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Blood & Bourbon

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Story Two, Victoria IV

“You’re DEAD, bitch, DEAD.”
Unknown juvenile delinquent


Sunday afternoon, 20 September 2015

GM: Weeks pass. Richard Gettis makes the news again: shot dead by SWAT while resisting arrest.

Anna is glad he won’t hurt any kids again.

But she’s still a little sad.

McGehee does not offer her job back.

Victoria: Sylvia reassures her, commenting that everyone is safe again.

She also offers burning the headmistress’ car again.

GM: Anna smiles. But declines. That won’t help anyone.

She tries to move on. She applies to Mount Carmel Academy, the Academy of the Sacred Heart, Brother Martin’s School, and still others. None have openings.

All of the good schools tell her not to apply for next year.

Anna lands a subbing gig.

At first she’s hopeful.

It’s not long before she says it sucks.

“Regular teachers leave busywork for the kids. They know it’s busywork. So they refuse to do it.”

“Sometimes I don’t even know the material. All I can do is tell them to get to work, or help them look it up, because I can’t explain it. So kids who don’t understand either copy, or do nothing.”

She sighs.

“They know I’m just a sub. They don’t care.”

Victoria: She knows how significantly it affects Anna to see her passion turned into a monkey turning a lever. Especially when Anna is the monkey.

Perhaps poorly placed, she tries to make her smile.

“You’ve always been a sub for me.”

She nudges her in the ribs. It feels like trying to get a rise out of a sedated dog.

GM: Anna just gives a half-hearted smile.

“Oh, my god,” she says the next day, her voice tired. “These kids. They will pull things they wouldn’t even think of trying with a real teacher.”

“Guess what happened today. One boy started a fight with another one. I asked his name to write him up. So, guess what happens when he’s sent to detention? Another kid goes in. Because he gave me a fake name.”

“The principal called me in to yell at me. Told me what an idiot I was.”

Victoria: Sylvia drags a palm down her face.

“You can’t be serious. And they blame you for that?”

GM: “Yes,” Anna says dully. “They do.”


Wednesday afternoon, 23 September 2015

GM: “You know what the worst part is?” Anna says, several days later. “It’s lonely. I feel invisible. The other teachers know I’m not a real teacher. I try to eat lunch with them in the lounge, and they ignore me completely. I try to talk to them and they act like they don’t even hear me. Like I’m a ghost.”

She sniffs and dabs her eye.

“I’ve never seen people be so rude.”

Victoria: Anna’s made a habit of coming home, and calling Sylvie, or coming home, and calling Sylvie over, and coming ‘home’, but to Sylvie’s apartment.

Home, home, home.

Work, home, work, home, work, home.

Every time they see each other, she has another anecdote of another poor experience at work. Sylvie sees her, a dehydrated ball of oversqueezed passion, the puddle of her love all over the floor. She’s a mess.

All Sylvie can ever say is…

“Anna…”

She doesn’t know what to say anymore. She’s her best friend, and all she can do is be a shoulder for her to cry on.

“Is this… really worth it?”

GM: “I don’t know what else to do so,” she says tiredly. “I’m applying to other schools. This… pays the bills, until something turns up.”

Anna has more stories, as the weeks go by.

She subs on a class trip day, where there are a bunch of subs. The vice principal walks down the hallway and asks in a loud voice, “Where are all the teachers?” Anna remembers thinking, I’m a teacher too, you know.

She subs for a class of fourth graders. One gets into an argument with Anna over something she tells him he can’t do. He tells her, “You aren’t a teacher. You’re just a substitute!”

She subs at a school where she sees a student slam another into a locker so hard the kid loses consciousness and has to be transported to the hospital. No one believes her over what happened, or will call 911, until they see the unconscious kid themselves. No one believes the offending kid is the one she identifies.

She subs at another school where a regular teacher angrily lectures her that she should “know her place” and accuses her of “running my classroom like your personal playground.”

She says that regular teachers treat her like a maid. Like hired help. That she gets absolutely no respect.

She says she doesn’t actually teach anything. The kids don’t pay attention. She is a glorified babysitter while half of them do busywork and the other half pushes her buttons as far as she will let them. No one remembers her name. They just call her “the substitute.” She eats lunch at her desk, tries to read a book while the video plays for a subject she isn’t qualified to teach, and counts the hours until her work day is over.

“I never did that at McGehee,” she says dully. “Never. I looked forward to every class. Now I just can’t wait until I get to leave.”

