Campaign of the Month: October 2017

Blood & Bourbon

======================================== NAVIGATION: CAMPAIGN SIDE ========================================
======================================== NAVIGATION: DASHBOARD SIDE ========================================
Story Two, Caroline V

“I can’t stop what’s happened here from going forward, but I can make the process much less neat and tidy than everyone else would like it to be."
Christina Roberts

Sunday afternoon, 30 August 2015

Caroline’s second trip back to Tulane Medical Center feels much like the first. Neil has already eaten lunch, but still says hi when he sees her and provides the directions to Emil’s room. Her talk with the injured lawman is what it was.

People are still showing up to pay condolences, drop off gift baskets, and wish the girls speedy and complete recoveries. Sarah is still in a coma. Visitors give her their prayers as well. Yvonne seems to be tired out, and Caroline spots four of her sisters camped outside the door to receive further well-wishers in her stead. They mention Yvette is staying inside. She hasn’t ever left Yvonne’s side except to use the bathroom.

Susannah Kelly and several girls (some familiar to Caroline, some not) stop by Yvonne’s door to leave her with balloons. Other students from McGehee pay their respects, including Rachel and her father; Caleb Gallagher’s granddaughter Mackenna; a South Asian girl with her parents who are probably some of Rich Pavaghi’s many relatives; a redhead who Caroline doesn’t know; and a black girl who’s the daughter of Eric Lancaster, the (Democratic) U.S. representative for New Orleans’ congressional district, and who pointedly ignores Caroline’s presence.

Adults stop by too. There are two lawyers from Caroline’s old job at HMHL&P, and whose number do not include Denise; Carson Malveaux, who checks in on Caroline too; McGehee’s headmistress Catherine Strong, who tells the Devillers and Whitneys (for what doesn’t sound like the first time) that Amelie has been expelled; a blonde woman who brings food and Caroline recognizes as the ex-wife of Maxen Flores, her father Nathan’s successor in the state senate, and who half-playfully admonishes the girls to eat something besides sweets; two executives from Whitney Bank, along with Lawrence Thurston, who was her Aunt Vera’s portfolio manager; and a few further faces Caroline doesn’t know.

There’s also a delegation from NOPD, who have updates on Richard Gettis. He doesn’t seem to have gotten the message that he’s no longer a cop. He’s actually arrested two people for suspected crimes, handcuffed them to doors, and vanished after calling NOPD to come pick them up (both victims were released and not charged with anything). In so many words, “He’s gone off the deep end.” It makes his movements all the easier to follow, and they assure the Devillers and Whitney families that Gettis will be brought in—“dead or alive”—very soon. Both receive the news coolly.

Luke doesn’t seem like he has plans to leave the hospital anytime soon, and not just for his girlfriend’s sake. He glibly greets and shakes hands with as many people as he can, taking the opportunity to wave the family flag and praise Caroline’s heroism without seeming like he’s doing that (but which Caroline knows is exactly what he’s doing).

Caroline: Caroline plays the part opposite of him, the demure savior grateful the girls survived. It’s far from her most difficult role.

GM: It’s after a few hours of this that Caroline spots Christina Roberts among the various visitors coming and going.

Christina_Roberts.jpg Caroline: The heiress frowns at the sight. Roberts is many things, but an ambulance chaser isn’t one of them.

GM: Luke frowns at Caroline, as if having the same thought. “What do you suppose she’s doing here?”

Caroline: “I’m not sure. But I’ll find out.” The heiress crosses in front of the madam on her way to the bathroom.

GM: Christina looks notably stone-faced as Caroline intercepts her. She greets the Malveaux scion with a perfunctory, “Caroline.”

Luke does not accompany her.

Caroline: “Christina,” Caroline replies obliquely as she crosses ahead and into the restroom in front of Christina.

GM: The madam walks around her into one of the stalls, closes the door, and audibly goes about her business.

Caroline: Caroline pays the noise little mind as she moves to the sinks and checks her makeup and general appearance, waiting for the madam to finish her business. When Roberts emerges the heiress watches her through the mirror.

“I don’t expect they’re your clients, and they seem a little young to be your employees,” she offers.

GM: The sound of running water punctuates Roberts’ snort as she washes her hands. “They’re a little well-off to be my employees.”

Caroline: “I’m told that some teens enjoy rebelling against their families,” Caroline replies.

GM: Roberts’ expression looks as if she could snort again. “Some girls who’ve wanted to work for me have wanted to do that. They can rebel anywhere else they like, but I don’t employ minors, girls who’ll just make me enemies, or both.”

Caroline: “Personal, then,” Caroline replies.

GM: “My niece was hospitalized and arrested,” Roberts answers as she dries her hands.

Caroline: “I didn’t know you had one,” Caroline replies. “Anyone I might know?”

GM: “She’s only been in town for a few weeks. I doubt you know her, but after last Friday I’m sure you know of her.” Christina examines her reflection as she starts to touch up her makeup. “Her name is Amelie Savard.”

Caroline: Caroline pauses what she’s doing for a moment.

“That’s unfortunate,” she says at last.

GM: “I rather thought so too,” the madam deadpans.

Caroline: “I don’t need to tell you how ugly this is. And will continue to be,” the heiress replies.

GM: Christina silently continues to fix her face. The look on it is hard.

Caroline: Caroline finishes her own efforts and snaps her purse shut.

“Call me if you need something. My advice though, given the powers in play, it may be far better to ride this one out than swim against it. For her.”

GM: Christina turns away from the mirror to look at Caroline. She regards her for a moment.

“Your family connections could be very useful here. Something tells me Carson is going to be the judge who decides her case.”

Caroline: “I’m open to pitching something to him when we get there,” Caroline begins. “But I’d need a scapegoat. Someone isn’t coming out of this with a slap on the wrist.”

GM: “Yes,” Christina agrees, though not happily. “And Amelie makes the perfect one.”

Caroline: “Well, perfect save you,” Caroline replies.

The heiress’s expressionless mask cracks for a moment. “If it had happened with almost any other group in the school, this would have been a far easier matter for you to sweep up, if so inclined.”

GM: Christina simply sighs. “The Devillers and Whitney girls are off. The Freneau girl is more convenient, but still inconvenient. That leaves the injured cop and the Burroughs girl, so far as people who were actually there.”

Caroline: “I’m certain you can come up with something. This probably isn’t the time to discuss it though,” Caroline replies.

GM: “Quite the opposite. I’m sure your parents have told you some variation of ‘the longer you wait, the harder it gets.’”

Caroline: “And what do you propose? And is your niece smart enough to follow along with whatever you’d be selling?”

She lets that hang for a moment, then bites her lower lip. “The police officer is likely your best bet. I could spin advantages to pushing them further on the defensive, and he struck me as…. well, let’s just say someone unwilling to play ball.”

GM: Christina seems to think on that. “I’d heard a few strange things about him.”

Caroline: “He started ranting to me about bringing justice back to the police for the common man,” Caroline answers dryly.

GM: “An idealist among NOPD? I thought they were an endangered species,” the madam quips back, equally dryly.

Caroline: The smile Caroline gives is positively predatory. “They might be.”

GM: “That does change things a good deal,” Christina considers. “Brass will want him off the force sooner or later anyway if he doesn’t change his tune.”

Caroline: “And it would be easy to argue his call set it all in motion,” Caroline agrees.

GM: “It’s chains of events that build towards fuck-ups this big. Never just one thing,” Christina sighs. “But you’re right. Now, so far as what Carson wants to hear.”

The madam rubs her forehead. “I won’t fight Amelie’s expulsion from McGehee, sue the school, or sue the girls’ families. That should be enough for them. But anything that results in Amelie getting a felony conviction is a dealbreaker. I won’t allow this to destroy her future.”

Caroline: “She’s going to get something—there’s too much on the record now—but I can make that argument,” Caroline replies. “Extra attention isn’t something the girls’ families are likely to want either, given all that was involved.”

GM: “A misdemeanor conviction will probably be too hard to dodge,” Christina grudgingly agrees. “Carson and I can haggle over the sentence particulars—but no felonies. The drug charge is bullshit and we all know it. I can’t stop what’s happened here from going forward, but I can make the process much less neat and tidy than everyone else would like it to be.”

Caroline: “You’ll need something on the cop,” Caroline replies. “Making the drug charge stick to him might be ideal. And easy. He’s stuck here for days.”

GM: “He needs a motive.” Christina thinks for a moment. “He could have wanted to strike a blow against the city’s old families. Send a loud and clear message that no one was above the law.”

Caroline: “He certainly accomplished as much. I confess, my understanding of exactly what happened makes it difficult to frame it neatly, but I expect your own perspective may lend itself well.”

GM: “The girls have a better idea than either of us regarding what happened. I’m sure they’d talk freely around you.”

Caroline: “You’re asking for a lot,” Caroline replies. “That could leave me high and dry.”

GM: “Asking the ones who aren’t in a hospital bed costs you nothing relative to my goodwill,” Christina counters. “Any of the girls would be more than happy to complain about the cop who got them into this mess, I’m sure.”

Caroline: “And filling in all those holes for you?” Caroline counters. “Is your niece going to play ball when she wakes up, or are our plans going to come apart?”

GM: “She’ll do what she’s told,” the madam states.

Caroline: “I trust you can find a way to make the drugs stick to him,” Caroline answers rather than asks. “I’ll call you later with details on what happened.”

GM: “Good. If you’re looking for more on Kane, he’s since been visited by Delron Mouton, some other lieutenant, and Senator Flores’ ex-wife. They all might have more to share with you than me about any unsocial behavior.”

Caroline: “Someone’s been busy,” Caroline replies. “I’ll see what I can do.”

GM: Christina snaps her purse closed. “I have no doubt.”

Sunday afternoon, 30 August 2015

GM: Yvonne’s room is much as it was when Caroline left it last, or at least the outside is. Four of her sisters are camped out on chairs with cushions, occupying themselves on phones and tablets. One result of last Friday and Saturday, Caroline supposes, is that she can now tell them apart better. Yvette, Noëlle, and Cécilia are present, along with Luke and another pale woman who looks a little younger than Cécilia. That has to be Adeline.

Caroline: After the predictable and expected round of introductions, Caroline asks Cécilia to step aside with her for a moment.

GM: All of the girls are as grateful to see Caroline as before and offer an abundance of treats from Yvonne’s gift baskets, which they say she’s fine with them offering (“there’s just so much”). Cécilia tells her sisters she’ll be back momentarily.

Caroline: Caroline politely inquires as to Yvonne’s condition before moving on to the topic at hand. “What exactly happened that night, Cécilia? There’s a lot more to this than I was selling the night of.”

GM: Yvonne is feeling a lot more out of it than yesterday, Cécilia answers. She’d wanted to look strong for her initial visitors and has received fewer today. She’s too tired to have anyone in her room besides Yvette right now. But she is making a steady recovery. Everyone only hopes the same can be said for Sarah.

Cécilia frowns over the topic of what happened. “It’s a long story, Caroline, but one I know pretty well by now. It all started over a school project. It was for a history class Yvette was taking with Amelie. They were supposed to research a haunted historic building. I guess the teacher thought that would be a fun project.”

“Yvette and Amelie got paired up when they didn’t want to be. Or at least when Yvette didn’t want to be. Yvette had a thousand reasons for disliking her, I won’t go into them, but she said Amelie was paranoid about ghosts and convinced the house really was haunted.”

Caroline: “So they decided to play to it,” Caroline fills in.

GM: Cécilia nods. “Yvette said Amelie was even stabbed by some Quarter psychic over the weekend, which I’m sure made her even more scared. But you guessed what Yvette did. She gathered up a bunch of other girls, who didn’t like Amelie but were pretending to be her friends, and decided to play a prank on her.”

“They tried to give Amelie a drink spiked with LSD and then wanted to host a pretend séance, where they’d have acted like ghosts were actually there. Once she started really hallucinating, they’d have locked her in the attic overnight. Where all the slaves were tortured, and let her think the ghosts were getting her.”

Caroline: It’s a particularly cruel ‘prank,’ but Caroline has heard worse.

GM: “They’d have left her there for the caretaker to find the next morning, where they must have figured she’d get in even worse trouble.” Cécilia sighs. “I suppose teenagers will be teenagers, no? But obviously that isn’t what happened. They said Amelie was already on edge. She was jumping at shadows and wouldn’t even take the drink. She was seeing things all without LSD.”

Caroline: “So what happened? How did she end up with her head cracked open, and her phone destroyed?” Caroline asks.

GM: Cécilia sighs again. “The house had all the girls on edge. Things sounded like they started to get really downhill after… they found some disturbing painting the last owner, that movie star, left behind. It scared all of them, not just Amelie. Yvette took a picture of it, then texted it to Amelie after they’d all split up.”

“It must have really scared her. That’s when the girls all heard her screaming, and saw she’d fallen down a flight of stairs.” Cécilia’s brow furrows. “They aren’t sure exactly happened to her phone. But Amelie brought a lot of knives, maybe it fell on one. She was out of her mind when the others saw her. They tried to calm her down, but she ran off and tried to climb the gate… and fell.”

Caroline: “And when their friend’s cop father showed up, he had the bright idea to make them write out this plan of theirs—and they did.”

GM: Cécilia nods. “In garbled bits. Most of them left out the drugs and other parts that could have gotten them in real trouble, I think, but Simmone is only 10… she told the full story.”

Caroline: “And then the cops searched and found the drugs. Lord, how much did they have?” Caroline asks rhetorically. “Can the drugs be traced back to anyone?”

GM: Cécilia shakes her head. “They were very plain-looking pills, you could mistake them for medication tablets. No smiley faces or rainbows like you see on some.”

Her face falls a bit. “They said that was Sarah’s idea, to keep them plain. In case Amelie saw them spiking the drink, or something else went wrong… like it did.”

Caroline: “Small mercies,” Caroline replies quietly. Gears turn in her mind. “Do they have any idea what happened to the cop? Just a stroke?”

GM: “It… must have been. The girls all say he started screaming over Amelie. Really screaming, like some kind of… animal, then ran out of the house. Everyone must have just been so scared. When they found him, he was lying passed out in the rain. The doctors all say it was a stroke compounded by hitting his head.”

Caroline: “Then the other cops and paramedics showed up,” Caroline fills in.

GM: Cécilia nods. “The girls were all arrested. And then, well, you were there for all of it.” Her face looks more than a little numb. “It was such a nightmare.”

Caroline: “Yes, it was,” Caroline agrees, flashing back to blood squeezing its way between her too-pale fingers working over paler-still flesh.

GM: “Everyone says that house is cursed.”

Caroline: “Maybe it is,” Caroline answers. “Do you know anything about Amelie beyond what your sisters shared?”

GM: Cécilia shakes her head. “Mostly just what Yvette shared. And Yvonne. They both had classes with her, I’m sure they could all tell you a lot more. And Mrs. Flores, their dance teacher, who’s been by.”

Caroline: “Her aunt is Christina Roberts.”

GM: “Oh, I see.” Cécilia clearly does see if her stiller expression is any indication.

Caroline: “I don’t think she could actively derail things at this point, but I suspect if so inclined she could turn this into a very messy and too-public spectacle.”

GM: “Yvette wants Amelie to pay. So does our mother. I’m not sure they’re wrong.”

Caroline: “For being a fool?” Caroline shrugs. “She’ll be expelled either way, and is likely to end up with an array of criminal charges. To say nothing of her own road to recovery. At the end of the day she wasn’t why the girls got arrested.”

GM: “There’s a lot of people at fault for what happened last night,” Cécilia grants with a faint sigh. “These sorts of things are too big for any one person to be responsible.”

Caroline: “Really? Because I can think of someone whom it falls on more than others,” Caroline answers.

GM: “Completely responsible,” her brother’s girlfriend amends with another stiller look. “And he of course chose to do everything that he did, knowing what would happen. But even Yvette and the girls are partly—partly—responsible, for their prank to make Amelie so scared. So am I for driving them to that house. And Amelie is the most responsible of all, for obvious reasons, and getting the police involved.”

Caroline: “I spoke with him,” Caroline continues. “Idealist type. He was preaching to me about turning the police around to help the ‘little guy.’”

GM: “How unfortunate he couldn’t help my sisters,” Cécilia notes coolly.

Caroline: “Were it not for his prying, there would have been little reason to touch them,” Caroline replies. “And while I can only speculate as to what possessed Detective Gettis, I have to imagine those writings played a part.”

GM: “I don’t know why he had them do that,” Cécilia frowns. “I’ve never heard of police taking written statements before.”

Caroline: “They don’t,” Caroline answers.

GM: “Everyone knows how bad police corruption is in this city, of course, but I thought they at least cared about people like my family. They’re making an énorme show of it now, of course. The superintendent was by yesterday, along with Nolan Moreno, and that commander just a little while ago. They even wanted to ‘pay respects’ to Yvonne, in her room. As if we would let them.”

Caroline: “It was disgusting,” Caroline agrees. “But I think holding Detective Kane accountable would make a larger impact than platitudes.”

GM: “Officer Kane. They say he’s been demoted.”

Caroline: “A slap on the wrist,” Caroline scoffs.

GM: “Yes. I suppose it would be a step in the right direction to have him off the force, thinking on it now. My mother would agree, I’m sure. Things have just been… well, you know how.” Cécilia looks a little numb again. “When we’re thinking about anything besides the girls, it’s about Gettis, and then Amelie. What to do about Kane just fell by the wayside.”

Caroline: Caroline nods in understanding. “He doesn’t seem the type to let things go. Pitch it to your mother for me,” she asks. “She has more police connections than I do. If she’s willing to let Amelie off with the more minor charges—and a removal from McGehee—I can make Roberts play ball, and the rest of this can go away without dragging the girls into trials and other unpleasantness.”

GM: “Oh, mon dieu, a trial? Do you really think she would?” Cécilia asks.

Caroline: “I think she’d call them as witnesses in any more serious trial for Amelie, and perhaps pursue civil measures.”

GM: Cécilia sighs. “Well, Yvette might relish that, but Yvonne and Simmone don’t need to go through another ordeal. Or the other girls. I suppose as long as Amelie’s out of McGehee, that’s what matters.”

Caroline: “Out of your lives,” Caroline agrees. “Do you think your mother will go along with it?” she asks.

GM: “Out of our lives,” Cécilia repeats, then pauses. “She wants the people who’ve hurt her children to pay.”

Caroline: It’s not something Caroline can relate to, even though she understands.

GM: “Gettis is the person who’s on her mind most of all right now. I think she’ll also be glad to avoid a trial, but she’ll want more than just expulsion for Amelie.”

Caroline: “An array of misdemeanors are all on the table. Her future is finished. She’ll be lucky to finish high school.”

GM: “Would it be?” Cécilia asks, seemingly half-curious. “You are the lawyer, but a few misdemeanors is much less of a black mark for jobs and colleges than a felony drug conviction, isn’t it?”

Caroline: Caroline pauses. “It isn’t an outright end, but it closes many doors. To say nothing of how long her recovery is going to take.”

GM: “My mother keeps an eye on the long term. She’ll want this to keep a lot of doors closed for good.”

Caroline: “I see few doors open to a potential high school dropout,” Caroline replies. “It certainly closes the doors on any prestigious schools.”

GM: “There are other high schools she could enroll in. Not prestigious ones, after an expulsion on her transcript, but still.”

Caroline: Caroline spreads her hands. “Amelie’s future destroyed, the girls not dragged into a public debacle that could damage their own.” She weighs one hand against the other for emphasis. “If she’s as unlikable as you’ve made her out to be, it seems doubtful she’ll make much of herself. And if the police are forced to sacrifice one of their own at her altar, it’s unlikely they’ll turn a blind eye to her.”

GM: “That’s also very true,” Cécilia considers. “Maman could put in a bad word with them. All right, Caroline, I think I can convince her on it.”

Caroline: “There are many opportunities, past this, for things to go a bad way for her,” Caroline agrees.

GM: “More than. By the way, your brother is coming back with lunch for everyone, would you like to join us? My sisters would love it if you did.”

Caroline: “I’d love to, but I need to make sure the Whitneys are on board as well, then call my uncle.” She gives a strained smile. “If all goes smoothly, I’ll come back by—but when does it?”

Previous, by Narrative: Story Two, George VII
Next, by Narrative: Story Two, Julien V

Previous, by Character: Story Two, Caroline IV, Emil III
Next, by Character: Story Two, Caroline Epilogue

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…


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.


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.


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…”


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 their 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!”


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.


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.


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.


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.

Previous, by Narrative: Story Two, George VIII
Next, by Narrative: Story Two, Julien IV

Previous, by Character: Story Two, Victoria III
Next, by Character: Story Two, Victoria V

Story Two, Caroline IV, Emil III

“You speak a foreign language. Things the police in New Orleans rarely say.”
Caroline Malveaux

Sunday afternoon, 30 August 2015

GM: It isn’t long after Emil’s blowjob that he receives a knock against his door. That can’t be one of his nurses. They just walk in.

Emil: He wonders who this visitor is. The thought of his daughter visiting him warms his soul, but his talks with Dr. Brown temper Emil’s expectations.

“Come in,” he calls.

Caroline: She’s tall and pale-skinned—both of which stand out all the more clearly when framed against the white dress that hangs to mid-thigh. Platinum hair frames an attractive face and full red lips currently baring too-white teeth.

“Good afternoon. Detective Kane, right?”

Her legs go on for days. Her smile is blinding.

Emil: Emil regards the woman curiously as he reads her. He sits up as if at a desk and clasps his fingers in his lap. His gaze is pointed, but a resistance holds back its full bore.

“Yes. That’s me. But you wouldn’t be visiting unless you already knew that. Who are you?”

Caroline: “Caroline, Malveaux,” comes a reply complete with a momentarily wider smile. “I’d heard you’d been hurt last night responding to a call with some girls. I thought I’d check in on you while I was here.”

Emil: “I see. Well, I appreciate the care. Do you generally check up on injured NOPD officers, Miss Malveaux?”

Caroline: “When the opportunity presents itself,” she replies, her heeled feet snapping along the tiled floor as she enters the room. “And when they’ find themselves swimming in the deep end unexpectedly.”

Emil: “That’s an interesting turn of phrase, ma’am, what do you mean by it?”

Caroline: “Oh, come now, I suspect you must have some idea of what things have turned into after your injury. Three girls in the hospital, a detective on the run, another in the hospital…” Caroline watches his eyes as she speaks. “You don’t mind if I sit, do you?”

Emil: His eyes are steely, but the corners of his mouth curl up. The rest of his face remains frozen. “What kind of host would I be if I didn’t let a visitor sit? Though I suppose I’m a guest here myself. I don’t intend to stay here too long.”

Caroline: The heiress slides into one of the less than comfortable-looking green chairs in the room and crosses her legs, looking as comfortable as she might on a throne. “You didn’t know him, did you, the one that went insane?”

Emil: “Not well, no. Do you by chance know the girl who arrived here with me? I hear she’s in a coma.” Emil’s lip curls downwards a bit. Perhaps he’s a bit stiff from his surroundings. Perhaps he’s just not very expressive.

Caroline: “I know of her,” Caroline replies easily. “Something of a troubled history, I’m told. How she found her way among a group of upstanding girls is beyond me, but not really an immediate concern next to the health of all parties. They all have long roads to recoveries.”

Emil: “I heard they all met at the McGehee School. So, that’s how.”

Caroline: “Ah, well. Slipping standards,” the blonde remarks back.

Emil: “Well we wouldn’t want that, it’s one of the only decent schools left around here. Did you study there, Miss?”

Caroline: “Of course not,” Caroline replies easily. “I attended St. Joseph’s. More Catholic that way.” There’s some amusement on the back end that fades away as she continues to regard Emil. Something about his statement nags at her.

“Did you?” she asks with another hint of mirth.

Emil: “You’re asking if I studied at the all-girls McGehee School?” the man asks dryly.

Caroline: “Well, as my uncle is fond of observing, it’s a different time. And we already discussed standards.”

Emil: “We sure did, Miss Malveaux.” Emil lets out a short spurt of natural laughter, breaking the tension momentarily. “I was just pulling your leg there.”

Caroline: “I’m glad to see the atmosphere, and the food, hasn’t robbed you of your good spirits, Detective Kane.”

Emil: “Well we are in New Orleans, ma’am, there’s plenty of spirits to go around,” Emil says plainly.

Caroline: “Sadly but perhaps appropriately fewer in the hospital.”

Emil: “Depends which type you mean, I suppose. Though both could be attributed to those lowered standards you were talking about. That’s the trend these days it seems. A pox on all our houses.”

Caroline: “Not mine,” Caroline replies firmly, though not unkindly. “And yours, well, that might yet remain to be seen.”

Emil: Emil smiles at the woman as she casually insults him. “If you have a stone to throw, ma’am, go ahead and throw it. It’d be a sure shot. Fish in a barrel.” His voice is warm and encouraging, but his eyes are cold and straight as they dare her to take the shot.

Caroline: “Oh, Detective Kane, if I were here to take shots at you I could do it from the hall. As you say, fish in a barrel. Or at least police in a hospital bed. There will be others though—plenty of them. As I said, quite a disaster last night. Has anyone clued you into it?”

Emil: “Everyone’s said their bit. But I wouldn’t mind a retelling if that’s what you’re about to do for me.”

Caroline: “I bet you wouldn’t, but I’d hate to step on toes just yet. Things are delicate right now. I will share this much, though.” There’s that dazzling smile again. “It’s probably better for you if you don’t remember what happened. After a head injury no one would be surprised.”

Emil: “That’s your bit. You take everyone’s bits and put them together and suddenly you don’t need to remember.” The lawman smiles earnestly back and continues, “You didn’t come just to tell me about how delicate things are. Won’t hurt to tell me what it is you want. Maybe I can help you out. And if I can’t, well I have a head injury, I’ll forget it. What do you think, Miss Malveaux, a favor for a favor?”

Caroline: Caroline laughs lightly. “Detective Kane, is that it? You’re looking for my angle?”

Emil: “I’m looking to see how I can actually help someone get ahead in this town. That’s my job, you know, fixing the problems in this city. Others might disagree, but that’s what I think. That’s what I want. What do you want, Miss Malveaux?”

Caroline: “Caroline, please. We need not be so formal here, Detective Kane. Your mistake though is in assuming I have need of anything.”

Emil: “Caroline, I didn’t say you need anything. But you’re human. Humans don’t stop wanting until they’re six feet under. Some say even past that. So what do you want?”

Caroline: “I want to minimize the collateral damage here. And perhaps make a friend.”

Emil: “They say the best friendships are based on common interests. Luck has it that I’m also in need of a friend. Someone to trust. Someone to be trusted by in this dirty city. I’ve also seen too many people get hurt since I arrived, so if you want to reduce collateral damage, you have yourself an ally. By the way, my friends call me Emil.”

The lawman gives her a pained smile. She can see a glimmer of something warm, even hopeful, behind the sharpness of his eyes. “What do you think, Caroline?”

Caroline: The blonde smiles that pretty smile again, but it’s not a happy one.

“I think I saw what the last honest detective in the city did last night: he shot two teenage girls in the chest at point blank range in front of a room full of witnesses. I got their blood on my hands as I tried to stuff their insides back where they belonged. One might have brain damage because so much of her blood poured out onto the floor that she couldn’t get enough oxygen to her brain, but they won’t know until she wakes up.”

Emil: “Jesus Christ, that’s horrible. No one told me that, Caroline. You may not trust me when I say this, but I really understand how you feel. My first night in the city, I get a call that a girl is bleeding out. No one’s called the police when I got there and the girl had soaked the ground with her blood, there was more out than in.”

“She was dying. I saw the light go out from her eyes as I tried to fix her. I’m not a religious man by any extent but somehow, by some power, I was able to stabilize her. It’s a miracle she’s alive. But she’s also in a coma. So trust me that I understand the stakes here. I want to stop anything worse from happening. Can you trust me, Caroline?”

Caroline: Caroline shakes her head. “No, Detective Kane, I don’t know that I can.”

“Those girls got shot because someone did call the police. They were in that station because the police arrested them on an array of trumped-up charges because that’s what the NOPD is unfortunately quite good at. They were strip-searched, and questioned, and held, and eventually shot in that very station, and all of their futures went tumbling down a black hole because someone did what they thought was right.”

“I’m glad you managed to save Ms. Savard. I wish her no ill despite the fact that she was entirely responsible for her own injuries, but the pursuit of self righteousness un-moderated by wisdom is a path towards folly.” She sighs sadly.

“Discretion, sometimes, is the better part of valor. But maybe you have to see it for yourself.” She stands and readjusts her dress.

Emil: “Wait! It’s not self-righteousness to save someone from death. I’ve been around long enough to know discretion, and I’ve made many mistakes learning that. But calling the ambulance wasn’t a mistake. If the ambulance hadn’t arrived both her and I would be dead right now. If you decided to chase after the gunman instead of saving those girls, they would be dead right now. Those issues you talked about, the girls’ futures, recovery, trauma, capturing the gunman, they are tragic and difficult but they can be worked on.”

“The one thing that you can’t work on is death. Death is permanent. The universe let those girls live for a reason, and we meet today with shared experience of mortality for a reason. The world is sending you a friend today, Caroline. A flawed one, yes. But the situation is flawed. If you can’t trust me to be your friend, at least take me as an ally, it can’t hurt to have one.” Emil scrawls his phone number on a piece of paper and offers it to the woman.

Caroline: Emil’s words cause the heiress to pause for a moment. She considers him again.

“Emil, why were you there in the first place? How did you find out about what had happened?”

Emil: “My daughter called me. For the first time in twelve years my daughter called me, and what did she say? Her friends needed help, their friend was on the floor almost dead. They were afraid of calling 911, and my daughter wanted me to go save Ms. Savard. That’s why, Caroline. That’s how.” His arm is still outstretched, waiting for her to take the number. It holds there like a statue, rigid and infinitely patient.

Caroline: The woman chews on that for a moment before she makes her way over to take the paper out of Emil’s hand. She idly spins it between her fingers as she replies, “Then calling the police and what happened to the girls is going to blow back on her as well. In ways you’re not going to have any control of.”

“What they’re going to do to you on the force I’m not certain of. I can imagine that some fairly senior people are very unhappy, but exactly what form that unhappiness will take… well, that’s not really my arena. I can imagine much more clearly what might happen to the girl whose father was supposed to fix the problem.”

Emil: “Well, as my friend, and as someone who wants to minimize collateral damage, you’d want to help me limit any blowback to an innocent like my daughter, yes?” Emil’s expression hasn’t changed much, but despite that the heiress can feel his eyes cutting deep, weighing her heart against the feather of the innocent.

Caroline: “That depends on what you’re willing to do,” Caroline replies. “I’m happy to exercise what influence I might have in ensuring the blame for all of this falls away from your daughter. I can’t promise there will be no blowback, but I can certainly help to mitigate it. And so can you.”

