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My Friend of Missouri
 Post subject: Eyes of Fire **updated 10/5**
PostPosted: Tue Apr 29, 2014 6:41 pm GMT 
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Location: St. Charles
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Preface

It's been a long time since I've written anything creatively that didn't eventually involve dice rolls. In truth, I was initially just writing this to create an RP character but by the third page, I noticed the back story had morphed into something more. Rather than trimming to down to a manageable size, I decided just to let it flow. I'm up to three "chapters" so far, not including the prologue, and I'll spread these across several posts.

Heavily influenced by Lackadaisy, would be a discredit to my source of inspiration. It is completely influenced by Tracy's world, taking place in the same era, in the same city, and of the same...DNA structure?. However, it should be noted that I have no intention of cheapening Tracy's characters by involving them in my simple tale, though certain events may come up in passing.

As for the title, it somewhat fits where I think the story is headed, but I won't know for certain until its finished. The original title that kept creeping into my head was "The Ballad of Peter Blake," despite the lack of musical themes thus far in the writing.

Update 5/26/14
Added Chapter 4 First Light of the Morning Star & Chapter 5 Home Fires Burning
Update 6/29/14
Added Chapter 6 The Farmer's Strife, Chapter 7 The Game of Kings, & Chapter 8 The Color of Night; the Absence of Light
Update 7/3/14
Updated the title to something more relevant. Song of the Damned just wasn't going it for me. Also added an interlude of poetry (if it qualifies as such).
Update 7/28/14
Added Chapter 9 Sweet Relief & Chapter 10 A Little Magic

Prologue

“Junior” was born to Catalina and Peter Blake in the rural community of Affton, Missouri, just a few miles Southwest of St. Louis. The young couple had little in the way of money and they were forced to live with Catalina’s parents. Peter’s father had been disowned by his own parents for marrying a “dirty little Italian girl,” which subsequently also cost Peter Sr. his job at the factory. Despite the inconvenience, the Bombassi’s were happy to have their daughter and son-in-law under their roof -- a kindness Peter Sr. very much wanted to repay.

It took Peter’s father nearly two-years to find another job, and those years took a heavy strain on this extended family. When the money finally came rolling in, no one questioned how it was being earned. For five years, Peter Sr. lied to his wife and her parents claiming to be working as a waiter at some ritzy restaurant out on the Hill. One night he confessed to his wife and told her that he had gotten himself mixed up in illicit dealings with a racketeer named Vito Micelli. Professing his remorse over keeping her in the dark for so long, he promised that he’d do everything in his power to sever those criminal ties. A little over one-year later, Peter Sr. was murdered outside his home. Police investigators cited that he was killed by a single gunshot to the head, likely at close range.

The little family was devastated, and none were more grief-stricken than Catalina. She had never told her parents about her husband’s connections, hoping desperately that she’d never have to. The police asked some difficult questions – the kind of questions that led her to believe that her husband was more than simply “mixed up” with these racketeers. She spent the next two years questioning just who the cat she married truly was. She found solace in the form of a bottle until the shards from that bottle were used to slit her wrists. Her body was found along the Mississippi less than two-miles south of the Municipal Bridge; her death officially ruled as suicide. Whatever conclusion she may have made about her husband had been buried along with her.

In those years between his parents’ untimely demises, little Peter kept a secret of his own – he had witnessed his father’s murder. Though he should have been in bed, Peter had climbed out from his bedroom window and was hiding beneath the porch, as he had done so often before. His father worked long and sometimes strange hours, so the only time he could catch even a glimpse of him was when he returned home from work. On that particular night, Peter Sr. was dropped off by some “co-workers” driving a fancy, black sedan. Three cats, including his father, got out of the car and talked business for a few minutes. Soon enough, they had said their good-byes and as his father turned towards the patio, one of the cats pulled a revolver and shot his father in the back.

Forever etched in his memory, Peter often relives that moment in his mind. He’ll never forget the faces of the two cats he saw that night. He even relayed that information to the police investigator who questioned the family that following morning. “We’ll collar those crooks, son. You have my word,” the officer told him, but Eight years later, his father had still received no justice. Instead, the newspapers ran article after article about his fallen father’s misdeeds; dragging his name through the mud. The articles stated that police had tied him to seven separate murder charges in and around South City. The press got so bad that Peter had to have his name changed from Blake to Bombassi just to escape the media hoopla. The kid never really had a chance to live a normal life.

Grandfather Bombassi tried his best to keep Peter down the straight-and-narrow, even offering to build him a car of his very own if he just stayed in school, but it wasn't to be. Peter fell in with a rough crowd and was seldom seen for nearly three years. Peter returned briefly to his grandfather’s house in the middle of the night one August evening and left a note detailing what he planned to do. Peter had stolen his way into Micelli’s gang under an assumed name and was going to make Vito pay for destroying his family.

For such a bright and promising young lad, his scheme was half-cocked and practically suicidal. For all the hard work he had done running errands for the Micelli’s, he was finally going to meet the boss and step up into some real work. He had managed to scrape up a little scratch to buy a second-hand peashooter that he could easily slip into his pocket and withdraw when he met Micelli. It was an all-or-nothing play and though he held no hope of escape; his life was an acceptable trade-off in exchange for a chance at retribution.


Last edited by Faux Kadat on Sun Oct 05, 2014 8:29 pm GMT, edited 13 times in total.

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My Friend of Missouri
 Post subject: Re: Song of the Damned (working title)
PostPosted: Tue Apr 29, 2014 6:42 pm GMT 
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The Big Gamble

The kid stood there in front of Vito Micelli as the white-suited cat ate his expensive cuisine. Between bites, Vito looked Peter up and down, asked him questions, and generally attempted to give the impression of just how humbled the young cat should be by merely having this audience. Peter could barely speak, he was so nervous. There were five sets of eyes on him at all times. Doubt began to sink in. What if they saw him reach into his pocket? What if he couldn't get the gun out in time? What if he missed?

Peter had already resigned himself to the grave, but he hadn't considered all the ways he could fail. The boy was beginning to tremble now, and the boss-cat was drinking it in. Vito couldn't help but be amused by his own intimidating aura and smirked just before leaning over his plate for another bite. Peter had seen that crooked smile before on the night his father was murdered. Recalling that image in his mind gave him all the resolve he would need but his window of opportunity was drawing to a close. It was now or never.

Peter took a quick glance around the room. The thugs whom he swore were eyeing him intently now seemed more concerned with the announcer on the radio than the timid teenager. Even the brute that hovered by Vito’s side appeared momentarily distracted. Peter slowly slid his hand down into his pants pocket and began to withdraw the tiny pistol.

“Boss!” one of the goons yelled over the sound of the radio. Peter instantly dropped the pistol back into his pocket and quickly started fidgeting with his suspender straps. “The game just started and we’re taking bets. Who you got?”

Vito turned to look at Peter. “I don’t know,” he said. “Put twenty on whoever the kid thinks will win.”

“So kid,” Vito asked, “Who’s it gonna be?”

Caught off guard, Peter stalled by asking who was playing. A valid question, he thought, as there were two professional teams in town.

“Browns and Red Sox,” replied the betting enthusiast. Knowing practically nothing about either team, the smart play might have been to pick the home team. Of course, even with such limited baseball knowledge, Peter couldn't deny Ruth’s potential impact.

“Red Sox,” Peter proclaimed confidently.

“Ah, going with the Bambino. Smart choice,” Vito told the kid and nodded over to the listeners.

“I've been hearing good things about you, so I’m going to do you a favor. If the Red Sox win, I’ll let you keep the twenty plus the winnings. What do you say about that?”

That was a lot of money Peter stood to gain. More than he had ever seen at one time. And he had worked really hard just to get here, much harder than those other punk kids Vito had been using. A cat could almost be forgiven for compromising his goals given the way these last ten years have panned out. Heaven knows plenty of others have pawned off their values for far less.

“Gee! Can I really?” Peter replied, feigning excitement, “that would be swell, Mister Micelli!”

Apparently convinced, Vito turned his attention back to his dinner. “All right, scram kid so I can finish eating. Go listen to the game with the fellas.”

Peter turned his body and started to walk away, but quickly paused and turned back towards Vito. “Mister Micelli, can I ask you something?”

Vito glanced up briefly, slightly annoyed, and replied “Fine. Make it quick, kid.”

Peter grabbed the pistol from his pocket at aimed it at Vito’s face as the gang leader cut into a hunk of sausage.

“When’s the last time you looked a cat in the eyes and pulled the trigger? Or do you always shoot ‘em in the back?” the youngster said coldly.

Temporarily frozen by such an unexpected question, Vito turned his head slowly towards the gun-wielding youth. Immediately, his eyes were drawn to the muzzle staring him in the face. Slowly, Vito glanced up at the kid. Peter’s eyes burned like tiny suns as he pressed the pistol against Vito’s head and cracked a wickedly sadistic smile. For a moment, Vito may as well have been looking into the eyes of the devil.

“Fellas?” Vito barely managed to eke out. In unison, the goon squad looked up at their compromised boss, paused momentarily in disbelief, and quickly reached for their side arms.

“Don’t”, Peter growled as he pulled the hammer back.

“Toss your guns away,” he demanded.

The thugs looked at each other hoping someone knew what to do, but with little recourse, the cats reluctantly complied.

Now Peter commanded the room. The spotlight was on him, and it was exhilarating. Here he was, standing over this big-shot, fake tough-guy gang leader literally holding the gangster’s life in his hand. Oh how he relished in that moment. He savored every last ray of fear and confusion that emanated from Vito’s pathetic face. Never mind that once he pulled the trigger, the other cats in the room would tear him to pieces. He held no grand illusions of escaping once the deed was done. His curtain call was destined to end in a hail of bullets.

The room was so silent, a cat could hear a pin drop three states away. “You gonna pull the trigger, or just stand there kid?”

Peter had been waiting for Vito to say something, but this wasn't what he expected. A final plea or a poorly construed bargain, sure. Something Peter could confidently deny just before the muzzle flash and loud bang. That was Peter’s vision. Instead, he received arrogant prodding. Vito didn't think the kid really had it in him. Incensed, Peter would prove him wrong.

Peter roared as he pushed Vito’s head back with the pistol and pulled the trigger. Click. No brilliant flash of light. No triumphant burst of hot lead. No deposits of grey matter spread out across the polished wooden floor. More importantly, there was no slumped over corpse of former gang boss Vito Micelli who was still very much alive.

“You see,” Vito began to say, “the problem with these dime-store Saturday night specials is that they almost never work when you really want them to.”

Vito placed his hand over the tiny pistol the stunned boy still held to his face. Instinctively, Peter leaped away and repeatedly pulled the trigger over and over again. Thrusting the gun forward with each attempt, the youngster desperately tried to invoke at least one successful fire. In this panicked state, Peter failed to notice the burly cat in his peripheral bearing down on him until an enormous fist connected squarely just beneath the child’s chin. The violent impact sent Peter sprawling across the floor as if ejected from a cannon.

Peter’s eyelids grew heavy as he tried to lift his head. “Consider that a lesson learned,” Vito admonished just before the boy passed out.


Last edited by Faux Kadat on Wed Oct 01, 2014 6:05 pm GMT, edited 1 time in total.

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My Friend of Missouri
 Post subject: Re: Song of the Damned (working title)
PostPosted: Tue Apr 29, 2014 6:42 pm GMT 
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The Dance

Darkness gave way to shimmering light, and one hell of a headache. “Must have cracked my head against the floor”, Peter thought. His jaw hurt much worse though. He tried to press his hand against his mouth to check if he had any broken teeth, only to find that he couldn't move his hands…or his legs. Coming to his senses, Peter now understood the magnitude of this predicament. He had been bound to a chair overlooking some riverside dock, and he didn't have to be a big-shot playwright to see how this scene was intended to conclude. The weight of failure was sinking in, and soon, he be sinking too.

“Oh, somebody’s awake. Evening sunshine, enjoy your catnap?”

It was Salvatore, otherwise known as Big Sal, though Peter knew him better as the bestial thug that did a number on his face.

“Boss wanted to see you off. You’re going on a riverboat cruise. Doesn't that sound like fun?”

Vito casually strolled over. “Here he is boss,” Big Sal pointed out.

“Thank you Sal,” Vito said just before leaning in to talk to Peter more privately.

“You know, you surprised me kid. You really did. You've got the heart of a killer. You could have been very useful to me – just like your father was useful to me.”

Vito allowed Peter process that for a moment. “That’s right. I know who you are. Frankly, I can’t believe I didn’t see it earlier. You got brass balls, just like him. Of course, it didn't get him anywhere except an early ticket to the hereafter. Well, I guess you’ll soon have that in common as well.”

Dejected, Peter couldn't help but to stare off into the river he’d soon be drowning in. “Aw, don’t look so glum, kid. At least the Red Sox won,” Vito said with a smile as the cats standing around the dock burst into laughter.

“Sal, work him over then get rid of him,” he said as he began to walk away.

“Why?” asked Peter, hardly able to speak. “Why’d you do it?”

“Why?” Vito replied. “Because I run a business,” he said as he bent down to look the forsaken teenager in the eyes. “And when you run a business, you have to make certain business decisions. Now, your pops was a pretty good worker, I’ll give him that. Handy with a gun.”

“What was that nickname you guys gave him?” he turned to ask his lackeys. “Oh that’s right – Pistol Pete. That’s it.”

Peter’s blank stare turned into disbelief.

“What? You don’t believe me? It doesn't matter if you do or don’t. The point is, ole Pistol Pete wanted something better. He wanted to get out of the gutter, get himself a place of his own so he could stop mooching off your grandparents. Apparently, what I offered just wasn't enough, so he started taking from the till, thinking I wouldn’t notice. So, long story short, I had to let him go. Never bite the hand that feeds. That’s your second lesson for today. At this rate, I may have to start charging tutoring fees.”

Vito patted the kid on the cheek. Still suffering from the blow he received earlier, even this slightest tap caused Peter to jerk his head back. The gang boss stood up, nodded over to Big Sal, and took his leave. Once Vito’s car was out of sight, Sal and the boys congregated around the doomed youth.

“Untie him,” Sal told one of the goons.

Peter lifted his head in astonishment. “Oh, don’t go getting any funny ideas ‘bout you walking out of here. You’re as good as dead, but I haven’t had a good fight in weeks. Besides, I had a beef with your pops that I never got to settle quite the way I would have liked, so this’ll have to do.”

Once Peter was untied, he got up from the chair and nearly fell over face-first. His head ached something awful and his legs were wobbly. The guys chuckled and traded snide comments as Peter attempted to collect himself.

“Give him a pig sticker,” said Big Sal and one of those fellows tossed a rather worn kitchen knife at Peter’s feet. Sal took off his coat and pulled out a large bayonet. Peter cautiously reached for the knife. He’d heard rumors of what Big Sal can do with a blade, and the stories weren't pretty.

Instinctively, Peter took a low stance. He knew that he needed to keep moving and pick his spots, but he had never used a knife in this manner before. Sure, he’d had his fair share of pretend skirmishes against imaginary bad guys, but this wasn’t a child’s game. He wasn’t Jim Bowie and this sure as hell wasn’t some wooden cutout of Santa Anna. Mommy and daddy weren’t here to pluck out the splinters either. “Think, stupid. What are you going to do?”

“Stay clear of the cackling idiots, for starters,” he thought to himself. Big Sal may want to do all the work himself, but Peter didn’t trust that those lowlifes were just going sit idly by at let this be an honorable duel. No sooner than he could think it, one of the buffoons tried to kick Peter in the back of the thigh as he circled around the makeshift fighting ring. Peter nimbly hopped over the schmuck’s outstretched leg and gave the guy a good swift kick of his own. The youngster considered turning the knife on the guy too, but noticed Sal charging up on him. Peter dove to his left, assuming Big Sal would rush right past him and into the onlookers, but Sal slowed his pace well short, never breaking his gaze on his smaller opponent.

“Get up little Petey,” the behemoth taunted, “or maybe you just want to lie down and take it.”

“Like his momma used to,” someone from the peanut gallery added, much to the amusement of the crowd. Peter certainly wasn’t laughing, but he wasn’t going to let such a sophomoric jab get under his skin.

Peter took his time getting back to his feet, still trying to size up his vastly larger foe. “Well lookey here, fellas. I guess Petey here isn’t much for jokes. But, I guess if I knew my pops was a two-bit hood and my mother put out for hooch, I wouldn’t be in such a good mood either.”

That latter comment hit Peter like a ton of bricks. Big Sal cracked a smile as he witnessed Peter’s focused stare melt away into puzzlement. “Don’t tell me you didn’t know,” Sal said with a false hint of concern.

Shaking his head, Sal continued, “And I thought you were supposed to be so clever too.”

“You still don’t get it, do you? See, your momma was so bent out of shape over what happened to your pops, that she marched her tight little butt right down to Vito’s restaurant. Boy, was she ever a livewire. None too bright, though. Bad choices must run in the family.”

Peter can see where this tale is headed, but forces himself to listen to it anyway.

“So, you see, Vito tells me take care of it. And by take care of it, he meant that I should bust her up a bit. And sure, I started to, but I must have a thing for down-on-their-luck dames. So I bust her up in other ways. You know what the best part was? She liked it.”

Peter scowled, “You liar!”

“Oh, what?” Sal replied. “You think your mommy was a saint? That she could turn water to wine? Is that where you think the booze came from? A penny-less broad has to work for her liquor, and I made her work plenty.”

Unable to contain his fury, Peter rushed in, swinging his knife wildly with wide, arcing slashes. His cuts were poorly placed and predictable. Big Sal had no problem evading the infuriated teen’s assault, content to let the smaller cat wear himself out before going in for the kill. It also gave him more time to savor Peter’s frustration.

Peter drove forward for another flurry. Thrust after thrust connect with naught but thin air while Sal, having hardly broken a sweat, just kept letting the kid come at him. Peter, on the other hand, was already beginning to slow. His arm felt heavy and his breathing was short and rapid, but he just couldn’t contain himself. Recklessly, he surged toward Sal once again with little more than malice and contempt to fuel his actions.

The big cat sidestepped a forecasted strike and countered with a backhand across Peter’s face. The jarring blow caused Peter to stumble past the gargantuan who managed to brace himself just before toppling over completely. Though it was a glancing blow in comparison to the shot he took earlier, the pain was no less intense. Between this and the right hook he suffered at Vito’s place, he figured his jaw had to be broken, but that wouldn’t matter for much longer if he couldn’t find a way out. At least this second smack to the head had knocked some sense back into him. Frantically slashing away like someone had just stepped on his tail wasn’t going to get Peter anywhere but dead.

“Think, Peter. Maybe I can throw the knife at him. No, with my luck today, it’ll hit him right between the eyes handle first. Then I’ll be up sh--”

Big Sal lunged in with a wide swing from 8 to 2 o’clock, disrupting Peter’s attempt at planning. Leaping back, Peter just narrowly avoided the path of the blade. Sal followed up with a piercing strike that Peter nimbly ducked under, only to be met by knee to the head.

