Beneath the Gleam (official)

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Beneath the Gleam (official)
1
Chapter 1
Pythia
“Why do I remember a time when you told me you’d rather become a hetaira over
having children?” Corydon Eliopoulos joked to his wife of one year and eight months,
Ariadne, as she presented herself as overwhelmingly distracted with something
completely not him.
Ariadne chuckled. “I did tell you that, didn’t I?” She looked down at the bundle in
her arms. “Well, being an educated prostitute still sounds like fun.”
Corydon gave a weak smile and broke a glance from the ever-growing grey as the
stormy skies mixed with the asphalt as he drove. “You do realize that you actually told
my entire family that you would’ve made it your goal to be one if you were ever an
Ancient Greek?”
She nodded. “Of course I realize that! Don’t worry, Cor. I’m totally in with the
mainland Greek terms and occupations. But uh, let’s admit it, being the Oracle of Delphi
would be pretty beast too.”
Corydon smirked. “And have to be a virgin for the rest of your life?”
Ariadne made a face. “Fuck that. Yeah, I’m sticking to my prostitute job.” She
looked down at the newest addition to her world, bundled up in a light blue blanket and a
white and onesie with matching hat in the image of a puppy. She nuzzled his forehead.
“Besides, if I were the Oracle of Delphi, this little angel wouldn’t have been born.”
Teo Xenophon Eliopoulos had been alive for all of thirty-six hours, since six am
of morning of September 1st. Without any complications and the superstition of the
couple and staying in a hospital too long, they’d gotten out with the minimum sentence.
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Although they’d gotten to know their boy pretty well in his first day of life, holding him
outside of the confines of the hospital was making him more and more real by the second.
Corydon smiled. “Well, I suppose I’d rather you be a hetaira too. How’s he
doing?”
Ariadne pulled the cap off his head, revealing his tuft of dark brown hair, the
same color as his dad. “Sleeping. I never thought he would be so chill.”
“Don’t you worry, once he’s old enough he’ll be the spazzy child running around
the house in Batman capes like you want.”
With her index finger, she stroked his arm and gently nudged it into his
outstretched hand, his little fingers clasping around it. “Can you believe it, Cor? We
created this little life right here. Thirty-six hours ago, he wasn’t on this earth and now he
is. He went from a fetus to a living, breathing human in a matter of seconds. After nine
months of waiting, we finally have the God’s gift.” She kissed him. “Teo. You truly are
God’s divine gift.” She leaned into her seat and watched him stir, but soon fall back into
a peaceful slumber. Out of instinct, she went to look at her husband.
She bit her lip; as opposed to his usual contemplative, serene expression, there
was a tiny crease between his brows and a firm line in his lips.
“Cor, what’s wrong?” she asked automatically.
He sighed. “I’m just frustrated that he wasn’t there—”
She patted his shoulder with her free hand. “Cor, I can assure you that Jesus was
there with me while I gave birth.”
“No, not Jesus!”
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Ariadne’s blue-grey eyes brightened. “Ooh, twenty questions! Was it a divine
figure?”
Corydon rolled his eyes; he was not in the mood to play, but his wife had just
gone through childbirth and deserved some slack. “Not divine.”
“So that eliminates Jesus, God, and the Greek gods. Hmm, was it Pericles?”
He gave her a look. “There were no Ancient Greek heroes.”
“AD or BC?”
“AD.”
“American?”
“Greek.”
“Metaxas.”
“He’s not a government official.”
“Pythia.”
Corydon stared at her. “I said this person was of the AD.”
“Pythia was last recorded in 393 AD.”
He rolled his eyes. “Well it wasn’t Pythia. You have sixteen left.”
“Is this person part of our circle of Greek kin?” He nodded. “Hector.”
“No, not your brother.”
She looked out the window for inspiration. “Philander Venardos.”
“Not your grandfather…”
“Margaret Thatcher.”
“What?”
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She stuck her tongue out in concentration. “Is this Greek kin of the AD a member
of your family?”
“Yes.”
She snapped. “It’s Nyx! It’s always Nyx!”
Corydon huffed. “Ariadne, it’s Babas. Every single one of my family members
can somehow lug themselves out here for Teo’s birth, but he can’t. Mana flew from
Peterborough on a red eye in order to watch Teo be born. My son is the only grandbaby
that’s going to carry on the Eliopoulos name which he was so concerned about and he
can’t even get off his ass to come see him. It’s a low blow, Ari.”