“I’ve started applying for jobs at schools… lower down on my list. I can’t keep doing this.”

Victoria: Sylvia listens with all the patience of a guardian angel, and provides even more warmth. She’s everything she can be for the teacher in her many (daily) times of need.

When Anna calls her in tears over lunch, she answers.

When Anna doesn’t want to get out of bed in the morning, she pushes her.

When Anna, jittering over the looming day, hits a raccoon in the middle of the road, Sylvie is there minutes later.

“You are so much more than a babysitter, Anna,” she affirms with rock-solid assurance. “You are so much more, and you deserve to be seen that way, and see yourself that way.”

She takes Anna’s face in hand.

“I’m… not sure you’ll fare any better searching for schools further down. You might find a career in another city, but you are the soul of New Orleans.”

Their foreheads touch, Sylvia’s hands wrapping around the back of Anna’s neck.

“…it might be time to let it go. I’m not saying you have to stay, but if you want to work for me, it might be helpful for your mindset.”

GM: “That means the world, Sylvie,” Anna says quietly, head touching against hers. “It really does.”

“So does… everything, these past few weeks. You’re such a good friend…”

There’s no cracks about dominatrixes this time.

There’s been fewer cracks in general, these past weeks.

“But teaching is what I want to do with my life. It’s always been. Maybe… I can make a difference, teaching underprivileged kids, in ways I couldn’t at McGehee. Maybe this is even fate.”

“I know you’ve been to worse schools, as a kid… is there any advice you’d give?

Victoria: The hands holding her neck slide down her arms, and Anna finds herself pulled into a firm hug. Not crushing, as Sylvia does when she jovially forces glee into her friend. Not gentle. Not police. Simply firm and supportive, where Anna can let herself go limp, and she wouldn’t budge an inch.

She murmurs in her ear.

“Don’t.”

GM: So she does.

She goes limp, content to be held in Sylvia’s arms, the one always safe port in an angry storm. The one refuge and reservoir of support she can always turn back to.

“Why?”

Victoria: As she so often does, Sylvia leans the pair back, partially laying atop each other.

“Because the only people who care less than the teachers are the students, and the parents make an effort to care less than that. It isn’t a school. It is a daycare. You will be a babysitter, and nothing you do there will ever make a difference.”

GM: “Did you have good teachers?” Anna asks. “Any?”

“And if you didn’t… would one have helped?”

Victoria: “At that age? In those schools?”

She shakes her head.

“I didn’t give a fuck. No one did. No structure at home, no structure at school. If school decided to make a structure, it would have broken the moment I got home. If it wasn’t for Mom…”

She cringes. It isn’t fun to entertain what she might have become.

GM: Anna squeezes her shoulder.

“But you did have your mom.”

“I’m not going to say I’m a Superwoman like her, but… what if she was your teacher?”

Victoria: “Then my trash home would have erased any care in the world when my foster-brothers took my homework and stuffed it in the toilet. It’s hard to want to be better when the whole world tears you down. A child’s home is their whole world.”

For the first time since Anna lost her position with McGehee and husband in the same weekend, Sylvia exhibits frustration. She speaks with tension, but not anger, her fatigue coming through.

“Look, Anna, I’m not going to stop you from doing what you want to do, but I’ll voice my opinion every time. The public system—every fucking public system we have here in this city—is fucked, and one person isn’t going to change that.”

GM: “I don’t think I’m going to,” says Anna. “I just want to help what kids I can.”

“I can’t just quit teaching, without exploring all my options.”

“I feel like that’s… like that’s backing down.”

Victoria: “Sometimes, backing down an reevaluating is exactly what you need to do.”

GM: Anna’s quiet for a moment.

“I think I’ve made up my mind to do this. I want to at least… try.”

Victoria: Sylvia stares at her, silently smoldering.

GM: Anna takes her hand.

“Please don’t be mad.”

Victoria: “I’m not mad…”

But…

GM: Anna looks relieved.

“I’d still like your advice, if you have any.”

Victoria: “Wear armor. A friend’s niece makes some. Maybe I can get you a suit.”

GM: “Ha. Okay, I’ll add that to my school supplies.”

Victoria: “To be fair, you’d look hot in a set.”

She daydreams.

“Maybe a little sweaty. Mn…”

GM: “Armor?” Anna replies, amused.

“I think I’d rather be the princess than the knight.”