At the last moment, Peter threw an arm up in time to deflect most of the damage, but the force of the impact is enough to take Peter off his feet; dislodging the knife from his hand. Scrambling across the slick wooden boards on his hands and knees, Peter barely managed to catch the knife before it fell between the planks and into the river below. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted Sal bounding in and rolled to avoid his boot as it comes crashing down with enough force to crack one of the planks.

Though Sal’s large boot hadn't gone all the way through, it did give Peter a chance to get back to his feet. Peter scanned the crowd of cronies for any openings he could dart through. Nothing. Should he happen to break through, he knew most of these goons would be packing. They’d drop him in seconds. And even if he were to risk the incoming fire, Big Sal and his long strides would be right on his heels. Still, if there was a better option, Peter had yet to find it.

Regaining his footing, Sal immediately took the offensive. With his long reach and calculated swings, Big Sal gave the boy few chances to counter. Peter circled to the left, hoping less to outflank the cagey fighter than to spot an opportune gap in the crowd. Taking his focus off of his adversary even for this split second nearly cost Peter dearly. Backing away, Peter barely avoided a slash across his chest which instead tore through his shirt.

Sal grinned. He knew just how close he had been to ending this dance.

Peter circled again. “There!” he thought. Peter had finally spotted an opening, now it was just a matter of getting past his opponent.

Exuding arrogance, Sal proclaimed, “I’m tired of playing around with you. It’s time to die, little Petey.”

Big Sal moved in with a flurry of attacks that forced Peter to back-peddle. The gap he had spotted was getting farther away.

Desperately, Peter ducked under a swing and attempted to rush past, but his tattered shirt proved to be a liability. Sal snatched a piece of the torn fabric as Peter sprinted by, instantly stopping the fleeing kid dead in his tracks. Continuing to keep his legs moving, Peter tried to spin away, tearing the shirt further. Sal wasn’t letting go. Awkwardly bound by his shredded shirt, Peter had no choice but to cut himself free or be yanked into Sal’s striking range.

The sudden release caused Peter to stumble backwards. Unable to catch himself, the youngster turned his body to fall forward onto his chest, hoping to recover quicker. The kid hit the deck hard, but quickly got back to his feet. He knew Sal wasn’t going to give him a breather. Peter turned back to locate the burly cat but quickly realized that Sal is nearly on top of him. Peter lowered his head to avoid a slash that nearly scalped him and leapt backward – putting some distance between Sal and himself.

“That was too close,” Peter told himself.

A powerful stinging sensation overcame him, followed by the feeling warm droplets of liquid soaking through his undershirt. Blood had begun trickling down the side of his face and he grimaced when he touched the wound with his hand. The cut had left a two-inch gash in Peter’s right ear. He was fortunate to not have lost the ear entirely. It was a small measure of relief considering the situation, but Peter couldn't help but be thankful the damage wasn’t more severe.

“You’re getting sloppy, Pete,” Sal said mockingly, dropping the tattered piece of Peter’s shirt, “You might just get yourself killed one of these times.”

Sal strode arrogantly towards the injured youth, baiting the younger cat to strike. As the blood continued to flow from Peter’s wound, the boy stood there petrified, not because his life was soon to end, but because his mind was completely devoid of ideas. How could his sharp wit have betrayed him so? Or was this the plan? Was he fulfilling his family’s legacy to die an ignoble death at the hands of villainous, sub-felid scum?

Peter closed his eyes and dropped his guard. He just wanted it to end. Dangling his arms by his sides, Peter prepared to receive his due reward for believing he could take on the gang alone – a task too great for even his parents. Meanwhile, Big Sal slowed his approach, envisioning just how he wanted hurt the defeated boy.

Should he slit his throat? No, that would be too quick and Sal wants to hear the boy scream. His beef with Peter’s father ran too deep for something so impersonal. What about a few quick stabs in the gut? That might be a good place to start, as long as nothing too vital is hit. Or maybe he could just slash the kid across the chest. No real threat of death posed by that.

“Hmm,” Sal said, under his breath, “so many ways to do this.” In this brief moment of murderous contemplation, Peter’s thoughts had also begun to stir.

“Stupid kid,” a voice within Peter lambasted, “die with some dignity. Or at least, don’t give him the satisfaction of doing you in.” Peter opened his eyes to find Big Sal standing a few feet away. The boy was astonished that had still yet to be filleted by the mammoth’s bayonet. The two locked stares for an instant before either reacted. Peter, suddenly resolved to deny Sal of his kill, reared back and hurled the knife.

Peter’s throw was on the money and headed right for Sal’s face. Broken from his pondering, the incoming blade forced Big Sal to hit the deck, nicking his cheek as it whizzed by. Even before the big cat hit the ground, Peter sprinted off to an uncertain fate. A befuddled Sal quickly sat up and examined the cut on his face. Though nothing more than a scratch, obscenities begin to flow from Sal’s mouth like water when he realized that all the whiskers on the left-side of his face have been trimmed to tiny stubs. The enraged brute hurried to his feet and gave chase.

Unable to fully enjoy the small bit of malice he could wreak upon Big Sal, Peter sped forward, noticing that the thugs ahead were preparing to intercept.

“No turning back,” Peter reminded himself, “they can only kill you once.” The notion was morosely reassuring. The finality of death held no sway on him for he had been convinced that what came after could only be an improvement over a life lived in darkness. How easy it would be to let the mob gun him down, and yet even as he contemplated this, a tiny part of him was striving to survive. His plan may have failed, but his quest for retribution would live on so long as he drew breath. It was only then did he spot that opportunity for escape he had overlooked.

Ahead of him, just before reaching the gang members lying in wait, Peter could see the plank that Big Sal had nearly splintered earlier in the skirmish. If he could time his leap just right, the full force of his body-weight should be enough to send him crashing through and into the river before either the goons or Big Sal could catch him. Of course, there was no guarantee that he’d even fit between the planks, or that he wouldn't be shot before making his leap, or most of all, that he’d survive a tumble into the watery depths. “A bad break is still better than no break at all,” Peter reasoned.

He could hear the lumbering footsteps of the massive beast gaining on him. Even with his considerable head start, Peter needed every ounce of remaining strength to maintain his lead on the surprisingly agile big cat. Just before reaching the broken plank, Peter slowed to accurately place his footing and leapt as high as he could. With both feet, he stomped down and shattered the plank just before the outstretched arm of Big Sal could grab hold of him. The youngster tried to shield his face as he broke through the timbers, but he could not avoid further injury. The back of Peter’s head smashed against on one of the boards, leaving the boy barely conscious when he hit the water.


Last edited by Faux Kadat on Wed Oct 01, 2014 6:06 pm GMT, edited 2 times in total.

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My Friend of Missouri
 Post subject: Re: Song of the Damned (working title)
PostPosted: Tue Apr 29, 2014 6:43 pm GMT 
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The Sediment Club

Peter sunk like a stone and was immediately swept away by the undertow. Fiercely he fought against both the river’s grasp and the urge to inhale, but with senses fading, Peter gasped for air – allowing river water to enter his lungs. The burning sensation in his chest causes Peter to cough, which only even allows more water to enter the airways. Then, after this short-lived struggle, Peter’s battle ended.

The murky depths of the Mississippi have a certain serenity to them. Down here, the hustle and bustle of city life lost all meaning. The societal concerns of everyday folk are inconsequential beneath surface. There are no deadlines to meet. No cheating spouses to chastise. No diapers to change or bottles to warm. No family members to avenge. There’s just gentle drifting and the occasional fish. What more could a suffocating mind require? Oh, there’s tree limbs too. Plenty of those to go around.

Peter’s journey on the current, as pleasant as it was, came to an abrupt halt when his suspenders were snagged upon one such tree limb.

“Pull up a seat, Mack,” a nearby voice said.

“Can I pour you a drink?” asked another, “Fair warning though, it’s a bit watered down.”

The two voices laugh together as their images emerge from the clearing murk. Ahead of him, the pair of jokers, also apparent victims of the river, float aimlessly along the river bottom. To his right sat a brown and white colored cat. He wore a dark suit and was chained to a steel chair. At his left, a grey colored cat dangled from a rope tied to a stone or maybe a slab of concrete.

“I’m Joe,” the grey cat announced, turning to make eye contact with Peter and revealing that the right side of his face had decayed to the bone. “And this is my buddy Sam. Say hello, Sam”

“Hello, Sam,” the second cat replied, followed by a second bout of laughter. At first glance, Sam appears to be somewhat portly, but Peter quickly realized that he was actually just bloated from being submerged for so long. Peter also understood just how disturbing this should be, and yet, he didn't seem to care.

“So, what’s your name stranger?” Joe inquired as a small, silvery fish swam into his eye hole.

“Peter,” the drowned teen replied.

“And what brings you around these parts?” Joe questioned.

“Oh, just hanging around, I guess,” Peter answered.

The two jokers chuckled. “Good one,” Sam says approvingly, “I think you might just fit in around here.”

Joe nodded in agreement. Just then, the small fish darted from his eye, apparently with a small chunk of meat in its mouth.

“Must be a picky eater,” Sam observed and the jokers share another laugh while Peter barely managed to crack a smile.

“Come now, that was a good one,” Sam stated.

Turning towards Sam, Joe responded, “Go easy on him, Sam. He’s new here and probably very confused. Remember the first day you washed up here?”

“Sorry Peter,” Joe continues, turning back to the child, “do you know why you’re here?”

With some uncertainty, Peter replied, “Because I fell through the dock?”

“No,” Joe said, shaking his head, “that’s how you got here. Do you know why you’re here?”

Peter considered the question for a moment, then answered, “because I’m dead.”

“Yes, yes that’s it exactly,” Joe affirmed, “You’re a pretty smart cookie. You must be pretty down then?”

“Why’s that?” Peter asked.

“Well, I mean, you’re just so young,” Joe said with concern, “You had a full life ahead, and instead, you’re down here with us, listening to our terrible jokes and getting nibbled on by fish.”

“I suppose I should be sad,” said Peter, “but life wasn't so great either.”

“Oh, so you’re one of those,” Sam interjected, “‘Life’s too hard, I don’t fit in, or my parents don’t love me.’ You just had to do yourself in, didn't you?”

“Sam!” Joe yelled, denouncing his companion’s supposition.

“You’re wrong,” Peter began to say, “it’s not like that at all.”

“I didn't kill myself,” he said sternly, “and my parents loved me, I think.” Peter tried to recall memories of his parents. “At least I thought they did…until Vito and his lackeys took them from me.”

The two jokers looked at each other then turned back to Peter. “Vito? As is Vito Micelli?” Joe asked.

“Yes,” confirmed Peter, “do you know him?”

“Of course we do,” Sam proclaimed, “that’s how we got down here.” Intrigued,

Peter perked his ears up. “You see,” Joe began, “Sam here used to called ‘Sam the Barber’. He was a hatchet man for Vito until just a few months ago; until his accident.”

“’A little off the top’, I always used to say,” Sam stated with pride, “Of course, I always took a bit more than a little, but everyone needs their gimmick.”

“So what happened?” Peter questioned with youthful enthusiasm.

“It’s like Joe said,” Sam replied, “I had an accident. An accident arranged by Vito when he thought I was pulling double-duty with some upstart racketeer.”

“I wasn't, you see,” Sam stated emphatically, “but I had heard that some of the boys I ran with were. I was simply guilty by proxy. He had us all bumped off one-by-one. The one thing I learned about Vito is that when he cleans house, he doesn’t stop until it’s spic-and-span.”

“It didn't help that you weren't part of the family, either,” said Joe.

“Right,” Sam began to explain, “That idiot cousin of his can get away with murder, forgiving the pun, but if you ain't a Micelli or somehow related, he’ll rub you out for the littlest indiscretion. Speaking of indiscretions, Joe, you want to tell our new friend what you did to earn your place here at the Sediment Club?”

“I might as well,” Joe responded with minimal reluctance, “You’re not going anywhere kid, are ya?” Peter shrugs. “I guess my story isn't as interesting as Sam’s, but I used to tend the bar at one of Vito’s establishments – the Oleander. Ever heard of it?”

“Nope,” Peter admitted, shaking his head. “That’s not surprising, it probably doesn't exist anymore. Actually, come to think of it, it may have burned down…or been burned down, to be more precise.”

Continuing to tell his tale, Joe confessed that he wasn't around to witness the fire first-hand but that “folks passing through” seemed to think that Vito and his cronies may have torched the building after losing control of the proprietor and the tenants living in the apartments above.

Confused, Peter inquired about what Joe meant about people passing through. “Oh, the Mississippi is a depository for all sorts of lost souls,” Joe explained, “and Vito is a primary contributor.”

Sam nodded in agreement. “In fact, the Sediment Club used to be much larger,” Sam told Peter, “but even in death, some people are just too busy to soak it all in. They've always got some better place to be. Not us though. We are the ferrymen, after all.”

“Thank you, Charon,” Joe said sarcastically, “You know I hate it when you wax mythological.”

“Anyway,” Joe continued, “where was I? Ah, yes, the Oleander. It was a bit of dive to begin with, but it did good business. When Vito found out about a successful little hole-in-the-wall joint, he had to have it under his thumb…and he did for a while. As gangsters often do, he offered protection, which is just a fancy way telling someone to pay you money in exchange for not having your goons break that someone’s face. Judging from your expression, you seem to know this already, so I’ll skip ahead.”

“So to keep tabs on the Oleander, Vito makes Shorty, the owner, hire me on to tend bar and count the money. It was a good gig. A lot of down-and-outters looking to drink the workday away around those parts, and Vito took a good cut…after I counted it all up, of course. So, I didn't think much about taking a little extra off the top, to quote my friend here.”

Following the story closely, Peter summarized, “So you were skimming money from Vito, who was skimming money from Shorty.”

“Basically,” Joe confirmed, “You catch on pretty quick, kid. Long story short, I got sloppy. Business took a down-turn, but I had become accustomed to the extra dough, so my percentages went up. When Vito got wise, he had one of his thugs put a bullet through my eye. He didn't even bother making me try to pay it back.” Pausing for a moment to think, Joe continues “I can’t really say why he torched building sometime afterwards. Perhaps he forced Shorty to sell him the property on the cheap and then collected the insurance on it. Or maybe he thought Shorty was in on my scheme.”

“Or maybe he’s just a sadistic prick,” Sam added. Together, the three bobbed their heads in agreement.

There was a long and slightly uncomfortable moment of silence as the three club members contemplated what they should talk about next. “I don’t mean to pry, kid,” Sam started to say, “but you said Vito iced your parents, right?”

Peter replied softly, “Yes.”

“So what were you trying to do? Get them back?” Sam asked, ignoring Joe’s stern gaze. Peter stared back angrily. “Hey, settle down tiger. I didn't mean anything by it. I’m just trying to figure out what a smart kid like you thought he could accomplish by himself.”

“You don’t have to answer him, Peter,” Joe compassionately told the boy. Joe turned to lambaste Sam for upsetting the kid, but is cut off mid-sentence.

“I just wanted him dead,” Peter admitted, his voice resonating with a both a hint of frustration and regret. “And I had him too. For three-years I ran messages back-and-forth between his lackeys, just in the hopes that I would meet him one day. And when I did…” Peter curled his lips and clenched a fist. Hanging on the edge of every word, Sam and Joe awaited the result.

“And when I did get to meet him, the gun jammed.” Overcome with emotion, Peter begins to sob.

“Hey, it’s alright kid,” Sam said, attempting to console the distraught youth, “You got real close. That’s better than either of us could manage. Heck, I didn’t even know I had it coming until I was sitting in this very chair.”

“You know what the hardest part is?” the sniffling child asks rhetorically, looking down at his dangling feet, “It’s that I could have walked out of there, and everything would be fine.”

“But you couldn't, could you?” Sam told the teen, “You couldn't compromise your values. That’s commendable.”

Peter looks up, astonished that Sam seems to understand him so well. “I’m sure that if you ever get another chance, you’ll punch his card for certain,” Joe reassured.

“Shouldn't that be got?” Peter asks with puzzlement.

Joe and Sam turn to each other before Joe admitted, “Peter, there’s something we need to tell you.”

“What is it?” the child asked anxiously.

“Peter, you’re not dead. At least, not yet, but if you stay here any longer, you will be.”

Peter looked over at Sam, “Is this a joke?”

“Not at all,” Sam stated, “We may kid about a lot of things, but we wouldn't joke about that.”

“So how do I go back?” Peter questioned, demanding an answer.

“Do you want to go back?” Joe asked in response.

“Yes!” Peter exclaimed, “I have to. I have to finish what I started.”

“We understand,” Joe said.

“So what do I do?” Peter asked frantically.

“First,” Sam began to say, “you need to calm down. Then, all you gotta do is get yourself unhitched from that tree branch.”

“That’s it?” Peter wondered.

“That’s it,” Joe confirmed, “and the current will do the rest. After that, it’s up to the Big Cat upstairs.”

“Go ahead, kid. You can do it.” Sam said encouragingly.

Peter hadn't moved his arms or legs for what felt like hours. Suddenly, there was a flash of light and a tremendous pounding in his head. He began to panic, thrashing around trying to free himself. In a brief moment of clarity, Peter unsnapped his suspender clip from his waist and the current, as Joe promised, sent the kid further downstream.

Joe and Sam waved goodbye as Peter floated past and quickly out of sight through the murky waters. “There he goes, Sam,” Joe observed, “Think he can do it?”

Turning to Joe, Sam replied matter-of-factly, “Not a chance.”

With a condemning stare, Joe replied, “Bah! You’re all wet!”

The two stare blankly at each other for a moment before bursting into raucous laughter. “Give ‘em hell, kid.”


Last edited by Faux Kadat on Wed Oct 01, 2014 6:07 pm GMT, edited 1 time in total.

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My Friend of Missouri
 Post subject: Re: Song of the Damned (working title)
PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2014 12:38 am GMT 
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Custom Title: My Friend of Missouri
First Light of the Morning Star

Propelled by the river current, Peter’s limp little body had drifted aimlessly downriver and washed up somewhere along the riverbank. The brilliant flash of headlamps illuminated the boy’s body for just a moment, waking Peter from his comatose state. Immediately as the teen began to stir, the muddy Mississippi waters vomited forth from his mouth and nose. The force of the evacuating fluid felt as though his very innards had been thrust from his body. Wracked with pain and lacking the strength to turn to his side, Peter began to gag on the expellant.

In the dim moonlight, Peter could barely make out a silhouette speeding down the silt slope towards him. A male voice called to him, but he could hardly hear a single word over the sound of his own choking. The farmer reached the river soaked boy and turned the child to one side so he would stop gagging. He attempted to move the boy several times after the vomiting has stopped, but the continued retching is so violent that he could only carry Peter a few feet at a time between events. Once the writhing had subsided, the farmer carried Peter in his arms and laid him across the passenger seat of his truck.

The rust-riddled vehicle kicked up dust as it sped away down the bumpy dirt road. Peter is in and out of consciousness throughout the entire ride. The farmer pulled the truck up outside of a small homestead just inside the town limits to Cahokia, Illinois. After rushing the shivering child into the house, the Good Samaritan, he immediately began to wrap Peter in blankets. The farmer asked his concerned wife to call the county doctor and then proceeded to comfort the boy as best he can.