She gave her husband a supportive look. “Baby, you gotta understand that he’s
older. It’s harder for him to—”
“He lives in Vancouver.”
Ariadne blinked. “Umm, love, I hardly can identify the states past California,
New York, and Alabama. I have no idea where Vancouver is.”
“It’s a two hour flight.”
There was a brief silence. “Cor, I know it hurts but—”
“How could he do this to me? Haven’t I shown him enough love over the years?
Can something as insignificant as religion really keep him from performing his duties as
my father? I just—Ari, I can’t stand that I can’t enjoy this magnificent blessing in our
lives because of this.”
She grabbed his hand. “I know you’re preoccupied, but when you get to a
stoplight, I want you to look over at me and Teo. And, for a few moments, I want you to
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think about what’s really important right now. Is it your dickwad father or is it your wife
and baby boy?”
A few moments of silence passed. “I love you, Ariadne.”
She smiled, leaned over, and kissed him on the cheek. “What should be the first
song I sing for him? I feel like it’s really important.”
“Whatever you feel is fitting, despite the fact that you’ve been singing to him
since he was in the womb.”
“The trouble with schools is they always try to teach the wrong lessons. Believe
me, I've been kicked out of enough of them to know. They want you to become less callow,
less shallow but I say, ‘Why invite stress in?’ Stop studying strife and learn to life the
unexamined life.” Corydon laughed under his breath. “Dancing through life, skimming
the surface, gliding where turf is smooth. Dancing through life, no need to tough it when
you can sluff it off as I do. Nothing matters, but knowing nothing matters… It's just life,
so keep dancing through...” When Ariadne looked over at Corydon, he was smiling
again. “Dancing through life, swaying and sweeping and always keeping cool. Dancing
through life, mindless and careless, make sure you wear less trouble in life. Woes are
fleeting, blows are glancing when you're dancing through life...” She kissed him on the
forehead. “You’ll dance through life, won’t you?”
Corydon shook his head. “You still high off the epidural?”
She punched his arm. “I’m hormonally imbalanced. Hey love, you gonna call
Bishop Jerome?”
Corydon shrugged. “I might.”
“Aw come on, Cor! It means more to you that Teo’s baptized by him than me.”
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“I just—I don’t know, Ari. Ever since Cecil killed himself, I almost feel shameful
seeing him. He’s the one who told me that I could save his soul.”
“Bishop Jerome doesn’t think of you because of that. Come on, you saw him
during my depression and he was just as proud of you as ever. Besides, as the guy who
actually told you to go after me, I think he’d like seeing what God gave us, don’t you?”
He nodded, and, after a few seconds of hesitation, Ariadne gave a fake gasp. “You
don’t—well, think Teo isn’t worthy of meeting him, do you?”
Corydon found himself taking her seriously. “No, no, goodness no! It’s just—I
guess I’m just—I’ll go call him.”
Ariadne smiled. “Sure, as soon as you pull into the garage.”
*
*
*
“When you see my face, hope it gives you hell, hope it gives you hell. When you
walk my way, hope it gives you hell, hope it gives you hell.”
Rose Crowe and Sven Evans exchanged the third strained glance since Sven had
jumped into his ex-girlfriend’s car about five minutes before. Once the glance ended in
both of them blushing and looking other ways, Sven glanced at his watch. The car ride
home from Cedar Sinai Hospital would take at least another half hour. Now, he could
handle the few hours he was with Rose back in the hospital, but mostly because there
were distractions: the bustling halls, the frantic faces, and his newest cousin.
“So are you excited to have a new cousin?” Rose asked in a vain attempt to cover
the tension filled air with conversation, braiding her fingers into her blonde hair, dyed
back to its natural color for the start of senior year.
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Sven clasped his hands. “Yeah, I guess. I mean, it’s cool that Aunt Ariadne and
Uncle Corydon have a kid and all and since I’m his godfather I guess that helps…” He
hated how he couldn’t make casual conversation with Rose, even though they’d moved to
the friend zone ten months before. The bouts of awkward just came randomly: one day
he’d be able to talk up a storm with Rose and others were like this.
