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Blood and Bourbon

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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.


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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.

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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…
—Diana


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.”

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…”

“M-Miran-da…”

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?

Omw.

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.

“Diana?”

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.

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“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.

“Thanks.”

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.

“Anna…”

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.

“Anna…”

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.


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.”

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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.”


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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.

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“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.

“Anna…?”

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.

“…what?”

“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.

“Bye.”

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.”

Ring…

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.

Severance.

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.

She shakes her head.

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

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, though, 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 8, if you smirk like you do when you have a bad idea.”

“7 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.


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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.

Mostly.

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.

“Anna?”

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.

“Jeffrey.”

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.

BANG!

“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.

“Ann-”

“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,
Jeff


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.


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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.

“…yeah.”

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.

Hospital_Food.jpg
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.

Hospital_Food.jpg
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.

Audrey_Morrow.jpg
“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
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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_D.jpg
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.

Abelia_Devillers.jpg
“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.

Lyman_Whitney.jpg
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
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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_Shirt.jpg
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.

Caroline_Shirt.jpg
Caroline_Skirt.jpg
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 Google Play and OPS App Store download links.

Station_Inside.jpg
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.”

“Pervert.”

“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.

Bernard_D.jpg
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.

Nolan_Moreno.jpg
“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.

Police_Booking.jpg
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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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
Battery (of public officer)
Criminal damage to property
Criminal trespass
Minor in possession
Possession of schedule I controlled substance
Stalking


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.”

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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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.”)


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Story Two, Emil I

“Can you please just… take care of it?”
Sadie Hall


Friday night, 28 August 2015, PM

GM: Knock. Knock.

Emil gets up to answer the sound. He pulls back the security chain and opens the apartment door.

There’s an unmarked cardboard box on his doorstep.

Emil: Emil places his coffee mug, a black ceramic stylized with the letters NOPD over the front, on the table. He crouches down to examine the package. Unmarked, he mentally sighs, worried less about the potential implications of such a thing and more that dealing with those implications will leave his evening cup of Folger’s cold enough to taste. Nevertheless, curiosity gets the better of him, and he lifts the box off the floor to gauge its weight and guess its contents.

GM: His phone rings from the coffee table just as he stoops down to examine the box. The caller ID reads ‘Sadie.’

Emil: Emil’s eyes widen at the sight, and strings pull up the corners of his mouth into a comforted smile. His daughter is calling him. Emil places the box down, walks back to the coffee table, and answers the phone. He waits for the caller to speak as a matter of habit.

GM: His daughter gets right to the point. “Hey, Dad? Some of my friends are… they’re calling about a dead girl. They’re with a dead girl.”

“Or. Well. She’s… they don’t know, they say she… fell and hit her head, and she’s bleeding like crazy, and they don’t know if she’s, she’s dead or not, or…”

The words come out in a half-coherent rush that the newly-minted lawman might be a stranger to, but his father told him to expect. There’s plenty witnesses who don’t think normally under stress. Plenty more who don’t act normally either.

Like ones who call their fathers for the first time in years, even long after he told them he was moving back.

Emil: “Sweetie.”

It’s been a long time since Emil heard her voice. It’s hard not to reminisce on the past but by the sound of the call, this isn’t the time. He’s honestly not sure how to speak to her normally, not after so long, but this panic is something he can work with.

“I need you to breathe, sweetie. To stay calm. Are you with them? Did you dial 911 like I taught you to?” It was one of the first things he taught her, even before he became a cop. He made her a little emergency situation lullaby.

GM: There’s a sound on the other end of the line like someone taking a breath. “No… no, I’m not with them. They’re calling me.” There’s a pause. Then, “They don’t want to call 911.”

Emil: “What. Why?”

GM: “Ambulances here, they take forever,” come another breath. “And they don’t wanna… get sucked into this. They just want someone to take care of it, and they know me, and that my dad’s a cop, so can you please just… take care of it?”

Emil: Emil’s face darkens over what a sorry state his hometown is in for the kids to be raised so selfishly.

“All right. Give me the address and I’ll come. But call 911. I’m not a miracle worker and that girl’s life is more important than your friends’ wishes.”

GM: There’s another pause.

Then, “Look, they don’t wanna call 911, Dad! They’re trusting, trusting me, to call about this. If you wanna call 911, I don’t, I don’t know what they’re gonna do, or…”

Emil: “It’s fine. Just give me the address and I’ll handle it. Don’t worry. I have it all under control.”

He waits for a moment, collects his coffee, and gulps it down away from the phone.

“I love you, sweetie.”

GM: “Okay… it’s 1140 Royal Street.” There’s another low breath. “The… the LaLaurie House.”

Emil: The famously haunted LaLaurie House. Despite the seriousness of the situation, Emil gets slightly giddy at the thought of visiting the place he’s spent more than a few afternoons idly researching, but his voice remains level as he speaks.

“All right. Talk to you later. I’ll fix this. Hopefully we can meet soon. Goodbye.”

Emil doesn’t wait more than a second to end the call.

He has work to do.


Saturday night, 29 August 2015, AM

GM: The rain pours down.

It all hangs out on weekend nights in the French Quarter. Emil remembers that much from his boyhood. Tonight, though, there are no crowds of revelers thronging Bourbon Street, no open containers of booze getting sloshed around, and no staggering, drunken tourists wearing bead necklaces who don’t know that it’s not Mardi Gras. Music still pounds from the many bars and clubs like a raging beast straining to burst from its cage—and whose baying howls are answered by the storm clouds raging overhead.

It’s theoretically an 11-minute drive down the I-10 to the LaLaurie Mansion. But Royal Street is shut down to vehicular traffic from 11 AM to 7 PM on weekends. Emil remembers that from his boyhood too. He doesn’t remember a good place to park. Parking in this area of the city looks terrible. He spots more than one truck emblazoned with NOPD’s blue crescent insignia towing away some unfortunate vehicle, each one indifferent as to the urgency of his mission.

The “eleven minutes” stretch and stretch until Emil settles for the parking lot of the French Market. He pays the ever-hungry parking validation machine. He makes his way to the address on foot as rain thuds and pounds against his umbrella.

Nine more minutes by foot, says his phone.

Emil: Nine more minutes that have to pass before he can save that girl. It’s not so much of a matter of space to cross but time to outrace. The great tick-tocks reverberating throughout the universe decide what changes and what stays the same. Emil knows he is locked into the universe’s great cosmic schedule and knows he will get where he needs to be when the universe intends for him to arrive. He nevertheless breaks into a sprint and tucks his umbrella under his arm as his feet hit the damp ground. He’s only human, after all. And he needs to save this girl. It’s the least he can do for his daughter.

GM: The rain crashes and thunders down in eerie synchrony with the pounding of Emil’s shoes against wet pavement. The streets are dark and empty, but still almost catastrophically tight from the pouring rain that obscures Emil’s sight like a curtain.

It abruptly parts.

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The house of Madam Marie Delphine LaLaurie stands out little amidst its neighbors. Second-generation Creole architecture. Plain gray gray walls. Delicate iron work along the gallery’s (balcony’s) railings. Potted green plants there, like every gallery in the Quarter seems to have. Tall for its time at three stories. Emil read accounts describing it as “the highest building for squares around” in the old days.

Water faints squelches in his shoes as the now-panting and umbrella-less man hustles towards the house’s tall iron gates, as much out instinctive urge to seek shelter from the elements as anything else. He pays no heed to the front gates that lead into the yawning, so-deep portal. The text from one of his daughter’s friends said to go to the courtyard. That’s where it happened. The accident.

Spike-topped, ornamental iron-work swings invitingly open at Emil’s touch, without sound or resistance. Unlocked, like the text said it would be.

The open-air courtyard on the other side offers no respite from the raging storm. No light shines from the any of the sunken windows that sullenly stare down at Emil through the thunderous downpour. The floor is brick and makes the rainfall hard and loud. Lattices are made from the same black wood as a sweeping staircase that leads up and out of sight, into the house’s depths. There’s a few sad-looking, stunted trees and wilted plants dropped in scattered pots throughout an earth-filled brick trough. There are no chairs or tables.

There’s also what looks like a blood-spattered corpse by the front gates.

It’s surrounded by a half dozen or so girls. Most look in their mid to late teens. The youngest still looks in middle school, or maybe late elementary school. Some of the girls have umbrellas out. Others are soaked to their skin. All of them look numb. Some of them might be crying. It’s hard to tell in the rain.

“You’re… Sadie’s father?” asks a girl with a pronounced French accent. She’s pale of skin, with blue eyes equally pale blonde hair wetly plastered against her head.

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“Thank… thank you for coming. She… she ’it ’er… she fell…”

She trails off and gestures helplessly at the body lying by the foot of the gates.

What might be a seventh girl, or what might be a corpse headed for the morgue, has a thick and stocky body that’s dressed in a leather jacket, sweatpants, and sneakers. Emil can’t make out much of the face beyond wet black hair that’s cropped to a short crew cut. Red pools from underneath the head, wet and watery. It’s already threatening to stain Emil’s shoes. One of the girls holds an umbrella over the possible corpse’s head as if in paltry effort to slow the seeping spread of blood.

“She was trying to climb the gate,” clarifies another girl. She’s slightly shorter than the first, with equally drenched brown hair and hazel eyes. “But it’s so dark, and with this rain… she fell.”

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“We tried… we tried to stop ‘er. She wouldn’t listen. She… she was crazy. She thought the ’ouse was ’aunted,” says another pale-eyed, pale-skinned, pale-haired blonde. Her features are an almost perfect mirror of the first girl’s. Emil almost thinks they’re twins, at first, but there’s just a few features and contours that are subtly off.

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None of the other three girls speak up. One is thin, with glasses and slightly curled black hair. The second is taller and stockier. The youngest girl looks like the first two girls in miniature. She wordlessly clings to the side of the blonde who spoke first.

Emil: Emil examines the situation, and after letting each girl have her piece, he sets the large bag he was carrying on the floor and opens it. It contains an organized mess of medical supplies, a box of gloves, a box of pens, and some notepads.

He passes around the pens and notepads and tells the brunette, who seems the most stable, “I need you to write down what you saw. Make sure your friends do that too.”

GM: The silent brown-haired girl speaks up. “Um… shouldn’t you be giving her first aid? She… she might be alive…”

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Emil: He doesn’t take his eyes off the bloodied girl on the ground. He pulls on gloves and starts to examine her as fast as he can. Time is of the essence. “Just do as I say,” he tells the girl tersely.

GM: “Hey, how about you stop her from bleeding to death! That’s why we called you!” the girl angrily flares.

Emil: Emil goes to work. He first finds where she’s bleeding from and presses a towel firmly against the area to apply pressure to the wound. He holds each side of her head with his gloved hands and aligns it with her spine. A spinal injury could be devastating if she survives.

“Stop talking. If you don’t want to be responsible for the death of your friend, do what I say now. Start taking photos once you’re done, put your hand in one of them.” His voice is stern but fatherly. He needs to collect evidence in case anything goes wrong. He continues his work, checks the dying girl’s breathing, and grabs her wrist to check her pulse.

But it’s not. Fucking. Working. Her pulse is weak. The rag he’s holding is soaked a deep crimson, meaning the girl’s blood pressure is too high for Emil to stop the flow. Her blood pools all around them. There is so much. Too much to imagine. It pools over the bricks and the ground can’t even drink it. It just marks everything red with the sign of nature upturned. Producers consuming predators.

Emil feels like the city’s soul is howling through the rain as it plunks and thuds against his head. His cold eyes begin to water of their own accord. The girl’s body is getting colder. The Lord’s angels try to pull her soul away from its suffering. But the rain pulls down harder and the angels cannot fight nature. To fight nature is to fight God Himself.

The rain drenches the city. God rains down not with fire and brimstone, but with the cleansing water of His blood. It comes from above and below to consume as well as cleanse. A blood-soaked man cries against the downpour from his knees. His clothes feel as if they are drenched by the city’s tears. His own hope feels ready to die as more tears finally rim his own eyes.

But he is not blinded. Instead, he sees.

A different time. A different place. The memory of a scarred youth and another pool of blood. Small, bloodied hands washed with that same rain. The rain of an evening he’d forgotten until now.

Emil sat on the asphalt, his knees warm with the blood of the man prostrated in front of him. Someone had put a hole in the man’s neck. Blood spurted out like from a crushed, overripe fruit. Blood ran onto the man’s shirt and stained NOPD’s crescent insignia. Emil was too young to grasp all that it stood for, but he cried back when he recognized the man’s uncomprehending eyes as his father’s. He cried to the world that didn’t care, that would be so cruel as to take his daddy from him just because of a little hole. His mother mended holes in his clothes all the time. Why couldn’t he?

Wait.

Maybe he could.

He reached out and touched the hole in Daddy’s neck, touched it with all his heart. He watched the hole close up under his palm, and felt its pain sear against his own neck.

Emil blinks a few times as he stares down at the girl’s expressionless face. He reaches a hand to his neck with returned understanding of the scar he rubs over. He knows he can do it. He knows how to save her. Tears stream down his determined face as he presses his palms to her head and pulls with the whole force of his being.

It hurts. Like hell. The wounds are stubborn. The pain wants to stay where it is. His teeth grit with his own as he pulls harder, with all the strength he can muster. He gasps as pain spreads throughout his whole body and every cell screams at once with its pain. Only then, as Emil wails like a banshee towards the crying sky, does he feel the wounds closing under his hands.

He barely notices the fresh welts and leaking blood on the sides of his head. Their pain is nothing against what he just underwent. He smiles as his tears lose their heat: the only stream running down his cheeks is cool. He feels powerful.

But now is not the time for celebration.

“We need to get out of here now. Help me lift her,” he urges the girls around him. Do they know what just happened? Can they understand what he felt? Emil doesn’t know and even if he cares—now is not the time.

GM: We need to get out of here.

Emil mouths the words.

Help me lift her.

The girls don’t move.

Help me lift h…

Frowns on their faces.

Help me… Help me…

A couple of them start towards him. Their motions seem almost exaggeratedly slow. Their mouths move, but the sound is slurred and all but inaudible against the thundering storm.

Help… me…

The rain pours down. Sight and sound dissolve like so many lost droplets.

help…

It hits him like a firehose shot into his face. Pain. Pain beyond pain. It rocks through his hands, lances up his arms, and slashes across his gut, which now feels so cool and wet. He’s so light. After all, he’s not all in there. He’s missing something. He tugs at the coil of agony leading out of his guts and finds his guts. His guts are outside. He tries to pull them back in and put himself back together, but his fingers burn his guts, like the nails are shards of glass heated to a thousand degrees. He lifts his hands and his amputated wrists scream at him with frothing, bloody tongues. His eyes scream too. The wetness running down his face is hot again. His mouth tries to join the ghastly chorus, but no sound emerges. He gags and tastes something foul. A foulness that is not bile. His holes are in the wrong place. The next scream suffocates beneath the weight of its own dampness and offal. It seeps into his lungs as he futilely hacks and retches. He mindlessly waves his stumps and there’s blessed relief. His head is so cool under the rain. His brains are cool. Rain on his brains. He giggles at the rhyme, at the relief, and cries coppery-smelling tears as the stick stirs and sirs, mushing his brains around like lumpy porridge. The fragile vessel that was his mind breaks from the impossible burden of what it sought it to take in. The burden that no man could ever heal. No man can heal. There is no relief. Only suffering. There is no surcease. Only oblivion.

Oblivion.

He need only let go…

Emil: Not with one last hold to cling on to.

Rage.

Why is this happening to him? Why does God turn His back when he needs help? This house mocks him, mocks his faith, mocks the very blood that he sheds. The falling raindrops tickle his blood and make it laugh on the bricks below, hopping up and down at the hilarity of his hubris. To think he could do better than any of the slaves who trod those same bricks and had their brains stirred, their bodies broken, their souls crushed. He wants to fight back. He wants to strike at these invisible torturers that would turn him and that girl into bloody tableaus of this house’s past.

Somehow he understands. He tried to take that girl’s pain in to himself.

What else did he invite in?

Emil clutches at his stomach—with what?— and runs. He runs towards the gates. He runs for the life and freedom lost to those slaves. He runs before he loses his. The gate’s wrought-iron bars were open only minutes ago. They might as well be the gates to providence now. They have to be open. He runs without even pausing to see, and he prays. For himself. For the poor girls still inside the house. For the poor girl on the ground. His voice cracks like lightning over the thundering rain as he screams,

“G… get her… out! Wri… down… your names! EVERYTHING! Br… ing… my… ba-aA-AG! N-N-NOOWWWWWWW!!!

He doesn’t look back. He has his own daughter. He needs to be alive for her.

He runs and he runs and an eternity passes. Time slows when you’re dying. Emil can’t die. Not here. Now now. His arm trembles as he yanks his phone out from his bloody wool pants. He slumps against a wall as he fumbles to hit the button that will call his daughter. He prays it’s not his last act as he feels his knees buckle. He prays the thundering rain isn’t the last thing he hears as blackness steals over his sight.

“S… Sad… ie. Sadie… p-please… an… s… er…”


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Story One, Amelie XI

“You should get out of here.”
Hannah Burroughs


Friday evening, 28 August 2015

GM: The sun sets over New Orleans.

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Rain has started to fall.

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Amelie’s teachers might have exhorted her to enjoy the beautiful Friday afternoon, but tonight’s weather was presaged by the gathering clouds that accompanied her walk back to an equally disturbed home. Now, as the sky’s orange sun slowly sinks and dies, dark storm clouds rush to cover the purpling horizon like coroners draping a shroud over a corpse. The Quarter’s grimy-faced and crusty-haired panhandlers and gutter punks variously glare, produce tattered umbrellas, or huddle beneath doorways with their mangy-furred dogs as Amelie strides towards 1140 Royal Street.

The house of Marie Delphine LaLaurie looms before her.

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She’s read about the house. Looked it up online. Peered at its windows through Google Street View. Followed realty listings where she pulled the floor plans. Even stared at it in person from across the street, on a balmy summer afternoon not so long ago.

But that was on a balmy summer afternoon. One where she could return to the home of a welcoming aunt who was merely taciturn about her work.