“It’s going to be OK,” the farmer repeated over and over, and even as the world faded from sight, Peter could still hear the farmer’s voice before completely blacking out.

The remainder of the night and the much of the following day are a complete blur to Peter. Sometime during the morning hours, a local doctor had arrived to check on the child. Peter is hardly responsive to the doctor’s questioning, partially because he doesn't want to identify himself and partially because his young mind is having trouble deciphering the events of the night prior. Had he been dead? Did the conversation with “Fisheye” Joe and Sam the Barber really take place? Was it all just a dream? Was he still dreaming? For that matter, was he still dead?

The only confirmation he’d receive regarding the latter notion was the constant throbbing pain from his mouth and head. Peter tried to raise his head to look around the room, only to be thwarted by searing pain emanating from the back of his skull. Peter winced in discomfort and the doctor sitting at his bedside told him to be still.

“You've suffered some pretty nasty injuries, junior,” the doctor said with a pleasant tone and faint smile. “I’m just going to look you over a bit, Okay?” he asked, as if Peter had any real choice in the matter. The doctor leaned over and observed the swelling around Peter’s jaw, trying to be as gentle as possible. He then slowly turned Peter’s head to one side and examined the knot on the back of the child’s head. “My, that’s a rather large welt,” the doctor noticed, “Do you remember how you got it?”

Peter remembered quite vividly, but told the doctor that he could not recall. “That’s okay,” the doctor reassured before turning Peter’s head back, “What about your ear?”

Again Peter falsely claimed that he could not remember. With a nod and a smile, the doctor continued. “Can you open your eyes wide for me?” After positioning a headmirror over his own eye, the doctor held each of Peter’s eyelids open, peering into them for signs of brain trauma. The extra light from the mirror beaming directly into Peter’s eyes caused him to.

“It’s alright, young fellow,” the doctor told him, “Just let me check the other one and I’ll be done.”

After concluding his examination, the doctor leaned back and placed a hand on Peter’s shoulder. “There, all done. You’re a brave one, aren't you?” he said with a grin. “Now, I’m just going to talk to these fine folks here for a moment, and I’ll be right back, okay?”

Peter tried to nod, but any sudden movement brings another bout of pain.

Attempting not to disturb the injured youth, the doctor moved out of earshot and spoke softly with the owners of the farmstead. Peter could not hear everything that was discussed, but the doctor seemed concerned that not all of Peter’s injuries had been caused by debris from the river. The doctor motioned to his ear as he depicted his thoughts of what may have caused it. Peter picked up a few words such as “concussion” and “abuse”. Furthermore, the doctor shared the opinion that the boy’s tumble into the river was not accidental. Peter had to credit the doctor. Despite not revealing anything verbally, Peter’s wounds had told a fairly significant tale of their own, and the doctor wasn’t that far off.

As their conversation proceeded, anxiety began to grip Peter. He knew the doctor would have no choice but to involve the police, who would investigate and likely open a giant can of worms. Peter could envision the media circus that would follow. “Young Boy Survives Being Thrown into River” the headlines would read. He’d might as well paint a giant red target on his chest and knock on Vito’s front door. The only thing Peter had going for him at this very moment was that Micelli had to believe he was dead. If word got out that Peter escaped, rest assured, Big Sal would be going on a door-to-door skull-cracking crusade until the child was found. How long would it take him to find the Bombassi residence? Peter shuddered to think what would happen then.

No, Peter knew he had to make himself scarce before the police inevitably arrived…but how? All it would take to bring the law was a simple phone call and Peter could barely lift his head, much less to make his way from the farmstead unnoticed. Peter closed his eyes tightly and clutched his head, as if to squeeze even the slightest helpful thought from it. He just couldn't shake the feeling of impeding dread – not for himself, but for the lives he endangered by being so weak; so stupid; so reckless. It was only then, only when Peter deemed his situation hopeless that a voice spoke to him.

“Seems like you’re in a bit of a pickle,” the male voice said, as if fully aware of Peter’s predicament. Peter opened his eyes, startled that someone else had been observing him, but there was no one. The small bedroom was dimly lit save for the morning light shining in from the window above the bed. Peter could barely make out the few furnishings along the wall opposite the window. There was a little round table; a bookshelf, and maybe a rocking chair tucked in the corner, but otherwise he was alone in the room.

Peter tried to look out the doorway to see of someone was nearby, and he heard the voice again. “Looks like you need a hand…or maybe just some sound advice.” The voice was raspy, with a slight Northeastern accent, or at least that’s what Peter thought. Peter turned his attention to the back of the room and there, in the rocking chair that he swore had been empty moments ago, sat a dark figure. Peter could only make out the silhouette vaguely, but the male figure wore a suit and fedora.

“Who are you?” Peter hesitantly asked.

“Who I am ain’t important right now, champ,” replied the visitor, “What is, is that you keep them folks from making that phone call.”

Peter was stunned at the visitor’s clairvoyance. “Well, don’t just sit there, stupid,” he demanded, “Do something.”

Dumbfounded, Peter continued to stare back at the pushy newcomer. The dark cat sighed. “There’s a scalpel in the bag at the foot of your bed.”

Peter widened his eyes with concern, “What do you want me to do?”

The dark cat leaned forward in the rocking chair with a malevolent smile; his teeth gleaming brilliantly even in the darkness. Peter gulped, awaiting the figure’s response. “Cut the phone line, silly” the figure said plainly, expecting Peter to have come to that conclusion himself.

The cat leaned back in the chair and continued, “It’ll buy you some time to get yourself together. Just stay low and out of sight.” Peter didn't really know how much good it would do, but lacking other options, he reached for the bag. Peter groaned as he tried to get up and slumped back into bed.

“Or just lay there and let the pieces fall where they may,” the unfeeling figure said, “I’m sure no one will go looking for you at Grandpa’s house.”

Peter knew he had to tough it out and do as the figure demanded. The throbbing was terrible and Peter nearly fell from the bed as he tried to get up quietly. He got down on all fours and rummaged through the doctor’s bag. The figure was correct; there were a few scalpels in the bag and a few other small items that might be useful. Peter nabbed two scalpels, a bottle of pills, and something that looked like a saw and stuffed them under the mattress. He retrieved a third scalpel from the bag and began to crawl his way towards the door.

Upon reaching the doorway, Peter peered into the hallway and saw no one. He could still hear the voice of the doctor, the farmer, and the farmer’s wife somewhere in the house, but they seemed farther away now. Roughly fifteen-feet away and across the hall was a partition which separated the kitchen from the hall. “Surely, it must be in there,” he thought.

Even from his hands and knees, it wasn't a long distance to travel, but to the blurry-eyed teen, it seemed like miles. For every inch he crawled, his destination moved further and further away. His head felt heavy and he had to fight the urge to collapse with every agonizing movement. By the time Peter reached the edge of the partition, he was exhausted.

Peter snuck a peek into the kitchen. Just then, Peter heard someone approaching. “Would you like something to drink, doctor?” he heard the farmer’s wife ask.

“Just a glass of water,” the doctor responded from the distance. The faint clopping sound of the wife’s shoes against the hardwood floor was getting louder. Peter didn't know what would happen if she caught him out in the hallway.

“Nothing severe,” he thought, “She’ll just put me back to bed. Don’t panic.” Then he considered just how much he had to struggle just to get this far. Peter wasn't confident that he’d have the strength to try again if she found him here. He needed to do something quick. Mustering all of his resolve, Peter darted into the kitchen and behind the opposite side of the partition. He scanned the room for a better place to hide. “There, beneath the sink,” he told himself. Immediately, Peter slithered across the floor and opened the cabinet doors.

It was a tight fit, but Peter somehow managed to wedge himself in the tiny space and close both doors. Just in the nick of time too. From the dark cabinet interior, Peter could hear the farmer’s wife stroll into the kitchen and fill a glass of water. She set the glass on the counter, and dawdled for a while in front of the sink before moving on. It was difficult for Peter breath due to his awkward positioning in the confined space. He practically burst forth from the cabinet when he heard her walk away. Peter took a couple of deep breaths and tried to gather himself.

Peter’s ears flicked upward when he heard the wife softly admit to herself, “Oh, I forgot the glass.” Peter sprang back into the cabinet, hugging the drain pipe with his right arm and trying to close the doors with his left. For some reason, he just wasn't able to get the second door closed completely this time so he held it from the inside by just the tip of his nails.

The wife walked over to the sink, humming a tune she’d heard the night before. “Hmm, that’s funny,” she said aloud, “I didn't open this.”

She leaned over the sink and reached down to grab the door handle. Peter pressed himself as far in as possible, hoping she wouldn't notice the boy stuffed into her kitchen cabinet. She opened the door briefly.

“Gary!” she yelled to her husband, “This hinge is busted again!”

“Which one?” the husband asked from across the house.

“The one beneath the sink,” she yelled back as she lifted the door slightly before slamming it into place, not once ever noticing the terrified boy hiding within.

Peter breathed a sigh of relief and waited until he was absolutely certain that she had gone before emerging again. Peter opened the door slowly, making sure that no one is around, and crawled out from his hiding place. It did not take him long to find the phone resting on a counter top across the room Keeping his profile low en route to the phone, Peter grabbed the cord and begins to cut.

“No, stupid!” he thought, “Don’t make it so obvious.” He convinced himself that severing the cord here would arouse suspicion. Instead, he followed the cord around to the base of the wall and hacked through it with the scalpel from his pocket. Now all he has to do was return to the bedroom.

Peter worked his way back over to the sink. Now beginning to feel rather drained, Peter paused for a breather. He lowered his head and stared at the floor for a moment. The extra exertion and tension ad left him feeling nauseous and dizzy. When he looked back up, he saw the farmer’s wife staring at him from the other side of the partition. They lock eyes for a moment before either react.

“What are you doing in here?” she asked with great concern.

“I…I…” Peter began, trying to formulate a good excuse. “I was thirsty,” he stated, attempting to look as pathetic as possible to draw her sympathy, “but I feel sick every time I try to stand.”

“Oh, you poor dear. You just sit right there and I’ll get you a glass of water.”

Peter leaned back against the cabinet, relieved that she had bought his little rouse. Of course, it wasn’t hard to convince her of his suffering; he must have looked just as miserable as he felt. After downing his glass of water, the farmer’s wife helped Peter back to the bedroom and into bed. Peter gingerly slipped between the sheets being careful not to slice himself with the scalpel in his trouser pocket. As soon as the farmer’s wife left the room, he slid the tiny blade under the mattress to join his collection of other ill-obtained utensils.

Peter lay on his side and closed his eyes. Almost instantly he felt the pleasant dreariness pulling him into slumber, but instead he forced his heavy eyelids open. He had forgotten all about the strange black figure in the corner. He turned to look at the shadows surrounding the rocking chair – no one appeared to be there. Peter couldn't fathom who or what that was, but he was too exhausted to dwell upon it. Peter drifted off to sleep expecting that when he awoke he might be in better condition to depart undetected.


Last edited by Faux Kadat on Wed Oct 01, 2014 6:08 pm GMT, edited 1 time in total.

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My Friend of Missouri
 Post subject: Re: Song of the Damned (working title)
PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2014 12:39 am GMT 
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Home Fires Burning

Peter’s thoughts raced as he slept, crafting intense, dark images of loved ones suffering. At the forefront was the murder of his father that he witnessed outside his home. The twisted, laughing faces mocked him as he cowered from his hiding spot. Gripped by fear, he was powerless to stop the impending gunshot. He wanted to scream at the top of his lungs, “Dad, look out!” but he couldn't even manage this tiniest whimper. He tried to cover his eyes to avoid seeing his father’s fate play out again, but his mind had betrayed him. He was forced to see the bright flash of the muzzle, the sickening spray of crimson, and his father’s body crumple into a heap once more. Tears streamed from the boy’s eyes, but the torment of this dreamscape had only just begun.

As the view of Peter’s father laying face-down in a pool of blood faded, the child emerged from the shadows behind some flea-bag motel. The place was unfamiliar, yet he was drawn to enter. The carpet was well-worn and the plastered walls were riddled with cracks. As if by instinct, he walked past the inattentive clerk and up the creaky wooden stairs, carefully avoiding the mangy drunkard who has passed out half-way up the ascent.

The walls upstairs seemed paper-thin. Peter could hear practically every conversation, every radio broadcast, and every passionate moan as he walked the dingy corridor. He walked past door after door until finally reaching one that interested him. He pressed his ear against the door, not knowing what he’d hear from the other side, but the room was silent. He turned to the knob slowly, expecting it to be locked. Instead, the door opened before him with only the simplest nudge, revealing the room’s darkened interior.

It took his eyes a moment to adjust to the moonlit room and scan his surroundings. Inside the cramped room were little more than a damaged nightstand, a tarnished metal-framed bed, and a wash basin. He wasn't certain at first, but he thought he noticed someone lying on the bed. He felt his heart-rate accelerating. Peter held fast at the threshold, fearing what he’d find inside, but some stronger forced compelled him to enter against his better judgment.

He crept inside, not wanting to disturb the sleeping person, but the floorboards groaned with minimal pressure. Peter stopped in his tracks, desperately hoping he hadn’t awakened whoever was in the bed. Observing no movement, he continued approaching the bed. Peter noticed several articles of clothing strung out across the floor when he reached the foot of bed. He could also see now that the sleeping cat was female, judging from the curvature of the sheets.

He moved closer. He wanted to see her face. He placed his hand on the side of the bed – it was damp and slightly sticky. He gulped as he pulled the bed sheets back; he had to know who was underneath. His heart sank when he saw the face of his mother. She had been brutalized; her sheets stained with blood. Peter gnashed his teeth and gripped the bed frame furiously, and then he heard a gasp.

Her eyes were open and she was looking at him. “Momma,” he cried, “Momma, I’m here. Peter’s here. Hold on.” He grasped her hand. It was cool to the touch and blood flushed from her opened veins at the wrist. She didn't have much time left. Peter torn a strip of cloth from her sheets and frantically bound the gash tightly. Peter look into her eyes, trying to convince her; trying to convince himself that everything would be fine.

Catalina tried to speak to her son, but nary a word escaped her lips. Peter beheld the life fading from her eyes -- the sparkle; that loving glow forever extinguishing like a candle trapped beneath a glass. Peter wrapped his arms around her. “Momma, please don’t leave me too,” he pled, but it was too late. She exhaled one final time before expiring in her son’s arms. And just like that, she had left him again without saying goodbye; without saying she loved him; without telling him why.

Peter held her lifeless form close as he wept until it crumbled into ash and drifted away. Confused, angry, and deeply saddened all at once, Peter clawed at the fleeting bits of her escaping into the night sky. He was outside now in some wooded area that seemed quite familiar. He had been to this spot many times. It wasn’t far from his grandfather’s garage. In fact, he could hear the running waters of the creek that ran beneath the culvert leading to his workplace.

Peter stood up and headed for the nearby dirt road. It must have been late. There were no lights on at the garage. Just a quarter-mile to the South was grandfather’s homestead. “I should head home,” he thought, still not cognizant of the dream. It was cold out, so he decided to jog home. He thought about how many times he had run this path between the garage and his house. He remembered that heading home was always quicker because of the slightly declining slope, or at least it always felt quicker.

There was a hint of smoke in the air. “Someone must be having a bonfire”, he thought. “Or maybe grandma had smoked some pork steaks.” His mouth was salivating just thinking about it. He quickened his pace, hoping to arrive while they were still warm. His light jog soon turned into a full sprint when he saw the roaring flames ahead of him. Peter could feel the heat from the burning house even before reaching the gate into grandfather’s yard.

Thick, black smoke billowed from fiery portals where shingles once had been. The porch where he had hid so often was scorched black as night. The wooden timbers supporting the entryway were charred and appeared to be on the verge of collapse. Peter ran around to the backside of the house looking for some way to enter, but the fire had already ravaged this half of the home. Peter’s voice cracked as he cried out for his grandparents.

Peter raced back around to the front. Maybe they hadn't been in the house. He didn't notice his grandfather’s truck outside. If it was gone, perhaps they were too. “No!” he lamented. There it was, parked beneath the sweet gum tree as always. Peter turned back towards the entryway and began walking towards the porch. Peter shielded his face from the emanating heat and cautiously climbed the wooden stairs to the entryway.

“You can’t go in there, kid,” a gruff voice called out. Peter looked back in surprise. Leaning against the mailbox was a black-suited, black-furred cat, wearing a black hat. Ignoring the warning, Peter returned his attention to the flame-engulfed entrance. He lightly stepped across the weakened deck and held his hand close to the brass door handle. It was white hot. Peter removed his shirt and wrapped if around his hand. He pushed the handle-latch down, but it didn't budge. The door was still locked.

Peter quickly searched his pockets, but came up empty. “Hey kid,” the stranger said, “didn't you hear me? You can’t go in there.” Peter glared at the approaching cat momentarily, but he didn’t have time to dawdle. He had to get inside and find his grandparents. Peter stared at the door intently. Perhaps it had been weakened enough by the flames that he could kick it in. It was irrational, but then again, Peter hasn’t exactly been making many good decisions lately.

“Don’t do it kid,” the stranger warned just before Peter stomped his foot against the door. Peter couldn't see any appreciable difference.

“C’mon sport, why don’t you get away from there?” Peter took his boot the door a second time. This time, he heard a crack. The frame had given slightly, encouraging the boy to try again.

“Peter…” the dark cat said as he tried to the get the child’s attention, but it was no use. Peter slammed his foot through the door triumphantly just in time to witness the door frame splinter, causing the entire entryway to cave in. Like the talons of a hawk closing around its prey, the stranger grabbed Peter by the waist and flung him off the porch just moments before the whole front-half of the house collapsed. Stoked by the falling timbers, the flames raised high into the night sky, briefly highlighting the dark stranger’s visage. Peter knows he’s seen that face somewhere before, but he can’t place it.

Peter wanted to cry. He could feel the tears welling up, but instead he lashed out. Peter hopped to his feet and charged up to the stranger. Looking up at the taller cat, Peter wagged his finger in the stranger’s face, “Did you do this?” he demanded to know. The figure looked down at the boy without answering. He was impressed that that the youth was so combative, but felt to obligation to reply. He brushed past Peter without uttering a word. The stranger reeked of some sort of cigarette smoke. It was powerful and distinctive, yet not entirely off-putting -- some kind of foreign blend, no doubt.

Peter was furious. He clenched his fists and turned. “Answer me!” he shouted. “Answer me, or I swear I’ll…”

“No,” the stranger replied bluntly, bisecting Peter’s angered and likely futile threat.

“No?” Peter questioned, nearly forgetting what he asked in the first place.

The figure turned partially towards him. “No, I didn't do this,” the stranger said confidently.

Peter ran around the slow striding stranger to confront him once more. “Then who did?” Peter questioned sternly.

“Why, you did pal,” the figure replied without a hint of sarcasm.

Peter was furious. “That isn't funny!” he growled as he grabbing the stranger’s jacket with both hands.

“Now tell me who…” Peter began to say, looking up into the stranger’s eyes. The words crumbled off the tip of his tongue when he saw the red, glowing eyes of the fiend before him.