Victoria: “I’d rather you be a princess, too.”

GM: “I can see you in armor, though.”

“Black with lots of spikes.”

Victoria: “I can see me saving you from a tower.”

“As long as it has an elevator.”

GM: “I can see you doing that too,” Anna says with a soft smile.

Victoria: “I’ll stand in your classroom in armor, if I have to.”

“You might need it.”

GM: “That would make me feel very safe.”

“But I hope you don’t have to.”

Victoria: “You’re okay if I skewer a few children for warning?”

GM: “As long as they’re the ones who’d distract the others most.”

Victoria: “I’ll let you decide how the herd is culled.”

GM: Anna smiles.

“For real, though. Advice?”

Victoria: Sylvia releases a breath.

“They don’t want to learn, and no amount of forcing will change that. You can make it fun. That might help. Appeal to their sense of games. Kids love games. Their home lives are shit, mostly, so anything you give them to take home likely won’t be done, and any supplies they have will be left out to be chewed by a neighborhood dog.”

She thinks.

“I can tell you a hundred things you already know. You’re a great teacher. Maybe you’ll be the magic touch they need, but… Don’t lose your heart when—if—they don’t see that.”

GM: Anna nods.

“Okay. Go into this with open eyes. And play games with them.”

Victoria: “You already know all of that.”

GM: Anna shakes her head. “I didn’t do games at McGehee. The girls were all very focused. Very serious about getting into good colleges.”

Victoria: “I’m sure they’ll do very well. They’re learning in civilized society.”

GM: “Oh, of course. I’m not worried about the futures.” Her face sinks. “Besides Amelie’s, anyway.”

Victoria: “I know it’s your nature to fret for your students, but…”

But she’s not your student anymore.

GM: “But…?”

Victoria: “But you need to worry about yourself now.”

GM: “I’ll do that.” She smiles and gives Sylvia’s shoulder another squeeze. “Thanks for the advice. And supporting me in this.”

Victoria: “You know very well that I’ll be here whenever you need.”

She’s proved it almost every day, sometimes at her own sacrifice.


Monday afternoon, 5 October 2015

GM: Anna gets a job at a public charter school in Central City, one of the poorest and most crime-ridden neighborhoods in New Orleans. They’re willing to give her a contract after the school year has already started. Apparently, there is a lot of turnover in faculty.

Anna has stories from the very first day. She says there are metal detectors at the doors and police officers in the halls. She tells Sylvia about classrooms with such bad water damage that half the tiles are missing on the floor, mold is growing on the walls, and the A/C isn’t always reliable.

She brings a fan to class on the second day. It’s one of the many school supplies she winds up buying out of her own pocket. The charter school is a for-profit institution and seems to make money by ruthlessly slashing as many costs as it can.

“You know the weird thing?” Anna says. “All of the kids are black. All of the teaching staff is white. Literally the entire staff. None of them are from New Orleans. I think I’m the closest there is to a native. The other teachers are from all over the country.”

“I’m not going to say minorities should get hiring preference. I’ve never believed in affirmative action. It’s just… none of us understand the culture. I’d feel better if there were more local teachers. Whatever their skin color.”

Victoria: As soon as Sylvia mentions metal detectors and police officers, she moves from concern over Anna’s looming disappointment and the broken heart to follow to concern for her life.

“Anna,” she says one day, “if they have cops in the hallways, it’s because the student body is violent. Violent. Like, throwing punches, stabbing, probably bringing guns into the building. I don’t want to see you hurt.”

She already knows Anna won’t listen to her.

“If the world had more of you, it wouldn’t matter where the teachers are from, but the world is how it is. Are the students listening to you?”

GM: “Sometimes,” says Anna.

“They like the games.”

Victoria: Sylvia still dreads the worst.

“You keep your coffee with you? No open water left where they can touch it?”

GM: “Water?” Anna asks confusedly.

Victoria: “I don’t want to hear about a pretty, new teacher being drugged in the news.”

GM: “Oh. That doesn’t seem like something they’d do. They’re more… direct.”

“There are fights in the halls. All the time.”

Victoria: Sylvia pales.

“Please, Anna.”

GM: “It’s been just a day,” Anna says. “Nothing’s happened to me. And I’ve signed the contract.”

“The cops are pretty responsive…”

Victoria: “How… many times have you seen them be responsive… in one day?”

GM: “I saw them tackle and arrest one student. He was… god, Sylvie! He was completely out of control!”

