who is murdering its prostitutes. (Sat, Sep 5th, 2015)
Caroline I
• Caroline plunges headfirst into her new existence among the Damned. (Sun, Sep 6th, 2015)
Emmett I
• Em picks an ambitious new mark to con. (Fri, Sep 4th, 2015)
Louis II
• Lou witnesses a murder through a dead woman’s eyes, reunites with an old failure, and puts a name to a killer. (Sat, Sep 5th, 2015)
Caroline II
• Caroline deals with an unexpected visitor to her daytime haven. (Mon, Sep 7th, 2015)
Emmett II
• Concerned he’s in over his head, Em chances a meeting with a crooked cop and walks into a trap of his own devising. (Sat, Sep 5th, 2015)
Louis III
• Lou turns to the Holy Mother of Church for aid and attempts to pawn off an old keepsake, but gets more than he bargained for payment. (Sun, Sep 6th, 2015)
Caroline III
• Caroline navigates a tense reunion with her family and faces the Lancea et Sanctum’s judgment for her unsanctioned Embrace. (Mon, Sep 7th, 2015)
Emmett III
• Em faces truth. (Date ?)
Louis IV
• Lou cases a double homicide and calls in some help as paranoid as he is. (Mon, Sep 7th, 2015)
Emmett IV
• Em awakens from his ordeals in the hospital and faces a horrifying loss. (Mon, Sep 7th, 2015)
Louis V
• Lou teams up with a new partner. (Mon, Sep 7th, 2015)
Caroline IV, Louis VI
• Caroline enlists some badly-needed help in tracking down her sire. (Mon, Sep 7th, 2015)
• Lou takes on a case that makes him question everything he’s ever done. (Mon, Sep 7th, 2015)
Caroline V
• Caroline takes a wrong turn in a bad neighborhood. (Mon, Sep 7th, 2015)
Caroline VI, Louis VII
• Caroline covers up an inconvenient sin. (Tues, Sep 8th, 2015)
• Lou offers guidance to a fledgling in need. (Tues, Sep 8th, 2015)
Caroline VII, Emmett V
• Caroline attends a tediously necessary social function. (Sat, May 17th, 2014)
• Em remembers back to better times. (Sat, May 17th, 2014)
Caroline VIII
• Caroline swears a desperate oath and meets a friendly face among the Damned. (Tues, Sep 8th, 2015)
Emmett VI
• Em gets in further trouble with NOPD. (Thurs, Sep 10th, 2015)
Louis VIII
• Lou reunites with an old friend and an old flame for aid in his coming battle. (Tues, Sep 8th, 2015)
Caroline IX
• Caroline deals with a home invasion, learns an abject lesson in how little her pride sells for, and witlessly crosses a perilous boundary. (Wed, Sep 9th, 2015)
Emmett VII
• Beset with crushing medical and legal debt, Em strikes a devil’s bargain with the Dixie Mafia. (Thurs, Sep 10th, 2015)
Louis VIII
• Lou confronts a wrathful loa and races against time to save a stubborn mambo’s life. (Tues, Sep 8th, 2015)
Adelais I, Caroline X
• Adelais gives a neonate some lessons in etiquette. (Wed, Sep 9th, 2015)
• Caroline faces a Regent’s wrath. (Wed, Sep 9th, 2015)
Emmett VIII
• Em faces sentencing for his latest misdeeds. (Thurs, Sep 10th—Sun, Sep 13th, 2015)
Louis IX
• Lou recovers from his previous night’s ordeals and delivers a soul-wrenching apology. (Wed, Sep 9th, 2015)
Caroline XI
• Caroline frantically tries to stop the Masquerade from unraveling as her mortal loved ones grow too curious for their own good. (Thurs, Sep 10th, 2015)
Emmett IX, Mouse I
• Em pins his trust on a desperate hope. (Sun, Sep 13th, 2015)
• Mouse helps out a ‘friend’ in need. (Sun, Sep 13th, 2015)
Louis X
• Deserted by his allies and bereft of options, Lou reluctantly agrees to a meeting with the enemies of his enemies. (Wed, Sep 9th, 2015)
Caroline XII
• Caroline searches for kindly souls amidst a sea of predators. (Thurs, Sep 10th, 2015)
Emmett X
• A lifetime of lies comes crashing down as Em grapples over whether to do the unthinkable: tell the truth. (Sun, Sep 13th, 2015)
Louis XI
• Lou seeks out a long-dead fortune teller for counsel over his ominous new affliction. (Wed, Sep 9th, 2015)
Caroline XIII, Lavine I, Rocco III
• Caroline acts fast to protect her loved ones from their sudden exposure to the Kindred world, but finds the price for their safety may be all-too high. (Thurs, Sep 10th, 2015)
• Lavine puts in an appearance at Elysium. (Thurs, Sep 10th, 2015)
• Rocco cleans up a neonate’s Masquerade breach. (Thurs, Sep 10th, 2015)
Emmett XI
• Em accepts his fate. (Wed, Sep 16th, 2015)
Story Three, Epilogue
Caroline
Emmett
Louis


Interlude

Adelais I
• A heartless art critic discovers her true calling.
George I
• George shares a devastating secret with Antoine Savoy.
Adelais II
• An icy-tempered Harpy enjoys her Requiem’s spoils.


Story Four


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Micheal I
• Micheal rallies popular support against a cannibalistic elder and barters with Clan Nosferatu for secrets.
Caroline I, Louis I
• Caroline tempts a witless soul into damnation and repeats an awful sin.
• Lou settles for losing slowly.
Micheal II
• Micheal makes an impossible choice between his family and his ideals.
Caroline II, Louis II
• Caroline attends a strained dinner with her future company in hell.
• Lou stalks a witless pawn.
Cletus I, Micheal III
• Cletus tests the loyalties of Antoine Savoy’s new ally.
• Micheal goes on an alligator hunt with Cletus, only to find his lingering humanity may be the Sangiovanni’s true quarry.
Caroline III
• Caroline clashes with a rival coterie through mortal proxies and shares a bitter drink with her mortal brother.
Cletus II, Micheal IV
• Cletus goes hunting for the biggest alligator in the swamp: the Great Honky.
• Micheal goes hunting too!
Caroline IV, Emmett V
• Caroline orchestrates a two-pronged attack against her foes to reclaim a kidnapped friend, but finds she may be no less a monster.
Cletus III, Micheal V
• Micheal attends a birthday party thrown by Cletus’ cannibalistic redneck descendants.
• Cletus shows his guest the full measure of Southern hospitality.
Caroline V
• Caroline saves a servant and loses a friend.
Cletus IV, Micheal VI, Rocco I
• Micheal awakens from torpor to discover that he has lost far more than time at the Boggs’ hands.
• Cletus celebrates some unexpected nuptials.
• Rocco issues a warning to an intransigent Anarch.
Caroline VI
• Caroline watches a budding romance bloom full flower.
Rocco II
• Rocco passes on some unusual news to an elder Brujah.
Caroline VII
• Caroline clashes with slighted rivals—and the hands behind them.
Micheal VII
• Micheal blunders around starving.
Caroline VIII
• Caroline tempts a second soul into damnation.
Rocco III
Rocco plays a game of cat and mouse with an intransigent Harpy.
Caroline IX, Louis III
• Caroline severs another tie to her mortal past and gets drawn into a perilous game of cat and mouse with her sire.
• Lou gambles centuries of anonymity over a secret that could change everything.
Caroline X, Louis IV
• Caroline faces apprehension for her crimes.
• Lou takes a once-inconceivable risk.
Cletus V, Micheal VIII
• Starving, wounded and out of options, Micheal turns to a seeming friend for aid—only to set and spring a trap of his own making.
• Cletus exacts vengeance upon a treacherous guest.
Louis V
• Having exposed his centuries-hidden identity on Caroline’s behalf, Lou withdraws deep into hiding and seeks out an old teacher’s aid.
Story Four, Epilogue
Caroline Epilogue
Cletus Epilogue
Louis Epilogue
Micheal Epilogue


Interlude

Louis I, Rocco I
• An old man attempts to save a young boy’s soul from sin.
Micheal I
• Bested but not broken by his captors, Micheal holds out for as long as he can.


Story Five


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Prologue
• An accounting of what has come before.
Cletus I
• Cletus disciplines a wayward childe and strikes a new accord with Antoine Savoy.
Lavine I
• Lavine plumbs the centuries-old journals of Pierre d’Iberville, founder of New Orleans, to uncover an even older mystery.
Cletus II, Rocco I
• Rocco baits a trap to ensare his new foes.
• Cletus defends his domain from a dangerous intruder.
Lavine II
• Lavine runs into several unpleasant reminders of her mortal past and butts heads with a dogged cop.
Cletus II, Rocco II
• Cletus interrogates his new prisoner.
• Physically and mentally broken by torture, Rocco entertains a duplicitous offer to yet serve his Prince.
Lavine III
• Lavine journeys beyond New Orleans to seek the wisdom of Kowi Anukasha, a native spirit of her people.
Cletus III
• Cletus prepares a lavish party to host the Camarila’s diplomats, but discovers several flies in his ointment.
Lavine IV
• Lavine receives a chilling reminder why her race keeps to the cities.
Annabelle I
• Annabelle approaches the Ventrue elder John Harley Matheson over a matter of mutual aid, only to find she has struck a devil’s bargain and must immediately pay its price.
Jacob I, Lavine V
• Lavine faces arrest by mortal authorities and assumes a grave new responsibility.
• Jacob welcomes a new addition to his ‘family’.
Cletus IV
• Reeling from a series of new disasters, Cletus shows his mortal descendants the terrible price for disobedience.
Baptiste I, Lavine VI
• Baptiste offers succor to a wounded soul.
• Lavine searches for sacrifices to placate a demanding spirit, only to make one of herself as well.
Annabelle II, Louis I
• Annabelle seeks out an unlikely source of aid.
• Lou goes against his better judgment to help out a lady in trouble.
Baptiste II
• Baptiste perfects Clan Nosferatu’s underground defenses and trades secrets with his overly affectionate sire.
Cletus V, Jacob II, Lavine VII
• Seizing advantage of the conflict among the Circle’s Acolytes, Cletus puts his own pawns into play.
• Jacob gets in over his head rushing to a distressed ally’s rescue.
• Lavine turns to the despicable Doc Xola for help with a kidnapping, only to rapidly find his monstrosity too much to bear.
Baptiste III
• Baptiste offers salvation and damnation to a wayward soul and commits himself to a grave new mission.
Annabelle III, Louis II
• Annabelle plots revenge against those who have wronged her.
• Lou cases an old murder for new answers.
Cletus VI, Jacob III
• Cletus receives an early guest to his soiree.
• Jacob is called upon to provide a sorcerous consultation.
Baptiste IV
• Baptiste puts into motion a bold plan: the infiltration of Perdido House, seat of Prince Vidal’s power.
Annabelle IV, Cletus VI
• Annabelle presents Cletus with an unorthodox gift.
• Cletus graciously receives his soiree’s guests and shares an enlightening carriage ride with a disembodied elder.
Annabelle V, Cletus VII, Jacob IV
• Annabelle searches for allies among the soiree’s attendees.
• Cletus plies his charms upon his guests and pits the Camarilla against Clan Sangiovanni in a game of symbolic egg paquing.
• Jacob summons a restless spirit to learn of an ominous intrusion.
Annabelle VI, Cletus VIII, Jacob V
• Annabelle attempts to thwart an assassin’s attack.
• Cletus moves to conclude his prolix diplomatic deal with the Camarilla, but looming specters threaten to throw all into chaos.
• Temporarily banished from his domain, Jacob makes provisions for the care of his children and witlessly invites a monster into his home.
Epilogue
• A final accounting of all that has come to pass.


Interlude

George I
• George dreams.
Cletus I
• Cletus looks into some unusual disturbances.
Rocco I
• Rocco is called to account by his superiors.


Story Six


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George I
• George hires legal counsel for his upcoming trial.
Caroline I
• Caroline deals with a truculent prisoner.
Mouse I
• Mouse enlists dubious help to navigate New Orleans’ criminal justice system.
Caroline II
• Caroline deals with a long-postponed threat to her personal Masquerade.
Mouse II
• Mouse faces sentence for his inadvertent crimes.
Caroline III
• Caroline confronts a dangerous intruder in her haven.
Mouse III
• Mouse becomes a YouTube sensation and finds himself in dire financial straits.
Caroline IV, Mouse IV
• Caroline punishes a wayward sinner.
• Mouse endeavors to prove his innocence before a stone-hearted audience.
Caroline V
• Caroline loses a friend and entertains a cautious offer from a powerful new patron.
Caroline VI
• Caroline receives some sorely-needed lessons in Kindred etiquette.
Mouse V
• Less than twenty-four hours after his release from jail, Mouse witlessly lands himself in further trouble with the Big Easy’s police.
Caroline VII
• Caroline rediscovers a damning secret.
Mouse VI
• Mouse faces judgment and sentencing for his newest and even more inadvertent crimes.
Caroline VIII, Louis I
• Caroline pays the price for her newfound knowledge.
• A wanted man braves now-familiar danger to aid a fledgling in need.
Caroline IX
• Caroline is called to account for her actions by Philip Maldonato, the Seneschal of New Orleans, and receives a shattering revelation.
Caroline X
• Caroline grants a faithful servant her final reward.
Caroline XII, Cletus I, George II, Rocco I
• Caroline comes face to face with her true maker.
• Cletus makes a trip out to the big city.
• George betrays two clanmates.
• Rocco pulls some strings to acquire a new pawn.
Cletus II, George III
• Cletus hatches a plan to avenge past slights.
• George is charged with blasphemy against the Lancea et Sanctum.
George IV
• Cletus develops a newfound appreciation for the arts.
• George clashes with New Orleans’ dreaded Scourge and pledges loyalty to a new cause and patron.
Caroline XIV, George V
• Caroline presents herself before her clanmates.
• George’s garden of deceit bears fruit as Prince Vidal lays down his final verdict.
Epilogue
• A final accounting of all that has come to pass.


Story Seven (Ongoing)


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Caroline
Caroline I
Caroline II
Caroline III, Rocco II
Caroline IV
Caroline V
Caroline VI
Caroline VII
Caroline VIII
Caroline IX
Caroline X
Caroline XI

Isabella
Isa Prelude
Isa I
Isa II
Isa III, Rocco I

Milo
Milo Prelude
Milo I
Milo II

Rocco
Isa III, Rocco I
Caroline III, Rocco II
Rocco III
Rocco IV


Story Eight (Ongoing)


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Amelie
Amelie I
Amelie II, Emmett III
Amelie III
Amelie IV

Emmett
Emmett I
Emmett II
Amelie II, Emmett III
Emmett IV

Jonathan
Jon I
Jon II
Jon III
Jon IV, Rocco IV
Jon V
Jon IV, Rocco IV
Jon VI


View
Story Three, Emmett Epilogue

GM: “In CASH? What is this, 1995?!” Lena sputters into the phone.

“A few years rather later. Knowing your brother, though, I’d rather not have any paper trail linking us,” Villars replies with an oily grin that all but dribbles through the receiver.

“What is that supposed to mean?”

“Ah-ah, if you want my advice, I’m billing you by the hour.”

“This is highway robbery. It’s a simple phone number!”

“Yes, it is. And yes, it’s that too. You do seem fairly desperate.” Villars draws out the pause. “Of course, if you’d rather Bud come by the house when you’re away, and find Em missing… he doesn’t like surprises very much. I suppose he could always stop by somewhere else. Like your childrens’ schools… what grade is your youngest in? Kindergarten?” Lena can’t see the leer across the lawyer’s face, but she can hear it. “Bud loves kids. Why, he has a little girl who-”

“No! We’ll pay. We just… need a little time to get the money together.”

Villars grins into the phone. “Don’t worry about making my deadlines, Eveline.”

“You’ve got far bigger problems.”


GM: “Hello, are you Mrs. Merinelli?”

Lena looks between the two police officers at her front door. “I am. Can I help you?”

“Yep, by coming quietly. You’re under arrest.”

Lena blinks. “I’m sorry?”


GM: “So, let me try to summarize this,” the lawyer frowns. “You’d kept silent about your brother’s criminal activities for years. Your brother murdered Miguel Rodriguez in his apartment, and several other men with the aid of accomplices, over a cocaine deal gone sour. In retaliation, Rodriguez’ friends kidnapped your brother and cut off his legs.”