Peter backed away. The eyes of the stranger shone like the setting sun and radiated a malicious intent that could scorch even the purest soul. Peter didn't know who or what he was looking at. All he wanted to do was flee, but he couldn't turn away from the approaching figure.

“It’s true, Peter,” the stranger said, “It was all you.”

“No,” the frightened boy replied, barely able to speak, “It wasn't me!”

“Oh, but it was,” the stranger announced. “Maybe you didn't pour the gas and maybe you didn't strike the match, but you stoked these flames the moment you resurfaced.” The stranger’s eyes flickered like the embers of Peter’s home. “You came back and burned everything and everyone to the ground.”

“No, I didn't,” Peter yelled.

“Yes, you did,” the stranger replied, his wheezing voice echoing all around. Peter turned to run.

“No, I didn't,” Peter screamed again, now in tears, but the voice did not relent. Over and over, Peter denied his fault and over and over the voice accused, “Yes, you did.” Peter ran off into the void of the night. Faster and faster his young legs strode, but he could not escape the condemnation. The building guilt was suffocating but there was seemingly no end to the darkness ahead.

Peter awoke face-down in his tear soaked pillow; his heart still beating a mile a minute. In the past twenty-four hours, Peter had crossed the boundaries of reality and the surreal with such haste that his youthful mind was unable to make the immediate distinction between the two. Trembling beneath the sheets, all the terrorized boy knew for certain was that this is not his bed. For a time, Peter laid there nearly motionless, hopeful that the horrors beyond his blanket would remain at bay. When Peter finally gained the courage to peer out from under his quilted coverings, he saw that the room was pitch black. Drawing the covers back over his face, Peter resolved his thoughts by filtering out fact from fantasy. He had all but regained his bearings when a voice called out to him.

“Is everything all right in there?” an older female voice asked.

Peter withdrew the bed sheets and immediately noticed the soft glowing light piecing into the dark room beneath the doorway. It was the farmer’s wife, he recalled with great relief.

“No,” he whimpered, hoping that she would enter and turn on the light. When she did, he suddenly felt immensely better. The modest illumination poured over the room, vanquishing the darkness and alleviating the child’s irrational fears all at once.

With one glance, she could tell that the boy had been crying. “Aw, you poor thing,” she said with caring tone, “Did you have a nightmare?”

Peter nodded pitifully. “You've been through so much,” she added, “Is there anything I can do?”

Peter shrugged. Unless she could magically reconcile the effects of Peter’s recent actions, there wasn't much she could do. Still, her sympathy was enough to put him at ease for the time being.

“Okay, well I’ll keep the door open a little and the hallway light on. If you need anything, we’ll be just across the hall.”

Peter smiled and nodded. As the farmer’s wife turned to leave the bedroom, Peter’s stomach groaned loudly. She looked at him with concerned eyes. “You must be famished. You haven’t eaten all day. How about I make you something to eat?”

Peter perked up a bit and nodded excitedly. “It’s late, but I’ll make you some eggs,” she said with a smile, “You can eat them right from bed.”

Peter had lost all track of time. He knew it was nighttime, but he couldn't fathom just how late it was. When Peter asked, she informed him that it was already one in the morning. Peter had slept the whole day away, and then some, yet was hardly in any condition to make his getaway. Dejected, Peter ate his meal with minimal consolation and plotted his escape plan for the following night.

When Peter finished his eggs, the sweet lady took his plate and tucked him in. As promised, she propped the door open slightly and kept the hallway light on. Confident that the mild illumination would shelter him from the malevolence in the dark, Peter rolled to his side and closed his eyes. The house was quiet and peaceful, but Peter could not sleep. There was still so much to ponder yet all he wanted was to forget. He tried his best to empty his mind and let the questions fade into oblivion only to find that dark thoughts are not so easily tamed.

Peter opened his eyes and stared at the peach colored walls of the bedroom. He wondered whose room this was. A young girl’s perhaps? The floral patterned linens seemed consistent with his speculation. Next, his attention wandered around the room in search of clues regarding the previous occupant. There was no carpet, no pictures adorning the walls, and even the bookshelf was barren. Solving the mystery was somehow soothing to Peter for it gave him something other than sorrow to contemplate. Before long, Peter was conjuring images of the fictitious girl that may have once lived here and imagined what it would be like to meet her. For this brief and pleasant moment, he was able to set his regrets aside and recede into his imagination.

“Get up, sleepyhead,” a voice whispered.

Startled, Peter opened his eyes. “Was someone there?” he wondered. Lying motionless in the bed, Peter hoped it was just his imagination running wild again. He listened attentively for any sound that would reveal another’s presence in the room – shuffling footsteps, creaking floor boards, light breathing, and the like. Peter held his breath, praying that no one was there with him.

Convinced that he was indeed alone, Peter exhaled in relief and once more shut his eyes. Just then, he felt the metal springs of the bed depress slightly as if someone had sat beside him. Peter closed his eyes tightly and clutched his pillow. A light draft washed over him and carried with it a familiar, smoky scent. He knew who was there with him now.

Peter pretended to be asleep hoping the cat sitting next to him would go away. Instead, he felt a hand on his shoulder. The stranger tried to jostle him awake.

“Hey, it’s time to go,” the figure said lightly.

The child curled himself into a little ball, letting out a faint, frightened cry in the process.

The stranger nudged him again. “I know you’re awake,” he said, “C’mon, we have to leave.”

Terrified but defiant, Peter refused. “Leave me alone,” the boy told the dark figure.

Agitated, the stranger leaned over the child. “If you don’t leave now,” the stranger began, “you’ll regret it.” Peter’s dread quickly turned to frustration. He just wanted the cat to go away.

“Get up,” the stranger said sternly.

“No!” Peter cried, flipping over look his tormentor in the eyes.

Surprised, Peter saw no one. He panned the room for any signs of life, but once again he was alone. Even the stranger’s smoky scent was gone. Confused, Peter sat up in bed. He couldn't understand what was happening to him. His adolescent mind was fracturing from the strain levied by anguish and from those cracks in his subconscious something dark had seeped in. Evil needs no invitation to enter a weakened mind, and in his quiet agony, Peter was defenseless against its intrusion.


Last edited by Faux Kadat on Wed Oct 01, 2014 6:09 pm GMT, edited 1 time in total.

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My Friend of Missouri
 Post subject: Re: Song of the Damned (working title) **updated 5/26**
PostPosted: Sun Jun 29, 2014 3:50 pm GMT 
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The Farmers’ Strife

Peter lay awake in bed for hours fearful that the sinister-looking black cat was still lingering somewhere in the shadows. Even after Peter turned the room light on, he just could not shake the feeling of being under perpetual observation. The youngster regularly checked under the bed just to reassure himself that the stranger had gone for good. Though he may have dozed off for a few moments here and there, sleep would continue to elude the child for the remainder of these early morning hours.

The rooster’s crow was a welcome sound for with it came the first rays of dawn. Soon, the entire household would be awash in the sun’s glory, erasing any remnants of the terrible night. Almost immediately Peter began to feel better. His head was still aching and his body was still sore, yet the arrival of a new morning did wonders for the boy’s spirit. Hearing the farmer and his wife stirring in their bedroom across the hall also gave Peter comfort. It was a subtle reminder that he was somewhere safe.

The farmer’s wife checked on him and asked if he wanted breakfast. Peter was pleased to see her again. She had kind and caring eyes – almost motherly. In fact, she shared some qualities that reminded him of his mother, perhaps explaining why he felt so secure around her even after such a short time.

She invited Peter to sit down at the kitchen table while she prepared their morning meal. The farmer, already seated, greeted Peter as the boy sat down. “Doc said you might have trouble remembering. Do you know who I am?” the farmer asked slowly, over-annunciated every word. Peter shrugged. Although he knew who this was, he couldn’t recall a name to put with the face. “I’m Gary,” the farmer said, “and this is my wife Carolyn. I found you off by the river. Do you remember that?” Peter nodded, preferring to stay silent.

“And what’s your name?” Gary asked.

Peter looked down at the floor and answered with the first name he could think of. “Jake,” Peter replied; his eyes still focused on the floor.

“Do you remember what happened to you?” the farmer inquired.

Becoming irritated with the farmer’s tone and barrage of questions Peter glanced up without saying a word. “Oh, stop badgering him, honey,” Carolyn interjected.

“Yes, dear,” Gary replied. Peter looked over at Carolyn with a relieved smile. She smiled back and announced that breakfast is nearly ready. Judging from the skillet in her hands, Peter guessed the he’d be served another round of eggs. It didn’t matter really. He was in good appetite and would be grateful for anything that appeared on his plate. Carolyn gave the boy a healthy helping of scrambled eggs with a few strips of ham and Peter wasted no time digging in.

After serving her husband and herself the remaining portion, Carolyn took her seat and contentedly began her meal. Frequently, she would stop to watch the boy enjoy his breakfast, reminiscing on past days when she would cook meals for her own child. She remembered how much brighter this dreary homestead had felt simply with the presence of youth. She missed those days. She missed her daughter. Teary eyed, she looked towards her husband. He clasped her hand. Without having to ask, he knew what she had been thinking.

Losing their daughter had taken an enormous toll on them both, but it hit Carolyn hardest. In the years following the passing of their child, Gary struggled mightily to keep the farm running while Carolyn struggled with grief. Her misery had been like a prison where she laid countless hours shackled to the confines of her bed. Gary tried numerous times to comfort her; to console her, but she was beyond his ability to reach.

Growing ever concerned about his sick wife, Gary asked the local physician, Dr. Adler, to check on her routinely. She was hardly eating and had already lost an alarming amount of weight. “Her illness is not of the body,” he recalled the doctor tell him, “but of the mind. Besides the weight loss, she is otherwise healthy.” Gary very nearly lost his temper when the good doctor recommended that she be taken to the mental institute. He couldn’t stand the thought of consigning her to such a place. He knew that she could get better, and rather than leave her to suffer in isolation with the crazed and the deranged, he would endure the suffering alongside her.

No union is without hardship and a lesser bond would have surely broken. Instead, Gary persisted in managing the farm alone and caring for his ailing wife. Though he kept his complaining private, the dual burdens he carried gave way to that dark mistress temptation. Many a night were spent in the hazy embrace of inebriation. He had sunk low, but never so far as to find himself a bed beside anyone other than his wife.

Then one drunken night, unexplainably, Gary stumbled into his home to find her sitting in the kitchen – misty eyed, remorseful, yet mindful. She was so thin she could hardly stand, he remembered, yet she arose from the chair and staggered towards him. Somehow, despite his drunkenness, he rushed forward and kept her from harm as she collapsed in his arms. “I love you,” she whispered into his ear. Clutching her tightly, Gary burst into tears. “I’ve missed you so much,” he replied. Even through the blur of drunkenness, Gary recalls this moment with utmost clarity. In exchange for his unwavering devotion, his wife had been bestowed upon him anew.

It had been ten years since their daughter’s passing and seven since Carolyn’s recovery. Gary and Carolyn were never blessed with another child, so having Peter stay with them even for this short while filled them with joy. When Peter finished his plate, Carolyn asked if he wanted some more. “Yes, please!” he said enthusiastically. Happily, she pushed the contents of her plate onto his. “Eat up,” she said with a smile.

A sudden knock on the front door interrupted their quaint little breakfast together. “Who could that be so early in the morning?” Carolyn questioned as she began to stand. Gary put his hand on her shoulder. “I’ll get it, dear,” he said before sliding his chair back to arise from the table. Peter kept an eye on the door as Gary goes to open it, but he’s too distracted by his bounty of ham and egg to give the visitor outside much thought.

“Oh, good morning, Allen,” Gary said to the cat standing at his doorstep.

“Morning, Gary,” the visitor replied. “Sorry I couldn’t swing by last night but I got caught up in some messy paperwork. Is this a good time?”

“Sure,” Gary said, “we’re just finishing breakfast. C’mon in.” Peter glanced up and immediately noticed the dark-blue uniform and signature cap of the entering officer. “He’s in the kitchen with my wife. Go on in,” Gary continued to say, directing Allen towards the kitchen.

Allen took off his cap and headed over to the table. None too pleased with Allen’s arrival, Carolyn gave her husband a smoldering look. She wasn’t expecting company, though she was less concerned about the appearance of her home than she was about disturbing the young boy she had rapidly grown fond of. Her attention quickly turned back towards Peter with the sound of his fork clattering against the plate.

With folded ears and woeful eyes, Peter looked to Carolyn for comfort. He so desperately wanted to avoid talking with the police, and yet here he sat about get the third degree. In the back of his mind, he envisioned the dark stranger laughing at him. “He was right,” Peter conceded, “I should have left when I had the chance.” The imagery of his burning home crept back into his thoughts. Peter stared down at his plate and grabbed the tablecloth in both hands.

Carolyn leaned over to him and stroked his head gently. “It’ll be all right,” she said in reassurance. She could see just how nervous the child had become. She understood that law enforcers have a knack for creating such reactions, even if they’re just trying to be helpful. There’s just something innately intimidating about a cat with a badge, but she’s known Allen for several years now. That hyper-confident, holier-than-thou demeanor that most officers exude has since worn off on her after all this time. For this young boy, she thought, that stern gaze of silent accusation and judgment must have been so frightening.

“Good morning, ma’am,” Allen said as he strode into the kitchen.

“Good morning to you, Officer Graves,” she responded plainly, “I suppose you’d like to talk with Jake now.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he replied, “If you don’t mind.”

Of course, she did mind. There was no personal animosity between Allen and herself. In fact, she considered Allen to be a good person and a fine officer so she wasn’t concerned that he’d be too hard on the child. No, her concerns were more selfish because she knew that Allen’s arrival meant that “Jake” would be leaving soon – first to the precinct, then home, if he had one. The thought saddened her. In her mind she had already constructed a false world where she would be his mother and where Jake wouldn’t be thrust back into his previous life of mistreatment. Or worse yet, she imagined her precious Jake being snatched away to live amidst the orphans – unwanted and unloved. Irrational as they were, Carolyn’s attachment to this young visitor and her fears of seeing him leave unraveled powerful urges – urges that she had valiantly held in check for years.

Carolyn stood behind Peter’s chair throughout Allen’s interrogation, despite her husband’s request to join him in the parlor. Peter was thankful for that. Her presence was calming; allowing Peter to think more clearly as he withstood the ceaseless barrage of trivial questions. “Stick to your guns,” Peter thought, “Remember that you can’t remember.” Even with Carolyn’s protective aura deflecting the brunt of Allen’s prodding, Peter could see that his lies were not convincing the young law enforcer.

Allen was becoming frustrated. In all fairness, he had remained respectful to the child whom he knew had just endured significant injury. He spoke to the boy politely and listened patiently while the kid retold what little he could recall. The boy couldn’t remember how he fell into the river. He couldn’t remember what he was doing before he fell into the river. He couldn’t even remember how he got to the river. Left to formulate his own opinion, Allen decided that the boy was probably somewhere he shouldn’t have been, fell in, and was now lying to stay out of trouble. Allen could almost sympathize with that, but what really irked him was that the kid knew absolutely nothing. He didn’t know where he lived. He didn’t know where he went to school. He didn’t know who his parents were. Judging from the boy’s mannerisms: lack of eye contact, jittery movements, muddled speech; Allen knew the child was hiding something.

Failing to retrieve any useful information from the kid, Allen concluded that it was time to leave. But before that, he had a little trick up his sleeve. “Well Jake,” the officer said, “I guess I’d better take you to the station now.” Peter panicked. He was certain that he had so successfully evaded the officer’s questioning that he was beyond reproach. Why did he have to go to the station? He didn’t want to go there.

“I don’t want to go!” he cried as he tried to hold back his tears. He was undone.

Officer Graves leaned over the table. Feigning compassion, Allen replied, “I’m sorry, kid. Rules are rules. If you can’t tell me where you belong, then we’ll have to hold onto you until someone comes looking for you.” Smugly, Allen awaited the child’s response as Carolyn looked on. She was not amused, but she had no right to interfere. She was slowly accepting that fact that Jake didn’t belong here; didn’t belong with her.

Peter turned and looked up at her with watery eyes, hoping that his guardian angel would envelope him beneath her wings and safeguard him from the repercussions that were sure to follow. It broke Carolyn’s heart to deny him that kindness he so badly sought but all she could do was offer supportive words. She was powerless to stop the officer from taking Jake away and perhaps, despite the child’s disapproval, it might be for the best. “Everything will be fine,” she told him. “Officer Graves is going to do everything he can to help you.”

Carolyn’s words rung hollow upon his ears for he knew all too well what fate had in store. Why, he could practically smell the smoke already. Suddenly, Peter realized that he did smell smoke, but not the kind one would expect from a house fire. Peter glanced at the kitchen window and noticed a puff of white smoke outside. Someone was out there smoking a cigarette hiding just out of sight – and Peter knew who. That distinctive aroma wafted in through the thin window opening, immediately alerting Peter of the stranger’s presence.

Peter looked back to Carolyn to gauge her reaction. Even if she had not seen the cat outside, surely she must have caught wind of that powerful scent. Instead of going to the window or raising a question, Carolyn just gave him a smile and then a hug. Apparently, she hadn’t noticed the figure outside, nor had she smelled the smoke from his cigarette. As far as he could tell, Officer Graves hadn’t either. Confused and scared, Peter clung to Carolyn’s dress as she began to pull away.

“Go on, give ‘em the waterworks, kid,” the gruff voice from outside said. Although Peter heard him with total clarity, no one else seemed to acknowledge the stranger’s insistence.

“Jake, you have to let go now,” Carolyn said sweetly. As much as she would have liked for him to stay, she knew it was time for him to go.

“Well, whaddya waiting for?” the persistent stranger asked. “Just look in those peepers. She don’t want you to go, but she ain’t gonna stop that Copper if you don’t give her good cause.” Peter listened intently, but he didn’t know what to do. With an agitated sigh, the outsider continued, “Start a scene. Cause a fuss. Cry your eyeballs out. Tug on them heartstrings and she’ll roll over.”

Peter whimpered and began to sob when she pulled away from him. “You have to go with Officer Graves now. Okay sweetie?”

Peter cupped his hands over his eyes, hopelessly trying to be more convincing. “C’mon kid,” the stranger yelled, “Think of what’ll happen to gramps and grandma. Is that what you want?”

Peter felt a hand on his shoulder. “Okay Jake,” Office Graves said, “Time to go.” Reflecting deeply upon his nightmare, Peter conjured the images of his dead parents and burning home to induce a more pathetic display. It was working. As tear droplets streamed down his face, he looked up at her again and saw remorse. She was on the verge of crying herself when the officer asked Peter to say goodbye.

Peter stood there for a moment, forcing her to soak in his projected sorrow. When Peter didn’t say anything, Allen started guiding him towards the door. Carolyn’s eyes watered for an instant just before she turned away. She couldn’t watch him leave. Peter’s window of opportunity was drawing to a close. He had one last chance to make a desperation play, but what?