“Now where’s your picket fence, love? Where’s that shiny car? And did it ever get
you far? You never seemed so tense, love. I’ve never seen you fall so hard. Do you know
where you are?”
Rose forced a smile. “Well, I think he’s adorable. Looks a lot like Corydon,
doesn’t he?”
Sven chuckled. “Surprised Aunt A doesn’t want a refund.”
Rose cracked an actual grin. “I think she was a bit too overwhelmingly happy for
a refund. Teo Eliopoulos. Nice of them to actually give him a name he won’t kill them
for writing on his school papers.”
Sven nodded. “Yeah, I would’ve felt bad if they’d given him Xenophon. Well,
first, no one can freaking pronounce Xenophon for their lives. Second, that name with
Eliopoulos is like twenty-five letters. At that point, I’d just write X.E. on everything.”
“Yeah, thank God for short names, eh?”
Sven grabbed his iPod and put it on shuffle, leaving a song that graciously began
with the f-bomb proclaimed twice within the first thirty seconds.
“Can you believe we’re gonna be seniors in a few days?” Sven mused.
“I can’t take you seriously with Tenacious D in the background.”
Sven looked down at his iPod and flipped the song again.
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“No, I don't hate you, don't want to fight you. You know I'll always love you but
right now I just don't like you. No, I don't hate you, don't want to fight you. You know I'll
always love you but right now I just don't like you 'cause you took this too far.”
Both of them internally cringed.
“So, uh, senior year?” Sven picked back up.
“Yeah, anyway, I’m really excited. I mean, I feel like I have a purpose in life with
this school admin path.”
“Glad to hear.” He paused. “What classes are you taking?”
“English 12, Contemporary World History, Calculus AB, AP biology, and uh,
studio art. You?”
“English 12, AP Economics, Calc AB, AP chemistry, and Spanish IV.”
Both tried to remember if they shared any classes. “Do we…uh…?”
“I have English 12 F block.”
“Same.”
“With Mr. Barns and Aunt A once she’s off maternity?” She nodded. “Just like
middle school, eh? Neither of us can ever identify which classes we have together.”
Rose smiled. “That’s us, the two oblivious ones. Is the guy who teaches econ right
or left?”
“He’s neutral, but what I know is that Sidney Yenar is conservative but quiet and
that everyone else is liberal. I’m hoping they fail the class.”
Rose laughed. “Just as nice as ever.”
“Why you taking AP bio?”
“It’s on the APES track plus Dr. Hunt is kind of a badass.”
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Sven nodded. “He did show us Osmosis Jones while learning about the immune
system…”
“I tried to move you, but you just wouldn’t budge. I tried to hold your hand but
you’d rather hold your grudge.”
“Hey, isn’t senior year the year where we go into those summer trip support
groups?”
Sven laughed. “Yeah. Oh man, as if Mr. Barnett wasn’t awkward enough when
we had to answer gender questions. Can you imagine him digging deep into our hearts
and souls?”
“You do have a soul, don’t you Lawrence?”
Sven grinned like a little boy. “Make your wildest dreams come true. I’ve got
voodoo I’ve got hoodoo I’ve got things I ain’t even tried.”
“And I’ve got friends on the other side.”
The two exchanged a fist bump. “Oh Disney…”
“So uh, you’re okay with staying in the guest room, right?”
Sven nodded. “No, I was expecting to sleep in a tent in the backyard, y’know…”
“Hey, be thankful that my dad’s even letting you stay with us.”
“Well, as long as we’re not dating, I don’t see any problems.”
Just like that, silence enveloped the room.
“What happened to us? I heard that it's me we should blame. What happened to
us? Why didn't you stop me from turning out this way? And know that I don't hate you
and know that I don't want to fight you and know that I'll always love you, but right now I
just don't...”
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Rose stifled a cough. “Yeah, well, so Dad’s got no excuses to make us not stay up
all night playing video games.”
Sven nodded. “How is your dad?”
Rose shrugged. “Good.”
Another half hour later, and the teens were opening the door to Rose’s house.
Almost immediately, they found Rose’s father, Logan Crowe, sitting in the kitchen as he
read the newspaper.
“How’s it kickin, Mr. C?” Sven asked as he slid into a chair next to him.
Crowe rolled his eyes. “It’s going fine, Sven. How’s Ariadne and the baby?”