Victoria: Sylvia whines.

“I’ll pay you what they are!”

GM: “Look, it’s been just a day! I’ve not seen anything happen to teachers. The fights are between students.”

Victoria: " ‘Seen’?"

GM: “And I’ve signed the contract, I literally can’t quit.”

“I’ll bring pepper spray in my bag. To be extra safe.”

Victoria: “Do you know how to use it?”

GM: “Point and spray.”

Victoria: She can’t see Anna crushing a bug, even after it bites her.

It doesn’t seem to sate Sylvia.

GM: “My dad showed me. He was concerned for his daughter’s virtue.”

Victoria: “Virtue isn’t exactly rolling off you, honey.”

GM: “Because I’m friends with a dominatrix?”

“A professional purveyor of sin?”

Victoria: Sylvia drags a fingernail up Anna’s neck, under her chin, and kisses her nose.

GM: Anna’s cheeks blush faintly, though she smiles.

It’s one of the more genuine ones Sylvia’s seen in a while.

“What was that for…?”

Victoria: “I wanted to see you smile.”

GM: Anna smiles back.

“You succeeded.”


Tuesday afternoon, 6 October 2015

GM: Anna smiles less over the coming weeks.

The accounts she gives are hauntingly familiar to Sylvia.

Class is basically optional. Kids walk in and out constantly, if they show up at all. Any attempts to enforce any kind of rules about tardiness and truancy are usually met with “fuck you, bitch." Class sizes vary each day. The kids who show up are rowdy and off task constantly. Very little education takes place in Anna’s classroom. Or any classroom, really. Anna describes how one girl pulls out her phone, turns on some music, jumps on her desk, and starts dancing on top of the desk. Anna tries to get her down but she keeps telling her “fuck you” over and over. This occurs at least once a week.

Trying to manage these kids is bad enough, but each class has about 40 kids in it. Sylvia might think this is a problem with funding but the school gets, in Anna’s opinion, enough funding. It doesn’t go to hiring teachers, it goes to paying a handful of extremely well-paid top administrators. It also goes to maintaining all the shit the kids destroy just for fun. Anna talks about how some tech or charitable organization tries to equip the kids with laptops. In short order, at least half are gone. The kids pawn them or destroy them for fun. Several times, Anna catches groups of kids just throwing the laptops against the wall or down the stairs, cackling and howling while taking turns filming it for MeVid. Every single TI83 calculator in the building gets stolen from every math and science teacher. The teachers try to make them put the calculators back. The kids howl and scream about any number of things and just storm out with the calculators anyway. Police only recover some of them.

That’s the real big issue at the school. Violence. Fights are a daily thing. At any given moment, there is probably a fight going on in the classroom. The police tackle and arrest the worst offenders, but plenty more get away with it. Sometimes punishment is just an hour in ISS or one-day suspension. Teachers get assaulted, too. Anna says there is a first aid kit in the teacher’s lounge.

Her kids haven’t hit her.

They do seem to enjoy the games.

Victoria: Every time Anna recounts another event, Sylvia worries more. She doesn’t try to convince her out of going to work anymore, but there’s little she can do other than caution her.

She isn’t about to go punch a child, even if she wants to. If they harm her.


Thursday afternoon, 22 October 2015

GM: One day, Anna gives Sylvia a call around when school gets out.

“Hey, big favor, can you pick me up from work? And bring some tires? I went out to the parking lot, and… someone slashed my car’s….”

Victoria: Sylvia answers the phone.

“Your tires? I can’t see a world where one of them targeted you specifically.”

She heaves a sigh.

“Okay. Okay. What size? I’ll come by. Or I can call you a truck.”

GM: “I did think about doing that. But this gives me an excuse to see you.”

Victoria: “You want to see me…?”

It’s probably surprising that she sounds surprised. They’ve spent almost every evening together.

GM: “I was kidding,” Anna says, lightly at first. Then more curiously. “Is that really a surprise…?”

“I love seeing you.”

Victoria: There’s a short pause.

“I’ll be there soon. Text me a picture of the tire size.”

GM: “Okay. Will do.”

“And can you swing by my classroom, when you’re there? I don’t like to wait out in the parking lot by myself.”

Victoria: “Of course. What’s the room number?”

Anna can hear her bag jingle, and the door close over the phone.

GM: “23.”