Emil: Emil smiles. “It’s my duty to. And naturally, as your friend, I can help you out with the damage you’d like to prevent, and maybe even with the damage already done.” He seems to retreat to his thoughts for a moment before looking back to Caroline.

Caroline: “Are you new to the city, Emil?” Caroline asks rather suddenly.

Emil: “If I was new to this city, I’d be gone by now. Too much hassle. Why do you ask?” he responds frankly.

Caroline: “You speak a foreign language,” the blonde replies sharply. “Things the police in New Orleans rarely say. Duty in place of opportunity, responsibility in place of authority. Those are dirty words to many here. And not only among the police.”

Emil: Emil seems to drift into thought again, looking at nothing as he replies slowly, “There was a time when things were better. There was a time… I was young, but there was a time when justice was the top priority. If my father was still alive you’d see what a good policeman could do. He was a real soldier of the people. But it all went wrong… I’d like to bring it all back some day.”

Emil sighs, his eyes refocusing on the heiress. “In any case, a dream is a dream. Right now we need to make a plan and put it into action. What do you want accomplished, Caroline?”

Caroline: Caroline sighs back, then digs in her purse for a moment. She produces a small paper card with ten digits and no letters and sets it next to his bed side.

“I never close a door, Detective Kane,” she begins, “but I’m afraid you and I may be on different floors.”

“If you find yourself closer to mine, give me a call. In the meantime, I’ll pass on that you recall very little of last night and that your daughter can hardly be held responsible for the father she barely knows making a mess of things.”

“Some friendly advice before I go, actually forget last night ever happened. Don’t talk to anyone. Not in the media or elsewhere. As I told the girls, there’s nothing good that can come of saying anything, and you’d only be closing doors on yourself.”

“I’ll leave you in peace. I’m sure you’re still tired from last night.”

Emil: “I appreciate it, Caroline. You have my gratitude. If you’re ever in need of a friend, or just someone to give you the time of day, I’m only a phone call away. Happy trails.”

Caroline: The snap of heeled feet on the tiled floor are his response as the heiress takes her leave.

She does not look back.

Previous, by Narrative: Story Two, George VI
Next, by Narrative: Story Two, George VII

Previous, by Caroline: Story Two, Caroline III
Next, by Caroline: Story Two, Caroline V

Previous, by Emil: Story Two, Emil II
Next, by Emil: Story Two, Emil IV

Story Two, Victoria III

“I wish things had turned out differently. But heads were goin’ to roll after what happened…”
Diana Flores

Monday afternoon, 31 August 2015

GM: Monday rolls around. Anna meets Sylvia outside McGehee, dressed in nicer work clothes. She grouses about feeling fatter, but says getting to sleep in was nice.

She looks sad to be back at her now-former workplace, but heads in with her ‘lawyer.’

Sylvia’s seen the school in passing, a few times she’s been in the Garden District. It looks the same as any other picturesque home in the neighborhood. It’s surrounded by the same historic Antebellum and Victorian mansions, the same pristine gardens, and the same thick canopy of live oaks, evergreens, and willows that keeps the district as green as its namesake. The only giveaway that Anna has reached the school is how long the property’s cast-iron fence stretches.

Unlike other schools, whose sprawling complexes of buildings are obvious from afar, McGehee seems to have been worked into the historic neighborhood as unobtrusively as possible. The only giveaways as to its presence, besides the longer fence and the half-visible tops of a slide and jungle gym, is the presence of two gates into the property rather than just one. A red canopy over the left entrance reads in white font, Louise S. McGehee—Founded 1912—Honor, Service, Leadership.

The Bradish Johnson House, which serves at the school’s main building, resembles a preserved historic house more than an office where one expects to find school administration at work. Balconies extend underneath the second-story windows, while benches and tables are set out across the carefully manicured lawn. They look like good spots for the home’s residents to sit down at and enjoy a glass of sweet tea to cool off a hot afternoon. The ‘office’ itself is built in the Greek Revival style popular throughout many other homes Anna has seen in the Garden District, with tall Corinthian pillars and uniform white paint.

At 1 PM there’s a lot of girls sitting around the greenery eating lunch. A few wave hi to “Miss Perry.” Some remark on not seeing her today. Anna smiles and waves back, but declines to answer why.

GM: The pair head to a conference room in the Bradish Johnson House. They’re ‘greeted’ there by Headmistress Strong, a woman in her later middle years with prominent lines around her neck and cheeks. Her dark blonde hair is cut relatively short, and she wears a white skirtsuit with a pearl necklace, matching earrings, and low-rimmed glasses.

“I’m so glad we could all make it,” she smiles at them.

Her smile looks the way it sounded over the phone. Unfailingly polite, but without warmth towards either of the two.

There’s also a middle-aged man in a darker suit who Sylvia can only presume to be an attorney. He and Strong say they are prepared to extend Anna two weeks’ salary for her severance. One week per year she’s worked at the school, which they consider generous, seeing as Anna had not yearned tenure at McGehee, and is not entitled to severance. Anna is also required to sign an agreement that she will not file suit against McGehee or publicly speak about the circumstances of her firing.

Victoria: Sylvia dresses her very best, her outfit just as in place ‘representing’ Anna in McGehee as it would be presenting a case before the Supreme Court. She keeps Anna moving despite the inquisitive students, ensuring she carries the frigidly professional air of someone billing by the hour who wants to ensure value is received by their client.

“Lovely,” she answers the headmistress, a curtly formal smile on her lips.

“Ms. Perry is amicable to a legal agreement formalizing her silence in the circumstances of her firing, so long as you agree to present any future prospects she may have the highest recommendation possible. You’ll find your reasoning for why she was let go, and relay how dearly you wish you could have kept her under employment.”

She takes a breath.

“Further, she’ll accept no less than four weeks of severance. Surely, the sum is a trifle for the deep coffers of such a renowned academy.”

GM: “I am not in the habit of telling lies to fellow employers,” Headmistress Strong replies to Sylvia’s first demand with the same impeccable smile.

Anna keeps her face composed.

But Sylvia can see in her eyes how much those words sting.

The four negotiate back and forth. Strong only wants to give two weeks’ severance. Her mind is clearly made up, and she’s confident with the school’s lawyer present. Sylvia pushes anyway. The headmistress pushes back. Anna does her best to self-advocate, too.

In the end, the headmistress says she will agree to three weeks’ severance, and no more. She will not provide any job references to Anna.

Victoria: Sylvia isn’t content with the outcome, but pushing this too far is set to lose them everything.

“Mrs. Strong, the notion that Anna was in any way culpable for what happened is—to put it simply—laughable. She received every necessary approval for her students to visit the LaLaurie home. You providing a recommendation for her wouldn’t not only not be a lie; it would be due diligence. That said, I see that you won’t be budging, and neither of this want to see the cheery light of a courtroom. We’ll take your three weeks.”

GM: “Splendid,” smiles the headmistress.

The school’s lawyer produces an official-looking agreement. Anna and Sylvia read it over. It’s full of legalese, but looks like it does what Strong said: Anna waives her right to file suit against the school and is under a gag about the circumstances of her firing.

Anna signs her name. The headmistress offers her that same warmthless PR smile.

“I wish you well in your future endeavors, Miss Perry.”

Anna doesn’t reply.

Victoria: Neither does Sylvia. She does, however, shake their hands.

She guides Anna out the door, taking a copy of the document, saying nothing at all. Not a word. It isn’t until they reach Sylvia’s car that she finally reaches out and rubs Anna’s shoulder.

“We got more than they were going to give. That’s something, considering I’m not actually your fucking lawyer!

GM: Anna looks glum as they depart the building. She puts on a smiling face for the students she recognizes, though there aren’t many. It looks as if classes have resumed.

Sylvia’s excitement, though, manages to make her smile again.

“You’re right. We got three weeks of pay, when you’re not even a lawyer. That is something…”

Victoria: Sylvia is a veritable star of excitement, grinning ear to ear.

“They were never going to give you anything on the legal front, and my bluff would’ve been called if we tried! But hey, a bit of cash is something, right? Come on. Lunch. Celebration. I’m buying. You’re drinking. Yes, more. Yes, we’re getting an appetizer. Yes, we’re getting dessert. No, you don’t have a say. No, I won’t accept complaining.”

GM: Anna smiles wider at Sylvia’s plans for the celebratory lunch. Her friend’s enthusiasm is truly infectious.

Plus, it’s not like she has a say. Sylvia said so.

“Yes, mistress,” she replies in that same sing-song voice as last night.

She glances back at the school.

“I need to pick up my things, still.”

“But…” she sighs, “…I really don’t want to. I don’t want people to see me leaving with a box, in the middle of the school day. Would you mind…?”

Victoria: She shakes her head.

“Not at all, as long as they’ll let me into the building. Where are your things?”

GM: “It’s not locked,” says Anna, “you should be able to just wander in.”

“And it’s the building we just went into,” she says. She provides a room number on the second floor.

Victoria: “All right, all right. Wait here. Don’t go wandering off.”

Monday afternoon, 31 August 2015

Victoria: Sylvia leaves the car keys with Anna just in case, hops out, and walks back to the building they just left. Sylvia is cautious, trying to avoid running into the headmistress and her lawyer again, lest they ask questions.

GM: Sylvia hasn’t been to Anna’s classroom before. She might not be sure what she expected, but the room is completely empty and bare of personality. There’s no posters or pictures or anything. Just the absolute essentials of chairs and desks, and a computer on the teacher’s desk, which is also empty. There’s a post-it on the computer that reads,

Holding onto your things in my office! Wasn’t sure how fast they were going to clean out your room. Swing by anytime. I’m so sorry…

Victoria: Sylvia reads the note and pockets it. Of course retrieving Anna’s things isn’t simple, but at the very least they haven’t been thrown out.

She pokes her head out the door, listening for nearby activity, then walks down the hallway in search of a teacher not in class with students.

GM: There aren’t many of those, but she hears crying as she passes a restroom.

Victoria: She listens for a moment.

GM: She hears more crying. The voice sounds higher-pitched and young.

Victoria: Sylvia enters, her voice soothing.

“Hey… you okay?”

GM: She sees a short and thin pair of legs from under one of the stalls.

“Wh… who’re you?” asks a girl’s voice, immediately wary.

Sniffs continue to sound past the stall door.

Victoria: “Just a kind passerby who heard someone in need. You okay?”

GM: There’s a pause, marked by further sniffling, and then the voice resumes crying.

“No. No. I’m n… not.”

Victoria: “Why don’t you come out? I’m not going to hurt you. My name’s Sylvia.”

GM: There’s a pause, then the door opens. The girl on the other side looks around middle school age. She’s thin, with plain and mousy facial features, and messy neck-length black hair. She has a red pimple on her right cheek, and her eyes are also red and puffy from crying. She’s dressed in the school uniform of white blouse and plaid green skirt.

She looks up at Sylvia warily.

Victoria: She offers the girl a somber, sympathetic smile.

“Looks like you’re not having a great day either.”


“Do you want to share what happened? I’m not going to be around to judge, but I might leave you with a nugget of advice.”

GM: The girl takes that in, then starts crying again.

“She w-was my f-friend, and she’s g-gone…”

Victoria: “She’s… gone? Who’s gone, dear? What’s your name?”

GM: “An-d-d I wasn’t n-nice to h-her…”


Victoria: “Where did Miranda go?”

GM: That question makes the girl cry harder.

“I’M M-Miran-d-da, I’m M-Mir-an-da, wh-at are y-you, stupi…”

Victoria: Sylvia shakes her head, unable to prevent the smile. “I thought you meant Miranda was your friend. Where did your friend go?”

She wants to hug her—to stroke her hair, and give her all the little, light physical reassurances one gives those they care for—but knows better than to do that to a stranger in a school.

GM: Miranda looks very lonely standing and crying in the middle of the cold bathroom.

“I h-hate it h-here, I h-hate it… they’re all g-gonna blame, m-me…”

Victoria: “Shhh… Sweetie, no one will blame you. Where did your friend go?”

GM: “Y-YES TH-THEY ARE,” Miranda yells, “th-they’re all in the h-hospi…!”

Victoria: Oh. The news.

“Honey, that’s not your fault. It’s simply not.”

A pause.

“Why don’t you ask your mom to take you to visit them? You can bring them something to make them feel better!”

GM: Miranda cries even louder.

“I’m n-n-n-ever gon-n-na s-see my-y mom ag-gain…!”

Victoria: Oh. Maybe the wrong choice.

“What about your dad?”

GM: “My dad t-t-took me a-w-way…”

“He t-took me h-here, I do-on’t wan-na be h-here, I wan-na go h-home…”

Victoria: “Shhh… It’s okay, it’s okay. Let it out.”

The drive to hug her is driving her crazy, but the last thing she wants is a lawsuit. She can see it in the headlines now.

‘Local Dominatrix Found Practicing On Underage Girls’

No thanks, NOLA.

“Where is home?”

GM: Miranda lets it out. She looks little cheered. She looks absolutely miserable.

“Ch-Chic-ag… m-my mom h-hates me… sh-she d-doesn’t, wh-when I c-call…”

Victoria: “Your mother doesn’t hate you,” she croons. “She could never hate you. Sometimes… You have to move places we don’t want to, but you’ll have a good life here. This is a great school.”

She has to bite back bile.

GM: Miranda looks completely unassured and continues crying.

Victoria: She offers the girl a hand, and if taken, guides her out of the bathroom.

“Come here. Ms. Perry’s classroom is empty, and I don’t imagine they’ll be taking it over today. It’ll give you a private place to sit, talk, and let it out.”

GM: Miranda looks at the hand for a moment, then desperately latches on. Sylvia’s reminded of that first hug with her mom. Not even caring what Mary was saying or whether she was lying, just wanting that contact.

“I d-don’t want an-nyone to see me l-like…” says Miranda, slowing as Sylvia starts to leave.

Victoria: “Shhh… wait here just a moment.”

She keeps her hand, leaning out to check the hallway.

GM: It looks empty.

Victoria: “Quickly now, dear. There’s no one there if you hurry.”

GM: Miranda hurries, covering her face with a hand. Her cheeks are red.

Victoria: She guides Miranda across the hall, back to Anna’s classroom, pulling out her phone as she does.

Dealing w upset student. Miranda? Yours? May need.

GM: Don’t have a Miranda, what do you need?

Take as long as you need with her!

Victoria: Idk. She was crying. Felt right.

GM: Poor girl!

Sylvia finds texting with one hand to be quite cumbersome.

Victoria: She slips her phone away, shutting the door behind them and finding a pair of seats.

“Come here,” she offers, both arms out. “You don’t have to talk. You don’t have to explain. Just take a hug if you want and let it out.”

GM: Miranda takes the hug and bawls into Sylvia’s chest. She makes out bits and pieces about hospitals, jail, hating it here, wishing her mom would take her back, being a terrible friend, not hanging out, messing up everything, and doing nothing right.

Victoria: As productive as she’s sure the girl’s rambling is supposed to be, she knows what it’s like to be in that place. The most valuable thing she can give is this hug, and the knowledge that someone in this world cares.

GM: Miranda finally pulls away once her tears are spent, dabbing at her eyes.

Victoria: “I’m sorry that you’re going through what you are, Miranda. Life is hard, even so young.”

Sylvia pauses.

“Your friends will be okay. The doctors are giving them the best care. The parents of kids here? They’ll take nothing less.”

GM: “No she won’t,” Miranda says miserably. “My dad says she’s going to jail.”

“Even if she wakes up.”

Victoria: She cups her cheek with a hand, stroking with her thumb.

“The thing about this world? You’ve got to keep the faith that it’ll get better, and do what you can to make it that way. Doesn’t matter if that faith is in God, or your friends, or yourself. Your friend is probably scared right now, right? Just like you. Maybe… There’s something you can do for her?”

GM: “Weren’t you listening? She’s in a coma,” Miranda says, voice equal parts flat and glum.

“My dad says she’s taking the fall.”

Victoria: “And how will she feel when she wakes up if she knows that you came to see her anyway? They say you can still hear, in a coma.”

GM: “My dad says I can’t.”

Victoria: She offers her a more sympathetic look.

“He’s protecting you.”

GM: Miranda doesn’t respond to that.

Victoria: She returns to silence for a long minute.

“Shitty Monday for both of us,” she muses to no one in particular.

GM: “I guess,” says Miranda.

Victoria: She pats her back.

“I know I’m spouting what probably sounds like bullshit. It’s true, though. Just try and find the positive point in things, and make it brighter.”

GM: Miranda gives her a dull look.

“That’s stupid.”

Victoria: You’re stupid, you little cunt.

“Maybe, but when you’re surrounded by shit, it’ll keep you sane.”

Maybe she’ll play her Gameboy later. It still works, two visits to the repair shop later.

GM: Miranda wipes her eye.

“I should g-go.”

Victoria: “Chin up.”

Who the fuck says that anymore?


GM: Miranda pushes open the classroom door and leaves.

Victoria: Wait. I still need your shit. Where is Diana’s room?

GM: Anna asks why she’s asking, but provides a room number in the Fine Arts Building.

How’d things go with the student?

Victoria: Eh. Not planning kids anytime soon.

Sylvie leaves the building, looking for signs for the Fine Arts Building.

GM: I’d love ‘em, but I’m a teacher.

She finds none, though there is a map on the first floor. It’s adjacent to the building she’s in.

Victoria: Lovely. She follows the map to the building next door, looking for the room number Anna mentioned.

Why’s you being a teacher mean you can’t have kids?

GM: Oh didn’t mean that lol. I’d love to have kids

I meant that’s no surprise from me. Dunno who goes into teaching if they don’t like kids

Victoria: People who like making kids miserable? Seems to be popular in public schooling.

GM: Eh that has a lot more to do with systemic problems. Teachers on the ground usually want to do what they can to help

Overhead, the school bell rings. Girls start leaving classrooms.

Victoria: She’s still looking for the room number.

GM: There’s a lot of chattering students to navigate through, but she finds it soon enough in the next building.

Victoria: With the students no longer a worry about interrupting, she knocks on the door and peeks in.


GM: The classroom inside is a wide open space with a mirror along one of the walls. No one’s around, though there’s an open door to what looks like a smaller office space.

“Is someone there?” calls a woman’s voice from it.

Victoria: “Mhmmm,” she calls back.

“I’m here for Ms. Perry’s things. Don’t worry—she’s in my car. Not going to toss them.”

GM: “Can you come inside, please? It’s a bad idea for me to get up right now,” calls the woman.

Victoria: She enters the room, looking around.

GM: There’s not far to look around. It’s a standard office room with a desk and computer. There’s lots of childrens’ pictures on the desk, pink decor, and variously ballet- and cat-themed posters. The woman sitting behind the desk looks in her 40s and wears her age well, with a toned figure, vibrant complexion, and sandy blonde hair in a bob cut. She’s dressed in a floral-printed white dress, pearl earrings, and pink heels.

“I have a bum leg that’s actin’ up,” the woman offers by way of explanation, rubbing her thigh. “I don’t think I caught your name, Miss…?”

Victoria: “St. George,” she answers. “Sylvia St. George. I won’t bother you long; just long enough to carry out Anna’s things. I can get her on the phone if you want to verify I’m not stealing.”

GM: “Oh! No, that’s fine. I doubt anyone would go to this much trouble, or really any trouble, to steal her breath mints and aspirin,” Diana chuckles, nodding towards a box at the foot of her desk. “Are you a friend of hers?”

Victoria: She nods, holding her hand out to shake.

“Since college, yeah! There’s no one like Anna in the world.”

She glances to the door, ensuring no one else popped in behind her.

“Do you believe her? That she’s innocent?”

GM: Diana shakes Sylvia’s hand back. Like most women’s handshakes, it’s a soft shake, not like the dominatrix’s.

“Yes, she’s a wonderful teacher,” Diana smiles, not without sadness. “A lot of the staff here are goin’ to miss her.”

Victoria: “Yeah… I didn’t come here expecting much to change, nor for the headmistress to admit any wrongdoing. I know how life works around places like this,” she says, gesturing vaguely about.

Rich people, she means. How life might be different if she were born to a family with money. She might even have been kept, even if she wasn’t desired.

GM: “I wish things had turned out differently,” Diana says, the sadness on her face deepening. “But heads were goin’ to roll after what happened… the girls’ mom and grandpa were on the Board of Trustees, after all.”

“I hope she goes back into teaching. I really do. There are so many kids whose lives would be enriched by havin’ her as an educator. There’s so much burnout in this profession…”

Victoria: “Me too. I’ll take care of Anna for a while. As long as while as she needs. She’ll need other friends, though, if she’s to be the best she can.”

Sylvia takes the box in hand.

“So call her, would you?”

GM: “I’m glad she has you,” says Diana. “I can’t imagine how this must feel after callin’ off her engagement… I’m sure you know all about that.”

“And I’ll be sure to!” she nods at Sylvia’s question. “I’d figured she was goin’ to stop by today.”

Victoria: “Yeah, I was the first person she called…” Sylvie laments. “Oooh, the things I wanted to do to that man for what he did to her!”

She turns to leave for the door, but pauses, turning back on heel.

“Hey, Diana… you and her must have a fairly good relationship if you thought to save her things, and I care for her more than anyone else in the world. Is there any more advice you have? I don’t know the first thing about helping her find another job, and I’m not going to leave her to do it alone.”

GM: Diana pauses for a moment, then says slowly,

“I would not hold out a lot of hope there. At least at a good school.”

Victoria: Sylvia’s lips fall to a morose line.

“I tried to secure a recommendation to avoid that…”

“I won’t ask you to provide one. Not at the cost of your job.”

GM: Headmistress Strong seemed a lot more willing to pay out extra than provide a recommendation.

“Oh. Of course she can use me for a reference, it’s the least I can do,” says Diana.

“It just… probably won’t be enough, here. I’m only a teacher.”

Victoria: “Maybe. It might also get you fired, if the headmistress hears.”

She shrugs.

“I have other ideas, but…”

They both know that there isn’t much hope for Anna in the teaching industry. With the sweep of a single girl’s hand casting mistakes about, so many lives are ruined.

“Call her soon, please. She’ll appreciate it.”

She turns to leave.

GM: “I don’t think it’d get me fired,” says Diana. “It’s just that, against…”

She trails off.

“Would it be welcome if I brought cookies, to her house?” she asks. “Or would just a call be better, you think?”

Victoria: She nods vigorously.

“Cookies would be lovely.”

More for Sylvia.

GM: “Satisfyin’ a sweet tooth rarely isn’t,” Diana chuckles. “All right, you have a good day, now!”

Victoria: She curls her fingers after Diana, and turns to leave. Back to the car!

GM: The box is full of a teacher’s probably typical supplies. Post-it notes, aspirin bottle, USB drive, tampons, deodorant, hand sanitizer, headphones, non-perishable snacks, a change of clothes, umbrella, some spare cash, blank birthday card, tissues, paper towels, breath mints, water bottle, phone charger, pens and pencils, folder marked ‘happy folder’ with a smiley face on it.

All the little things on needs one needs to make oneself at home at work, tidily packed away in a cardboard box to cart out when you’re fired.

Victoria: She manages to hold the box on one arm, flipping open the ‘happy folder’ as she walks.

GM: It’s full of cards and handwritten letters. Many of them start with some variation of ‘thanks’ or ‘congratulations.’ They read as if they’re from former students or parents of students.

Victoria: “Poor Anna…”

She shakes her head, and continues back to the car.

GM: Anna’s waiting in the car, scrolling through her phone. She accepts the box with a sad look.


She looks at it, sniffs, then takes out one of the tissues to dab her nose and eyes.

Victoria: She smiles an answer, but remains silent otherwise. She opens the door to the back seat, setting the box inside.

GM: Anna’s tearing up a bit as she reaches for another tissue.

“I’m really gonna m-miss it. It was such a great place to work. My kids and co-workers were s-so nice.”

Victoria: She pulls Anna into a tight hug, crushing the life out of her, and the sadness with it.

“I know, Anna. I know.”

She runs her fingers through her hair.

“I know, and you’ll mourn, but you’ll find something new to love.”

GM: “I h-hope so,” says Anna, returning Sylvia’s embrace. “I really do…”

The hug may not crush all of the sadness out.

But it gets some out.

Saturday night, 5 September 2015, PM

Victoria: Much to Sylvia’s displeasure, she can’t shirk her business entirely to pass the days with Anna, but each day and night—once clients have been catered to—she returns to Anna’s place carrying some new meal, snack, or other novel car accident for both their weight and health.

Just shy of a week later, the pair sit in Anna’s apartment shortly after sundown. This Saturday night, Sylvia seems to have learned a lesson, as the two are munching on a simple salad. No dressing. No croutons. No cheese. Just lettuce, sliced tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers. It’s bland, but a refreshing break from their hedonistic culinary adventures the rest of the week.

Sylvia sets her fork down.


GM: They could use bland. Anna says she feels fatter. Those extra chocolate chip browned butter cookies Diana brought over were delicious, and made her tear up over how someone at McGehee really cared, but they didn’t help make her feel less fat.

Anna’s filed for unemployment. She kind of hasn’t felt like job hunting right now.

“Yeah?” she asks, munching on the bland fare.

Victoria: Anna knows that Sylvia will care for her without a job. Sylvia knows that Anna won’t allow it. Neither of them broach the subject.

“We agreed not to take anything around your forced exit to court, and I don’t intend to break that. I don’t want to let that be the end. I want to understand what happened.”

GM: “They can take me to court, if we try to do that,” says Anna. “But okay… what do you want to know?”

Victoria: Over the next hour, Sylvia asks her exactly what happened that led to the tragedy at and after the LaLaurie House. She has Anna trace the origins of the project, the paths they followed to ensure they had the right to be on the property, the reports on what happened at the property, what she knows of the wounds, what she’s heard from the girls, and what she knows of what happened at the police station.

GM: Anna tells her everything about the class project and Amelie Savard’s time at McGehee.

Amelie and Yvette Devillers were the ones on the project. The LaLaurie House was owned by Whitney Hancock Bank after Rick Towers lost it. Yvette was friends with Sarah Whitney, who asked her grandfather Layman (the retired CEO for Whitney Hancock) to get her friends into the house. Lyman asked an executive at the bank, who arranged for Amelie and Yvette to be given a tour and have the house to themselves for a night. The Devillers family signed an agreement making them liable for any damages to the historic property.

Anna is less sure of exactly what happened at the LaLaurie House the night everything went wrong. That was a Friday night and the school fired her on Sunday. She didn’t have any contact with the girls’ families. She knows as much from the news as Sylvia does.

From what the news says, the girls were arrested for causing damages to the property, then shot at the police station by Richard Gettis after their parents showed up to spring them out. Sarah Whitney and Amelie Savard are both in comas.

Mitchel Lowenstein, one of the parents’ lawyers, of course, is dead.

“They did lie about the number of girls, at the minimum,” sighs Anna. “It was supposed to be just Amelie and Yvette. And they turned it into this giant slumber party with a bunch more girls…”

Anna has heard nothing from the girls. She’s talked with some of her co-workers. Amelie Savard, she’s heard, has been expelled from McGehee.

Another name that’s big in the news is the Malveaux family’s. Caroline Malveaux, daughter of Senator Nathan Malveaux, is celebrated for having administered life-saving first aid to the shot girls at the police station.

Victoria: Sylvia listens coolly.

The LaLaurie House earns her interest immediately, as Anna’s tales of history often do. She can be enthralling when the teacher loses herself regaling a subject.

Sylvia asks for more detail on the history of the home, once the transition of ownership and details of permissions attained are finished.

She’s sympathetic when Anna explains she isn’t sure what happened, but doesn’t press further. She was there with her, and doesn’t want to open a still-fresh wound.

Once all is said and done, Sylvia tries to put the whole story together.

“They were shot after being arrested?”

It doesn’t make sense; not if the officers at the station are of a sound mind. She’s questioned that before, but shooting underage girls? It doesn’t add up.

“I don’t get it. Was he upset that they were being broken free? He of all people should know that the world isn’t fair, but they’re underage. It isn’t like some monkey robbed Grandma Beth and was marched out of prison unscuffed by a man in a clean suit.”

Sylvia is in disbelief.

“It doesn’t make sense that an officer would shoot someone in custody, with lawyers and parents in the room. They’re brazen, and they’re corrupt, but this? It’s career suicide and actual suicide. He won’t see a day outside prison once they get him, if they let him live at all.”

She shakes her head.

“They’re blessed that Ms. Malveaux was there to save them.”

GM: “Yes, they were,” Anna nods. “I don’t know what to tell you, as far as the police… I don’t know why one of them would do something like that. He must have been crazy!”

Victoria: “I wonder if he’s still in the… you don’t think the police are protecting him, do you? Do you think they’re in on it?”

Sylvia leans back into the couch, pressing her hands to her face, then running her fingers through her hair.

“Stupid girls. Why would they damage the house? I wonder if they were drinking.”

GM: “A bunch of teen girls all having a slumber party in haunted house together?” Anna says. She sounds more sad than wry. “I wouldn’t be surprised.”

“I don’t see why the police would protect one crazy detective, though… the Whitney and Devillers families have a lot of money.”

“And they must be out for blood, after this.”

Victoria: “I wouldn’t be surprised if they families had him caught off the books, and he’s in pieces in a basement somewhere.”

GM: Anna manages a smile. “I don’t think that’s how it usually works.”

Victoria: “If you had all the resources in the world, and your daughter was in critical condition because one cop had a tantrum… wouldn’t you?”

Maybe. Maybe not. Sylvia would.

GM: “I hope not. I’d just want to make the police catch him and throw the book at him.”

Victoria: She glances to the door. Locked. Good.

GM: Anna glances at it after her.

Victoria: “You don’t think you’ll get pulled into this whole mess, do you? You’ve been through enough. I can’t see them blaming you further, but I can see them trying.”

GM: Anna looks slightly worried. “Pulled in how?”

Victoria: “I don’t know.”

She reaches over, rubbing her knee.

“I wouldn’t worry about it.”

Best not to concern her further.

GM: “Oh. I heard back from the Ursuline Academy. No openings, which wasn’t a surprise.”

Anna gives a glum look.

“They also said I shouldn’t bother applying for next year.”

Victoria: Sylvia’s lips turn up in one corner, a somberly sympathetic smile.


GM: She sighs and leans back against the couch.

“I know. There’s other schools.”

Victoria: “There are, and if not…”

The subject neither wants to broach. Sylvia won’t let her fall.

Previous, by Narrative: Story Two, George VII
Next, by Narrative: Story Two, Caroline IV, Emil III

Previous, by Character: Story Two, Victoria II
Next, by Character: Story Two, Victoria IV

Story Two, Caroline III

“This is a tragedy no one deserves.”
Caroline Malveaux

Saturday morning, 29 August 2015

GM: Matthew and Vera Malveaux’s home is one of the largest in all of New Orleans. Built in the ’80s alongside Lake Pontchartrain in Lakeview, they claim the palatial 12,000+ square foot house has been used to entertain past presidents during visits to Louisiana. Stately columns and gas lanterns open to a large marble foyer with grand staircase, large living and dining rooms, chef’s kitchen, enough bedrooms and bathrooms to comfortably house even their large family with guests to spare, a private library with separate entrance, and enough other rooms to get lost in. Hardwood and marble floors feature throughout. A huge sun room and study with impressive architectural detailing border a tropical, brick-enclosed oasis with pool and cabana.