“He went to the hospital, and was arraigned for a variety of misdemeanors. He paid his attorney’s fees with a loan from… the Mob, and they threatened to kill his family—that is, your family—if he didn’t repay them. After he told you this, you paid his attorney $5,000 cash so that you could contact the Mob and pay them the $11,000.”

“I don’t mean to belabor the point, but… you realize how that missing money looks, the same time as this drug deal gone sour?”

Lena spreads two hands that are cuffed to the table. “I know it sounds ridiculous.”

“Well, moving around $11,000 simply isn’t possible for you right now. And the police protecting your family over your brother’s word is unlikely too. However, there is another angle to this. It’s possible that your brother was lying to you. Asking for $16,000 could have simply been an attempt to defraud you, before he was caught for murder. This Villars could have been his partner.”

“You think I actually trust anything he said?” Lena scoffs. “I’m just not going to gamble my children’s lives that he was lying.”

“Well, if you believe him, the most they can do is get out of town. As for your plea bargain, I think I can get you down to just five years as an accessory to murder…”


GM: A boy sobs against a man’s chest. “I don’t wanna move, Dad.”

The man gives his shoulder a squeeze. “I’m sorry, kiddo. I’d like to stay too.”

A girl cries. “W… why can’t we?!”

The man is silent for a moment as he tries to piece together an explanation. “Mommy lost her medical license when she went to prison. That means she can’t be a doctor anymore when she comes home.”

The man tries to say something comforting, about how everything will turn out all right. The boy cries some more. “I—I don’t wanna go. I don’t want her… to go. I don’t…”

The man struggles to keep his face composed. His failure gives his children their first memory of seeing their father cry.

“Neither do I, sweetie… neither… do I.”


GM: “…hello, sir. We’re here on behalf o’ yer brother-in-law. Might we step in?” the smiling man asks as he does just that, closing the front door behind him. Daniel Merinelli barely has a chance to yell before his guest sharply yanks his arms behind his back in a painful lock, while a young girl in cowboy boots plasters duct tape over his mouth.

“I helped!” Sue smiles.

“Thatcha did, darlin’,” Bud grins.

“Yessir,” he drawls as he casually breaks the thinner man’s left arm, “this is mighty overdue.”

“I’m a patient man, see,” he continues over Dan’s muffled screams, "and three months ain’t that long in the grand scheme. Long ‘nough fer things with yer family and the cops ta blow over. Lot o’ time fer your brother’s interest ta rack up, too. By ma count, he owes us thirty-one thousand, three hundred and eighty-four dollars, and twenty-eight cents.”

“That there is compound interest,” Bud explains as he breaks Dan’s right arm with another sickening crunch. “It makes the math all funny.”

The tape-gagged man gives a strangled half-scream, half-moan as tears well from his eyes.

Bud exaggeratedly cocks a hand to his ear. “Whas’ that? Yer gabbin’. I can’t understand a word yer sayin’.”

Snot leaks from the crying man’s nose.

“I won’t charge ya the twenty-eight cents, though. Heck, we can even roun’ down to jus’ three-eighty dollars. I’m a man who likes ta do things nice an’ even.”

Bud clucks his tongue as he looks around the home’s living room, dragging the shattered-armed man along by the scruff of his shirt. “Y’all ain’t as rich as I thought. Losin’ yer doctor wife musta tightened some belts. Still, ‘tween yer car, ’lectronics, and credit cards, I’ll get ma ten-kay investment more than back.”

Sue smiles and pulls off Dan’s shoes. Then his socks. Bud pats her head and drawls at his equal parts bewildered and moaning victim, “Sadly fer y’all, that ain’t all I’m here fer.”

Sue plasters some more strips of duct tape over Dan’s mouth.

“Yer brother’n law owes us some other interest. I’m here fer that too.”

Dan snorts more snot over his tape gag, his eyes wide and feverish.

“Thank ya, Sue, that’ll do jus’ dandy,” Bud smiles at the girl, then smashes her passed sledgehammer over Dan’s bare feet.

MMMMM!!!!!!!”

Bud brings down the hammer over Dan’s other foot.

MMMMMMMMM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

“Ooh hoo, bullseye!” Bud whoops, flecks of blood coating his wide smile. “Ya ever hit the center o’ the big-toe-nail jus’ likeyat, an’ see the bits go a-flyin’ everywhere?”

Dan screams past the gag. “MMM-MMMMMMM!!!”

“Nah, don’t reckon you have. It’s like hittin’ one o’ em,” Bud snaps his fingers, “whatcha-ma-call-’em’s, at the state fair? Ah, can’t remember the name. It’ll come ta me, though.” His smile widens. “Things have a way o’ comin’ back ta me. They always do, in the end.”

Buds sucks his gums. “Shit, if ma eyes ain’t lyin’, I think some o’ yer toenail jus’ landed in that outlet!”

Dan brokenly sobs and convulses. His tape gag bulges as beads of sweat trickle down his reddened, snot-nosed face. His head shakes as choke-like noises rasp from his throat.

“Don’t go throwin’ up now,” Bud chides. “I seen more painful ways ta go, son, but you believe me, there ain’t many pansier ways than chokin’ ta death on yer own barf.”

The crippled man’s eyes roll back in his head.

Dan sets down the sledgehammer and walks up to the house’s stairs. He then turns and smiles, “Don’t go a-runnin’ now,” with a wag of his finger.

“Mmmm….!”

Sue smiles. “I helped!”

Bud comes back downstairs with two crying, squirming burdens slung under each arm. Duct tape is plastered over their mouths and hands. The broken-limbed man screams past his gag and thrashes impotently in place. Sue sets up a video camera, aims it at the kitchen, and skips off.

“They got chipmunk-cheeks like that ’cuz I stuffed socks up their traps,” Bud explains as he lays down the sobbing children on the breakfast bar, belly-first. “This part gets a lil’ noisy.”

The girl gives a muffled scream and kicks at Bud’s hands.

The big man clucks his tongue, scoops up both children under the crook of one elbow, and pulls open the freezer door. He tosses out ice cream cartons and bags of frozen fruit and vegetables, sticks the now even fiercer-struggling girl inside, then closes the door. “Don’t worry, I’ll have ‘er out ’fore her teeth e’en chatter,” Bud remarks over her father’s renewed scream-muffles. “Yessir, she’s a-gonna get hotter’n sweatier than a sinner in church, soon ’nough.”

But flicks on the video camera one-handed. The little boy hoisted over his shoulder just cries. “Y’all will ‘scuse Sue takin’ off. But ya know there’s people who’ll pay top dollar ta jack off ta this?” Bud casually asks as he slams Noah face-first onto the ‘set’.

Twisting the burner stove’s knob to 400 degrees only takes him a second.

The family’s screams last far longer.


GM: Em’s heard as much about prison as any moderately well-to-do white boy has. He’ll wear an orange jumpsuit. There are racially segregated gangs. He shouldn’t drop the soap.

Death row hasn’t been much of anything.

Death_Row.jpg
Twice a week, Emmett strips to his boxers and is escorted, handcuffed, to a shower where his cuffs are removed and he is permitted to luxuriate under lukewarm water for ten minutes. The rest of his existence is spent locked in a 6-by-9 concrete cage for 24 hours a day. The toilet is an arm’s length away from his bed. There are no windows or natural light.

At some unknown time, for Em has neither a clock nor other means to track the sun’s passage, breakfast carts rattle across the concrete outside. The first sounds of his morning repeat the last sounds of night—remote-controlled locks clanging open and clunking closed, electric gates whirring, heavy metal doors crashing shut, voices wailing, klaxons blaring. A prison’s maximum security wing has no soft or delicate sounds.

At that interval, a ruler-sized slot opens in Em’s featureless concrete box. A tray with powdered eggs, undercooked grits, and a plastic spork is wordlessly pushed through. Em never sees the face of whoever feeds him. It could be a man. It could be a woman. It could be Bud, Christina Roberts, or Bert Villars for all he knows. Maybe it’s Lena.

He hauls back his tray and eats from it over the stumps that are his legs. Sometimes there is a cockroach for him to squash. When he is finished he returns the tray to the slot and goes back to sleep. Sleeping, he soon learns, is the best way to pass time on death row.

He can’t sleep for long enough. Later, though Em cannot tell at what time, more food is deposited through the slot in his cage. It is a thin sandwich, carton of milk, and runny mashed potatoes without gravy. Em can lose maybe another hour with a nap after lunch.

He has heard of a luxury called “the canteen.” Men in prison maintain a type of bank account where they can deposit money sent from family and friends. Once a week, such men can fill out an order sheet and spend up to $99 on cigarettes, chips, soap, soup, sandwiches, pastries, and even shoes. Their goods are delivered through the grill in their cells several days later.

Em cannot buy anything from the canteen. No one sends him money.

Dinner comes an unknown span of time after lunch. It consists of a processed pork chop, piece of liver, or half-raw chicken together with more potatoes. Potatoes come in each of his meals. Prisons, he soon learns, have a million ways to serve potatoes.

Visitors’ days are on Sundays. Em is authorized to receive a single visitor between 9 AM and 3 PM. The visitor can purchase items from vending machines and share a single hug or kiss (but not both) with him.

Em receives no visitors. Sundays are the same as any other day.

Em knows that he will eventually face execution by lethal injection, and his monotonous existence will come to an end. He does not know when. Some inmates are said to die of old age while on death row. The monumental task that is every condemned man’s burden until he is permitted to die is how to fill the hours until he can sleep again. His options are few. He can watch black and white non-cable TV, if he’s earned that as a reward for good behavior, but Em isn’t sure how he’s supposed to demonstrate good behavior. He can do his laundry by running his clothes through the toilet and hanging them up to dry. He can talk to himself, endless disembodied and mostly inane chatter. He can lie on his thin 30-inch mattress and think. And think. And think.

Sleep eventually comes, and for a few hours, he has a preview of existence after he faces the needle. Then sleep recedes and he is back in his concrete cage. Another day on death row begins. It unfolds in almost exactly the same way, then it ends. More days pass. Then even more days. Maybe they grow into weeks. Maybe months. Maybe years. Em cannot say. He has no piece of chalk to mark the days with like he’s seen inmates do in movies. He can feel hair growing on the face he has no mirror to gaze upon. His constant companion, like a grim reaper hovering over his shoulder, is the knowledge that he will die. Perhaps tomorrow. Perhaps after a month. Perhaps after many years.

Eventually, he will get to sleep forever.

Emmett: For now, though, he dreams.

A king of two courts, a crown made of teeth and a smile made of gold. He does not dream of walking. He flies, over New Orleans. He points and laughs at a vomit-streaked hustler with a badge. He cries over the Quarter, and his tears look like snowflakes, and Maya and Noah laugh and swallow them whole like pills.

He hovers over Prince Talal al-Faisal al-Saud’s penthouse. Did that castle ever seem so close? He sits in Bud’s lap. “Hello,” he says into a phone. “Goodbye!" Breaking bones answer, and screams hang up on him.

He flies towards the sun. He can make it out of here, he knows. Nothing can keep Emmett Delacroix down. He soars. His wings melt like ice in untouched water, and he falls—he lands in a booth in Café Soulé, across from Christina Roberts. Anastasia is his waitress. She pours him a cup of cyanide. It smells delicious.

“Maybe you should try being smarter,” Roberts says with Villars’ rasping lungs.

“Maybe,” he admits. “Maybe.” He drinks. She tuts and her spoon gouges the crust of her soup, and she slurps, slurps, and he plunges forward, burning, scalding… hell smells like onions.

Clarice is on her bed, dying, though she doesn’t remember what that is. She doesn’t even recognize him. He leans forward and whispers, “You’re going to burn for what you did, you know?” She opens her eyes and whispers, “You too.”

Emmett doesn’t know where he is. Or when. Death row is like the womb; everything is noise and waiting, and he doesn’t know what for.

Too late?

It echoes, a meaningless question. There is no more too late. There is no arrival, there is no departure. He’s just a cripple stuck in time.

What should he say? Is he sorry? Only that he failed. Does that make him a monster? If that’s all a monster is, how do most people live with themselves? What should he have done different, anyway? Lied to himself, and not everybody else? If being a good person means being a fucking idiot like Mercurial Fernandez, then what the hell is the—

“Ha.”

Mouse probably doesn’t know he got arrested. Probably broke his back, asking for money. Oh, that’s funny. He’s still hurting somebody. Maybe Mouse will even try to have a concert.

“Ha. Hahahaha. HAHAHAHA…!”

Laughing burns his throat, but he swallows the pain like a pill. Everything is so goddamn funny. There is no punchline, there is no final bow. He probably can’t pull one off anyway, without legs.

“HA!”

They’re yelling at him now, to shut his mouth. They want him to die quietly, too. But there’s no quiet for people like Emmett Delacroix. They boo. He pays them no mind. He deserves a standing ovation. Somebody should throw him a bouquet. The noise inside his head is drowned in the laughter. He claps for himself, because nobody else will. And then there’s no noise at all, except the rushing of curtains, curtains for Emmett…

Curtains.


GM: A white concrete cross sits among a field of other crosses: the true crop of the Farm, officially known as Louisiana State Penitentiary. Each cross is spaced exactly three feet away from its neighbors laterally and nine feet longitudinally. Such sameness is only possible at a place like Angola. Even the dead still wear uniforms. Simple plaques are inscribed with DOC numbers, names, and dates by which sentences could no longer continue to be served.

Angola_Cemetery..jpg
The undertaker’s spade shovels on the last of the earth.

X989132
Emmett Delacroix
02-10-16


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Story Three, Emmett XI

“I hope the fun has been worth it.”
—Lena Merinelli


Sunday night, 13 September 2015, PM

GM: Less than a day after his sister has all but disowned him, two uniformed police officers stride into Em’s hospital room. They give their names as Jessica White and Marco Rizaffi. For the second time since he first checked into Tulane Medical Center, Em is placed under arrest and handcuffed to his bed. The charges are drug distribution and murder.

Emmett: “…what?” He’s more perplexed than worried.

GM: “You have the right to remain silent,” the younger female officer recites. “Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you?”

Emmett: “Uh. Yeah. Are you sure you have the right room?”


Monday morning, 14 September 2015

GM: Em knows better than to go to Bert Villars for legal representation by now, and he couldn’t afford the grimebag lawyer’s fee even if he wanted to. A weary-eyed public defender, whose full caseload only permits him seven or so hours per client, tersely lays out the facts. A dead body was found in Emmett’s apartment on Royal Street, along with 30-some grams of cocaine. Further cocaine samples from the same batch were also found in a run-down apartment complex in Mid-City, which blood spatter analysis indicates was the scene of at least several other probable murders.

The police are going to question him, the defender continues. They want to know where the other bodies are. They want names for Em’s accomplices. “Just tell them everything you know and take the plea deal,” the tired-looking man advises Em.

Emmett: “Yeah, and you aren’t going to believe me, but I can’t. You think I killed a guy from the hospital? Legless?”

GM: The defender gives Em an annoyed look and informs him the murders took place prior to that date, though the body in his apartment and matching cocaine samples were only just discovered. “The fact you lost your legs and were found guilty of drug possession around the same time as the original violence only further helps prosecution’s case.”

Emmett: “Ah. I still didn’t do it. Do you have a name on the body?”

GM: The short, unruly-haired man sighs. His face bears the pockmarks from a bad case of teen acne, and he truthfully doesn’t look much older than Em. “Miguel Rodriguez.”

Emmett: “Never heard of him. So, uh. Your life is going to get difficult. Sorry about that.”

GM: “Take the plea bargain, and you’ll face fewer years than when a jury finds you guilty anyway,” the young man sighs.

Emmett: “I seriously would, dude. I mean, I’m probably headed to prison anyway, but I actually have no idea what the fuck this even is. Nothing to give them.” He rolls his eyes. “Look, you obviously aren’t going to believe me. But I’ve got nothing on a plea.” He does try to communicate his sincerity, if only to accelerate things. He sighs. “What’s your name.”

GM: “Robert,” the public defender answers.

Emmett: “Robert. You’re fired. Save yourself the trouble.”

GM: The short man raises his eyebrows. “You are waiving your right to legal counsel and choosing to represent yourself?”

Emmett: “No way out, right?”

GM: “You do have a way out. Spare the state the time and expense of a needless trial, and you’ll face fewer years.”

Emmett: “Yeah, except for the fact that there’s nothing for me to give them. I guess I could just say, ’I’m guilty,’ fuckers, but have nothing to give you,’ but I don’t think that would help.”

GM: Em’s defender explains that while offering substantive information on the murders will get him a better deal, if he doesn’t want to rat out his fellows, the police ultimately can’t force him to talk. He can still get a deal better than a trial’s likely outcome if he agrees to spare the courts the needless time and expense.