The LaLaurie Mansion stands out little amidst its neighbors. Second-generation Creole architecture. Plain gray gray walls. Delicate iron work along the gallery’s railings. Potted green plants there, like every gallery in the Quarter seems to have. Tall for its time at three stories. Accounts described it as ‘the highest building for squares around.’ Tall along enough for a young slave girl to leap to her death, if she would rather face the three-story plummet than the wrath of the house’s mistress. Passersby see so little of that history.

But Amelie does.

She’s read about it from her childhood’s books. She’s felt its bite beneath the bandages she unwrapped just today. Now, on this dark and wet evening, with the Quarter’s normally ever-present crowds and tour groups are so diminished, the past looms before Amelie as inescapably as the old house’s forbidding gray walls. Her mind races, thinking back to that long-ago local history book she received from Aunt Christina; that same aunt’s home where she cannot return, not tonight; and the future that she dreads will be cut terminally short within the building before her. Past, present, and future seem to convect, converge, and collide into the past, a force as animate and wrathful as any ghost—and as inescapably predetermined as the events printed on a history book’s next page.

Storm clouds angrily rumble overheard as the rain thuds, plunks, and smashes against Amelie’s umbrella. She has to clench it tightly, several times, to keep from blowing away. Fog has risen along the French Quarter’s cramped old streets. She cannot see any cars. She stares past the LaLaurie House’s windows into its unlit, pitch-dark rooms, and sees her reflected face staring back with black and empty eyes. Waiting, as if from inside the house. It feels as if she has stepped into an Antebellum dream, terrible and exhilarating, where her fantasies of hot-blooded Creole duelists, churning Mississippi steamboats, and sultry quadroon courtesans have come to life—but where death waits on the end of a dueling saber, the jaundiced eyes of yellow fever, or the bloody tails of a slave-owner’s lash.

Yvette has not yet arrived. Time seems to hang suspended in the soaked evening air, an arbitrary construct bereft of meaning next to the terrible viscerality of a now no longer distinguishable from then.

There is no past. No present. No future.

Just her.

Her, and the patiently waiting LaLaurie House.

Amelie: Sabers are quiet. The wrenched blade goes from resting on a shoulder to slicing through the air, all without a sound until it makes contact. Its wielder can only ask against what? Will it slice into your opponent? Will it slip into your own thigh thanks to your incompetence? Will it chip against stone after it passes through a phantom foe?

Amelie is that saber now. Sharp and trembling in the rain, praying she doesn’t rust and shatter while time races against her. The cardinal rule of saber fencing is simple: don’t stop moving.

The young woman paces in front of the house, checks her phone, and mutters to herself. Directions, instructions, prayers: the culmination of a week of hard work and consultation. She stands resolved, confident in her will to rebuke the house’s corruption, and confident in the steel her hand can so easily reach to best more physical threats. It will only take a single movement.

She’s sure the realtor will be here soon.

GM: A BMW eventually pulls up with Yvette and another woman who looks in her mid-to-late 20s. The two could almost pass for twins. They share the same pale skin, pale blonde hair, and pale blue eyes, although the effect is less pronounced when the women are dressed in their own casual clothing rather than McGehee’s identical uniforms.

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“Merci pour l’ascenseur, Cécilia. Ou ascenseurs, plutôt,” Yvette says in her formal-sounding metropolitan French.

(“Thanks for the lift, Cécilia. Or lifts, rather.”)

“Bien sûr,” answers the other woman. “Je serai de retour dans une demi-heure avec les autres.”

(“Of course. I’ll be back in half an hour with the others.”)

“Je vais vous envoyer un texto si l’agent immobilier ne part pas,” Yvette remarks as she hefts a backpack around her shoulders and gets out an umbrella. “Et merci de ne pas l’avoir dit à Maman.”

(“I’ll text you if the realtor doesn’t leave. And thanks for not telling Maman.”)

“Ce n’est rien, profite de ta nuit dans la maison hantée,” the woman addressed as Cécilia smiles.

(“It’s nothing. Enjoy your night in the haunted house.”)

The two do not hug, but trade kisses on one another’s cheeks. Yvette steps out into the rain and waves goodbye at the receding BMW.

Amelie: Amelie spots the car and waits. She feels a lump in her throat as she listens to the exchange. Something is missing.

She looks down the road as ‘Cécilia’ drives away. There’s no body guard in sight. Maybe Yvette’s mother called them off, or maybe it was never bothered with. It’s a red flag.

GM: Yvette then seems to see Amelie. She’s dressed in a thin-looking black pea coat (it might be raining, but it’s still hot) and knee-high brown boots underneath her transparent umbrella.

“Oh good, you’re ‘ere. The realtor doesn’t know we’re bringing anyone else, so don’t say anything. Ah’ve let your friends know not to show up until we’re by ourselves.”

Amelie: “I won’t. I apologize if I caused you trouble this week, by the way. Our teacher asked about the hand.”

GM: “Ah’m sorry?” Yvette asks in apparent confusion.

Amelie: “Ms. Perry asked about my hand. And I was told she was worried enough to speak with your mother about it?”

GM: “Uh, why would Ms. Perry talk to mah mother about your ’and?” Yvette asks critically.

Amelie: “Because I was assaulted for asking about the house,” she chuckles, shaking her head. “Never mind, she might have just said that to calm my nerves at the time. Are you ready for the night?”

GM: Yvette just gives Amelie another strange look, then answers, “Yes, Ah brought snacks and things. Rachel says she’s bringing an ouija board.”

Amelie: Someone is lying here, and Amelie is worried about who that may be. The best case scenario is Ms. Perry. The worst case is Yvette’s mother.

“Of course she is. I’m going to do my best not to touch it,” she laughs. “It just had to rain as well. This is going to be very atmospheric for a haunted house.”

GM: “It rains ‘ere all the time, and a lot during August. Ah’m sure that’s new to you, being new to the city.”

Amelie: “New to the country, actually. Though I know how fast the weather can change near the sea.”

GM: A car pulls up to the house. A thirty-something black woman in tan slacks and a gray raincoat steps out, carrying another umbrella against the rain. She briefly looks between the two girls and then smiles at Yvette.

“Hi there, I’m Miriam, Mr. McCaller’s PA. You must be Yvette Devillers?”

“Oui. Yes,” Yvette nods. “It’s very nice to meet you, Miriam. This is Amalie, mah one guest,” she introduces.

“Pleased to meet you too, Amalie,” the woman introduced as Miriam smiles as she digs through the purse over her shoulder, then looks back towards Yvette. “So, you’re the girls who are going to be spending the night in the haunted house? I hope you’re not feeling nervous.”

“We are terrified,” Yvette answers with a faint smirk.

Amelie: Amelie watches the car pull up and listens intently, memorizing names and positions just in case things turn out badly.

“Terrified and prepared,” she echoes. “Will you be giving us a tour, or letting us at it?”

GM: “I’ll just be looking the place over. I could give you girls a tour, but it probably wouldn’t be a very good one. I’ve never been inside before now,” Miriam replies as she pulls out a set of keys.

“Yes, you work under Mr. McCaller, you said? Ah was ’alf-expecting a real estate agent.”

Miriam shakes her head. “Oh no, the house isn’t on the market yet. The bank would have to pay a realtor to come and show you around.”

“But that’s one thing I need to be very clear to you girls about,” she says seriously. “I’m sure you’ve both heard this from your parents already, but this is a very expensive and historic property.”

Amelie: Amelie doesn’t know who Mr. McCaller is, but Yvette’s reaction screams a higher-up at the Whitney Bank. Maybe someone the metropolitan French teen knows through her family connections.

“$3,550,000. Give or take a hundred grand how much you can downplay a few stylish but odd design choices by Mr. Towers, the previous owner. I even wore non-marking shoes,” Amelie remarks. “This house is a state treasure, it should be treated as such.”

GM: Miriam’s eyebrows raise. “Oh wow, someone’s done her research.”

“But that’s it exactly,” she continues. “The house is a historic property, and there are a ton of preservation laws regarding what people are allowed to do to it—even private owners. Mr. Towers was pretty eccentric and butted heads with the city over changes he thought he’d be able to make to his own home, but which turned out to be illegal.”

“What this means for you girls is that if you damage the house, even by accident… you could be charged with vandalism, and the penalties will be a lot stiffer than normal. But it’s not even just that.”

Miriam pauses for a moment, then goes on, “The bank has over three million dollars tied up in this property. Now, I’m sure your parents have told you this too, but your mother,” and at this Miriam looks meaningfully at Yvette, “has signed a liability waiver. That means, if there’s any damage to the property, she will bear the full costs of restoring it. If the house can’t be restored to its original state… she gets to become the new owner for a ‘bargain’ three-plus million price tag.”

Miriam slowly looks between the teenagers, meeting each of their eyes. “You break it, you buy it.”

“Yvette, your mother is trusting you and Amalie a LOT. So are Mr. McCaller and Mr. Whitney. So, please… no running, no door slamming, no sliding down banisters… I know you’re not little kids, but my boss wants to make this absolutely clear, you CANNOT damage this house. Treat it like you were in a museum. Just look around, go to bed, nothing crazy. All right?”

Yvette nods slowly. “Ah understand. Treat it like we were in Versailles.”

“Like Versailles,” Miriam repeats before looking at Amelie, as if to be completely sure both high schoolers understand her.

Amelie: Amelie feels a little sorry for Yvette’s mother as she listens. If something happens tonight, she’s contractually obligated to buy this place?

“I have a question, actually, ma’am. Why doesn’t the bank consider turning the house into a museum? Or a tourist attraction? It’s one of the more famous buildings in New Orleans, and it’s been sitting here forever. I don’t know if heritage sites are charged for property taxes, but even maintenance costs seem like they’d be mounting.”

GM: Miriam frowns deeply. So does Yvette.

Amelie: Amelie clears her throat and motions to the house when she realizes she’s gone off on a tangent.

“My family business restored antiques, I’ll make sure we both respect the house. Since it’s thundering, I’ll ask to see the breaker box in case of a fire, and we’ll keep the windows closed to avoid water damage.”

GM: “Okay, that’s good to hear,” Miriam answers. She looks somewhat relieved by Amelie’s assurance that she won’t damage the property. “I actually don’t know where the panelboard is. I’m not sure if it would do you any good, since all of the house’s utilities have been shut off, but I’m not an electrician.”

“So far as your other question, the short answer is that the bank makes money off houses like this through mortgages. We aren’t in the tourism business, and we have no guarantee it would be profitable even if we were to shoulder all the costs and financial risks of setting up that kind of infrastructure. The bank’s more likely to make money by just selling the property to another Hollywood actor.”

Amelie: Amelie nods and sees a few issues with the possibility of celebrities or other rich people buying a property after Mr. Towers has put his name on it. Still, she doesn’t argue.

“That makes sense. Shall we?”

GM: “One last thing, in case your parents didn’t tell you. Since the house’s utilities have been shut off, like I said, there’s no electricity or running water. If you need to use the bathroom, please do it in a café or someplace nearby.”

Miriam looks at Yvette. “If someone uses the toilet, your mom will have to pay the cost of turning the water back on. Plus my hourly rate when I call the utility company to arrange that, and then have to personally flush the stinky toilet that I know one of you girls used. So if either of you needs to use the bathroom, now would be a good time.”

Yvette nods. “Mah mother mentioned that. Ah’m ready to go in.”

Amelie: Amelie nods as well. She’s glad the power isn’t on. That helps set her mind at ease about something… but not completely. All their phones have flashlights anyway.

“Verti Marte is open 24/7, we can go there long as we buy something, I believe,” she points out, literally pointing with her thumb to the nearby deli kitty corner.

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GM: The other two glance at it. “Oh really? Great thinking looking that up,” Miriam remarks.

She jingles her keys. “Okay, now that we’re through all the warnings, let’s get out of this rain and show you two the haunted house…”

Amelie: Amelie still feels a little anxious. She holds one of her hands in the other and thumbs over the fresh scar in her hand. She remembers Tantsy’s warning not to come here, not to do this.

But as she looks over at Yvette she knows that the moment fate started to push them here, she had to come along, too. Numbers will protect them against bodily harm. Her resolve will protect them against the ‘rot’ in this poor house. The bag of tools will hopefully do the rest.

“I guess we’re ready.”

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GM: Miriam unlocks the house’s iron gate and ushers the two girls into a deep, white portal that leads to the front door. She turns, closes, and re-locks the two great gates. Rain dully patters against iron as the gilded bars clang ominously shut. The feeling is not unlike stepping inside an airlock—entering a source of contamination that must be quarantined from the outside world.

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Two urns sit by the front door, along with a panel carving of Apollo in his chariot. Miriam mentions they’ll need to keep the gates closed and locked to discourage tourists—they’re lucky the rain seems to have driven away the tour groups that show up like clockwork every weekend night. She fumbles for a moment with her keys before unlocking the front door. It swings slowly open on silent hinges.

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Amelie: Neither the rain nor gate has Amelie’s laser focus. She stares at the dark handle of that white doorway like she can smell death on the other side. The handle’s turn is the only thing that keeps that oddly sweet smell from overpowering them. She cradles her wounded hand and smooths a finger over the cat’s-eye scar in her palm, almost like she expects it to scream out in warning. It’s too late now. She has a responsibility.

GM: The house’s interior is almost pitch dark. Just enough light passes through the windows for indistinct shapes to swim at the corners of one’s vision and hint at things unseen. It smells musty and old. Miriam and Yvette turn on their phones’ flashlights and sweep them across the atrium. An iron-railed, winding stair (“said the spider to the fly”) ascends from the checkered marble floor to the house’s second story. Two further doors on the staircase’s left and right lead deeper into the home’s unseen recesses.

“Well, welcome to the haunted house,” Miriam says, her voice echoing through the empty halls.

“Hm, doesn’t seem too spooky so far,” Yvette remarks, shining her phone across the atrium.

Miriam digs another set of keys out of her purse and passes them to Yvette. “Okay, here are the keys if you or Amalie need to leave and use that mini-mart’s bathroom. Please keep the doors locked at all times—a lot of tourists would like to get in here, and Mr. McCaller promised me ‘hell to pay’ if anyone does besides you two. You have my number if you need to get ahold of me for anything.”

Yvette nods and smiles. “Ah do. And thank you so much for doing this, Miriam. Ah’m sure you ‘ad other ways you’d rather be spending your Friday evening.”

Amelie: Amelie takes off her backpack as the three women step inside the door. She unzips it slightly, pulls out something the others might not see in the dark, and snaps it in half with a crackle. She gives the broken object a shake. Blue-green light suddenly radiates from the glowstick in her hand. Six inches of sodium salicylate and 2-Chloro-9,10-diphenylanthracene dye compound. It helps distract her from the outright lie Yvette tells the woman.

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“Yes, thank you for all you’ve done, ma’am. We’ll treat the house like it deserves.”

GM: Miriam frowns slightly at the unexpected action, her dark-skinned face lit up by the stick’s teal glow.

“Amalie, how likely is that thing to break?”

Amelie: “They’re industrial grade. Short of putting one in an oven or intentionally taking a sharp implement to them, they’re leak-proofed. And much safer than candles,” Amelie answers, standing firm on the idea.

Her research into sites with supposedly paranormal activity led her to find a horror movie rule of thumb: batteries drain faster. Activating agent and fluorescent dye doesn’t run out of batteries, and the mix inside doesn’t glow for more than an hour while oxygenated. She’s sure there’d be no discoloration if they were wiped up.

GM: The PA seems to chew on Amelie’s words for a moment. “All right,” she relents. “But if that breaks and the colored… whatever’s in there spills out, your mom,” and here she glances again at Yvette, “will pay for getting any stains removed. And if she can’t get them removed, she’ll pay for the house.”

Miriam’s features look all the more severe against the glowstick’s weird illumination as she stares between the two two high schoolers. “I’m not kidding around, you guys. The document your mom signed is legally binding. The house is hers if there’s any permanent damage, and you two will be in trouble too.”

Yvette frowns initially at the glowsticks too, but says nothing further after Miriam seems to okay them. “Ah understand,” she nods again. “We are in Versailles. And we won’t let down the trust you and Mr. McCaller are showing us.”

“Glad to hear it. Now, okay.” Miriam shines her phone’s light around the barren entry hall in seeming last inspection. “You have my keys, you have my number, that’s everything. Enjoy the haunted house.”

“We ‘ope it won’t let us down,” Yvette smiles faintly as the light recedes.

A faint click sounds as Miriam closes and locks the front door from the other side.

Amelie and Yvette are left alone in the atrium’s near-darkness. A few last feeble rays of light from the dying sun barely make it through the dark storm clouds, pouring rain, and tiny glass panes around the front door.

Yvette rolls her eyes as she glances down at her phone’s screen. “Bla bla bla, your mother will pay for this, your mother will pay for this,” she mimics in a sarcastic, mocking voice. “Finally she’s gone.”

Amelie: Amelie stays quiet for the rest of the exchange between Yvette and the woman, and breathes a sigh of a relief once the latter is gone. She places the glowstick on the windowsill next to the door, marking it as an entrance. This was how her village worked when the power went out. Entrances and exits were also marked with glowsticks for customers when the sun went down. Even rainy days attracted certain groups of people.

“Yup. We’d better make sure she doesn’t find out about our support,” Amelie offers. She walks up to the bottom of the stairs and takes out another glowstick. She breaks it, shakes it, and leaves it standing upright on the first step.

“When do your sisters get here?”

GM: “Whenever they get ’ere,” Yvette answers without looking up as she taps something into her phone.

Amelie: Amelie gives her partner a small look, but just sighs and breaks out the flashlight. She stuffs her leather jacket’s pockets with more glowsticks.

“While it’s just us, Yvette. Do you mind if I ask you a more personal question?”

GM: “Ah guess that depends on the question,” Yvette answers, still tapping away into her Solaris.

Amelie: “About fitting in. I’m not doing the best, and that needs to change. And hair only grows out so quickly.”

GM: A pinging noise goes up from the phone.

“Ah’m sorry, Ah don’t ’ear a question there.”

Amelie: “I was answering yours about what kind of question it was. The question itself is ‘how do you think I could fit in a little better?’ Raise a few less eyebrows. I know how people see me at McGehee. My manners haven’t translated well, either.”

GM: Another few pings go up from Yvette’s phone. The glowing screen dimly illuminates her pretty face. Her pale skin is smooth and free of scars and blemishes. Her long, soft, and obviously carefully-maintained blonde hair falls well past her shoulders.