Sylvia picks up the tires without overly much trouble. It’s a short enough drive to Central City, but feels like she might as well be a thousand miles away from the quiet neighborhood where her dungeon is. She hears a gunshot and several blaring car alarms before she pulls up to a sagging, dilapidated, and graffiti-tagged school that looks like something out of the worst parts of her childhood.

True to Anna’s description, there are metal detectors and a police presence at the doors. The cops ask who Sylvia is, but let her through. She’s a well-dressed white adult.

Victoria: Sylvia recalls a time where she heard gunshots while walking into school. The gunmen never came for her. The shooter never came for the children.

So she thought as a child.

It’s so much worse as an adult. Seeing the school with the backdrop of rampant crime, Sylvia resolves to lock Anna in the bathroom at home until she concedes to breaking her contract.

For a moment, she considers calling the police just to escort her in to the building.

She passes through the detector and police checkpoint, walking as quickly to room 23 as she can. Sylvia cuts as imposing, focused a figure as she can.

GM: She does that best when she goes by Victoria. But she’s no slouch as Sylvia either.

There’s not many people in the hallways, though. School seems dead after the bell rings. Who here bothers with extracurriculars?

She makes her way to room 23. Through the door, she sees two teenage youths pressing knives to Anna’s throat and pinning her against a wall.

“We pass your class. Or you’re DEAD, bitch, DEAD. You fucking get that!?” spits one of them.

“Yes! Yes! I get that!” Anna repeats, pale with fear. “You’ll pass! You’ll pass!”

Knives.

So much for that metal detector.

Victoria: She opens the door.

“Hey, An—”

Sylvia experiences something new in that moment. She’s been threatened with knives before, when she was in school. It terrified her. It mortified her. It made her feel tiny, and weak, and helpless.

She grew from that. She became stronger. She made mistakes, and she threw punches when she shouldn’t have, and she earned a scar on her belly for it. That was years ago, though, and she’s almost forgotten the pain of that wound.

Sylvia St. George has never felt her heart leap to her throat and not her life, but another life, flash before her eyes. Her everything stands there, rocks crumbling beneath her feet off into an abyss. All they need to do is push her, and half of her heart will be gone.

An inferno of ice erupts inside her. She wants to hurt them like she’s never wanted to hurt anyone before. Not the man who touched her foster-sister. Not the mother who cast her out. No one. No soul.

She’s not stupid, though, and Anna’s life takes importance over her own bestial drive. She holds her hands up, a peace offering.

“You’ll pass,” she echoes. “She gets it. Cops are walking down the hall. You might want to get going before they peek in.”

GM: The two boys whirl at the sound of the opening door.

Sylvia sees simultaneous violence and alarm flash in their eyes.

She sees the desperate flash of hope in Anna’s. She looks about ready to cry in relief. At the arrival of her knight in spiked black armor.

Sylvia doesn’t think she has ever seen someone look so thankful to see her.

One of the boys presses the knife harder against Anna’s throat, drawing faint beads of red.

ONE MOVE, SHE DIES!”

Anna chokes back a gasp.

HEY!” says the second boy. He walks away from Anna, crosses the room towards Sylvia, and points his knife at her.

“Make them leave, bitch! NOW!”

Victoria: “Hey, hey,” she soothes, hands still palm out at shoulder height. “You guys are in control.”

The words make her retch inside.

“You’re the two with the knives. You want me gone, I’m gone, no calling the cops over, but I’d like to take her with me. You made your point, you’ll get your grades.”

GM: The kids stare at Sylvia, faces tense.

The one by Anna yanks off her glasses, tosses them to the floor, and stomps over them. Glass crunches under his shoe.

Then he shoves Anna forwards, into Sylvia.

Anna suppresses a cry and flings her arms around her friend in a death grip.

“Get out!” spits the boy. “We don’t pass! She’s fucking DEAD!”

Victoria: She catches Anna with an arm, hugging her lightly, and ushering her behind her. She takes a step backward after her, looking out the door. Are there cops nearby?

GM: There are none. The last cops she saw were by the front entrance.

Victoria: Sylvia draws a Sig Sauer P365 from her bag, pointing it at the boys. She capitalizes on the sudden threat. None of her clients have ever heard her as intimidating as she tries to be.

“Put. The fucking. Knives. Down.”

She counts her blessings on two very fortunate events: one, her urgency to help Anna making her forget to take the weapon out of the bag, and two, the broken metal detector allowing her to keep it in the bag.

She keeps Anna behind her.

GM: She sees it in the boys’ furious eyes.