Emmett: “Oh. Okay.”

Whoosh, whoosh, goes the car window.


Tuesday morning, 15 September 2015

GM: There’s another bedside arraignment. The same clerk, the same uniformed officer, the same assistant DA. Same everyone except for Bert Villars. Judge Underwood looks even less pleased to see Em than last time.

Emmett: “Oh, hi.”

GM: The white-haired judge levels an icy stare over the rim of her glasses. “Mr. Delacroix, you are acting in a manner which disrupts this tribunal and prejudices the administration of justice, and are in contempt of court.”

Emmett: “Oh. Sorry.”

GM: Judge Underwood’s stern face grows sterner yet when the cripple neglects to address her as “Your Honor”. After informing Emmett that he is now guilty of two counts of contempt of court, she states that while a guilty plea is binding, the court is not bound to honor the plea bargain negotiated by Em’s lawyer. She is now summarily throwing out the entire deal and proceeding to his now-unmitigated sentencing.

Emmett: Em’s eyes narrow.

GM: The following legal proceedings are all very confusing. Underwood states that, as part of Emmett’s plea bargain, he has forfeited the right to a trial by a jury of his peers. She asks him if he understands what that means, whether he knows he has waived his privilege against self-incrimination, whether anyone has forced him into making this settlement, and whether he is pleading guilty because he killed Miguel Rodriguez while engaged in the perpetration of aggravated kidnapping and the attempted exchange of a controlled dangerous substance listed under the Schedules II, section A.4., of the Uniform Controlled Dangerous Substances Law. All Em can mostly manage is an uncertain “yes” with the occasional “no”, where appropriate, to Judge Underwood’s and the prosecuting DA’s pointed queries. When he tries to deflect or sidestep, they relentlessly assault him and his counsel with a further gamut of twisting, head-pounding questions they already seem to know the answers to.

Em wonders what Villars would do here. As treacherous and underhanded as the cottonmouth-like lawyer was, he always seemed to have some way of slithering out of trouble—or at least fangs to sink into the hands of anyone who grabbed him. Em’s defender mostly just wearily takes everything the judge and prosecution dishes out. In fact, he looks as if he wants to rip off his necktie and strangle the mouthy cripple who is his client right then and there.

The ADA states that there are a host of charges Emmett is facing besides Miguel Rodriguez’ murder, all of which he duly enumerates, but murder in the first degree already carries the maximum possible sentence in Louisiana. Judge Underwood sentences the guilty-pleading young man to life imprisonment without possibility of parole. He is also to be placed on death row and will be executed by lethal injection.

“…as part of your plea in mitigation, you have forfeited the right to appeal any and all aspects of this judgment and conviction,” the white-haired woman levelly intones.

“We are adjourned.”

Emmett: Cool, Em he wants to say. He wants to smile up at the judge and do his best sear himself into her memories. I hear some guys who get the needle die with a boner, but I’ll just think of you, he wants to taunt.

Ge says nothing.

He told Lena he didn’t care what happened. She’s safe. That’s what matters. He’s all right with this, isn’t he?

So why is he crying? Crying, like the brat they all think he is?

GM: Em can’t make out much past his now-blurry vision. The clerk, doing something with the tape recorder. People getting up from their seats. Underwood, exchanging a few words with the ADA, both heedless of his tears. His defender, saying something to him that flies in one ear and out the other.

Look where we are now, Lena had said.

I hope the fun has been worth it.


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Story Three, Emmett X

“I’m not a good person, Lena.”
—Emmett Delacroix


Sunday afternoon, 13 September 2015

GM: Em calls upon his doctor and asks when he can get out. Dr. Brown tells him that while he’s out of ICU, he’s still got “a little while yet” before he’s ready to be released.

When pressed, Dr. Brown admits that it’s Em’s legal right to check out of the hospital at any time—he’s a (sufficiently) mentally competent adult and they can’t hold him against his will without a court order. Dr. Brown repeats that he does not advise Em to leave the hospital at this time. The still-injured cripple does not have a clean bill of health. If Em wants to leave, there’s going to be a liability waiver for him to sign, absolving Tulane Medical Center of responsibility for any injury that results from Em ignoring his doctor’s orders.

Furthermore, if he’s well enough to leave the hospital, he’ll also be considered well enough to meet his probation officer and spend weekends in Orleans Parish Prison. And to start paying his many, many bills.

Emmett: He can deal with the problems he already has or wait on his back while more accumulate. This might be the worst week of his life, but he’s going to face it. It might be the bravest thing he’s ever done, and that might be pathetic; but then, so is he. He asks for somebody to call his sister. He’s getting out of here.

GM: Lena is, to put it mildly, surprised by Emmett’s sudden turn-around. As a doctor herself, she is not predisposed to go against the advice of a colleague responsible for her brother’s care. Still, money is a huge issue without insurance, and Em pitches that another week (or more) of mounting bills will ruin his life worse than a pediatrician taking over his post-ICU care. Lena reluctantly acquiesces after Em signs the liability waiver, but adds that he’s going right back if his symptoms take a turn for the worse. Not only does Em’s silver tongue win him release from Tulane, but Lena volunteers to take the rest of the day off (as a doctor she still works Sundays) and take him home right away, rather than waiting until evening.

Now that he’s feeling well enough to leave, however, Lena also declares that he’s well enough to talk about bills. “I made a trip to Tulane’s financial services department, Em. They haven’t finished tabulating your bill, but it looks like you’re going to owe them at least $100,000. Possibly a lot more.”

Emmett: “That’s a lot, yeah,” Em says. He’s oddly calm. He has long given up on clawing his way out of the medical debt. It’s the one that might hurt his sister he’s terrified of.

GM: “The bill hasn’t arrived yet, so that buys you some wiggle room. Hospitals are pretty slow about sending them. It could take months before yours actually arrives in the mail, but we shouldn’t put this off.” She pauses to gather her thoughts. “Now, you have a lot more options than you may realize, including charity programs and government assistance like SSI. You can also simply negotiate the hospital for a lower bill—most people don’t know you can do that. Hospitals only charge so much because of the games they play with insurance companies; bills are more like ‘oh I hope to get this’ Christmas wish-lists than anything else. Hospitals don’t actually expect to collect the sums of money they initially ask for.”

Lena pauses again. “But for someone who isn’t on insurance, you’re on hook for the entire amount. Even with everything we can do to bring this bill down… god only knows when, or if, you’ll be able to pay it off.”

Emmett: “A crippling debt, one might say.”

GM: His sister isn’t laughing.

Emmett: The joke has been repeated too many times to be funny. He’s just pushing air. He sighs. “Lena. My life is over. The debt is just the very, very big cherry on the sundae that is my life being over.”

But yours isn’t going to be ruined, too.

GM: “Actually, Em, if we can get you on an insurance plan as well as public assistance, you might not have to pay any money for your stay. Now, you can’t get on my and Dan’s insurance, because you aren’t a financial dependent of ours. But under the Affordable Care Act, you are still eligible to be on our parents’ until you turn 26. In fact, if the state finds you disabled and starts paying you SSI, I think there’s a law that you can stay on their insurance indefinitely.”

Emmett: “That sounds like it involves talking to Mom and Dad.”

GM: “Yes, it would. We’ve talked. They still feel…” Lena trails off, seeming to think better. “I’ll let them talk to you about how they feel. Regardless, I think they might still be willing to put you back on their plan. But I’m not the one who’s going to convince them.”

Emmett: He says nothing.

GM: “Emmett, you could go to prison for this,” Lena states seriously. “They can sue you for failing to pay outstanding bills. You can then be held in contempt of court for failing to make the court-ordered payments. I’ve seen it happen.”

Emmett: “Yeah. It’s bad.”

GM: “And if you can’t pay the bills back, forget about prosthetics. Those also cost thousands of dollars.”

Emmett: He hangs his head. “You already won, Lena.”

GM: His sister closes her eyes for a moment. “Thank you, Em.”

Emmett: “Nah. Don’t thank me for saving my own ass, Len.” His voice is very, very quiet. "I meant it when I said I was going to make it up to you. Somehow. "

GM: “That’s one part of why I thanked you.” Lena manages a tired smile. “There are a few other things before we leave. But hopefully less…” She trails off again. “Well, first. When I tried to visit you earlier, there were police outside your door who said you were under arrest.”

Emmett: “Past tense, now.”

GM: “Clearly. I do need to know why and what you were charged with, if anything.”

Emmett: He sighs. “Assaulting a police officer was the biggie.” Preemptively, he says, “Relax.”

GM: Lena doesn’t look very relaxed. “Emmett, if you’re going to be staying in the same house as my kids, I need to know the full story.”

Emmett: He closes his eyes. “This’ll take a while.”


Sunday afternoon, 13 September 2015

GM: Lena patiently (but far from passively) listens to Em’s explanation of the many events that led to his current point. He leaves out everything to do with Talal al-Saud, as well as the loan from the Dixie Mafia that may have bought his legal defense at the price of his niece’s and nephew’s lives.

Lena is still horrified by the story he tells her. She’s read about corruption in NOPD, of course, but she can’t believe a police officer would actually do something like that to someone—or hand them over, or—well, it’s not apparent what happened to Em, though Cash Money was clearly involved, and he’s the easiest figure Lena can find to blame. She wonders if they should try to press charges—but upon hearing of Em’s arrest and the consequences which resulted from that, she reluctantly concurs they should stay the hell away from Ricky Mouton.

Lena seems to assume that Em went with a public defender for his lawyer. He does not attempt to dissuade her. The court fines are a drop in the bucket next to the medical bills, but the state of Louisiana is going to be far more aggressive (or at least timlier) in collecting those.

Em spending his weekends in jail seriously worries her in his present condition. Orleans Parish Prison is one of the worst jails in the country, she’s read. There are horrible stories about inmate fatalities and rampant corruption and abuses among the guards. It’s no place for anyone to be, much less someone in as sorry a state as Em.

Then there’s his probation. One of the terms, if he wants to stay out of prison, is to be gainfully employed. In other words, Em must hold his first real job in all his life.

Emmett: He sighs. “I’ve always wanted to be a mobile signpost. Or maybe a tourist attraction. What qualifies as gainfully employed, in probation terms? Can you look it up?”

GM: “Basically anything there’s a W2 form for. I mean, it’s not as if most parolees are working as rocket scientists. An entry level dishwashing or fast food job would satisfy.”

Emmett: “What about being a student?”

GM: Lena considers the question. “I don’t think so, as it’s not a paying job. But that’s something I should ask my lawyer. Maybe it would count if you did a work-study program.”

Emmett: “I’ve actually… been thinking about going back to school. Before all this.” He serves the lie with a bitter laugh. “Hindsight 20/20, right?”

GM: “That still wouldn’t be a bad idea, Em,” his sister encourages. “Desk jobs that require a degree are a lot more likely to accommodate physical disabilities.”

Emmett: “Yeah… but come on. The cripple with a rap sheet? I don’t know much about student loans, but I wouldn’t qualify, right?” He does his best to make it sound like a foregone answer, but everything might ride on a “yes.”

GM: “Student loan eligibility is mainly based off personal and parental income, though past a certain age, I don’t remember what, how much your parents make doesn’t factor in. So in some ways it can be easier to qualify when you’re older. Having a physical disability might also help, I’m not fully sure there either. We can try applying for grants too—those are available to older students, and you don’t even have to pay them back.”

Emmett: “…oh.” He starts to nod. “I guess… that might be a decent bridge to build with Mom and Dad, right?” And also to my way out of shit creek.

GM: “Going back to school? Oh, definitely, Em.” Lena pauses. “Also, when I said to pass on they said hi… that was me, well, fibbing. They… haven’t asked me to pass anything on for over four years.”

Emmett: “Oh. That’s… good? I feel less bad now.” He considers. “No. I don’t.”

It’s true. He feels exactly as guilty about it as he did before this nightmare started.


Sunday afternoon, 13 September 2015

GM: Touro is a well-to-do neighborhood that sits just east of the Garden District. Blocks of glorious 19th-century homes stand as symbols of the industriousness which made New Orleans one of the wealthiest cities in the nation during the Antebellum. While Touro does not play home to the same old money that its elder, western neighbor does, most Touro residents are white (a significant demographic break from the majority of the Crescent City) and a third own their homes outright. Children play on a basketball court right next to a police station whose officers vigilantly keep “undesirables” out of the upper-middle class neighborhood.

Lena_Home.jpg
The Merinelli house is a two-story affair built in the Craftsman style, surrounded by a neatly-trimmed hedge and low iron fence. The family’s breadwinners aren’t Malveauxes, but they both still make six-figure incomes, and it shows.

Lena parks her SUV in the house’s unattached garage, then lowers Em onto his wheelchair with the help of a Hispanic woman in a housekeeper’s beige uniform, who she introduces as Paula. The newly-crippled young man is wheeled into the room that Lena and Dan use as their shared office space while the former boots up a desktop computer and asks for help making an Excel spreadsheet list of all the outstanding debts he owes, the various court-mandated obligations he’s expected to keep, and when they’re due by.

She’ll type.

Emmett: Admitting he had trouble keeping track of everything at the time, he recalls the hospital’s outstanding (and unknown) bill and his court-mandated fines.

GM: “Okay, that’s good. On top of that, there’s also your probation officer’s monthly fine. Then medical bills, and your public defender…”

Lena draws up an excel spreadsheet and puts down five rows for the five separate fees, with “monthly payment”, “total owed”, and “total paid” under each one. His court fees, Em recalls, come out to $5,900, including the $200 restitution owed to Ricky Mouton. When Em expresses shock over the probation officer’s fee, Lena confirms for him that people on probation are indeed expected to pay the state for their time. They also front the cost for drug tests.

Emmett: “…christ.”

GM: Looking it up, Lena finds there’s a flat $60 monthly fee for the probation officer, and $42 per drug test.

Emmett: “You’d think they’d just go ahead and stop arresting people,” he mutters.

GM: “Arresting people can bring in a lot of revenue. Sometimes, anyway.” Lena frowns. “Okay, next big expense… how much did your public defender cost you?”

Emmett: “Ten grand, or thereabouts. The prick seemed pretty happy, considering.”

GM: Lena blinks. “The state charged you $10,000 for a public defender’s plea deal? That’s insane.”

Emmett: Em frowns. “Uh, I think so. Is that unusual? The dude seemed to think it was pretty standard.” The frown deepens. His tone isn’t aggressive; he’s unsure. Here is a crippled man concerned about his own ability to help himself out of the grave he’s dug. Nothing more. Inside, he’s sweating.

GM: Em’s sister nods and frowns at the same time. “Someone had to have goofed up your legal bill. I should talk with my lawyer to make sure, though. What was your defender’s name?”

Emmett: He frowns slightly. “Villars, I think.”

Shit, shit shit.

GM: “Do you remember his first name?”

Emmett: “Something with a B. Bernie, Bertie, something like that.”

GM: Lena spends the next several minutes Googling Villars’ name and calling the state’s public defender office. By the time she’s finished, her frown has deepened. “Emmett, this man is a private attorney. He couldn’t have represented you. And the ten thousand dollar fee. That’s high even for a private attorney, if all you got was a plea deal.”

The expression on Lena’s plump face abruptly goes flat.

“All right, enough of the bullshit. What aren’t you telling me this time?”

Em’s mind furiously backpedals, but everything these past few days… it’s just too fucking much. Lena stares at her still-tongued baby brother with an increasingly severe expression as he sweats, then finally snaps, “All right. That says it all.” She gets up, takes Em’s wheelchair by the handles, and starts pushing him out of the room.

Emmett: He lets her.

GM: “Paula! Come help me get Em back into the car.”

Lena’s housekeeper follows them outside and helps her employer separately load the legless cripple and his wheelchair into the SUV. Lena gets in, turns the ignition, and pulls out of the driveway.

Emmett: Em speaks in the car. He speaks, because Cash Money left him his tongue. He’s the king of two courts. The actor on the stage. He’s invincible.

And that Em is dead. He can’t save himself. But he can save her.

“I’m not a good person, Lena.”

He waits, giving her a second to speak.

GM: Lena’s eyes stay fixed on the road. “Expensive toys for the kids whenever you visit. A swank apartment on Royal Street. No job beyond audition-seeking. And now this ten thousand dollar legal bill. People aren’t as dumb as you think, Emmett. Those things don’t add up. I don’t know what it does add up to. But you’re right that it’s nothing good.”