“Ah’d say grow out your ’air, but Ah suppose you already thought of that.”

Yvette finally looks up from the Solaris’ screen and smiles at Amelie.

“But Ah wouldn’t worry so much about ‘ow you look. Really. There’s some quote, what’s it…” She taps something into her phone. “‘God grant me the serenity to accept the things Ah cannot change, the courage to change the things Ah can, and the wisdom to know the difference.’”

She glances back down at the phone. “Ooh, ’ere’s another one, bah Oscar Wilde. ‘Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.’”

Amelie: Amelie just chuckles, cracks another glowstick and keeps it in hand as she scans around the foyer with her flashlight. “Then I should embrace being a scarred up, accidentally dykish, maple-flavored mess, then. Or maybe just start wearing makeup and hairspray again,” she jokes, slowly opening the door to the left of the entrance to peer inside.

GM: Yvette offers no reply to Amelie’s statement. Her phone makes a few further pinging noises as Amelie ventures deeper into the house. The door’s lock gives a whispered click before slowly giving way.

The room on the other side is marginally brighter than the forlorn entry hall. The expansive window looks some eight feet across, with shutters four feet wide. Rain thuds and crashes against the glass pane. Feeble and water-logged sunlight illuminates a bare and empty room with dark hardwood floors and bare white walls. Raised garlandry adorns the lofty ceiling. The former might look beautiful in daylight, but its presently twisted and indistinct designs appear obfuscated at best and sinister at worst, like pointed claws waiting to strike. The room’s dimensions continue past the window before disappearing into shadow.

Another door beckons to Amelie’s left. She walks, and remembers back to one of many accounts she read concerning the house:

For those lucky enough to attend social functions at 1140 Royal Street, they were amazed by what they found there. The three-story mansion, although rather plain on the exterior, was graced with delicate iron work but the interior was lavish by anyone’s standards. The house had been made for grand events and occasions. Mahogany doors that were hand-carved with flowers and human faces opened into a bright parlors, illuminated by the glow of hundreds of candles in gigantic chandeliers. Guests dined from European china and danced and rested on Oriental fabrics which had been imported at great expense.

The sight on the other side of the door could not be further removed from such a description. It is merely another barren room bereft of furniture, décor, or any signs of human gaiety or habitation. Bereft of anything but the night’s steadily encroaching gloom.

Amelie: Amelie leans down and puts the glowstick in front of the door frame, cracks another, and puts it in the same place on the opposite side. That marks it as another exit. She leaves the glowstick there and returns to the other door in the foyer, planning on leaving every single door in the house open.

GM: Yvette is still preoccupied on her phone and doesn’t glance up as Amelie walks past her. The next door’s lock gives another whispered click before swinging open.

The shadow-drenched room on the other side is just as barren and empty as the last one. There is another door to the left of Amelie’s. Rain pours against the three windows’ glass in a steady thud-thud-thud.

Amelie: Amelie repeats her earlier process and puts down a glowstick on each side of the side of the door. She scans the room and pulls back into the foyer. The house might be empty, but she still can’t shake her anxiety that this is not the best place to be. She gently smooths a thumb over her cat’s-eye scar as she takes out her own phone to check the time. She told her friends when they needed to be here to get around the realtor. It’s a little discouraging how glued Yvette is to her phone.

“Are you sticking around by the door? There’s something I want to check out.”

GM: “You don’t need mah permission,” Yvette answers over the sound of further pings.

Amelie: Amelie isn’t asking for permission. Yvette isn’t listening to her, but it doesn’t matter. She leaves and follows her mental map of the house towards the courtyard, putting glowsticks by doors as she goes.

“You’re going to be rid of me soon enough. If ‘he’ is here to hurt me, I hope you’d even take your anger out on him,” she mutters to herself, trying to keep a positive attitude.

GM: Amelie returns to the glowstick-illuminated room, its shadows now seemingly that much thicker. There’s a gap in the wall to her left, approximately the shape of a door. She crosses its threshold into a smaller, equally bare room, and then a corridor-like area with three doors leading deeper into the house. The courtyard lies directly onwards.

Amelie: Amelie dutifully lays down glowsticks as she walks, using her flashlight to make sure they’re in all the spots she picked out beforehand. Preparation is king.

She takes a breath as she opens the double french doors to the courtyard.

GM: The storm’s once-muffled pounding roars and bellows anew in Amelie’s ears. Raindrops pecker against her exposed skin. Angry clouds rumble from the dark and unobstructed twilight sky overhead.

The roof-less chamber is prettier than the other rooms Amelie has seen so far. The floor is brick. The lattices are made from the same black wood as the sweeping staircase to the second floor. Scattered pots and a larger, earth-filled brick trough contain a few small trees and plants. There are no chairs or tables. A set of double french doors leads out to the street. Several further doors beckon deeper into the house.

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Even Amelie would be hard-pressed to list specific functions or historical facts for the vacant rooms she has explored thus far. But she has read about this one. She still has one of the accounts saved to her phone. Rain thuds and cascades as she reads:

The house that joined Madame Lalaurie’s premises on the eastern side had a staircase window that looked down into her little courtyard. One day all by chance the lady of that adjoining house was going up those stairs just when the keen scream of a terrified child resounded from the next yard. She sprung to the window, and, looking down, saw a little negro girl about eight years old run wildly across the yard and into the house, with Madame Lalaurie, a cow-hide whip in her hand, following swiftly and close upon her.

They disappeared; but by glimpses through the dark lattices and by the sound of the tumult, the lady knew that the child was flying up stairway after stairway, from gallery to gallery, hard pressed by her furious mistress. Soon she heard them rise into the belvedere and the next instant they darted out upon the roof. Down into its valleys and up over its ridges the little fugitive slid and scrambled. She reached the sheer edge, the lady at the window hid her face in her hands, there came a dull, jarring thud in the paved court beneath, and the lady, looking down, saw the child lifted from the ground and borne out of sight, limp, silent, dead.

She kept her place at the window. Hours passed, the day waned, darkness settled down. Then she saw a torch brought, a shallow hole was dug—as it seemed to her; but in fact a condemned well of slight depth, a mere pit, was uncovered—and the little broken form was buried.

She informed the officers of justice. From what came to light at a later season, it is hard to think that in this earlier case the investigation was more than superficial. Yet an investigation was made, and some legal action was taken against Madame Lalaurie for cruelty to her slaves. They were taken from her and—liberated? Ah! no. They were sold by the sheriff, bid in by her relatives, and by them sold back to her.

Let us believe that this is what occurred, or at least was shammed; for unless we do we must accept the implication of a newspaper statement of two or three years afterwards, and the confident impression of an aged Creole gentleman and notary still living who was an eye-witness to much of this story, that all Madame Lalaurie ever suffered for this part of her hideous misdeeds was a fine.

Lawyers will doubtless remind us that Madame Lalaurie was not legally chargeable with the child’s death. The lady at the window was not the only witness who might have been brought. A woman still living, who after the Civil War was for years a domestic in this “haunted house,” says her husband, now long dead, then a lad, was passing the place when the child ran out on the roof, and he saw her scrambling about on it seeking to escape. But he did not see the catastrophe that followed. No one saw more than what the law knows as assault; and the child was a slave.

Amelie: The rain almost tricks Amelie’s ears into hearing the light pat of small feet on stone and wood. But she knows better. She stares into the courtyard sadly and images the terror that little girl must have endured to make her jump.

Ghosts were never on Amelie’s mind before New Orleans. There were too many other rumored monsters to fear up the north, all of them supposedly lurking just past the tree line. Things that dragged people away or drove one insane but for the sight of them. Old monsters, dragons whose bellies broke legendary spears and demons that walked in the bones of men.

But all of those monsters were rooted in this world. New Orleans makes her think about the next one, and what comes after dying.

She smooths her finger over her scar again and checks if Yvette is nearby before whispering into the rain, “I hope you ran all the way to your freedom, you deserved better. I’m sorry you didn’t get to see justice. And I really hope someone finds you soon. I hope we don’t scare you being here tonight.”

She clasps her hands together almost nervously and watches the area for a few more moments.

GM: Amelie’s only answer is the rain’s steady downpour.

Amelie: Amelie doesn’t mind the lack of reply. In fact, she’s happier for it. The only issue is that the night is still young on that front.

She closes the double doors and ventures into the rain to check out the rest of the courtyard.

GM: Water crashes and plinks against her face as she steps outside. Dark windows stare at her vacantly. Two further doorways lead back into shelter—though perhaps not succor.

Amelie: It’s enough for Amelie. She makes a quick, wet dash to the nearest doorway and shakes out her jacket to get the moisture off before stepping inside. She stomps her feet on the cement to minimize any footprints as she looks around. There’s something nagging her about the construction of this house. Why is there a room off to the side like this—disconnected from all the other ones except through the courtyard? She spots the archway mid-way through the room and the door at its far end. Does it have its own suite? Is there actually still a kitchen on the first floor, after what happened here—waiting just beyond that door?

GM: Her only answer remains the rain’s steady pounding.

Amelie: Amelie only ventures a few feet into the room and lightly rolls a glowstick over to the center of the floor. She regards the door waiting on the other side like it has teeth before retreating to the garage.

GM: More water plunks and strikes against her jacket. The brick-floored garage feels cooler than the house’s other rooms. It, too, is bare and avoid of furnishings save for a water heater. A staircase towards the back of the garage leads up to the second floor.

Amelie: Amelie uses the balcony as cover against the rain and steps into the garage a bit more comfortably—at least at first. The fact there has to be a suite over the garage bothers Amelie as well. Car fumes and nearby stoves don’t go together well. It’s a little thing, but another feature of the house’s construction that just feels… wrong.

Her northern-acclimated skin, at least, barely registers a lower temperature with the leather jacket she has on. She looks over the hot water to see if it’s where the house’s breaker panels are.

GM: Amelie locates a gray panel with a mass of black and colored wires near the water heater. Several of them have been cut.

Amelie: Cut. It’s concerning to see the panel damaged like this. She holds her flashlight closer to the wires to get a better look.

GM: The sometime-electrician can discern no evidence of any recent additions to the circuit box. The markings by the cut wires read ‘bedroom,’ ‘lights,’ and ‘kitchen.’ The interior of the copper tape wrapping bears faint signs of exposure-induced rust, leading Amelie to surmise that the wiring was not cut recently. The bank would have been remiss not to get it fixed.

Amelie: It’s strange the wires were cut, and that long ago. It makes turning on the power a fire hazard.

Amelie takes a few pictures of the scene, including close-ups of the wires’ rust. She takes the added precaution of emailing them to her own address, then pockets the phone and makes a mental note to check the bedrooms later. Just in case this house has been used for other things for a while now.

She leaves a glowstick where she can see it by the door frame and ducks back into the courtyard, hiding under the second floor balconies as she makes her way back to the foyer.

GM: No force arrests or impedes Amelie’s progress. The dying sun has died a little more, and the room’s shadows are dark and thick. Rain distantly thuds against the roof and windows.

Yvette is where Amelie last left her classmate. The blonde-haired teenager is still on her phone.

Amelie: The first 15 minutes? Survived. Amelie feels almost accomplished.

“Do you have the email of that woman who dropped us off?” she asks Yvette. “I should send her pictures of a fire hazard on the breaker panel.”

GM: Yvette looks halfway up from her phone. “Ah’m sorry?”

Amelie: “Le panneau électrique. There are open wires,” Amelie elaborates, showing Yvette the picture on her phone.

GM: Yvette glances at the pictures when Amelie holds them by her. Her face is very flat when she fully looks up at her classmate. “You already broke something. Mon dieu.”

Amelie: Amelie gives the other girl an equally flat look. “These were cut by a reno crew, to cut off power to the suite above the garage, and never fixed. There’s even rust on the copper wires.”

GM: Yvette’s expression doesn’t change. “What are you talking abou—no, never mind. Your aunt’s paying for this, not mah mother.”

Amelie: Amelie takes in a small breath through her nose to even herself out. She speaks as crisply as she can manage and hopes Yvette understands.

“Quelqu’un qui travaillait à la maison a coupé ces fils il y a des mois. Les fils sont usés.” (“Someone working on the house cut these wires months ago. The wires are worn.”)

GM: “Then if it was that long ago the bank must ’ave noticed it,” Yvette answers in English. “Or they should ‘ave. But Ah’m not telling them we broke anything, don’t be silly.”

Amelie: Amelie wants to tell Yvette they could be setting up her family to pay the balance for a burned-down house. She could say how dangerous it is that they’re in a house with potential live wires that could start a fire next to what amounts to a bomb, if it’s old enough and gets overheated.

But she just sighs, steps over to the wall, and leans against it while she checks the time on her phone. She might as well start taking pictures since her friends are taking so long.

GM: Minutes pass.

The run dully thuds and hammers. Pings steadily go up from her classmate’s phone.

Eventually, Yvette walks up to the front door and wordlessly pulls out the keys Miriam gave her.

Amelie: Amelie looks up and turns off her phone’s screen as she waits for Yvette to let people in. She hopes some of her friends have showed up alongside the sisters.

GM: The sound of thudding rain grows thicker as Yvette opens the door and disappears down the portal to the house’s front gate. Amelie can make out assorted greetings and exclamations in French.

Amelie: Amelie sighs lightly. Of course it’s the sisters. She still hopes they’re accompanied by a few other familiar faces as she approaches the door and holds it open.

GM: Two further girls are huddled under a shared umbrella at the end of the portal. One girl looks the same height and age as Yvette, while the other is notably shorter and looks maybe a year or two younger than Miranda. She wears a black leather jacket similar to Amelie’s, while the other newcomer has a navy coat on. All three girls are thin and willowy of build, with smooth pale skin, long blonde hair, clear blue eyes, and delicate facial features. Their uncannily near-identical appearances only make Amelie’s broad shoulders, scar-nicked muscles, and thickly masculine physique stand out all the more.

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Amelie: Amelie has a passing thought that she could probably juggle these matryoshka doll sisters, they are so small. Still, she can’t help but feel jealous of how pretty they all are, even if their almost identical appearances would—historically—point at ‘royal’ inbreeding.

GM: Amelie can make out a BMW driving into the rain and away from the house’s gate, which Yvette closes and re-locks. Water dribbles off the edges of the three’s umbrellas as they make their way down the portal to the front door.

“Excuse us,” Yvette says to Amelie.

Amelie: Amelie steps to the side as the girls approach and allows them into the house while making note of where they leave their umbrellas. She doesn’t want any water damage.

GM: Yvette motions to Amelie after she and the other girls have stepped inside. “And this is Amalie, mah research partner. The idea to stay the night ’ere was ’ers.”

“Hallo,” says the taller girl.

“Hi,” echoes the smaller one.

“And these are mah sisters, Yvonne and Simmone.”

“Ah thought Amalie was a girl’s name,” remarks Simmone.

“Amalie is a girl,” Yvette replies.

Simmone peers closer at Amelie, then reddens slightly in the cheeks. “Oh. Sorry. It’s dark.”

Amelie: Simmone’s slip-up breaks Amelie’s train of thought. The older, mannish-looking young woman can’t help but laugh at the remark.

“Ne t’inquiète pas, no offense taken. I’m used to it. I’ve lit up the first floor a bit, so far no ghosts.”

GM: Yvette and Yvonne shake their umbrellas off and leave them next to the door.

Amelie: Amelie makes a mental note to come back later and wipe the floor. A question comes to mind as she looks between them. “Do you all prefer French or English while we’re here?”

GM: “The others will be ’ere soon. Speaking en Français around them would be rude,” Yvette replies.

“Either’s fine until then,” Yvonne answers. Most people would take off their coats at this point. Amelie’s present company does not, even though the night air is warm enough. Perhaps the house simply lacks that indelible quality, endemic to other private residences, that makes one remove their hat and over-garments out of ‘politeness’ and implicit acknowledgement they have entered a place of shelter and respite.

Amelie: Amelie keeps her jacket on for her own reasons. Nothing is going to be making her cold in Louisiana even if the night wasn’t this warm.

“As long as it’s comfortable for you all, I’ve heard you all speaking it to each other in school,” she assures them. She takes her phone, turns it on its side, and starts to prepare her camera for the picture tour.

GM: “Yes, Ah can tell you want us to be comfortable. This is the third time you’ve asked if we prefer English or French?” Yvette half-asks, half-remarks while glancing down at her own phone. Simmone pulls out hers and aimlessly shines its flashlight around the room.

Amelie: “Northern Hospitality,” Amelie comments offhand. She brings up her camera, steps off to the side, and snaps a picture of the adjacent rooms from the doorways. She makes sure not to get Yvonne or Simmone in frame at any point.

“As for the project, I actually went into the courtyard. Where that little girl running from Delphine LaLaurie jumped to her death.”

GM: “She should ’ave climbed down,” Simmone comments.

Amelie: “I think she must have been scared, reportedly she was on the roof. Even the fire that outed Delphine and her cruelty was a suicide attempt by a terrified slave, chained to a stove upstairs.”

GM: “Ah think she was around your age, too, when she jumped…” Yvette smiles wickedly, brushing a finger along her sister’s hair.

“Ah wouldn’t ’ave been that scared,” Simmone retorts.

Amelie: Amelie doesn’t really approve of Yvette teasing the young girl, particularly where this situation is concerned, but she bites her tongue about the distaste of it.

“So, the electricity is off, as you can see. But in case Yvette didn’t say, the plumbing is too. There’s a deli kiddy corner to us that’s open 24 hours, so we can go there if we need snacks or to use the bathroom.”

GM: “Okay. Ah need to use it,” Simmone says.

Yvette frowns slightly. “You didn’t before we drove out?”

“Ah was packing.”

Amelie: “We shouldn’t let her go alone at night. Yvette, you have the key, want to walk her over?”

GM: Simmone looks at her sisters, but then looks at Amelie. “Ah can walk to a deli by mahself.”

Yvette runs a finger along her forehead. “Non, she is raht-”

“-the Quarter isn’t always safe,” Yvonne continues.

“Ah’ll take you,” Yvette finishes.

Amelie: “Less because you’re young, and more because the buddy system is safer in general. Tourist spots like this one have lots of weird people nearby.”

GM: Simmone looks down at her phone, then back up. “Seriously? It’s next door!”

Amelie: “’I’m a little paranoid after a rather painful incident that happened last week. You mind humoring me, Simmone? I’d say the same to Yvonne and Yvette.”