“Tug on them heartstrings,” Peter recalled the stranger saying moments before. Quickly, Peter sifted through a few loose ends in his mind. The girl’s room devoid of personal artifacts; the longing look Carolyn had at the breakfast table; her motherly coddling the night before – there was something, or someone, missing. Peter had no way of knowing what past circumstances had befallen this family, but even at this young age, Peter could read the signs. Approaching the edge of the kitchen, it was now or never for one last ditch effort.

Without warning, Peter darted away from the officer and rushes back into the kitchen towards Carolyn. Before she could even look towards the ruckus, Peter latched onto her waist, holding her as if his life depended on it. Carolyn lifted his head to look him in the eyes as she tried to smile. She wanted to tell him that everything would be all right, but she couldn’t quite get the words out. In those few seconds of hesitation, Peter looked down and hugged her tightly.

“Don’t let me go again, momma,” he cried.

“Momma?” she muttered. Did he really just call her that? She couldn’t fathom what was going on in his young mind. Then it dawned on her – the head injury. The boy must have thought she was his mother. How awful; how devastating would it be to let Allen take him away? Even if she wasn’t his actual mother, she contemplated just how it would crush the youngster emotionally. She held him close and kissed him on the head. “Its okay, Jake,” she whispered, “Momma won’t ever let you go.”

Memories of her daughter came flooding to the surface, eroding sound reason and revealing raw emotions and instincts. “Momma won’t ever let you go again,” she told him. Carolyn had convinced herself that she was just doing the child a favor while in truth she was merely sating her intense desire to care for another child. “Just for a few days,” she reasoned, “Just until he regains his wits.”

The bargaining had only just begun. For now, she considered it acceptable, even justifiable, to pretend to be his parent. She would care for him, nurse him back to health, and help him cope with whatever happened. In time, she thought, she would let him go back to his real home. And, if he had no home or chose not to return, she’d be elated to have him stay as part of her family. A thousand scenarios played out in her mind where her little Jake could stay with her all the while Office Graves looked on in astonishment.

Allen was familiar with the couple’s plight after the demise of their daughter. In fact, it was for this very reason Gary had Dr. Adler send for Officer Graves personally. “Carolyn,” he started to say, “You can’t.”

“It’s all right Allen,” she replied, “Jake’s home now.” Covering Peter’s ears, she pleaded, “Just until he’s better.”

Allen took a moment to think it over. “Carolyn,” he said, “I know you’re just trying to make him feel better, but I can’t leave him here.”

Ignoring Office Graves, Carolyn bent down to look Peter in the eyes and dried his tears. “You’re going to like it here,” she told him.

“Are you listening to me?” Allen asked. Carolyn turned away, positioning herself between Peter and the officer.

“Carolyn,” he said, raising his voice.

“Thank you for checking in on us Officer Graves,” she replied with annoyance, “Have a safe trip back to the station.”

Allen looked over at Gary, who was still sitting in the front room, and shook his head. Gary momentarily hung his head in disappointment. He knew Carolyn might have trouble letting go, but he had hoped Officer Graves could resolve this on his own. Gary stood up and walked into the kitchen while Carolyn continued to comfort her newly declared ward.

“Carolyn,” Gary said to her, attempting to gain her attention.

Eerily happy, Carolyn looked up. “Jake is going to stay with us,” she said with a giddy smile, but Gary could sense the tension building up behind that masking grin. He nestled in close to her to whisper in her ear. He didn’t know how she would react to his next words, so he tried to express them as lovingly as possible. “Carolyn, Jake isn’t our child. He can’t stay here.”

Carolyn turned to look at her husband, her nervous smile replaced by a look of puzzlement. She was stunned that he would say that. Could he not see how important this was to Jake; how important this was to her? She held onto Peter tightly and nuzzled him close. “He can stay here,” she exclaimed. “He can stay as long as he wants.”

Gary reached over and touched her arm. “Carolyn,” he said softly, “Let him go.”

“No!” she snapped, “I won’t let go! He wants to be here with us.” Peter could feel her claws digging in as her embrace grew tighter. Though ashamed of the awkwardness transpiring around him, Peter felt powerless as Carolyn’s madness began to consume her. A sinking feeling crept over him. This was going to end badly, but no matter what, he would stay committed to Carolyn even if that meant playing the injured son for a while longer.

Gary understood that his wife’s fury was irrational, but he tried to reason with her anyway. She would have none of it. With flared nostrils and fur standing upright, she bore her fangs at him on more than one occasion. As Gary approached, she swatted away his extended hand; backing further and further into the kitchen with Peter in her arms. Gary glanced back at Allen hoping for some advice or encouragement – something. He was at a loss and needed Allen’s aid, but Officer Graves only shrugged. Though he had the power to intervene, Allen simply couldn’t. He knew that any actions he took against her would only serve to escalate her hostility.

Allen was a good officer, but beyond that he was a good friend. At this point, the only real option he had left was to physically separate her from the child, and in her apparent state of mind, she wasn’t going to let him go without a fight. Sure, he could call for backup, have her hauled into the station, and possibly examined for mental health but why subject his neighbors – his friends – to that indignation? So he could waste hours upon hours tracking down this street-rat’s true home? The kid likely didn’t have a home, and if he did, it probably wasn’t a place the child wanted to go back to. No, Allen thought, he’d spare them all that humility – that agony – by keeping out of it.

Without any assistance or advice from his friend Allen, Gary relented begrudgingly. “All right Carolyn,” he told her, “Jake can stay. I didn’t mean to upset you.” Still defensive, Carolyn backed away as Gary stepped towards here. Putting his hands in the air, Gary tried to calm her again. “Please Carolyn, my love, I said he could stay. Please don’t be cross with me.” Gary approached his wife, wrapped his arms around her, and kissed her on the cheek. She was tense and did not immediately warm to his affection but nor did she withdraw from it.

Sensing that Gary had a handle on the situation, Allen called over, “I’ll just see myself out, Gary.” Gary nodded in acknowledgement. It wasn’t the outcome either of them had wanted, but Allen knew there was nothing more he could do here. In a few days, he would check in with Gary and come back when Carolyn was in a calmer state. By then, he hoped, she’d be thinking more clearly and could be reasoned with. Allen shook his head in frustration as he exited the homestead. “Boy, this job,” he said approaching his car, “I tell ya, they just don’t pay me enough.”


Last edited by Faux Kadat on Wed Oct 01, 2014 6:10 pm GMT, edited 1 time in total.

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My Friend of Missouri
 Post subject: Re: Song of the Damned (working title) **updated 5/26**
PostPosted: Sun Jun 29, 2014 3:51 pm GMT 
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The Game of Kings

Back in the kitchen, the mood was beginning to lighten with Allen’s departure. Without the overbearing fear of Officer Graves snatching Jake away, Carolyn eased her near death-grip over the child. Peter took a deep breath. It had been hard to breathe in her smother clutches, so he was thankful that she had finally begun to calm down. Still, Carolyn was not pleased with her husband. Ignoring his pleas for forgiveness, her piercing gaze could rend asunder even the most stubborn of egos. Gary, born of more humble stock, cowed before her wrathful stare and eased away.

The tension between them left the room silent like the calm before a storm. While Gary searched for just the right apology, Carolyn simmered, awaiting the moment to cast his deemed insincerity back at him. And then, without provocation, she laid into him. She turned every word, every utterance into insult; verbally attacking him with every breath. She kept Peter close as she made hurtful accusations and twisted Gary’s noble intentions into acts of personal offense. She was incensed; livid. Gary had never seen her like this.

Carolyn’s words were scathing and vicious. She accused Gary of hating her, of hating their daughter. She left Peter’s side to press her oral assault against her husband. “You never wanted her! You never loved her!” she shouted. Though unfounded and untrue, the words pierced his heart like daggers. Gary backed away as vile allegations continued to spew from her lips. “I loved you both,” he tried to say, but she wouldn't listen.

“When she got sick, you wanted her to die, didn't you? Didn't you?!!” she yelled. Speechless, Gary couldn't imagine what possessed her to say that. The incessant berating was wearing him down. He wanted to walk away to let her calm down, but he feared that turning his back would only reinforce her preposterous assertion. No, he had to stay strong for her. He would weather this storm and mend his tattered pride when it was through.

Peter was sickened by the scene unfolding before him – the scene that he caused. By acting out of fear, he had unwittingly unleashed an avalanche of repressed memories from deep within Carolyn’s psyche and Gary was the unfortunate soul caught in its path. To his credit, Gary assumed the role of whipping boy without complaint and never once retaliated. He continued to be the loving and understanding husband as he absorbed the brunt of her pent up frustrations. All the while, the black cat standing outside the kitchen window listened in with great amusement.

Between volleys of insults, Peter could hear the stranger laughing hysterically. “What sort of manic gets his jollies from watching good people disintegrate?” Peter thought introspectively. He wasn't sure which to be more disgusted of: his own reprehensible actions or the stranger’s melancholic sense of humor. Either way, he could no longer sit idly by and let Gary wilt beneath Carolyn’s wounding diatribe.

“Momma, did I do something wrong?” Peter said sweetly, gently tugging on the back of Carolyn’s blouse. Instantly, Carolyn abandoned her seething tirade mid-sentence and swung around quickly to observe Peter’s feigned sadness. All at once, the room grew silent. Even the outsider’s maniacal laughter ended abruptly as all began to ponder the youngster’s seemingly innocent inquiry.

Bending down to look him eye-to-eye, Carolyn placed her hands on his shoulders. “No. Heavens no, child,” she said warmly. Her furious demeanor had dissipated just as suddenly as it had manifested, restoring the kindly caregiver she had been only minutes ago. Peter tried to work up some more tears to fully sell his pitiful façade, though he could not. Fortunately, Carolyn’s nurturing instincts had already been sufficiently placated and she was fully under his spell.

Outside, Carolyn’s about-face ignited another bout of cacophonous laughing. In fact, Peter very nearly lost it himself after Carolyn leaned in to kiss him on the forehead and gave him yet another hug. There was something so deviously self-satisfying about how easily he had manipulated her. If not for the puzzled stare of Gary looming in the backdrop, Peter may have even grinned in admiration of his success. Instead, he maintained his sorrowful guise and tried to imagine just what Gary was feeling.

“Relief,” Peter concluded.

The morning had been a tense whirlwind of emotion, and whether Gary wanted to admit it or not, he could have thanked the little bastard. Carolyn was once again at peace and he wasn't going to do anything to disturb her again so soon after this violent mood swing. At the same time, he had mixed feelings about this kid whom he had allowed in his home. Injury or no, the child’s presence was detrimental to his wife’s emotional state. Though he couldn't be certain, the results seemed almost intentional. A part of him wished that he had left the child at the riverside, but deep down, he knows he could never be so callous.

Gary shook his head. “That’s absurd,” he thought. No way could this child be so coldly calculating. No way could this kid have charmed his wife so thoroughly by design. The boy was simply out of his wits. Gary considered whether it would be wrong to turn him away now. He even considered that maybe, just maybe, continuing to have little Jake around might provide Carolyn with the joy that he’d been unable to provide since Gracie passed. Against his better judgment, he forced himself to believe this.

Gary busied himself by cleaning up the breakfast table. The morning’s events had left him behind schedule on his farming duties, but already in the doghouse, he hoped that unburdening her from this simple chore might alleviate some of the angst she was feeling. In actuality, she hardly noticed. She was lost in her little world with Jake, telling him of all the fun things they could do together once he felt better. Peter perked up. Even if he thought some of the games she mentioned were for younger children, he realized that keeping her happy was paramount.

When Gary finished with the dishes, he let Carolyn know that he’d be out working the farm. Barely acknowledging his notification, Carolyn gave him a cursory wave and reply of “Okay, dear.” Leaving them to their own devices, Gary stepped out the door and headed for the barn. Throughout the day, he had to keep reminding himself that he was doing the right thing, even if it didn't feel like it. It was a lie spun from love, but what marriage isn’t held together by a few strands of untruth?

As Gary tended the farm, Carolyn and Peter played all morning long. At first, Peter humored her by pretending to have fun playing games like hide-and-seek and tag; both of which he excelled at but had little interest in. It didn't help that Carolyn was a little more advanced in age than when she last played these games with Gracie. Chasing Peter all around the farm house exhausted her, so to both their satisfaction, they agreed to find a less physical game to play.

Carolyn asked Peter to accompany her to the attic where they stored all of Gracie’s things. Carolyn hadn't been up there in many years and just the thought of seeing her daughter’s belongings gave her a chill. Not wanting to frighten the boy beside her, she told Peter that she was afraid of heights and couldn't climb the ladder into the attic so Peter would have to. In exchange, Carolyn promised to play any game he happened to come across. She also said that he could bring down any toys he might find, although he doubted there’d be anything other than dolls and tea sets or whatever else little girls amused themselves with.

The attic was relatively well organized and Carolyn advised him where he might find some items of interest. Peter rummaged through numerous boxes, studied their contents, and repacked them as best he could. Even with Carolyn’s guidance, his search was lengthy, partially because the couple had kept a great deal of Gracie’s belongings, and partially because Peter was intrigued by the mystery of the long-lost daughter.

From what he could gather, Gracie wasn't much younger that he was when she passed judging from clothes he uncovered. Also, she apparently enjoyed reading considering the expansive collection of books. “A bookworm,” he thought. His mental image of her now included a pair of reading glasses resting upon her nose. He had to know more. Digging deeper, Peter’s fears were realized – not a single decent toy existed among this plethora girly rubbish. Though he did unearth a few board games, nothing really caught his eye.

Peter sighed. Maybe if he scrounged around in a few of these other boxes he may at least find a deck of cards, or some marbles, or a ball. In his quest for some form of decent entertainment, Peter happened upon a checkerboard. Finally, a game that he enjoyed and that they both could play. Only, he couldn't find any pieces. “Not matter,” he thought, “an assortment of bottle caps or even small rocks would do the trick.” Along with that board, Peter also found some interesting wooden figurines. He didn't know what they were, but they seemed out of place. Nevertheless, Carolyn said he could retrieve any toys he found, so he collected them up, along with the checkerboard and a couple of dumb board games, and brought everything to Carolyn.

Peter found Carolyn sitting near the attic ladder patiently waiting his return. She was whispering softly to herself and didn't seem to notice the boy trying to climb down the ladder with an assortment of goodies in his arms. Only when Peter asked for help did she break from her daydreaming and assist the boy with his haul. She quickly examined the few games he returned with, but she didn't seem to recall much about them until she noticed the figurines and checkerboard.

“Oh, you play chess?” she asked. Peter gave her a perplexed look. “You know, the game of kings?” Peter shrugged and shook his head. He had no idea what she was talking about. Carolyn picked up one of the pieces and pointed at the checkerboard.

“You don’t know what this is?” she asked with slight amusement.

“Checkers?” he replied, uncertain of his answer.

“No, silly” she said, “This is a chess set. You really don’t know what this is?” Peter shook his head again. “Okay,” she said with a smile, “Bring the pieces and the board downstairs and I’ll teach you how to play.” Given her earlier display of lunacy, Peter was skeptical. He had just found the little carvings to be neat and thought he could use them like toy soldiers. Little did he know that the game he uncovered represented approximately what he intended to use the pieces for.

The two of them set the pieces up at the dinner table and Carolyn explained how each one moves and the general rules of the game. Chess has a fairly complicated set of rules to the uninitiated, or at least in comparison to the game of checkers that Peter was familiar with. In fact, throughout the first match Peter thought that Carolyn was just making up the rules as they played. It was no surprise that he was completely trounced in his first attempt. The loss was discouraging. His immediate reaction was to dismiss the game as stupid and pointless, but lacking any alternative, he set his pieces up for another match.

Sensing his frustration, Carolyn confided, “My father whooped me the first time I played, too. ‘It’s a stupid game with stupid rules’ I told him. But he just smiled and said, ‘No, it’s only stupid because you don’t know how to play.’”

“But I do know how to play,” Peter told her, “You just taught me how to play.”

Carolyn grinned. “And that’s the same thing I told my father, and what he said was this: ‘I may have taught you the rules, but I didn't teach you how to play. That you will have to teach yourself.’” It seemed like such a clichéd thing to say yet Peter could not immediately grasp its meaning. Carolyn went on to explain that chess is a game of continual learning, at the heart of which is one over-arching lesson: you cannot win without losing some pieces. The same is true of checkers, of course, but the strategy is more obvious as all the pieces are of equal value. Only by understanding the value of each piece can one truly appreciate its sacrifice.

The concept that Carolyn was hinting at was still over Peter’s head. All he heard was, “practice more,” which in some ways was correct in spite of Carolyn’s attempt to impart more profound meaning. In that vein, Peter asked if she would play again. She accepted, of course, and continued to defeat him soundly in this match, and the many more that followed.

Peter was amazed at how good she was, especially considering how mentally out of control she had been hours earlier. It was like the game was second nature to her. He wondered just how many games she had played with her father to formulate such decisive strategies. In these moments of clarity, Carolyn’s brilliance shone through like rays of sunlight piercing a cloudy sky. He both admired and pitied her for he knew gloomier skies were on the horizon. His time with her was fleeting. He knew he could not stay.

Approaching noon, Carolyn stopped to make lunch, leaving Peter alone to play in the dining room. Enthralled with this new game, Peter set the pieces up in various scenarios and played both sides while Carolyn worked in the kitchen. When lunch was prepared, Peter devoured his meal with blazing voracity just so he could hurry back and finish his game. Moments later, he heard Carolyn calling from the kitchen.

“Gracie!” she yelled, “Gracie, you left your plate on the table again.” An honest mistake, Peter thought. Peter got up from the table and began walking towards the kitchen. He wasn't going to press the issue. He’d just go in there and take his plate to the sink and that would be the end of it. Upon reaching the threshold of the dining room, Peter was alerted by the sound of as sliding chair. When Peter glanced back, he saw him. The stranger was seated across the table from where Peter had been sitting. With hands folded, the shady cat seemed deep in concentration of the game before him. After moving a black pawn forward, the stranger says with a snicker, “Your move, Gracie.”

Peter rolled his eyes and proceeded into the kitchen. Without having to announce himself, Carolyn could sense the child entering the room. “How many times have I told you…” she began to ask politely before recognizing that the youngster standing at the edge of the kitchen is not her daughter. Suddenly awash with a mixture of confusion and fright, she muttered, “You’re not Gracie.” She wanted to ask who this strange kid in her kitchen is, but she was too distraught to form the words.

Noting her befuddlement, Peter replied to her, “I’m Jake. Don’t you remember me?” Uncertain of her reaction, Peter chose wisely not to address her as mother. “Jake?” she attempted to recall. The name didn’t immediately ring a bell. Suddenly, without warning, the events of the past day struck her all at once. Disoriented, she dropped the plate she is holding into the sudsy dish water and grabbed the edge of the sink with both hands. Appearing on the verge of collapse, Peter rushed over to hold her up. “I need to sit down I think,” she said faintly.

Peter assisted her to the table nearby. Looking in her eyes as he eased her into the chair, Peter could not help but notice that something was different about her now. Those affectionate, caring eyes he had witnessed all day long now seemed almost hollow. This intelligible lady, whom hours earlier had instructed him in the complex ways of chess, was now locked behind a thick barrier of confusion. As Carolyn looked at him, Peter could tell that she was urgently struggling to place his face. Trying his best to guide her back to her wits, Peter grew concerned over which Carolyn would return – the motherly benefactor or the angst ridden shrew.