The primal instinct to fight or flee.

Staring down the end of her barrel.

There’s two of them.

One of her.

They can’t stop her from getting off at least one shot.

But can she drop both of them before one cuts her up?

Victoria: She takes a step out the door, pulling Anna with her, slamming it before either of them make the decision for her. Whether it locks or not, she takes a step away from it, leaving the barrel of the gun clearly visible through the slot.

“You come out, you earn what you get!”

“Get the cops!” she hisses to Anna. “You tell them I have a gun to them if you have to!”

GM: The door does not lock.

“I’ll be back!” says Anna, face still pale. She takes off in a sprint.

The boys stare at Sylvia through the slot like caged and furious animals.

They don’t drop their knives, now.

Victoria: She keeps the weapon pointed at the glass, both hands on the weapon. It’s in that moment, her heart hammering, none of the fear she feels touching her face, that she promises herself to buy both her and Anna lessons.

“You open that door and you get exactly what’s coming.”

She glances at the weapon, ensuring the safety is off.

GM: The boys watch Anna flee.

They look at the gun.

Through the glass.

Through the door.

Then they dash up to the windows outside and start hurriedly forcing them open.

Victoria: She waits, still pointing at the door. She isn’t going to stop them escaping like cowards.

GM: The boys climb out and dash off without a backwards glance.

Victoria: She sets the safety back on, stows her weapon back in her bag, and waits for Anna to arrive with the police.

GM: She hears the very thump of hurrying footsteps before she sees Anna round the corner with two officers. Her face looks terrified, and she looks ready to weep with relief when she sees Sylvia still there.

“Oh thank god you’re okay!”

“They’re in there!” she says, pointing at the classroom.

The officers draw their guns.

Victoria: “They jumped out the window.”

She sounds disappointed.

Then she puts up her hands.

“They threatened Ms. Perry with knives. Look at her neck.”

GM: The cops look through the door slot.

“Yeah. Open windows,” says one.

Victoria: She looks to Anna.

“You know their names, right?”

GM: The other looks at Anna’s neck. “You’re right. Bleeding.”

Anna nods.

“Sean Pace. Shane Jones.”

Victoria: She nods her head toward the cops.

“Can you do anything?”

“Those are the whitest black names I’ve ever heard.”

GM: Anna manages a slightly crazed-sounding laugh. “What…?”

Victoria: She shakes her head. Only now, with the police here, Anna safe, and the threat gone, does she finally feel just how hard her heart was racing. She’s covered in a cold sweat.

“Officers?”

GM: “Sure, radio ’em in,” says one of the cops. “Battery against a teacher.”

Victoria: “Do you know the boys?” she asks the police.

GM: “Nope,” says one cop.

The other cop radios in the two’s names and says to arrest them.

“Fuckin’ idiots,” he says, switching the radio off.

Anna wraps her arms around Sylvia. It’s not a death grip this time, but she can feel the teacher’s heart racing against hers. Sylvia does not look like the only one covered in cold sweat.

Victoria: She hugs Anna tight as she can with one arm, pressing her lips to her hair.

“You’re fine, Anna. You’re fine. I need a moment, huh? Just wait right here.”

She parts from her hug, regretfully, and beckons the white officer a few paces away.

GM: Anna looks like letting go of Sylvia is the last thing she wants in the world right now. But she nods tightly.

The white officer follows her.

“Yeah?”

Victoria: So only he can hear, “What sentence does battery carry?”

GM: “Up to a thousand bucks, six months, or both.”

He thinks. “Oh yeah, probably aggravated assault too.”

“Can also be up to a thousand, six months, or both.”

Victoria: There’s a pause.

“What’ll it take to up it?”

GM: The cop grins.

“I like the way you think, lady.”

Victoria: She gives him a telling wink.

“Benjamin likes the way you work, if neither of them come back.”

GM: “Uh,” says the cop. “We can beat the shit out of ‘em and get ’em for resisting arrest and assaulting a public officer. That’s a lot worse.”

Victoria: She glances up.

“No cameras in here, right?”

GM: “Ha ha. In a shithouse like this?”

Victoria: She snorts, producing her wallet.

GM: He glances up. “The ones they got are fakes. Don’t work. Dunno if they used to.”

He shakes his head. “Whatever.”

Victoria: “Getting paid to have fun. Lucky you.”

GM: “Lucky me.”