GM: The younger girl’s face doesn’t look happy against the glowstick’s teal light. “Fine, if it’ll make you feel better.”

Amelie: Amelie can’t help but give the girl a thankful smile. It really is safer. Maybe she’ll ask Simmone to come out to the deli with her later. That could make her feel better about the buddy system.

“Thank you, Simmone. It will, for sure.”

GM: It’s just as Yvette fishes out the keys from her coat pocket that another ping goes up from her phone. She glances down at it. “Oh good, the others are ’ere.”

She unlocks the door and disappears down the portal. Several girls’ voices exchange greetings, this time in English, over the rain’s hard and relentless roaring.

Amelie: Amelie eyes the key and wonders if they should put it on a lanyard or something before Yvette gives her the good news. It’s wonderful they’re here, and even more so to hear them come in. The rain sounds like it’s getting to become more of a problem, though. At least they don’t have to worry about the power going out.

GM: Yvette files back in. So do Hannah, Rachel, and Sarah Whitney. This is the first time Amelie has seen any of them out of uniform, though all of the girls wear full (if light) coats and carry umbrellas they shake off after stepping inside.

“…Ah’m so glad you all could make it. Makes the ‘aunted ’ouse less scary when there’s so many of us,” Yvette says.

Amelie: Sarah Whitney? Amelie is a little surprised to see her, but it makes sense that she’d be here. It also puts a significant deterrent in her back pocket—unless Sarah’s either in on her father’s proclivities or a planned victim of them. Still, Yvette is absolutely right that having more people makes everything a lot less tense in some ways.

“Evening! You guys didn’t get washed away on the way here, glad to see it. Megan couldn’t make it?” she asks, looking to Hannah and Rachel.

GM: Hannah shakes her head. “She wasn’t feeling up to it.”

“Chickened out is what you mean,” Rachel corrects, smirking.

Amelie: “Considering? I think we can excuse her on that,” Amelie offers.

GM: “I was chicken too when Amelie first pitched sleeping in a haunted house to me,” Sarah laughs lightly before turning to Amelie. “So nice to see you here, by the way. I’m glad we’ll have someone big and strong around to protect us from any ghosts.”

Amelie: “Hah! Well, I’ll do my best. Though I have my doubts I can grab a ghost,” Amelie admits. “Thank you again for this, Sarah. I’ve only looked through the first floor and I’ve already got chills.”

GM: “Hopefully that’s just from the rain,” Sarah laughs again. “But don’t mention it. I have Ms. Perry’s class too, you know, and she said she’d give me extra credit for participating in this.”

Amelie: “Oh really? I’m glad to hear you have that class, Ms. Perry is a good woman. It’s a shame about her engagement.”

GM: “Some things just don’t work out, Amelie. No matter how hard anyone tries to make them, sometimes a bad fit is just a bad fit,” Sarah smiles. “She is a sweet woman. I’m sure she’ll find somebody else.”

“Yes, Ah’m sure she will,” Yvette agrees as she takes Simmone’s hand and shepherds her younger sister towards the door. “All right, Ah’m going to lock you all in while we go to the deli.” She smirks wickedly. “Try not to get killed-”

“-bah all the ghosts before you’re back…” Yvonne finishes with a mirrored smirk.

The girls laugh and exchange goodbyes. The door’s lock clicks behind the sisters.

“Don’t worry,” Yvonne smiles as the outside light dies. “Mah mother ’as us on the platinum level for the French Quarter Response Force app. Ah could ’ave this place swarming with police if Ah wanted to.”

“Oh, that is nice,” Sarah agrees. “My family doesn’t live in the Quarter, so we never bothered getting it… I just wish it covered other parts of the city.”

“Oui, that is too bad,” Yvonne agrees back. “You could still get it, though. Ah mean, you must come ’ere for shopping and eating out.”

“You know, that’s absolutely right. Don’t I feel silly not thinking of that,” Sarah smiles back.

“What’s the French Quarter Response App?” Hannah asks.

“Oh, you ’aven’t ‘eard? It’s wonderful,” Yvonne explains. “It’s this app you can call police in the Quarter with… so much faster than 911. There’s different levels—well, three paying levels, the first one is free—and the ’igher your level is, the faster they come. Ah feel so much safer.”

“Oh, wow. You pay more for them to show up faster?” Hannah.

“Kind of. They respond to users with the platinum level first, and people using the free version last, if they’re dealing with more than one call at once.” Rachel. “My family doesn’t live in the Quarter either, so it’s not like we need it. But I’ve heard of it.”

“It’s great, like Ah said,” Yvonne repeats. “Mah mother says she’d support Moreno if ‘e decides to run for mayor, ’e’s done so much to clean up the streets.”

Amelie: Amelie listens in on the conversation and doesn’t have too much to say until she hears that name. She still feels disgusted after the incident with that cop and his boss’ supposed solution to crime in the Quarter. She wonders if he has any secrets he doesn’t want spread around, but quickly discards the idea. It’s not something she should mess with.

She turns to Rachel and Hannah as the others talk.

“So you came! I’m glad you did, it’d been a little weird with just me and Yvette’s sisters. As you can see, though, the place has its utilities cut off. Extra spooky bang for our buck. Long as we don’t break anything.”

GM: The awkwardness in the dark room is palpable as the four girls, all of whom are clearly within speaking and hearing range of one another, look at Amelie.

“Ah’m sorry you’ve felt that way,” Yvonne finally replies.

Amelie: Amelie feels the crushing pressure of being an idiot.

“I didn’t mean it like that, I swear. I’m just nervous about the house. I meant numbers, and people I’m familiar with,” she says, her face red as a beet.

GM: “Maybe we should take a look around the house. I’m sure it’s got us all nervous, being so big and dark and spooky,” Sarah fills in, clearly changing the topic.

“Oh, not me. I wanna see the attic.” Rachel.

“There any place for us to dump our backpacks?” Hannah.

“Maybe where we sleep? We should decide who gets what rooms.” Sarah.

“Let’s wait until Yvette and Simmone are back for that.” Yvonne.

“Okay, why don’t we just look around for now?” Hannah.

“Attic’s on the top floor. That’ll be easy to find.” Rachel says as she glances towards the stairs.

“Oh, let’s wait to do the attic too,” Sarah says. “If it’s the scariest part, we’ll want to do that with everyone here…”

“Second scariest,” Rachel corrects. “I brought an ouija board. We can do a séance!”

“Ah brought drinks,” Yvonne smirks. A glass-like clinking noise goes up as she shakes her backpack. “So we don’t ’ave to spend all night in an empty ’ouse with nothing to do…”

“Oh wow, booze and séances,” Sarah laughs again.

“It’s a little-known drinking game. You take a drink every time you see Casper.” Hannah.

“You don’t see ghosts in séances. You just hear them. Sometimes they give a sign.” Rachel.

“Okay, it’s one drink when you hear a ghost, one glass if they give a sign, and the rest of the bottle if you see one.” Hannah.

“Ah brought more than one. Bottles, that is. So we can see plenty ghosts,” Yvonne giggles.

Amelie: The sight or at least sound of booze is almost a relief. Amelie doesn’t belong with people like this. She can already feel the blue collar coming out her throat. A drinking game around ghosts reminds her about Mr. Towers, though, and his own little drinking problem that was rumored to come up after buying the house.

“Oh no, a ghost, quick give me a bottle,” she exclaims, her voice monotone. “I’m game. First one possessed, everyone else takes a shot.”

GM: “So where do we wanna go first, if we’re saving the attic for last?” Hannah.

“There’s the courtyard. This little girl slave fell to her death there.” Rachel.

“’Ow did that happen?” Yvonne.

“Madam LaLaurie was chasing her with a whip. She probably knew all about all the horrible things LaLaurie was doing to the other slaves, so… she took the easy way out.” Rachel.

“Oh wow, that’s scary. Should we take a closer look?” Sarah.

“Let’s,” Hannah says, setting off with the others.

Amelie: “They say they buried her there, too. In a shallow well that’s since been filled in,” Amelie adds as she follows the group.

She’s already been through these rooms. The path and doors along the way are illuminated with a dull teal glow from the veritable horde of chemical light capsules in her bag. At least those things seem to be helping.

GM: The girls arrive at the courtyard. None bring their umbrellas and are mildly annoyed when they see that rain is falling over the roofless area. Yvonne comments how Amelie “must ’ave so much on your mind” before they head back to the atrium, retrieve their umbrellas, and then enter the courtyard proper. Rain thuds and splashes against the plastic and nylon surfaces as the group looks around. Thunder rumbles ominously overhead.

“Huh. They must have bricked it up.” Hannah.

“Figures. That’s a letdown.” Rachel.

“Ah ’ave to admit Ah was expecting… more.” Yvonne.

“I’m sure this house will be a lot more interesting after a few drinks,” Sarah smiles.

Yvonne laughs. “Point. Ah wonder if it ’as a bar anywhere?”

“I wouldn’t be surprised. I mean, it belonged to Rick Towers.” Rachel.

Amelie: Amelie tags along and gives the grounds a second scan for where the well could be, but gives up when the conversation catches her attention.

“Far as a bar, I doubt anything is still stocked. Unless he made his house like his movies and we have to poke a statue’s eye for a secret cabinet.”

GM: “Is it okay for us to be drinking with your sister around? Isn’t she a little young?” Hannah asks Yvonne.

“Oh no,” the blonde replies with a shake of her head. “Lots of people drink a little wine with meals in France, even children. It isn’t a big deal to us.”

Amelie: “I agree with Hannah, but do you usually let her have drinks with you and Yvette?”

GM: “You Americans,” Yvonne laughs. “So uptight. All of mah sisters ’ave a little wine at meals, we always ’ave.”

Amelie: “That might sting if I was American,” Amelie lightly ribs back before looking to Hannah. “We’ll just have to make sure she doesn’t have more than a little, then. Even France frowns on liquor before 18.”

GM: “Oh, you aren’t? You seemed very American to me, Ah thought you just spoke French,” Yvonne smiles. “Ah mean, everyone ‘ere learns it at McGehee, so it’s not like it’s too rare. High school’s such a silly time to teach new languages, Ah suppose that’s just another American thing. But who ‘ere ’asn’t learned French?”

“Oh yes, I took French for my foreign language requirement. I also thought about learning German or Italian… but you know, the history here.” Sarah.

“I took French too. My last school offered either that, Spanish, or Japanese.” Hannah.

“Good choice,” Sarah smiles.

“I took Chinese. Seemed interesting.” Rachel.

“Oh really? Ah didn’t think they offered that ’ere.” Yvonne.

“Online,” Rachel clarifies. “My dad and I took a vacation to Macau and that got me interested.”

“That’s the gambling capital of China, isn’t it?” Yvonne asks.

“Gambling capital of the world, actually. It brings in more money than Vegas. Anyway, I figured Chinese would be more useful than French.”

“Fighting words, with the native French speaker here…” Sarah laughs.

“Chinese ’as more speakers. French ’as better speakers,” Yvonne smiles contently.

The other girls laugh.

Amelie: The flow of the conversation feels a little different than Amelie is used to with groups of friends. She guesses that might just be from the absence of boys. She lets the question of her nationality go and chuckles along with others, though more at the feel of things than the actual joke.

“Chinese though! That had to be difficult. I know a few languages, but none without the Latin script alphabet.”

GM: “It’s more of a challenge, yeah. There isn’t that common frame of reference.” Rachel.

“Why don’t we take this out of the rain?” Sarah asks over the relentless downpour hammering against everyone’s umbrellas.

“Yeah, I’m starting to get wet,” Hannah says as she starts off.

“Yes, good idea. Where’s there to go next?” Yvonne.

Amelie: Amelie takes off her jacket as they get back under the cover of the second-floor balcony. She runs a hand through her soaked hair and shakes the rain off her jacket before carrying it inside. It’s dark, but she’s still hyper-conscious of how the other girls can see her back. The loose black tank top hangs low enough off her shoulders.

“The garage might not be interesting, but that’s where they say Delphine LaLaurie made her escape from a mob. Or we can go to the second floor, where it’s said a man was murdered after ranting about a demon. Should we wait for Yvette and Simmone, first?”

GM: “We can just text them where we are,” Rachel says impatiently. “I wanna see the murder scene.”

“I don’t know that it’s going to be too much more grisly than the one here. Someone did live in this place.” Sarah.

“Oui, probably not. We should just get drunk already,” Yvonne smiles.

“Oh, we should wait for Yvette for that,” Sarah smiles back.

Amelie: “I don’t remember if anyone lived here again after that murder, other than Towers. It was the music school, the school for black children, and a furniture store. The furniture store was slightly spooky, a sheen of grime over all his product every night. Even when he stayed overnight with a shotgun.”

GM: “Okay, so right now do we wanna see the murder scene or the garage?” Hannah.

“Murder scene!” Rachel.

“Good enough for me,” Sarah laughs.

“Yes, if we’ll go upstairs anyway.” Yvonne.

Amelie: Amelie can’t help but smile at Rachel’s enthusiasm, as well. “I don’t know which room it was, but it was definitely the second floor. Texting Yvette’s a good idea, too.”

GM: “Great. If the committee’s all in favor, then let’s go ahead.” Hannah.

Amelie: Amelie nods and pulls her jacket back on, feeling a small bit of relief that she’s covered again. Her pockets are still full of glowsticks and she takes a few more out of her backpack before sliding that back on as well. She breaks and shakes one stick before dropping it at the top of the stairs, then scans a flashlight through the landing.

GM: The group makes their way up the steps, rain thudding and crashing against their umbrellas. Rachel mutters a curse as a sudden gust of wind nearly blows hers from her hand, the other one of which still grips her phone.

Dark windows impassively stare down at the five from above. Amelie can make out several doors past the top-most step, but it’s hard to get a good luck at anything else. The other girls are all eager to get out of the rain and simply file past her. Cones of light from their held-up phones struggle to pierce the gloom.

“That top looks good on you, bah the way, you shouldn’t ’ide it under that jacket,” Yvonne remarks as she passes Amelie.

Amelie: Amelie lets the others file past her and steps out of the way to check around where she can, before she follows. Yvonne’s comment rolls off her like rain over treated leather. “Sure. Hey, that door in front of us to the left, let’s start there.”

It’s a dig. Of course it is, she’s Yvette’s sister and one of those inbred elites. Amelie wonders if Yvonne saw the scar over her back but keeps moving forward. The reminder of how many of these girls are elites makes her anxiety over fitting in rear its head again, though. She’s looking forward to the great equalizer of liquor later on. Maybe a chance to air things out will come up then.

GM: Sarah pulls opens a door. Her phone’s light illuminates a sink, stove, and oven. The shadow-drenched room is otherwise bare.

“Isn’t this place cozy,” she remarks.

“You mean small. Thought a house like this would have a bigger kitchen.” Hannah.

Amelie: “There’s undoubtedly more than one kitchen in this house. This looks like a small guest apartment.”

GM: “Isn’t that nice for whoever’s here, their own little place to make food.” Sarah.

“Oui. Some privacy.” Yvonne.

“Well Rachel probably wants to get to the murder scene. Right?” Hannah asks.

She glances around, then shines her flashlight around the room.

“Rachel?”

Amelie: Amelie feels a drop in her gut. She takes quick inventory of the girls before peeking out the door in either direction for Rachel.

GM: Sarah, Hannah, and Yvonne are all present. The lights from their phones cast long and exaggerated shadows over their faces. Rachel is nowhere that Amelie can see.

Amelie: Amelie frowns. She doesn’t like this. At all. She looks over to Hannah.

“Can you call her cell?”

GM: The other girls look around.

“Maybe she wandered off?” Sarah.

“She does love this ’ouse so much.” Yvonne.

Hannah taps her phone several times, then holds it to her ear.

Amelie can faintly make out the ring tone of an old-fashioned rotary phone from somewhere to her left.

Amelie: “I hear her to our left. I’ll go ahead,” she says, striding out the door and briskly making her way through the house. She breaks multiple glowsticks at once, shakes them, and drops them as she goes. At least she knows where Rachel is now.

GM: “What, while the rest of us bake cookies in that kitchen?” Hannah snorts as she and the other two follow after Amelie.

“Ah wonder why she isn’t answering ’er phone.” Yvonne.

Amelie: Amelie just gives a nod and smile to Hannah as she makes a good point, but doesn’t slow her pace for the others. It’s odd. The one person in the group who loves horror and she’s the one to make the horror movie mistake.

GM: The four girls take the door on their left. Phone-lights spill over an equally dark and empty room with two doors. They go left again. The gloomy chamber on the other side is identical to the last one—but for the figure standing in the middle of the room. She faces the wall. A ringing phone emanates from close by.

Amelie: Amelie pauses when she sees Rachel just standing there. “Rachel? Don’t try and scare us, what’s going on?”

GM: Rachel screams and falls over backwards, hitting the wood floor with a thud.

Amelie: The scream sets Amelie on edge and her body tenses like it’s ready for something to strike her. The tension uncoils just as fast as it comes, though, and the dykish young woman is suddenly a picture of flowing grace as her right leg pushes forward. She grabs the back of Rachel’s head with her hands, taking away the brunt of the fall’s force even as her fencing thrust carries her into the splits.

Her next actions are hurried. She grabs Rachel under the arm and pulls her back as she scrambles out of her position while looking down at the other girl’s face. “Rachel! Shit, we need light on her!”

GM: The sudden noise makes Yvonne give an audible half-gasp, half-gulp. She and Sarah both startle. Rachel, however, shrieks and flails as Amelie grabs her.

Hannah shines her phonelight over the pair. “Rachel!?” she shouts. “What the hell-”

Jesus,” Rachel exclaims with wide eyes as her chest rises and falls, “you guys fucking shocked me!

“Wait, we shocked y-” Yvette starts.

“Get off me, I’m FINE!” she protests, trying to disentangle herself from Amelie.

Amelie: Amelie drops and lets go of Rachel. She sighs and pats herself off as she stands up. “You left the group, didn’t answer you phone, and were Blair Witching it staring at a wall when we walked in. Almost cracked your head on the floor, too.”

GM: Rachel dusts herself off as she stands up. “I wasn’t staring at a wall.”

Amelie: Amelie looks over to the direction Rachel was facing when they walked in. To see if there is, in fact, only a wall there.