Emmett: He giggles. It isn’t as unstable as it should be; the irony is genuinely amusing. “Yeah, well. This whole week has been about me realizing exactly how stupid I am. Makes sense everybody else is a bit cleverer.” He breathes. Air is sweet. He should learn to enjoy it.

“I’m going to tell you who I really am, sis. And then you’ll drive me to the hospital and never talk to me again. I’ll probably go to prison. Or you could just leave me by the side of the road. You won’t love me anymore. That’s fine. That’s smart. But I’ve gotta tell you this. Because I still love you.”

GM: Lena isn’t laughing. In the slightest. Her knuckles clench around as the steering wheel as she replies in a tight voice, “It’s like a shot, Emmett. Best to just get it over with.”

Emmett: “Oh, yeah.” He chuckles. “I’m a thief. Obviously. Just not as good a one as I thought. Goddamn, I’ve done some things. You remember what Clarice always told us? That there’s a special place in Hell for children who act like they’re perfect? I tried to prove her wrong.”

He’s unable to look away from the window. Not out of cowardice. But God, how fast the world whips past. There goes a tree. There goes the neighborhood he liked to take walks in. There go his legs. There goes Emmett.

GM: Touro doesn’t draw the sightseers like the Garden District does. But it still has sights worth seeing.

Touro_Synagogue.jpg
There’s that synagogue. He hears it’s pretty old.

blue-white-red-porch-tree-uptown-2016-09-12-11.53.43-1024x768.jpg
Some other house. Nice like Lena’s.

Touro_Home.jpg
That house looks even nicer.

Childrens-Hospital-New-Orleans-Exterior.jpg
There’s the hospital where his sister works.

Touro_Shakespeare_Home.jpg
Touro Shakspeare Home. Do they read Shakespeare there, perform plays? And do they mean ‘Shakspeare’? It’s missing the extra ‘e’ it should have, like Em is missing the legs he should have.

Emmett: Somehow, it’s a comfort to know that someone else is missing something too.

“I ripped people off,” he says. “Acting’s lying for a living, right? So’s swindling. And the money was good, man. Oh, boy, it was great.” He chuckles. “I let go of everything anybody told me was important. And holy shit, was it fun. You know how freeing it is not to care about anybody but yourself, Lena?”

He never thought he’d think so, but it feels nice to tell the truth.

GM: Lena’s face is oddly tranquil throughout Em’s confession. There isn’t surprise written on it. Or disappointment. It’s not acceptance either. Just a simple… tiredness. The kind that comes when someone takes a shower and goes to bed after a long, sweaty day under the hot Dixie sun. Except the shower is cold, and the bed is hard and lumpy, but they have no choice but to make do.

“No, Emmett, I don’t know what it’s like. I haven’t had that luxury ever since I became responsible for seven and a half pounds of helpless life that was completely dependent upon her caregivers. Then another seven, after her brother came along.”

“And look where we are now,” she says slowly. “I hope the fun has been worth it.”

Emmett: “Probably would have said so, once.” Outside, the world outruns him. Granted, that’s not so hard anymore. “Somebody’s going to come by your home in a week. Dixie Mob. Pay them eleven grand. Don’t help with my hospital bills, or getting me that state assistance. Just pay them, and forget about me.”

He’s never realized how beautiful this city is.

GM: Lena blinks.

“What?”

Emmett: “Villars. The lawyer. He’s a scumbag. He put me on the phone with the Mob, and I didn’t realize who I was borrowing from or what the stakes were when he did.”

GM: Lena stops the car dead in the middle of the road, sending the breaks squealing.

WHAT?”

Emmett: “Oh, come on. You heard me.” He misses the pretty whoosh that life was making a few seconds ago. He sighs. “Worst thing I’ve ever done, completely by accident. I was half-doped up at the time. Not that it makes it better, obviously.”

GM: The car remains stopped. Lena doesn’t unbuckle her seatbelt. She stares at Em flabbergastedly, then demands, “Why on EARTH is the… Mob coming to MY house?!”

Emmett: “That wasn’t me. Villars, apparently, figured you would take me in. Apparently, he also found your address. Oh, and the reason he did all this was to pay my legal fee. Would have gone to prison if I had known the real cost.” He’s got an itch on his nose that he cannot fucking scratch and somehow, that is all he can think about at the moment.

GM: Lena just stares at him, her face at a total loss.

Emmett: “Deep breaths,” he advises.

GM: Em’s still-tender cheek burns as his sister slaps it.

Emmett: He takes it silently, and then says, softly, “Feels good, right?”

GM: Lena is visibly shaking as her face flushes red. “What happens to my children, Emmett, if I don’t pay these people?”

Emmett: “You can pay them. At the very least, you can make the minimum weekly payment, which if I had to guess isn’t more than, like, a grand or two. Bud probably should have explained that to me.”

GM: Lena’s eyes bore into his. Another car honks several times from behind their stopped vehicle, but she doesn’t turn around. “I’m not asking you again. What. Happens.”

Emmett: “The guy said he’d kill my family, just before he hung up but—please stop panicking—that’s stupid business, though, they’d lose money. Could be broken bones, mutilation, what have you. Actually, probably not anything too permanent, at least not the first week. I honestly don’t know, but I can safely say that you’re going to want to pay them or take a long, long vacation.” Damn that itch.

I’m sorry, Lena. But to say it would infuriate her, so he doesn’t.

GM: Lena slaps him again. Harder. Her next hoarse words are almost a shout.

“You handed my kids’ lives over to the MAFIA!?”

Emmett: “No, I handed my life over to an unknown caller and then found out I’d accidentally done the unthinkable. I literally had no idea what was happening until the guy on the phone said, ‘great, Em, short any payments and we’ll kill your family. Have yerself a dandy dixie day.’ Then he hung up.” He blinks tears out of his eyes. The world becomes blurry and beautiful. God, it hurts.

GM: “I don’t believe this,” Lena states numbly. “I just don’t believe this.” She’s slumped back in her seat. Her next words don’t sound like they’re addressed to Em. “I don’t know who you are.”

Emmett: “I told you. An awful, parasitic excuse of a person. Who you never have to see again. And who really, really loves you. And my niece. And nephew. You don’t have to think about anything, Lena. You just have to pay the monsters who come to your door and forget I ever existed. It’ll be like a shot.”

GM: Lena stares directly at Em again and holds up a finger. Red starts to re-color her face. “Don’t. You. Dare talk to me about love right now.”

Emmett: “Okay.”

GM: She fishes a phone out of her pocket and dials a number. “Dan? You need to pick up the kids and take them to your mom’s. Possibly for a long time. I’ll explain later.” Confused chatter sounds from the other end as she hangs up.

Emmett: “Oh, and don’t even think of going to the cops,” he adds. “They’re infested, Lena. You’ll end up in a ditch for the nerve.”

GM: She dials another number. “Mom?”

Emmett: “Oh. Right.”

GM: “You were right. I was wrong. About everything.” There’s an indistinct voice. “Yes. Don’t put him on your insurance. I’ll explain later.” She hangs up to the sound of more confused chatter.

Emmett: “Right, so you can dump me or drop me at Tulane, but uh, yeah. Cops aren’t a good idea. Good news is, though, I’ll almost definitely get sent to the Farm anyway.”

GM: “No, Emmett, I’m not going to leave you here when a good samaritan might stop to help.” Lena looks as if she might shake her head, but she still doesn’t look all the way there. Another car honks from behind theirs. She ignores it and mutters, “God knows you’d only spit in their face.”

Lena drives back back to Tulane Medical Center. She does not speak a word for the rest of the trip. When the pair arrive outside the brick-like building, Em’s sister doesn’t literally throw him out of the car: she just dumps him on the side of the curb. She does not help him into the wheelchair she unloads from the SUV’s rear with more care than she shows her brother. The effective paraplegic is left to writhe helplessly on the asphalt while onlookers stare and gawk. A few laugh and pull out their phones to snap videos.

Lena closes the car door without a glance back, pulls out of the parking lot, and out of Em’s life.

Emmett: “Ummph.”

And good for her. Exit, stage right. He has little to feel proud over, and less to feel happy about. But the world becomes a rush of noise and people and consequences, whooshing by like a car window.

Em stares at the sky. He waits, for somebody to help if they wish or leave him if they don’t. The world isn’t a nice place. He isn’t a good person. But he could be worse, and somehow, that means a lot. He wonders what the crowd thinks. It must be odd to see a cripple looking happy.

GM: Hospital staff eventually haul Em back onto his wheelchair and cart him inside. Dr. Brown stares down at the cripple with another shadow-rimmed smile and cheerfully tells him that it’s good he changed his mind. “You should still be in bed anyways. Doctor’s orders, after all!” That’ll even net him some extra time before his jail sentence starts.

Emmett: Em says nothing. It’s about time he learned how.

GM: No one charges him with anything. Em is placed in a non-ICU, partitioned hospital room he shares with another patient. She’s an older woman who was attacked by a home invader (who also didn’t steal anything, oddly enough). Her teenage son comes by frequently with food. As Em can well attest, what passes for it in the hospital tastes terrible. The two laugh about random things to keep their spirits up, sometimes cry, reminisce of memories gone by, and plan for a future Em may no longer have.

Now it is not tears that fall like sand in an hourglass, but days of the young cripple’s life.

Steadily trickling away.


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Story Three, Emmett IX, Mouse I

“I made bad choices. Okay? I made a lot of mistakes, and some of this is my fault, and I’m an idiot. That’s what happened.”
—Emmett Delacroix


Sunday noon, 13 September 2015

GM: “Oh my god… Emmett, what happened?”

Emmett’s older sister stares at him with one hand over her mouth. Eveline Merinelli looks in her late 30s, but it’s her occupation that shows just as much as her age with the formative wrinkles around her mouth. She has sandy shoulder-length hair and a plump face, never having fully worked off her first pregnancy’s weight gain. A pair of carolyn-framed glasses sit over her nose, while her makeup is minimal and her jewelry absent. She’s dressed in a pastel blouse, dark slacks, and leather clogs. All things told, she looks like she just removed her doctor’s coat after getting off from work at the Children’s Hospital New Orleans, and perhaps she did.

[[File:788933 | class=media-item-align-center | Lena1.jpg]]
Emmett: “Lena,” he says. He feels his eyes getting wet. “Hi.”

GM: Lena sits down and wraps her arms around him in a hug. The doctor tries to be gentle, but the sister can’t resist pulling him close against her chest.

Emmett: “Ribs,” he mutters. “I need my ribs, at least.” The joke takes what little energy he has left.

GM: His sister’s touch lingers for a moment, but she finally pulls away at his protests. Her face is overcome with a palette of emotions, shock and concern not least among them.

“Em, what happened?!”

Emmett: “I…” He’s thought a lot about this moment. He’s spun webs of lies to make spiders weep, rehearsed in the empty hours of the night when sleep won’t come for him.

None of that matters, now.

“I…” He bites his tongue. “I…”

Just do it. Just lie, you lying liar fucker. Just DO IT…!

“I can’t,” he says, and bursts into tears. Somehow, this is worse. This is worse than the ass-wiping, than being raped, worse even than the moment he realized he couldn’t feel his legs.

“I made bad choices. Okay? I made a lot of mistakes, and some of this is my fault, and I’m an idiot. That’s what happened. And I can’t talk about it, right now. I can’t lie here in my shit without legs and talk about how I got here. I’m sorry, Lena. I’m just… I’m really sorry. Please don’t make me talk about it.”

He can’t see the room anymore. It’s all one big, saline bubble.

GM: Em might not be able to see, but he can still feel someone’s arm around his shoulders in another half-hug. “Em, that’s… that’s okay. You don’t need to talk about anything right now. I shouldn’t have even asked, not this soon. After…”

She gives him a squeeze. “Thanks for being honest.”

Emmett: He sobs subside, slightly. “I’m… I’m sorry. For everything.” More than you know, Lena.

GM: “It’s all right. You’ll get… get through this.” Lena takes a breath and tries to put on a comforting smile as she pulls something out of her coat. “Maya and Noah made you a card.”

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Emmett: He manages an uneven laugh. Get well soon. Get well soon…

“That’s nice,” he says. “Are they all right?”

GM: “More than. They’re in school right now. They can come visit later, if you’re feeling up for it.”

Emmett: “That sounds great.” And more fun than going to their funeral. Oh christ. Oh my god. He starts crying again. “You know I love you guys, right?” he says. His throat burns.

GM: Lena dabs his face with a second tissue. She dabs hers with the first. “We… we know. We love you too, Em.”

“Listen,” she says more slowly, “another thing to think about is bills. Every day you’re here is going to cost you more money. I’d need to talk with your doctor to get a better picture of what condition you’re in, but if he thinks an early discharge would be okay, you’re welcome to stay at my family’s house.”

Emmett: “I don’t want…” to watch you die. “…to be a burden.”

GM: “Well, you wouldn’t be,” his sister states matter-of-factly. “We do have a housekeeper, lord knows we pay her enough as it is. And it’s going to take at least a month for your arms to heal.”

Emmett: A home. Warm food. His nephew and niece. Christ. He even misses Dan. “I don’t want you to… I need care. I can’t do… things for myself anymore.” Things like feeding myself, he doesn’t say. Things like brushing his own teeth and wiping his own ass.

GM: “I know, Em. I’ve seen my share of hospital patients. We can have Paula do some of those things, if you’d prefer.”

Emmett: He laughs a crippled laugh that never gets off the ground. “That’ll be a fun conversation.”

GM: “And you’ll miss out on, poor you,” Lena offers with a nose-crinkling smile. “Another thing I’m going to do is start a few applications on your behalf for Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income, or SSI. That probably won’t take care of all your bills, but if you get approved, it’ll help.”

Emmett: “If you’re sure… I’ll pay you back for this. Someday.”

GM: “I’m very sure. And nonsense. What family’s for, isn’t it?”

Emmett: OhGodPleaseForgiveMeLena.

“Okay, then.”


Sunday noon, 13 September 2015

GM: Em can make out the voice of one of his nurses just past the door. “…and he’s in here. Please try not to make any… noise with all that.”

Emmett: He lifts his head, squinting.

Mouse: “I can try, ma’am,” another voice replies with a lilt. It’s pure as water and smooth as black velvet whiskey.

The door handle to Em’s room turns as a svelte man enters. He looks a few years younger than Em, but still old enough to be out of high school. His chocolate-brown hair is an unruly mass of frizz and curls. His sea-green eyes look over Em’s bedridden, crippled form with a juxtaposition of sympathy and oddly unrelenting cheeriness. A tired, beat-up guitar is slung over his right shoulder as he takes a couple soft-footed steps forward. He’s carrying a large card and several balloons in his free hands. He turns back to the nurse and gives her a shy look as he thanks her for showing him the way to Em’s room.

Emmett: Oh, just what I needed. The power of positive thinking. Em manages to make his eye-roll look like a spasm. “Hey, Mouse. Been a while.”

Mouse: Mouse smiles back. “Hi Em.” He approaches Em and awkwardly proffers the card and balloons.

Emmett: Em flicks his eyes at his cast-bound arms. “Maybe tie it around my arm?” he suggests weakly.

Mouse: “I can do that,” Mouse answers nervously, still clearly surprised by Em’s condition. He puts the card on the bedside table and ties the balloons to Em’s nearest cast-bound arm with a dextrous flourish. “What happened?” he asks softly.

Emmett: “Crippling debt,” Em says simply. “I’d… rather not talk about it, if you don’t mind. How’s prison? Sorry, Tulane?” The casual shift in topic feels about as natural as the stumps where his body ends.

Mouse: Mouse gives a humorous smile. “It’s not as bad as a prison, Em.” He laughs quietly at the joke. “They make all student residents adhere to a meal plan, though. How’s the hospital food?”

Emmett: “I haven’t tried it yet. They have stuff that looks like food, though.” Em smiles, painfully. “Francis still… Francis?”

Mouse: “Yes. Francis is still Francis.” Mouse beams with pride at the mention of his older brother. He adds in a hushed tone, “I didn’t tell him I was going to see you, of course. He doesn’t really like me hanging out with you.”

Emmett: “What’s he gonna do, break my legs again?” He sighs. “I appreciate you coming, though—” He stops. “You, uh. Still living the high life? Gallery openings, whatnot?”

Mouse: Mouse’s eyes drift conspicuously downwards to Em’s lower half.

“Yeah…” is the most manages, his tone deflated. When he forces himself to meet Em’s gaze again he looks like he’s barely holding back tears. “Are… you hungry? Do you need me to get a nurse for you?”