All right, so. Aggravated assault on an officer. That’s…" he thinks, “one to ten years, and up to five thousand.”

“Resisting arrest is up to six months and five hundred.”

Victoria: “They have knives, you know, officer,” she adds with faux concern. “They might charge you. You could be wounded. You can defend yourself, can’t you? If they get close…”

GM: “Yeah, that’s what aggravated assault is. Deadly weapon.”

“Okay. Gimme five thousand, for each boy, and they’ll have aggravated assaulted me with a knife.”

“Since that’s what the fine is.”

“Fair, innit?”

Victoria: She stares at him.

“Do you like vacation?”

GM: “Sure do.” He spits on floor. “This place is a shithole.”

Victoria: “How would you like five thousand and some time off?”

GM: “Time off, huh? Howzat?”

Victoria: All pretense of concern is gone. Clearly, he didn’t get it.

“I’m asking you to shoot them. At least one of them.”

GM: The NOPD is not known for hiring the best and brightest.

“Oh, I see.”

“Shoot ’em dead, or just shoot ’em?”

Victoria: She pulls out a checkbook, then pauses.

“Dealer’s choice. If they have to live life with a bag attached to their shitter, that’s just as good as rolling in to a morgue. Arguably, it’s worse.”

She pauses.

“Check would probably be suspicious, wouldn’t it? I don’t have ten-thousand cash on me. How would you like it?”

GM: “Cash,” says the cop. “And I want WAY more than five thousand, if you want ’em dead.”

Victoria: “How much ‘way more’?”

GM: The cop looks at her and thinks.

“Twenty grand per boy.”

Victoria: She puts the checkbook away.

“Officer, what’s your name?”

GM: “Derek Fletcher.”

Victoria: “Derek, people pay exorbitant amounts of money to not get to fuck me. They get off on it. They beg for it. They cry over it. Still, they pay. I’ll give you $12,000 to arrest one for battery with a knife and assaulting an officer, shoot the other, and I’ll sleep with you. The word ‘no’ won’t enter my vocabulary between sundown and sunup, the only caveat not being not leaving a permanent mark.”

GM: “Okay, so that’s…” Derek thinks, “25 thousand. To kill one, and battery the other. And you’re giving me 12 thousand. So that means sleeping with you is worth… 15 thousand.”

Victoria: His math is wrong.

“The list of clients that want and have been declined the opportunity is lengthier than the list of students you want to see in a ditch. Yes, it’s worth 15 thousand.”

GM: He looks her up and down.

“You’re pretty easy on the eyes… but you can get a classy escort for $500.”

“No woman is worth $15,000.”

Victoria: She groans.

“Very well. $10,000 cash for assault and battery with a knife.”

She holds her hand out. It’s not worth arguing the point anymore. Not with Anna about to collapse.

She takes out her phone, drawing up a new contact to Don’s Pizza, and hands it to him to enter his number.

GM: He does so.

“Okay, miss. Those boys’ll be looking at 1-10 years.”

Victoria: “Worth every cent. Have fun.”

She stows her phone, and returns to Anna.

GM: “Right, hold on,” says Derek before she goes. “Normally, these things. The… buyer pays first.”

“Or half up front, half when complete.”

“This needs to happen soon, ‘cause he’s gotta try and stab me resisting arrest.”

“Now, if you don’t got the money now… what’s your name and where do you live?”

Victoria: She pauses, turning back to address him. As she speaks, she pulls out her wallet again, drawing out her license.

“My name is Sylvia Tessa St. George. I was born October 21st, 1989. I live at 1713 Burgundy St, Unit 204 in Marigny. If I don’t come back with your money and you follow through, you know exactly where I live and who to take your revenge on.”

She holds out her ID.

“I’ll be back with your money. I don’t break my word to those I do business with.”

GM: “Read my mind,” smiles Derek.

He takes a picture of her ID with his phone.

“All right, Ms. Sylvia Tessa St. George. You got 24 hours, after I text you, to come up with the money.”

“If you don’t, you are going to have an accident.”

“A very, very bad accident.”

Victoria: “I don’t break my word.”

She has the cash. She’d just rather console Anna first, not rush back out the door to pay them off.

“Text me when you’re ready. I’ll meet you.”

GM: Derek gets her number, after realizing he doesn’t have it.

It’s still something to do without any advance, she supposes.

On the other hand, how much is one black boy’s life worth?

Victoria: It’s not the value of the life taken.

It’s the value of the life that almost was.


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