“Aww, no concerns for me?”
Crowe closed the newspaper and removed his reading glasses. “Not particularly.
No broken bones, no internal bleeding.”
Once Crowe grabbed the newspaper again, Sven sighed. “Aunt Ariadne’s doing
fine and Teo’s healthy.”
“That’s good. How’s the couple adjusting?”
Sven shrugged. “They’re driving home today.”
Crowe glanced at him. “I suppose you’re going to ask me if you can stay over?”
“Mmhmmm.”
Crowe put the paper down and stared at the wall. “You and Rose aren’t dating
anymore, are ya?” They shook their heads. “So long as you’re in the guest room by
midnight, I’m fine with it.” He went back to the paper. “Oh, and providing dinner tonight
will get you bathroom privileges.”
“Bathroom privileges? So you’re saying I can’t use them right now?”
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“Nope.”
Sven and Rose exchanged a glance. “Fine, I’ll make dinner.”
“Wise choice.”
Feeling no more desire to have idle conversation with Mr. Crowe, Sven pushed
Rose toward her room, where he took his place on the foot of her bed, facing her
computer.
“Hey, do you have a DVD of those deleted scenes from the Paris trip?” he asked.
She nodded. “Normal ones or the dirty unedited edition?”
Sven grinned. “The latter.”
Rose felt Sven’s smile fly onto her face as she popped the DVD into her computer
and selected the section he requested.
“Well, most of them are dirty. Some are just funny,” Rose clarified in the seconds
before it started rolling.
The text ARIADNE’S GHOST STORIES faded in and out of the scene before it cut to
all eight of the Paris trip freshmen and Ariadne huddled together, the hum of Ghost
Adventures playing in the background.
“You know, the last guy who owned this apartment set himself on fire and died,”
Ariadne said.
Bella, the only one who was truly spooked by the show, screamed, causing
everyone to laugh. Once everyone calmed down, Devon turned to his former English
teacher. “Really?”
Ariadne shrugged. “I don’t know. Well, I do, but trust me, the screams from
around here didn’t come from ghosts.”
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Ariadne winked, causing the kids to giggle. Marissa, the devout Catholic therefore
skeptic of the group, spoke up. “What do you even know about ghosts?”
The scene cut to a series of short clips, all in the living room of Crowe’s
apartment that he rented out for the trip.
“So years ago my boyfriend and I went to this place called Bobby Mackey’s Music
World. Oh shit y’all, it was ridiculous! We apparently got so infested with demonic
attachments that I had to have an exorcism with my priest when I got home.”
“With your hot priest?” Devon asked, waggling his eyebrows.
“Yeah.”
Devon smirked. “Ooh, kinky. Did he give you a holy water bath?”
Ariadne smiled. “C’mere Devon. I’ll give you…each and every detail of what he
did to me.” Devon proceeded to come close enough for Ariadne to be able to whisper in
his ear as she reached her hand out. Once it was mere millimeters from his chest, she
whipped it away, grabbed a glass of water sitting on the coffee table, and poured it on his
head. “Yeah, he literally poured holy water on my head. If it burned, then the demon was
gone. It burned.”
The scene changed from day to night.
“I got raped by a ghost one time. So my boyfriend and I were in some abandoned
prison and he decides to strap a recorder to my chest and tells the spirits to do whatever
the hell they wanted to me. So all of the sudden I start feeling shit in places that were so
not normally being felt up and cut off by laughing,” she was getting a laugh from her
audience, “no and then two years later when I had my cherry popped, there wasn’t any
blood!”
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“How does that prove anything? You could’ve been a naughty girl—” Jasper
Barnett, Ariadne’s fellow chaperone, pointed out.
“Are you implying that I masturbated as a child?”
“That or with the amount of times you got thrown over that fence in Sloss—”
“So now you think I was stupid enough to straddle a barbed wire fence?!”
“Well you are dumb enough for that…”
“You know what, Jasper? How about we throw you in there for a while? We can
take away your fucking virginity!”
Finn suddenly spazzed out. “You lost your virginity to a ghost?!”
The scene changed once more.
“You know, when my grandfather died, I had Greek words pushed into my head. I
was ten. That shit’s just insane. And then, when Zane and I went to Greece, I swear I saw
ten doppelgangers of my grandfather as a young man. It was so fucked up. I hate this
shit. Why am I the only member of my family with paranormal experiences? I mean, they
all believe in the afterlife, but they also all think I’m batshit insane.”