When Caroline’s six cousins lived at home, she remembers the enormous house feeling roomy but populated on the occasions when she came over. Now that her cousins are grown up and Matt is said not to enjoy his wife’s company, the home feels as oversized as a three-ring circus tent used on a one-family camping trip.

Caroline only dimly remembers Carson dropping her off, talking to someone there, and helping her up to one of the guest rooms. She slept like a log and wakes up well past her usual alarm time. If her Uncle Matt was ever at the house, he’s gone before she’s even awake. Virginia is still supposed to be home. Classes at MIT, the school she was just accepted to (and the one Amelie said she wanted to attend so badly), don’t start for a little while longer. Caroline’s also heard she spends most of her time in her room with the door locked. Her cousin is gone after an early meal she doesn’t share with anyone else, leaving Caroline to break her fast with Vera. Her aunt asks a few cursory questions about how she’s doing, but mainly seems frantic over how Amelie (whose misdeeds she is blanched to hear about) will reflect on McGehee and the Malveauxes.

“You didn’t actually meet with her, did you? No one believes she had anything to do with us?” she asks over a continental breakfast of fruit, granola yogurt, and boiled eggs that’s been prepared by the housekeeper.

Caroline: “I didn’t meet with her that anyone will remember,” Caroline assures Vera. “And she’ll have plenty of things to worry about much more than an introduction she’ll probably barely remember when—if—she wakes up.”

GM: Vera is quiet for a moment at Caroline’s assurance. “Yes, that’s right,” she finally declares as she sips some chicory coffee. “If she wakes up.”

Caroline: She provides other details as demanded, without enthusiasm or resistance. She’s still mostly numb over it all. It’s not until nearly noon that she breaks from going through the paces when she gets another text from Neil, asking if she’s all right. That finally breaks her daze.

Did the girls make it? she sends back.

GM: Yes. Both are stable.

Caroline: Taking visitors? she asks back.

GM: The Devillers girl is. Her family wouldn’t take no for an answer. Not yet for Whitney.

Caroline: The news takes a weight off her chest she didn’t even know was there. She takes what feels like the first deep breath since the shooting. Are you on the floor this afternoon?

GM: Yes. If you want to come by there’s a lot of people who’d like to see you.

Caroline: I’ll be there in an hour. Thanks Neil.

GM: Anytime. Take care

Caroline: She takes her leave of her aunt’s and uncle’s too-empty Lakeview home after thanking Vera for hosting her for the night and spotting a change of clothes. She catches a Premium Ryde back to the police station where her car awaits and drives home to Audubon Place, where she changes into something more fitting than her aunt’s borrowed clothing. After that, she heads back to the all-too familiar Tulane Medical Center.

GM: Her housemate Aimee is unsurprisingly not home on the Saturday afternoon, though Caesar greets her enthusiastically. Her rubs his big nose over Caroline’s unfamiliar clothing and licks fingers.

The hospital is noisy and bright, like it always is, although the former pre-med student’s familiar eye spots noticeably fewer nurses and support staff. Caroline recalls that being one of the reasons Neil signed up to work on Saturdays—including while they were together, perhaps to her chagrin. “Patients admitted on Sundays face a 16 percent higher risk of dying within a month than people admitted on weekdays,” her ex had quoted at her.

The absence of of hospital staff, though, is more than made up for by the presence of reporters and paparazzi. Drawn to the breaking story like vultures to a fresh kill, Caroline can only surmise they’ve been harassing the girls, their families, the police, and everyone else involved to get all of the juicy details. Moderately familiar with TMC’s layout, though, she has the good fortune and experience to avoid any reporters on the way to see her ex.

Caroline catches Neil on his lunch break in the hospital cafeteria, eating a red apple and less appetizing-looking sandwich. His baggy-eyed appearance remains perpetually haggard and harassed from a medical residency’s thankless work hours. He’s tall, blond, and has a scruffy beard that he still keeps better-trimmed than the rest of his hair. Caroline’s heard a few people describe him as a “conventionally handsome Yankee” when he doesn’t look too weighed down by his job.

He rises when he spots Caroline and moves to greet her with a hug.

“Caroline. I heard about last night,” the messy-haired resident doctor says, somewhat obviously.
“Those girls were lucky to have you around.”

Caroline: The heiress has changed into a sleeveless white dress with cream and black heels. She carries her black leather purse (Italian) and a rather less expensive (but perhaps more appealing to the resident) brown paper bag with its neck rolled halfway down. Her blonde hair is tucked behind her ears but otherwise hangs free. She’s running a little later than she’d originally intended, but when she scowls down at his ‘lunch’ she’s glad she stopped.

She puts on a fake smile as she answers, “I suppose so. It’s funny, my father said I’d be wasted as a doctor.” She sets the paper bag down on the table before hugging Neil back for perhaps a moment longer than she normally might.

She’s wearing more foundation than usual, especially around her eyes. Her fingernails are (atypically) unpainted, though Neil can see the hint of what might be mistaken for red paint at the base of a few fingers. Might be, by someone who isn’t a surgical intern.

She bids him to sit down even as she snatches up his lunch—the sandwich still sitting in its plastic wrapping—and takes three steps over to dump it in a conveniently placed garbage can. More wholesome smells waft from the closed bag.

GM: “Maybe that’s one thing we can agree your dad’s wrong about,” Neil answers as he lets her go. His gaze lingers on her face, and then her hands and the bag as they sit down. He doesn’t nag her about finding a compost bin this time.

Caroline: She takes her seat across from him and breaks open the bag, inside are two sandwiches wrapped in the paper with the distinctive BUTCHER stamp on them. The debate in New Orleans over who makes the better Muffuletta is an ongoing one.

The one from Central Grocery is almost universally recognized as the most iconic. Massive, historic, and cheap, it’s a monster recognized even by non-residents. It also requires standing in a line that is usually out the door no matter what time you get there. Some have described the line as ‘part of the experience’. Neil knows Caroline isn’t one of them.

The two remaining contenders are typically floated as The Napoleon House and Cocon Butcher. Both have radically different approaches with their own pros and cons. Today it appears that Cocon won out. Virtually everything at Butcher is made in house, from the meats to the pickles. It shows, and perhaps nowhere as obviously as in their version of the New Orleans classic muffaletta.

Three kinds of meat, two kinds of cheese, a massive hunk of bread, and creole olive salad—and like many things New Orleans, it only gets better with time as the flavors are allowed to sink into the bread and marry.

Caroline unwraps one to match Neil’s. “I can’t believe you still eat that crap,” she declares, avoiding the elephant in the room topics. “It’s a wonder you’re still alive.”

GM: “God, that smells delicious,” Neil replies, barely even glancing at what’s in his hands before pulling off the paper. He actually closes his eyes for a moment as he sinks his teeth into the warm, oh so tender sandwich. A few stray pickles fall out onto the BUTCHER-stamped paper.

“Lesh of a wonder than shome other people here,” he answers through a full-sounding mouth before pausing to swallow. “The staff petition to close down the in-hospital O’Tolley’s hasn’t gained any traction since you left.” Neil takes another clearly-savored bite. “I still can’t believe we let patients just out of heart surgery load up on fries and quarter pounders.”

Caroline: “That stuff isn’t even food,” Caroline agrees with a more careful bite of her own. “It’s basically just poison.” After skipping breakfast—she didn’t feel like eating alone—the warm sandwich is a godsend.

GM: “I think the administrators are actually glad. We’ll have those patients right back in needing more procedures.”

Caroline: “Someone’s definitely making money,” she agrees. “I’m sorry I didn’t call you back last night.”

GM: Neil waves her off, then takes another hungry bite of sandwich. “You had other things on your mind. I wouldn’t have been around to answer anyways.”

Caroline: “Yeah, but I might have given you a heads up about what was coming after… well, you saw.”

GM: Neil gives a tired smile. “Wanting to get every last thing right is a good trait in doctors.”

Caroline: Caroline gives a small smile. “Maybe, but… Neil, I don’t know how you do it. I’ve never been so exhausted.”

GM: “It’s different in the hospital,” her ex answers. “You’re prepared for it, and you’ve got a lot of people behind you. Patients come in like clockwork.”

Caroline: Caroline shivers. “No thanks. I don’t know what I would have done if one of them had died in my arms.”

GM: “Lucky for everyone you were there,” Neil repeats. “Yvonne’s family is…” He smiles. “Well, effusive. That’s the part that makes it worth it. Seeing them all walk out of the hospital together.”

Caroline: “And the Whitneys?” There’s an obvious edge of concern.

GM: Neil takes a slower bite of sandwich. It doesn’t look as if he enjoys it nearly so much.

“Sarah’s stable, like I said. But she lost a lot of blood. There could be anoxic brain injury. We won’t know for sure until she wakes up. She’s been placed into an induced coma to reduce brain swelling.”

“It was… pretty ugly. Her lungs kept collapsing. Didn’t take well to the ventilator. She became delirious after sepsis set in. The coma was for that too.”

Caroline: Caroline shakes her head. She starts to say something, then shakes her head again instead.

“What about the two that came in earlier?”

GM: “Sorry, the two?” Neil asks. “The Devillers girl is up and awake, like I said. She’s taking visitors.”

Caroline: “I heard a rumor another girl and a police officer were admitted earlier in the evening.”

GM: “No rumor. They both came in at the same time,” Neil confirms. “The police officer’s awake. He had some other cops come to visit him earlier. The girl’s…” He gives a grimace. “She had some cops visit her too.”

Caroline: “That bad?”

GM: “She’s also stable, but they placed her under arrest. She’s got two officers outside her door and everything, even though she’s in a coma too. Bunch of reporters snapping her picture too, which they aren’t supposed to do, but since when has the media respected boundaries.”

Caroline: “Sounds like a busy night.”

GM: “It was. She had an aunt, too, who blew a gasket after we notified her.”

Caroline: “Family tends to react badly to news their loved ones are hurt, much less in legal trouble.”

GM: “Yeah,” Neil agrees without much enthusiasm as he takes another bite of sandwich.

Caroline: Caroline’s own sandwich is also rapidly disappearing between snippets of conversation.

“Any word on how she got hurt?”

GM: “From what I’ve pieced together, she took several falls over the night. The last one hit her head, on top of some drugs in her system.”

Caroline: “Slightly less traumatic than getting shot.”

GM: Neil finally takes a bite of his apple. “It’s crazy what those kids get into. I hear it happened down at the old LaLaurie House.”

Caroline: “Really? That’s an odd place for a group of teens to be.”

GM: “Maybe not so odd. Back in Newport, there were some beach caves everyone said were haunted. My friends and I would go there sometimes, on dares, just to screw around.”

Caroline: “Kids being kids, I guess.”

GM: Neil nods and takes another bite of apple.

Caroline: “You said the Devillers were here? Sisters camped out full time?”

GM: “Like you wouldn’t believe,” her ex answers with a faint smile. “I haven’t been able to count how many there are, and they all look alike.”

Caroline: “Six,” Caroline provides helpfully. “Though even I have some trouble keeping the younger ones straight.”

GM: “Six,” Neil repeats amusedly. “Well, forewarned is forearmed, if they try to stampede you. They all seem really close.”

Caroline: Caroline tips a hat she is not wearing in thanks for the warning. She seems content to take her next few bites in silence, simply enjoying his company. Sometimes it’s enough not to be alone.

Saturday afternoon, 29 August 2015

GM: The rest of Caroline’s lunch with Neil passes with pleasant uneventfulness. He mentions an influenza case that broke out during a dorm party at Tulane’s (the university’s, not the hospital’s) Josephine Louise House and being one of the responders. He wasn’t working at the time but happened to be on Tulane’s campus on unrelated business. It was really something to see, anyway. A whole bunch of students all came down with the flu, just like that. Neil still isn’t certain what caused the outbreak, but he supposes a few weird cases come with a doctor’s profession. He mentions meeting a girl there, Angela Greer, who he’s going to grab coffee with later. Their planned outing is over a week away, thanks to how full their schedules are (and Angela coming down with the flu herself).

At last, Neil checks his phone and says he needs to get back to work. He gives Caroline another hug, thanks her for bringing the muffaletta (“way better than what I usually have for lunch”), and gives her directions to Yvonne’s room.

“I think the reporters are mainly hounding the police now, since Gettis is the biggest story, but I wouldn’t press your luck by sticking around here. There’s still been a few.”

True to her ex-boyfriend’s words, Caroline finds the whole family has camped out. She can make out around half a dozen pale blonde heads around the door. She has little opportunity to make an exact count before a teenage girl who’s probably Yvette barrels into her with all the speed and determined accuracy of a ballistic missile.

“Caroline—you saved ’er life! Oh, thank you! Thank you!” she cries as she hugs Caroline.

Caroline: Caroline wraps one arm around the younger girl, returning the hug even as she glances past her at the rest. “What else could I do?” she answers warmly.

GM: “Yvonne, she’s mah twin. Mah fraternal twin. Ah’d ‘ave… Ah’d ’ave died, too, if anything ’appened to ’er,” Yvette gushes on.

There’s another, grade school- or middle school-age girl who’s probably Simmone, and another girl who looks a year or few older. Both are equally profuse in their own hugs and thanks. Cécilia, the only one of the six who Caroline knows well enough to distinguish on sight, is also present. “Your brother’s here, he’s in the bathroom,” she adds over her sisters’ voices.

Caroline: After a round of hugs and assurances, Caroline caps them with, “I’m just glad she made it. How’s she recovering?”

GM: Caroline sees for herself after hearing an exchange of, “’Oo’s there?” “It’s Caroline!” “Oh, please, send ’er in, send ’er in…”

Yvonne’s hospital room is quite cheerful next to others that Caroline has been in. There’s cards, bouquets of flowers, and several baskets of candy and snacks. Tablets, purses, and other personal effects are scattered around the room’s half-dozen chairs. Her sisters have even brought in scented candles to get rid of the aseptic smell.

Yvonne lies in the bed. She’s propped up by several plush, colorful pillows and wears a comfortable-looking cotton nightgown instead of the standard hospital dressing gown. She’s hooked up to an IV, has shadows under her eyes, and looks markedly paler than her already pallid siblings. Still, she cranes her neck to get a better look as they usher Caroline in. She gives the older woman a weary but happy smile.

“Everyone says you saved mah life. Thank you so much, Caroline. Ah don’t know what else to say. Thank you.”

Caroline: “Anyone would have done the same,” Caroline replies with a genuine smile as she looks at the living, breathing girl. “I’m just so happy you’re okay.”

She doesn’t add how terrifying it was to be the only one there trying to stop the bleeding. The only one acting while others couldn’t even look on in the dark. The pressure of the knowledge that if she made a mistake the teenager might be dead.

“And to see that your room is in better taste than most. They’re not trying to make you eat the galley slop here, are they?”

GM: Yvonne gives a weak chuckle.

“Oh of course not, we’ve been bringing ’er food,” says Yvette.

“The ’ospital food is so gross,” adds one of the younger girls.

Caroline: “So’s the smell, but you seem to have that covered as well.” The smile doesn’t fade from Caroline’s face.

GM: “Yes. Everyone’s been so thoughtful,” Yvonne replies with another tired but grateful smile. “Even mah teachers, saying not to worry about school…”

“Oui,” Yvette takes over, “they’ll make it so she can still graduate on time even if she’s ’ere for months.”

Caroline: “Hopefully the past part won’t be the case,” Caroline replies. Her eyes unconsciously sweep over the various charts and posted monitors, taking in information and processing it in the background. “In fact, you look worlds better already.”

GM: “Mah mom and sisters make it ’ard to feel bad for long.” Yvonne’s expression looks a little tearful as Yvette squeezes her shoulder. Her eyes settle on one of the room’s gift baskets. “Oh, please… ‘ave some snacks and candy. There’s more than Ah can eat, and Ah don’t really feel that ’ungry anyway.”

Caroline: “I just finished lunch,” Caroline replies, “but I’m sure your sisters will be happy to help you with them.”

GM: “Oh, they’ve all been more than happy. Simmone, it’s polite to ask,” Cécilia says, though her tone is more gentle than chiding as the youngest girl, who’s leaning against her, pulls out a blood orange chocolate bar.

Simmone looks up. “Yvonne, can Ah…?”

Yvonne gives a faint nod. “Please, go a’ead… Ah’ll never eat it all.”

“Thanks for getting us out of trouble too, Caroline,” Simmone says. She looks up at Cécilia, who pauses for a moment and then starts to pull off the wrapper for her.

Caroline: “Your mother did a lot of that,” Caroline replies. “I was just trying to keep things from going too badly until she could. I’m very sorry you had to get searched, questioned like that, and put in a holding cell, though. I wish I could have done more.”

GM: Simmone uncomfortably looks away. Cécilia puts an arm around her shoulder, hands her the candy bar, and then assures Caroline, “It could have been much worse. You did more than enough,” over the sound crunching chocolate.

Caroline: Caroline mentally adds ‘gift basket’ to her list of tasks.

GM: “Yvonne, can Ah-?” asks the other, younger-looking girl.

“Oh, go a’ead, Noëlle. Ah know Maman and Cécilia want you to be polite, but it’s never going to get eaten if you ’ave to ask every time,” the bedridden teenager answers with another tired smile.

Caroline: “I’m so glad you’re all here for her. Too many people get left in the hospital alone.”

GM: The younger girl pulls the ribbon and plastic wrapping off a candied apple drizzled with chocolate and glazed nuts. There’s a crunch as she takes a bite.

“Oh, I can only imagine,” Cécilia agrees.

“Family sticks together,” declares Yvette.

Caroline: “Yes, it does.” Caroline’s eyes linger on Cécilia with the words. “But if there’s ever a time that they can’t be here, and you have any concerns about your care—or anything else,” Caroline pulls a card from her purse, “please call me. I have some friends in the hospital, and if anything were wrong I know they’d want it fixed.” She slides the card next to one of the fold out trays on Yvonne’s bed. Unlike the one from last night with the legal stationary this one simply reads Caroline in black script with her phone number underneath.

GM: “Oh, Caroline, you’ve already done so much…” Yvette starts.

Cécilia nods. “Yes, you have. And if there’s anything more you can do for Yvonne, we won’t hesitate to ask. Thank you, Caroline.” She smiles. “You’ll hear those words from us a lot more times, I’m sure. But we’ll mean them no less.”

Caroline: “I have no doubts of your sincerity,” Caroline replies. “Have no doubts as to mine.”

Saturday morning, 29 August 2015

GM: Yvonne puts on a brave front, but it’s soon plain that the visit is tiring out the gunshot wound survivor. Caroline files out with all of Yvonne’s sisters except for Yvette. The former insists she help herself to any choice items from the get-well baskets, reiterating that there’s no way she can eat them all. Cécilia insists that Caroline stop by her mother’s house for the dinner they’ll (hopefully) soon have to celebrate Yvonne’s hospital discharge.

Caroline: Caroline is happy to accept and observant enough to take her leave instead of lingering overly long. She proceeds through the hospital guided as much by memory as by observation, seeking the ICU and the other victim of last night’s senseless violence.

GM: It’s a grimmer picture with the Whitneys.

Lyman is there, along with Sarah’s father Warren, absent during last night’s proceedings. They’ve camped out outside the door to her room, Lyman anxiously pacing while staring down at his ticking watch. Sarah received surgery and is in stable condition, as Neil said, but has yet to wake up. Both men are no less effusive with their thanks than the Devillers. “She’d have been dead if you weren’t there,” they repeatedly state.

Caroline: “I just hope she’s okay,” Caroline replies demurely with both men. “I’m so grateful the surgeons were able to stabilize her. I can’t imagine what possessed the detective to do what he did.”

GM: Both of the Whitneys give dark looks.

NOPD will bring him in or there’ll be a new superintendent,” declares Lyman.

Caroline: “I suspect fewer things could be higher on their list of priorities. He gave the entire department a black eye on a night when it’d already taken one.”

GM: “I just can’t believe it. How did a maniac like that work for NOPD for so long?” Warren asks, shaking his head. The still-handsome man looks in maybe his early-mid 40s; the tail end of when “eligible bachelor” crosses over to “perennial bachelor.”

Caroline: “Mr. Whitney, Detective Gettis was known to be, to an extent, unstable.”

GM: “Not ‘known’ enough,” scowls his father.

Caroline: “I can’t argue that,” Caroline replies appeasingly. “Maybe if someone in the force had the guts to call him before it got to this point all of this wouldn’t have happened. I’m indescribably sorry that they didn’t. This is a tragedy no one deserves.”

GM: “Tragedies happen like acts of God.” The old man’s eyes are numb. “Without warning. Without anything you can do, when they do. If I’d said no over that house, or didn’t let Mae go with that boy to prom, maybe they’d…”

“Dad…” Warren cuts in, laying a hand on the senior Whitney’s shoulder.

Lyman sighs heavily. He looks old. Very old. “I’m sorry, Caroline. I’m forgetting my manners… and remembering more than I should. But you saved our Sarah’s life. She’s here now, alive, thanks to you.” He lays a weary hand on Caroline’s arm. “You don’t need to be sorry for anything. We’re…”

“…indescribably thankful,” Warren fills in. “We won’t forget this, Caroline. Not soon, or ever.”

Caroline: Caroline’s gaze lingers on the closed door to the girl’s room. “Thank you. That makes two of us, Mr. Whitney. Things like this don’t happen every day, and I feel a strange, affinity I suppose. Responsibility to her. If there’s anything else she needs you need only call—though I can’t imagine that with her father and grandfather here she wants for much.”

GM: The two Whitneys nevertheless reiterate their thanks, both for everything that Caroline has done and which she is still so willing to do. The three are soon interrupted by a clique of high school-age girls, whom Caroline recognizes a number of, including a tall blonde who is one of Senator Kelly’s grandchildren.

“Mr. Whitney, Mr. Whitney,” she says, acknowledging both men but looking towards the door, “we heard that Sarah wasn’t awake yet, but we just wanted to…”

Introductions are made between Caroline and the others, and further condolences and well wishes expressed. Sarah’s friends have brought balloons, cards, and other get-well items, clearly hoping they would be able to see her. An increasingly weary-if not numb-looking Lyman talks with the girls while Warren takes Caroline aside and apologizes for any perceived shortness or ingratitude.

“My dad… never took my sister’s death well,” he explains. “Having Sarah in the hospital like this… it’s dragging up a lot of memories. Once she’s awake…”

The man trails off for a moment, then somewhat lamely finishes, “You’ll see how much this means to us. All that you’ve done.”

Caroline: “You need not worry about that,” Caroline answers. “I’m happy I could be there for your family, and I’m just as certain that if the time ever comes the Whitney family will do the same.”

GM: Warren smiles, seemingly put at ease by the familiar dance of favors. “Of course. The Malveauxes can count on that.”

Previous, by Narrative: Story Two, George IV
Next, by Narrative: Story Two, George V

Previous, by Character: Story Two, Caroline II
Next, by Character: Story Two, Caroline IV, Emil III

Story Two, Victoria II

“They… FIRED me!”
Anna May Perry

Friday morning, 28 August 2015

GM: There’s no word from Jeff, or about Jeff, over the weekend.

That’s some blessing. Anna goes in to work on Friday. She’s glad to have the weekend off. She’s still miserable over the breakup. She wants to spend the weekend with Sylvie watching TV, eating high-sugar foods, and doing a fat lot of nothing.

Victoria: Fat is exactly what they’ll be come Monday. Sylvie will probably work it off. Anna will probably skip lunch for a week. One day, she’ll get her into a class…

While Anna is at work that day, Sylvie spends her time at the supermarket stocking up on frozen pizza rolls, frozen tacos, frozen mozzarella sticks, gummy worms, strawberry ice cream, chocolate bars, dark chocolate bars, peanut butter cups, white chocolate bars, chocolate truffles with raspberry creme, and gummy bears.

Then she orders a pizza, extra cheese, double sausage. Maybe Anna will appreciate the joke.

Then she runs back to the grocery store herself to buy another sausage, if only to give Anna the pleasure of slicing it herself.

She pulls out her phone.

u want to make dessert pizza?

GM: Sylvia enables bad decisions.

But such deliciously bad decisions.

get in all our servings at once lol?

So they do. Gummy worms. Ice cream. Chocolate bars. Dark chocolate bars. Peanut butter cups. White chocolate bars. Chocolate truffles with raspberry creme. Gummy bears. Gay bacon strips.

It all comes together in the same dish, with a cookie dough base, and cotton candy for cheese. Ice cream for dipping. Everything else is toppings or stuffed inside the crust.

“I think we just created an abomination,” Anna says when it comes together.

Victoria: “I think we’ll scare off anyone who hears about this…”

She doesn’t seem too upset by the fact.

A spoon appears in Anna’s lap.

“How was work?”

GM: “Kids remarked on this,” Anna says, holding up her ring-less hand.

Victoria: She tuts.

“They’re relentlessly observant… are you okay?”

GM: “Yeah,” she says. “I just said we broke it off and left it at that.”

“One left her phone number if I wanted to talk.”

Victoria: “And you weren’t met by a chorus of ‘why’? That was kind of them. Are you sure they don’t want to date you?”

GM: Anna laughs. “Her. And no, come to think. I think she’s gay.”

Victoria: “Why?”

GM: “Very masculine-presenting. Short hair, big arms, male-ish interests. I got a butch vibe.”

She manages a smile.

“I don’t think she’s actually interested in me, though. And I feel bad for her. She’s a very bright and knowledgeable student, absolutely loves the material.”

“But she stands out, next to the Southern belles. I worry she’s getting bullied.”

“No, she is getting bullied. I had a few students try to swipe her assignments.”

Victoria: Sylvia sinks her spoon into their private act of terrorism.

Her brow twitches.

“Good that you caught them.”

She grows somewhat tense.

“She’ll be fine. She’ll be teased, and she’ll learn how to deal with it. Be there for her. She’ll remember that when she’s older.”

GM: * grows

“I hope so,” says Anna. “She’s new to the city. She got her hand stabbed by some crazy in the Quarter.”

Victoria: The spoon is stopped halfway to her mouth.

“What the fuck was she doing?”

GM: “My homework assignment,” Anna says, her own spoon paused.

“Yes. I know. It was to research a purportedly haunted building. She picked the LaLaurie House and got… stabbed, in the Quarter. She’s new to the city.”

“I talked to her about it, of course, told her she could work on another assignment and get full credit.”

“She still wanted to do it.”

Victoria: Sylvie shudders.

“Creep. Not the house; the assailant. Did they arrest him?”

GM: “It’s the Quarter,” Anna just says, shaking her head.

Victoria: “We need a police force to police the police.”

GM: “IA’s supposed to do that, but… well, the ones here are what they are.”

“They’re so different from the cops in Lafayette.”

“There was corruption there, and laziness, but the police here… sometimes I think they’re just another gang.”

Victoria: “If only McGehee was in Lafayette. But hey, she’s alive, no?”

She nudges Anna’s spoon. Eat, dummy, and drown your pain in sugar.

GM: “I’m worried about her,” hems Anna.

“The administration has it out for her, too.”

“She doesn’t wanna go to college, and that hurts the school’s admissions numbers…”

Victoria: Sylvie perks up, judging.

“Why doesn’t she want to go to college?”

GM: “She said she plans on opening a business.”

Victoria: She can’t fault that, and relaxes.

“What kind of business?”

GM: “She said she’s a smith and also wants to work on krewe floats and jewelry.”

Victoria: The judgment returns.

“Too niche an industry. She’ll succeed fantastically or fail miserably.”

GM: “She also said she wanted to go to MIT after she had her business up and running.”

“Which… she’s a sweet girl, but that’s just not realistic.”

“Even if she got in with no extracurriculars, you go to school before you start a business, not after.”

Victoria: Sylvia pinches the bridge of her nose.

“It’s not. She’s got it backward. You can start your business in school, but your schooling should come first in the absence of a working product and waiting market.”

GM: “Yes, she’s the subject of a lot of water cooler gossip.”

Victoria: “She’ll become a meme one day.”

GM: “I hope not. I just want things to turn out okay for her. She’s a delight to have in class.”

Victoria: “I’m sure. It seems like she makes you happy, but… I wouldn’t tie her success too much to yours. Not every student will turn out ideal, and you do more than many teachers to help them find joy in learning.”

GM: “You’re right,” admits Anna. “I’m taking work home. We’re here to pig out.”

She lifts up a slice of dessert pizza.

“Let’s do that.”

Sunday morning, 30 August 2015

GM: Friday and Saturday pass to Sunday. Anna asks if she needs to “go in to work,” but there are benefits to setting one’s own hours. Anna’s still in the dumps over Jeff, but feeling less bad about it with Sylvie and junk food and mindless TV to take her mind off things. Jeff’s things being gone help, too.

They’re on the couch when her phone rings.

“Hello, M-”

She frowns.

“No. No, I hadn’t heard, I’ve not been following the news.”

“Oh my god!” exclaims. “Is everyone all right?”

“Oh my… oh my god, I should…”

Victoria: Sylvia cancels the one appointment she has over the weekend in favor of supporting the most important person in the world to her. There isn’t even a thought to otherwise.

She perks at the note of concern.


GM: ‘News,’ Anna mouths.

Victoria: She flips on cable news.

GM: The talking head on RED 8 talks about a former detective Richard Gettis, NOPD, who shot two teenage girls and their attorney at the police station in the French Quarter. The attorney, Mitchel Lowenstein, is dead. Both girls have been hospitalized. One is in critical condition. Richard Gettis escaped the station and remains at large.

There’s a statement from the police superintendent, Bernard Drouillard, who assures the public that “everything within our power” is being done to apprehend the murderer.

Victoria: Sylvia covers her mouth. Even she’s affected by the innocent swept away in tragedy.

“Oh my God…”

GM: Anna isn’t even paying attention to the news. There’s a curiously blank expression on her face.


“I’m… I’m sorry, what?!

She blinks quickly.

“Hol… hold on, can’t we…”

Why!? Why are you doi…?”

Victoria: Anna’s frantic nature earns Sylvie’s concern and attention. She shifts closer on the couch, not quite eavesdropping, but protective and waiting to support her in whatever is happening on the phone.

GM:Please, can’t w…”

She holds a hand to her eyes. She’s started crying again.

“Oh… okay,” she gets out, keeping her voice mostly even.


She drops the phone and looks towards Sylvia, then falls apart.

“Th… they… FIRED me!” she sobs.

Victoria: Sylvia offers her a blank look. She doesn’t believe it. She can’t believe it.