A few minutes pass as Peter continued to talk to her, but she seemed uninterested. Her attention drifted around the room like the child by her side didn't exist. Occasionally, she glanced back at him with a blank stare, only to have something else catch her eye. In this brief interlude to sanity, Carolyn ceased to be a consciousness trapped within walls of flesh. She was everything and nothing, all at once. She was the speck of dust resting atop the cookie jar high upon the shelf. She was the tree branch swaying gently in the breeze outside. She was the humming bird whizzing past; the frog croaking in the distance, the ray of light shining through her window. She was even the funny little black furred boy moving his lips in unison with the sound of crashing waves.

She tapped Peter on the nose and chuckled when he squinted and pinned his ears back. It amused her so much that she did it again. Carolyn’s childishness annoyed him, but at least she was finally acknowledging his presence. “Carolyn?” he asked, hoping to arouse her recollection. She paused and took a long, hard look at the face staring up at her. There was something odd about his ears. She moved her hand near his right ear, and he reflexively pulled back. She noticed the bloody bandage the doctor had left the day before and the thoughtful caregiver in her snapped back into place.

“Oh honey,” she said, “we forgot to clean that wound today. Let me take that bandage off.”

“Wait,” he replied, “You remember me?”

Thinking nothing of it, Carolyn responded, “Of course, silly. You’re my little Jake.” She then proceeded to pinch his cheek before getting up from the table. “When we’re done, I’ll make us both lunch.”

Though he didn't want to, Peter informed her that she already had. “You already did, ma’am, but I forgot to clean off my plate.”

“Oh,” she said with disappointment. She was no stranger to forgetfulness, but rarely did she lose such vast tracts of time anymore. Dr. Adler had told her many times that she needed to avoid stress in order to prevent these little episodes. It was disconcerting that today had to be one of those days. She was also a little saddened that the little tyke chose to call her ma’am. Even if she knew it wasn't true, she liked being called momma again. In her mind, it signaled that Jake was starting to remember who he was.

In contrast, Peter could not have been more relieved that Carolyn – the good Carolyn – had returned. It meant he had his chess partner back, and this time, he was going to win. While she replaced his bandage and applied the iodine, Peter envisioned his opening moves. Be aggressive, press the assault, and control the tempo. He didn't know exactly what that meant, but it sounded good. He couldn't wait to get back to the dining room, but first, there was the matter with the dishes. To expedite the chore, Peter offered Carolyn a hand.

“Such a sweet boy,” she said joyfully. “When we’re finished, how about I bake us some cookies? Would you like that?” Tempting, Peter thought, but he had victory on his mind. He glanced towards the dining room and asked, “Can we play a few games first?”

“A few?” she exclaimed, “You must really love that silly old game.” Peter nodded excitedly. “Well, all right. I’ll play one more and then I’ll make those cookies.” Peter just couldn't say no to that deal. “Okay,” he said happily, then grabbed her hand and led her to the dining table.

“Hmm,” Carolyn wondered aloud, “That’s interesting.” At first, Peter didn't notice what had caught her attention until taking his seat. And then he saw it. Turned slightly towards the entryway, the chessboard and pieces were configured in the shape of a cross. From his perspective, the white pieces formed the right half of the symbol while the black pieces completed the left. From her angle however, the pattern appeared inverted.

Embarrassed, Peter hastily grabbed the pieces and began placing them in their starting positions while Carolyn quietly took her seat across from him. Though she did not speak of it, Peter could only imagine what she must have thought about the stranger’s little prank. If he could get this game started quickly, he thought, then there would be no need for that conversation.

Flustered, Peter couldn't keep his hands steady and knocked over just as many pieces as he had placed. Carolyn took his trembling hand in hers. “Be calm sweetheart,” she told him affectionately. Peter couldn't lift his look at her. He was still fuming that the stranger tried to humiliate him with such an undignified display,

“It’s alright to love your maker,” she said to him, “You don’t have to be embarrassed.” Peter looked up. She hadn't seen it the way it was intended. With tremendous relief, Peter smiled and continued placing the remaining figures. “You go first,” he said.


Last edited by Faux Kadat on Wed Oct 01, 2014 6:12 pm GMT, edited 1 time in total.

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My Friend of Missouri
 Post subject: Re: Song of the Damned (working title) **updated 5/26**
PostPosted: Sun Jun 29, 2014 3:52 pm GMT 
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Joined: Tue Mar 11, 2014 6:39 pm GMT
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Location: St. Charles
Custom Title: My Friend of Missouri
The Color of Night; the Absence of Light

It was a lengthy match, nearly an hour in total, and both Peter and Carolyn still had a number of vital pieces on the board. Peter was trying to be a good sport by hiding his excitement, but his elation was hard to contain. Her king was trapped, and Peter’s knights were circling. Her only hope was a lowly pawn far from home and deep in Peter’s territory. If the seemingly innocuous little figure could reach the edge of the board, Carolyn could use the resurrected queen to wreak havoc upon Peter’s thinly guarded back lines. Aware of the potential danger, Peter continued his assault.

“Check,” he said after positioning a knight within striking distance of the white king. Forced to withdraw her piece, Peter continued to tighten the noose, but only then did he notice it – the bishop guarding his pawn’s advance to promotion could have so easily captured his recently placed knight. Was it an error? Losing that knight could have changed the entire outcome of the match. Then again, the threat of having an enemy queen on her backlines may have been more disastrous. He wasn’t certain, but he thought he may have got away with one there.

Keeping a closer eye on any looming dangers, Peter cautiously advanced his knight once more. Carolyn retaliated by moving the pawn one step closer to the edge. In response, Peter moved his second knight forward. “Check,” he said again. “Actually,” Carolyn replied, “I think you may have got me.” Carolyn proceeded to show him all of her remaining moves and that none would prevent checkmate. “I won?” he said with amazement. “You did,” she affirmed with a grin, “You’re such a clever little guy.”

Beaming with pride, Peter admitted that he had made a mistake only moments ago. “I really messed up when I moved that knight in. I thought he was a goner.” “Oh?” Carolyn questioned, “I must have missed it.” Peter raised an eyebrow. It was brief, maybe only a fraction of second, but Peter thought he saw her glance away.

“You really didn’t see it?” Peter asked. “Nope,” she said, “you beat me fair and square.” There it was again – a momentary glace away, followed by two taps of the index finger upon dining table. He caught her. She did see his mistake. She let him win. Peter’s glee receded into dissatisfaction. He replayed that entire match in his head. Where else had she intentionally let his pieces slip away? The joy of his thrilling victory toppled all around him like so many fallen knights and pawns. Nothing could possibly cheer him up. “How about I make us some cookies now?” she asked. Nothing, except for the promise of cookies.

“Yes, please,” Peter said in agreement. And with that, Carolyn once more embarked for the kitchen, and once more Peter was left to entertain himself. Methodically, Peter gathered up the pieces and set them in place, humming softly under his breath. Only when he had nearly completed setting up the set did he realize that one piece was missing – a black knight. Observing that the missing figure was clearly not on the table, Peter ducked under the table to see if it had fallen underneath.

Peter looked all around, but he couldn’t find it. Scratching his head, he wondered if Carolyn had mistakenly taken it with her to the kitchen. “Looking for something,” the raspy voice of the stranger said. Peter sighed and stood up. “Give it back,” Peter demanded.

“Give what back, Petey?,” the stranger asked, “Or is it Gracie? Or is it Jake? I’m having trouble keeping up.” Not amused with the visitor’s mockery, Peter snarled, “Shut up and give it back.” “Sure, kid. Whatever you say.” Placing the missing piece back on the table, the stranger took a seat. “C’mon, let’s play,” he said, and turned the board so he can use the black pieces.

Leaning on the table, Peter angrily stared the stranger down. Unfazed by Peter’s attempt to look mean, the stranger eased back into a more relaxed position; serving only to further infuriate the child. Peter dug his claws into the wood grain and leaned in further, curling his lips to bare his fangs. The stranger chuckled. “I get it, you’re real scary, kid. A regular nosferatu,” he said smugly to the irritated child. “Now, do you want to get a game in or what?”

Reluctantly, Peter sat down and moved a piece. “Why’d you do it?” he asked in a discontented tone. “Do what?” the stranger questioned in response; his voice oozing with sarcasm. Peter glared back silently. “Oh, you mean the cross?” the stranger began to say, “I just thought she’d like it, that’s all. Some people just don’t appreciate creativity.”

“It was upside-down!” Peter barked back. “Not from my perspective, kid,” he replied confidently. “Things look a whole lot different from this side of the table. You should try it sometime.” Peter cocked his head quizzically.

“I can see you don’t quite get it. Let me explain. See, you and I have a lot in common, but we don’t exactly see eye to eye – at least not just yet. For example, you see that nice lady baking you cookies in the kitchen as some kid of saint here to deliver you from all you failures. What I see is some old loon you’ve got suckered into thinking you’re her son…or daughter depending on the time of day.”

“That’s not funny!” Peter growled, expressing extreme displeasure at the stranger’s evaluation. “Settle down, kid and hear me out,” the stranger replied, “I know she’s nice to you and everything, but you know she’s certifiable, right? Got bats in her belfry? Has more than a few screws loose?”

“I get it,” Peter conceded, “She’s a little…off.”

“A little?” the stranger replied, “That’s the understatement of the year. Kid, by the end of the week she’ll be calling you Jaclyn and dressing you up in little dead girl clothes – assuming she doesn’t break your neck in another one of those bear hugs. Hey, you don’t think that’s what happened, do you? ‘Oh, my precious little Gracie’ – Snap!”

Mortified by the stranger’s rude commentary, Peter is left speechless. “No?” the stranger asked, “Well, anyway, the point is: any way you slice it, she’s nuts. I know it, and deep down inside, you know it too. And even if you think her mood swings are tolerable, you’ve still got Gary and Officer Graves to contend with. Whatever little fantasy life you think your building here is going to come crashing down hard.”

“I know,” Peter admited with a hint of sadness in his voice, “But I don’t want to upset her.” “Petey, nothing in the world will prevent that. She’s a powder keg of crazy just waiting to explode. Remember how she laid into Gary this morning? Trust me; you don’t want to be around when she goes off again.”

Peter took the stranger’s advice into consideration. “But she’s nice to me,” Peter said, “She won’t yell at me. She likes me. She’s kind of like…” “Your mom?” The stranger asked before Peter could finish his statement. Peter nodded. “Well, she’s not,” the shady cat said bluntly, “And one day she’s going to wake up and realize that, but the longer you stick around, the harder it’s going to be on her. Besides, you’ve got your gramps. If you really wanted this kind of life, you could have just stayed there. But you didn’t. You didn’t want that life. You had big plans. What happened to those?”

On the verge of tears, Peter replied, “But I failed. Those plans are over and I can’t go back to that life now.” “Now see, that’s where you’re wrong,” the stranger reassured, “Sure, maybe you can’t go back to that life, but you haven’t failed yet.”

“What do you mean?” Peter questioned with a sniffle. “Well, you’re not dead are you?” the strange cat asked. After Peter shook his head in response, the stranger continued, “Perspective, kid. Where you see bitter defeat, I see a learning experience. You went in there blind as a bat; stuck with that crook’s crew for two, maybe three years; and then nearly punched his ticket. That took balls – big, brass ones. And now, you know what to expect for next time.”

“Next time?” Peter inquired. “Of course,” the shady cat replied, “Don’t you want to finish what you started?” Intrigued, Peter perks his ears up. “I’ll take that as a yes,” the stranger said, noting the child’s attentiveness, “Of course, this ain’t something we can do right away.”

“We?” Peter wondered. “Sure, kid. If you want to do this right, you’re going to need some help. As it turns out, I just so happen to be available.” “Convenient,” Peter said. Though the youngster entertained the idea, he and the stranger weren’t exactly on the best of terms. Between the creepy cat’s antics during Carolyn’s morning outburst and his tasteless prank with the chessboard, Peter had every reason to question the stranger’s sincerity.

“I don’t trust you. I don’t even know you,” Peter told him plainly. “Ah, I can see you’re no fool. It’s wise not to trust so easily.” the figure commended. “Especially not the creepy gangster-type who only shows his face when no one else is around,” Peter added.

“An astute observation, young sire,” the stranger said while tipping the brim of his hat in acknowledgement. “Nonetheless, I can help you. I want to help you.”

Peter squinted and leaned in. “Don’t patronize me. And don’t try to pretend that helping me is the only reason you’re here. Nobody does nothing for free.” “’Nobody does nothing for free,’” the visitor began to say with a smirk, “I couldn’t have said it better myself.” Peter folded his arms and gave the stranger a disapproving stare.

Observing the child’s noticeable displeasure, the shady cat continued, “Look, kid, I get it. We didn’t get off on the right foot – first impressions and all that. And I know I can be a little…” “Scary?” Peter interjected. “I would have said ‘intense’,” the stranger admited, “but ‘scary’ works too.” The stranger took off his hat and set it on the table, fully revealing his crimson eyes. Locking stares with Peter, the dark cat asked, “Do you still think I’m scary?”

Undeterred by the cold stare and blood-red irises of the stranger, Peter shook his head. He didn’t know why, but the stranger had somehow become familiar, even expected. Though every fiber of his being should have told him to run far and fast, Peter stared back in quiet observation. Beyond the mischievous behavior and those scarlet peepers, Peter saw nothing more than an ordinary cat with a penchant for black attire and odd smelling cigarettes – nothing more, and nothing less. Then Peter looked deeper into the sanguine abyss of the stranger’s eyes and what he saw was unexplainable.

It was unlike anything he had ever seen behind someone else’s eyes. In Vito’s eyes he had seen smug confidence shatter into fear and disbelief when faced with imminent death. Before her episode, he saw love and compassion in Carolyn’s eyes preceding the blind rage that followed. When she spoke to him of his chess victory, he could see the threads of deceit. However, what lay beyond the stranger’s eyes was so much more vast – like a world unto its own.

The stranger leaned closer to give Peter a better view. With a sinister smile, the stranger asked the child what he saw. “Fire,” Peter replied; mesmerized by the flickering flames. “And what else?” the stranger asked. “Blood. So much blood,” Peter said. The otherwise frightening words rolled off his tongue with impassioned appreciation. Grinning from ear to ear, the shady cat asked, “Is it yours?”

Peter slowly shook his head. Unable to break from the trance, the child continued to describe his ocular augury. “No, not mine. I’m covered in it, but it’s not mine. I’m holding something – a gun; a pistol – a large one. It looks heavy, but it feels light in my hand – almost weightless. The grip is perfect. It feels…right.”

Peter blinked and shook his head rapidly as he returned to his senses. The youngster pulled back at the sight of the wickedly smiling figure. “Wha…what was that?” Peter asked, nearly breathless. “That was a taste of what has yet to come – what can be; what may be,” the stranger replied, “You liked what you saw, didn’t you?”

Peter didn’t answer. He didn’t want to admit it, but he did like it. In that brief moment he felt satisfied; powerful; victorious. In that fraction of a second, he had felt more alive than ever before, so much so that his heart was still beating a mile a minute. With but a single glance up, the stranger received his answer.

The shady cat sat back in his chair satisfied with the child’s reaction. “Who are you?” Peter asked. He had to know, even if that answer wasn’t something he wanted to hear. “Does it matter?” the stranger responded. “It does to me.” Peter answered right back, “If I accept your help, I need to know who I’m dealing with.”

“’Dealing with.’ Interesting choice of words,” the stranger observed, “Does that mean we’re negotiating?” Peter shrugged indifferently. “Well, that ain’t a no,” the visitor pointed out. “Fair enough. You’ve been a good sport. I suppose it couldn’t hurt to answer a few questions about myself. Whatcha want to know?” “Let’s start with that name,” Peter said sharply.

“My name?” the visitor asked, “Which one? I have so many, but I’ll spare you the complete list. You can just call me Mr. Black.” “Mr. Black? Really?” Peter questioned, “You couldn’t have picked something less obvious?”

“Sorry, Jake,” Mr. Black replied, “I happen to like my name. A cat’s got to have his identity after all. Sometimes it’s the only thing that reminds you who you really are.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” Peter said sarcastically, “So what’s your first name, and don’t tell me it’s ‘Mister.’” “If you must know,” Mr. Blank begins to say, “It’s Leland – Leland Randall if you want to get technical. Friends sometimes call me L.R.” Peter lets out a soft chuckle. “Don’t laugh,” says Leland. “Despite my lesser qualities, I’ve had many kinships – as well as my fair share of partners in crime, so to speak. So what else do you want to know?”

“Hang on,” Peter said, engaged in thought, “I’m still trying get over the fact that your name is Leland.” The stranger took the kid’s joke in stride. To him, it was good that the youngster was starting to fire back a few barbed comments of his own. It signaled that the child might be coming around. Moreover, it was a display of young Peter’s character that he can trade insults with the imposing Mr. Black.

Continuing with his interrogation, Peter asked, “So, where’re you from? New York?” “From?” Mr. Black asked while he considers the question, “Now that I really can’t say. I mean, yes, I’ve been to the Big Apple. I even took a shine to it, you might say, but like any where I’ve been, I wore out my welcome. No, it may come as a shock to you, but I actually come from the South – the Deep South.”

“Hmm, now that is a shock,” Peter confessed. “I don’t really consider it my home though,” the stranger continued on. “It’s just sort of where I landed – the place where I got my feet on the ground. I’ll always consider myself from the North though, even if I live in the lower territories.”

Surprised at how personable the once terrifying cat has suddenly become, Peter found himself intrigued by the few glimpses of Mr. Black’s past. “So if you like the North so much, why don’t you go back?” he asked. “Would if I could, kid,” Mr. Blank replied, “But like I said, I tend to rub folks the wrong way. And sure, I guess I was a bit of a bastard, but I got a raw deal. I tell ya, kid, knowing you can never go home again is a hell all of its own. I suppose, in some ways, we’re alike in that regard.”

Gleaning the faintest hint of remorse in Mr. Black’s words, Peter could almost sympathize with him. At the same time, the youngster knew deep down that Leland has his own agenda – everyone does. Not allowing himself to be swayed so easily, Peter pressed deeper, “So, what did you did to get yourself in hot water?”

“C’mon, kid,” Mr. Black began to say, “we’re getting into some of my lesser moments here. Can’t we talk about something else?” “No,” Peter said bluntly, “and stop calling me ‘kid’.”

“Jeez Louise. Someone’s cranky all of a sudden,” the stranger blurted out, earning him a bitter stare from the child across the table. Observing the youngster’s displeasure, Mr. Black raised his hands and consented. “Fine,” he said with a sigh, “I had a falling out with the boss. We didn’t see eye-to-eye on a few things and I may have lost my temper. I wasn’t the only one, you see, but I’m the one who took the fall when things got out of hand. A ‘shit disturber’ they called me and tossed me out on my ear. Been on the road ever since.”