“Ariadne, you are batshit insane.”
One last scene change occurred.
“Didn’t Corydon give me an exorcism on Christmas?” Sven asked his aunt.
“I DON’T KNOW.”
Everyone looked to Sven. “Is she drunk?”
Barnett snorted. “No, and that’s the sad part.”
By the time the clips stopped, neither of them could stop their laughter. Rose put a
hand on Sven’s shoulder.
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“I swear to God, your aunt is one of the funniest people on earth.”
Sven blushed, unsure if it was from her touch or comment. “Agreed.” He faked a
sob. “If only I was that funny.”
She smiled. “Sven, you are funny, but you also have a slight filter on the crap you
say.”
A wicked idea suddenly occurred to Sven. “Wanna give your dad a curveball?”
Ordinarily, Rose would’ve politely declined. However, something sounded rather
interesting about Sven’s little idea, plus she still felt guilty about breaking up with him.
So come dinnertime, Sven and Rose went nearly skipping into the kitchen. Sven
unlocked their arms and went over to nudge Crowe.
“Guess what, Mr. Crowe?”
Crowe was no more amused than that morning. “What?”
“How much do you care about the environment?”
He raised an eyebrow. “Minimal.”
“Did you know that it’s really easy to save water?”
“How?”
“Showering together!” Sven moved to put his arm around Rose.
Crowe put down what he was working on just so he could get a good look at his
daughter and her friend. “I don’t know why I thought this, but I could’ve sworn that
friends don’t shower together. But, hey, I’m getting older. Maybe it’s out of my time.”
Sven grinned. “So that means I can shower with her?”
Crowe bit his lip. “Y’see, if you ask me that in a month, I’ll have no choice but to
allow it. But, alas, since Rosie still has another month under my jurisdiction and I cannot
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say I approve of friends with compatible parts in a small room nekked, I’m gonna have to
say no.”
Sven frowned. “You’ve gotten way more snarky, Mr. Crowe.”
“The proper word would be sardonic. You can check with your aunt on that one.
And uh, it’s snarkier.”
“Well aren’t you just a meanie tonight?”
He smiled. “Anything for you, Mr. Evans.” In fake indignation, Sven put his arm
around Rose, pivoted, and started walking back toward Rose’s bedroom. Crowe smirked.
“Going on a hunger strike, kids?”
Awkwardly, Sven let Rose go and turned back to Crowe, not really able to hide
his blush.
*
*
*
The evening passed in relative peace, leaving Crowe to retreat upstairs around
eight to check his email and watch whatever crime drama show was on TV that night. His
dull gaze suddenly lit up as he saw an email from someone whom he hadn’t talked to in
what felt like years.
Logan,
Okay, so I know this is kind of random, but I need to go over some logistics with
you. I’m pretty sure you told me a while ago that you wanted to act as a normal citizen,
so I was looking over your immunity terms and the record sweep I performed for you.
For the most part, everything was in line. However, there are a few holes in both terms
that might get you into trouble if Interpol sniffs out some suspicious behavior (haha aka
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you burning down an infamous Paris nightclub). Look, you don’t need to worry about all
this, but you have to contact me.
Let me repeat this because I’m sure you’re going to read this once before going to
bed after having a bottle of wine.
YOU. NEED. TO. CONTACT. ME.
Sincerely Yours,
Erin
Crowe mentally noted to get back to her. He yawned. Tomorrow.
17
Chapter 2
Mix N Match
(Six Months Later)
Just one last time, he looked back to the caretaker who had given him the okay.
He knew that the cemetery he stood in was reputable, and it made him wonder if he were
being tricked, that as soon as he started his task that he’d be taken away. Just one more
glance…
He looked back over his shoulder and was met by kind eyes. Abandoning any
further questions, he began throwing single roses next to the hundreds of headstones
around him, searching name after name for his real target.
Somehow, he managed to find it within the first ten minutes of throwing flowers.
He knelt down and read the inscription on the headstone, every word hitting him as if the
wound was fresh. Setting the bouquets of flowers down by another grave, he pulled out a
shovel, stuck it on the floor, and removed the strip of grass they’d planted over the six
feet where he’d find the coffin.