Emmett: Em has an idea. Granted, ideas have not worked well for him recently. But how much worse can things get? He summons every ounce of self-pity and makes it sound like sympathy. “Hey, man. You don’t need to cry over me. I’m gonna bounce back. It’s going to be—” he starts coughing, an ugly, ragged noise.

Mouse: Mouse’s eyes widen with alarm.

Emmett: He eases himself out of the fit, shaking his head. “I’ll be fine, really. It’s the money I have to worry about. They may as well break my back, ha-ha…” The joke falls flat, as the bitterness in his voice becomes apparent. He shakes his head again. “I’m sorry. You don’t want to hear about my problems.”

Mouse: Mouse shakes his head, drying his eyes with his shirt as inconspicuously as he can manage. “It’s okay, Em,” he says, trying his best to be the strong voice of support. “I don’t mind listening. It’s the least I can do.”

Emmett: “If you’re sure.” Em talks in circles, letting Mouse’s artist mind paint the picture. His family’s offered to take him in, until he can find a place he can afford. The hospital isn’t so bad. It’ll be nicer than the jail he’ll stay weekends in.

He trails off when he says he hopes to hit the ground running. Finally, he seems to hesitate. “Mouse… I can trust you, right? For old time’s sake?” The artist can’t help but remember the 19-year-old bleeding after his older brother had a ‘conversation’ with him.

Mouse: “You know you can trust me.” Mouse’s smile takes a bit to remerge, but it never leaves his face.

Emmett: “What do you know about…” Swallow. Pause. And: “…the Dixie Mob?”

Mouse: Mouse just looks confused by the name.

Emmett: Jesus Christ, Francis does the heavy lifting, doesn’t he?

“It doesn’t matter,” Em says quietly. “The short of it is, I owe some money to some bad, bad people. People even Francis probably doesn’t fuck with. And… and they’re going to hurt my family.” He hangs his head. The pain, at least, is real enough.

Mouse: “Why would you owe them money?” Mouse asks. “You should know better than to deal with bad people, Em.” His voice might be soft, but the words are hard, even if unintentionally.

Emmett: The tears are real, too. As is the humiliation. “Yeah, I should. I know, man. It was my damn lawyer. He said he had a way I could pay his fees, and I didn’t realize what I was getting into until it was too late.” He sighs. “I’m sorry. My problem. I shouldn’t have made it yours. Thanks, anyway.”

Mouse: “No. I’m your friend.” There’s still a strain to Mouse’s voice, but there’s sudden strength to it too. “Who’s your lawyer? What did he do? I’ll do whatever I can to help.”

Emmett: “The lawyer’s out of the picture. For better, trust me.” He closes his eyes. “12 grand. I need 12 grand. I can’t ask you to come up with that. It’s out of your hands.”

His hanging head bats one of the balloons tied to his arm out of the way. The image would be funny if it weren’t so pitiful.

Mouse: Mouse’s eyes bug out. “I wish I had that kind of money. You know if I did, Em, I would pay for everything right away.” He looks almost as helpless as his invalid ‘friend’ for a moment there.

Emmett: I think college might actually make people stupider.

“Of course not, man,” he says. “I’d have to ask your brother, if anybody. And that wouldn’t go well, right? Hates my guts.”

Mouse: Mouse pauses for a moment. Then his eyes then light up as if a switch has been pulled inside his mind. “I could go and ask Francis for help!”

Emmett: There we go. “Are you sure he’d have the cash?” Em’s voice contains all-too-real hope.

Mouse: “I don’t think he does,” Mouse says uncertainly. “But I could ask him if he knows anybody who could possibly help.” He gives Em a hopeful and hopefully encouraging look.

Emmett: Em’s already shaking his head. “No. I won’t make my problems his. I’ve wronged him enough. If he doesn’t have the means…” He pauses. “You’ve still got some friends in high places, right?”

Mouse: Mouse blinks. “High places?”

Emmett: “You’re a musician, man. I went with you to that concert once, remember? You seemed pretty comfortable with some of the… more well-off crowd.”

Mouse: “Thanks!” Mouse beams. “I get along with pretty much anyone.”

Emmett: Oh my god, I’m fucked.

“Cécilia Devillers,” he snaps, before composing herself. “I think that was her name, anyway. We had a good time, remember? And she said her mother’s got all sorts of non-profit projects. Maybe we could get some help there?”

It takes most of his remaining presence of mind to avoid screaming.

Mouse: Dawning understanding lights up Mouse’s face. He gives Em his brightest, most hopeful smile yet. “I could definitely try! I can talk to my agent about getting in contact. She’s the one with all the connections, y’know?”

Emmett: “That would be… awesome, Mouse. You’re a good friend.” He clears his throat. “The only thing is, whatever we do, it has to be quick. Within the next four days.”

Mouse: “Why’s that?”

Emmett: Because the Mob doesn’t screw around with deadlines, you fucking airhead. Em bites his tongue before that sentence passes his teeth. “Because that’s when they promised to hurt the people I love, Mouse.”

Mouse: Mouse’s eyes widen in shock. “You can count on me, Em!”

Emmett: Probably not, but at least you won’t cut off my leg. “You’re the best friend I’ve ever had, Mouse,” Em says, and isn’t quite sure how much he’s lying.

Mouse: “No worries!” he grins. “You’re a really, really great friend, too!”

Emmett: “Thanks, man. That means a lot.” Almost as much as that stupid fucking card… is that a spit stain? He must have… no, he couldn’t have tried to get his brother to sign it, could he? Idiot.


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Story Three, Emmett VIII

“Justice’s wheels turn so much faster when they’re greased with money.”
—Bert Villars


Friday morning, 11 September 2015

GM: The days drag by. Villars spends the next few going over his client’s legal options.

There aren’t many.

First, Emmett can take a plea bargain. In return for pleading guilty, there will be no trial and some of the charges he’s facing will be dropped, resulting in a reduced sentence. 90% of all criminal cases are resolved this way. It saves money for the state and legal clients alike.

Villars will do his best to haggle for Em’s sentence(s) taking some form other than consecutive jail time. If Em is in jail for longer than a week, after all, he won’t be able to pay off Bud. Alternative sentences can include fines, probation, community service, or part-time (weekends only) imprisonment.

Em’s second option is to go to trial. If he wins, he could get more charges dropped. If he loses, he will receive a less forgiving sentence—which is very likely to include consecutive jail time.

Win or lose, a trial could be months away, and Em’s judge could be pissed enough (the state hates unnecessary trials) to hold him in Orleans Parish Prison without bail. He will also owe Villars thousands of dollars more in legal fees. Villars does not trust Em to repay any further debts and requires that he tender the monies up front. Whether Em obtains them through another loan from Bud, conning or begging his parents, or GoFundMe donations makes no difference the grimebag lawyer.

An additional con to going to trial is that Cash Money will be called to court—and see Em’s face again. Corrupt cops, Villars adds, hate going to court.

All things told, the mostly-blind lawyer advises his client to take a plea bargain. If Em wishes to go to trial, however, Villars is happy to let the newly-crippled grifter dig his own grave—so long as he gets paid.

Emmett: Em takes no persuading. Persuading is for people who can afford not to buy. He just nods his head. It’s the only part of him that doesn’t hurt anymore.

GM: “By the way. My further legal advice is for you to get your arms cut off,” Villars states upon hearing Em’s suggestion that he try to strike a deal with Cash Money.

“I’m quite serious. You’ve already shown so much more common sense after losing two of your limbs.” Villars leers. “Who can imagine what losing all four might do for you?”

Emmett: Em says nothing. “I just want to make this go away as fast as possible.” His hands shake, and he winces from the pain. “Please. You make the choice.”

GM: “You just leave it in my hands,” Villars states with another yellow leer.

He scratches his dog’s ears. “They have you on several gross misdemeanors, but no felonies. Your sentencing can probably take place concurrently with your arraignment. The state doesn’t want to spend any more money on this than they have to.”

The grimebag lawyer’s leer spreads like a piss stain over tile.

“Justice’s wheels turn so much faster when they’re greased with money.”

Emmett: Em says nothing. He just thinks a number, over and over and over. The number Bud whispered to him with a little girl on his lap. Ten thousand dollars. That was the number he had sold his sister’s life for. He wondered if they included little Noah and Maya in their definition of “family.” The last time he had seen them, he had given them toys he stole from his local store.

He breathes the number, hears it in the pauses of Villars’ monologue and sees it in the slits in his snake’s grin. He didn’t know what he was trading away. He didn’t know who he was on the phone with. The excuses are plenty. His idiocy has never scared him. He isn’t scared of going to the funerals. Or, at least, he’s not scared of that right now.

He’s scared that he might make the same deal if he knew what was on the other end.


Sunday morning, 13 September 2015

GM: Three days after Emmett’s arrest, he is due for his arraignment. Dr. Brown still finds him medically unfit to be transported to court, so the legal proceedings are held inside his hospital room.

Stout chairs and thick wooden desks are brought inside by hospital staff. Bert Villars and four strangers dressed in full legal regalia file into Em’s room. There’s an older, gray-mustached man in a dark suit. A younger, clean-shaven man in another dark suit with a tape recorder. A square-jawed, balding man in a tan police officer’s uniform. Last is a stern-looking, white-haired woman dressed in a judge’s voluminous black gown. She peers down her half-rimmed glasses at the crippled young man with a disapproving eye as she assumes her seat.

The suited young man, who looks like he could be around Emmett’s age, hits the recorder and announces, “The Honorable Peyton T. Underwood presiding. The case of Louisiana vs. Delacroix; Criminal Action 09-10017 will now be heard before this court. Counsel please identify themselves for the record.”

“Please be seated,” the judge pronounces.

All of the attendant individuals do so except for the older suited man.

“Good morning, Your Honor, for the assistant district attorney, Maxwell F. Hammond.”

“Good morning.”

The man seats himself. Villars rises and states, “Good morning, Your Honor, Bertram S. Villars representing the defendant, Mr. Delacroix.”

The judge regards the puffed-up grimebag lawyer. “Mr. Villars, do you waive the reading of the indictment in its entirety?”

“I do, Your Honor.”

The judge turns her severe stare upon the still-bedridden, gown-clad, and legless Emmett. “Mr. Delacroix, you have been charged in indictment with violations of the law for the United States, specifically assaulting a public officer, soliciting prostitution, false impersonation, drug possession, and obstruction of justice.”

Her half-rimmed gaze sweeps back to the cripple’s lawyer. “Mr. Villars, have you had an opportunity to at least preliminary review the indictment with your client such that he is ready to be arraigned?”

“Yes, Your Honor.”

“Does he have or has he received a copy of the indictment?”

“Yes, Your Honor.”

“Mr. Hammond, please state the maximum punishments.”

“Certainly, Your Honor,” the older suited man replies. “Count one, assault…”

The prosecuting attorney lists the maximum sentences for all the charges in their entirety. Non-aggravated assault can carry a penalty of up to 90 day in jail, a fine of up to two hundred dollars, and financial restitution to the victim.

Soliciting prostitution can be fined not more than five hundred dollars, imprisonment for not more than six months, or both.

False impersonation can be fined not more than one hundred dollars, or imprisonment for not more than 90 days, or both.

Drug possession can be fined not more than five thousand dollars, or imprisonment for not more than ten years, or both.

Obstruction of justice for lesser criminal proceedings (that is, involving a criminal proceeding in which a sentence of imprisonment less than a life sentence may be imposed) can be fined not more then ten thousand dollars, or imprisonment for not more than five years, or both.

“…as to Counts 1 charging you with assault in violation of RS 14:35; Counts 2 charging you with soliciting prostitution in violation of RS 14:83; Counts 3 charging you with false impersonation in violation of RS 14:1112; Counts 4 charging you with drug possession in violation of RS 40:966; and Counts 5 charging you with obstruction of justice in violation of RS 14:130.1; how do you plead, guilty or not guilty?”

The prosecuting ADA finally stares directly at Emmett.

Emmett: His voice is every bit as enduring and reliable as a tin can. “Guilty, Your Honor.”

GM: Almost everyone in the ‘courtroom’ gives the young man a condescending look. “‘Your Honor’ is the term of address used for judges, Mr. Delacroix,” the prosecutor states thinly.

The judge’s gaze sweeps to the clerk with the tape recorder. “Mr. Thaddeux, can we have a date please?”

True to Villars’ promise, justice’s money-greased wheels speedily grind on. Em isn’t required to speak for any of it. Just the guilty plea. That’s all they want to hear from him.

“Guilty.”

Guilty they find him, of the following charges: assault, drug possession, and soliciting prostitution. Villars gets the false impersonation and obstruction of justice charges dropped as part of the plea deal. Judge Underwood sentences him to the following:

For assaulting a police offer, he is fined $200 and sentenced to 90 days in jail. Emmett will also have to pay an additional restitution of $200 to Ricky Mouton.

For soliciting prostitution, he is fined $500 and sentenced to another 90 days of jail time.

For drug possession, he is fined $5,000 and sentenced to yet another 90 days in jail.

Villars has managed to wrangle one precious concession: Emmett is to serve a nonconsecutive sentence on weekends, which means he will “only” lose two or three years of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings. He is also to be assigned a probation officer, and is effectively on parole when he is not in jail. He will be subject to random searches and drug tests, paid for him by him.

Additionally, all persons who are convicted of the offense of prostitution are referred to the parish health unit for counseling concerning Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. The counseling will be provided by existing staff of the parish health unit whose duties include such counseling. Emmett will pay for that as well.

“…as part of your plea in mitigation, you have forfeited the right to appeal any and all aspects of this judgment and conviction,” the judge pronounces with a final stern look for the despondent cripple.

“We are adjourned.”

Emmett: And all the men and women in suits get to go home, and Em stays. They walk, and Em sits.

They go home to their families, and Em cries.


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Story Three, Emmett VII

“All you can do right now is give.”
—Bert Villars


Thursday, 10 September 2015

GM: After Emmett is cleaned and changed, he is interviewed by no less than three further police detectives who question him extensively about his recent conversation with Richard Gettis. Two of them leave the room without even asking about anything related to his own arrest. The remaining detective asks him to repeat the same story he told Gettis.

It is not long afterwards that the police obtain an arrest warrant from Judge Carson Malveaux of the Orleans Parish Criminal Court. Dr. Brown does not believe it medically advisable for Emmett to be moved to Orleans Parish Prison in his current condition, so two police officers are assigned to guard his now-private room around the clock. He is to be denied all visitors except for his lawyer. He will be allowed other visitors when he is brought into conventional custody or if a judge releases him under bail. His guards are present to watch whenever a nurse feeds him, sponge-baths him, or assists his bowel movements. They laugh at him and crack lewd jokes every time.

Emmett is formally booked. Police ask him for basic personal information, including his address and birth date. Fingerprints and DNA samples are taken. He is photographed. His photographer remarks that Em’s mugshot is without doubt the “ugliest goddamn one I’ve ever taken.” He is needlessly and embarrassingly strip-searched for any contraband (somehow) on his person. Police gawk at his bruised, flaccid manhood and compare it to a variety of decomposing vegetables.

Emmett is told that he will be bought before his arraignment when he is well enough to leave the hospital, or after 72 hours have elapsed, whichever duration expires first. If the newly-crippled grifter is unable to be transported to court after 72 hours, the arraignment will occur bedside with the judge and other necessary parties traveling to Tulane Medical Center.

Bert Villars is not present for the whole process, but snaps at Emmett to shut up and not say anything to the police except for direct answers to questions he is legally required to answer, such as his birth date. He is being charged with assaulting a police officer, soliciting prostitution, drug possession, obstruction of justice, and, because DAs in Louisiana evidently have a sense of humor, false impersonation. The prosecutor’s office, Villars adds, is not bound by this initial charge decision and can later change the crimes charged once and if more evidence is obtained.

“But you have something much more pressing to worry about than what you’re being charged with right now,” the grimebag lawyer remarks when the two of them are alone. Conversations between Emmett and his attorney remain private, with the guards waiting outside.

“Namely, how you’re going to afford my fees.”

Caveat’s ears perk.

“And pay my outstanding ones.”

Emmett: Em glances up at him. “Depends on what I’m allowed to liquidate.” He shrugs. “You tell me. If that’s not feasible, I’ll…” He pauses. “Think of something.” He’s too tired to lie. Too tired to even feel scared.

GM: Villars bares another cobra hood-flaring grin. “Mmm. And what do you own in property? Cars? Other assets of comparable value?”

Emmett: Em goes over what he can remember. The feeling is surreal.

GM: “Mmm. Not good. Not good at all. Rented apartment, no car, no insurance…”

Emmett: “Well. Worse for me than for you.”