Why?! You’re the best teacher I’ve ever met! If my teachers did even half of what you do… Did they say why?”

GM: “It was m… my project! It h… happened b… because of me! I g… got them shot!” Anna cries.

Victoria: She blinks.

“What? That’s impossible, Anna. How did you get them shot?”

GM: “The… the LaLaur… they got arrested, there… and then they got shot! They wouldn… they wouldn’t have b… been there, if n… not for…!”

Anna cries into her hands.

“I got them shot! Oh my g… god!”

Victoria: “Anna,” she says, her name a command.

“It is not. Your. Fault. Did they have permission to be there?”

GM: “Y… yes…”

Victoria: “Then the owner was aware. You are a teacher. You are no more responsible for their harm than a teacher is responsible for students researching a bank that happened to be during a bank robbery.”

Her words are steel-stern, and cold as ice. There is no room for question. There is no room for alternate understanding.

Her hands find Anna’s cheeks.

“We’re going to go to the McGehee office, and we’re going to talk to someone. You’re getting your job back.”

GM: Perhaps Anna does have doubts or objections.

But none survive the dominatrix’s commanding tones. They are scoured aside.

Sylvia would say she has several years’ experience at that now, but she was born for the role, wasn’t she?

“Okay…” Anna nods.

Victoria: In a past life, Sylvia St. George marched slaves.

She stands up, collecting her things.

“Let’s go. Right now.”

GM: Victoria Wolf still marches slaves, sometimes.

“Oh. The office opens on Monday,” says Anna, wiping at her face.

“They… called me when they were off the clock, I think.”

Victoria: She sits back down.

“Ugh. Can you call them back?”

GM: Anna holds up her phone.

“They said the headmistress had decided…”

Victoria: “The headmistress isn’t shit.”

GM: Anna manages a weak smile at that, then dials the number and puts the call on speaker.

“Yes, Miss Perry?” asks an older black woman’s voice.

Victoria: “Ma’am,” she begins, exuding the confidence she brings to high society when scouting for clients.

“Tell us the rationale for firing Ms. Perry. It isn’t her doing that led to the tragedy.”

GM: The woman pauses for a moment, perhaps surprised over who she’s speaking to. But she answers,

“I understand that, ma’am, but it’s from the headmistress.”

Victoria: “And she is where?”

GM: “I’m not sure. It’s the weekend, she might be at home.”

Victoria: “And she called you to deliver the news to Ms. Perry.”

She pats Anna’s thigh.

GM: Anna manages a smile, then glances back to the phone.

“She did, ma’am,” says the woman.

Victoria: “Then you’re quite capable of giving me her phone number.”

GM: “…all right,” says the woman.

Mistress Victoria’s tone has that effect on people.

A phone number follows.

Victoria: She gestures Anna to write it down.

“And your name, dear?”

GM: Anna pulls up a notetaking app on the phone and does so.

“Nancy Noah.”

Victoria: “Thank you. Have a blessed day.”

She hangs up and dials the headmistress.

GM: “You get results,” smiles Anna.

Victoria: Ring… Ring…

“You fuck with my family, you get what you deserve.”


GM: “This is Catherine Strong speaking, may I help you?” smiles another older woman’s voice. She doesn’t sound black.

Victoria: “Hello, Ms. Strong. I have Ms. Perry here; the very same that you employ. This call is in relation to a mistaken communication relayed on behalf of one Nancy Noah, stating that Ms. Perry’s contract was terminated. Now, Ms. Perry would never commit an act that would merit such a permanent, immediate consequence. I’m sure you’re capable of explaining the misunderstanding.”

GM: Anna gives her a thumbs up at the highly formal and professional-sounding language.

The opening shot fired.

“Mrs. Strong,” the headmistress corrects in response, though her voice doesn’t sound as if it loses the smile. It’s a polished-sounding smile. The sort one sees on news anchors and corporate PR reps.

There’s a brief pause.

Has the shot drawn blood?

“May I ask with whom I am speaking?”

Victoria: “The peace offering before a storm of legal proceedings,” she answers.

“Ms. Perry, we agree, is innocent of any accusations in endangering her students, as all proceedings in their little adventure happened through official channels and approvals, including the home’s owner. You also agree that Anna neither bent the police to her will in this tragedy, nor held a weapon herself.”

She pauses, just long enough to interrupt her.

“Ms. Perry is quite attached to her position. I’m sure you’ll find reason to resolve that miscommunication, and she won’t find reason to ensure the charges she’ll press won’t place McGehee alongside Gettis in the news. Though… they do say no publicity is bad publicity, don’t they?”

GM: “I am afraid that Miss Perry no longer has a place at the Louise S. McGehee School,” smiles Headmistress Strong.

“It has been decided that her conduct is not in keeping with the values of our founder, will reflect discredit upon the school, and will impair her usefulness in her capacity as a teacher. The termination of her employment was within the bounds of her contract, which I shall remind, includes: ‘the teacher may be suspended or discharged for good cause as shall be determined in the exclusive discretion of the Board of Trustees.’ The Board of Trustees has found good cause to discharge Miss Perry.”

A pause.

“If Miss Perry wishes to file suit for wrongful termination of employment, she may do so. But I’m sure that in the aftermath of this recent tragedy, all of us would prefer to settle things out of court. Why don’t we schedule a time to discuss the terms of Miss Perry’s severance, face-to-face?”

Victoria: This time, Sylvia allows the woman to speak without interruption. The headmistress is now at the table, and that was all she hoped to achieve from the conversation.


They let Anna go, but they won’t escape without wounds to lick.

“That would be an amicable outcome. Monday, 1 PM?”

GM: “Splendid,” smiles the headmistress. She provides a room number at McGehee, and even brightly suggests that Miss Perry may “pack up her things” while she or her legal counsel are there.

Then she wishes Sylvia and Miss Perry both a wonderful day.

Victoria: Sylvia hangs up, and exhales.

“It’s not your job back. They won’t give your job back unless you really give them hell in the news, but… it’s money. It’ll help you live.”

She nudges Anna with a shoulder, then leans on her.

“Between Jeff and this, I know you’re going to hurt for a while. You’re not going to be yourself, and… I’m sure money will be a little tight. You know I’ll always be there for you, no matter why, or where, or what time of day or night. You can even stay at my place if you want.”

GM: Anna follows the conversation between Sylvia (Victoria?) and the headmistress hopefully, at first.

She smiles at Victoria’s authoritative and businesslike tone. Like she would at a big brother who’s sticking up for her.

The hurt in her eyes is all-too plain when the headmistress says she is a discredit upon the school.

She frowns, seemingly in perplexity as much as anything, when she hears about the Board of Trustees.

She doesn’t look happy, but at least she looks less unhappy when she hears about severance.

She looks hurt again at the headmistress’ remark about her things and faux-cheerful goodbye.

She’s silent for a moment as she lays her head against the taller woman’s shoulder.

“Thanks, Sylvie. For… for everything. I didn’t even think about getting severance…”

“You really sounded like a boss back here.”

She manages a smile as she looks up at Sylvia.

“I guess being a dominatrix pays off, huh?”

Victoria: She wraps an arm around the teacher, shaking her head.

“It’s not the job that makes the person. It’s the person that makes the job. You have to stick up for yourself, Anna, because outside the few circles you have with loved ones, no one will. You know those ribs you love so much from Blue Oak? Those stupid ribs that you’re literally the only person in New Orleans who likes? That’s what you are to them. You’re easy to tear, succulent meat. They chew, and chew, and chew, and every time they chew they rip away another piece of you until all that’s left to you is an empty, oily bone. Then they spit you out, and say that you aren’t good enough. Unless you stand up for yourself. It’s not being a dominatrix that pays off. It’s being the eater, not the food.”

GM: Anna sobers a bit at Sylvia’s talk.

“That’s… that’s all true,” she nods. “I’m just… this thing with Jeff, and getting fired, just like that, really has me in a bender.”

“But you’re right. If you don’t want people to kick you down, you do have to stand up for yourself.”

“Unless you’re lucky enough to have a friend who will, sometimes.”

She smiles at that and curls up against Sylvia.

Victoria: The pair hug, Sylvia pulling her such that they’re laying front to front beside each other.

“Always and forever, unconditionally.”

She squeezes Anna.

“But you should learn to stick up for yourself…” She holds near-pinched fingers before Anna’s face. “…like, maybe that much.”

GM: “Hey, my kids know I’m boss. They tried to swipe those papers and I gave ’em a mean glare,” she smirks.

The look soon fades.

“I’m gonna miss them.”

Victoria: “You’ll see ‘em again. Who knows, maybe we’ll show Tulane who’s boss. You’ll own the school, one day,” she grins.

GM: Anna laughs. “I think I’d need to go back to school first, if I wanted to teach at Tulane.”

Victoria: She rolls her eyes.

“You know very well what I meant, Anna.”

She huffs.

“What are you going to do now?”

GM: “Well… I guess go in Monday, one last time.”

Her face sinks again.

“Get a severance, pack up my things…”

Victoria: “After. Will you look for another school? Maybe Ursuline?”

GM: “The school year’s started,” says Anna, shaking her head. “That’d be the dream, but… most contracts get signed in summer. So either hope for vacancies, or fill in as a sub.”

She smirks again and lightly swats Sylvia’s side.

“And no, not that kind of sub.”

“Don’t say you weren’t thinking it, Dark Mistress Dominatrix.”

Victoria: The grin that takes Sylvia’s face wouldn’t be out of place on a shark.

“I’ll let you fill in as a sub.”

GM: “Does it pay better than a teacher’s salary? I bet it does.”

“I bet it doesn’t have a salary and I still bet it does.”

Victoria: Sylvia opens her mouth to answer the question, but closes it at her following thoughts.

“Money isn’t the only reward in life.”

GM: “No, of course not,” agrees Anna. “You don’t go in to teaching if you want to make money.”

Victoria: “And you don’t go into subbing if—”

Sylvia hops off the couch, leaving Anna in suspense. She walks to the kitchen, where she promptly fills a glass with cold water, and tosses it into her own face.

She returns, dripping.

“So, you’ll be a freelance sub… stitution teacher? Why not apply for one of the other private schools? Even a short time at McGehee is something for a resume.”

She reseats herself, this time upright, near Anna’s feet.

GM: “Why did you…” Anna starts at the water on her face, amused.

Victoria: “Don’t ask questions you don’t want the answer to.”

GM: “Uh, all right. Anyway… it’s like I said. Teachers get hired and contracts get signed in the summer. I’ll look, definitely, but they probably won’t be hiring unless someone had to dip out. That’s more something to do next year.”

“But things are more flexible with subs.”

Victoria: Ignoring her wandering mind, she nods.

“Right. That makes sense. That they are.”

GM: “It’s weird with the Board of Trustees,” frowns Anna. “They’re not involved in day-to-day things with the school… why would they want me fired?”

“How would they even know I assigned that project…?”

Victoria: “Because when McGehee is in the crosshairs of the high and mighty, they’ll need to make a show of blood. You are that blood.”

GM: “No, I just mean how they learned about this all.”

“Maybe it was the headmistress’ idea, and she asked them to fire me?”

“Since she couldn’t do that herself, my contract was for a year.”

Victoria: She shakes her head.

“I think that’s possible. If I were in her position, I’d do anything in my power to protect the school. Given it’s liable to be in the news due to who was wounded, she’s preemptively showing that ‘guilty parties’ are being punished.”

She sucks on her lip, thinking.

“We’ll ensure she gets hers, eventually. Not yet. Plausible deniability, and all that.”

GM: “I don’t want revenge. I just want my job back,” Anna says glumly.

Victoria: “Anna…”

GM: “I know. I know.”

“That’s done.”

Victoria: “Sometimes, drawing blood later is all you can do.”

GM: “I don’t know. I’m not vengeful. I just want to move on…”

“Would it be childish if I wanted you to go in for me tomorrow?”

Victoria: She rubs her calf.

“All right.”

She sets her jaw. Sylvia was hoping Anna wouldn’t make that request.

“I… can, though they’ll learn that I’m not your lawyer, unless you’ve got a very convincing license with my name and photo on it.”

GM: “Sorry. And… ugh, no. That’s childish.” Anna rubs her head. “I really shouldn’t ask you that.”

Victoria: “Anna… you can ask anything in the world. I’ll do everything I can.”

GM: “Yeah, but what you just said about sticking up for yourself… I should at least negotiate my own severance, shouldn’t I?”

Victoria: She nods.

“You should, and you should keep your back straight—both physically, and in how you present yourself.”

GM: She sighs. “Yeah. Though I’ll admit I really don’t wanna.”

Victoria: She pats her calf.

“I tell you what: You go in there, you do your best, you keep your back up and your head high, and no matter what, we’ll leave proud and I’ll buy you lunch.”

A pause.

“You cave, and I’ll lock you in my closet for an hour.”

GM: Anna smirks.

“You say that like your closet isn’t full of sex toys. You’ll lock me up and I won’t wanna come out.”

Victoria: She stares at her with an amused expression, shaking her head.

“I said my closet, not the work closet.”

GM: “You said ‘your’ closet. Not which one.”

“And you’re self-employed, remember? So they’re both your closets.”

Victoria: “The world longs for a reality where you come out of a closet. I only sought to provide it.”

GM: “Ha ha ha. I’m already out, you know I like girls too.”

“God, remember that boyfriend I had in college, who just couldn’t get enough of it?”

Victoria: Sylvia, the Goddess of Innocence descended from a sunbeam parting the clouds.

“No! Tell me about it.”

GM: “Okay, you’re lying, I did tell you all about it! The one with the giant lesbian fetish.”

“Who’d just bug me about it all the time.”

Victoria: She feigns innocence.

“I don’t recall.”

GM: “He wanted to jerk off to me watching girl-on-girl porn.”

Victoria: “Chase?”

Definitely not Chase.

GM: “I once read a story that had two people, married to other people, masturbating together. The girl was trying to seduce the guy and he didn’t want to sleep with her. But she masturbated in front of him, and then got him to. Apparently he was willing to do that.”

“I can’t see your partner being any less mad if they found out.”

Victoria: “Mmn, I imagine so. You remember Lucas…”

She shudders. She still considers herself in the right, but she also genuinely liked him. Likes him. Not in a sexual-romantic way anymore, but they’re still friends, and he hasn’t ever quite gotten over that.

GM: “Yeah…” Anna says sympathetically, running a hand along Sylvia’s shoulders.

“People just get possessive. Even when they know what the terms are.”

Anna took her side in the argument over that, of course.

Victoria: “What can I say…” she begins with that dramatic flair so telling of Sylvia readying to exaggerate herself.

“They see a prize, and they want it all to themselves. Loyola hasn’t had a prize like me, since… Well… ever.”

She stretches across the sofa, languid; a deity ready to receive grapes.

GM: “Only because I wasn’t also there. And hold a moment.”

Anna disappears into the kitchen, then comes back.

With grapes.

Victoria: She opens her mouth, arms draped over both the rear and the arm of the sofa. Watch out, Artemis. There’s a new huntress in town.

GM: Anna laughs and makes a show of slowly hand-feeding her.

“Why not, at this point.”

“Not hand-feeding you would be like that masturbating couple who don’t actually have sex.”

Victoria: She parts her lips, baring her teeth to receive a grape.

Anna’s last quip makes her choke on said grape.

Sylvia sits bolt upright, choking and laughing and unsure which she cares for more.

“D-did-” cough! “Did you just… compare grapes to masturbation?”

GM: “I compared bringing grapes to a lounging goddess and not hand-feeding them to masturbation,” corrects Anna, smirking. “You might as well go all the way, right?”

Victoria: “And now you want to go all the way with me?” she hums, a grin plastered ear to ear. “Anna, your mood is all over the place.”

GM: “The goddess doesn’t look like she’s complaining,” says Anna, holding up another grape.

Victoria: She opens her mouth, tongue lolling.

“She’s not…”

She takes the grape.

“You’re not… serious, are you?” she asks, quirking a brow.

GM: “Serious about what?” asks Anna, peeling off another grape.

Victoria: “You did just mention going all the way.”

GM: “I did…” says Anna.

Victoria: Sylvia, for as long as she’s known Anna, has had a lingering crush around the periphery of her desire. She’s fantasized about her. She’s thought about dating her, and all the reasons they shouldn’t. She’s envisioned her face, and her fingers, and her mewls—not that she’s heard them—while others are inside her.

Now here she is, maybe teasing, maybe serious, but either way presenting the thought that it might actually be a possibility.

All that time, all that fantasy, all the darkness of the past few days, and yet the answer is immediately and overwhelmingly clear, as if it’s made from polished ice:

“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Anna…”

Her voice is sympathetic, and sad, but not playful.

GM: A blush starts to creep into Anna’s cheeks.

“It’s… probably not, no.”

Victoria: “I mean… just not right now. You know.”

She steals a grape, if only to break that awkward gaze.

“I wouldn’t want that to be something you… regret.”

“Maybe in like, 10 minutes.”

“Maybe eight, if you smirk like you do when you have a bad idea.”

“Seven if you feed me another grape.”

GM: The red in Anna’s cheeks doesn’t fully subside, but she gives a little smile and peels off another grape.

“What makes you say 10 minutes?”

Victoria: “I was joking, but…”

She still isn’t sure it’s a good idea.

“Would it make you feel better? For really-real?”

GM: Anna looks away, still blushing.

Victoria: She sits up.

“You don’t have to blush around me, much as I love when you’re embarrassed.”

GM: Anna clears her throat.

Victoria: “Would it help you…? Honestly, Anna. You’re my best friend. If it’d help you to fuck, we can fuck.”

GM: “Oh, I… no. That’s probably not a good idea,” says Anna.

“Not this soon after Jeff.”

She gets a look at that.

“I guess my job isn’t a factor, anymore…”

Victoria: “Anna… Don’t. It’s not the fact that you can go. It’s the principal that he would leave and consider you an afterthought.”

She takes the girl’s hand, like it or not, and pulls her onto the sofa.

“Close your eyes.”

GM: Anna doesn’t resist. She closes her eyes.

Victoria: Both hands meet, one on either side of her face.

“You. Will. Be. Fine. Your life. Your future relationships. Your job. You’ll be fine. Say it.”

GM: “I will be fine,” Anna repeats, taking a breath. “My life. My future relationships. My job. I’ll be fine.”

Victoria: “Open your mouth.”

GM: Anna opens her mouth.

Victoria: She inserts a slice of dessert pizza.

GM: “Ooomph,” she says through it, and starts to chew. “Thish so bad. Bu’ sho good.”

Victoria: “Good girl. That overpowering sweetness is what you need to be. Every time you feel down, or like someone is stepping on you? Just be sweet, like you’ve always done.”

With Anna’s eyes still closed, she waits a moment, then tickles her belly.

GM: “Yesh, m-”

Anna squeals and falls backwards onto the sofa.

“F… foul!” she protests.

Victoria: She chases, tickling her despite the protests!

GM: There’s not far to chase, with them both on the sofa. So much the worse for Anna. She squeals and flails, trying to keep the pizza in her mouth and chew at the same time when Sylvia’s fingers relentlessly assail her.

“Sht… sht… sht…!” she giggles breathlessly.

Victoria: “Do you give in?! I didn’t believe you?!”

Sylvia is relentless!

GM: “Aaagh-h-ha-ha!” Anna gets out, curling into a defensive ball as she quickly chews down the remaining pizza.

“I g-gi-ve in! I g-yeeegh! Gi-yaagh! G-gve in! I surrender! Ack!”

Victoria: She brushes her chin with a pointer and thumb, and kisses her cheek.

“See? It’ll all be fine because I say it’ll be fine.”

GM: “Yes, mistress,” Anna says in sing-song cadence.

Victoria: Sylvia actually blushes.

GM: “I wasn’t sure that was even physically possible,” giggles Anna.

Victoria: “And yet… you’ve done it. Congratulations.”

GM: “Do I win a prize?”

Victoria: “We both said that isn’t a good idea; but, yes.”

GM: “Oh. No. I wasn’t… thinking that.” Anna faintly blushes again.

“But…” She looks up. “I was wondering if you’d come to the negotiation with me.”

“With me, instead of for me.”

Victoria: She nods, a smile coming to her.

“Yeah. Of course. But… probably not as your lawyer.”

GM: “Oh. Well, I kind of don’t have the money for a lawyer.”

“So I was thinking we just don’t outright say you’re my lawyer. But we don’t say you’re not.”

“Like you did earlier.”

Victoria: She nods.

“Now you’re learning. I suppose I’ll get my court clothing out…”

As if she has one picked out already.

“But that waits until Monday.”

GM: “Monday,” says Anna.

“God, it feels like it’s been a long day.”

“I think I wanna rot my brain out on TV and my teeth out on junk food until that rolls around.”

Victoria: So they do. They finish the dessert people over the next 30 minutes, and the remaining frozen treats appetizers in the next hour. It’s been an enjoyable weekend, and for the most part, Sylvia intends for Anna to forget about her relationship, and her career, and anything—except the oppressive heat, when the air conditioner breaks that afternoon. Anna’s building explodes into a riot, as much as 19 people (most being one Latino family with 6 children) can riot.

The pair spend the rest of the day out and about the Big Easy, cooling off in a movie, then lunch; a meal that lasts over two hours, to no complaint on the waiter, a elderly black man who the two find to be one of the funniest men in New Orleans.

He even gets a blush out of Sylvia poking fun at her career, and earn hers card for it. The tip she gives him might even help him afford it.

GM: All Sylvia needs to do is get Anna to hit the gym with her next, after that decadent weekend.

But all things told, it’s a good way and a good day to forget one’s troubles.

Previous, by Narrative: Story Two, George VI
Next, by Narrative: Story Two, Caroline III

Previous, by Character: Story Two, Victoria I
Next, by Character: Story Two, Victoria III

Story Two, Victoria I

“You’ll be okay, and I’ll be here to make sure of it.”
Victoria Wolf

Thursday evening, 27 August 2015

GM: Sylvia gets a call on her cell around dinnertime.

“Je… Jeff and I broke up!” Anna sobs.

Victoria: Sylvia accepts the call and sets it to speaker, a pizza of cheesy pizza dribbling down her chin.

It’s a moment before she responds.

“You… no… oh, honey… where are you?”

GM: “At home,” Anna sniffs.

Victoria: “I’ll be right there. Don’t move. Not an inch.”

GM: “And with a stu… stupid dinner I made, f… for us.”

Victoria: “Do you want to stay on the phone while I drive?”

Pedestrians beware. Lucky Sylvia, she’d been so hungry that she didn’t bother changing before wolfing down half of her first slice of pizza. She bangs her foot on the coffee table, hops to the front door, and does her best to pull on her boots.

GM: “Y… yeah…”

Victoria: “Okay, okay!”

She snags her bag, checking to be sure the keys are inside. The phone is removed from speaker and slotted between her ear and shoulder, while the pizza box is slammed shut and tossed under her arm.

Forgetting something?

Other boot. Right.

GM: “I’ve still got… I’ve still got my ring on, oh my g…! I have to get rid of it…”

Victoria: “DO. NOT.”

“Toss it in a drawer, okay? Don’t do anything brash.”

GM: Anna gives another little sob.

“I… I won’t… but we’re done, we’re over, he’s going to Philly…!”

Victoria: “Anna, baby. You’ll be okay. Okay? You’ll be fine.”

She shuts and locks her apartment door behind her, clomping down the stairs.

“Five minutes. Just five minutes.”

GM: It’s a brief enough drive to Anna’s and Jeff’s shared apartment in Riverbend. The building is white and mid-range. Sylvia lets herself in with the key marked “Do Not Duplicate” that Anna let her duplicate. Anna’s curled up on the couch in front of the TV with a blanket and a miserable look. She looks like she’s been crying for a while.

Victoria: “Anna…” she breathes. If she had ears on top of her head, they would wilt.

Sylvia sets the pizza down on the table beside her, her bag on the floor, and wraps her arms around the girl as if she were a wounded child, fingers stroking her hair, hand at her back.

“I’m so, so sorry.”

GM: Anna cries into Sylvie’s neck.

“We… we had a huge fight… I didn’t wanna, wanna move with him… so… just like that…”

Victoria: “Shhh… Let it out. Let it out.”

And she holds her, as long as she needs, no matter how much she cries, no matter how late it gets.

GM: Anna cries into Sylvie’s arms for a long time. It all comes out. She and Jeff had been engaged, after all. They’d made wedding plans. Decided on venues. Invitees. Sylvia was going to be the maid of honor.

Then Jeff got the job offer in Philly. He’d already moved from Miami to New Orleans, to stay together with her. He thought she should “return the favor.”

“And what’s worse… I feel so, so selfish,” she sniff-hiccups, blowing into another tissue. “He moved for me, and I just… I just couldn’t…”

Victoria: “Shhh…” she continues, stroking her hair gently. As she cries, Sylvia moves onto the couch beside her, front to front, giving her a shoulder to cry on.

“Sometimes… the things we do for others aren’t done for us. Sometimes, things they do for us aren’t returned. Life isn’t always fair.”

She squeezes her as a child squeezes a stuffed bear.

“Would you have been happy in Philly?”

GM: Anna starts to shake her head against Sylvie’s shoulder, then just rests against it.

“N… no… I love my job, so much, I love the city, I lo… love getting to see my parents, and y… you…”

Victoria: Another tight squeeze.

“You loved him, and some part of you will always love him, but the path he set before you is one you can’t follow. Loss is part of life.”

Such a great oversimplification, but she hopes it helps.

GM: Anna gives another loud sniff.

“Yeah, w… well… it still h… hurts…”

Victoria: “It’ll hurt for a while, but you’ll be okay, and I’ll be here to make sure of it.”

GM: “I don’t even wanna, wanna look at him… he drove off, said he’d… be back for his, his stu… f…”

Victoria: Sylvia leans back just enough to look at her. She kisses her forehead.

“Look at me. I want you to eat a slice of pizza. Eat it slow. By the time it’s done, you’ll feel a little better, and you’ll see less Jeff. Okay?”

GM: Anna closes her eyes for a moment at that kiss, taking slower breaths.

“O… kay,” she repeats, nodding.

Victoria: She sets the pizza box in Anna’s lap, and lifts herself off the couch.

As Anna munches the pizza—slowly, she anticipates—she moves around the apartment collecting every little piece of memorabilia of their relationship that she can find. Pictures are the obvious answers, but less obvious are things that only those close know are special—the cake platter he bought her when she had her foray into at-home baking, the table runner that she’d gotten him for the dinner at which they announced their engagement.

She smiles, seeing the smut novel she bought Anna as a gag open on the bed. At least she’s reading something.

Five minutes later, she returns.

“How is it?”

GM: The smut novel about a dominatrix bringing assorted subs to heel, after the endless teasing over her job.

Anna looks like she’s read through most of it, judging by the place she is in the book.

Sylvia also finds a lamp loin dinner set out on the table, only lightly touched.

Anna’s made her way about halfway through the pizza slice when she returns.

“Less hungry, ’least,” she says glumly.

“Thanks for… pizza.”

“Made him the lamb to celebrate his new job.”

Victoria: “Eat the whole damn pie if you want, babe. I’ll order another. Wings, too?”

She wants wings.

She checks in on Anna briefly, but detours to set the plates of lamb in the fridge before returning.

GM: “Fuck it, why not.” Anna munches on the slice some more. “Still got work tomorrow.”

Victoria: “We’ll spare the alcohol until Friday.”

GM: “Show up sloshed to work.” Anna gives a weak laugh. “That’s what I hear. From some of my kids. Everyone gets totally sloshed at those debutante balls.”

Victoria: Sylvia snorts.

“Yeah. Sure. I believe it. You best not show up trashed. You’ll be principal of that place, one day.”

GM: “No, never,” Anna says seriously. “I love working there.”

Victoria: She settles onto the couch beside the pizza demon.

“I’ve known you for years, Anna. You’re my best friend. I’ve never seen you happier than when you had your first day. You told me every minute in such detail that I swear I could picture it all exactly as is.”

She pauses, appraising her.

“You made the right choice.”

GM: “I hope so,” she says glumly. “Maybe Philly has good schools… but I don’t wanna give up my whole life, either…”

“He said I was being unfair, that he’d did this for me.” She sniffs again. “That I was b… being self.. ish…”

Victoria: She takes Anna’s face in her hands.

“Anna. Everyone is selfish. We need to take care of ourselves before others. Even our family. It doesn’t mean sacrifice can’t be made. It doesn’t mean you don’t love them. If you give up too much of yourself, you’ll waste away.”

She smiles a faint smile.

“I’m selfish, too. I’d die if you left.”

GM: Anna gives another sniff but manages a smile back, looking up at Sylvie.

“Me… me too.”

Victoria: She doesn’t let go of her face.

“Do you want me to be here when he comes back?”

GM: Anna nods again.

“Y… yeah.”

“I don’t wanna see him ag… again, this soon…”

Victoria: “Do you want to come back to my place? I’ve got shitty movies, and a fluffy blanket.”

“And the forecast shows a 0% chance of Jeff.”

GM: “Y… yeah,” Anna repeats.

She manages a weak smile. It looks as glum as anything else.

“I was… kinda looking forward to you, telling him off… but that’s probably better…”

Victoria: She smiles with a wolfish glint.

“I could call him.”

But she shouldn’t.

“Go pack a night bag and your morning clothes. Come on.”

GM: Anna’s smile grows a little more solid at that.

“Yes, Mom.”

Victoria: “Don’t forget clean underwear!” she adds, hamming it up.

GM: “I won’t,” Anna says, and then hugs her.

“Thanks, Sylvie… you’re such a good friend…”

Victoria: She hugs her back.

“Of course. You matter to me more than anything in the world.”

GM: “Even more than being a dominatrix?”

The quips have mostly died down after two years.


Victoria: She earns a swat on the rear.

GM: “Eek!” Anna stands up straight.

Victoria: Sylvia smiles the sweet smile of a young debutante at her first ball.

“Why can’t I have both?”

GM: “Clearly,” Anna mumbles, rubbing her rear.

Victoria: Sylvia pokes her tongue out.

“Hey, you asked. Go get your things, unless you want me to go off on Jeff.”

GM: “I dunno, I… I kinda do…”

Victoria: “Should I get back into my work uniform? We can stop by the office and pick up the cigar cutter.”

GM: “Okay. I don’t want that. But I just want… I don’t know.” Anna rubs her eyes again. “I don’t wanna hate him… he should follow his dreams… but I have to make myself say that.”

“You know?”

Victoria: She stands up from the sofa, looking into her eyes on more equal footing.


She waits.

“Say it to me. Say exactly that.”

GM: ‘More’ equal is still less than fully equal. Sylvia remains the taller one.

Though she usually does.

“That I don’t want to hate him?”

Victoria: “Repeat after me: Sylvia St. George, I will always love you, but you need to follow your dreams. I’m sorry that those dreams aren’t compatible with me.”

GM: Anna frowns.