One last glance to find that the caretaker had gone inside, possibly old age
causing him to forget that he hadn’t checked the area for any wandering night owls.
Finally, he allowed his tense shoulders to shrug as he picked up the shovel and began
tearing at the ground.
As the hours passed, he began to form a rhythm in the backbreaking work, work
he hadn’t even realized when he promised himself a three-hour operation. It had already
been four, and he hadn’t even gotten to the body yet. Somehow, images of the book
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Holes he’d read with his nephew years back came to his head. It made it just a little bit
more fun to think that he was looking for treasure, but no imagination was large enough
to shake the shudders running through his body as reality dawned on him.
By 4:48 am, he had the coffin in his sight. Moving to the bottom of the coffin, he
searched for the lock. Using his shovel to bust it open, he strained his sore and throbbing
muscles to open the lid.
He sighed when he saw the body. Painful memories threatened to burst through
the dam he’d built up for them. He shook his head and pulled out his camera, snapping
photos of the corpse. He bit his lip. He hated the story that had been told regarding the
death. There had to be some lie to it.
Gently, he rotated the corpse so it was on its side.
A smile spread across his dirt-brushed face.
Right on the sweet spot of the back was a gaping gunshot wound. A fatal one.
He snapped a picture.
*
*
*
Come Tuesday at 8:45, and Ariadne was back at work. She never thought she’d
miss being able to treat each day as if it were the weekend without having to grade, but
she was honestly excited to be back teaching in a place where boredom virtually never
existed. She’d already gone back to teach her one freshman class the day before, but
Tuesday was a particular circled date.
For the first time in ten years, they’d allowed her to teach a senior class. In other
words, she was finally the mystical instructor of two of her favorite books: A Clockwork
Orange and The Picture of Dorian Gray.
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When she got a look at one of her English 12, she was pretty pleased: Sven, Rose,
Finn Franco, Bella Ianov, and four of the strange cult of skater kids who either did drama,
wrote short plays, or were potheads.
“Alrighty, guys. I know what everyone’s thinking: we already applied to college
and are gonna get acceptance letter soon. Why the hell should we care about some
English class? Well, let me tell y’all that I feel for you. So, with that, I’m going to keep
this class at its basis goal of getting y’all to read, but I won’t bog y’all down with reading
quizzes and essays.” Most of the kids cheered, but Ariadne quickly shushed them. “But
here’s what we are going to do: we have two reading selections that we must get through
before this year ends. We’ll spend most of our time reading in class since they’re both
pretty short, but there will be lots of dissection as well.” She pulled out a bag of marbles
and a candy jar. “Since y’all are seniors, the most fun thing to do is treat y’all like
elementary kids. If we can fill this marble jar with marbles come essay time, I’ll change it
to a prompted creative writing piece worth the same amount of points. Now, why is this
good, Ms. E? Well, I’ll tell ya. First, this unit is focused on the fragility of the mind and
psychopathy. What’s that? Oh, that’s right! Y’all get to write me stories about killing
people and delusions. Second, it’s a lot easier to give you an F on essay because of rigid
structure, something that the art of creative writing doesn’t allow me. It’s very hard for
me to give a story an F unless you write it in chatspeak.” She set the jar down. “Now
before we start today’s lesson, does anyone have any questions?”
Bella raised her hand. “How do we fill the marble jar and/or can you take marbles
away?”
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“You fill it by being good children such as leading good class discussions or
bringing in a video of something cool to show your engagement with the topic. Will I
take marbles away? As much as I’d love to mess with y’all, I’m gonna say no unless
someone just drops an epic fail.”
The girl of the drama/skater group, Megan, raised her hand. “How disturbing are
these books?”
Ariadne shrugged. “Dorian Gray isn’t bad. Now, Clockwork Orange does have its
graphic moments. I’ve gone through the whole book and picked and chosen pieces that
aren’t too bad, informed the parents, and as of now, they say it’s up to the individual.
We’re going to read the whole book, but if anyone feels really uncomfortable, we’ll
assign that as out of class reading and I’ll tell you what happens so you’ll be up to speed
for discussion.”
“What kind of graphic is it?”
“Sex, rape, and violence mostly. Like I said, if something’s too strong, you can
opt out. What book did the department get for the last few months?”