GM: Amelie can make out nothing in the darkness, that now seems so very thick and pregnant.

Sarah shines her phone over it.

Devil_Baby.jpg
The creature resembles a chubby-faced infant with pinkish-red skin and pointed ears. Tiny horns poke up from the top of its head. Solid, milk-white eyes bereft of pupils bore deliberately ahead towards Amelie.

Screams sound from behind her as phonelights wildly pivot, throwing frantic shadows across the room.

“Fuck, you guys, it’s just a painting!” Rachel yells.

The scattered phonelights still.

Merde,” Yvonne mutters.

Amelie: Amelie tries her best to keep her eyes fixed on the painting. The screams set her heart thumping in her chest, but she brings out the flashlight in her pocket and shines it over the pink face.

She speaks again when the screams finally die down. “Didn’t the man murdered here say something about a demon?”

GM: The creature’s pupil-less eyes bore straight back into hers.

Devil_Baby.jpg
None of the other girls say anything.

Amelie: Amelie does not back down.

“Should we turn it around so it doesn’t look at us?”

GM: Several more lights fall over the chubby, horn-topped head.

One abruptly drops. Footsteps sound as Sarah strides out of the room.

The round, reddish-hued face watches her go with its too-adult smile.

Amelie: Amelie hears it and rubs the side of her face. “Let’s go with Sarah. If she’s freaked out, she shouldn’t be alone.”

GM: “’Ow kind of you to say that out loud about ’er, in front of everyone,” Yvonne remarks acidly. The tremor in her own voice is plain as she briskly follows Sarah out.

“I’m gonna stay,” Rachel replies distractedly.

Hannah looks between them, then follows Yvonne out.

The horned figure silently watches.

Amelie: Amelie rolls her eyes at Yvonne’s balking, watches Hannah and Rachel for a moment, and then looks back at the painting.

“Can you just… take a picture, and we’ll go, or something? I don’t know if we should be near this thing.”

GM: “I think we should do the séance here,” Rachel says quietly. Her eyes don’t meet Amelie’s.

Amelie: Amelie shakes her head. “I don’t want to do it here, this isn’t… what we came here for. It’s wrong.”

Amelie takes off her jacket to use as an impromptu set of gloves. She approaches and grabs the painting so she can turn it to face away from them.

GM: The dark-rimmed, pupil-less eyes stare up at Amelie’s advancing hands.

The room is abruptly plunged into blackness.

Amelie: Amelie reflexively reaches up and covers her head. Her body tenses as she she focuses her senses on finding out what the hell is doing this.

GM: The young woman’s jacket-clenching hands pass through leather and air. Footfalls sound from behind her.

“Leave that thing alone!”

Amelie: Amelie pauses, drops her jacket and puts her hands over her eyes. She’s barely holding in panic at her sudden inability to see light, and takes a deep breath to try and quench how hard her heart is beating.

“Rachel, if this was a horror novel, this would be the first sign of trouble, wouldn’t it? Just… I need light. I can’t see.”

GM: “Good!” the teenager’s voice calls out. “You don’t just grab old paintings like that, you could damage it!”

Amelie: Amelie fishes another glowstick out of her pocket, then breaks and shakes it to try and get some more light.

GM: Teal glow spills over the portrait.

Devil_Baby_Glowstick.jpg
The subject looks as if it is staring down at Amelie from the deepest, weirdly illuminated ocean depths. The now-uniform color of its eyes and flesh make the former seem large, wide, and eager—more eager than even before.

Amelie: Amelie slowly side-eyes the painting. She does not kill the light. Not again.

“My family restored antiques, this isn’t even an antique. It’s probably worthless. Can we just get back to the others? We’re gonna get a drink and poke ghosts instead of demons.”

GM: “Fine,” Rachel replies, the glowstick’s cyan light wanly shining off her glasses. “Just so long as you aren’t gonna damage anything else.”

Amelie: Amelie pauses and looks around for her glowstick.

GM: The darkness remains thick and pregnant—but not with any glowstick that Amelie can discern.

Amelie: Amelie warily side-eyes the painting again. “I can explain when we aren’t in the same room as it, I promise.”

GM: “Explain wh-never mind, whatever. Great, even. I can’t wait.” Rachel gestures mock-grandiosely towards the doorway.

Amelie: Amelie gives Rachel a bit of an apologetic look and leads her out of the room. She breathes a sigh of relief as she closes the door behind them.

“I’m sorry I’m still a superstitious mess,” she starts. “That painting, LaLaurie was said to have cared for an infant boy, born from the devil himself.”

GM: “Well then, I guess the painting had to be from hell too. Just don’t grab anything else,” Rachel says exasperatedly as she turns on her phone’s light and heads down the hallway.

Amelie: Amelie bites back her reflexive response, closes her mouth, and watches Rachel walk away. The danger in this house still feels very real to her. Maybe she’s the only one who feels it.

She rubs a finger along her palm and remembers the old woman’s words. Blacker than the brew of a nigger witch laying with the devil at midnight.

Amelie keeps silent and doesn’t put a glowstick in front of the door they just left. She pats her pockets and clothes to try and find a stick that’s already lit.

GM: No light shines from any of the sticks she removes from her pockets.

Amelie: Amelie frowns. It bothers her where that stick could have gone missing to, but she keeps walking. She’s looking forward to having a shot or two to loosen up, even just a little.

She quietly follows Rachel while breaking glowsticks and dropping them at entrances and exits.

GM: Rachel taps away on her phone as the two advance through lightless corridors. They finally reach the kitchen. The other girls are all there, including Yvette and Simmone, and clustered around a granite-countertopped island not unlike the one in Christina’s house. The evening sun has died, and the unexplored room is pitch dark without Amelie’s glowsticks. The only light comes from the girls’ phones, which cast long shadows against their pale faces. Rain pounds, howls, and roars against the room’s three tall windows. Several cabinet-like shapes loom in Amelie’s peripheral vision. The tiled floors are beige. The walls are navy. The ceiling is a stark blood red.

“Yvonne, we ‘ave glasses, don’t we?” Yvette asks from behind the counter.

“Of course,” her sister answers as she bends down to rummage through a backpack. Dull clinks sound against the counter’s granite surface.

“We’re drinking from glasses at a slumber party?” Hannah remarks.

Yvette smiles indulgently at her classmate as she pours from a bottle. “People with class don’t drink from the bottle.”

“Yes, let’s keep this classy,” Sarah smiles.

“Ah’m cold,” Simmone remarks.

“It isn’t cold ‘ere. And you’ve got your jacket.” Yvette.

“You brought a blanket, no? Trah putting that on.” Yvonne.

Simmone bends down to rummage through her backpack.

Yvette smiles as she sees Rachel and Amelie approach, then slides a glass across the table. “And there’s our ladies of the ‘our. Ah think the night’s first drink should go to you, Amalie, as the one who ’ad the idea to bring us all ’ere.”

Amelie: Amelie breaks three glowsticks at once to put on the countertop. They illuminate the room effectively, if weirdly, as the chemicals roil in endothermic reactions and throw shadows against the walls.

Those shadows grow hands. Amelie feels one of them press into her back as Yvette slides the glass towards her. It’s a sudden throb through the mass of scar tissue and spells out an unmistakable message:

Danger.

Amelie’s eyes rest on the drink with a stare no less granite than the countertop’s. She then leans down, pulls a box of table salt out of her bag, and rests it on the counter before standing up straight to shrug off her jacket and drop it over the bag. The open air feels good on her throbbing scars. She rubs her hand over the patch that just barely encroaches on her shoulder.

“Merci. What kinda drink is it? I smelled wine all during my lunch meeting, so I have a craving.”

GM: “Uh… not one you put salt in?” Hannah remarks with a perplexed look as Amelie places the box of salt on the table.

It’s a look shared by more than a few of the other girls.

“What do you even have that for?”

Amelie: “I was told we were doing a séance,” Amelie says offhandedly. “You know this is the main kitchen. A slave chained to a stove right here in this room, starting a fire in fear of punishment. A blaze that had firemen come in and discover the men and women horrifically tortured just above us. In a room where many others had already perished.”

GM: Amelie’s peers look even more confused and discomfited.

“Yeah, uh, all ’cuz someone forgot the salt.” Hannah.

Yvette shakes her head and motions as if to dispel the room’s confusion. “It’s chartreuse-”

“-from our mother’s cellar.” Yvonne.

Amelie: Amelie looks the drink over and swirls it around uncertainly. There has to be a way out of this.

“Salt is said to be protection against the vengeful departed. It’s why tossing it over your shoulder is considered good luck.”

She slides the box of salt further along the counter. That’ll help obscure the light—and what she’s about to do. She holds the glass low as she gives it a quick tip over her open backpack, then raises it to her lips. She takes a pull the others can see and puts the empty glass back down on the counter with a soft clink.

GM: “So… you brought a box of it here. That makes total sense,” Hannah remarks as the stream of sweet-smelling chartreuse spills over Amelie’s backpack. She feels individual droplets spatter against the legs of her jeans, each one’s sensation as jolting as a gunshot. Nagging thoughts pull at her: what if she missed, by just enough, and more chartreuse is running down her backpack and over the precious tile floor? The rain pours and pounds against the now-rattling windows and makes it impossible to hear any further light spatterings. There could be so many.

The five other girls are all staring at her.

None of them blink.

“Too bad they don’t sell those backpack things from Ghostbusters or we could’ve brought those too,” Sarah smiles.

“Or maybe we should’ve all just stayed home if the ghosts are going to kill us,” Rachel remarks, rolling her eyes.

“And Ah suppose you want to throw salt everywhere to protect against ghosts. Mon dieu.” Yvette shakes her head, thens pulls the box of salt away from Amelie and stuffs it into her backpack. “Were you even listening when that woman said we aren’t supposed to mess this place up?”

“She tried to rub her jacket all over that painting too,” Rachel adds.

“Did she really?” Yvonne scoffs.

“Seems like you might only be this place’s second biggest fan, Rachel,” Sarah laughs.

Amelie: Amelie can feel her ears burning as the girls all look at her. The sudden shift in conversation confirms that she’s gotten away with it, at least. The new subject of discussion still feels rather pointed.

“Salt leeches water from wood, instead of pushing it in like a rag would. And touching a painting with bare hands can damage it. My family worked with antiques,” she explains before kneeling back down to her bag. She tosses her extra pair of clothes over her foot where the bit of mess is and lets it soak the liquor up as she rifles through her bag. The extra phone battery goes into her back pocket, the snacks stay in a front section of her bag, and her knife goes in a separate one. She steps on her clothes as she stands back up to better soak up the mess.

GM: Amelie can feel the other girls’ eyes lingering on her as she bends down, rummages through her things, and stands up empty-handed.

“Checking for ghosts down there?” Yvonne inquires with a faint smile.

Giggles sound from the others.

Amelie: Amelie looks between the girls as they snicker. “Why yes, yes I was. No luck though, so I think this’ll be a dry night,” she shoots back. “You and Yvette left France when you were around 10 years old, right?”

GM: Hannah shines her phonelight over Amelie. “Uh, not so dry. Your bag’s wet.”

She frowns. The light dips slightly.

“And your… feet?”

Amelie: “Dry as in no alcohol,” Amelie smiles at Hannah. “I spilled something, sorry. Hand. I leaned down to remove my extra phone battery.”

The situation is starting to get clearer to her. The glowsticks’ light is dim, but she can still make out that look in Yvette’s eye.

“You mind if we step into the other room, Yvette? Just for a moment. We should suss out a few last details about us documenting the house, and I’d hate to bore everyone. I should be taking pictures, not drinking with people,” she chuckles.

GM: “Wait, what? That doesn’t make any…” Hannah frowns.

Rachel steps closer to Amelie and shines a phonelight over her.

“Hey, does that smell like… chartreuse?”

Amelie: Amelie leans down, picks up the bundle of clothes, and stuffs it in her bag. The mess on the floor is soaked into the blouse she wore to her earlier meeting with Caroline.

“That’s because it’s chartreuse,” she says bluntly. She points her own phonelight up at Yvette and waits for an answer.

GM: Yvette’s expression goes flat. “Ah’m sorry. Chartreuse? On your…”

“…all over her feet,” Rachel fills in, sweeping her phonelight over Amelie. “And her bag, and leg…”

Sarah frowns.

Simmone and Hannah look confused.

Yvonne’s expression is a mirror of her first sister’s.

“Ah’m sorry. Is that from the vintage bottle from mah mother’s cellar, or some other chartreuse that just ’appened to find its way onto your feet?” Yvette asks with a sudden smile, as if it’s all just a joke.

Amelie: Amelie feels humiliated, of course. She gives Rachel a sidelong look for outing her, then turns back to Yvette. “I asked you into the other room for a reason.”

There are two reasons she came to this house. The first was because she was scared what might happen if Yvette came here alone. Ghosts, demons, snuff films. The second reason was ironically Rachel herself. She wanted to get the other girl into the house she was so interested in. It hurts Amelie in her chest, but she puts on a stony Roberts family expression.

“I apologize for the drink, it’s unfortunate. As for me being here, I’ll be blunt. I get the hint. But I couldn’t pass up the chance. The last thing I want is to insult you.”

She looks back to Hannah and Rachel again, just for a moment, before returning her gaze to Yvette. “I’m going to take my pictures for the project and leave you be, likely leave after, all things considered.”

GM: “And Ah said no for a r-” Yvette starts.

“Now look, y’all,” Sarah interjects over the girls’ variously confused and ambivalent looks, “I’m sure Amelie just didn’t want to offend anyone saying no. That’s fine. In fact, that’s actually very thoughtful, if you ask me… it’s a good idea for someone to stay sober, or are you just not a drinker?”

She waves a hand. “You know what, that’s really none of my business. We aren’t even supposed to be drinking in here anyway… I’m sure the bank would blow a gasket. Yvonne, why don’t you save that for some other time?” The blonde girl smiles faintly. “I’m sure your mama would blow a gasket too, if she found out it was missing. My grandmama always said, you know, never fool around with someone’s private stash.”

Yvonne manages a faint one in return past the gloom. “Ah suppose you are right. Our mother does love ‘er wine. Well, liquor. She says our grandmother used to feed ’er a bit of wine as a baby, to quiet ’er down. You can’t do things like that these days, of course.”

“Actually, in some families-” Rachel starts.

Sarah spares another smile for the anecdote, but doesn’t reply to it as she looks back across the countertop towards Amelie. “I’m sorry if we made you feel unwelcome. And I don’t think it’s fair that you should have to do all the work while we fool around.”

“This was a project?” Simmone asks.

Hannah looks as if she’s about to say something catty to that, but holds her tongue.

Amelie: Amelie looks Sarah right in the eye as a flash of memory dings in the back of her head. Her father is being poked by Christina about snuff films while he pays her escorts act them out. The girl’s sheer power of conversational steamrolling is also astonishing, if a bit terrifying.

“I’m not in the same class as many in McGehee, it honestly seems fair to me. Still, I appreciate the thought. As for our New Orleans history project on this house,” she pauses and smiles to Simmone, but then back to Sarah, “it’s not work, I worked for years, this is just an enjoyable research study. But if I can get stabbed for this project I can take some pictures. Sorry, Rachel, you were saying?”

Amelie picks up her bag and quietly starts to close it, seeing if Rachel picks up where she left off.

GM: “I… agree with Sarah,” Rachel says after a moment with an uncomfortable look. “I’m sorry if we, uh, I was rude. I just… didn’t want the painting to get damaged.”

Sarah’s smile slips a bit at the painting’s mention.

Rain continues to thud and crasg against the house’s darkened windows. Thunder is audible and water streams down the glass like furious tears.

Amelie: Amelie looks between them all. She catches Sarah’s small slip but goes back to Rachel almost immediately. “Thank you, Rachel. You don’t have to be sorry, though. I’ve been on edge, acting strangely, ever since I started research on this project,” she admits before pulling her backpack on. “That being said, I’m wondering why a painting was left here. And why it was painted over 100 years after that child would have died.”

GM: “Maybe Rick Towers just didn’t want it,” Rachel speculates.

“Ah wouldn’t either,” remarks Simmone.

“You ’aven’t seen it,” Yvonne points out.

“Still.” Simmone.

“Yeah, I’d probably pass on that thing too.” Hannah. “Leave it for someone else to deal with.”

Amelie: “Does the bank own it if it was left here?”

GM: “Beats me,” Hannah answers. There’s a few other shrugs and “good question” remarks.

Amelie: “I wonder what else Towers have left here. We are talking about the man who bought cobras for alleged home defense.”

GM: “Did ‘e really do that? That’s crazy!” Simmone exclaims.

“I suppose we’ll just have to find out,” Sarah smiles at her and Amelie.

Amelie: “My my. Ghosts, demons, and now buried treasure. I think I’m going to go and start looking around again.”

GM: “Ah suppose that does beat sitting around an empty kitchen, now,” Yvonne remarks.

“Yeah, if we’re not drinking.” Simmone.

“I still want to see the attic.” Rachel.

“Great, the committee approves. Are we going to take votes again on where to go?” Hannah.

Yvette taps away on her phone.

There’s a flash of lightning that illuminates the room stark blue for a split second, throwing pitch dark and into pitch light. Simmone actually jumps.

Amelie: Amelie tightly clamps her flashlight.

“Power is cut to the apartments above the garage, but I think the attic is more interesting, for sure.”

GM: “Then whatever, let’s get a move on.” Hannah.

“Geez, this weather.” Rachel.

Amelie: Amelie already has her backpack on and flashlight out, which casts a harsher light than the glowsticks. Leaving still feels like a good option.

GM: There’s a few shuffles as the others shoulder their backpacks and follow Amelie, their phonelights cutting tiny swaths of light through the gloom.

Amelie: Amelie takes it carefully. Her steps are as light as someone her size can manage as she creeps up to the third floor. “Two rooms here. Split up?”

GM: Yvonne shrugs.

“Let’s not put this up for committee vote too, please,” Hannah says in a flatter tone.

Simmone looks at the phone-preoccupied Yvette, then back to Sarah. Rachel does too.

“Why not?” the brunette smiles at them.

Amelie: Amelie wasn’t looking for committee. “Rachel? Hannah?” she asks, motioning to the north apartment.