GM: Villars strolls up to the bed and leans his elbow by Em’s head. “And these medical bills…”

Emmett: “Costing me an arm and a leg. Oh, wait.”

GM: “All those days in ICU. The surgery. The amputation. Antiobiotics for all those diseases. Being waited on hand and foot by your nurses. You know how much hospitals charge just for toilet paper, mmm? They mark up everything.” The grimebag lawyer makes a tsking noise and shakes his head. “And no insurance…”

Emmett: He closes his eyes. “I get the picture. You have your phone on you?”

GM: Villars gives a phlegmy, choking laugh that makes his dog’s ears go flat. “Emmett, you aren’t allowed phones when visiting jail inmates. Your officers took mine at the door.”

Emmett: His eyes are still shut. “Okay. I’m going to give you a number.” He promised himself he would never do this. He had meant it, too. But why should he keep this one?

GM: Villars’ bared yellow teeth loom all-too close to Emmett’s face. He can smell the man’s nicotine-scented breath. “All you can do right now is give.”

Emmett: Em ignores the taunt. He speaks slowly. Makes sure Villars repeats it. “Call that. They have money. And they might care enough to pay. If I were you, I’d play up how sorry I am. How I tried to play it straight, and this is all one big misunderstanding. Appeal to their better nature. They always loved that.”

GM: “Ah. Family.” The thing that passes for a grin on Villars’ face spreads like a tarantula splaying its legs. “But, you know, Caveat gets so tense whenever he hears the words ‘might’ and ‘maybe’ in the same sentence as money.”

His grin seemingly too wide to spread any further, Villars runs a tongue over his yellowed teeth. Emmett is reminded of a jackal staring at fresh carrion. “Fortunately for us both, I have another way out.”

Villars pats his dog’s head. “Caveat. Spit.”

The dobberman starts making some whoof-like wheezing noises. Then louder coughs and hacks. Drool flecks from the canine’s open mouth.

Emmett: Em frowns. “What are you doing?”

GM: The dog makes a choking, retch-like noise. Villars sticks a latex-gloved hand under its mouth. A drool- and vomit-spattered plastic case plops into the grimebag lawyer’s palm.

Emmett: “…Jesus.”

GM: Villars sets the case on Em’s bedside table, opens it with his gloved hand, and pulls out a cellphone with his bare hand. “I’m going to put you in touch with someone who can make all of our financial problems go away.”

Emmett: Em sucks in a long, pained breath. “Why would you do that?” You bloodsucking snake?

GM: The still-wheezing dog’s ears perk. “Well, our legal financial problems,” Villars cautions with another tarantula-like grin. “You’re still fucked when it comes to these medical bills. But I’ll finally get paid, and you’ll have legal counsel to represent you.”

Emmett: “Who is this?”

GM: “Bud.”

Emmett: “Little girl on his lap guy?”

GM: The tarantula on Villars’ face twitches its eight hairy legs. “The very same. He and his… friends make a business of providing loans to high-risk borrowers such as yourself. You’ll take out one from him, pay my fees, and your legal troubles will be over.”

Emmett: “What happens when I can’t pay him back?”

GM: “You’ll be able to.” The tarantula on Villars’ face swallows a fly. “They’re very good at squeezing blood from stones.”

Emmett: Em bites his lip. “I don’t really have a choice. Do I.”

GM: “Not if you want to continue enjoying my… services. I will be suing you, as well, if you can’t pay my outstanding fees.” He shrugs. “Well, probably not suing. But you can be assured that I will still collect.”

Emmett: He snorts. “Why? I’d be in prison. Or dead, probably, knowing Mouton. You might as well buy flowers for my funeral instead of waste the legal fees.”

GM: “Oh, Emmett.” Villars turns away from his client’s bed and runs a gloveless hand over his hooked-up IV fluid bag. “I’m very good at squeezing blood from stones too.”

The grimebag lawyer abruptly seizes the transparent bag and squeezes it hard. A fresh spike of agony shoots through the vein in Emmett’s arm, turning the needle stabbing through it into a pinprick-shaped fire.

“You’ve been digging your own grave these past few days, you legless fuckwit,” Villars snarls, his face as black as the sunglasses hiding his sightless eyes. “You can dig it all the way to China for all I care, but I’m not breaking my back and shoveling dirt for free.

“You’ve made a lot of enemies lately, Emmett,” he whispers. “You don’t want me as one of them too.”

Emmett: It hurts, it hurts, it hurts. It’s also not that new, and it still hurts. He hears himself speak through fog and from the forever ago that he started down this road. “Point… made.”

GM: Villars’ fist unclenches. Fire drains back out of Em’s artery.

“Finally, he listens to his counsel’s advice.”

Villars picks the phone back up, holds it up to his face and squints closely, and eventually manages to dial a number. He presses the phone to Em’s face. Several rings sound.

“Bud,” grinds out a low bovine voice.

Emmett: “Delacroix,” mutters Em. “Client of Villars.”

GM: “Ya been fucked real hard, Delcroy,” drawls the voice. It’s slow and lazy, like molasses being poured on a hot summer day.

Emmett can hear the man’s smile. There’s nothing sweet to it.

“We’ll fuck you nice an’ gentle.”

Emmett: “Afraid I won’t be fucking anybody for a long, long time, Bud. What exactly is the offer, here?”

GM: “Sue wants to say hi.”

There’s a brief silence.

“Hi!” pipes a small-sounding girl’s voice.

Emmett: “Hi, Sue.”

GM: Another brief silence.

“Yer lawyer’s taken care o’ it all,” drawls Bud’s deeper voice.

Emmett: Em’s eyes slide towards the attorney. “Oh. That’s… good.”

GM: “We loan you the money. He gets his fees. You getcher lawyer. Then you pay us back.”

Emmett: “And we are talking about how much, exactly?”

GM: “Ten grand.”

Emmett: “I’d make a joke about crippling debt. But. You know.”

GM: Emmett can hear the grin spread on the other end of the line. It’s not like Bert Villars’, though. Slower. Fiercer. Hungrier.

“Say we done got a deal.”

Emmett: He’s already got one foot in the grave—well, both of them—but even so, he pauses. His entire life these past few days has been one losing deal after another. Is it really worth all this? Is he really going to make another decision without—

“Deal.”

GM: “Thas’ gooood,” Bud drawls. Long and slow, like a man taking a savored drag from a hand-rolled cigar. “Yer interest’s 10% a week, compounded weekly.”

“Short any payments an’ we’ll kill yer family.”

Emmett: “…um.”

GM: “Bye!” pipes Sue’s voice.

The line clicks.

Emmett: “You son of a bitch.”

GM: Villars drops the phone back into its plastic case, snaps it shut, and holds it out for Caveat. The dobberman snarfs it up like a dog biscuit. There’s even a few loud cracks from his teeth.

Emmett: “What happens to you if I can’t make the payment? You’re ripping them off just as much as I am. More.”

GM: “Nothing at all, Emmett. The debt’s yours. Not mine. Besides.” Villars bares another cobra-like grin. “I bring them a lot of repeat business.”

Emmett: “Yeah, but you purposefully referred them somebody who probably won’t make it worth their while for your short-term gain. That seems like it would piss them off.” He coughs. “Though I will, obviously. Pay.”

GM: Villars drops the soiled glove into a trash bin and pats his dog’s head. “Emmett, don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re, well, an idiot. You don’t have enough brainpower leftover to spend it pondering how the Dixies do business.” His grin widens. “But your concern for my welfare is… touching.”

Emmett: “Oh, trust me. One day I’ll think back on this and be very, very angry, and I’ll spend hours thinking of a way to fuck you under the bus. But for now, just take the money and shut up, please.”

GM: “And maybe one day you’ll grow a new pair of legs and not be crushed under a mountain of debt. But I suppose we can hope, now can’t we?” Villars’ leer twitches in place.

“Now yes, the money. That’s being taken care of. Bud’s sending it directly to me. You won’t see anything in your bank account—as it’s a no-no for you to be performing those sorts of financial transactions right now, not to mention it’s the first place your creditors are going to ransack—so make sure you remember all the sums.”

Emmett: “Oh, yes.”

GM: “This isn’t strictly legal advice, but now that you’ve paid me for my services, I am feeling generous. That medical debt’s going to crush you like a sack of bricks. If you think my fees are expensive, you should see what an extended ICU stay without insurance adds up to.”

“Most likely Tulane’s going to sell your debt to a third party collection agency. They’re nicer than the Dixies, though not by much. You do look young enough to still be covered under the Affordable Care Act, though. So if I were you, I’d start practicing how to ask Mommy and Daddy extra nice for an advance on your allowance.”

Emmett: “A cripple can make bank in this city. Any city, really. At least, a cripple with a tongue.” Em shrugs. Then he winces, because it still hurts.

GM: A familiar slimy grin spreads over the grimebag lawyer’s face. “Of course, I could make another call to Bud.”

Emmett: “Let’s not.”

GM: Villars shrugs. “Some last food for thought, Emmett. Many of those agencies collect their money by garnishing debtors’ wages. Those who don’t have a legal source of employment, however…”

Emmett: “Well. Not your problem until I pay you to fix it, is it?”

GM: Villars looks almost wounded. “Why, Emmett. As your attorney, it’s my ethical duty to look out for your interests. In this case, how failure to repay your medical debts could still get your family killed.”

Emmett: “I’m telling them to poison your dog if I go down,” he mutters, but his heart isn’t in it.

GM: “Caveat’s cheaper than he looks,” Villars grins. “In any case, you need a valid—that is, taxable—source of income for the collection agency to dock your wages from. If you don’t have one, you’ll go to jail. They don’t call them ’debtor’s prison’ anymore, of course, and you won’t actually be jailed for failure to repay debts—but the collection agency can sue you, a judge can hit you with even more court fees, and you can be jailed for failure to pay those.”

“Bud, of course, could care less if his debtors are in prison. So if you want to make good on your off-the-books payments to him, you’ll need a source of income that exists on someone’s books.”

Emmett: “That’s… actually good to know, yeah. Thanks.”

GM: Another yellow-toothed grin. “You’re very welcome.”

Emmett: “I didn’t mean that thing about Caveat. For what it’s worth.”

GM: “Well, I did. But I’m sure he’s grateful for it.” Villars scratches the dobberman’s ears.

Emmett: “Just to be clear. When he says my family-”

GM: Villars gives the crippled young man an almost pitying look.

Emmett: “Dammit.”


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Story Three, Emmett VI

“Not good enough.”
—Richard Gettis


GM: The days drag by.

Em can’t even change the TV station on his own. He remains completely dependent upon a rotating shift of impersonal caregivers to hand-feed him his food, brush his teeth, sponge-bath his useless body, and wipe toilet paper along his ass. The closest he comes to interaction with them is when he picks up his first nurse’s name as Pamela Ardoin. Dr. Brown checks in every so often, cheerfully remarking that Em’s vitals are improving nicely. For whatever that may be worth.

He’s tired.

It’s a bone-deep weariness of the spirit as well as the flesh. It weighs him down as much as the absent legs that confine his helpless body. Em overhears that he was not missing both his legs when he arrived in Tulane Medical Center, but that his left one was amputated. He had already lost his left foot, much of the flesh around his calf, and all of the bone up to his ankle. What was left of the leg was infected and had to come off. Dr. Brown reminds him with a smile that he’s very lucky to be alive.

He’s on antibiotics for a lot of things, including the treatment of several STDs. His head still hurts whenever he tries to recall past the black fog where Cash Money smashed a bottle over his head. The police will interview him about those events, he’s told, now that he’s being moved outside of ICU.


Thursday morning, 10 September 2015

GM: The police detective is an older man, with closely cropped irony gray hair that might’ve once been black. He’s got a hard nose, hard jawline, and harder eyes. His skin is worn and leathery like a well-used pair of work gloves, and pulled taut against gaunt cheekbones. He’s still a big man, maybe an inch or two over Em’s height, and wears a scuffed, faded gray trench coat over a plain shirt of the same color. A police badge on a cord dangles around his neck in place of a tie. He doesn’t bother flashing it as he pulls up a chair by Emmett’s bed and grunts, “Det. Gettis. Let’s hear it.”

Gettis4.jpg
Emmett: “I don’t remember much of what happened. I’m sorry.” Emmett’s voice has the all the emotion of a tombstone.

GM: The detective’s answer has all the tenderness of one.

“Not good enough.”

It’s even worse having his back up against the wall when he has no legs to run with. Then it’s just him, the wall, and whatever’s shoved him there.

Em doesn’t like this. He’s gotten into enough trouble with NOPD. There has to be a way out.


Wednesday evening, 9 September 2015

Emmett: Em lifts his head during the daily… wiping. “Hey.”

GM: His nurse grunts.

Emmett: “Who do I talk to to make a phone call?”

GM: His nurse grunts again. Another streak of cotton-texture fire scorches Em’s ass, though after several days of ‘care’ it stings more than it burns now. “Me. Because you’re in no shape to make one.”

Emmett: Em eyes the woman. “So can you? Make a call? I need to talk through the phone myself.”

GM: The nurse gives him an irritated look. “Cellphones aren’t allowed in ICU. I’d have to wheel you out to use one of ours.”

Emmett: “Could you, please?” Em arches an eyebrow. “I know it’s a pain in the ass. Do you know Dr. Merinelli?”

GM: Emmett’s regards him with that same flat, bulldog-jowled stare he’s come to know her by so well for the past few days.

Emmett: “I’m her baby brother. Woman practically raised me.” That first part is even true. Em looks at her as levelly as he can manage from his current position. “She’d be very grateful. And she’s a generous person. Ask her friends on the board. Or on the faculty of Tulane’s med school. You hear what I’m saying?”

GM: The nurse grunts again as she wipes another toilet paper strip along Em’s ass, but her movements feel slower. Even a bit less painful. “How generous?”

Emmett: “She once asked a waitress if there was a cap on tips.”

GM: “You’re getting moved out of ICU,” Em’s nurse declares with another grunt. “If you’re well enough to get wheeled out of here, you don’t need to stay in here.”

Emmett: “As long as I get to the phone on the way, you can stick me in a closet.”

GM: Several minutes later, Em is sitting on a wheelchair, his nurse has dialed a number on a landline, and is holding the phone to his ear. Several rings sound before another middle-aged woman greets him with a flat, “Bert Villars, attorney at law. How can I help you?”

Emmett: “Hello, Paloma—it’s your secret admirer. I’m sorry I’m not there to see you in person.” The words echo strangely off his voice—lines delivered without passion. “Put me through to Bert, please.”

GM: “It’s you,” Paloma remarks in an equally cheerful tone. The secretary’s voice disappears. Shortly later, Em hears a greasy “Hello, Emmett,” drip from the phone’s receiver.

His nurse sighs and lifts it off from its temporary resting place on Em’s shoulder and holds it to his mouth.

“Bud’s available to meet tomorrow evening,” Villars continues.

Emmett: “What? Oh. There’s, um. Been a development.”

GM: Emmett can all but see the mostly-blind lawyer’s yellow-toothed grin. “Isn’t there always.”

Emmett: “How soon can you get to Tulane Medical?”

GM: Emmett can picture the yellowy grin spreading like a cobra’s flared hood. “As fast as a paid legal bill.”

Emmett: “I need counsel. Payout might be a few days away, but I only need a few hours’ investment. I’ll pay you double for the time. I have your attention?” A gamble. But when you’re about to hang, Em figures, asking for more rope can’t hurt.

GM: And Cash Money, true to his name, worships no higher god than Mammon, Em recalls his attorney telling him earlier.

Bert Villars is evidently a fellow disciple.

“Things sound like they’re starting to heat up,” the grimebag lawyer grins. “All right, I’ll be over soon. Don’t burn your pants too badly for me to put out.”

Emmett: The call ended, Em nods to his nurse. “Appreciated.”


Thursday morning, 10 September 2015

GM: “Not good enough.” If Em’s voice has all the emotion of a tombstone, Det. Gettis’ is just as hard.

Emmett: Em tries to meet the taller man’s eyes. “Maybe not. But as you can see-” he flicks his head at the wreck he’s woken up in, “-my entire life’s not good enough at the moment. Yours can wait in line.”

GM: “…and he’s right in here,” Em hears a woman’s voice declaring. A nurse opens the door to his room, and Caveat slinks in, followed by the grimebag lawyer he’s tethered to. Villars wears a similar dark suit and striped necktie to the one Em last saw him in, and the same dark glasses. He bares his teeth 90 degrees to the right of Em’s location in what passes for a smile. “You tell me now, whoever’s sitting in that bed, are you my client?”