“Sorry, I’m confused. Those sound like words to say to him, not you?”

Victoria: “Uh huh. And if you can say them to me, you can say them to him.”

“So, break up with me. Come on.”

GM: “Sylvia St. George,” she recites, “I will always love you, but you need to follow your dreams. I’m sorry that those dreams aren’t compatible with me.”

Anna pauses.

“And for the record, I am okay if you want to be a dominatrix. Really. I think it’s a cool job.”

Victoria: She purses her lips and stares.

“Focus. Come on. Say it again. I don’t want you breaking down and letting him take one over on you.”

GM: “Sylvia St. George,” Anna repeats, with more conviction, “I will always love you, but you need to follow your dreams. I’m sorry that those dreams aren’t compatible with me.”

She sniffs again after that and dabs her eye.

Victoria: Sylvia tears up.

“B-but… but, Anna. I fucking love you. You can’t just… without you…”

She falls to her knees.

“I’ll… I may as well die without you in my life.”

Ham: meet cheese.

GM: Anna manages a smile, at the cheese-slathered hammy line.

Then she starts crying again.

“Oh, god,” she says, with something between a laugh and a sob, “I’m a m… mess…”

Victoria: Sylvia rolls her eyes and climbs back to her feet. Her hands clasp Anna’s arms, and she shakes her with gentle firmness.

“Anna, you need to be able to say it. Are you going to be able to say that to him when he begs you to come? When he guilts you? When he blames you?”

GM: “But I have a life here, that I love. I can’t just give that up, to be wi… with…”

The pair are interrupted as the apartment’s front door unlocks. Jeff walks in. He’s a man close to Sylvia’s height, though slightly below it, with ginger hair and a short beard. He’s dressed in jeans and a t-shirt.

There’s an awkward pause.

Victoria: Sylvia is glad she stood up, and the faux-tears will add a nice touch. The look she gives Jeff will haunt him for the rest of his life. There’s no need for whips and chains and knives and fire.

GM: “Hey,” he greets, a little stiffly.

Victoria: Crickets.

GM: Anna looks up at her fiance, puffy eyes still wet with tears.

Jeff seems to forget Sylvia in that moment, and sits down next to his one-time wife-to-be. He wraps an arm around her shoulder. Anna melts into his embrace.

“Hey… it’s okay…” he murmurs.

“Maybe we both said some things we shouldn’t have.”

Victoria: Sylvia’s forged-steel restraint is the only thing that keeps her from exploding.


GM: Anna sniffs and nods at his words.

“Can you give us a moment?” he asks Sylvia.

Victoria: He looks into the eyes of a wolf.

She looks to Anna.

GM: Jeff clears his throat.

It sounds a little nervous.

Mistress Victoria has had several years to perfect that intimidating stare.

Anna looks between them uncertainly.

Victoria: She clicks her tongue.

“I’ll be outside, Anna. I think it’d be best for you if we are still on for our plans.”

GM: Anna gives a nod.

“About that,” says Jeff once she starts to leave.

“Anna, I had… I went through this whole speech, after I realized what an ass I was being. But—I love you,” he says. “I want to marry you and spend the rest of my life with you.”

“Do you still want to?”

Victoria: Victoria’s stomach lurches.

GM: “Ye… yes…!” she answers, sniffling again as she nods. “I love you. I always will. But you nee… you need to follow your dreams. I’m sorry those are… aren’t…”

Victoria: The engineer offers Anna a somber, supportive smile, and turns to leave.

GM: “Compatible,” she resumes, “wi…”

Jeff hugs her. She cries into his shirt.

“What if they can be?” he says.

“Anna. I felt like… like a knife was twisting up my insides, thinking of life without you.”

“It was a physical pain.”

Victoria: Her hand touches the door.

“Imagine what she felt like when she called me crying.”

GM: Jeff frowns at her slow exit.

“Like complete shit, I’m sure. Anna… you don’t have to feel this way. We don’t have to break things off.”

She stares up at him.

He rests his hands on her shoulders.

“Come with me. To Philly.”

“We’ll find you a great job.”

“You can fly back to visit your parents.”

Victoria: She leans on the door, her head against the cool of the glass.

Come on, Anna.

GM: Anna looks ready to cry again. She starts shaking her head.

“I can… I can’t, I have a life here…”

“So do I,” says Jeff. “But you know how much this job means. For both of us. We’ll find you a job at your dream school. You can fly down every weekend to visit your parents, if you want.”

“We can come down for vacations.”

“We can get married. We can have it all!”

Victoria: She smacks the door, her rage boiling over.


“You selfish pig! If you loved her, this wouldn’t be a sales pitch! You don’t want to marry her. You want your cake in Philly, and to drag her along no matter how she feels!”

“You don’t want a wife. You don’t want to lose your toy.”

GM: Jeff fairly gapes, his face turning red.

“This is none of your fucking business!”

Victoria: The heat rolling off her pales anything New Orleans can offer.

“Anyone who wounds my friends—who breaks off their marriage in some alpha-male knee-jerk reaction to being told no—makes it my business.”

The hate in her eyes makes the thought of murder seem on par with asking for dessert.

‘Maybe? I’m kinda full.’

Sylvia is eternally hungry. Insatiable. She’s confided in Anna on one of her cravings, but not the other.

GM: “I didn’t… I didn’t break off the marriage!” Jeff yells. I HAVE to take this job! What would you know about having a career, when you’re fucking guys for a l-"

“Don’t say that!” Anna yells, voice still raw from crying. “That’s not what she does!”

“Yes, it is! She-”

“No, it’s not! That’s awful, take it back!”

“All right, fine, it’s not! I don’t judge either way! She can make a living however she makes a living, but that’s TOTAL bull that I’m ending our marriage because I got a once-in-my-life job offer, which, yes, she wouldn’t know about!”

Victoria: The accusations wash over her like a stream over smooth stones. It wasn’t a week into her internship when she was first accused of being a whore, just for where she worked.

That bothered her.

This doesn’t.

Sylvia changed. Sylvia hardened.

“But you are, Jeffrey,” she says icily. She sees an out—a way to win over him, and it freezes her anger.

“Because if you cared whether she’d be happy or not with the move, you’d have brought it up after your interview. Don’t bullshit us that it was an afterthought in the acceptance letter.”

GM: “What the fuck is that supposed to mean?! I got the job, it’s across the country, that’s how it is! Anna can stay, Anna can come, but I’m never getting another offer like this one! It’ll make my career!”

Victoria: She looks to Anna.

“There you go, Anna. You heard the same words I did.”

Anna can stay. Anna can go.

Anna isn’t a consideration. Anna’s an afterthought; a bonus.

GM: The heat seems to drain from Jeff’s face as he realizes what he said.

“Anna. I… I didn’t mean it like that!” he exclaims, backpedaling. “I just meant that it’s up to you, you decide, it’s your ch-”

“Go away!” Anna sobs.


“I heard you, Jeff! Go away!”

She turns around and buries her face against a couch cushion.

Victoria: Sylvia doesn’t smile. She wants to. It felt good, sinking her jaws into that weakness, and ripping out the sweet marrow.

She can’t sit beside Anna as she is, but she crouches there, resting a hand on her hair.

GM: Jeff looks between them, casts Victoria a dark look, and stalks away.

The door doesn’t slam, but it closes with more force than is perhaps strictly necessary.

Anna cries into the couch pillow.

Victoria: Finally, she sits beside her.

“I’m so, so sorry, Anna…” she comforts, rubbing her back. “Come here.”

GM: Anna turns around and sinks into her arms, laying her head against Sylvia’s chest.

“Why’d he have to come back…!”

“I f… feel, ten times worse…”

Victoria: She wraps her arms around the woman’s back, pulling her atop her as she lays back.

“I know, I know.”

She heaves a sigh.

“Get your things. Pack a bag. Let’s go to my place.”

GM: “Honestly, Sylvie, I just… wanna go to bed, right now.”

Anna pulls away and looks up at her.

“Can you stay?”

Victoria: “Forever,” she answers, holding her as tightly as a mother to her child.

Thursday night, 27 August 2015, PM

GM: Anna goes off to bed early. She’s tired. She has work in the morning. She’ll feel better in the morning.

Sylvia, at least, sets her own hours.

She’s working on her laptop when she hears the faint wisp of paper sliding through door.

Victoria: Sylvia is a good girl. It’s illegal to open someone else’s mail.

It’s not illegal to retrieve it. Who’s it to?

GM: It’s to Anna. It’s also not in an envelope. It’s from Jeff, and the first sentence starts by saying how sorry he is.

The full thing is two pages.

Victoria: She drops the letter and opens the door.

GM: She sees Jeff making his way down the hall.

Presumably, he’s not planning on staying the night.

Victoria: She watches him leave. She could stop him, and talk to him, and console him, but she doesn’t want that. No, she wants him gone.

He’s bad for Anna.

She closes the door, locks it, and settles down to read the letter.

GM: He apologizes. He says he realizes how harmful his words were. How they made it sound like Anna was an afterthought to him. He says she isn’t an afterthought to him. He says he never stops thinking about her. He’d meant to say whether she stays or moves is up to her, that she decides what she does with her life. He doesn’t want to issue ultimatums, or to try to sweet-talk her or wheedle her into something. He admits he did that. He’s sorry. He says her feelings are valid and that he hurt her through his words, whatever his intentions were. He made her feel like he didn’t value her. He repeats how that’s not the case. He says how much he loves her and cares about her.

He says that she knows how he feels about the move. He doesn’t try to make any further sales pitches, or bring up old scores (like, Sylvia knows, how he moved once for her). He says he wishes things didn’t have to be this way, but this is how they are. It’s up to her what she wants to do. He says she should listen to her heart and make whatever decision she thinks will bring her the greatest happiness and fulfillment.

He says that he’ll love her and treasure their time together, whatever she decides. She will always be a part of him.

He says she has his number if she wants to talk.

He says he’ll come back for his things while she’s at work, if he doesn’t hear from her. He says a clean break is best if they want to call things off. Maybe later they can reconnect, but he thinks a clean break will help them to heal faster, which is what he wants for her. Her wants her to be happy and to thrive and succeed. Wherever she lives and whoever she marries.

He signs the letter with,

All my love,

Victoria: Victoria takes the letter, reading it on the sofa.

Then she reads it again. And again. And again.

The letter she reads conveys all the man’s love, and all of his manipulation.

She folds it neatly, setting it on the table.

If she gives this letter to Anna, it’ll mean a chance for Jeff to earn her good graces once more. She doesn’t want that. She doesn’t like Jeff. She admires the good heart he has in him—when he wants to—but this isn’t the first completely selfish act he’s committed. When Anna first moved with him to New Orleans, it was with hemming and hawing as far late as Thanksgiving.

If she doesn’t give her this letter, it’s admitting that she doesn’t trust her to make the right decision for herself; that Anna will be at risk without her protection; that Anna won’t learn from her lessons.

That she’ll lose Anna to a future that excludes her. Her business, and her life, and Marcus are all in New Orleans.

She sets her jaw and pinches the bridge of her nose, beyond fatigued past where she’s content to be given this decision.

In the end, she closes her laptop, tucks the letter under her pillow, and goes to sleep.

Tomorrow, she’ll give Anna the letter—and give her a choice: Open it, and open the wounds wider. Feel that pain again. Or don’t, and let the healing continue.

Friday morning, 28 August 2015

GM: Tomorrow comes, as it always does, though earlier than expected. Sylvia would say she only got up this early in high school, but she didn’t get up this early in high school—she got up later. Teachers have to get ready earlier.

Anna showers and steps out out of the bathroom wrapped in a towel.

“Morning,” she smiles. “Shower’s yours if you want it.”

Victoria: She offers her a tired smile. Sylvia St. George isn’t up this early. She’s a creature of the night.

“Anna… would you sit down for a second?”

“…you can put on pants first, if you want.”

GM: Anna laughs. “Always wise.”

She’s soon back and changed into work attire. Nice, non-jean pants and blouse.

Victoria: She pats the sofa, and pulls out the letter.

“He came back while you were sleeping, and put this in the mail slot. I… thought about whether to wake you, or to burn it, or to leave it where it is.”

She sighs, appraising.

“I don’t want you to read it. It’ll bring you more pain. It’ll hurt, just like when he came back last night, and you’ll be just as hurt as you were—this time going into work.”

A pause.

“I love you. You’re my best friend. If you want to read it, it’s yours, but I don’t think you should.”

GM: Anna takes that in slowly. She looks at the letter.

“What’s… what’s in it…?”

Victoria: “Exactly what you think it is. More of the same. A rewind to the same as what happened, twice.”

GM: Anna closes her eyes, then stands up.

“Get rid of it. Just get rid of it. I’m going in to work, I don’t want to deal with this.”

Victoria: She gives Anna an understanding expression.

“Have a good day at work.”

GM: “I’ll try,” she sighs. “After breakfast.”

She heads off to the kitchen.

Victoria: “After breakfast.”

Which, if Sylvia were remotely a morning person, she’d have already made.

She looks to the note, reassured that she’s made the right decision. Anna will hurt, but she will be better in the longer scale. She will find someone new to love, though it’s better if she takes her time. Anna’s personality is addictive, and diving too quickly into the romance pool would only see her hurt again. Or used.

Sylvia won’t let her be used.

When she leaves for lunch, she walks through the alley behind Anna’s apartment building. She pauses behind the dumpster, pulling out the letter.

All my love

She burns it and crushes it under heel.

None of his love. Their relationship dies.

She considers for a moment how much power she held over the pair of them, though it doesn’t bring the usual inner smile it normally does. No part of her position in deciding the fate of their relationship felt good. No part of it brings her joy. She doesn’t like hurting Jeff, because hurting Jeff hurts Anna.

She kicks the dumpster.

He won’t hurt her anymore. Not now. Not unless he comes back.

Previous, by Narrative: Story Two, George V
Next, by Narrative: Story Two, Julien IV

Previous, by Character: Story One, Victoria II
Next, by Character: Story Two, Victoria II

Story Two, Emil II

“Not all medicines get to taste sweet.”
Jared Brown

Day ? Month ? Year ?

GM: “…hello there, Emil.”

Pain in his head.

“Can you hear what I’m saying?”

Pain in his belly.

Pain in his everywhere.

Emil: Emil grunts and opens his eyes. He tries to blink the pain away.


His voice is torn in shreds from the sheer desert-dryness of his throat.

“What… happened to the girl?” he croaks.

GM: Darkness grates at his vision like sand from that same desert. Talking hurts. His throat wants water. His surroundings have a sterile, hand sanitizer-like smell.

He blinks a few more times. The outline of a dark-haired man wearing a physician’s white coat and stethoscope looks down at him. The man looks relatively young for his presumed profession, maybe in his 30s. His hair is shaved to a near buzzcut, and his facial stubble is maybe an hour short of five o’ clock. Emil 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 lawman.

Resident_Rapist1.jpg “You take it easy there, Emil. You’ve been through a pretty rough spot.”

Emil: Emil stretches his neck to examine the damage to his body.

He’s unsure why he checks his legs first. Maybe he watches too many Vietnam War movies. Maybe something else.

GM: Emil’s body aches as he tries to make himself sit upright. His arm is hooked up to an IV drip. He does not see his legs.

Emil: He freezes in mid-breath.

GM: There’s a blanket covering them.

Emil: Emil lets out a too-deep sigh once he notices they’re still attached. He gingerly reaches over his stomach, hesitant to touch it for fear of spilling out its contents again.

“Doc, what happened to me. Where is the girl?” he asks, keeping his tone level despite the pain.

Where is that even from? he thinks, trying to pinpoint its origin.

GM: Emil can feel bandages against his head.

“Easy there, Emil,” the doctor repeats. He leans closer and touches the side of the injured man’s bed in seeming substitute for touching his body directly. “You had a stroke and subdural hematoma. You also banged your head pretty bad.”

The doctor smiles widely. “You’re lucky to be alive. Lucky to be able to see and talk to me. But don’t strain yourself. Nearly a quarter of all strokes in the U.S. are recurrent, you know!”

Emil: Emil’s mind races. How could he have a stroke?! That’s fucking insane! He’s only twenty-nine, for God’s sake. His grandma got a stroke before she died, but her medical history was longer than a goddamn novel! And a hematoma on top of that… what about his job? His family? He has a family to take care of.

He recognizes the risk in getting so stressed, though, and breathes deeply to let out his anger with each exhalation. Once he’s calm enough to speak plainly, he asks, “What about my intestines, are they in good shape? Tell me what happened, Doctor.”

GM: The doctor raises his eyebrows and gives a simultaneously humoring smile. “There’s nothing wrong with your intestines, Emil. They’re doing just fine.”

Emil: Emil definitely felt his guts falling out of him. He saw them, for chrissake. But he doesn’t want to look crazy, so he laughs to hide his concern. “I had some real bad coffee yesterday, doc; glad to see it didn’t mess me up too bad.”

GM: “You had a real bad fall yesterday, Emil. Glad to see that didn’t mess you up too bad either,” the doctor chuckles back.

Emil: Emil never fell. This man is hiding things from him. Or maybe someone is lying to everyone about last night’s events. And his innards definitely fell out of his stomach last night. Emil lifts the blanket, trying to check his stomach for any scars or stitches. They have to be there.

GM: Emil’s bare stomach lacks any bandages, stitches, or other signs of injury.

The doctor makes a ‘hmm’ sound. “I’m going to administer a sedative to help you relax. Coming out of a stroke this soon, you want to be taking things easy.”

Emil: “Don’t,” Emil says as he rests his head back and smooths out his blanket. “I’m fine. What happened to that girl. Is she all right?”

GM: “That’s what I’m here to judge,” the doctor smiles reassuringly. He holds up a hypodermic needle, squirts it into the air, and pulls back the fold of Emil’s hospital gown.

“You’re in good hands…”

Emil: Emil pulls away from the needle and responds with the harsh tone one might use with a misbehaving dog. “You should get that needle away from me if you want to keep your residency, Doctor. Because at some point I’m gonna wake up and I’m sure your employers won’t have much use for you behind bars.”

GM: The doctor smiles down at the bedridden lawman. “I’m always happy to do things another way, Emil, if you don’t want to give me your consent. But I’m afraid that kind of verbal abuse isn’t acceptable in our hospital. There’ll be a form for you to sign that releases staff from responsibility to treat you if that keeps up.”

Emil: “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t intend to hurt your feelings, Doctor. Say, maybe we could speak more cordially if I knew your name. Hm?” He speaks neutrally, making it hard to tell his level of sincerity.

GM: “Verbal abuse includes sarcasm, Emil,” the doctor smiles as he wags a finger. “But I don’t want to risk agitating you any further in your condition. We’ll have a nurse come by later to make sure you’ve calmed down. Take it easy.” He cheerfully pats the side of Emil’s bed and turns to leave.

Emil: “No sarcasm intended,” Emil says honestly. “I just want to know who is treating me is all.” He thinks for a moment before adding, “And can I use a phone? I need to tell my family I’m all right.”

GM: Emil’s only reply is the sound of a closing door. His last sight is of the doctor’s smiling face.

Emil: Emil is not smiling as he leans across his bed and looks as its foot for his medical notes.

GM: Emil finds no such notes. He remembers how nurses would hang clipboards at the foot of a patient’s bed in the old days (which his father spent his share of at the hospital). The notes would list vital signs, IV medications, intake and output measure, and so on. The rest of the chart was kept at the nurses’ station.

These days, as his bed’s empty foot makes apparent, everything is digital and kept in electronic medical records systems. He suspects a bed-hanging chart would also violate HIPAA.

Emil: He sighs and resigns himself to lying down, making himself comfortable, and searching for a nurse call button.

GM: The ‘button’ looks more like a speaker phone than a button, but one is present and within reach of his bed.

Nurse_Call_Button.jpg Emil: He pushes it to call a nurse.

GM: A tired-sounding woman’s voice crackles to a terse semblance of life over the speaker.

“What is it?”

Emil: “Hi, sorry for the trouble,” he says, trying to sound more weak and pitiable than he has any right to be. “I just want to access my medical records and give my daughter a call. Can you help me? Please?”

GM: “Are you in pain and or need of medical treatment,” inquires the monotone-sounding voice. Emil can’t hear a question mark.

Emil: “I just want to talk to my daughter. If you were in my position you’d want your kids to know they’re safe too, wouldn’t you?” He waits, expecting the woman to ask him again, but hoping she listens.

GM: “Your family’s been told you’re here,” the monotone voice continues with a sigh. “You’ll be allowed visitors with the attending physician’s approval.”

Emil: “What is my attending physician’s name then? He wouldn’t tell me, ma’am.”

GM: “Are you in pain and or need of medical treatment,” the monotone voice repeats.

Emil: “No.”

GM: There’s a click from the intercom.

Emil: So much for Southern hospitality.

Emil rests in his bed, apparently stuck resting until someone comes to visit.

GM: Emil observes a television in the corner of his room. The stroke-afflicted lawman can flick on the remote to watch non-cable game shows.

GM: “For years, Gomek the giant crocodile was the big attraction at this oldest Florida city’s alligator farm.”

“What is… St. Augustine!”

Applause sounds from the televised audience.

Emil: The droning Jeopardy tune loops over and over in Emil’s ear, mocking his inability to find an answer to his troubles.

Impotent to do anything—at least for now—he settles in to his personalized slice of hell.

Saturday afternoon, 29 August 2015

GM: Hell comes to visit Emil on a plate.

The injured lawman has no idea what it is. It’s all mushed browns, pale yellows, and sickly greens congealing in a runny, vomit-like morass over the center of his plate. A Hispanic woman sets it down on his tray along with a spork, napkin, and glass of water without a word.

Emil: Emil looks down at the ‘food’ he’s just been served and considers what in God’s name to do with it. He concocts some half-baked theories but ultimately can’t avoid the understanding that he is meant to eat it. Murderous good-for-nothings on death row get fancy chocolate crepes topped with powdered sugar and he gets… he’s not exactly sure what this is, but it ain’t a crepe, that’s for sure. It looks more like crap.

Nevertheless, he needs to eat if he’s going to get out of this hellhole any time soon. He pinches his nostrils shut in an attempt to block as many senses as possible while using his spork to shove the sludge-like ‘food’ past his tongue and straight down his throat.

GM: Emil smells the ‘food’ through his nasal passage. It’s somewhere between ‘fermented cabbage leaves’ and ‘grime scraped out from the rim of a public bathroom sink.’ The peculiarly stringy texture belies its sludge-like appearance. Dozens of ‘ends’ tickle Emil’s throat on the way down. It’s like swallowing a clump of hair that’s congealed in semi-solid grease.

The woman wordlessly stares at him as he takes his first bite.

Emil: Emil pauses for a moment to let the gunk slide down his throat. He looks at the woman and smiles. “Thanks for the food, ma’am, but do you think I could have access to a phone? I need to call my daughter. I promise it won’t take long and I’d really appreciate you doing that for me.”

GM: The woman walks out of his room without a word.

Emil: Emil curses under his breath and returns to dealing with the situation on the plate in front of him.

GM: Emil ‘deals’ with the situation. The last un-chewed bites taste even worse than the initial ones. Finishing his meal feels like it takes a thousand years until the woman returns to collects tray and eating utensils, then leaves.

Eventually, his doctor comes by again and smiles down at him.

“Good evening, Emil. We feeling calmer now?”

Emil: Emil is in the lion’s den. He can’t afford to be anything but calm.

“Yes. Much calmer,” he responds. “Look. I’m sorry I acted so rudely to you when I woke up. I just came out of a very stressful situation… someone hitting me on the head… and with the stroke… suffice it to say my brain was a bit confused. Anyway, I was hoping we could start over.” He reaches his hand out towards the doctor and places his hand over his chest. “My name’s Emil, what’s yours, Doctor?”

GM: “You don’t say,” the doctor smiles as Emil gives the name he’s used at least several times. “But plenty of my patients are confused and upset, Emil. I don’t take anything they have to say too seriously.”

The doctor’s smile grows just a bit as he sits down. “You can call me Dr. Brown.”

Emil: “All right. Dr. Brown.” He nods for a moment, digesting the situation. “Well, Dr. Brown. Do you have any questions for me? Because I have a lot of questions for you,” Emil laughs casually.

GM: “I make sure to know everything I need about my patients, Emil,” Dr. Brown smiles. “But all right, since you’re feeling better. What can I clear up for you?”

Emil: “Well first of all, how long have I been out?”

GM: “Not too long, actually. Last night and this morning.”

Emil: “Oh, good.” Emil relaxes a bit against his pillow. “So were you briefed on what happened last night then? Can you tell me about it?”

GM: “You had a stroke last night, probably brought on by occupational stress. You sustained further injuries when you fell and hit your head. That’s about all that concerns me,” the doctor smiles.

Emil: “Oh, Doctor, there must be some confusion because I didn’t fall. Something hit me on the head, but it wasn’t the floor.”

GM: “Yes, Emil, you are starting to sound confused again,” Dr. Brown replies, though his smile doesn’t dip. “Now what do you believe hit you on your head, mmm?” he asks in a humoring tone.

Emil: “I’m not completely sure. I was trying to stabilize an injured girl, and I think something hit me from behind which triggered the stroke. Does the injury look more like a fall than a hit? Is that it?”

GM: “Your injury was sustained by a fall,” Dr. Brown explains patiently. “The girls and EMTs on the scene found you lying passed-out on the sidewalk. You had your stroke while administering first aid, which was probably what caused you to run out from the house. When you passed out, your head got a solid bonk against the sidewalk. Make sense?”

Emil: “I suppose that sounds self-consistent, but I remember resting against a wall before I passed out. Anyways, all that matters now is that the wound is healing. How long do you think it will take to heal?”

GM: “That wouldn’t surprise me if you’d wanted to stop and catch your breath, Emil. It was a very hard and confusing night, so let’s take things one at a time,” he says reassuringly. “That’s not the last thing you remember, hitting your head, or passing out as you fell?”

Emil: “Well, I tried to call my daughter, but the call didn’t go through. Then I rested against a wall and passed out. Speaking of which, has my family called or visited yet?”

GM: “Oh no, you haven’t been approved for visitors,” Dr. Brown replies. “I don’t make it my business to know about patient calls, but I’m sure they’ve been thinking of you.”

Emil: “I sure hope so.” Emil’s eyes flash with doubt, but he swallows it down like that gunk the hospital passes as food.

“Well, now that I’m awake, how soon do you think it will be until I am approved for visitors?”

GM: “Oh, once you’re up for it. You’re in a very fragile state after that stroke, Emil. We haven’t had to operate, and it would be much better if no one needs to put you under, now wouldn’t it?”

Emil: “I think having my family beside me would help with the stress. Do you have family? What do you use to calm yourself, Dr. Brown?”

GM: “I’m afraid that I don’t share your thought there, Emil,” Dr. Brown smiles. “Your care is my highest concern. I’m sure you miss your family, but not all medicines get to taste sweet. Choke down this one and you’ll be out of here in no time.”

Emil: “All right. If you think that is best then I trust you.”

GM: The doctor’s smile widens. “Good. Trust between patients and their caregivers is so important. I’ll be back tomorrow morning to check on you again. Let me know if you hear any fun questions over Jeopardy, hear?”

Emil: “Well, I’ll be here waiting. But one more thing, Doctor. Is that girl I tried to save gonna be all right?”

GM: “She’s in good hands, don’t you worry,” the doctor smiles as he withdraws.

Emil: Somehow Emil doesn’t feel completely reassured.

Sunday morning, 30 August 2015

GM: Emil spends a restless and uncomfortable night in his hospital bed. His dreams are strange, dark, and exhilarating, leaving his heart pumping and his gown soaked through with sweat. Recollections slide away like the raindrops pattering against his window as he awakens to the sight of the same woman entering the room with breakfast.

Emil: It’s a relief and exactly the opposite at the same time. Emil pinches his nose again to blunt his sense of taste and mechanically begins to swallow lumpy morsels of the mush, again pinching his nose to blunt his sense of taste. He pauses to let the ‘food’ sink into his poor stomach as he asks the woman, “Is the doctor coming in soon?”

GM: The woman stares at Emil as he takes the first several ‘bites’ of his food, then walks out the door.

Emil: Emil sighs and continues clearing his plate. He fantasizes about eating something, literally anything besides what’s on his lap.

GM: Emil’s not sure if he feels sicker or better by the time he’s done. The woman returns later to gather up his tray. Another woman in nurse’s scrubs stops by later, too, to check his IV drip. She doesn’t once speak to him.

Then Dr. Brown comes by again. He smiles down at Emil.

“It’s a brand new day, isn’t it, Emil? How are we feeling?” he asks over the outside rain’s faint pitter-patter.

Emil: “Oh I feel just grand, Doctor,” Emil responds with a toothy smile.

GM: “Very good!” Dr. Brown exclaims. He spends the next few minutes asking Emil questions and discussing the state of his health and current medications before continuing, “You have some visitors today. You feeling up for having anyone in here?”

Emil: Finally! He was worried it might take a week before he could convince Dr. Brown he’s well enough to get a visitor. He’s still surprised, but can’t help but chuckle away his worries. “Yeah, I believe so, Doctor. Who’s visiting?”

GM: “A few police friends of yours,” the doctor chuckles back. “They’ve been very insistent.”

Emil: “Oh.” This is what he wanted, someone to bring him up to date on everything he’s missed. But he still can’t push the sad fact of his daughter’s absence out of his mind.

“Well that’s just great!” he exclaims. “Send them up.”

GM: Dr. Brown pats the foot of Emil’s bed with another smile. “You’re in your family’s thoughts too, Emil, I’m sure.”

Emil: He nods weakly in response. A silence fills the room and doubt pours from the jagged edges of his smile. “Do you have kids, Dr. Brown?”

GM: “Let’s welcome in your visitors,” the doctor replies with his ever-present smile as he rises from his seat, then disappears through the door.

Emil: “Right.”

Emil is alone with his thoughts once again. He stares into the curved metal of a beeping machine and finds his distorted reflection. Cold eyes stare back, judging him. The color of his face is washed out, replaced by a silvery pallor. He sits up to prepare for his visiting co-workers, attempting to appear stronger than he is.

GM: His visitors, as it turns out, are superiors.

The first man looks like a fifty-something, over the hill blump with a receding hairline and a large belly. His vaguely beanpole-shaped head seems like it could have been thin once, but it’s since filled out with several chins that spread when he smiles. He’s dressed in the standard NOPD summer uniform: short-sleeved light blue shirt, dark tie and pants. His arm bears a commander’s single gold star.

The second man is dressed the same, but has a lieutenant’s single gold bar instead. He’s also got a large belly and looks maybe half a decade younger, with a bald head, dark skin, prominent jowls, and an even more prominent squatch-shaped nose that’s nearly as wide as his mouth. Emil recognizes him as Captain John Baron, who’s in charge of the Homicide unit he was so recently hired to work for.