GM: Rachel looks down at her phone for a moment. Hannah shrugs and follows after her. Rachel then does too. “Let us know if you find any buried treasure,” Sarah smiles again as the others’ phonelights recede into the gloom.

Amelie: Amelie closes the door behind them and runs her fingers over her eyes. The stress is like a weight on her shoulders as she leans against the wall next to the door. “I’m sorry for this. Both of you.”

GM: “Uh, sorry for what?” Hannah frowns.

Amelie: “Making tonight awkward. With the drink. And for being so skittish about the painting and grabbing you, Rachel. I thought you were hurt.”

GM: “Well… good for me I wasn’t, I guess,” Rachel says, her eyes cutting between the closed door and her phone. The glowstick-bereft room is otherwise pitch dark. Rain distantly thuds overhead.

Hannah glances at the door as Amelie closes it, then back at her classmate. She seems to chew on her thoughts for a moment. “Well, I appreciate the apology. But… I honestly dunno where to start with you. You’re just so weird. About… everything. I mean, you make Rachel look normal.” She doesn’t look away from Amelie as her eyes briefly cut to the glasses-wearing girl. “No offense.”

Rachel’s eyes pan up. “None taken.”

Amelie: Amelie steps a little ways away from the door as she sees them eye it. “Well… I guess I never really told you guys much about me. I’ll just have to trust you not to tell people,” she says. She takes out her phone and swipes to a set of pictures on a Facebook album before offering the device to Hannah.

It’s Amelie, about 12 years old and with long braided hair. She’s wearing thick gloves and a leather apron. Her face is smeared with soot as she squints at a handle-less, literally flaming sword that she holds with a pair of tongs. Other pictures in the album have her swinging hammers at glowing steel, fitting huge men with armor, and talking to a crowd while she wears her own suit and holds a sword.

If Hannah keeps swiping, she comes across a picture where a weakly smiling Amelie has a buzz cut and walks on a cane. She’s surrounded by smiling people in Medieval clothing, including a bigger lady with a tight bodice over her dated dress. The woman holds up a sign that reads, Welcome back extra crispy, Amelie.

“And… to top it off, I haven’t told people everything about the assault. Details about it are… people would have thought I was crazy. Once I get this project behind me, I should be less weird. I hope.”

The next pictures might be a little wild to a girl from McGehee, but Hannah’s classmate’s face and physique are in every one at varying ages.

Amelie_FB.jpg
Amelie holds a smoking sword dripping what looks like motor oil. Her teeth grit in effort as she lifts it into a slit in the wall to the left, as if it’s going to support it.

Amelie_FB.jpg
Another picture shows Amelie pulling a second sword as it blazes with an uncontrollable fire. Her face looks stoic under the cap on her head. She blows at the sword with all of her might as the fire rages in her face.

Amelie_FB.jpg
Amelie’s unmistakably strong and worn hands are zoomed in close as she works a classical dragon relief onto the side of a sword. A small hammer and chisel shows how she’s doing it by hand.

Amelie_FB.jpg
Too object here is big to be a sword, and yet it has its shape. The figure holding a torch and welding paces in place on a huge hunk of metal could be anyone, but is tagged as Amelie.

Amelie_FB.jpg
She’s dressed in leather from head to toe in the next picture. A visor protects her face while she brings a hammer down on a piece of glowing metal. Pieces fly off in every direction.

Amelie_FB.jpg
There are a scant few pictures of Amelie not in armor or work clothes, too. One shows her standing among fields of men who are either on their backs or hunched over. Another one or two pictures show Amelie wearing a fencing helmet she hoists out her arms towards a taller woman like they’re trying to kill each other.

Amelie_FB.jpg
If Hannah scrolls far enough, there’s even a red-eared and smiling Amelie dressed in a much more ladylike getup. A few women stand off to the side with overacted expressions of faux surprise.

GM: Amelie’s initial words engender what is now a very familiar perplexed look on her classmates’ faces.

But the pictures seem like they do what words can’t.

Hannah doesn’t say anything as she swipes through them. Rachel looks over her shoulder. Their faces dully glow against the phone’s screen as images of swords, forges, and happy-looking girls flash past.

Hannah stops when the swipe button doesn’t take her any further, then finally asks, “Wow. Is this all, like… a Renaissance fair?”

Amelie: “It’s, um… it’s called Biccoline. It’s two villages on a big plot of land. Like an all-year all-day Renaissance fair tourist trap.”

GM: “Yeah,” Hannah says after another moment. “That really sounds like it. Well. Looks like it.”

Amelie: Amelie feels a pang of guilt herself as her pictures make Hannah feel that very same emotion. It’s easy to see the freak in a circle of people as somehow less, isn’t it? History is filled with examples from personal betrayals to the demonizing of minority groups.

She takes her phone back and tucks it carefully into her pocket. “Thanks. But… yeah. Once this house stuff is over with, maybe we can have a few drinks to make up for tonight, without the elites or the ghosts, if you’re up for it. Fresh start.”

GM: “I could go for some drinks here,” Rachel says. “Yvonne’s still got that chartreuse.”

“Well, th-” Hannah starts.

“No, I don’t want to go through tonight sober. Back in a bit,” Rachel says. She opens the door and walks out. Her receding figure is soon swallowed by the house’s gloom.

Hannah stares after her.

“You should get out of here,” she says in a low voice.

Amelie: Amelie looks back to Hannah and feels her heart drop into her stomach.

“I—why?”

GM: Hannah turns her head to regard Amelie. Her face is unsmiling as she replies, “Same reason you shouldn’t have ever gone to this school.”

Amelie: Amelie locks eyes with Hannah. Her confused face slowly goes slack with the Roberts family stone-like expression. “Because I don’t belong? Or is there something else?”

She doesn’t mention Yvette knowing her living situation, or catching Miranda spying on her. Both for obvious reasons.

GM: Hannah’s face seems to get darker, though it could also be her phone’s screen turning off. “This isn’t a good time for Q&A.”

Amelie: Amelie feels a shiver go up her spine that all but vibrates through her surroundings. Her hyper-awareness of the other girls and drive to keep them safe safe suddenly flips into an escape plan. X’s mark over certain exits due to the key not being in her possession. The hard rain locks out two other potential avenues of escape. Rachel’s departure pains a grim picture, too. It’s a difficult pill to swallow.

But it’s clear now. She has to leave.

“Hannah. Keep yourself safe too, okay? I hope I can talk to you at school again, soon.”

It feels like Hannah is putting herself in danger by doing this, but Amelie gives her one last sad and worried smile before turning on a heel and calculating a path out. She heads back through the door, her stride unbroken as she makes her way onto the balcony again. Into the rain. She’s not worried about getting wet as she grips the rail and heads down the stairs to the courtyard below.

GM: That’s when she feels another dull and shuddering throb of alarm shoot up her spine.

Amelie: She stops completely and eyes the staircase.

GM: Without one of the umbrellas enjoyed by her peers, rain thuds and splashes against Amelie’s exposed skin and leather jacket. Her thick hair wetly plasters against her scalp. The South’s warm night air feels all-too cold. She strains her eyes, but can make out almost nothing in the unlit house’s near-pitch gloom.

She remembers the stairs supporting everyone’s weights without any problem on the way up.

Amelie: Short hair comes in handy as Amelie smooths it out of her face and off to the side. Her phone is already safely tucked into an inside jacket pocket as she shines her flashlight down the steps for one last look. It’s either this or going down the steps in the garage apartment.

GM: Fat and brightly illuminated drops of rain plummet through the flashlight’s beam.

Nothing else is visible on the stairs.

Amelie: Amelie can’t ignore the shudder of warning and turns back. She makes her way down to the covered stairwell at the far south-eastern part of the house. The part that winds its way all the way down to the garage.

GM: Her flashlight’s beam flickers uncertainly through the gloom. There is no door before the staircase. The way down yawns ahead.

Amelie: Amelie takes a bracing breath and slowly starts down the stairwell. She grips the railing tightly and keeps her flashlight trained on every step downwards, her ears out for the danger her body warns her of.

GM: Amelie’s phone buzzes from her pocket as she begins her descent.

Amelie: Amelie stops dead and sits down on the stair. She quickly fishes out her phone to check the screen, then to puts it on ‘vibrate only’ so it stays silent.

GM: It’s a text.

There’s no message.

Just an image.

Devil_Baby.jpg
As Amelie bolts straight upright, her flashlight winks out.

There’s a dull clunking.

Light in her peripheral vision.

Her gaze rivets ahead. The flashlight lies at the bottom of the stairs. It must have slipped from her hand.

Amelie: It’s Amelie’s saving grace and her failing to have sat down. She bites back a shriek of surprise as as a shudder goes up her spine. Terror rings like bells in her head as the world goes dark again. She grasps at the dark for her light until she spots it at the bottom of the stairwell. Her heart is beating hard enough to power a small car while her lungs burn with the strain of not panting like a dog. Her face burns and her eyes strain from the fear forcing eyes open.

But Amelie is a Roberts girl. She grabs that fear and puts a knife to its throat as she sticks her phone back in her jacket, resolves to ignore it, and hurries down the stairs to her destination. She rips out two glowsticks from her pocket as she goes, breaking and shaking them for light.

If anything, they’ve helped her by sending that text. Maybe there’s a way she can trace it, or use the photograph of the painting to learn more. The logic bolsters the young woman as she makes her way down to the apartment. She needs to calm down and take stock. The windows in the apartment will be the perfect place to do so. She can hide out there and plan her next move.

GM: The old wooden stairs creak and groan under Amelie’s sneakers. Her flashlight beckons from the bottom floor.

Her foot touches one step.

Then two steps.

Then air.

Then her back hurts, then her ass hurts, then her legs, her sides, her chest, her face—and she’s flying, soaring through the darkness, and she’s crashing, and teal lights are spinning like speeding comets, and there’s no light, she can’t see—the darkness pours over her in oppressive waves, drenching her, suffocating her, like the rain smashing against the house’s walls, like the furious mob once smashed them down after they saw the atrocities the house’s mistress had committed, and the slave girl, the child who’d seen those horrors with her own eyes, who knew what fate awaited her, who chose to hurl herself from the house’s roof than face the wrath of Marie Delphine LaLaurie—

SMASH

Screams in her ears. A blade in her hands. She knows what to do. She’s always known what to do. She stabs the hideous, diabolical face, rams the blade into its cheek, pulls, and blood gushes forth, bright and yellow and burning and she’s screaming, it’s dead, it’s dead, she killed it, she killed it, SHE KILLED IT-

And she’s sobbing, crying, aching everywhere, rocking back and forth at the bottom of the stairwell, knife clutched in hand. The darkness presses down on her like a heavy cloak.

Overhead, the rain screams and pours.

Amelie: Amelie free-falls through the void, but there’s no pain. Her mind blacks it out—and drags up other horrors and disquiet memories. Footsteps. The violent clanking of tools sent flying. The vague rumblings of a familiar deep voice screaming at the top of its lungs. That helpless panic, the helplessness that comes with knowing you can hurt someone and desperately wanting nothing more than to do the opposite.

THROUGH! Strike THROUGH, you stupid girl! Pick it up, Amelie! THRUST!!”

Familiar. Harsh, like a hammer bashing glowing steel. Molding it. Muscles tense and work their harsh mistress’ unconscious will. They know what to do. They’ve always known what to do. Amelie thrusts and feels her blade sink in and through, just like her mother taught her. Just like she’s already felt from her father. Just like her body knows it’s been built to do.

The young woman bellows incoherently. She twists the blade, rips it back, and feels everything come with it. It’s dead. It’s choking on its own bile. The real Amelie Savard shows its teeth for just long enough—until anguish crushes her against the bottom of the stairwell and her mind catches up with every blow at once. When did the fall end? When did it start? She struggles to breathe past the pain and horror as she keeps her knife pointed out at the darkness. Her hands fumble for one of the glowsticks that lined her pockets at the top of the stairwell. They fumble for her phone. For her flashlight. Any weapon against the dark.

GM: Amelie can hear her heart pounding in her ears as her hands frantically rummage across the floor. The rain thuds and pounds overhead. The darkness patiently waits.

Her sweating palms finally seize upon a glowstick.

Amelie: The situation slowly sinks in as Amelie’s body tells her the cold truth. If this were someone less fit, like one of her classmates, that fall would have put them out. Maybe worse. For Amelie, it just hurts. It hurts so bad. She shudders and sobs intermittently until she finds relief in the glowstick. She grabs it, breaks it, and shakes it hard as she slowly sits up and takes stock of her surroundings. Her eyes frantically search for blood.

GM: The teal light dully shines across the base of the stairs. No blood visibly stains the floor. Amelie’s backpack lies on the ground, the flap ripped open, and its contents haphazardly strewn everywhere like spilled guts.

Her light shines over one of those entrails. She reaches to pick it up.

Her hand abruptly burns. She reflexively pulls away, suppressing an instinctive hiss. She moves the light closer.

It’s her phone, or at least what’s left of it. The now-blank screen is shattered, cracked, and marred by a dark scorch mark.

Amelie: Amelie just lays there for a moment, feeling sorry for herself as she looks at her ruined phone… that it looks like she stabbed.

She briefly wonders about the warranty as she slowly pulls out her extra pair of pants, wraps them around the device and stows it in her backpack. Her knife goes in there too as she gets her bag back in order. She keeps the still-hot phone away from the glowsticks as she staggers to her feet and put a hand on her chest. Her ribs hurt, her back aches, and her head is splitting.

It’s time to vault that damned fence and get out of here. She’ll make her escape through the same garage that Delphine LaLaurie did in her carriage all those years ago.

GM: Amelie is still kneeling and gathering up her things when she hears approaching footsteps over the rain. Thunder rumbles angrily.

The door swings open. Beams of light stab into Amelie’s eyes.

“Oh mah goodness, what ’appened ’ere?” comes Yvette’s voice.

“Oh my god, did you fall down?” asks Sarah.

Yvette kneels down to lay a hand on Amelie’s shoulder. The other girls’ figures loom in the background. “Yes, did you? We ’eard screams-”

“-and noises,” Yvonne notes.

Amelie: Amelie feels like a deer caught in the headlights. The voices—there’s Yvette, Sarah, and Yvonne. No Hannah to calm her down, or at least none that she can hear. Instinct screams they’re the enemy as she recoils from them.

“M-my shoulder! Please don’t-”

GM: “-yes, and noises,” Yvette continues, smiling reassuringly at Amelie. “You must be so scared, Amalie… are you all right?”

“Your stuff’s everywhere…” Rachel remarks, looking across the room.

“Yeah, everywhere,” Simmone observes.

“Let’s ‘elp ’er get it picked up, why don’t we,” Yvonne smiles as she bends down and starts scooping up things.

Amelie: Amelie winces and scrambles away from Yvette as she still reaches for her, then grabs the wrapped phone and pocket knife to hurriedly stuff in her backpack.

“I’m leaving! Thank you for the look around,” she blurts out. She all but shoves past the other girls if they get in her way, barrels put the door into the rainy courtyard, and makes a running start for the gate. Her heart is beating a mile a minute even in the pain she’s in. Adrenaline pumps through her bloodstream as she jumps and grabs the gate, her thickly muscled body furiously working to launch her over the top—and out of this terrible house.

GM: “Ah’m sor-” Yvette starts.

“Wait, your stuff-” Rachel calls.

There are other words from the other girls. Exclamations. Maybe admonishments. Perhaps snickers. Amelie could never fit in among them and now she’s not even trying. Her footfalls thump and splash against the rain-drenched brick courtyard in eerie tune with her thundering heart.

She can make out hazy, water-blurred lights from the French Quarter beyond the gate’s cage-like iron bars. Their ornate wrought-iron filigree is so like that of the fences she admired in the Garden District. If it’s a cage it’s a gilded one.

Rain mercilessly pounds and cracks against Amelie’s back as she vaults into the air. She seizes onto the iron bars bare-handed as she frantically, manically, scrambles to pull herself up. Midnight storm clouds flash and rumble overhead with hungry anticipation.

The gate is dry underneath its archway. Some fast-fading rational part of the blacksmith’s mind tells her that’s so it won’t rust under New Orleans’ frequent rains, but her footing seems little safer for that familiarity. Her socks are completely soaked through. Her feet squelch in their sneakers as the rubber soles scramble for purchase against rain-slick metal. It’s so easy to imagine one careless slip sending her plummeting to her death like that poor little slave, who’s buried within less distance than it could take to crack Amelie’s skull open over the brick pavement like an over-ripe pumpkin.

There might be alarmed shouts and exclamations going up from the other teenagers, but that might also just be the crashing rain. Amelie’s bare, wet hands already feel so raw and sore. Her limbs burn like fire as she heaves her aching body upwards. She swings one leg over the top of the gate, careful to slip it past the hungrily pointed spikes that could so easily feast upon impaled flesh.

She can just make out the top of the French Quarter.

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Old-fashioned streetlights. Black and white street signs that say ‘Rue’ in smaller font at the top. Galleries, not balconies like non-natives call them, dripping with flowers and greenery off the old Spanish-style buildings. Some part of Amelie’s heart sings at the sight. This is the New Orleans she fell in love with.

It was never in this house. This cursed, death-filled house. It’s out there. She has to get to it. She has to. Panic rises in her chest as water smashes against her exposed face, stinging her eyes, and streams down her clothes. Wind whips and howls against her back as thunder roars overhead. She’s not climbing into the rain, at this point, but a storm. A Katrina. It’s so cold. Her breath visibly steams in the chill night air as lightning flashes overhead.

No. This is summer. New Orleans doesn’t get this cold—

A reflected face in the metal spike catches Amelie’s eye.

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Everything disappears as rain cascades over Amelie like a thick, wet curtain.

It parts.

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Ice-cold, ashen, and horrifyingly solid hands seize Amelie fast, freezing the blood in her veins to ice. Terror explodes through a heart thundering too fast to even tell where one beat ends at the next begins. The convergence of past, present, and future that began when she gazed upon the LaLaurie House have reached their ultimate terminus to become one—and become none.

Yet, as conscious thought dissolves into that yawning oblivion like so much rain, something stirs. The void is not empty.

There is sound.

Raggedy.

Manic.

High-pitched.

Evil.

Child-like giggles leak into a single word brimming with malevolence so hateful that it stains Amelie’s soul just to hear:

:: FLY ::

Amelie’s heart stops.

Limp hands slip.