Gettis’ knuckles tighten.

Emmett: “I am indeed.” Em’s smile is every bit as brittle as the casts that imprison him.

GM: Villars thanks the nurse for showing him the way with another ugly leer and then remarks, seemingly oblivious to Gettis’ presence, “So, first, there’s the matter of bills…”

Emmett: “Company, Bert.”

GM: “Is there now? I-”

Gettis cuts the lawyer off. “Last thing you remember, Delacroix.”

Emmett: “You, leaving.” He tilts his head. “Oh, wait, sorry. That’s what happens next. Maybe it’s one of those precognition things. Like on T.V.”

GM: The detective rises from his seat, walks up to Em’s bed, and stares down at him. “Wrong answer.”

Villars tilts his head. “Ah, now what’s this? Is my client under arrest, Officer?”

Gettis regards the grimebag lawyer with all the esteem he might hold for a glob of sputum on his shoe. “He’s being detained under reasonable suspicion.”

“Ah, I see,” Villars replies thoughtfully. “Well, it’s a good thing he has his lawyer present for all the twenty minutes you can be here. Emmett, now, the good detective is trying to do his job. What is the last thing you… do remember?”

Emmett: Em nods. Swallows tremulously. “I… I was having a drink. In Marigny.” He scrunches up his brow. “I’m sorry, it’s all hazy. Either the Vortex or the Carnival Club. Someplace with lots of music, flashing lights. I was drinking something. I don’t remember ordering, but I was definitely drinking, and I remember talking to somebody. A girl. She said her name was Courtney.”

GM: Det. Gettis walks directly in front of Emmett’s bed and plants his callused hands on either side of the railing. Bert Villars is literally eclipsed by the man’s looming presence. His gaunt, scarred face is all-too close. His gaze all-too intense. Pitiless iron-gray eyes bore into Em’s with all the hardness of railroad spikes.

Emmett: Em wants so badly to stare back. He wants to laugh in the pig’s face, and pull out another one-liner; he wants to make him fume and spit and tear his hair out. He wants to feel like himself again.

But he isn’t.

He remembers what happened to the last NOPD detective he defied. He breaks under Gettis’s gaze like ice underfoot. “It… it wasn’t my fault.” The world’s gone blurry.

GM: Villars frowns slightly at Em’s change in tone, but remains literally blind to the goings-on. “Now, Emmett…” he starts.

Emmett: “It was… Mouton. I had a deal with him, and I shorted him. Just a hundred bucks. I, I was drunk. I threw up on him.” There are skates more steady than the manic laugh. “He didn’t like that. Not at all.”

GM: Emmett might as well be talking to a brick wall for all the reaction that Gettis’ hard-jawed face evinces. Villars moves to intercede, telling Emmett to exercise his Fifth Amendment rights, that he doesn’t have—but the change in tactics comes too late. Gettis ignores the lawyer utterly as he stares at Emmett… and something within the crippled young man just breaks.

It all comes tumbling out. The now so-very aborted plan to defraud al-Saud of his millions. Going to Cash Money to find out what NOPD had on him. Taunting the soon-enraged corrupt cop. The one-sided brawl. The… Em regales what parts came next that his mind hasn’t scabbed over like still-purple scar tissue. The conversation with Courtney. The woman whose shoes clicked against stone. Waking up in the dumpster. All of it.

Emmett: The good news is he sounds like a madman. Too insane to be taken seriously.

The bad news is he sounds like a madman, and he takes himself seriously.

GM: Gettis produces a pair of handcuffs, snaps one cuff around Em’s broken, cast-encased wrist, and snaps the other cuff to his bed. “You’re under arrest.”

“On what charges, Officer?” Villars scoffs.

“Good question. Lot here,” Gettis answers.

Emmett: Em frowns, his wrist limp. “Bert. Is that legal?” His tone is more deadpan curiosity than interested.

GM: Villars might roll his eyes. “I can’t stop him from making an arrest, only challenge its legality in court. And if you’re expecting NOPD to care about legality next to everything you just blabbed, I have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn. Now shut your mouth and don’t think about any words except ‘Fifth Amendment’ before you make things even worse.”

“Assaulting a public officer,” Gettis muses about the cause for Em’s arrest, seemingly half to himself.

Emmett: “Okay.” Em flicks the tears from his cheeks. “Bert?”

GM: Villars looks at him disgustedly. “That isn’t anywhere close to ‘Fifth’ or ‘Amendment’.”

Emmett: “I have to take a shit. Call the nurse.”

GM: Gettis pulls out a card and dryly recites, “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you. Do you understand the rights I have just read to you?”

Villars looks between the two and heaves a sigh.

Emmett: “No, seriously. Call the nurse.”


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Story Three, Caroline VII, Emmett V

“I’ve made mistakes in the past, man. She doesn’t feel like one.”
—Emmett Delacroix


Saturday evening, 17 May 2014

GM: From one of the galleries (balconies outside the French Quarter) overlooking Orleans Avenue at night, the sight of Touchdown Jesus’ haunting silhouette keeps watch over St. Louis Cathedral and the many pedestrians hurrying off to bars, restaurants, and ghost tours. Laughter and the heavy bass of drums from nearby Bourbon Street catch on the breeze like the scent of jasmine in springtime.

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There are few better places, it is said, to experience the vitality of the French Quarter, or the mystery of its illustrious past, than on the balconies belonging to the much sought-after and luxurious Bourbon Orleans Hotel. Andrew Jackson announced his candidacy for the presidency from within its hallowed walls after winning the Battle of New Orleans against the British. Nestled in a lot adjacent to the Cathedral, the Bourbon Orleans sits between ritzy Royal Street (an antique-lover’s dream) and the notorious Bourbon Street (a night owl’s dream). Nothing could reflect the rich history of the Bourbon Orleans Hotel more appropriately than its placement in the French Quarter between heaven and hell, except for maybe the ghosts who allegedly walk the corridors of the hotel.

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Tonight, however, death has little place in the Bourbon Orleans.

The occasion is a charity ball to raise funds for the city’s Catholic-affiliated hospitals. Men in crisp black tuxedos link arms with ladies in fine evening gowns as they emerge from parked luxury vehicles, their gold-filigreed invitations clasped in hand. At 6 PM, the cocktail reception and silent auction are just beginning.

Caroline: The gold ring along the edge of Caroline’s invitation might as well be a gold cuff on her wrist. “Your mother can’t make it,” her father had said. More an order than an inference. And her date for the evening… Caroline sucks perhaps a bit too heavily from the cocktail glass as she listens to another boring anecdote from a gray-haired someone and smiles as though engaged. Such is the nature of being a Malveaux. Bored? Unhappy? It doesn’t matter. She is here to wave the family flag.

GM: Caroline’s gray-haired conversational partner, Alec Downs, is the fifty-something president of a boat-building company and the Southern Yacht Club. Her uncle Matthew holds a membership and occasionally visits its home in Lakeview. Her father Nathan lacks the time. Her uncle Orson lacks the interest. Alec mentions that his daughter Bentley is “trying out” being a talent agent and helped find some of the musicians for tonight’s event. Caroline has heard the twenty-something college graduate still lives at home with her father, a decision which likely has little to do with money.

Boredom, however, is an inconsequential issue to another one of the posh event’s would-be attendees.

Emmett: In an apartment down the street—a pretty little condo in Hell—a young man stretches his legs. He smiles in the mirror. It’s going to be a fun night for Emmett Delacroix. Any of the guests would doubtless be embarrassed to be seen wearing the off-the-rack suit he’s sporting, but he likes to think that he’ll be giving somebody a better reason to be embarrassed tonight. In any case, he surveys the entrance and surrounding crowd, confident as a pig in shit. Which, he thinks, is what most of the guests are.

Act one.

GM: The inside lobby is a lavish affair befitting one of the Crescent City’s oldest and most historied hotels. Glittering chandeliers, white marble floors, black marble pillars usher guests inside to an inviting lobby with plush furniture and thick persian rugs. A piano and some potted plants lurk in the corners. Nothing arrests the progress of guests from Orleans Street into the hotel’s lobby, though several large men in dark suits stand attentively by the entrance to the ballroom and other venue spaces. Well-heeled guests display their invitations and are promptly let in.

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Emmett: Em strides towards the venue’s entrance, eyes and smirk ahead.

GM: His progress is arrested by the two suited men standing by the door. “Invitation, sir?” asks the man on his right.

Emmett: Emmett blinks. “Invitation?” he repeats dimly. “I was told this was a public event.”

GM: “You were told wrongly, sir. It’s by invitation,” the suited man answers.

Emmett: …Dammit. He scans the man’s lapel for a badge or name tag.

GM: Neither of the suited men wear any. At a passing glance, they could resemble guests at the event themselves. Up close, their black suits to be a cut below the formal evening tuxedos worn by most of the attendees inside.

Emmett: Em tilts his head, summoning his genuine embarrassment and painting it in shades of confusion. “You’re absolutely sure? I was invited by a friend, but she never said I needed a pass…” Then he frowns in consternation. “Oh, God. She probably never thought of it.”

He meets the man’s gaze, apologetic. “Some people never think about the spoon in their mouths, you know?” He rubs the back of his neck, face contorted in contrition. “I’m sorry to cause you any problems… what’s your name, sir?”

GM: “Derek,” the man standing to the door’s right answers. He has black skin, buzz-cut hair, and a short goatee. He looks somewhere in his thirties.

Emmett: Em nods, grateful for the indulgence. “This isn’t really my crowd, Derek. But this girl?” He shakes his head like a wet dog. “You have a wife, Derek? Girlfriend?”

GM: “Used to. Two exes,” Derek answers.

The other man, standing to the door’s left, surveys the two dimly.

Emmett: “Yeah, well. I do too. Lasted about six months.” He sighs. “I’ve made mistakes in the past, man. She doesn’t feel like one.” Em meets the man’s eyes. He’s excellent at looking earnest. It takes a thoroughly deceitful person to look as sincere as he does now. He pauses to take a breath, not long enough to give the guard a segue but long enough to gauge what he sees in Derek’s eyes.

GM: “Never do ‘til they’re throwin’ your shit on the street and you’re paying alimony.” The security guard looks sympathetic enough towards Em, who also pegs him as mildly irate towards female ‘mistakes’.

Emmett: He snorts. “I don’t want to stay in your hair, Derek. You want that even less.” He spreads his arms. “I’m not the kind of guy you’re hired to keep out, right? We can save each other time.” At a high-pitched giggle from indoors, he glances over his shoulder.

“I’ll tell you what, I can even play responsible adult and tell folks to go easy on the drink. Maybe have a word with the guys at the bar. My dad has a drinking problem, I’m used to dealing with it. Hell, could at least give your guys a tap on the shoulder if somebody seems to get rowdy.”

Em’s father does, indeed, have a problem with drinking. Specifically, with Em’s drinking.

GM: Derek’s partner is a bit heavier-boned and has a thick mustache, but is otherwise clean-shaven. The man, otherwise unaddressed by Em, finally speaks up. “We’re hired to keep out anyone who doesn’t have an invitation. Like you.”

Emmett: Em holds up his hands in an appeasing gesture. He nods at the man. “Didn’t mean to cut you out of the decision, sir. I’m just trying to make this a win-win situation.” He gives his best harmless smile. “Business school grad. Can’t help it.”

GM: “It’s not a decision,” Derek’s partner says with a frown. “You don’t have an invitation, you don’t get in.”

Emmett: Em sighs and starts to walk away. Over his shoulder he glances back at Derek. “Bosses, right?”

GM: The bouncer grunts and seems to regard his partner with a rising annoyance.

Emmett: He shakes his head sadly. “Tell Cici… I mean, Cécilia, that I’m sorry. I tried my best, right?”

GM: The bouncers look between themselves. Derek’s partner looks skeptical. Derek just shrugs. “Could be she forgot a name on the list, Marv.”

Emmett: Em, still walking, calls, “No, that’s fine. You don’t want to have to bother her. I’ll just explain what happened the next time I see her. Marv, right?”

Caroline: Caroline’s attention slips away from the dull conversation about how Bentley has an eye for talent and helped provided the help tonight. It’s the most awkward brag she’s seen in a while, give the circumstances.

The disturbance at the entrance seems to hold some potential, and she ideally watches it over her conversational partner’s shoulder. She takes a small step right and smiles to get a better view.

GM: Caroline sees a young man in a comparatively inexpensive suit talking to the bouncers. One of them looks annoyed. The young man does not have the telltale gold invitation.

Caroline: Cheap suit. Haggling with the guards. No doubt some junior partner or mid-level exec too frazzled or too stupid to remember his invitation. At least it’s entertaining. That suit though.

GM: There’s three words that her brother Westley might derisively use to describe it: ‘off the rack.’ She can picture his next snorted remark. “I wouldn’t be caught dead in that.”

Caroline: It’s like watching a train wreck in slow motion. The only question is when they are going to break out the taser, here or in the alley. The desperate insistence he get in, the possibility of his boss watching, the likelihood of a scene…

GM: Caroline and Em both watch the mustached security guard referred to as ‘Marv’ roll his eyes. “You’re going to be in a world of shit if she doesn’t know you, kid.”

Emmett: “And you’ll be if she does, man. Come on, there’s going to be a line to hold up at some point.”

Caroline: Caroline smirks as she takes another sip of her drink, nodding along to the conversation around her. Definitely lawyer with the smugness.

GM: After the security guard makes his way back inside the ballroom, he clears his throat and quietly approaches a lovely young woman dressed in a floor-length white evening gown and matching gloves. She has delicate, high-cheekboned features, gray-blue eyes like the Mississippi on an overcast day, and long honey-blonde hair worn loosely.

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He waits about a minute until she’s no longer occupied, then asks if she knows… actually, he might then be embarrassed to realize, he isn’t sure what Emmett’s name is. Just that there’s a young guy outside who doesn’t have an invitation. Did she leave someone off the guest list?

Emmett: Em makes eye contact with Cécilia as she approaches. He does his best to let his positively winning smile and a wink. He waves.

Remember? that wink says. It’s a game, all a game. Humor me.

GM: Guests have been steadily trickling into the ballroom, but the event does not yet seem in full swing. It’s enough of a window for Cécilia to catch that eye contact past the guests surrounding her—who seem just numerous enough for the French charity organizer to have little interest in talking to the minimum-wage bouncer.

“Yes, I recognize him. Let him in, I suppose some names could have gotten lost,” Cécilia replies before turning her attention back to the other guests, the unspoken motion clearly dismissing the bouncer.

Marv returns to the front entrance and glowers, “I’ve got my eye on you, kid. Go ahead and start something. It’d make my day.

Emmett: “Do you accept tips?”

GM: The security guard grinds his teeth.

Mouse: In all the kerfuffle, piano keys lower beneath well-practiced fingers. The instrument sings out in the background and creates a haunting melody at once raw, pristine, and wonderful. The keys may be black and white, but the hues of the melody hearken back to the colorful fairy tales of one’s childhood.

A dusky-skinned young musician is seated at on the piano’s bench, playing with his eyes closed. He is dressed in a simple white pressed shirt, bowtie, and black slacks.

Emmett: Em’s smile, looking painfully large, diminishes when he sees the man behind the piano. He studiously avoids making eye contact as he looks rather desperately around the room for company to integrate himself into—which is when his eyes meet Caroline’s.

Caroline: Caroline has to give him credit. Not many people would have the guts to take it straight to Cécilia. She watches him work his way through the crowd, atrocious suit and all, and her eyes smile, amusedly, as his meet hers.

Tall, pale aristocratic beauty, lithe, with a dancer’s grace wrapped in a dark gown worth more than he takes in over a quarter. Jewels glitter at her wrist, throat, and ears that put the cost of her outfit well over what he makes in a year. She holds a cocktail glass one one hand half full of a pinkish liquid garnished with a lemon and a lime wedge both.

Emmett: And jackpot, enter left. His eyes flicker over her, pausing at the jewels that encrust her. But in the end, his eyes return to the most interesting gems of the ensemble; her lovely, lovely eyes.

Caroline: She cuts her own eyes away, back to the group, just in time to laugh at a bad joke.

Emmett: Em scans the room for the bar.

GM: His gaze settles on a well-stocked cocktail bar. Appetizers are also available so that guests will not have to drink on empty stomachs.

Emmett: And behind every bar, the bartender. Who, in this case…

GM: He sees a Caucasian man in maybe his mid-20s whose hair is shaved down to an almost invisible buzzcut. He wears a button-up white shirt and black bowtie as he mixes drinks for the guests, including a particularly intriguing one that seems to involve ice cream:

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Caroline: As he shifts away Caroline shifts her own attention as well. The fun seems to be over.