John_Baron.jpg “Hell of a way to start your time here, Emil,” Capt. Baron says with a knowing smile as he takes a seat by the detective’s bed.

“This is Delron,” he says, indicating the other cop. “Commander of the Eighth.”

Delron extends a hand for Emil to shake. “I knew your old man. You’ll hear that a lot around here.”

Emil: Emil shakes the commander’s hand and replies, “Well, he was a good man, Commander, hard to forget.” Once their handshake breaks, he reaches out for the lieutenant’s.

GM: “Normally the superintendent shows up when one of ours is in the hospital. He’s been a little busy lately, so you’ll have to make do with me,” Delron says with a self-depreciating smile as the other two men pump hands.

“How you holding up, Emil?” Baron asks.

Emil: “Oh, I’m doing fine. It’s nothing too bad, just a bit of a bruise… and a stroke,” he mentions offhandedly. “But there’s some fine people here taking good care of me. So I’m all right. I assume everything is going well at the station?”

GM: “Yeah, the docs mentioned that,” Baron says with a frown at Emil’s first statement. “Explains you dropping out, I guess. Couple hotheads thought the girls did something to you.”

Delron gives a not-quite warm smile at the captain.‘s words. "We’re still cleaning that up."

Emil: “Well, the docs here say I got the bruise from falling after the stroke. But I remember pretty clearly getting myself stable before passing out. So I’m not exactly sure where the hit came from.”

GM: “Hitting your head can do funny things to your memory,” Baron shrugs. “You weren’t attacked by anyone, though. We’ve got that figured out.”

“Say, how’s the food been in this place?” Delron asks. His grin looks like he’s already sure of an answer.

Emil: “Well, it certainly motivates you to heal up quick, that’s for sure.” The conversation might be moving on, but Emil can’t help but worry about the fidelity of his memories. Furrows to form in his brow.

GM: “Take your time,” Delron says, hefting up a large O’Tolley’s bag.

O'Tolleys.jpg Emil: “Oh, you are a saint of a commander, sir,” Emil says, his mouth watering at the sight of real food. He normally detests fast food, but this looks like mana from the heavens compared to the hospital’s slop.

GM: Baron reaches into the bag and tosses Emil a red box with a golden ‘O’ and picture of a burger printed on it. Delron sets a milkshake and carton of fries on his bedside table. Both cops dig into their own burgers.

“I’m more of a Du Monde man, most days,” Delron remarks between a thick- and greasy-sounding bite. “But there’s nothing like a good burger, sometimes.”

“They’ve got an O’Tolley’s right here downstairs,” Baron says between a thick munch of his own. “Don’t eat that slop they bring you again. And that’s an order, detective.”

Emil: “Oh, I wish I could, sir. I don’t think they will let me get out of bed, let alone order a burger.”

GM: Both older cops make guffawing noises past their food.

“When was it your mama took you away, Emil?” Baron asks, wiping his mouth. “From the city, that is.”

Emil: “Oh, that’s ancient history, sir. 22 years. 23 in a couple months.”

GM: “22. And you look… what, 30 now?” Baron takes an audible ‘glug’ from his milkshake. “So pretty young. And your mama lived with you in LA, right?”

“We do things different than California hippies here,” Delron grins. “If Earl’s boy wants Big O’s in his hospital bed, he gets Big O’s in his hospital bed.”

Emil: Emil savors the burger and lets the greasy flavors get to know each other in his mouth. He answers Baron once he finishes his swallow.

“29, actually. Well, y’all sure know how to make a man feel at home. Thank you for that.”

GM: “We take care of our own,” Baron states emphatically.

Delron snarfs down a few french fries. Flakes stick to his chin as he yells, “NURSE!”

“There’s a button you can push for that, sir,” Baron says.

“I could use the exercise. NURSE!!!” Delron bellows in a roaring voice that sounds like it could be quite audible over police sirens.

The nurse who silently attended to Emil walks in. Her blank expression changes as she looks over the cops.

“Emil here’s been pretty hungry the last few days,” remarks Delron.

“Does he need something?” the nurse asks uncertainly, looking between them.

“We should hire you as a detective with a brain like that,” says Baron. He takes a long pull of his milkshake. “Yes, he does. Some real food.”

“He’s eating,” says the woman, looking between Emil and the uniformed cops again.

“Well bless the brains on this one. Full merit pay for her,” remarks Delron. “Emil, what do you want for dinner?”

Emil: “Whatever you suggest, Commander. Add a fresh apple to that and I’m happy.”

GM: Delron waves a hand. “No, no, it’s your dinner, Emil. Besides, you should have that with your family.”

“You want a menu maybe, to help make up your mind?” asks Baron. “Fresh apple, though, that sounds like a healthy side.”

Emil: “Actually. You know, I think I’ll have some red beans and rice.”

It was Emil’s favorite meal as a child. His memories of that time have always been foggy, but he clearly remembers eating warm beans spoonful by spoonful. Each bite was cooked with love. His mother stopped making it after they left and he hasn’t had it since.

GM: “Beans and rice. You can take the boy outta the city, but you can’t take the city outta the man,” Delron says approvingly.

“Okay, I’m sure you’ve got patients to see to, Nurse…?” Baron asks.

“Green,” the woman replies.

“Nurse Green. Okay,” says Baron. “Since you’re smart enough to notice how Emil’s eating, I guess we don’t need to tell you he doesn’t need his dinner right now. Or that once it’s dinnertime, or whenever he’s feeling hungry, Emil’s getting red beans and rice. With an apple. That right?”

“All right,” says the nurse.

Emil: “I’d really appreciate it, ma’am,” Emil adds.

GM: “What about dessert?” asks Delron.

Emil: “A chocolate crepe with powdered sugar, if you wouldn’t mind, Nurse Green.”

GM: The nurse looks at the other two cops, who nod approvingly.

“Emil, when you’re out of here, I want you to stop by Du Monde for lunch with me. And then the Crepe Cart for dessert,” says Delron. “Man could kill for the crepes there.”

“That’s an order too,” smiles Baron.

Emil: “Now that’s an order I can follow,” Emil chuckles softly.

GM: “That’ll be all, Nurse Green. Unless you want a beer or something to drink too?” Delron asks Emil.

Emil: “No thank you, I’m all right.” He might have asked for a coffee, but that last cup of Folger’s left a bad taste in his mouth and he doubts the hospital can make anything better.

GM: “Just water to drink. That’ll be all, Nurse Green,” says Baron.

Nurse Green looks between the three cops, then leaves without a word.

“We do things different in New Orleans,” Baron declares, snarfing down another bite of Big O as he turns back to Emil.

“People respect cops here,” agrees Delron. He fishes out a box of Chicken O’Nuggets from the bag and chows down several. “Almost forgot, one for you too,” he says, plopping another box on Emil’s bedside table.

“Things are different here,” Baron repeats. “Like up north, I hear they call O’Nuggets O’Dribbles.”

“Do they? That’s funny,” says Delron.

“Yeah, and they’re Patty Kings instead of Big O’s.”

Delron takes another long slurp of milkshake and smacks his lips. “Why do they call ‘em O’Dribbles? Makes me want to lose my lunch.”

Baron shrugs. “Guess they do things weird up there.”

Delron grunts.

Emil: Emil eats a few nuggets as his superiors talk, then asks, “So, I was wondering if y’all knew what happened with that girl who took a fall? Is she all right?”

GM: “Ah yes, the girls from that night,” Delron nods. He slurps his milkshake again. “Did you have any idea who they were, Emil? The one you gave first aid, and the ones who called you?”

Emil: “No. They were just friends of my daughter. She was the one who called me in the first place.”

GM: “And your daughter goes to school at McGehee? Your wife must make all right money,” Baron says.

Emil: “Well, we never actually married, but she does live comfortably, yes.”

GM: “Did you figure that about the girls?” asks Delron.

Emil: “That they come from wealthy families? In the back of my mind, yes, but I was more focused on saving the girl than getting to know them.”

GM: “Thinking on the spot is what a detective does, Emil,” Baron says, tapping his head in emphasis. “Detectives are people we pay to think.”

“Now, as it happens,” Delron smiles amiably, “there’s been no harm done—this time. But when you had those girls write down statements, our boys figured you figured they were up to no good.”

Emil: “There was more blood on the floor than in that poor girl’s body. I did what I had to to keep those other girls busy. If they kept looking at the scene they might have been traumatized for good.”

GM: Delron simply goes on, “Our boys also figured they were up to no good, on account of you lying passed-out on your ass in the rain. The ambulance crew, who ID’d you as one of ours, didn’t make them feel any better. So they got a little… hotheaded, and arrested all the girls. Made ’em strip and spend a few hours in cells.”

Emil: “Oh God. What were the charges? Did they think those children knocked me out?” Emil asks, surprised. “Whose idea was it to arrest them?”

GM: Delron smiles again. “None of that was your fault. But the girls—and their families—were, for a few hours, up in arms over those arrests and written statements. They were scared out of their minds, like you said. Wrote down a jumble of ‘confessions’ they thought they’d get charged for.”

“Or not get charged for,” says Baron. “Lot of details between their stories that didn’t add up. Lot we coulda gone after them for.”

Emil: “Well, the statements were thrown out, right? Who was escalating the issue?”

GM: Both of the older cops look at one another. They’ve stopped eating.

“Who do you think, Emil?” Baron asks.

Emil: “Well I’d expect my fellow officers to be generally up in arms about one of their men getting hurt, so I guess a zealous officer looking to, quote on quote, punch up was likely leading the charge.”

GM: “No. Their families were escalating the issue,” says Baron.

“Rich families, with lawyers, who send their daughters to a place like McGehee,” Delron goes on.

Emil: “I meant escalating as in making it worse, not trying to diffuse it, but I understand.”

GM: “That does make it even worse,” says Baron, his eyes suddenly cool.

“They’re not sparing another thought for those statements now, of course,” Delron adds.

“But we are,” says Baron, tapping his head. “We’re the ones who get paid to think.”

Emil: “You’re right. I’m sorry I slept through most of this mess. I screwed up with the notepads. I apologize. Though if you tell me what is the current hurdle we have to face I’ll put my best efforts into finding a solution, I promise you.”

Emil keeps his voice level and his tone caring yet professional. He needs allies and can’t afford to lose the respect of his superiors. They need to trust him.

GM: “The hurdle is you, Emil,” Delron answers without blinking. “Not thinking. And not listening.”

“I think it’s better if you spend some time walking a beat after you’re discharged,” says Baron. “I’ll keep a spot saved for you on Homicide. We remember who your old man was.”

“But you need to learn the way things work, first,” says Delron. “How to walk before you run. How to walk a beat, like we both did.”

Emil: “I see…”

So he was the linchpin? The statements he made those girls write incriminated them. The other officers saw one of their own get hurt and rashly decided to blame the girls. All in all, it’s a relatively merciful punishment for the problems his actions caused. At the same time, he needs to stem the bleeding before this becomes permanent or damaging to his reputation.

“The chaos caused was my fault and understandably a predicament of this magnitude before I’d even started work would indicate that I’m a major risk factor,” Emil continues. “And so, you want me to learn the work culture before I make another egregious error in judgment. In most cases that would be an understandable decision.”

“However, I would first consider the reactions of my fellow officers. If they were so up in arms at me getting injured that they were willing to fight the most powerful people in this city, they might react even worse finding that once the issue was cleared up, the injured officer, their fellow man, took the fall instead of the powerful targets of their anger. And this time, their anger would likely be directed internally at their superiors. I do not want to cause any further chaos in the station, that would be spitting on my father’s legacy and I don’t think any of us want that.”

“Now, with that said, I do think I need to learn how things work around here, but I spent time on a beat in LA, I learned investigative techniques from my father for as far back as I can remember, and I have a college degree. I think if you kept an eye on me, taught me about ‘how things work here,’ my skills could be better put to use. Of course, you know more than I do about the situation and so obviously I will respect your final decision, it is my duty to do so.”

Emil waits patiently for his superiors’ final judgment, struggling to keep his hands from tensing.

GM: Delron’s many-chinned smile, so laid-back and self-content, suddenly has an edge as hard and pitiless as iron.

“Is that what you think of your fellow officers, Emil? Are you sure?”

Emil: “I respect those men and women very highly, I looked up to them as a kid and I have ever since. I don’t think poorly on them for acting on their emotion. We’re all only human. My fellow officers and I do not know the entire story about the situation. We shouldn’t know it, it’s not ours to know. But like you said, when a man sees his brother hurt, you can’t expect him to become anything but furious. With rightfully limited knowledge, it is dangerous to let anger fill in the blanks in their understanding. I am new to this family, and I don’t want to be responsible for tearing it apart. Please, sirs, I want to help our department thrive. Just let me.” Emil looks at the two men earnestly.

GM: The Eighth District commander’s answering words ring out as hard and unerring as a bullet to the brain.

“You walk a beat—or you walk out this hospital a civilian.”

Emil: Smackings of vengeance nibble at Emil’s hot throat, but he swallows them down like the rest of this hospital’s gunk.

“I understand. I’ll walk the beat, Commander. I will do my best to integrate into the system. I intended no offense to you or any of the officers. I hope my work ethic will help you forgive my mistake.”

GM: Delron’s smile is suddenly as warm, soft, and fat as the Chicken O’Nugget he pops into his mouth.

“Integrated. Now that’s a good word for how we like to do things. You ever think of working in the Public Relations Bureau?”

“Not a chance, sir, I’ve got a desk saved for this one!” Baron protests over a french fry-interspersed guffaw.

Emil: Emil resumes popping down O’Nuggets. He chews meticulously, twice every second, as a sort of fast food meditation to calm his nerves.

He notes after swallowing, “You know, I didn’t walk a beat for too long in LA, so I might need someone to show me the ropes so to speak.”

GM: “Your sarge and squadmates will show you how things are done,” says Baron.

“We’ll assign you to my district,” Delron adds over a loud milkshake slurp. “Don’t be fooled by the officer base salary. A reliable cop can make good money in the Eighth.”

Emil: “All right. I will not let you down, sir. Though I’m still wondering, how were my first aid skills? Who was that girl… is she alive?” Emil pops another O’Nugget.

GM: Baron nods over what’s left of his Big O. “She’s alive. You did good.”

“She’s to blame for most of what went down that night,” Delron says over the soft crunch of french fries. “She’s facing a laundry list of charges from vandalism to drug possession.”

“She’s in a coma right now. DA will throw the book at her when she wakes up,” adds Baron. He gives a faint smirk. “Too bad for her she’s ugly as sin. Real bulldyke.”

“Pretty girls can get off lighter,” Delron grins.

Emil: “I see. All of those girls with her were McGehee girls, was she? Is her family also powerful here?”

GM: Delron’s grin doesn’t slip at Emil’s question. “I guess you could say. But not powerful enough.”

Emil: “Clearly,” Emil grins right back at him, though deep down, he’s not so sure he should.

GM: “You’ll want to sign up for the French Quarter Response Force once you get out, by the way,” says Baron. “Pay is great. $50 an hour and restaurant gift cards whenever you arrest someone.”

Emil: “Thanks for the tip, sir,” Emil responds.

GM: “Nolan Moreno’s the man behind it,” Delron elaborates. “You’ll see him at the station pretty often. He’s a friend to NOPD.”

Emil: “Any friend of the department is a friend of mine,” Emil smiles.

GM: “It’s a nice gig,” Baron agrees. “You do it on your off hours. Carry around a phone, and when someone with Moreno’s app calls a cop, you swoop in.”

“Same job for a million times the pay,” Delron says.

“My boys say they do a lot less paperwork, actually,” Baron adds.

“Well wouldn’t you know it, I suppose they must. Bless Mr. Moreno,” Delron smiles.

Emil: “Bless him indeed. He blesses us so it’s only polite to return the favor,” Emil says, before savoring the taste of the last O’Nugget.

GM: There’s still an untouched chocolate milkshake left for Emil, but beyond that, the three cops have made fast work of the O’Tolley’s bag.

“Oh, say,” Delron says, wiping his mouth with a paper napkin, “my boys picked up some LSD on that girl you saved. You think she got the others to try any?”

Emil: “I doubt it, Commander. LSD is generally long-lasting. If they were given some, and none was found on them, then it follows that they must have used it. However, none of the girls, including the injured one, seemed to have their pupils dilated or were acting any more erratically than one might expect of them. Therefore they didn’t have any. Why do you ask, sir?” Emil gauges the man’s reaction as he slurps from his shake.

GM: “So I know which girls to arrest again, of course. It’s your word that’s gonna make all the difference, Emil,” Delron drawls.

He looks at Baron, then both cops guffaw.

“So you think the Savard girl was the only one on acid,” Baron says.

Delron burps into his fist and pats his belly. “That is funny. The other girls gave some crazy accounts I’d normally chalk up to being on acid.”

Emil: “Like what, sir?”

GM: Baron wipes his mouth with a napkin. “People say crazy things when they see someone die. Or almost die, I guess. Girls especially. Stress gets to their heads. Doesn’t it, Emil?” he asks.

Emil: “It does. To be honest, I’ve always been curious about how people think in those states. What does a human think about when their minds are stripped bare, when all that’s left is their instincts? If you don’t mind sharing, I’d like to hear.”

GM: The two cops trade looks with one another.

“I do mind, Emil. And you need to get your head in order,” says Delron, a trace of that earlier iron edging back into his voice.

Emil: Emil nods. “My bad, Commander, you’re right. My head’s still somewhat foggy. I need to rest up.”

GM: “That’s right, you did hit your head,” Baron remarks.

“Yeah, that must be what’s making you say insane things,” Delron smiles. “Same for the girls. Probably just stress. And being teen girls.”

The overweight police commander leans closer.

“But let’s not have any more crazy things getting said around you, Emil. Or by you. Unless the witnesses really are on acid.”

Emil: “Yes, sir.”

Emil can’t say he didn’t expect this from the NOPD, but the image of the honorable New Orleans police officer that his father exemplified appears to have blinded him to the dirt that lay all around him. Nevertheless, he has his orders.

“It’s clear my understanding of these events is pretty fogged over, so I would appreciate an official refresher once I’m discharged.” Emil looks to them, resolute and obedient.

GM: “This’ll all be taken care of once you’re feeling better,” Baron says, casually stuffing away wrappers and empty containers into the O’Tolley’s bag. “Water under the bridge, Emil. Water under the bridge. You’ll have other things to keep your mind busy.”

“My nephew, Ricky, is a plainclothes in the Quarter. He’ll show you how to fit in.” Delron smiles as he stands up. “And I’ll still expect you for that lunch at Du Monde. My treat for Earl’s boy.”

“You want anything else while you’re here?” asks Baron, also rising from his seat. “Phone, better TV, that kinda stuff?”

Delron grins. “Yeah, or visitors. Maybe some company that’s less ugly than us?”

Emil: “Oh don’t be so hard on yourself, Commander, a spot of real food and human interaction does wonders for one’s comfort. I’m not sure if my family called you, but if you can reach them, tell ‘em I miss them and I’d like to see them.” Emil’s smile falters slightly before fixing itself.

GM: “Oh, you haven’t seen them?” asks Baron, almost offended. “Say no more, Emil. They’ll be in soon.”

“Same with that other company,” grins Delron. “We won’t tell your wife. Ex-wife, whatever.”

Emil: Emil grins with him, he has to dive in if he’s gonna succeed in this city. That’s fine, though, he might still be able to get out of this.

“Well hopefully they won’t arrive at the same time,” he laughs.

GM: “A man can dream,” Baron replies with a wide grin of his own.

“But don’t you worry about that, Emil. We know how to sweep stuff like that under the rug too.”

Emil: He doesn’t doubt they do.

Sunday afternoon, 30 August 2015

GM: It’s perhaps telling which visitor NOPD is able to arrange first.

The woman who strides through Emil’s door is tall, lithe, and has a ready smile that invites approach. She has a heavily made-up face, long black hair, and tight clothes that are just proper enough for the hospital setting while teasing viewers over at what lies beneath. Emil can make out tattoos of stars and thorny roses along her arm and neck.

“I heard about the brave cop injured in the line of duty,” she murmurs as she sets down her purse and slides onto Emil’s bed.

“My name’s Chardonnay.”

Emil: “That’s a nice name, Miss. A good chardonnay on a rainy day will cheer up any man,” Emil smiles.

GM: “It’s because I have a taste for the finer things in life,” Chardonnay smiles back, her eyes roaming over Emil’s body… and lingering over one piece of his anatomy in particular.

Emil: “Do you mind chatting for a bit with me? I won’t bite,” Emil responds calmly.

GM: “Not at all… though I can’t promise I won’t,” the woman answers with a wink, lying down on the bed and drawing up close to Emil. She tilts her head and leans it against her closed fist so he can get a full look at her smile.

Emil: “Tell me, Chardonnay, are you an independent contractor? Or is there someone I should call if I’d like to see you again?” Emil stares into the woman’s eyes with false warmth.

GM: Chardonnay laughs and strokes Emil’s arm. “I work for no one but me. That’s called an ‘outlaw.’”

Emil: “That’s nice. An outlaw called Chardonnay coming to visit an injured police officer. Would be the start of a nice story.”

GM: Chardonnay laughs again. “It would be, wouldn’t it? All she needs is a heart of gold, and some tragic figure from his past to have torn out his…”

Emil: “It would. Certainly. An instant classic.”

Emil locks eyes with the woman. He’s reached the line. The edge of the cliff. He looks over the precipice and finds only the unknown. He has no clue whether he’ll be able to climb back up again. All he knows is that he wants to find what lies behind the darkness, below the ocean, in the belly of the beast.

GM: Chardonny doesn’t pull back Emil’s blanket so much as pluck it off. She smiles and licks her lips as her lithe fingers start to tease the injured cop’s hardening manhood.

“Well, I sure do love my classics…”

Previous, by Narrative: Clea II, George II, Julien II
Next, by Narrative: George III

Previous, by Character: Story Two, Emil I
Next, by Character: Story Two, Caroline IV, Emil III

Story Two, Caroline II

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”
Jeremiah 29:11, as quoted by Bernard Drouillard

Saturday night, 29 August 2015, AM

GM: The next few hours are not happy ones for the remaining girls. Sarah’s idea seems to help, a little. The cops strip-search her first when she volunteers, and Yvonne and Rachel seem to take some (small) measure of heart from feeling like they can protect Simmone by volunteering first. But when it’s the ten-year-old’s turn, she still bursts into tears and has to be physically pried from Cécilia as she wails in French for her mother. One of the cops, who clearly doesn’t understand the language, jokes about how she “must have a frog leg stuck in her throat.” Cécilia’s face is pale with fury.

With the booking room finally emptied of arrestees, the cops promptly escort Caroline, Luke, and Cécilia back to the station’s front entrance. The last of the three’s request to be present when her youngest sister gets searched is denied. Her subsequent request to be present “wherever you’re moving her after she’s searched, then,” is also denied. One or two of the cops seem to find it strange when Caroline doesn’t ask to speak with any of her ‘clients’ in the interrogation rooms, but no one presses the matter. Everyone seems to have a lot on their minds.

The law student sits in the front entrance’s moderately comfortable chairs with her brother and his girlfriend. Cécilia tries phoning her mother and their family’s attorney several more times, but eventually stops. More texts and calls aren’t going to speed things along, she admits—and might even slow things down if they read and listen to each one. She says she wishes she could be there for her sisters. Luke holds her hand and says he wishes that too, but he’s glad they could be there earlier. Both of the two are relieved when Caroline tells them how the girls’ written statements can easily be thrown out. Cécilia just hopes her sisters will keep it together. Rain dully pounds and smashes against the station’s windows.

Denise Bowden’s hair is mussed and her cheeks are a bit red when she steps through the door and shakes off her soaked umbrella. She thanks Caroline for “covering for me” and goes in to see the girls. Luke and Cécilia thank her effusively.

In time, other relatives, attorneys, and assorted persons start to arrive. Caroline’s stern-looking Uncle Carson shows up with Delron Mouton, a balding and over the hill blump who’s the district commander of the Eighth. There’s also an ancient-looking old woman with a cane who dryly remarks that some police should start looking into mall security jobs. Lyman Whitney appears too, clutching a pocketwatch he steals occasional glances at. Caroline recalls the old man having a mild and grandfatherly countenance on the occasions they met, but his face is red with anger as his attorney and personal assistant follow him into the station.

Caroline: Caroline doesn’t show relief at the appearance of the assorted powers, but their arrival does simplify matters for her. She bounces around the arriving figures, filling them in on the status of the process as they appear. She tries not to look on too smugly at the police.

GM: Luke frowns at the dark look that Lyman gives Cécilia, but his girlfriend has a hundred other things on her mind and doesn’t seem to care.

Her distraction comes to an end with the last figures who arrive.

The sergeant does a double take and snaps at “Cindy” to go open the doors, but the two are left awkwardly standing in the middle of the room when they’re beaten to the punch. The incoming group of police and lawyers, or at least men who must be lawyers judging by their suits, briefcases, and the looks of restrained smugness Caroline has come to know so well from those associated with the legal profession, are headed by two figures. The one to her left is the man whose portrait she can see behind the sergeant’s desk.

Bernard Drouillard, the superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department, looks more like a politician or religious minister than a police officer. His navy uniform is crisp and meticulously maintained, with not so much as a crease out of place. One can glimpse their reflection from the polish of his fine leather shoes. Drouillard himself is an African-American man in his middle years with a full head of closely-trimmed hair, crinkled eyes, and a seemingly perennial benign smile. Carson once explained the difference between ‘carnivore’ and ‘herbivore’ cops to Caroline, and had even cited Gettis as an example of the former. But the latter, he’d said, are invariably the ones who fill a police department’s higher posts—and especially its politically sensitive ones.

“…no, my dear, I’m simply glad how quickly we were able to resolve all of this,” the smiling man assures the woman on his left in a warm, slightly scratchy baritone that Caroline’s first instinct is to describe as ‘gladhanding’.

Caroline: Caroline is caught crossing the room and close enough to quietly murmur to White, “Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” as the captain’s doom approaches on heeled feet.

GM: The police officer’s nostrils flare at Caroline’s words.

“Let’s not be too hasty, Bernard,” sounds an older woman’s voice. “We still have a few loose ends to tie up.”

“Maman,” Cécilia exclaims in relief as she rises from her seat with Luke.

Caroline: She avoids further gloating, but there is a feeling of savage satisfaction, if not joy. The damage has been done to the girls—at least some damage—despite her best efforts, but there may yet be some justice this night. To say nothing of what the night might mean for herself—and for the family more generally. Opportunities to draw in powerful individuals like this don’t come often, and even if they forget the actions of the Malveaux family this evening, the family won’t forget the muddy details of it as it applies to future heiresses in the city.

GM: If the Devillers sisters look like distorted reflections of one another, their mother Abélia resembles her daughters through a glass darkly. She shares their pale skin, willowy figures, long necks, and delicate, high-cheekboned features. Her eyes are a dark rather pale blue, however, and her hair is deep black rather than light blonde. Her facial features show more age and definition, but she remains a strikingly beautiful woman well into middle age. It’s easy to imagine her as the spitting image of Cécilia some twenty years ago. She wears a close-fitting navy dress so dark as to be almost black and stilettos of the same color.

“Cécilia, my dear,” she smiles as she and her daughter trade kisses on one another’s cheeks. Her gaze then expands to include Luke and Caroline. “They say that slow and steady wins the race… but sometimes being the fastest runner is what does. I’m to understand that we have you to thank, Caroline, for smoothing a number of things over.”

Caroline: Caroline smiles as she approaches the French matriarch. “Que devons-nous faire si nous ne sommes pas solidaires?” she asks rhetorically, the French rolling off her tongue naturally, though not so beautifully as it did from Cécilia earlier with her sister. (“What are we to do if not stand together?”)

“Je me suis retrouvé plus près de la ligne d’arrivée ce soir,” she continues. (“I happened to be standing closer to the finish line tonight.”)

GM: “Quelle est la distance à ceux qui se tiennent ensemble dans le but?” Drouillard smiles at the three. (“What is distance to those who stand together in purpose?”)

“Pour le corps n’est pas un membre, mais beaucoup,” he intones more somberly. (“For the body is not one member, but many.”)

“Tu as un verset pour chaque occasion, Bernard,” Cécilia’s mother replies with a low chuckle. “Tu as gagné ton premier cycle en divinité, n’est-ce pas?” (“You’ve a verse for every occasion, Bernard. You earned your undergraduate’s in divinity, didn’t you?”)

“Alors je l’ai fait, Abélia. Le bon Dieu m’a appelé à servir d’autres manières,” the police chief replies. (“So I did, Abélia. The good Lord called me to service in other ways.”)

“Car je connais les plans que j’ai pour vous”, déclare le Seigneur, “prévoit de vous prospérer et de ne pas vous nuire, des plans pour vous donner de l’espoir et un avenir,” he recites weightily.

(“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’”)

Caroline: Caroline laughs lightly, politely, and briefly. “Bravo—if your teachers were anything like mine they made you learn it in Latin though, not French.”

GM: “Or uncles,” Luke smiles. “Abélia, it’s so good to see you. Superintendent, so good to meet you…”

A few further introductions and pleasantries pass before Cécilia interjects, “Perhaps we can all catch up in a few more minutes, Maman. Simmone, Yvette, and Yvonne are still in the holding cells.”

“Yes, and we do so appreciate NOPD not transferring the 18-year-olds among them to the parish prison,” her mother agrees. “Bernard, if you’ll be so good as to show us all the way?”

“With pleasure, my dear,” the superintendent smiles.

Caroline: The heiress trails after.

GM: “As the first legal mind on the scene, Caroline, are there any particular details you think we should know? Don’t worry—we are among friends here and can speak freely,” Abélia smiles as the group heads towards the cells, the womens’ heels clicking against tiled floor.

Caroline: “The decision to arrest the girls was poorly chosen,” Caroline responds carefully. “They could have just as easily been detained to the same effect—minus the in-processing of a group of teenagers—and not even that.”

“It appears on its face to be an emotionally charged reaction that exposes the city to significant liability—you’d be hard pressed to find a jury that might reasonably believe an arrest for stalking and assaulting an officer to be reasonable charges to bring against a preteen. Even with the high standard that’s been applied to Title 28 civil rights cases. Not that I expect that’s your first interest.”

GM: “The charge had been of some concern to me,” Abélia replies. “These gentlemen, however, have assured me that my feelings were simply a mother’s natural if misplaced fears.”

“Ms. Savard’s phone was destroyed,” the superintendent smiles. “With the other girls’ written statements thrown out, we have no admissible evidence to sustain the stalking charges of threatening text messages sent towards Ms. Savard.”

“Do explain for me, Bernard, how did she lose the phone? I can’t imagine that evidence would be irretrievable after such a short fall.”

“Our boys found that it had been repeatedly stabbed by a knife. We discovered no less than three on Ms. Savard’s person, along with a pry bar and can of mace. She certainly went into that slumber party well-armed.”