And she flies.


Previous, by Narrative: Story One, Victoria II
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Story One, Victoria II

“You should be a mistress. You have what it takes.”
Unknown Chakras domme


Thursday evening, 19 September 2011

GM: They call it the Steel Room. It’s where Sylvia makes the magic happen. Cages. Spreader bars. Collars. Cuffs. Chains. St. Andrew’s crosses. Chastity belts. Stents. Anal hooks. Kneelers. Bondage fiddles. It’s all there, and more. The past six months have been good to Chakras’ resident welder.

Sylvia’s in the middle of her latest project when a man wanders inside. He looks like a client, and an older one, with a portly belly and receding gray hair.

He grins and looks around.

“You a new girl?”

Victoria: She lofts a brow to him. Her leather-dominated outfit screams ‘Yes, I fucking work here, you unobservant choad’, but Sylvia is more polite.

“Nope. Been here a whole two weeks.”

No one is new past the first day. Not after the interview. Faces come and go. Or cum and go. Or don’t cum, then go. Or don’t cum, and don’t go. Sometimes they leave by the door. Sometimes they leave by ambulance. One time, Sylvia saw someone leave by a body bag—though, she wonders whether that was part of the act or not.

“You must be lost.”

GM: “My good luck,” grins the man.

He whistles and looks around.

“What a collection.”

Victoria: “Why, all the yours, if you paid at the front and booked your time with one of the masters or mistresses.”

GM: “Heh,” says the man.

He takes one of the bondage fiddles off the wall and turns it around in his hands.

“How long can someone wear this thing for?”

Victoria: She looks to the fiddle.

“I suppose until your arms fall off, or are removed.”

GM: The guy laughs and sets the fiddle down, then picks up a pair of chainless cuffs.

“You got a name, sexy?”

Victoria: She lofts a brow at him. Even in two weeks, it isn’t the first time she’s been mistaken and accosted by the clientele. As much fun as she had during her interview, it isn’t her place to whip the guests.

“You just said it, hmn?”

GM: The man laughs and turns around the cuffs in his hands. “What, Sexy’s really your name?”

Victoria: “Seems to be what I’m called more than not.”

She refrains from giving him his name.

GM: “Heh. You got a… you got a mouth,” the man chuckles.

Victoria: And oh, the things she can do with her mouth.

“Look, I think you’re a bit turned around. Booking is at the front. Were you assigned a room?”

GM: “Is that part of the job for you, being mouthy?” asks the man.

“Seriously, what’s your name? I just wanna be friendly.”

“I’m Greg.”

Victoria: She sighs, calming herself.

“I’m Sylvia.”

GM: “Sylvia. That’s a pretty name,” smiles the man.

“Isn’t really a domme name. Are you a sub?”

Victoria: “Nope.”

She picks up a welding torch.

“I build the things that make you scream—one way or another.”

GM: “Wow,” whistles the man, backing away slightly.

“That’s intense.”

Victoria: She glances past him, wondering how he escaped his domme.

GM: “So you’re not just a domme, you’re the domme who makes all the toys?” he grins.

Sylvia doesn’t see anyone else nearby.

Victoria: “Not a domme, not a sub, just an employee in a house of horror.”

GM: “Oh. But you use these things, right?”

“If you make them.”

“Do you like it when guys use them on you, or do you like to use them on guys?”

Victoria: She shakes her head.

“Not really. I just fiddle with them. If you want them used, the front desk is what you want.”

GM: He looks at her suspiciously.

“You really don’t use these things?”

“But you make them.”

Victoria: “Uh huh. Got a degree and everything. I had to dye my hair away from blonde so they believed me, even with the diploma. Go figure—a smart woman in 2011. Next we’ll be practicing communists.”

GM: The man laughs. “Yeah, ‘smart’ sounds like you. You feel like a domme, though. Do you do it on top with your boyfriend?”

“Gregory!” comes an imperious female voice.

“Where are you, you impudent boy!”

“Ah, shit,” Greg grins, lowering his voice to a whisper. “Hide me! There anything here?”

Victoria: “Try the closet.”

She gestures to an iron maiden.

GM: “Oh, ha, ha, that’s fun-”

He’s interrupted as one of the dommes strides in, high heels clicking against the floor. She yanks Greg away by his ear. He gives a loud, “Owww!”

“My apologies,” she says huskily. “He’s such a bad boy, showing up where he’s not wanted. You can be assured he’ll be punished, and severely!

Greg’s ear-to-ear grin is interrupted by the domme giving his ear another sharp tug. “Yoowww!”

Victoria: “I’m sure he’ll love the punishment!”

She curls her fingers after them, as if waving goodbye to a child.

“Bye bye.”


Friday evening, 27 September 2011

GM: Sylvia’s working in the Steel Room again, perhaps a week later, when Greg pops his head in.

“Hey, how much to hire you as my domme?” he grins.

“I’ve been thinking about you, and you really get my motor going. If y’know what I mean.”

Greg wiggles his eyebrows.

Victoria: “Oh, I don’t know if I could cut it as a domme, but I’ll give you a pitiful hand job for seven-million dollars. Hell, I’ll even use the special lube with gold flecks—but don’t tell the master! He’ll want a cut.”

GM: Greg laughs.

“Dang, the mouth on you!”

He runs his hands over the devices like a kid in a candy store.

“These things are amazing, you know that? Seriously, I bet you’d use ’em better than any girl here. Since you made ’em, right?”

Victoria: “Is the best blacksmith better than the best swordsman? I think not.”

GM: “Huh. I didn’t think of it like that.”

Greg picks up a gag, sets it down, and then another pair of link-less handcuffs.

“But you are a domme, though. Just the way you talk!”

Victoria: “No, dear, I’m a Christian. This is my church, and through prayer, I can see why many find catharsis in these halls. Can’t you?”

GM: “Huh?” frowns Greg.

“Like, this is how you get off?”

“I mean, duh, there!” he chuckles.

Victoria: She stares at him.

“Did you run away from Mistress Cybil again, Gregory?”

GM: He raises his hands. “All right, all right. I’ll be outta your hair.”

“She was really mad about that last time, anyway.”

Victoria: “Uh huh. What did she do to you for it?”

GM: “She didn’t let me cum.”

Greg looks genuinely irritated.

“Like, fucking hell. I’m here to get off! Five hundred bucks down the fucking drain.”

“I thought running off was gonna make her beat me extra hard, make the session extra good. She ruined the whole thing.”

Victoria: “Are you big, Greg? Like—be straight with me. You packing?”

Sylvia turns, opening a drawer.

GM: He grins at Sylvia’s words.

“Yeah, I sure am.”

“I beat it off thinking about you, a couple times.”

Victoria: She pulls out a pair of garden shears.

“Like, how big? Grocery store salami or Oscar Meyer hotdog? I’m wondering if she’ll use these, or get out the crescent knife and really have to work at it.”

GM: Greg freezes like a deer in headlights, as if wondering whether Sylvia is serious.

“Uhhh, I’m just gonna leave. Okay?”

Victoria: She snickers. “Hey, you were surprised what she did on the first offense.”

GM: “Yeah, you…”

Greg suddenly looks straight past Sylvia.

Not in the direction of the door, where one would expect Cybil to come from.

“OH SHIT!” he exclaims.

Victoria: She jumps with a start, her heart bouncing off the ceiling. She looks where he’s looking.

GM: Suddenly, she feels Greg’s hands on her wrists, forcing them into the cuffs she made. There’s a metallic click.

“Ha ha! Not so smart after all!” laughs Greg.

Victoria: The shears clatter to the floor.

FUCKER! Let. Me. OUT!”

Sylvie screams bloody murder, which is exactly what will happen whether she is or isn’t let out—it just depends when.

GM: Sylvie knows the room is soundproofed. No one wanted the welding noises disturbing scenes in the other rooms.

Greg pulls Sylvia against his body. She can feel his erect cock pressing against her ass. Rough hands squeeze her tits.

“Ah, fuck, yeah!” Greg exclaims. “You really are a domme, aren’t you? You just fuckin’ wish I was the one locked up! God!”

He delivers a hard smack to her ass.

“Call me Daddy, bitch! I’m your dom now!”

Victoria: As she pulls him against his body, she slams her forehead into his nose. No playing, no toying, no risk—she intends to break his nose and send him to the floor.

GM: Despite being handcuffed, Sylvia’s forehead smashes into Greg’s face with a satisfying crunch of cartilage. Blood leaks down his nose as Greg gives a shout of alarm, reflexively pulling away. Sylvia trips him with her leg and he hits the floor.

Victoria: She bolts for the door, hopping over his body and trying to wrench it open.

GM: Opening a door while handcuffed from behind, and thus facing backwards, proves difficult. Sylvia can’t even see what she’s doing.

But she can see Greg. He angrily hauls himself to his feet, then grabs Sylvia by her hair and yanks her away from the door. Another hand clamps around her throat as he forces her head downwards.

“You’re gonna get it for that, cunt!”

He hauls her towards the sink in the corner of the room.

“I just love bringing a domme to heel! Fucking yeah!”

Victoria: Hands behind her back, there’s little she can do to fight him with her hands.

OUCH!” she roars as he pulls her by the hair. She opens her mouth to scream a string of profanity that would make a sailor blush, when his hand forces the air out of her throat.

She writhes, struggling against him.

GM: Greg slams her against the sink. Her belly hurts.

“God! Fuck!” pants Greg. “That’s the thing, about dommes! They got spirit! They fight!”

Victoria: She grunts in pain, trying to scoop a leg in front of him to trip him.

GM: His hand slips down her leather pants as he stomps a foot over hers.

“Submit, honey. Say you submit. You’ll like it, I promise.”

“As a bitch at my feet!”

Victoria:OUCH! Okay, OKAY… fuck, just stop!”

Unless he holds her up, she sinks down.

GM: Greg lets her kneel to the floor. Blood’s still leaking down his nose.

“That’s a good girl!” he sneers.

“We gonna fix that dirty mouth of yours first, or we gonna have you lick my shoes?”

Victoria: “Just fucking let me suck you off. That’s what you want, right? An apology for your lost money? They’re going to wonder where you are, soon, so if you want what’s yours, you’ve probably got three minutes.”

GM: Greg scowls furiously, then unzips his pants and forces his erect member into Sylvia’s mouth. He makes a fist in her hair, tugging her close.

“Suck, bitch!”

“That’s a tame little domme!”

Victoria: Well, she was going to suckle his balls, but sure.

She takes him into her mouth, her tongue lapping at the underside, as far as he’s willing to go.

How pliant.

GM: Greg spits on her face. He chokes her with one hand. He yanks her head backward and forward by the hair with his other hand.

“Good bitch! My fucking pet domme!”

“You love that, don’t you, when a man takes control!”

Victoria: “Mhmhmhmmm!” she mumbles. Wow, she’s really putting in her effort. She takes everything he has, and is a compliant kitten when he offers more.

GM: Greg humps her face back and forth, holding her head in place with both his hands. It’s very little time before he feels almost ready to climax, if his faster thrusts are any indication.

“Swallow it! Swallow it all, bitch!” he pants.

“Fuck! Fuck! FUCK! You’re mine!”

“My pet domme! I fucking TAMED you!”

Victoria: “Mhmm! Mhmm!”

She begins to gag on him as he presses further into her mouth, encouraging him. She’s an attentive lover, and so she watches him, his emotion, his escalation. She reads his body as if it is a musical score, and just before he erupts, she clamps her teeth down and sheers, as if rending beef jerky. She can’t move her head, but the natural reaction to pain is to jerk away.

Someone always pays for gifts, and she has been very generous.

GM: The human jaw can exert a truly prodigious amount of force. 70 pounds per square inch, even if most of it is back in the molars.

Even the most well-endowed penis weighs a lot less than 70 pounds.

There’s a grisly tear, and then suddenly hot, coppery blood fills Sylvia’s mouth, almost completely masking the salty tang of cum. Greg’s screams are prodigious as the man collapses to the ground, blood freely leaking from his ruined manhood. Greg rocks back and forth in fetal position, screaming at the top of his lungs. Tears stream from his scrunched eyes.

“You… bi… you…!”

The rubbery, turn-off, bloody shaft sits there in Sylvia’s mouth.

Victoria: She gags, chokes, then vomits the amputated member onto the floor along with her half-digested lunch.

Coughing, she still manages a smirk.

“Enjo—” cough! “—enjoy your last?”

With him in the fetal position, she finds the strength to stand up, and does what she didn’t to that poor sub just three weeks before. The same boot that crushed her face lands a heel to the center of his face, forcing his already-broken nose further into his head.

GM: There’s another satisfying impact beneath Sylvia’s boot as red gets all over the sole. Greg screams and and crawls away on his hands and knees, blood still leaking from his destroyed manhood.

Victoria: She runs to the door, kicking it. “LET! ME! OUT!”

GM: The closed door remains closed.

Greg continues to scream. Sylvia sees him crawling towards his spat-out penis shaft.

Victoria: She walks to him, swiping it away with a foot. It splatters across the room. Then, she moves to take the shears off the floor, lest he become brave.

Even injured, as adrenaline begins to cool toward calmer heads, she begins to tremble.

How could they leave her like this?

OPEN THE FUCKING DOOR!”

She walks over and kicks it again.

GM: Greg’s screams rise to a still-higher pitch as he sees his manhood fly away. He scrambles after it.

The door finally crashes open beneath Sylvia’s adrenaline-fueled kicking.

Victoria: “OI! GET THE FUCK IN HERE!”

She stomps out of the room, looking for the nearest employee. Blood and cum coat her chin.

GM: The handcuffs she made dig painfully into her wrists. However, Sylvia’s shouting eventually brings several of the dommes and subs running. There’s several screams at the scene of violence. Several more people just look turned on and start kissing and groping one another. Someone licks Sylvia’s chin. There’s questions about what happened. There’s more screams from the now-open room.

It’s not until one of the dommes arrives, though, that some sense of order is restored to the scene. She has caramel skin, a slender body encased in a leather corset, and way black hair that falls to the small of her back. She starts perfunctorily giving instructions and has someone unlock Sylvia’s cuffs.

“You poor dear…” she murmurs, dabbing a cloth along Sylvia’s chin. “I’m so sorry this happened to you… we’ll take care of this, don’t you worry.”

Victoria: The chaos makes her want to cover her ears and shrink into a ball, but she can’t do that. So much screaming. A tongue on her chin. More screaming. Being pulled this way, and that.

Finally, freedom.

When she looks into the domme’s eyes as she cleans her chin, she’s that little girl again; a small child in bed, helpless, while a monster of a man shoves his hand into her pants.

She can hardly speak without trembling.

“He… he… he…”

GM: “Yes… things out of hand…” says the domme, thoughtfully dabbing her cloth along Sylvia’s face.

“I think a raise would only be fair, don’t you? Call it reparations for the trauma you’ve suffered.”

“And maybe you’d also enjoy having some more… control in your workplace?”

Greg’s screams have stopped.

Victoria: She doesn’t answer right away. Sylvia knows well enough that Chakras prefers to keep out of the eyes of the law, but the thought that she would be bribed didn’t even occur to her until that moment.

“Con… control? What do you mean?”

She leans on the woman. Her knees shake. Her legs hurt. Her jaw is sore.

GM: “Well, let me just ask… if Greg never bothered you again, after this, and never came inside Chakras again, would that seem fair?”

“Or not so fair?”

“Would that not seem like enough?”

Victoria: She nods.

“…won’t turn down a raise, but… yes.”

A pause.

“And something to prevent that happening again.”

“You’re going to ban him, then?”

GM: “Oh, of course. But he’ll go somewhere else, after he gets his penis reattached, and the police won’t care, if we file a report. They’ll just say he got frisky with a sex worker, because that’s all we are, in their eyes.”

Victoria: She grimaces, looking down at him and his unattached member.

“He’s not a good person. He… he forced me to blow him.”

“Probably not his smartest life decision.”

GM: The domme has since ushered her away from the bloody scene.

“So not fair, then? He gets a painful memory, and then just walks away?”

Victoria: She shakes her head.

“I don’t want him to hurt someone else.”

A pause.

“…but I won’t tell the cops. I know it’s bad for business.”

“What are you trying to say? Be direct.”

GM: “Don’t worry about the police,” smiles the domme.

She wraps an arm around Sylvia and shepherds her to the front entrance.

“Go home and shower. Pamper yourself. Have a cry. Hug a pet, or someone special. We’ll have someone give you a lift, if you don’t want to drive right now.”

“Be back tomorrow, and we’ll discuss… avenues of justice.”

“Ways to keep him from doing this to any more girls.”

Victoria: She nods. She won’t tell the police. Sylvie is a good girl.

“I think I can use a drive, yeah. I… I can take myself. I’ll be fine.”

Because she’s the only one she can rely on, and I’d Sylvia St. George doesn’t have the strength, then Sylvia St. George doesn’t deserve her life.

“Okay.”

More assured, “Okay.”

She nods.

“I’ll be back.”


Saturday evening, 28 September 2011

GM: The next day, Sylvia’s back at Chakras. The domme greets her at the front entrance, then takes her to a room upstairs. Tied spread-eagled with his hands between the posts, blindfolded, collared, and grinning like a shit-eating possum, is Greg. He’s got his dick back. It’s hard as a rock while a naked girl behind him eats out his ass. Greg looks in complete bliss.

The domme smiles and gestures at a wall of wicked implements, many of them made by Sylvia’s own hands.

She says something. Sylvia doesn’t remember.

It doesn’t matter.

“Aw, YEAH!” shouts Greg.

“After this, I wanna put HER ass in chains, and teach her a lesson! Come on, kitty kitty, come and play!”

Victoria: Sylvia didn’t go home that afternoon. Not right away. True to her word, she took a long drive, with no particular destination or direction. Lefts became rights, rights became lefts, and she wandered around the city until she almost ran out of gas. She knew what would happen if she went home. So, she didn’t.

With time, she ended up at Audobon Park, where she sat on the grass, eating a pretzel.

She didn’t want a hotdog. Not that day.

She didn’t sleep much that night.

Thoroughly caffeinated and with a few hours of sleep, Sylvia returns to Chakras, unsure what she’ll face—though she has a few guesses in mind.

She jumps at Greg’s outburst, shaking. No.

Sylvia St. George, stop being a pussy.

And then she notices his cock, and something inside her knots.