She excuses herself from her circle and moves across the room, floating like a leaf on the wind in and out of greetings and pleasantries with other guests, most intended for her father, mother, or uncles.

GM: Numerous well-to-do figures are present, from Alec Downs (who Caroline has already had the “pleasure” of meeting) to playboys such as Robert Argabrite III and Warren Whitney III (a few guests who see them together even joke about the “Two Threes”). Cécilia Devillers also makes polite conversation with the heiress, asking if any of the silent auction’s items have caught her interest.

Emmett: Em heads to the bar. He doesn’t move on an invisible wind; he’s two steps ahead of it, trying to get a decent seat at the bar.

GM: Em doesn’t run into much competition. Most of the guests are happy to simply take their drinks and return to fraternizing one another in the small cliques that ultimately make up every social gathering. The bartender asks his order and efficiently mixes it up.

Emmett: “Much appreciated,” Em says as the man busies himself. “Does it come with your name?”

GM: “Josh,” the bartender answers as he gets out the necessary drinks and miscellaneous ingredients for whatever Em has ordered.

Emmett: “You know this crowd at all, Josh?”

GM: “Not personally, but people like this rent venue spaces and need drinks mixed all the time.”

Emmett: “No luck, then. Sorry to bother you.” He returns to the crowd, trying to catch sight of the girl.

As he does he catches an earful of the piano and blinks. Then he shrugs. Even Mouse must be good at something.

GM: Very good at something. Some of the guests are actually stopping to compliment the young musician. Bentley Downs seems to have an eye indeed.

Mouse: As some of the well-heeled guests move to compliment Mouse, the young pianist smiles in appreciation of the kind words. “Thank you,” he responds in a pleasant tone.

Emmett: When he does find Caroline, locked in whatever dismal conversation she finds herself in, he does her a favor and inserts himself; gracefully of course.

GM: Emmett’s off-the-rack suit earns him a few pointed looks from the bespoke-attired guests. In the end, however, they seem to find his presence more amusing than offensive. A few ironically ask “what tailor fitted his clothes.”

Emmett: He takes the abuse with a smile. He’s a cheaply-dressed doormat, if that’s what they want to step on; all the while he teases, and chuckles so earnestly one almost might wonder who’s really laughing at who.

GM: The blonde seems to have moved on, but Em soon finds another girl who seems bored to be here. He mocks her pretentious parents. She thinks he’s hilarious. He thinks so too. They go back to his place together. The world was his oyster.

At least then, it was good to be Emmett Delacroix.


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Story Three, Emmett IV

“Glad I’m not you.”
—Pamela Ardoin


Day ? Month ? Year?

GM: Beep… beep… beep…

White. Bright lights. Breathing. Every inhalation, every exhalation, a gale wind through his mouth. Hazy figures in green. Murmurs. A white-gloved hand over his face.

Beep… beep… beep…

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Day ? Month ? Year?

GM: Beep… beep… beep…

Sterile white linoleum walls. A blue partitioning curtain. Smells of sweat, saline, and disinfectant.

Beep… beep… beep…

Something soft behind his back. The pain. Still everywhere. No longer a roaring bonfire, but a dull, throbbing ache.

Everywhere but his legs.

Emmett: “Ha… ha.” It’s a dream. Just a dream. Just a nightmare. He’s going to wake up soon. Any minute now.

GM: As his surroundings reluctantly focus, Em finds himself already in bed. One of those half-upraised hospital beds. An IV stabs through a vein on his arm.

Emmett: No, he isn’t. Please, God. He knows he’s made some mistakes. But he doesn’t deserve this. Does he? He speaks, and does not hear what he says.

GM: Emmett knows not whether he screams and blasphemes, cries and sobs, or desperately tries to convince himself the past… however many hours didn’t happen.

Nothing changes.

Pain does not fade. Feeling does not return from whence there was none. No voice answers in return. Emmett is left alone, denied even the comfort of sharing his pain with another human being.

Emmett: Tick tock, goes the clock. Thump-thump goes his heart. Beep-beep, goes the machine. His legs do nothing at all. Tears mark the time like sand in an hourglass, and fall just as heavy.

GM: The sand trickles. The tears flow. Em does not witness them run out. Perhaps he is simply too exhausted, or perhaps fate takes pity on him. Blackness finally steals over the young man’s sight.


Day ? Month ? Year ?

GM: “Good morning. Can you hear me?”

Emmett: Grunt.

GM: “You’ve been through an ordeal.”

Emmett: That is one way of putting it. “Water.”

GM: Emmett’s surroundings reluctantly blur into focus.

A dark-haired man wearing a physician’s white coat and stethoscope looks down at him. He looks relatively young for his presumed profession, maybe a few years Lena’s junior. His hair is shaved to a near buzzcut, and his facial stubble is maybe an hour short of five o’ clock. Em can’t say if it’s due to the doctor’s almost-beard or just the lighting, but a shadow seems to spread across his lower face as he smiles down at the bedridden young man.

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Emmett: His voice is a dry husk. “Stop smiling.”

GM: “Try not to move too much. It’s going to hurt like hell for you right now.”

Emmett: “Stop smiling.”

GM: “You’ve been through an ordeal.” The doctor’s dark eyes twinkle.

Emmett: “You’re putting me through an ordeal. Look a little sad, please.” The joke, he finds, isn’t one. “Could you just… look a little goddamn sad?”

GM: The doctor’s smile slowly widens. “I’m sorry. I suppose I’m just happy for you. You’re very lucky to still be alive.” He gives a light chuckle. “In fact, most patients I know would be asking whether they were all right or how they ended up here.” The doctor glances down at something in his palm and seems to consider Em more thoughtfully.

Emmett: “I don’t think I’m all right,” Em says tonelessly. “Where am I? And how did I get here?”

GM: “Great questions. Let’s start at the beginning. Do you remember what your name is?”

Emmett: “Yes. Do you know my name?”

GM: The doctor smiles. “We’re here to talk about you right now.”

Emmett: “I remember my name.”

GM: “Please repeat it for me,” the doctor patiently requests.

Emmett: Em laughs. “I don’t know where I am, how I got here, or half of the last… Christ knows how many days. Why don’t you tell me what kind of frying pan I’m in before I step into the fire?”

GM: The edges of the doctor’s eyes crinkle. “No fire or frying pan. You’re in a hospital, and you’re here to get better. If you want to do that, we need to know how bad off you are. If you can’t remember your name, that would indicate something is pretty wrong. Make sense?”

Emmett: Em’s shoulders sag. He’s can’t feel his legs. His fucking legs. But. He still has his tongue. “I’m sorry, doc. I know you just want to help.” He forces every broken bone into his voice. Every drop of despair. “I… I have family, and they’re not well off. If they get called, they’ll try to help.” The tears are real enough. “I don’t want to break their backs, too, doc. I’m sorry.”

GM: “I’m sure you don’t,” the still-smiling doctor responds with a humoring tone. “Hate to rain on that parade, but I already know who you are. I’m checking to see whether you do too.”

Emmett: After considering the truth in Doctor McSunshine’s eyes, Em sighs. “Emmett Delacroix. I get to know yours?”

GM: “You can call me Dr. Brown. I’d shake, but, well.” The doctor offers a deprecating smile.

Emmett: But you’re too worried I’d bite you, fucker? Em glances at his arms.

GM: He finds both in casts and slings.

Emmett: “How’d I get here?”

GM: Another soft chuckle. “I was about to ask you, Emmett. What’s the last thing that you can remember before waking up here?”

Emmett: “I…” Em’s brow creases. “I think I drank something. In the Quarter…”

GM: “Something pretty strong, must’ve been.”

Emmett: “No, I think… I think I blacked out, after.”

GM: Dr. Brown raises his eyebrows. “That’s the last thing you remember, before waking up here?”

Emmett: “No. There’s… flashes. I was, um.” Swallow. “Naked. In the dark. I kept fading out.”

GM: The doctor glances down at something in his palm again, then back up at Emmett. “You have any idea how you might’ve ended up that way?”

Emmett: “There’s, um. The obvious answer. Some psycho slipped something in my drink and… Christ.”

GM: The doctor asks Em a few similar follow-up questions and finally states, “Mmm-hm. Well, maybe it’s for the best you don’t remember too much, but this is out of my hands anyway. The police are going to interview you, once you’re okay enough to have visitors.” The doctor smiles again, stands up, and pats the foot of Em’s bed in seeming substitute for touching the catastrophically injured young man’s body. “So until then, take it easy. We’ll have a nurse come by later to check on you.”

Emmett: “Please.” Em locks eyes with the man. “Can’t you tell me what you know? I’m sorry for being rude. I was scared. Am scared. I just…” the frustration, humiliation, in his voice is all too genuine. “I have no idea what’s happened to me.”

GM: The doctor heaves a sigh and sits back down. “Your landlady found you in the dumpster bin outside your apartment. Gave her quite a scare.”

Emmett: “Oh my god. What about my legs? My arms? How… how bad is it?”

GM: “Your arms were broken. They should heal up fine.”

Emmett: But.

GM: “Your legs, you’ve lost everything from the knee down.”

Emmett: Em blinks. “I, ah. I see.” He sobs, a little. His tongue. He still has his tongue. “Have you… called anybody?”

GM: The doctor smiles again, though whether out of genuine sympathy is Em’s guess. “Prosthetics have come a long ways, Emmett. So far as your family, we’ve called all of your immediate relatives.”

Emmett: Fuck. “Okay,” he says meekly. He has nothing else to say.

GM: “Turns out your sister’s actually a doctor too. Lucky you, when you’re discharged.”

Emmett: “Lucky,” he repeats.

GM: “Well, lucky in your circumstances,” Dr. Brown smiles.

Emmett: “Has she… seen?”

GM: “Oh no, we’ve not allowed you any visitors yet.”

Emmett: “Could we keep it that way, please? For… just a little bit?”

GM: The doctor laughs. “You just lie back and relax, Emmett. Enjoy some TV. You won’t need to worry about police or bills or whatever else until you’re a ways better.”

Emmett: “Not police. Just family.”

GM: “Afraid that’s not up to either of us. But like I said.” The doctor encouragingly pats the foot of Em’s bed again. “You don’t need to worry about them for now. You just focus on getting better.”

Emmett: Doc Brown’s probably tasted vinegar that was sweeter than Em’s laugh. “Oh. I’ll get right to that. How long does it take legs to grow back, usually?”

GM: The doctor grins. “Well, science hasn’t come quite that far yet. Prosthetics usually take at least a few months.” He picks up the TV’s remote. “You got a favorite channel to watch?”

Emmett: “I don’t suppose you have Netflix.”

GM: “’Fraid not. Or cable. Just regular old TV here.”

Emmett: “Just… anything.”

GM: Dr. Brown flicks the remote, pats Em’s bed again, and reiterates how a nurse will be around later to check on him. A final shadow-rimmed smile and he’s gone. The television blares down at the invalid young man.

“…this largest tooth whale is also called a chacalot!”

Game show-themed music begins playing. Dooh-dooh dooh dooh, dooh dooh dooh. Dooh, dooh-dooh dooh dooh dooh-dooh. Dooh, dooh-dooh, doo. Dooh. Dooh. Dooh. Dun-dun.

“What is… the sperm whale!”

Cheers and applause sound from the audience.

Emmett: He misses those visions already.

Em’s eyes close; first because the host’s makeup offends him, then because he finds the world is a better place when he doesn’t have to look at it, and finally because the pillow is so, so warm…


Monday night, 7 September 2015, PM

GM: Sleep comes easily and brings neither dreams nor nightmares. Just a blank stretch of non-being, when he isn’t Emmett Delacroix, isn’t a legless cripple, isn’t anybody else.

He comes to later in the evening. If the room’s darkened lighting is an indication, it’s late evening. He is confronted by a stout-framed, middle-aged woman with short graying hair and a jowl-lined, bulldog-like face. Emmett initially suspects her to be an orderly, but she wears a nurse’s scrubs and is holding a plastic bin that smells of talcum powder.

“You can’t use toilets, so you’re going to use this. Do you need me to remove your clothes?”

Emmett: Em raises an eyebrow. He glances at the strange white things that have replaced his arms. Then back at her.

GM: The nurse’s expectant expression doesn’t change.

Emmett: He grits his teeth. If pride had gone before the fall, this would be easier. “Yes,” he forces out.

GM: The nurse sets down the bedpan and pulls back Emmett’s covers. In place of where his legs used to be below the knee are two white-bandaged stumps.

Pain stabs through Em as the nurse hoists him up beneath his armpits like a sack of potatoes, lays a plastic cover over the sheets, and sets him back down. That hurts too. She undoes his hospital gown and raises it over his hips with the impersonal detachment of someone who’s done it a thousand times before. She then lowers the bed and grunts, “Lie supine.”

Emmett: Is that a math thing?

No more pillow talk, please…

Buy me dinner first…

He would have said something like that, once. Now he stares sadly at his cock. It’s cold in here, and he hurts all over. “I don’t know what that means,” he mutters.

GM: Emmett’s manhood resembles nothing so much as a sickly misshapen eggplant. It’s all blacks, blues, and dulled reds. Faded slashes crisscross its length. Random clumps of hair are either singed or missing.

The nurse just sighs, then takes hold of Emmett’s hips with two thick hands, which hurts, and pulls him forward so he’s lying flat on his back. She turns him on his side, which also hurts, and he feels cold plastic pressing against his buttocks. That hurts too. She rolls him on top of the bedpan and raises the bed, bringing his body into a somewhat more natural toileting position. That still hurts. She does not leave the room, but simply turns her back.

Emmett: “…oh.” He’s past the shame. He just loathes the dirty feeling. When he’s done, he clears his throat. “I need you to…”

GM: Voiding his bowels is like shitting rocks and pissing razor wire. It hurts. A lot. The smell is coppery and exceedingly foul. The nurse wrinkles her nose. “Glad I’m not you.”

Emmett: “I’m not.”

GM: The nurse holds the bedplan flat and then rolls Em away, onto his chest. He hears something lightly tearing, then there’s more pain. By the time the nurse is done and does up his gown, his ass feels like it’s been scorched with a blowtorch. “They found glass in your rectum,” she explains.

Emmett: His eyes feel wet, and he doesn’t trust himself to speak. He’s always hated places like this, for no particular reason. Now he has one.

GM: The nurse wordlessly carries away the foul-smelling bedpan. The stool is mostly obscured by discarded toilet paper, which is colored red as much as brown.

Em can’t say how much time passes before she returns. She sets down a tray on his bedside table, then looks over Em’s chart, re-inspects the splints on his arms, changes the fluid bag hooked up to his IV, and checks a few other things. She then sets the tray over Em’s lap. What’s on it looks almost as nauseous as what just came out of his ass.

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The glob of potatoes is wet, gray, and runny, like a hunk of moist brain matter with runny snot for gravy. The ear of corn is discernible as corn, but the kernels are spaced conspicuously close together and are curiously uniform in their shape, like a plastic replica rather than the real thing. Em has no idea what the round-shaped gray stuff is. The brown goop smeared over it would resemble his stool if not for the sickly-sweet smell.

Emmett: “I’m not hungry.” Unless maybe you have some poison.

GM: The nurse sets a plastic knife and fork by Em’s plate and stares at him.

Emmett: “I’m not hungry,” he repeats. He sounds like a child. He doesn’t care.

GM: The nurse sets a glass of water on his tray. And stares.

Emmett: His head droops. “I—ok.” Here it comes. “My arms are, um. I can’t.” Goddammitdammitdammit. “I need you to help me.”

GM: The nurse stabs off a forkful of the snot-like potatoes and holds it in front of Em’s mouth like he’s twelve months old.

Emmett: Here comes the airplane. Right into the towers. He closes his eyes, and opens.

GM: The “food” gets shoved in. It tastes as bad as it looks. Bland, runny, and as far removed from that chocolatey Café Soulé luncheon as his odds of coming first place in a marathon. The nurse watches him as he chews and swallows, then partitions off a second forkful of mashed potato.

Eventually, his plate is cleaned and his glass is emptied. The nurse takes them away and tells Em that someone will come by in the morning to help him void his bowels and hand-feed him another meal. She takes her leave just as the wing’s lights go out. Em is left alone in the dark with his thoughts.

Emmett: It could be worse, right? He’s alive. People have lost more from less to drink. He still has his tongue. People love cripples—or they pity them, which is the same as far as money goes. It could be worse. Right?

But even Em isn’t that good of a liar.


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