“How strange,” Abélia remarks. “What would make someone stab their phone with a knife?”

Caroline: Caroline nods as the pieces come together. “People that are already unstable do even more unstable things when they are experimenting with drugs.”

GM: Cécilia and Luke regard Caroline with dawning expressions.

“That explains it all. My sisters would never do drugs.”

“Yes, or the other girls,” Luke agrees. “They all seemed very well-adjusted.” He then amends, “That is to say, the three girls who were brought in to the station.”

Caroline: Caroline nods.

GM: “Where is the Savard girl? For that matter, is she still alive?” Cécilia asks.

“She’s in the hospital,” the superintendent answers. “Stable, but she has yet to regain consciousness. No one’s been able to question her.”

Luke glances at Caroline. “There is evidence that would speak for itself.”

Caroline: “A troubled youth, I’m told,” Caroline replies.

GM: “Yes, it sounds as if,” Cécilia agrees. “Why would she bring all those knives into the house?”

Caroline: “I can think of few good reasons,” Caroline agrees.

GM: “And then there’s the house itself,” she continues. “It has to have been…”

“We haven’t gotten any building inspectors out of bed,” Drouillard replies. “But damage to the property appears very likely. Young Miss Savard will face any charges, of course,” he says, looking towards Abélia, “but I’m afraid your agreement w…”

Lyman Whitney approaches the group, followed by his lawyer and personal assistant.

Sarah’s grandfather is an older man in his 70s with receding brown eyes and gray-white hair and liver spots on his temple. His features are still handsome enough, which together with his usual languid smile, give the old man a mild and agreeable countenance. Tonight, however, he is red in the face.

“Congratulations, Mrs. Devillers,” he grates out. “You are the proud new owner of the LaLaurie House.”

Caroline: “I don’t know that such matters are the largest concern right now,” Caroline suggests. “Let’s get the girls home first, then allow daylight to show the damage to the building as needed. Right now we’re all united in purpose, are we not?”

GM: Luke nods. “Those poor girls are sitting in cells. Let’s at least get them-”

“We most certainly are not, Miss Malveaux,” Lyman replies to Caroline, ignoring Luke as he swivels his angry gaze to Cécilia’s mother.

“Damage to the house! We should be so lucky if that was all it was! I consider you and your family to be entirely at fault for tonight’s events, Abélia.”

“Oh, that Savard delinquent may have brought the drugs, the weapons, and the alcohol onto the premises—god only knows what happened to that detective—but I can’t help note there were seven girls present, when our agreement explicitly specified there would be only two. Now there is a police investigation! Do your children even know what that could do to the property’s value—much less how it makes me look to the bank? This… disaster, after a favor I freely did your family—this is how you repay my trust?”

Caroline: “I’m certain that she is as interested in ensuring that you are made whole as we both were in ensuring your granddaughter—who behaved magnificently this evening in her grace and poise—was also freed from the undue, unwarranted, and unjustified scrutiny and hostility directed at her.” Caroline attempts to throw another wet blanket over Lyman’s brewing temper. “And with her influence and devotion to the city’s history, I’m equally certain that she has the means to ensure that the LaLaurie House is returned to a state of prominence.”

She continues, “I’m equally certain that after hearing how Sarah did everything she could to shield Simmone tonight she’d be inclined to do so without the threats and with enduring goodwill.”

Despite her moderate words, Caroline’s tone grows increasingly firm. “And, depending on how reasonable we are in dealing with this matter, it’s entirely possible that given the small scale of events this evening that there need be no significant reports of the details of where this happened. After all, right now I believe all we have is a potential possession charge for someone that that managed to injure themselves, and a police officer that suffered some manner of harm while rendering first aid, no?”

GM: The red hue to Lyman’s face seems to subside at Caroline’s description of Sarah.

“People always say how she takes after her aunt.”

Caroline: “Your daughter was lovely,” Caroline replies gently. “But your granddaughter might yet be her match. And I suspect right now she’d very much like to see her grandfather and get out of here. The rest of this,” she gestures, “we can work it out later, let’s not spend another second while she’s in a cell she doesn’t belong in.”

GM: Lyman sighs tiredly. “For her sake, Abélia—we can discuss this later. But discuss it we will. The liability waiver you signed had explicit terms…”

“…which I fully intend to keep and honor, Lyman. Or at least those remaining terms that I still can,” Abélia finally speaks up with a resigned smile. “You have every right to be angry with me. My family did not honor our agreement with you. I believe that my daughters’ experience being arrested, as much as it pains me as a mother, will be a valuable lesson to them in consequences.”

The black-haired French matriarch casts a grateful look across the assembled individuals. “All of you have been so good to my family during this dreadful night. Being there for my girls. Giving them the benefit of the doubt. Bringing in lawyers.” She gives a faint smile. “And of course, getting up from warm beds in the middle of a rainy night. I don’t think it’s any exaggeration when I say that, if not for all of you, tonight’s events could have destroyed my daughters’ futures.”

“There’s a proverb where I come from—la gratitude est la mémoire du cœur. Gratitude is the heart’s memory. And what a poor memory mine would have, if I tried to start a protracted legal battle after all that’s happened. Perhaps tomorrow, Lyman, we may instead discuss the particulars of my taking out a new mortgage with some representatives from your bank.”

Lyman’s eyebrows initially raise, but the retired CEO soon gives a genuine if weary-looking smile as he replies, “Everyone here makes it so hard to stay angry. That would be our pleasure, Abélia. I’ll have the bank’s people contact you with the paperwork—the day after tomorrow. I’m sure your girls would appreciate some undistracted time with their mother first.”

“A very happy resolution to the night’s affairs,” Drouillard agrees with a wide smile of his own. “Now, why don’t we see to the girls’ release?”

The group agrees and makes their ways to the holding cells. Lyman asks Drouillard several times along the way if he’s “sure” whether “the Savard girl” and the first-responding police officer are alive or not. The superintendent reiterates that both are unconscious but stable. The old man nods at this and glances down at his watch.

The group is joined by others, including Carson and Gettis, as they make their way down the lonely corridor that contains the station’s holding cells. Rachel and Yvette are locked in the first cell. Yvette still looks coldly furious. Rachel seems somewhat relieved by her father and the ancient-looking woman Caroline spotted earlier, the former of whom has a silver dollar out that he’s performing coin tricks with.

Simmone, Yvonne, and Sarah are locked in the second cell. The youngest girl looks like she’s trying to bury herself under Yvonne’s arms as she cries softly. Both teenagers are trying to comfort her. Even Simmone, however, appears in a better state than Hannah, who has a cell to herself. She looks as if she’s swallowed poison. Her mother, who tightly holds her hand through the bars, looks little happier.

Drouillard and Delron Mouton, the Eighth District’s commander, make a grand show of unlocking the cell doors to reunite the girls with their (grand)parents. After the initial embraces and in some cases tearful reunions conclude, all of the girls but Hannah and Simmone are eager to tell their stories. This draws sharp objections from the present attorneys, but Commander Mouton merely makes another smiling show of tearing up the girls’ written statements, declaring them inadmissible as evidence.

Emboldened by this display, the more talkative girls gush over how Amelie is to blame for everything that went wrong at the house. She was insane. She believed it was haunted. She tried to deface a painting. She dumped salt everywhere to ward off ghosts. She tried to get them to drink and do drugs on the premises.

“…she even cut apart apart some electrical wiring in the garage. Ah think she was trying to burn the ‘ouse down—to ’get rid of the ghosts’!” Yvette adds.

The present attorneys cut off the girls’ statements and tell them to be quiet.

Caroline: It’s a narrative that Caroline wanted to sell. It’s her own idea, and one she laid groundwork for. Yet… Caroline can’t reconcile it with the girl she met earlier, however foolish, weird, and off-putting she may have been.

GM: Drouillard smiles benignly and assures the girls that Amelie Savard will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

Caroline: She listens as the destruction of the girl’s life is decided, not in a court of law, but here between those of power, for the sake of their daughters—whom Caroline is quite convinced entered the house with their own malicious intent.

Daughters she defended. Daughters that are—or will soon be—among the city’s elite. The future of it. A future the Malveaux family has further sunk its claws into, through her own efforts. Daughters she praised.

GM: “Bah the way, does this mean she’s getting kicked out from McGehee?” Yvette asks with undisguised glee.

Caroline: It’s too much. “Excuse me,” she mutters quietly as she breaks away towards the bathroom they passed on the way in. She doubt’s she’ll be missed amid the reunion.

GM:NOPD doesn’t have jurisdiction there, my dear, but I think we can all be quite confident of the answer to that question,” Drouillard answers with a smile. Caroline hears a chorus of cheered yeses go up as she takes her leave. No one stops her.

Caroline: She barely makes it to the bathroom, a single unixsex toilet with a locking door intended for officers and support staff. It’s not clean. It’s not filthy. It doesn’t matter. The trip and pause to turn the lock give her barely enough time to make it to the toilet before she’s reintroduced with her earlier meal. Half-digested asparagus, nuts, and red mush that might be strawberries.

Another life ruined at her hands. Or, at least, with her assent. Her participation. She looks down at the vomit-filled bowl and wonders if she sees her own reflection in the filth before flushing it away.

GM: Her phone rings from her purse as she does.

Caroline: She lets it ring for a moment and composes herself before digging it out.

GM: The caller ID is Neil. “Hi, Caroline. I saw you called earlier?” her ex asks, with some concern. After all, it was in the middle of the night.

Caroline: Her voices catches in her throat for a moment, caught on the bile, before she finds it to respond, “Yeah, sorry, Neil, it… I got asked to help a family friend out with something. They wanted an update on a friend that they’d heard was hurt tonight.” Her voice echoes slightly but discomfitingly in the tiled bathroom.

GM: “I’m so sorry to hear that,” sounds Neil’s voice from the phone. “I might still be able to help you out there. Who’s the friend?”

Caroline: “I’m sorry, can I call you back in a few minutes, Neil?” she asks.

GM: “Sure, Caroline.” There’s what sounds like a frown from her ex. “You take care of yourself too, all right?”

Caroline: “Yeah,” she replies. Then after a moment, “I’ll talk to you soon.”

GM: Caroline ends the call. She is left with naught but her thoughts in the lonely bathroom.

Caroline: The heiress takes a few moments with those thoughts before squaring her shoulders and standing up straight. She makes her way to the scratched mirror above the sink and examines herself. She makes sure she didn’t get vomit anywhere, then makes certain her hair isn’t mussed and hits the push-button on to the sink—apparently it’s not trusted with a handle that might be carelessly left on.

She catches enough water with one hand to swish around her in mouth, then spits out the last of the bile before digging a mint out of her bag. Whatever she might feel, whatever she might want to do, she’s a Malveaux. That means something here, to others and to herself.

This isn’t the first time she’s lived with the fact that it sometimes means she hates the things she has to do.

Saturday night, 29 August 2015, AM

GM: After Caroline leaves from the restroom, she finds that most of the group has re-convened in the booking room.

“Now so far as these arrests…” Abélia begins. She strokes Simmone’s hair, who’s still tightly hugging her side.

“Expunged from their records, Abélia. No colleges or employers will know,” Drouillard assures.

“All records,” Delron Mouton smiles. “Robinson, tear out their page from the book.”

“There’s some other arrests on that page, sir. We can’t leave those unlogged,” another cop ventures.

“Then write those down separately,” the superintendent suggests with slightly strained pleasantness.

“But if I tear up the page I won’t be able t-”

The Eighth District’s fat commander walks up, tears out the page, takes the other cop’s pen, and writes down the names on a separate page. He then holds up both and tears up the longer page.

“I’m afraid we don’t give them booking duty for their brains, ma’am,” he says with a humoring smile.

Caroline: Caroline again watches the proceedings without comment, though she’s careful to make sure the pieces get picked up by members of the girls’ bloc and are not left behind if no one else is.

GM: Abélia smiles faintly and turns as she hears Caroline’s heels. “Caroline, I’m glad you could rejoin us. It may be a long shot, but would you happen to know anything about the off-duty policeman who was the first responder?”

Caroline: “Not yet,” the Malveaux scion replies.

GM: “The doctors say they expect him to make a full recovery,” replies Delron.

“So if Amelie is still unconscious in the hospital, ’ow does arresting ’er work? Can you still do that?” Yvette asks the police commander with a savage grin.

“No law that says we can’t, little lady,” the balding cop replies with a grin of his own. It’s as wide as his bloated belly. “We usually don’t arrest unconscious people ‘cause it makes us responsible for their care. If they die we get blamed. But tonight’s a special case.”

Caroline: “I’m sure the police will take care of her once she’s released,” Caroline adds. “You won’t see her again—what’s important is that you’ve been cleared, and soon this nightmare will be over for you and your sisters.”

GM: Gettis pulls out his gun and shoots Sarah, then Yvonne. Both girls hit the floor in bloody heaps.

Caroline: Caroline stares in mute horror for only a moment before jumping into action. She slides to her knees next to Yvonne, the closer of the two. Her hands reach out to tear away the fabric from around the gunshot wound.

GM: The gunshots’ explosive roars have barely subsided before Gettis drops his M1911 to the tile floor with a clatter, gets to his knees, and places his hands behind his head. Screams and shouts split the air. Some people draw firearms or lunge for Gettis. More freeze. Many run. The room erupts in panic.

Caroline: “I need a first aid kit, QuikClot if you have it.” Caroline puts her eyes on one of the attorneys even as she works. “You, call 911 for two ambulances. Someone else! Get over here!” she snaps.

Caroline’s focus remains on the girls and the too-red blood staining her hands, then her skirt, then her shirt. The rest of the events will see to themselves: Gettis will be seized. Her brain relates this to her without pausing to look up.

GM: Someone tosses Caroline a first aid kit. Yvette falls over her sister, screaming hysterically and getting in the way. There’s blood on her face. There’s blood everywhere. More people bend over. Caroline hears thumping footsteps.

“You just dug your own grave, Gettis! You’re finished on this force!” roars the superintendent’s still half-disbelieving voice.

Caroline: Some of the socialites will keep screaming. Most will freeze. It’s really of no matter next to the life flowing out of the two girls. It’s of as little importance. She tunes it out, breaks open the kit and digs for what she wants. As far as places to get shot go, a police station is far from the worst.

Given their occupation—to say nothing of several policies—the medical kits tend to be well stocked, particularly for dealing with gunshot wounds. QuikClot. That miracle lifesaving device on battlefields both urban and conventional.

“Yvonne, Yvonne, look at me,” she says from above the girl. “Focus on my voice, listen to me.” Semesters of anatomy and premedical come back to her. A summer and semester both spent in a hospital. She’s not a doctor. She’ll never be a doctor. She made that choice. But this feels right.

A night spent ruining lives. Maybe she can save some.

GM: The unconscious teenager is past the point of responding to anything. Caroline might not have even heard her scream (it’s all a blur) before going down. That’s good, when she was shot in the chest. She can’t have suffered neural damage or sufficient blood loss to induce unconsciousness: she’s just fainted from the fear and pain. The other upshot is that she does nothing to complicate Caroline’s ministrations—though the same cannot be said for her sisters. Yvette kneels on the floor, screaming a long and ceaseless wail as she shakes Yvonne’s limp body back and forth. When responders pull her away so that Caroline can work without obstruction, she’s still screaming, and even starts madly flailing, kicking, and biting. A cop shouts a curse as her teeth sink into his arm.

“You have the right to remain silent. Not that you need any help with that part,” sounds Manley’s voice over the unmistakable clicking of handcuffs. “Gotta admit, I was always hoping I’d be able t-”

Gettis grabs the man’s taser off his belt and rams it into his crotch. He goes down in a frothing, jerking, screaming heap as the stench of electrifying piss fills the air. There’s a cut-off gagging noise from the next cop as Gettis simultaneously drives a knuckled fist into his throat while yanking a flailing attorney forward by his necktie. “TAKE HIM!” roars the superintendent as another round of gunfire explodes the air, but not before Gettis swings the lawyer around as a human shield. Bullets riddle his chest as he screams and convulses and dies. The shooters shout too when Gettis hurls the bloody, still-twitching corpse into their faces, then raises his gun (where did he get a gun?) and shoots out the ceiling’s lights. The room plunges into darkness as shattered glass tinkles against the floor.

More gunfire roars. Masonry explodes apart. There’s the clink of spent, falling shells, the hot smell of gunpowder, and shrill screams abruptly cut off by sickening cracks and crunches. Someone bellows, “STOP!-” Caroline feels wetness against her face. She can barely hear after all the close-quarters gunfire. She can’t tell whether the warbled, distant thuds are footsteps or bodies hitting the floor. Her nerves of steel keep her gaze riveted on her patient. It’s not important. None of it is.

“It’s a distraction, AFTER HIM!” bellows Carson’s voice.

Caroline: Caroline’s animal mind screams at her to look up, to focus on the terror around her, the nightmare that must be occurring in the room. But her logical mind wars with it. The room is full of police. The building is full of police.

GM: There’s more ear-rendingly loud gunshots, but fainter. Marginally. Glass shattering. Showers of sparks as distant lights die. All of it is so distant. Caroline can barely see as she furiously works over the life that’s literally in her hands.

Caroline: “I need light!” she screams. There’s so much blood.

GM: The pandemonium does not recede, but it is not overlong before flashlights stab through the darkness. There’s heavy, thumping footsteps. Sounds of chattering, raised voices, and useless debate. About whether to leave the girl—girls—here or drag them out.

Caroline: She could have been a doctor. A doctor would be able to save them. She should have been a doctor. “Light! Just give me light and keep everyone else clear!” she snaps, furiously. “Flashlights, cellphones, I don’t care!”

GM: The Malveaux scion’s commanding voice pierces through the confused din like a foghorn. Scattered lights, it doesn’t matter what they’re from, fall upon the almost-doctor and her charge. There’s more lights, noises, and motion in her peripheral vision from the responders around Sarah.

Caroline: There’s nothing good about a gunshot wound, especially not one that leaves a big .45 caliber hole in a teenager’s chest. No silver lining. Whatever the first aid efforts of a first responder, the person shot will almost certain die without long-term treatment.

That doesn’t mean Caroline is helpless, however. She turns Yvonne onto her side and pours QuikClot into the exit side of the wound before covering it with a large adhesive bandage. Her anatomy lessons tell her that the shot has almost certainly punctured Yvonne’s lung: a deadly wound, but not an immediate one as long as she can keep her breathing.

Another adhesive bandage goes on Yvonne’s chest, bared in a cruel imitation of the girl’s earlier strip search. This one has a slip that allows air to exit when she exhales and helps prevent the lung from collapsing. It’s too dark for her to waste time feeling around in the bag for sealed cloth. She uses her sleeves to wipe away the blood from Yvonne’s chest to get a better seal on that bandage, staining her arms past the elbow with the girl’s blood.

She waits a pair of breaths to make sure the blonde is stable before wrenching herself to her feet, tearing the sides of her bloodstained skirt as she does so. “Don’t touch her unless she stops breathing,” she directs one of the people holding a light over Yvonne. She snatches up the first aid kit and moves over to Sarah, her teeth clenched.

It’s bad. The other responders have tried their best, but those few seconds of difference count. The bullet also took her at an angle and it’s not a clean through and through like with Yvonne. It’s a good sign for external bleeding, but a terrible one for internal. It also means it’s likely it hit—and fractured—ribs, doing potential follow-on damage.

Part of her immediately regrets treating Yvonne first when she sees the damage, but only a small one. She remembers an EMT’s lecture about responding to shootings: If both have life-threatening wounds you work one and then the other. There’s no time to evaluate both and waste time making a decision.

And treating. What a joke, part of her whispers in her ear: You’re no doctor it says cruelly, second-guessing every decision she makes.

GM: It’s hard to say whether Caroline’s doubts or the poor conditions plague her worse. There’s blood. So much blood, even accounting for the bullet’s angle. Sarah doesn’t move or respond, and unlike Yvonne she doesn’t have to have fainted to be unconscious now. The teenager is bad. Worse than bad. Worse than terrible. She can only imagine what it will be like for Lyman, to lose the granddaughter everyone says is so like his already lost daughter.

But, as Caroline seals the next bandage and wrenches the dying girl back from the jaws of death, the almost-doctor is confident that she will only have to imagine what that might be like.

The next minutes are an almost equally loud and confusing blur as EMTs haul the two girls onto stretchers and speed them away towards Tulane Medical Center. Headlights madly flash through the pouring rain as sirens wail.

Caroline: Caroline is left on the floor, covered in blood up to her elbows, her blouse soaked through and her once-white skirt splattered with blood and further stained by the dirty floor. The exhaustion hits her like a tidal wave.

GM: The police station is in shambles. Cops are swarming everywhere. Caroline barely understands what they’re even doing. Someone pulls her out of the area as officers plaster a crime scene barrier within their own booking room—and stoop to photograph, examine, and do all the normal cop things over the body that was not so lucky as to receive the heiress’ attentions.

Caroline: She glances numbly at the body.

She’s utterly spent. The late night and midnight phone call all combine with the adrenaline rush and tremendous focus to save the girls from their brush with death—to say nothing of the shooting’s sheer shock. She allows herself to be led away and sinks into a chair. And yet…

Where another might hang their head, where they might slouch, where they might weep, she sits up straight, her head leaning back instead of down, throat bared.

GM: It’s the lawyer seized by Gettis in a shredded and bloody dark suit. Caroline is not able to make out the face, though, before she’s pulled away from the scene. There are cops, who want to talk with her. There are people crying, swearing, pacing, everything, in the background. Wanting to help. Wanting to feel busy. Wanting to feel something other than helpless. Blood seems like it’s everywhere.

Caroline: Everywhere, but nowhere so much as all over her.

GM: It’s her uncle (technically, cousin) Carson, though, who cuts through the fog of confusion in his stern judge’s voice and half-leads, half-carries Caroline outside towards his car with a blanket. He holds an umbrella over her head against the still furiously falling rain and tells her that he’s taking her back to her Uncle Matt’s place. He says something about not spending the night alone.

Caroline: She nods numbly and allows herself to be led by her cousin, even carefully tucks the blanket under her to avoid staining his car with her own bloodstained form. It’s not until they’re driving that she finds her voice.

“Why? Why would he do that?” she asks in disbelief.

GM: “We’ll find out once he’s brought in,” Carson answers. He stares ahead into the night as the windshield wipers swish back and forth. It’s an easy sound to fall asleep to, in the dark, with the rain, on the plush leather seat.

The ’Nam veteran then adds, “Your parents will be proud.”

Caroline: They’re short words, stupid words. Do they really mean anything? Despite herself, they do to Caroline as they breathe warmth into her cold form.

“I don’t know. If she’ll make it.”

GM: “You do what you can, when you can. You did more than most.”

Caroline: “I could have done more.”

GM: Carson’s eyes don’t drift from the road. “No, you couldn’t have.”

Caroline: “I should have treated Sarah first, the through and through was the less dangerous of the two…” She tries to explain.

GM: “That’s what you always do,” Carson replies, staring ahead into the bright traffic and pouring rain. “Try to find a way you could have done it differently. Think of ways you could have saved more lives.”

“No one second-guesses themselves as much as an infantry commander after the fact, though I suppose medics come close. You see bodies torn by the horrors of war. You feel the blood on them. Or on the ground, as you tread over the field. Not statistics, X percentage killed, Y percentage wounded. Real people, shellshocked they survived when their friends didn’t. You can’t help but feel you’ve failed too. By surviving, when they didn’t.”

Caroline: Caroline tries to imagine Yvonne and Sarah’s bodies dying under her hands, their blood pumping out onto her arms, her so-inadequate attempts to mend their fragile bodies back together… on a scale of hundreds. Thousands. An entire field of the dead.

“I’m going to be sick,” she squeezes out.

GM: Carson stops talking, then stops the car.

Caroline: She opens the door and heaves what little is left in her stomach onto the street. It’s not very much.

GM: Carson gets the door for her, waits, then closes it. Then drives.

Caroline: “How do you… how do you come back from something like that?” she asks when she’s finished. There’s equal parts sympathy, desire for understanding, horror, and awe in her voice as she wipes her mouth with the back of her hand, inadvertently smearing more blood across her face.

GM: “Caroline, who shot those girls and that lawyer?” Carson asks.

Caroline: “Detective Gettis,” Caroline replies, bitterness in her voice.

GM:Former Detective Gettis,” the judge sternly repeats. “Not Caroline Malveaux.”

“What will Abélia and Lyman think when they hear you saved their girls’ lives?”

Caroline: Caroline knows the answer, even if she doesn’t feel worth it. “Gratitude.”

GM: “You think you know better than they do how they should feel about their daughters?” Carson asks, seemingly in response to her unspoken thought.

Caroline: “No,” she replies quickly.

GM: “Gettis shot them. You saved them. Repeat that whenever you feel guilty.”

Caroline: She nods. “Okay.” She lets out a deep breath.

GM: The windshield wipers swish back and forth. Rain batters ceaselessly against the car’s glass, but increasingly dimly. It’s warm inside. It’s dark, too, but not a bad kind of dark. Caroline feels so light. She feels like she could simply drift away into nothingness.

It is not overlong before she receives that mercy.

Previous, by Narrative: Story Two, Clea I, Julien I
Next, by Narrative: Story Two, Clea II, George II, Julien II

Previous, by Character: Story Two, Caroline I
Next, by Character: Story Two, Caroline III

Story Two, Caroline I

“Maman will make them pay for this.”
Cécilia Devillers

Saturday night, 29 August 2015, AM

GM: Buzz. Buzz.

Caroline glances at the caller ID on her Solaris. Calls from her brother Luke are moderately common. A call at this hour of the night is a first.

Caroline: The heiress stretches tiredly in her bed, pinches her the bridge of her nose, and rubs sleep from her eyes in the same motion as she slides the answer button. At least it isn’t Westley calling.

GM: “Caroline. There’s been an accident,” Luke says without preamble.

Caroline: The words are like a bucket of cold water on her drowsiness as she pushes herself from a half-laying position to a seated one. She reaches for the light on her nightstand. It’s a glossy and sleek black thing that spits hateful light against the dark with the flip of a switch.

“Who?” she asks seriously.

GM: “It’s Cécilia,” Luke goes on. Caroline’s brother isn’t yelling or rushing his words, but she could cut herself on the edge they have. “That is, some of her sisters. They were having a slumber party, and one of the girls fell and hit her head. She might die.”

“There’s also a police officer, who responded before the ambulance did. He’s in the hospital too. We’re not… sure what happened to him.”

“I’m with Cécilia and her sisters at the station. They’re in… they could be in a lot of trouble over this, Caroline. And they had the stupid idea to…” He sighs. “Never mind, they’re kids.”

Caroline: This is where someone else might ask a stupid question like, “Is Cécilia all right?” but Caroline knows too well. If Cécilia or her sisters had been hurt Luke would have opened with that, rather than some nameless girl or police officer.

GM: “Cécilia’s trying to stay strong for them,” Luke answers to Caroline’s unspoken question. “But her sisters wrote… they wrote down what happened at that slumber party, and the cops got their hands on it. I don’t think it was anything good, or the narratives didn’t add up, or…”

Caroline: “Have they made any statements?”

She slides her feet out of the Egyptian cotton sheets and onto the cool wooden floor. She reaches for a nearby pen and paper to start taking notes.

GM: “Caroline, they wrote down what happened, and the cops have those statements. They’re hysterical. I don’t think…”

Her brother takes a breath.

“I don’t want this to destroy their futures.”

Caroline: Caroline briefly considers explaining that police-seized statements written on private stationary are more easily thrown out than verbal statements, but decides against it.

“I understand,” she says instead. “You’re at the station with them? Which one?”

She runs the numbers in her head, but the injured cop complicates matters. The police, however lazy and corrupt they might be, tend to be very protective of their own.

GM: “The 8th District. 334 Royal Street,” Luke says. Caroline doubts he could recite the address off the top of his head before tonight. “We haven’t been able to reach Cécilia’s mother, and the police are being… difficult. You’re the lawyer in the family. Can you come down?”

Caroline: Not quite a lawyer, she doesn’t note to him, but that doesn’t quite make her useless.

“I’ll be down in a few minutes. Until then, don’t let them say anything else.”

Saturday night, 29 August 2015, AM

GM: The Eighth District police station doesn’t much look like a police station at first glance.

The whitewashed building’s tall white corinthian pillars are surrounded by a well-maintained garden and wrought-iron fence. Palm trees sway against the howling rain and wind. All told, the station looks much like any other art gallery, restaurant, or historic building one expects to find along Royal Street. Much like the Eighth District police themselves, it doesn’t exist to stand out. It’s here, like they are, to keep the posh district’s money rolling. It’s here to make the owners—and spenders—of that money feel at home.

NOPD T-Shirts Available Inside Station proclaims an almost tourist-like sign by the front entryway.

Caroline: Caroline has dressed quickly for the occasion—and driven more quickly. Heels, skirt, blouse, and umbrella and light coat against the rain. It’s amazing what the proper appearance does for how people perceive you. She enters the building with the steady clap of heels echoing through the entrance way.

GM: It takes Caroline some extra time to find a parking spot for her sports car. She observes several other pricey vehicles parked by the “station” (the word seems to demean the building) already.

The front desk area is a pleasant affair. The walls and tops of the pillars are painted faux-gold and several chandeliers and bouquets of flowers hang around the place. There’s even some impressionist murals hanging from the front desk. The walls are adorned with several posters seeking new recruits for the police academy (“Join NOPD—apply today!”), as well as one containing information about the Crimestoppers 504-837-8477 number and another containing information on local neighborhood watch programs. The largest poster of all advertises the French Quarter Response Force phone app, and includes Qeeqle Play and OPS App Store download links.

The receptionist, a dark-skinned and notably attractive woman with long straight hair, looks up and smiles at Caroline’s entrance. “Good evening, ma’am. What can we do for you tonight?”

The desk sergeant next to the woman, a large but dough-bellied with receding hair and a fuzzy mustache, smiles at Caroline. “Must be something to have a girl as pretty as you up from bed.”

An impatient-looking woman seated on one of the moderately comfortable-looking padded reception chairs rolls her eyes.

Caroline: “Hopefully not,” Caroline replies with a smile at the dough-bellied sergeant. “I just heard there was some terrible accident with some family friends. A bunch of high school girls?”

GM: “Yeah, seven. Brought ’em in in not too long ago.” The sergeant gives an exaggerated sigh that doesn’t dim his smile. “Such a shame when we have to bring in pretty girls.”

Caroline: “Hopefully not for anything they’re at fault for,” Caroline inquires lightly. “I heard there was an accident.”

GM: “Mmm, yes. We arrested them all. One of our own was hurt.”

The sergeant’s gaze rests on Caroline’s breasts.

Caroline: “Oh dear,” the heiress replies without seeming concern for the sergeant’s gaze. “Did they hurt him?”