“There, you happy now?” Leland asked, slightly annoyed. Despite the story’s vagueness, Peter was contented by it, or at least he was contented that Mr. Black seemed pained by this admission. It was an aspect of the cat young Peter needed to complete his appraisal – a flaw; a tiny imperfection in an otherwise immutably cold and blackened heart. Under ordinary circumstances, this may have been enough, but one more question burned in the youngster’s mind – and Mr. Black knew it.

“Alright kid – I mean pal – why don’t you ask me what you really want to know.” Peter started to speak, but held back for a moment. Though Mr. Black hadn’t said as much, the answer seemed painfully obvious: Old Hob, the Great Deceiver; the Serpent – here in the flesh and looking Peter dead in the eyes. All the signs where there, but the child had to be certain.

“What are you?” Peter asked in defiance of his better judgment. Instantly, he regretted allowing those words slip from this tongue. Curiosity is the death of ignorance and Peter strode upon its grave.

Mr. Black’s impish grin returned as he leaned forward to speak. “Now that’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it?” he said. “Are you the Devil?” Peter inquired, fully expecting the stranger’s reply to confirm his suspicion. Taken aback by the assertion, Leland gave Peter a funny look before bursting into laughter. Not knowing how to react, Peter could only watch the cackling cat in bewilderment.

“You really think I’m…” Mr. Black attempted to ask, but was too overcome by hysteria to finish the thought. Unable to contain his side-splitting laughter, Leland nearly fell out of his chair. The stranger’s amusement is such that Peter could not help but let out a soft chuckle of his own. The temporary mirth does wonders to assuage his childish fears about Mr. Black. Too many years in bible school, he thought as the pair shared this moment of joviality brought on by Peter’s ridiculous notion.

As Mr. Black began to settle, Peter took the time to reprocess everything the stranger has said and done. If not He Himself, then who – what could he be? A specter? A figment of imagination? He was perplexed. All he knew was that Mr. Black was nothing of this world. “If you’re not him, then what are you?” he demanded to know.

“Me? I’m just a cat. No more, no less.” Leland replied. “No you’re not,” Peter said, “You’re something else.” “Why, thank you,” the stranger responded quickly, “I am rather amazing.”

“No, that’s not what I meant,” the child said with growing frustration, “I mean you’re not just a cat. You might not be a cat. Heck, you might not even real.” Mr. Black patted himself down, attempting to prove otherwise. “I feel real, so I must be real.”

Peter pounds on the table in disagreement. “No you’re not!” he shouts, “You’re not real. No one can hear you! No one can see you!” “Settle down, Pete,” Mr. Black says defensively, “Don’t go hurting yourself with all those sharp thoughts. After all, you can see me; you can hear me, right? I’m not just talking to myself, am I? Maybe you need to wrap your little noggin around that before you start accusing people of not being real.”

Peter stared back blankly at Mr. Black. “I can see you’re confused,” Leland noted, “And I don’t blame you. You’ve been through a lot in these last few days. Hell, you’ve been through a lot your whole life, especially for your age. On top of that, you’ve suffered a serious head injury. Your egg’s a little scrambled and you’re not seeing things clearly. I get all that, but you don’t want to dwell too much on what’s real and what’s not real. We could have that conversation all night long and still be no closer to solving the mysteries of existence. Right now, all you need to consider is whether the cat across the table can or cannot help you.”

“And what if I don’t want your help? What if I don’t think you can help?” Peter questioned. “Then I walk away and you’ll never see or hear from me again,” said Mr. Black. Watching the stranger closely as he spoke, Peter could detect no subtle clues to indicate untruth. Though skeptical, Peter reasoned he had little to lose in simply hearing Mr. Black out. That was all the shady cat needed to sell his pitch – an open mind.


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My Friend of Missouri
 Post subject: Re: Eyes of Fire (more relevant title!) **updated 6/29**
PostPosted: Thu Jul 03, 2014 9:11 pm GMT 
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A brief interlude:

Eyes of Fire

Eyes of Fire, Eyes of Light
Eyes that pierce the veil of night
Eyes of scarlet, eyes of red
Eyes of fury, eyes of dread

Torn asunder, torn apart
Torn straight through this broken heart
When darkness enters, when darkness mends
When darkness envelopes, innocence ends

Eyes of fire, eyes of light
Eyes that burn everything in sight
Eyes of crimson, eyes of blood
Eyes last seen before the flood

Of shattered minds, of shattered souls
Of shattered bodies washed upon the shoals
In search of justice, a search in vain
In search of vengeance, it’s all the same

Eyes of Fire, eyes of gold
Eyes that see when lies are told
Eyes of ruby, eyes of gloom
Eyes of envy, eyes of doom


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My Friend of Missouri
 Post subject: Re: Eyes of Fire (more relevant title!) **updated 6/29**
PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2014 6:50 pm GMT 
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Sweet Relief

“So how can you help?” Peter asked. With a smile, Mr. Black adjusted his tie and replied, “Glad you asked, pal. You see Pete; I know things – things you’re going to need to know if you want to settle the score. I also know people – what makes ‘em tick; how to get the best of ‘em; how to get under their skin; and so on. Stick with me and soon you’ll know what I know, and that my friend is what I’m offering.”

After quickly mulling it over, Peter responded with his concerns. “Hmm,” he began, “I was expecting something more…direct.” Mr. Black nodded, acknowledging that he understood Peter’s apprehension. “Sure, I get that. But as you may have noticed, I’m not exactly all here. It’s a pretty severe handicap, I must admit, but I get by.”

“So, let me get this straight,” Peter said, assessing Mr. Black’s offer, “You can’t help me physically, meaning that if I, or rather if you get me into trouble, there’s nothing you can do but offer advice?” “That’s the gist of it,” Leland affirmed, “but it’s not in my best interest to get you into anything you can’t handle.”

“And there it is,” Peter pointed out, “’Your best interest’. What exactly are you getting out this anyway? And don’t try to tell me it’s because you’re a nice guy.” Leland chuckled. “Well, we both know that ain’t true. All right Pete, I’ll be on the level with you. The reason I’m here; the reason I want to help out is solely because you’re something special. You’ve got brains, and more importantly, you’ve got fire. That little hate furnace you’ve got building up inside you is going to take you places. But there’s something else – something even I’m envious of.”

Peter lifted an eyebrow. He had no idea what Mr. Black had seen in him that was so special and he was eager to find out. Mr. Black pointed at the child and said, “It’s those eyes, Pete. I might know how people work, but you got one better on me. You can read people’s eyes. Just one glance and you’ve got them pegged like you’ve just stared right into their soul. That’s a gift, my friend. You couple that with what I know about playing people and we’ll make one hell of a team.”

“A team? A team for what?” Peter inquired. “Why, a team for anything, Pete. You name it. The possibilities are endless.” “Bullshit,” Peter said sternly. Mr. Black was taken aback by kid’s reaction. The youngster was no fool. If Black wanted to seal this deal, he’d need to back it down a notch. Peter was many things, but he wasn’t greedy. Offering up the world on a silver platter wasn’t going to work. Instead, Mr. Black would have to refine his approach.

“Too much?” Leland asked, “Sorry, sometimes I get carried away. I’m used to dealing with folks of a more profound egotistical nature. I know, how about this. Work with me and together we’ll punch Vito’s ticket…permanently. How’s that sound?” Grinning wickedly, Mr. Black folded his hands together awaiting the child’s reply. Devoid of emotion, Peter told him “No.” This resounding declaration took Mr. Black completely by surprise, instantly wiped that smug smile from his face. The youngster’s defiant answer put Mr. Black in an unfamiliar position. For the first time since their meeting, he wasn’t the one in control. Black was on the ropes. He had no counter offer as enticing as the promise of Vito’s blood. The shady cat grimaced with the thought losing.

“Just killing him ain’t enough,” Peter said grimly, “He took away everything I loved and I want to pay him the same kindness.” Mr. Black snickered. “You had me going there for a second,” he said with relief, “You’ve got a flair for the dramatic, don’t you? Keep ‘em guessing. I like that. I think we’re going to get along just fine. Oh, and we’ll make Vito pay, don’t you worry about that.”

“How?” Peter asked anxiously. He didn’t want to waste a single moment more thinking about anything other than retribution. Though his youthful enthusiasm was encouraging, Mr. Black knew he wasn’t remotely close to being ready. The kid was raw; energetic, but raw. Like any investment, it would be a shameful waste to cast him into the wolves’ den before seeing what he could do amidst the sheep. Mr. Black stroked his pointed beard, quietly contemplating how best to answer the eager youth.

“First, we get out of Dodge,” Leland told the child. “Run away?” Pete asked despondently, “That’s your great plan?” “It is for now, Pete,” Black said, “You’ve got guts, but nothing to back it up. You’re scrawny. You can’t fight. I bet you can’t even shoot. Pal, you’ve got a lot to learn. But that’s okay. That’s why I’m here.”

“Fine,” Peter conceded, “I’m no match for them…yet” “That’s the spirit,” Leland said encouragingly.

“So when do you think I’ll be ready?” Peter asked. “Hard to say,” Black replied, “Twelve years?”

“Twelve years?!!” Peter shouted, “I can’t wait that long!” “Hey, lower your voice. You want to get us caught?” Peter stared back angrily without responding. Twelve years was a long time to wait. A lot could happen in that time. A lot could be forgotten in that time. And that’s exactly what Mr. Black was counting on.

“I know that seems like a long time,” Mr. Black began to say, “But trust me, it’ll be time well spent. Maybe you don’t want to hear it, but you’re still just a kid and kids don’t make it in the big leagues. Those cats will chew you up and spit you out. I’m not here to throw you into the meat grinder, but I can’t tell you what to do either. You want to do this half-assed, so be it. It’s like they say, ‘You can lead the whores to water, but you can’t make ‘em drink.’”

“That’s…not how the expression goes,” Peter pointed out, “It’s ‘you can’t lead a horse to water.’” “No, that ain’t right,” Mr. Black replied, dismissing the child’s correction, “Why would you lead a horse to water?”

Peter shrugged. “Why would you lead a whore to water?” “I don’t know,” Black replied, “It’s just an expression.” “But it’s not…oh never mind,” Peter said before covering his face in disgust. “Wait,” Peter exclaimed, “You haven’t answered my question. You said that I’m something special; that we’d make a great team, but what the hell for? Just to take out Vito? Why do you care about that? What exactly do you get out of this? What aren’t you telling me?”

Mr. Black shook his head. “Pete, you’re too smart for your own good, you know that? Fine, I confess. I do want something from you, but what that is ain’t easy to explain. You see, people are sort of like candles. Some burn dimly for a while then wink out of existence without anyone ever really noticing. Some burn brightly – so bright, in fact, it’s hard to look away. When you snuff those candles out, everyone and everything they once illuminated fall into darkness. And then there’s you.”

“You’re a candle of a different color. You’re a stick of fucking dynamite. When you’re lit, everyone holds their breath and by the time your wick expires, the whole goddamn place gets blown to smithereens. That’s what I want from you, Pete. That’s what I want to see. I want to see you explode; like a tiny ball of fire, growing and growing until it covers everything in flame. I want to see you burn it all down. I want to see what’s left to rise from the ashes of your wake.”

“What the hell does that mean? Will you start making sense?” Peter demanded, weary of Mr. Black’s analogies, “Just come out and say what you’re trying to say.”

“Have it your way, pal,” Mr. Black replied, “Pete, you want the God’s honest truth? Well, here it is – you’re a killer. I may not have your soul-piercing eyes, but I know a killer when I see one. And you’re not just any run-of-the-mill back-alley stab-artist either; you’ve got patience and a strategic mind. I admire killers – real ones – and you’re as real as they get. You just need the right tools, the proper canvas, and lots and lots of practice. And that’s what I really want. I want you to learn your craft and become the killer you’re meant to be.” Mr. Black paused, then added, “Actually, now that I think about it, that was rather easy to explain."

Peter didn’t know what to say. He’d never thought of himself as a killer. Even when standing behind the gun he had held in Vito’s face, he hadn’t thought of himself as such. He was simply doling out justice; doing a public service; tying up loose ends. That didn’t make him a killer, did it? The more he considered it, the less he believed in Mr. Black’s assessment. And yet the boy remained speechless while Leland awaited a reply.

Peter opened his mouth to speak, but nothing came out. Observing the child’s hesitance, Mr. Black perked up his ears to signal that he was listening. “No, I’m not,” Peter said faintly as he strained to expel the words from his lips, “I’m not a killer.”

“No?” Mr. Black questioned, “You don’t sound very convinced of that. Look, you can lie to me all you want, but you can’t lie to yourself. Wouldn’t you like to see Vito dead? Wouldn’t you like to see that big goon of his dead? Wouldn’t you like to be the one to pull the trigger; to twist the knife? Doesn’t the thought of it just get your blood boiling?”

Peter didn’t answer, and he didn’t need to. “Of course it does,” Leland continued, “But that alone don’t make you a killer. Folks fantasize over such moments all their lives and never lift a finger to make them happen. They ain’t got what it takes. You need something more than wishful thinking. No, you need something deeper; something darker; something more primal. You need that base urge to establish dominance with fang and claw; that secret desire to tear a cat’s throat out; that smug confidence to walk up and drill two into his chest without batting an eye. Even if you don’t think so, you’ve got all that in spades.”

Sensing the child’s uncertainty, Mr. Black continued, “Remember what you saw moments ago? The fire? The blood? The gun? They’re all symbols of you – who you really are; who you’ll become; who you’ll need to be to take on Vito and his thugs.”

Peter needed more convincing. “How do you know?” he asked as his voice cracked mid-sentence. In a surprisingly heartfelt tone, Mr. Black replied, “Because the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Your father was a killer, and from what I’ve heard, a damn good one too – real handy with a gun. Peter, you are your father’s son, aren’t you?” Peter looked down at his hands, imagining them as his father’s, and nodded.

“Peter, look at me,” Mr. Black requested. “Let me help you take your father’s mantle; to become every bit the killer he was. I’ll teach you everything I know, and when you’re ready, we’ll take on Vito together. Whaddya say?”

Mr. Black extended his hand. “Shake on it?” he asked.

Peter contemplated the offer. Become a killer. That’s all Mr. Black wanted of him. It seemed like an obvious request. Peter wanted Vito dead; he wanted Big Sal dead. He wanted to crush everything they stood for and leave them to rot together in a shallow, unmarked grave. More importantly, he wanted to avenge his parents. He needed to avenge them. Become a killer? He could do that. He had to do that. It didn’t matter why Mr. Black wanted this so urgently, it only mattered that Peter wanted this.

Peter looked up and concentrated on the straight-faced cat across the table. For a moment, it was as if nothing else in the room existed; like a black fog surrounding his vision, blocking out all but Mr. Black and himself. Focusing all his attention on the stranger’s face, Peter looked for faint hints of deception and found none. Mr. Black’s solemn stare was resolute, absent of even the slightest smile or wince. It was like reading a blank slate. Even those crimson eyes, which had earlier opened to reveal their bloody premonition, now seemed only to deflect the youngster’s cutting gaze.

Peter grew nervous as he outstretched his hand. It seemed like Mr. Black wanted so little from him – a deal too good to be true. Thoughts of more sinister intentions served to strengthen his reluctance. A sense of dread washed over him as he moved his hand closer. Something bad was about to happen, he could feel it. At the same time, he was at wit’s end. He was just a kid with no real knowledge of the world. He needed someone to guide him; someone to help him follow in his father’s footsteps; someone like Black.

Consequences be damned. Peter braced himself for the worst as he shook the stranger’s hand and felt Leland’s firm grasp. If a great, fiery pit opened beneath his feet to shallow him whole, it would have been expected. If a bolt of heavenly light had shot through the dining room window to incinerate him instantly, he would have seen it coming. What he did not expect was the joyful announcement from the kitchen. “Cookies are done!” Carolyn exclaimed.

Peter gasped and leapt away from the table, nearly knocking over his chair. “You hear that?” Mr. Black asked, “Just in time for cookies. You’ve got exceptional timing, Pete.” Mr. Black stood up from the table, buttoned his jacket and put his hat on. “I guess I’ll leave you to it, then. Nice doing business with you and I’ll see you this evening. Finish up whatever you’ve got to do here and go to bed early. We leave tonight. Oh, and ‘bon appétit.’”

“Who wants cookies?” Carolyn asked from the doorway, startling the boy who had not heard her approach. Quickly, Peter turned to look at her. She was smiling happily and presented her gift of warm, baked delights. Peter glanced back across the table and saw no one. Mr. Black had gone just as quickly and silently as he came. “That’s a trick I’ve got to learn,” he thought before turning back towards Carolyn. “I do!” the child announced with sickeningly sweet cheer.

As Peter savored each morsel, he felt oddly satisfied, like a tremendous burden had been lifted from his shoulders. Though gratifying in its own right, Carolyn’s treat was far less fulfilling than the deal Peter had just struck with Black – a chance to redeem his own failure and find closure. To Peter, the promise of vengeance was sweeter than anything she could bake in the oven, and far less temporal.

Peter couldn’t hide his jubilation while he continued to enjoy Carolyn’s goodies and envisioned how his pact with Black would pan out. Sitting nearby, Carolyn was also elated, believing that it was her sugary gifts that had filled the child with such joy. Quietly, the two sat contentedly until Peter had had his fill. Finished with his snack, Peter followed Carolyn into the kitchen, observing closely where she stashed the leftovers.

For the remainder of the afternoon, the two played games off and on between Carolyn’s household duties. Before Peter knew it, dinnertime was fast approaching, and soon after would come time for bed. His day had been long and fraught with emotion. He was ready, perhaps even yearning for it to end so he could start the next chapter of his life. Still, a small part of him clamored to reprise his role as Jake, the usurper of Carolyn’s affection. The world outside was unfamiliar; unpredictable; even perilous while the fantasy within offered comfort, shelter, and love. Even if it was all a lie, the youngster was so tempted. He could make it work; crazy spells and all. In the end, however, he couldn’t allow himself to stay. Carolyn deserved better than him while he deserved someone of far lesser company. It was only fitting that he should cross paths with Mr. Black at such a precise moment in time for Peter knew of none more despicable or deplorable. It was a match made in madness and so began his descent.


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My Friend of Missouri
 Post subject: Re: Eyes of Fire (more relevant title!) **updated 6/29**
PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2014 6:51 pm GMT 
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A Little Magic

The mood was somber in the dining room. Gary had been late in arriving as he had been running behind on the farm work. He had only just begun his meal when Carolyn started clearing Peter’s and her own dishes from the table. Peter observed Gary’s was exhaustion. He appeared to be in no mood for conversation, which was just fine with the youngster. Peter didn’t have much to say to Gary anyway. As for Carolyn, on the other hand, he had so much to say to her. First off, he wanted to thank her for everything she had done – for the meals, for the games, even for patching up his torn apparel which he hadn’t even noticed had been mended until now. Above all else though, he wanted to thank her for caring so deeply for this miserable wretch of a child. Peter knew he didn’t deserve a single ounce of the affection that she so generously gave and that he would now so recklessly forsake.

Peter also wished to tell her goodbye; to tell her that everything will be as it should once he was gone. He wanted to tell her just how much this sweet interlude meant to him and that he would always cherish the memory of this day. He wanted to tell her that she would be all right without him, in time. There were so many things he wanted to say but knew he never would.