“How? How is he…?”

GM: “His brother-in-law’s a highly-placed administrator at Tulane Medical Center,” says the domme. “Turns out, that gets you some pretty swift attention from their best surgeons.”

“He’s probably going to damage it using it again so soon, but what does he care.”

“He’s just overjoyed to have it back, I’m sure.”

Victoria: “Impossible! He… he… no swelling. No bruising. Full function..?”

GM: The domme laughs.

“I’ve not inspected it up close, but swelling and bruises wouldn’t surprise me one bit. Full function would surprise me.”

She smiles, takes Sylvia’s hand, and lays it against the implements on the wall.

“Maybe you’d like to try some of those things on it, and see how full a recovery it’s made?”

Victoria: Sylvia looks to the implements, then the domme.

“Be frank. I know that consent and safety aren’t always paramount in the privacy of these walls.”

She drops her voice.

“How far does this go?”

GM: The domme smiles widely.

“As far as you’d like it to.”

Victoria: She lofts a brow, uncertain.

“You mean that.”

It’s not a question.

GM: “I mean that,” comes the answer.

“Come on, kitty kitty, come out and PPLLAAAAYYY!!!” roars Greg. His voice heaves with laughter.

Victoria: Sylvia offers her a kind smile.

“I appreciate you. Everyone here.”

They protect their own. Just like her own family. That means more to Sylvia than anything. Even the new girl is given protection.

Sylvia walks up to Greg.

“What do you want, hmn?” she asks, dragging a finger up his chin.

GM: Greg freezes.

Maybe he recognizes her voice.

He doesn’t say anything.

Victoria: She gestures the ass licker away.

“Tell me. What. You. Want.”

GM: The girl hops off the bed.

“Get the fuck away from me!” shrieks Geg, panic in his voice. Sylvia sees a cold sweat break out along his skin.

He tugs at his restraints.

Victoria: “Shhh… shhh… sh… there are no hard feelings. You raped me, I bit you. We’re both fine.”

She grips his cock.

“Right?”

GM: Up close, Greg’s dick does not look fine, or feel fine. It’s colored an unhealthy shade of purple. It’s swollen, but in a way that makes it look more fat than truly large. It’s neither fully soft nor fully erect, just sort of a sad in between.

Greg squirms and tries to pull away from her hand.

“Look, just… lemme go, and you’ll never see me again, I swear.”

“I can’t even fuck girls! Just get my ass licked!”

Victoria: “Oh, come on, Greg. That’s no fun.”

She disappears from his side, moving to a nearby cabinet. She’s only been in this room for installation, but…

There it is. She retrieves a bottle of Viagra, and a gag.

“Don’t you want to fuck me? If you’d been nice yesterday, I’d have let you.”

Probably untrue, but stranger events in her life have happened, and it wouldn’t be the first she’d regret. Certainly not the last, either.

She shakes the bottle.

“Here’s what’s going to happen: you’re going to cum. Didn’t you want kitty to play?”

GM: “I… please, the doctors… they said I shouldn’t…!” begs Greg.

Victoria: He hears the bottle open.

“You were so eager yesterday.”

GM: “Yesterday I hadn’t my dick fucking bitten off! PLEASE! I could… I could lose it! For real!”

“I’m sorry, okay? I’m sorry! I got too frisky! I’m sorry!”

He tugs against his restraints some more.

Victoria: “Mmmn.” She cants her head back and forth, sounding uncertain.

“I suppose there would eventually be something we agree on.”

She drums her fingers on his thigh.

“Is that all the mast you can muster? You told me you were huge.”

GM: Greg starts actually crying.

“Please. Please don’t fuck me. Not now! I could lose it!”

Victoria: “Let’s fix that.”

She reads the bottle.

“Aha… between one and half a pill.”

She shoves ten into his mouth, then the gag.

“Swallow. You know very well it’ll be worse if you don’t. You get me if you obey, and you get her if you don’t.”

She leans in to his ear. Paint the picture, Sylvie.

“She wanted to kill you. I made her promise we’d just scare you a bit. They’re placebos.”

They are very much not placebos.

GM: Perhaps he wonders if she’s lying.

About the placebos.

About the other domme.

It’s the prisoner’s dilemma, in a completely warped context.

Cold sweat beads his skin.

Sylvia can watch him literally sweating over this.

Then, finally.

He swallows.

Victoria: She begins to shake, and is thankful that he’s blindfolded.

You fucking do what you have to do, Sylvia St. George, and you do it with a straight back and a smile.

The gag is removed.

Good boy.”

It’ll be a little while before it takes effect. Oh, when it does…

“Are you sorry for what you did?”

GM: Greg nods raptly, feverishly.

“Yes! Yes! I’m sorry! I’m so, so sorry! I won’t ever—you’ll never see me again! Ever! Never!” the man babbles.

Victoria: “Mmmn… close, but no.”

She reaches over, gently pumping his shaft, testing.

“Maybe you’ll take my apology better than I take yours.”

GM: “N-no? What do you want!? What do you want me to say!? I…”

It’s like watching a half-rotted eggplant solidify in her hand. The veins along the purpled flesh already look red and angry.

Sylvia can’t see his eyes behind the blindfold.

But she has no doubt they’re as wide as dinner plates.

Victoria: She beckons one of the subs over silently.

“It’s not an apology if I tell you.”

GM: The sub obediently approaches.

PPLLLEEAAASSE!!!!” Greg wails, full on sobbing now. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m SORRY, OKAY!? I’m SORRY! I CAN’T LOSE MY FUCKING COCK!”

Victoria: She gestures the nameless sub before her, front to back, and speaks to him as if they are one.

“Shhh… crying isn’t appealing. You’re not going to lose it. You’re going to use it.”

She nudges the sub up onto the bed, guiding her with gestures to mount him.

Always, when she speaks, it’s head to head with the sub, preserving the illusion.

As the sub takes his penis, pressing it against her sex, Sylvia breathes.

“Don’t you want me? This is your chance.”

GM: The naked girl obediently guides his swollen, purpled, and throbbing cock into her pussy.

Greg recoils from it like someone’s pulling his dick into a paper shredder.

“Nnnno—nnnn-NNNN-OOOO!!!!” he wails.

“Please! Please don’t fuck me! Please let me have my, have my di, lemme have my….!”

He breaks down inarticulately sobbing.

Victoria: “Fuck! You’re right. It is big.”

The Viagra should be taking effect soon.

“You can have it, silly. Once I’m done with it! You never really got to enjoy this yesterday, so why don’t we make this first one good, hmmn?”

GM: “No! NO! I don’t want to, I don’t want to, please, don’t…!” Greg wails.

Such strange words to hear from a man’s mouth.

Victoria: “Words I’m all too familiar with. I said them yesterday, while you invaded my throat.”

She sets her hands to the sub’s shoulders, pressing her all the way onto his shaft.

“Doesn’t that feel good?”

GM: “NNnnooooo!!!” Greg sobs as his throbbing cock fills the girl.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry I invaded your throat! I take it back!”

Victoria: Her fingers clasp around his sack, squeezing gently. The bruising may have spread, but at least those weren’t so severely injured.

“That’s the thing about rape, Gregory. You can’t take it back. You can never take it back.”

No matter what those greedy men do, no matter how charitable they are, no matter how much they beg and plead and offer their lives, they’ll never take back what they did to Sylvia and her foster siblings.

“You can only repent, and repentance. Takes. Time.”

She squeezes the girl’s shoulder, loving, and offers her a smile.

“Squeeze him. Milk him,” she murmurs in her ear.

GM: Greg’s balls, at least, look healthier than his shaft does. He still whimpers as her fingers snake around them.

“Please! Let me repent another way! Any way! Don’t take my…”

The sub obediently smiles and starts riding him back and forth. His rock-hard shaft easily fills her.

Greg screams and impotently thrashes against his restraints.

“PPppllleeaasssee! Sssttoooooppp!!! I’ll do anything! I’ll pay anything…!”

Victoria: She pads quietly back away, whispering to the dominatrix.

“…would you get a cutting board from the kitchen?”

Her heart is pounding so hard that she feels light-headed. She shouldn’t be doing this. She shouldn’t be doing this, but she needs to. She couldn’t save herself as a child, and she couldn’t save her siblings. She couldn’t save herself as an adult!

SYLVIA ST. GEORGE, YOU DO WHAT YOU HAVE TO!

She winces. Her own mental voice is stinging, as if her mother caught her hand in the cookie jar.

Her mouth is dry. So dry.

She swallows, licking her lips, and dons the mask again as she comes to the riding sub’s side.

“You can’t take back, Gregory, but you can give. You gave me your cock yesterday, didn’t you? I figure it’s mine to have when I want. I want it now.”

GM: Sylvia swiftly finds a cutting board pressed into her hands.

Greg sobs and chokes and blubbers.

It’s a pathetic sight from a middle-aged man.

“It doesn’t work, okay!? It doesn’t! The docs, the d-docs s-said, OH GOD PLLLEEAAASSEE!!! Doooooon’t!!!!” he wails.

The sub continues to obediently thrust back and forth against his rock hard shaft.

Victoria: That was fast. It’s almost as if the domme knew.

She presses the board beneath his scrotum.

“Greeeeg…” she whines. “I’m fucking horny, and nothing gets me off more than knowing I’ve pleased someone! Won’t you finish for me? Come ooooooon…”

She opens a drawer beside him. No, not a flog. Nope, not the whip. Not this, not that. Not the other thing.

Ah!

She retrieves a claw hammer.

GM: Greg gives a shrill, girl-like scream and tries to recoil.

His restraints hold him fast.

Victoria: “Oh, relaaaax! Don’t you want to finish? I could have her finger your ass while I fuck you! Come on, Gregory! I want you to pop!”

Thumpthump, thumpthump, thumpthump, thumpthump, thumpthump, thumpthump.

She’s a little girl living a naughty fantasy, and the sheer adrenaline and taboo of it gives her a high like no other.

It’s wrong.

It’s terrible.

It’s horrific, and she should be thrown away for it.

Sylvia is a bad girl.

And in that moment, she loves it.

GM: That makes one person who enjoys Gregory’s climax.

It sure isn’t two.

Gregory’s screaming face is tomato red when he cums. Hot, wet spunk shoots into the sub’s cunt.

NNN-NNN-OOOO-OOOOO!!!!” he wails, tears streaming down his face.

The sub looks towards Sylvia, as if to see whether she should slide off. His rock hard cock is still throbbing inside her, even as his jizz seeps out.

Victoria: As she did the day before, she watches him, drinking in his expression. She watches him pant. She watches him fight his orgasm. She watches him lose, and the moment she sees the fight overtake him, she sends the head of the hammer down onto his left testicle, supported by the cutting board.

BANG!

“See?! I made you pop!”

GM: Greg can’t see the hammer approach. But he feels the cutting board, and as he realizes, he screams,

“Y-YOUUU F-FUCKING SSSHHEE-WWWOOLLFF…!!!!”

It doesn’t literally pop like a grape.

First, the testicle squishes as the skin rips, exposing Greg’s bloodstream and testes. Sylvia can hear ‘splodge’ and ‘crunch’ as the hammer comes down on the man’s exposed testicles. Blood gushes out. Less than she’d actually think, but it’s hard to tell.

A ruptured, ruined testicle really does look just like a red grape.

Greg throws up. Bile leaks down his chest and all over the sub. Piss leaks from his throbbing, blackened cock.

But he screams no more. He hangs limply from his restraints.

He must have fainted from the pain and shock.

The domme straddles up behind Sylvia and runs her hands down the other woman’s shoulders.

“Exquisite,” she breathes.

Victoria: The hammer clatters to the floor. Sylvia planned so much more. She planned it all in her head: him finishing inside the nameless girl, the smashed testicle, the claw tugging what remained further, and further, and further, and further he while writhed and begged. He would scream as she screamed while she takes more than he took.

It remains a dream. A fantasy. Even if he didn’t pass out, Sylvia is done.

Her body gives up.

She can’t do any more.

The purr in her ear brings her a soothing chill. Silently, she looks to the woman.

GM: The woman’s face is proud.

Proud. Aroused. Hungry. There’s something hot kindled in her green eyes. Her voice is a breathless whisper in Sylvia’s ears.

“You should be a mistress.”

“You have what it takes.”

Victoria: Anna is going to die if she ever hears those words.

“I’m…”

Her heart rocks against her ribcage, fluttering up her throat.

“I’m not sure I do.”

GM: Wordlessly, the woman holds up the bloody hammer.

Copper wafts up Sylvia’s nose.

Victoria: She takes the hammer, staring at its sanguine-splotched head.

“This… isn’t what every client wants.”

Even this one didn’t.

GM: “Yes,” the woman laughs. “They usually want… less.”

Victoria: She knows she’ll be good at it.

She isn’t sure she wants to be good at it.

GM: Greg hangs uselessly in place, covered in blood and bile. The smell is overpowering.

Victoria: “What will happen to him?”

GM: “He’ll live. I suppose. And go through life without use of his precious cock, and never touch another girl again.”

The woman strokes a hand along Sylvia’s face.

“None of this will ever come back to haunt you. We look out for our own.”

“You are one of our own.”

“You are one of us.”

“You love this. Everything about this.”

“Don’t you?”

Victoria: She bites her tongue, thinking.

“He still has one left, and his cock will recover otherwise, unless the stimulant ruined him sufficiently.”

She hands the woman the hammer while she leans into that stroking hand, closing her eyes.

She is one of them. She’s been one of them since her interview. She loves this life, even though she couldn’t admit it to Anna.

“…yes.”

GM: The woman takes the hammer, positions the cutting board, and then does exactly what Sylvia just did.

Victoria: She winces. A fleck of blood lands on her glasses.

GM: She sets down the twice-bloodied implement, then wraps her arms around Sylvia and softly kisses her cheek.

“Welcome home… Mistress.

Victoria: Sylvia chews her lip, thinking.

“I’ve a thought.”

Oh, the sound of that word. So crisp. So frigid, yet warming; a mother’s embrace from a statue of ice.

GM: “I’ll bet it’s worth more than a penny.”

Victoria: “He’ll remember this, but he won’t think about it every day. He’ll miss fucking, but over time he’ll miss it less and less.”

GM: “People can get used to anything, it’s true,” sighs the woman.

Victoria: The dregs of adrenaline are fading. Uncertainty plagues her, but the reassurance of this woman pushes her forward.

One more. Just one more.

Her crumbling foundation holds.

“Help me turn him over?”

GM: The woman undoes his cuffs, then turns over his fat, blood- and bile-smeared body.

Victoria: “Got a knife?”

GM: Just as swiftly, Sylvia finds one in her hands.

Victoria: “You are boundlessly prepared.”

She scores the ring just deep enough to weaken muscle, then seats the knife directly into his asshole.

“There. Now he’ll remember daily.”


Saturday night, 28 September 2011, PM

Victoria: Two days in a row, Sylvia leaves Chakras trembling. Two days, with tears welling up behind her eyes. Two days, with blood on her face.

She shouldn’t be driving, but she is despite three separate people offering to take her home.

“It’s only a five minute drive,” said one of them.

“It’s really no trouble,” said another.

She wanted to accept the ride, but not as much as she needs to be alone; to let herself break down, and to allow the skyscraper of roiling guilt and emotion to come crashing down.

The door to her ancient Civic barely clicks closed before she punches the steering wheel hard enough to bruise her hand.

FUCK!”

GM: Her hand hurts.

But that pain will fade.

Greg is never going to use a bathroom the same way again.

Victoria: Greg deserved every ounce of pain that he received. His punishment was justify.

It doesn’t make it hurt any less.

Sylvia drives home, running two stop signs, nearly hitting a pedestrian at one. The angry, Asian man swears at her in an unfamiliar language. She feels more guilty about the corgi that leaps off the sidewalk, but it manages to run between her tires before she passes.

Lucky dog.

She makes it home, both her and passing people in one piece, and she presses a key to the front door of her apartment. Never has she had so much trouble opening a simple door.

Stupid, fucking Greg. If he hadn’t locked the door. If they hadn’t installed a locking door…

GM: Or a soundproofed room.

Or such reliable restraints.

She’d know there, after all. She made those cuffs with her own two hands.

Victoria: She shaped his fate, in a way.

She hadn’t forced him to come in.

She hadn’t forced him to rape her.

GM: She remembers his laugh.

How he said he’d tamed her.

How much he loved taming dommes.

Taking strong and assertive women and bringing them to heel.

Victoria: Now he’ll never bring anyone to heel again.

He’s lost his purpose.

He is weak.

Impotent.

Futureless.

She took everything from him, and wounded him beyond that.

And she reveled in it.

And she hates herself for it.

GM: He was a monster. He’d have preyed on other women.

So she hurt him, until he can’t hurt anyone again, and now she feels like the monster.

Was there a right thing to do?

Victoria: She’s no better than the men of her childhood.

And she liked it.

Likes it.

Likes it a lot.

Is this why they did it to her?

To feel overwhelming power over the helpless?

GM: She remembers how it felt with the chair.

The fear in her eyes.

The sense of a defenseless life completely with her hands. Within her power.

Victoria: She wonders where that chair is now. Chakras is bigger than it’s given credit for, and she is only one small component of the machine. So many dommes. So many subs. So many support workers, just like her.

GM: Wherever she is, she’s probably happy so long as someone is sitting on her.

Victoria: The door clicks closed, and Sylvia St. George crumbles like an overcooked cookie, with none of the sweetness. Her bag falls to the floor, and she barely makes it to the sofa before she’s sobbing, screaming into a pillow.

She’s a broken toy. She’s a toddler with a tantrum. She’s both the uncertain child with a hand down her pants, and the rapist, eyes glinting in the dark.

She is both halves of everything she hates, and everything she swore never to be, and never to be again.

She embodied them both, and what’s worse? She likes it. Even there in her blind rage, she likes it. There’s more she would have done if he hadn’t passed out, and there’s more she wishes she could go back right that moment and do to him. She wishes she could have an auditorium of young men to watch, to broadcast to the world exactly what happens when you take what you don’t deserve, and she wishes she could comfort every last one of them and tell them it’s okay.

Sylvia St. George is a bad girl, and she doesn’t know what to feel.

The very worst part?

They offered her a job for it.

They offered her a job for it, and she already knows she’s going to take it the next morning.


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