GM: There’s a throaty chuckle from the balding cop.

“They’d better not have,” he answers in a low tone whose continued smile looks more like a leer.

Caroline: “What were they arrested for, then?”

GM: “Are you related to one of them, ma’am?” the female receptionist asks.

Caroline: “Well, not unless you know something I don’t. I’m afraid I’m actually here in a slightly different capacity.”

She slides a business card across the counter. Hailey, McNamara, Hall, Larmann & Papale, L.L.P. is prominently featured on it.

“We hadn’t realized they’d actually been arrested, simply that they’d been involved in an incident. I was told to come down and make any arrangements necessary.”

GM: The desk sergeant’s smile noticeably sours as Caroline produces the card.

“You’re too good-looking a girl to be a lawyer.”

Caroline: “That’s so kind of you to say,” Caroline replies sweetly.

GM: The man sighs. “Cindy, get someone to show her in.”

Caroline: “Thank you, sergeant,” she replies with a wolfish smile. The card vanishes back into her purse.

GM: It’s not long before a young male police officer arrives to escort Caroline deeper into the station with a, “This way, ma’am.” The pair continues around the U-shaped hall away from the desk sergeant’s station. They pass a break room, interior entrance to the evidence lockup, and staircase and elevator. Phones ring as assorted uniformed and non-uniformed personnel type away into computers and go about the mundane busywork that constitutes so much of a police officer’s job.

“I’m just saying, there’s way more of us, but the women’s locker room is just as big,” sounds a man’s voice.

“Shut up, Cole.”

“He’s right,” sounds a third.

“Maybe you should both pray real hard you wake up tomorrow with tits.”

“Wow, that fucking wit. I bet you rule the school playground.”

“You know, there’s surgery for th…”

The voices breaks off in guffaws.

“Oh, that strip search. HA!”

“Bet we’d make half as many arrests if everyone knew they had to strip naked.”

“I’m not complaining.”


“Hey, I’m-”

“No, seriously. I’m with you, any other day. Tonight that’s fuckin’ perverted.”

Caroline’s escort shakes his head as the pair pass by a framed portrait of the current police superintendent, a smiling and crease-eyed man in his middle years.

There’s another portrait she sees too, of a handsome, dark-haired man with a winning smile that belies his nickname of ‘Trashanova’. Caroline has met Nolan Moreno III in passing at a few functions. His picture depicts him standing next to a number of satisfied-looking police officers.

“Oh, wait. They’re over in booking,” Caroline’s escort admits before turning back the way they came.

Caroline: Caroline offers no comment to the crude discussions ongoing. “What are they being booked for?” she asks.

GM: “Probably just a good place to have them,” the officer answers vaguely.

The booking room isn’t so nice-looking as the reception area.

No walls are painted faux-gold and no artwork hangs from the desks. Everything looks aged, used, and worn, down to the scuffed tile floor. Cage-like grills and metal bars loom at the room’s furthest points. It’s far from the horror stories that Caroline has heard from Uncle Carson (technically, cousin) about conditions in the parish jail or Louisiana State Penitentiary (the largest prison in the country). Still, it’s clear that no effort has been made to make this room look nice—or make its expected occupants feel at ease.

Tonight’s occupants, though, may not be so expected.

Caroline’s attention is first drawn to the four young women who bear an uncanny resemblance to one another. Each one is a mirror of the same willowy build, pale skin, light blonde hair, and clear blue eyes. Caroline knows that the oldest, Cécilia, is a year older than her, while the youngest girl looks in middle or elementary school. Their present demeanors, however, are far less uniform than their physical features.

Cécilia, who’s standing next to Caroline’s brother, looks composed enough. She’s wearing light-colored slacks and a sleeveless blue top that looks like both were thrown on in a hurry.

Caroline’s brother Luke, a handsome man who shares Caroline’s tall height and fair skin but lacks her blonde hair, is similarly dressed—in both attire and apparent hastiness. He doesn’t look as faultlessly groomed as he usually does, and there’s a several-hours-past-five o’ clock shadow rimming his stonily-expressioned face.

Cécilia’s sisters look worse. Caroline remembers their names—Adeline, Simmone, Yvonne, Yvette, and Noëlle—but not which ones belong to which girl. There are so many of them, and it doesn’t help how they all look alike. Three are present tonight besides Cécilia. Two look in their mid-late teens. Their hair is mussed and wet, and so are their clothes. Their eyes are wide and scared. The youngest girl, who’s tightly hugging Cécilia’s side while her sister comforts her, looks in much the same state.

There’s another girl in her late teens near them. She’s shorter than the others, with soft brown hair and pretty features. Like everyone else, she seems on edge, but looks like she’s maintaining a brave face. Caroline recognizes her as Sarah Whitney, the daughter of Warren Whitney and granddaughter of Lyman Whitney, the eponymous bank’s retired CEO.

The girl standing next to her is also short, and has wide half-moon glasses and black hair (wet and disheveled like the other teenagers’) pulled back in a ponytail. She’s better described as underweight than thin, and her narrow face’s features are homelier than her peers. Caroline’s seen her in passing too: Rachel Freneau, the daughter of Sebastien Freneau. He’s a mathematician turned casino owner with ties to Tulane University. Rachel herself looks on the verge of tears.

The last teenager in the group is about Cécilia’s height. She has a wide face, prominent nose, and mid-back-length brown hair that’s streaked through with blonde towards the ends. It’s as messy and wet as all of the other girls’. She’s breathing rapidly and doesn’t look on the verge of tears so much as a panic attack.

Caroline doesn’t recognize the girl, but she recognizes the older woman who has an arm around her and is presumably the teenager’s mom. She’s a middle-aged woman with shoulder-length brown hair and a narrower face and nose. Like Cécilia and Luke, she looks as if she just got out of bed. Caroline saw her in passing at an art gallery and heard a little more about her from Christina Roberts—Monica Burroughs, a divorcée from out of state.

Where the other girls are distraught, and Luke and Cécilia are grim, Caroline senses a burning outrage in the woman—but one that’s also draped beneath a terrible, terrible dread.

Caroline: Whitney, Devillers, Malveaux. New Orleans aristocracy all in the same room—and others not that far off from aristocracy. Not the group she’d expect here—and a mess by any measure for the NOPD. On those merits alone, in other circumstances, she could probably talk them out of the room.

Most circumstances. But probably not this one. Not with an injured cop.

“Luke, Cécilia. I came as quickly as I could. What’s going on?”

GM: “Caroline,” Luke says with relief, turning at her voice. So do Cécilia and the room’s police.

The first one is a handsome man with a full and square jaw, close-cropped brown hair, and a tall, exceedingly-muscled frame. Exceedingly. The kind of excess particular to someone who follows diets and meal plans like a road map to personal salvation and spends enough time at the gym for it to be a part-time job. His full lips wear an even fuller smile that might be assuring or even winsome under more pleasant circumstances.

The cop next to him is older, shorter, and squatter. And fuller. Few women likely regard him as an object of desire. He looks bald underneath his police cap and wears a half-rimmed pair of rectangle-shaped glasses that combine with his sloped jowls to give him a sense of impassive resignation. It’s the inured look of someone past almost all point of caring.

The third cop is a known face to Caroline. She and Jessica White jokingly call him ‘the dinosaur.’

Up close, little about him feels worth laughing about.

He’s got a hard nose, hard jawline, and harder eyes the color of corroded iron. His skin is worn and leathery like a well-used pair of work gloves, crisscrossed with faded scars, and pulled taut against gaunt cheekbones. He’s not thin though. He’s big. Even huge. His powerfully muscled physique isn’t pampered and meticulously maintained like the first cop’s. It’s weathered, like granite left exposed to the elements. He’s a tall man, maybe an inch or two within Caroline’s shoe-less 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. The Malveaux heiress knows his name and rank. Detective Richard Gettis.

“Name and relationship to an arrestee,” the shorter of the police calls out to Caroline in a droning voice. His eyes barely seem to follow her entrance into the room.

Caroline: The heiress turns her gaze to the fatter, speaking, cop. “Caroline Malveaux, legal. I’d like to know the OIC for this matter, and the to see the booking report in accordance with Art. 228. B.”

GM: The first officer’s full smile gives a puzzled downturn.

“Captain Russell White, speaking,” the fatter officer replies in monotone. “Get the book,” he seems to say to no one in particular.

Gettis just stares.

Caroline: “Excellent.” Caroline’s tone is crisp and clear. “In the interest of expediting things, why were they taken into custody?”

GM: “In the book,” Captain White replies in the same monotone.

“Right this way, counselor,” the first cop says with a grin and motion towards the booking desk, as if gallantly offering to escort Caroline the several necessary feet towards her destination.

Gettis only stares.

Caroline: Her gaze turns to the detective. “You’re Detective Gettis, right? Jessica White says good things about you.”

GM: The weathered-looking cop meets Caroline’s gaze without response.

Caroline: She smiles and moves after the other cop towards the booking desk.

GM: The hunkish cop chauffeurs Caroline the necessary several feet. A bored-looking man on the other side slides over the book. Caroline sees the following names:

Burroughs, Hannah
Devillers, Simmone
Devillers, Yvette
Devillers, Yvonne
Freneau, Rachel
Whitney, Sarah

The charges include:

Battery (of public officer)
Criminal damage to property
Criminal trespass
Minor in possession
Possession of schedule I controlled substance

The names of the other persons arrested as a result of the same event or facts are as follows:

Burroughs, Hannah
Devillers, Simmone
Devillers, Yvette
Devillers, Yvonne
Freneau, Rachel
Whitney, Sarah

Caroline: She continues to read down to all items taken from them, also listed to see what the schedule I substance is.

GM: Lysergic acid diethylamide. LSD.

Caroline: Caroline arches an eyebrow. “A 10-year-old girl battered a public officer?”

GM: “Ah… Ah didn’t,” Cécilia’s youngest sister speaks up shakily.

Caroline: “Don’t say anything,” Caroline cuts her off.

GM: “Simmone, shhh,” Cécilia shushes, not unkindly.

The preteen starts softly crying.

Caroline: Still, the charges are hardly minor. This is not, unfortunately, a matter she can sweep under the rug. At least, not alone.

GM: Alternately anxious and coldly furious looks flicker across the other girls’ faces, particularly Simmone’s sisters.

Footsteps sound behind Caroline. “Reporting in, Captain. Sorry I took a while.”

Captain White gives the newly-arrived police officer a curt glance. “Finish the booking.”

“Has to be girl on girl,” the first cop grins.

Most of the girls look confused.

“All right, should I start with…?” the female officer ventures.

“Her,” Gettis says, staring ahead towards the girl who must be Hannah.

“No. No, you’re not,” her mother replies. The woman’s face is barely level.

“W-wait, Mom, are-” the teenager starts.

“Ma’am, I’m going to need you to come with me and take your clothes off as part of the standard strip search,” the female officer announces.

Hannah looks as if the cops just handed her a cyanide pill. “No. No. Mom, I’m not doing that. Tell them I’m not doing that.”

“Ma’am, you’ll need t-” the female officer starts.

Gettis strides forward, pulls Hannah off from her mom, and marches her towards the next room. Hannah shrieks and flails wildly, slapping Gettis in the face.

GET YOUR HANDS OFF OF HER!” her mom screams, face flushed as red as a beet.

The other girls stare on in horror.

Caroline: Caroline watches the girl piteously and nods to the officer with the booking report. “Luke, we need to talk. Privately.”

GM: Luke frowns deeply. “Now? I don’t want to leave Cécilia’s sisters alone with these… people, Caroline.”

Caroline: “Now. Briefly.” Her voice is firm.

GM: Luke considers the room’s only (near-)lawyer for a moment, then says, “All right. Cécilia, you’ll manage?”

Cécilia wordlessly nods.

No one stops Caroline and her brother, or even looks at them. Hannah’s and her mother’s continued cries follow the pair out.

Caroline: Caroline leads him a short distance away, though not out of the room, and leans close. She keeps her lips faced away from the rest of the group.

“How serious is it between you and Cécilia, because I can’t make this go away or stop what’s about to happen. The charges against them are very serious, and I don’t have any standing officially. I’d need to call Carson, and Cécilia needs to contact their family attorney.”

GM: Luke’s face looks grave, if not a shade paler than before. “We’re serious, Caroline. What did you see there? I asked them what the charges were. Our families can make this go away.”

But his words aren’t without a note of doubt.

Caroline: “Yes, we can. In the long run. But not before they are strip-searched and processed and interviewed.”

GM: “They’re terrified out of their minds. Especially after…” Luke glances out of the corner of his eye towards where Hannah used to be. “They’re going to crack.”

Caroline: “Half those charges won’t stick, but someone is going to get snipped for the drugs.”

GM: “What? Drugs?” Luke repeats.

Caroline:LSD,” she murmurs into his ear.

GM:Fuck,” her brother whispers furiously.

Caroline: “And with an injured cop they’re going to be sniffing around extra hard. Do you know how badly he was injured?”

GM: “He’s in the hospital, Caroline. They’re not… he sounded like he was hurt pretty badly. The cops have all been saying what a legend on the force his father was. Gettis actually remarked on that, and he’s hardly said a word.”

Caroline: “Then I’ll make the call, but this is going to take a lot of clout, including, likely, Dad getting involved.”

GM: Luke sighs heavily. “Well, the milk’s spilled. Nothing to do now but mop it up.”

Caroline: She nods. “All right.”

GM: “We’ve been trying to reach Cécilia’s mother. This would be so much easier if she were here too.”

Caroline: “Let me get things moving, sooner rather than later,” Caroline replies. “Let Cécilia know. Have her get her sisters ready, and get the number for the family attorney if she has one.” She slides away from her brother and digs for her phone.

GM: Luke puts a hand on her shoulder before she goes. “Maybe you should talk with Cécilia’s sisters, Caroline. Hear their story and school them on what to say. Cécilia’s been making calls to her mother’s lawyer, but she hasn’t been able to get him out of bed.” He then corrects, “Or at least, school them on what not to say. I know, they shouldn’t say anything at this point.”

Caroline: “Anything they tell me I’m obligated to repeat. I have no privilege with them, or anyone for that matter right now,” she explains, then sighs. “But I’ll speak with them briefly.”

GM: “This is why we called you, Caroline,” Luke replies with a weary smile. “Now all right. Let’s.”

Caroline: The not-quite lawyer moves over to the younger girls, heeled feet clapping on the tiled floor.

GM: The Devillers girls’ already pale complexions are blanched still further. The other girls aren’t taking it much better. Hannah’s mother is gone from the room. Cécilia is cradling a sniffling Simmone and stroking her hair.

Caroline: “Girls, I’m sorry this is happening to you, but I want you to understand so that you know what’s coming and that you’re going to be all right at the end of it, ok?”

GM: “Pretty sure they’re all fucked, actually,” the handsome cop remarks.

Caroline: “You should stand by that phone,” Caroline replies. “It’s going to start ringing soon.”

GM: The girls’ faces are like seesaws as they rise, fall, and then rise just a little at the cop’s and Caroline’s alternating words.

“You’re Caroline, right?” says one of Cécilia’s sisters. “Are you a lawyer? L-listen, we-”

“Don’t say anything, Yvette,” Cécilia urges gently but firmly.

Caroline: She turns her attention back to the girls. “Let me finish,” she interrupts.

“Because you’ve been arrested you will be searched. It’s going to be invasive, and probably a little humiliating. I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do about that. Don’t try to fight, just make sure you remember anything that happens that is inappropriate. After that they’re probably going to keep questioning you. Because you’re all minors they can’t put you in the parish jail, so you’re likely to be held here until they decide what to do. I’ll do everything I can to clear this up before that happens, but the most important thing to remember is nothing you tell them is going to make this better, it only eliminates options for you in the future.”

“You don’t have to explain anything. Any time they ask you questions about what happened ask for an attorney. Nothing you tell them is going to make them stop. But stay tough, you’ll get through this. I’m going to go make some phone calls to try and get you out of here more quickly, ok?”

GM: The teenagers seem to cling to Caroline’s words like drowning women to driftwood. They nod along, whether in gratitude, agreement, or simple understanding.

“Someone’s been watching those ‘if you’re ever arrested’ MeVids,” remarks the grinning cop. “They don’t include the pep talks, though. That’s a nice touch.”

“Those are for a more black audience though,” remarks the other cop behind the desk. “Uh, no offense, Captain.”

The captain ignores the man entirely.

Caroline: Caroline turns back to the first cop. “I know you’re upset that one of your own is hurt, and I’m sorry, and I hope you catch whoever was responsible. But god help you if you stick even a toe out of line here, because no one else will.”

GM: “Don’t you worry about us, ma’am. You worry about those girls,” the cop answers.

Caroline: “What could they have to worry about surrounded by New Orleans’ finest?” Caroline asks as she pulls out her phone, her heels again snapping against the tile as she heads for the door.

GM: “Our mother won’t forget this, Caroline,” Cécilia calls, repeating Luke’s words as she strokes Simmone’s hair.

The female cop re-emerges from the room ahead and looks across the girls. “All right, next one in.”

Caroline: The heiress continues walking, seeking privacy outside for the calls she’s about to make.

GM: Caroline makes her first call. The phone rings several times.

“Caroline. What is it?” sounds an older man’s steady voice without preamble. This isn’t the first time Carson has been called by one of Nathan’s children in the middle of the night. Or about one of Nathan’s children.

Caroline: “I’m sorry to call so late, Uncle Carson, but there’s been an incident. No one in the family involved directly, it’s more than vaguely within our interests, as well as… well. I’ll just get to it.”

GM: There’s an expectant silence from the other end of the line.

Caroline: “You remember the Devillers family, Luke has been going out with one of their daughters? Three of them were arrested this evening on a laundry list of charges related to an incident where an officer and another teenage girl were injured. Warren Whitney’s daughter was also involved. I don’t think they were directly involved in either injury, but you know how the police get when one of their own is hurt. They’ve gone… well, high and right. Luke called me to see if I could provide some guidance, but this is going to turn into both a nightmare for both families, and a public affairs nightmare for the NOPD if someone doesn’t step in.”

GM: “I know who the Devillers are, Caroline,” her uncle (technically first cousin once removed, but easier to call him that) replies to her initial question. Not dryly. Just as a simple statement of fact.

There’s a pause as the criminal judge seems to chew over her words. “What station are they being held at?”

Caroline: “The Eighth District. They were getting ready to strip-search a 10-year-old girl on charges including battery of an officer and stalking when I stepped out to make the call. I don’t think they realize—or care—what kind of a mess they’ve stepped into.”

GM: “Injured cops,” Carson replies. Not tersely, but emphatically. “They look after their own. Especially here.”

Caroline: “I know, I know,” Caroline replies. Knowingly, but not impatiently.

GM: “All right. I’ll call Delron and get the warrants rejected. You already know these girls shouldn’t say anything.” With those final words, the call ends with a click not unlike the safety of the .45 Colt that Westley has wondered if the Vietnam vet actually sleeps with.

Caroline: Caroline lets out a small sigh of relief—one that’s all-too small. Rejecting the warrants will take time. She wonders how many of the girls will get processed before that happens.

Another shake of her head, another call, this one to her ex. There’s no certainty he’s awake or on the floor, but there’s also a better than zero chance. Even if he isn’t on tonight, he’ll eventually be able to give her better information than she has.

GM: Caroline’s phone rings several times.

“Hi, this is Neil. Please leave your name and number, and I’ll get back to you,” sounds the resident doctor’s pre-recorded voice.

Caroline: “Neil, I got a call about a girl and a cop that got banged up pretty badly. I was hoping you might have heard something about it. Give me a call back. I promise, no Hippo.” The last bit is a touch of levity, an inside joke from when they were both pre-med and eager for all the gory details.

GM: After ending the call on that nostalgic note, Caroline has better luck with her next one. After all, this is the time when Jessica White is on shift.

“Hi, Caroline?” greets the young officer. No relation so far as she knows to the Captain White here. It’s a common enough last name.

Caroline: “Hey Jessica, how’s it going?”

GM: “Well, the night shift is what it is. I had a pretty weird call recently though.”

Caroline: “Oh?”

GM: “Well, a woman called 911 when a random stranger by a po’boy joint threw a trash can at her head. So I showed up and arrested him. Because, well, for battery. But the woman says, her exact words, ‘whatever. He’s not why I called. I called because the po’boy place didn’t give me enough sriracha’.”

Jessica laughs. “You just can’t make this up.”

Caroline: “Wow.” Caroline keeps her impatience to a minimum through the story despite the seriousness of the matter at hand, but she still can’t help but smile. “Every night an adventure.”

GM: “The woman said her server was rude, so she wanted to see if we could harass him for more sauce. We decided to remove her from the po’boy joint instead. Anyway, what’s got you calling at this hour?”

Caroline: “I wish it was happy news. I heard one of yours got hurt tonight, wondered if you’d heard anything about it.”

GM: “Oh, no, I hadn’t,” Jessica says concernedly. “Not yet, anyways. Who was it?”

Caroline: “I didn’t get the details, but your old fossil is all over it. He’s here in the 8th District having 10-year-old heiresses arrested.”

GM: “Really, the dinosaur? Huh.”

Caroline: “Yeah, I guess the guy’s father was big on the force? Maybe they used to work together.”

GM: “That’d be a first. I can’t picture him working with anyone. Not that he seems to mind me working for him.” There’s a simultaneous smile and frustration to the words.

Caroline: “I’ll stick to only imagining. Anyway, right, thanks anyway. I’m going to make a couple other calls before the truckloads of attorneys start to show up here. The dino really kicked over a hornet’s nest with who got picked up. We need to catch up sometime though, maybe an early breakfast coming off shift or something. Let me know a day that works.”

GM: “Yeah, def—wait, hold on a second, you said he arrested a 10-year-old heiress?”

Caroline: “I don’t know if it was him specifically, but a bunch of the girls that got picked up in association with it are… they’re the children of important people, Jess. People who are going to raise absolute hell over this if their kids were traumatized and strip-searched without a really good reason—and who are connected enough to do it.”

GM: “Oh, wow. Sounds like a hornet’s nest…” Jessica trails off.

Caroline: “I know you guys and gals in blue have to look out for each other. And everyone understands that whenever a cop gets hurt it’s serious.”

GM: “Yeah. He’s actually felt on edge lately. The dinosaur, that is. I mean, I think. It’s hard to tell with him.”

Caroline: “Any particular reason you can think of?”

GM: “Wish I could. He actually hasn’t been asking me to do his paperwork.”

Caroline: “Maybe the old dog has a bone he’s gnawing on?”

GM: “Maybe.” There’s another smile that sounds more than a little frustrated. “Though I don’t think he’d wanna share it with a pup like me.”

Caroline: “You’ll get there, Jess, but I really have to run.”

GM: “Right, I understand. I’ll give you a call back when I hear more.”

Caroline: “You’re the best.”

GM: “Thanks. Ok, good luck with everything.”

Caroline: The heiress stands out in the heavy night air of the city as she scrolls through her phone for her next contact. She finally settles on one and hits send. She hopes her old ‘boss’ is not otherwise engaged.

A hint of a smirk pulls at the corner of her mouth. It could be a banner night for her if she’s available.

GM: “Hi, Caroline?” sounds her old boss’ voice.

Little to Caroline’s surprise, Denise is awake. Fortunately, she does not sound currently ‘preoccupied.’

Caroline: “Good morning,” Caroline replies, glancing at her gold watch. “I trust I didn’t wake you, Denise?”

GM: “Oh no, I was already up. I’m a night owl. Sounds like you might be too.”

Caroline knows all about what a ‘night owl’ Denise is.

Caroline: “When required. How would you like to make a lot of very powerful friends?”

GM: “Oh? We talking some new clients for the firm?”

Caroline: “Both professional and private friends,” Caroline amends. “You’re familiar with the Whitney family, and the Devillers family? They’ve got kids in trouble down at the Eighth Precinct and attorneys that can’t be bothered to get out of bed. A cop got hurt responding to their call and they found some drugs on the scene. I know you don’t usually do criminal, but…”

“I suspect the families would be extremely appreciative of anyone who could ensure their daughters weren’t left alone… and were I confirmed to be still in your employ I could serve as an advanced liaison until you arrived.”

GM: There’s a pause as Denise seems to think things over. It’s two rules to break, but the Big Easy has never been a city with much regard for the rules. And her old boss does so want to be something at the firm besides a subject of water cooler gossip.

It’s not a very long pause.

“Okay. I’m going to come over for this, but until then, you’re still an unpaid intern proud to work at the firm of Hailey, McNamara, Hall, Larmann & Papale.”

Caroline: “I’ll see you then.” Caroline hangs up. She considers another call, then decides better of it and sends a text instead to her mother.

She doubts her mother is awake—and doesn’t want to wake her father—but neither of those things are more concerning than being accused of sitting on the secret.

GM: Unsurprisingly at the late hour, but also perhaps unsurprisingly for Caroline’s mother in general, there is no reply.

Caroline: Caroline rolls her eyes. It’s doubtful her mother would bother to reply even in the middle of the day, but she’s done her due diligence. She tucks the phone away and heads back towards the booking room.

GM: Caroline’s progress is interrupted, or perhaps facilitated, when a man holds the police station’s door open for her. He’s tall and dark-haired, with a neatly-trimmed mustache and goatee. He looks in his 40s or 50s, but well-preserved, with a few streaks of silver through his hair. He’s dressed in a deep maroon sports coat and holding a soaked umbrella in his other hand.

“I’d say it’s a late hour for a young lady like you to be up,” the man remarks as he looks over Caroline’s attire, “but odds are it’s for something important.”

Caroline: “No rest for the wicked,” Caroline replies with half-false cheer and a smile. “And yourself?” she asks as she slides through the held open door.

GM: The man’s initial smile, which was already a half-hearted thing, dips further. “I’m here for someone innocent,” he replies as the door closes behind them.

“Good evening, sir. How ca-” the receptionist starts.

“My daughter’s been arrested. Her name is Rachel Freneau. Where is she?” he demands brusquely.

Caroline: “I think you and I are here on the same matter,” Caroline offers quietly.

GM: “Either the booking room or the holding cells,” answers the desk sergeant. “Are y-”

The man responds to neither Caroline nor the sergeant as he strides past the front desk. His face is heated with anger.

“Should we stop him?” the receptionist asks the sergeant.

The dough-bellied man snorts.

Caroline: Caroline follows in his wake.

GM: The two arrive at the booking room. Rachel is gone. So is one of the older Devillers girls. The other two look miserable, especially Simmone, who’s tightly if not desperately clinging to Cécilia’s waist like it’s a life preserver while her oldest sister strokes her head and murmurs assurances. Luke is talking to the Whitney girl, who looks somewhat better than the other teenagers.

Caroline: “They’ve been searched before processing,” Caroline fills in.

GM: “You stripped her?” Rachel’s father demands of the police, clenching his fist.

“Standard procedure for all inmates, sir,” Captain White replies.

Caroline: Caroline watches quietly and glances patiently at the phone. Without the warrants they can’t finish processing them—the best they can do is hold them for questioning.

GM: “I want to see her. Now,” Rachel’s father replies coldly.

“What’s your relation to the inmate?” asks the cop behind the desk.

“Shut up,” Captain White replies without looking at the man.

“Manley, take him to the holding cells.”

“This way, sir,” smiles the handsome cop.

The two head out.

Caroline: Caroline heads over to Luke. “They’re pulling the warrants now and my attorney is on the way.”

GM: Luke looks relieved. “Good,” he replies in a lowered voice. “You can see they haven’t searched Simmone yet. She shouldn’t have to go through that.”

“I can volunteer to get searched before her. That might actually make Yvonne feel better, come to think, if she can feel like she’s protecting her sister,” the Whitney girl says.

Caroline: “We’ll see if it comes to that,” Caroline answers. “But thank you.” Now that she’s back in the holding room, frustration at her own relative helplessness in the situation begins to eat at her again.

GM: Luke nods. “Yes, that’s a good idea, Sarah.”

“I’m sorry I didn’t think of it before Yvette had to go,” the teenager admits with a sad smile. “Or… well, Hannah.”

Caroline: “Better late than never,” Caroline answers, feeling the words biting all to close to her own efforts. “I don’t know if your family attorney is in route, but if they aren’t, my own will be happy to represent you until this is sorted out.”

GM: “Where are my manners,” Luke replies with a faint smile. “Sarah, this is my sister Caroline. She’s studying to be a lawyer. Caroline, this is Sarah Whitney. She’s Lyman Whitney’s granddaughter.”

Caroline: “Nice to meet you, Sarah, I wish it were under better circumstances,” Caroline answers.

GM: “I’m sure we’ve met somewhere before, Caroline, but I’m pleased to now.” Sarah gives another sad smile. “And under circumstances where I’ll get to have a lawyer, I think I’ll consider them pretty good. My family won’t forget this.”

Caroline: “In that case,” the ‘intern’ leans close and continues in a low voice, “what the hell happened? The censored and short version,” she asks. “Somehow a cop got hurt, and another girl?”

She glances around to ensure none of the other police are close by.

GM: Captain White is talking in quiet tones to Gettis. The already laconic police captain seems to be doing most of the pair’s talking.

Sarah glances around at the present cops, then whispers, “It’s a long story, and any lawyer should hear it all. But Amelie tried to climb a gate, fell, and hit her head. I’m not sure what happened to the cop. He gave first aid, then… fell down and screamed, this just awful sound, then ran out. When we followed him outside, he was lying on the ground.”

Caroline: Caroline tries to keep her face passive at the name ‘Amelie’, but the name, present company, and circumstances draw a single question to the forefront of her mind:

Are you fucking kidding me?

GM: Caroline’s phone abruptly buzzes with a text from Denise.

Caroline: She scowls at the phone, but the beginnings of a story is already coming together. Troubled teen experimenting with drugs suffers a tragic fall. Responding heroic police officer is injured in the line of duty. It’s a narrative she can spin in both directions. It’s one the family has used before. Spike a few blood samples. God knows they did with Westley.

GM: “Next one in,” calls the female cop. She’s followed out of the room by Yvette, whose face is flushed bright red with equal parts fury and humiliation. The other Devillers look mortified as they stare at their sister. Cécilia lets go of Simmone and rushes up to her.

“Je suis tellement désolé que ça t’arrive, Yvette, maman va leur faire payer ça, reste calme,” she exclaims as she hugs the younger girl.

(“I’m so sorry this had to happen to you, Yvette. Maman will make them pay for this. Just stay calm.”)

“I’ll go next,” Sarah quickly calls up.

The cop behind the desk snickers.

Caroline: “Je soupçonne plutôt qu’ils vont regretter des choses avant que ce soit fini,” Caroline agrees.

(“I rather suspect they’ll regret things before it’s over.”)

Previous, by Narrative: Story Two, George I
Next, by Narrative: Story Two, Clea I, Julien I

Previous, by Character: Story One, Amelie X, Caroline II
Next, by Character: Story Two, Caroline II