In a way, this would be Jake’s last supper before both he and Carolyn were betrayed by Peter. The thought of scampering away like a rat in the night soured his appetite. Noticing that the child had only picked at his dinner, Carolyn asked Peter how he was feeling. “Tummy ache,” he blurted out with a groan. “Oh,” she lamented, “Too many cookies this afternoon, I guess.”

“Maybe you should go lie down,” Carolyn suggested. “I’ll take your dishes into the kitchen and come tuck you in right after,” she said with a smile. Peter nodded in agreement and pushed away from the table. “Good night,” he told Gary as he walked past and exchanged a weary glance. In an effort to mind his manners, Gary replied a few seconds later, “Good night, champ.”

Gary looked up at Carolyn to see her contented grin. Her little faux family was complete again and her radiant disposition shone even brighter than the room’s modest electric lighting. Gary smiled back at his wife and considered how peaceful she seemed. Shaking the prior apprehension from his mind, Gary thought, “Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I should give the boy a chance.”

Peter slinked off to the bedroom and removed his shirt and socks before slipping betwixt the sheets. With hands folded over his stomach, Peter stared at the ceiling patiently waiting for Carolyn. As he twiddled his thumbs, he quietly contemplated his grandiose departing gesture. What could he say? What could he do to thank her without unintentionally revealing his plan to run away? He wanted this last moment to be meaningful but his mind went immediately blank when she entered.

Carolyn adjusted his covers and looked down at him warmly for a moment. “Sweet dreams my precious little Jake,” she said and leaned in to kiss him on the forehead. Instinctively, Peter replied, “Good night,” momentarily forgetting that this would be the last time they speak. And then, just before Carolyn could pull away, Peter slung his arms around her shoulders and gave her one final hug. “Thank you, momma,” he whispered. He knew that would make her happy and in those last seconds he didn’t care that she might suspect something was wrong. All he cared about was reciprocating some of that genuine affection she had bestowed upon him all day long.

Peter clung to her tightly. He didn’t want to let go. Subconsciously, the prospect of letting go was frightening. Sensing his trepidation, Carolyn asked if something was wrong. ”Does your stomach hurt that badly? Do we need to call the doctor?” Peter pulled back. “No,” he said, trying to fight back his tears, “I just…I just had a lot of fun today. I don’t want it to end.”

“Oh, you silly goose,” she said, pinching his nose, “There’s always tomorrow. Now go to sleep and I’ll see you in the morning.” “Okay,” he replied half-heartedly as Carolyn re-adjusted his sheets. “Good night,” she told him before flipping off the light and closing the bedroom door. “There’s always tomorrow,” Peter whispered. That phrase struck him pretty hard for he knew it wasn’t true. Some people don’t get tomorrows because some people don’t make it through the night. Peter wasn’t even certain he’d make it through the night. He had no idea what Mr. Black had in store for him. Peter only knew that he wouldn’t be here come sunrise. “Not for us,” he said softly before shutting his eyes and drifting off to sleep.

Peter felt a nudge on his shoulder and struggled to open his eyes. Though the room was pitch black, the odiferous scent of clove cigarettes signaled the presence of Mr. Black. Peter groaned and rolled over. “Wake me up in an hour,” the child said. “No way, pal,” Leland replied, “We’ve got to get a move on and you’ve got some packing to do first.”

“What time is it?” Peter grumbled. “It’s around midnight,” Mr. Black told him, “Now put your clothes on and get your things together. We’re on a tight schedule here.”

Peter sat up and yawned. “Midnight already?” he questioned, “But I just laid down.” “Aw, quit your belly-aching,” Black replied with a snicker, “Get it? ‘Cause you had a stomach ache? No?”

“Yes, I get it,” Peter replied with a sigh, “It’s too early for jokes.” “Early?” Leland asked with a hint of puzzlement, “The night is still young, my friend. Now get dressed.”

Peter withdrew the covers and slid off the bed with all the grace of a sack of potatoes. Half-asleep, he stumbled around in the darkness for a bit, searching for the light switch. When he finally located it and flipped it on, the light stung his eyes like tiny pin pricks while his pupils adjusted to the sudden illumination. Slowly, Peter pulled his shirt over his head and stuffed his arms into the proper sleeves after only a few fatigue-induced miscalculations. In the time it took Peter to dress himself, Mr. Black had already stripped the bed bare and was beginning to retrieve Peter’s stolen items from beneath the mattress.

Meticulously, Mr. Black inventoried the pilfered medical supplies and placed them on the folded bedspread before him. “Three very sharp surgical scalpels,” he began to say, “You’ll have to be careful with these Pete. Find a pouch or something to put them in. You don’t want to accidentally slice yourself up.” Leland next grabbed the pill bottle and shook it gently. “Half a bottle of pills,” He noted. “What are these? Morphine tabs?!! These will goof you up real quick. Is there something you ain’t telling me Pete? You like getting a little fuzzy between the ears?”

Peter shook his head. “I didn’t know what they were,” the child said, “I thought they’d help with the headaches.” “Oh, these will knock those headaches right out in a hurry,” Leland chimed in, “In fact; you won’t be feeling much of anything for a few hours. But far be it for me to judge. If you want to dull your wits with these little aesculapian beauties then ‘to each his own,’ I say.”

“But I haven’t taken any. I swear it,” Peter said, adamantly refuting Mr. Black’s assertion. “Okay, fine,” Black replied, “Maybe you ain’t a fiend, but these ain’t candies either. You be careful with these.” Peter nodded in understanding and began to think of other potential applications of his discovery.

Continuing with the inventory assessment, Mr. Black picked up the surgical saw and showed it to Peter. “A saw?” he questioned. “What exactly are you going to do with this?”

Peter looked at it and shrugged. “I don’t know. It looked useful.” “Pete,” Mr. Black began to ask, “Do you even know what this is for?” Peter shook his head. The youngster had no idea what it was intended for or why the good doctor carried with him. All he knew was that it looked sharp and that might come in handy. Attempting to explain, Leland replied, “It’s for hacking off limbs, you know…for when sick folks need limbs hacked off.”

Mortified, Peter examined the sinister-looking apparatus and cringed. Then, after a moment of reflection, he smiled. “Wow, really?” he asked in childish amazement. “I guess it is pretty nifty,” Mr. Black admitted, noting the child’s wonderment. “Just don’t expect anyone just to lie down and let you carve ‘em up,” he continued to say as he emulated a sawing motion with his left hand.

“I guess that’s it,” Mr. Black concluded, “Besides this sheet to carry it all in, that’s all we’ve got so far. We’re going to need a bit more than this for our excursion, don’t you think Pete?” Peter agreed, though he hadn’t the faintest clue of what else he might need. Looking to Leland for advice, Peter emptied a pillowcase and asked, “What else do we need?”

Stroking his beard ponderously, Mr. Black replied, “For starters, you’ll need food, water, and a change of clothes.” Peter nodded as Leland carried on, “Then maybe a shooter, a hatchet, some barbed wire, a step-ladder…”

“I’ll just go scrounge up the food, water, and clothes,” Peter said with a sigh. “Good idea,” Mr. Black replied, “Meanwhile, I’ll think of some more things we’ll need. Somebody should really be writing these down.”

While Leland continued citing additional and mostly useless objects ad nauseum, Peter cautiously opened the bedroom door and tip-toed down the hallway and into the kitchen. With pillowcase in hand, his first objective was to raid the ice box. He knew the leftover portion of his dinner would there, and very likely it was already neatly wrapped and ready for transit. Carolyn did so ever like to keep the place tidy, and Peter would not be disappointed by her strict adherence to cleanliness this time.

As predicted, Peter found the remnants of his meal at the forefront of the well-stocked appliance. The contents of the ice box yielded a veritable treasure trove of chilled foods – ham, chicken, eggs, cheese, milk and a few varieties of vegetable, just to name a few. Though Peter considered shoveling the entire stash into the sack, he knew that little of it would keep for an extended duration. Besides his leftovers and a few less-perishable goods, Peter decided not to take much from the ice box. To find adequate sustenance, he would need to look elsewhere.

After nearly twenty-minutes of searching, Peter had scoured every cabinet and cupboard in his search for more portable and preservable foodstuffs. Much to his dismay, Peter was only able to locate a few cans of beans, some carrots, and half-a-loaf of bread. It still wasn’t much, but he figured it would at least get him from here to there…wherever there might be. For a moment, he considered asking Black where exactly they would be heading, but he decided against it. Peter didn’t want to get mixed up in more of Black’s antics as he likely wouldn’t get a straight answer anyway. In fact, Peter could still hear Mr. Black rattling off nonsense from where he stood. With a deflated groan, Peter began to wonder when Leland might actually start making himself useful. Certainly, now would have been a good time to start.

Peter scanned around the kitchen once more for any places he may have overlooked. Then he spotted it. “The cookie jar!” he thought excitedly, “I nearly forgot about that.” Even as mature as Peter considered himself to be, there was just something innately wondrous about the prospect of digging through a cookie jar for sweat treats. Gleefully, Peter propped up the step-ladder beneath the tall cabinet where his just rewards sat confined behind ceramic walls. Sadly, he had not yet grown to his full height, and even with the aid of a nearby countertop, his prize of baked goodness lay just beyond his reach.

Determined to liberate those precious gems for himself, Peter opened the cabinet doors to use the shelves as footholds. Scaling ever higher, the child took care not to step on the plates within; leaving him with only a thin ledge to place his feet. Immediately, he regretted not taking his shoes off before surmounting this climb, but he was so close to reaching the summit that he could practically taste success.

With claws on both hands dig firmly into the wood grain atop the cabinet, Peter hoisted himself higher and peered over the ledge. Directly in front of him was the colorfully painted jar fashioned to resemble a whimsical, yellow mouse. Without any handles to grab onto, Peter would have to remove the lid and carry the jar down gripping the rim firmly. The task was further complicated by the limited shelf space on his descent; otherwise he could simply move the jar one shelf at a time.

Undaunted by these obstacles, Peter snatched the cookie jar with one hand and took a step down. “Simple enough,” he thought, “Now step down with the other foot.” Peter leaned back and began to take his second step downward. With only a single hand clinging onto the cabinet, the change in weight distribution became too much to hold. Feeling his claws loose from the wood grain, Peter scratched frantically at the cabinet as be began to fall backward.

Peter’s plunge to the kitchen floor ends abruptly, even before he can emit one last pained expression of defeat. “Gotcha!” Mr. Black exclaims, holding the boy up by his collar, “I can’t let you out of my sight for a second, can I?”

Mr. Black let the stunned youngster dangle helplessly for a moment before setting him down. Leland spun the boy around and took the jar from his hands. “Whatcha got there?” Mr. Black questioned and reached into the jar. “Cookies?” he asked with disappointment, “I thought you found something good up there.”

Leland handed the jar back to Peter. “First it’s pain killers, now its confections – Pete, you need to get a grip on your addictive personality. Did you at least find the other stuff on the list?”

“I found some food, but I didn’t know how much I needed,” the child replied, “You never said where we were going.”

“That’s because I don’t know where we’re going,” Black said bluntly, earning him a quizzical stare from the boy. “Relax, I’ll know where we’re going by the time we get there.” Though it wasn’t very reassuring, Peter supposed it didn’t matter where they went as long as Black kept his promise. Besides, he was too fixated on packing away his well-deserved treats to give it much thought.

“Did you find anything else?” Mr. Black asked as he surveyed the kitchen. Before Peter can answer, Black spots something at the back of the opened cabinet. “Oh, now there’s something we both can use,” he says, practically salivating.

Peter looked up eagerly as Mr. Black withdrew a shiny, metal object from the cabinet. “What is it?” Peter asked. “This, my friend, is a flask,” Black replied, “And what’s more important is that it’s still full.” Leland unscrewed the top and took a long swig. “Ah, now that’s the good stuff.”

Handing the flask to Peter, Mr. Black told him to take a sip. Hesitantly, Peter sniffed the top before placing the container to his lips. The scent was unfamiliar, but he knew it was some kind of alcohol. Never before had such a sharp flavor passed over his tongue. Though he took only the slightest nip, the fiery liquid singed his throat and scorched his belly. The burning sensation was such that Peter swore that he could see fumes from the resulting exhalation.

Peter’s face soured. “How can you drink that stuff?” the boy questioned, clutching his stomach. “Easily and often,” Mr. Black replied as Peter handed the flask back to him. “Ah, don’t mind if I do,” Leland said before taking another glug. “Never was there a vice so liberating, but I guess a kid wouldn’t understand the allure of this adult beverage.”

“But aren’t vices binding?” Peter asked smugly with one eyebrow raised. Perplexed, Leland looked down at the child without answer. Noting Leland’s confusion, Peter refined his question. “I mean, how can something restrictive also be liberating?” he questioned.

“Pete, you ask some funny questions, you know that?” Mr. Black said dismissively. “But to answer your question,” Black continued, “I don’t know. It just is. You’ll need to ask a smarter cat than me for that one. All I know is that there’s a little magic at the bottom of every bottle. Tightwads become big spenders, shy guys become wise guys, and prudes become pros. It’s like some metamorphic incantation is bestowed upon the imbiber, instantly transmuting them from stuffy wallflowers to carefree, easygoing, good-time folks.”

Peter folded his arms and shook his head. He still didn’t understand Mr. Black’s infatuation with the bitter drink nor his over-exaggerated musings on the benefit of drunkenness. He did, however, commit to memory Leland’s affinity for the awful rot.

“Did you know there’s talk of banning this fine intoxicant?” Black rambled on, “No? Well, it’s true. Those fat cats in office think they can uphold a higher standard of morality by waiving their hands and making a few new laws appear. Ha! That’ll be the day, my friend. Hey, where’re you going?”

“I’m going to grab a coat from the front room closet while you empty that flask and fill it with water,” Peter replied. “You want me to dump it out?” Black questioned, “Have you heard anything I’ve said?”

“I don’t care how you empty it, just make sure you fill it after,” Peter commanded. “Yes sir,” Black replied with a half-hearted salute, “Now that’s an order I can stand behind.”

After an hour of preparation, scrounging, and in Mr. Black’s case, drinking, the pair convened on the front porch with their foraged goods. “Well, I couldn’t find much in the way of clothes, but I did nab this jacket,” Peter said to Mr. Black, “What do you think? It’s a little long.”

Leaning on the banister, the glassy-eyed Black stared blankly at the child. “Hey, I asked you a question?” Peter snapped. “Oh, you look great,” Leland muttered, “Can we go now?” Mr. Black appeared so wobbly that the banister may have been the only thing holding him up.

Peter placed his hand upon his brow in frustration. “You can’t seriously be this drunk.” “I am seriously,” Black replied with significant slurring, “And don’t call me…how’s that go again?” With a groan, Peter asked for the flask. After opening it and taking a sip, Peter said with relief, “At least you did something right. You didn’t happen to find anything useful while you polished off your ‘adult beverage’, did you?”

With a wave of his hands, and a not-so-subtle dig into his pocket, Mr. Black withdrew a can opener. “Ta da!” he said with a wide grin. “Oh, that is helpful,” Peter admitted with no small degree of surprise, “I hadn’t thought about that. Did you get anything else?” From his other pocket, Leland retrieved a small, black figurine from the chess set – one of the knight’s to be exact – and handed it to the boy.

Peter looked up at his inebriated companion and asked, “What’s this for?” Erasing that signature devilish grin from his face, Mr. Black placed a hand on Peter’s shoulder. “It’s for you,” he said with a level of sincerity Peter never could have expected from the perpetual prankster. “I don’t understand,” the child replied.

“Think of it as a memento – something to remember this place by. The road ahead is going to be long and filled with pain; I won’t lie to you about that. I know you’re going to do a lot of thinking about what was and what could have been. I know you’re going to think about this time; you’re going to think about Carolyn – sweet, crazy, loving, suffering, intellectual Carolyn – just like you think about your own parents. I know you wish you had something of theirs to remember them by, but at least now you can have something to remember her by. Go on, take it.”

Peter took the figurine from Leland’s hand and examined every intricacy of it. Gritting his teeth, Peter fought back the tears welling up behind his eyes. He didn’t want to appear weak in front of his new friend but he also didn’t want to appear ungrateful. “Thank you,” he barely managed to squeak out.

“Don’t mention it, Pete,” Mr. Black said cheerfully as he ruffled the youngster’s hair. After leaping down the porch steps, Black called back to Peter, “C’mon, let’s get a move on. We’ve got places to go; people to see.” Peter smiled, gathered up his belongings, and hurried to catch up with Mr. Black. Then, it dawned on him.

“Hey!” Peter yelled, “You’re not drunk!” “Correction,” Black turned back and said with a smirk, “I’m not that drunk.”

Gallivanting off down this lonely, moon lit road, the duo marched towards an uncertain future. Behind them, Gary and Carolyn rested comfortably in their quaint farmland home, completely unaware that their special little house guest had abandoned them in favor of the cold, gritty reality of independence. Without breaking stride, Peter looked back in quiet contemplation of the sorrow they – or at least she – would endure in the coming days once they realized Jake was gone. “It’s better this way,” he told himself repeatedly. While that may have been enough to keep him going, he knew he was leaving behind more than just Carolyn – he was also leaving a part of himself.


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My Friend of Missouri
 Post subject: Re: Eyes of Fire (more relevant title!) **updated 7/28**
PostPosted: Mon Jul 28, 2014 7:15 pm GMT 
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Joined: Tue Mar 11, 2014 6:39 pm GMT
Posts: 207
Location: St. Charles
Custom Title: My Friend of Missouri
Author's note: First off, if you've made it this far, thank you. This is, by far, the longest running story I've ever written and it has been rewarding in its own right. I should probably also mention that I haven't done much in the way of creative writing, but by now that is likely evident. With that in mind, I'd welcome any criticism in regards to readability or even story development. One cannot learn from mistakes if one does not know mistakes were made.


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My Friend of Missouri
 Post subject: Re: Eyes of Fire (more relevant title!) **updated 8/30**
PostPosted: Sat Aug 30, 2014 5:44 pm GMT 
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Joined: Tue Mar 11, 2014 6:39 pm GMT
Posts: 207
Location: St. Charles
Custom Title: My Friend of Missouri
I've added three more chapters, but for several reasons I have opted to discontinue posting my writing here directly. All previous and subsequent work will now be included under my deviantArt account. If you've been following Peter's progress then you can continue to do so with the links I have provided below.

Also, if anyone knows of a quality (and preferably free) creative writing website, please drop me a PM or a reply. I really am trying to get better.

Chapter 11: Pandora's Boxcar
Chapter 12: We Three Kings
Chapter 13: Master & Apprentice


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My Friend of Missouri
 Post subject: Re: Eyes of Fire **updated 10/5**
PostPosted: Sun Oct 05, 2014 8:27 pm GMT 
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Location: St. Charles
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Cleaned up the first four chapters. The formatting was atrocious and I was mixing present and past tense. Yuck.

Also, new chapters. Very excited about these, but very messy.

Chapter 14: Off the Rails
Chapter 15: Every King Needs a Crown


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