“Lord of the Flies and Dracula.”
Ariadne blinked. “Sometimes I just look at our reading list and go ‘what the fuck
was the English department thinking?’ and then I realize that I designed the curriculum.”
Three of the four skater kids’ eyes widened, having never had Ariadne before.
“You did?”
She nodded. “Why do you think y’all don’t read boring ass books?” One of them
opened his mouth. “Don’t you dare diss Last of the Mohicans. Magua ripped Colonel
Munro’s heart out. Hell, his name is Magua!” She shook her head and clapped her hands
21
together. “Now, did anyone find evidence to my claim of fragility of the human mind and
murder?”
Finn raised his hand. “Do you mean like when Roger kills Piggy type mental
fragility?”
“Precisely.”
The whole class managed a unanimous. “Piggy, no!”
Ariadne rolled her eyes. “Yes, I know. Piggy died.”
“He had a freaking boulder thrown at his head!” Levi, the only member of the
skater group who had Ariadne, protested.
“Yeah, and Alex rapes little girls. Oops, spoiler alert.”
“Ms. Evans!” the class complained.
She gave a dismissive wave. “As if you didn’t see it coming. Now, we have—”
Right on cue, Corydon came walking into the classroom with a paper bag and
stack of papers.
“Hey love, so I was getting ready for work,” he was trailing his pharmacist lab
coat on his shoulder, “and I noticed that you left the niners’ essays on my nightstand. So,
I don’t know, I guess I figured that all this was you trying to tell me something. And, then
I realized that it’s our twenty-five month anniversary so I kind of bought you cookies.”
He handed her the stuff. “Aww, thanks Cor. You know you’re the best.” She
glanced around the room before sneaking a kiss on the cheek. “How’s Teo?”
He laughed. “Just as good as he was two hours ago.”
“Hey Uncle C, did you get me cookies too?” Sven asked.
22
Corydon turned to him, stared, and took out his phone. “Anoche, Ari me dijo que
nosotros no vamos a…chingar…nos si tú no puedes hablar en español por eso…”
The kids who spoke Spanish laughed at the comment while Sven still managed to
stare blankly. Ariadne couldn’t keep her smile at bay. “Muy bueno, mi amore,” she said,
pronouncing bueno as boo-en-yo. “Thélete na skatá metá to deípno?”
Corydon smirked. “Fysiká.”
With that, Corydon left, leaving Bella to glare at her teacher. “You said
romanticism was a lie!”
Ariadne barely kept a straight face. “That wasn’t romanticism. That was
manipulation of the man in a stable relationship through sexual needs. How else do you
think women had power in misogynist societies? Guys will do anything for some action. I
mean, how do you think Jocasta got Oedipus to go to his room after fighting with Creon?
Oh right, he uh, had his ‘lusty voyage home to the fatal harbor’ a.k.a. he got weird with
his mom’s vagina…and that still creeps me out.” There was a prolonged silence as the
three kids who hadn’t had her stared. “Okay, for the three who’re out of the loop, just
know that I say crazy shit, I’m extremely proud of my Greek heritage, I’m from
Alabama, my childhood scarred me for life, and everyone at this school thinks I have a
second life as a prostitute.”
She waited until the chatter died down. “Now, I’m going to assign our first project
today. Everyone is going to be split up into pairs that I made using the best of my own
intuitive abilities and since we’ll have four groups of two, you’ll each be assigned four
traits of the psychopath based on Checkley’s 16-item checklist. Let’s just make this easy:
Rose and Finn are gonna tackle superficial charm and intelligence, absence of delusions,
23
absence of anxiety, and unreliability. Sven, Bella, you’ve got insincerity, antisocial
behavior, no motivation, poor judgment. Levi, Megan, you’ve got pathological
narcissism, lack of deep emotions, lack of insight, and ingratitude. Wes and Ozzy, you’ve
got fantastical and objectionable behavior e.g. drinking, vulgarity, mood shifts, no history
of suicide, impersonal sex life, and failure to have a life plan. Basically, go out and
research this and tell me how it applies to the psychopath and give me at least one damn
awesome citation. It’s an oral report and feel free to make it a PowerPoint if you feel a
need to do so. Alright, go get going, kids. You’ve got the rest of the period to start the
assignment which is due at the end of the week.”
Sven didn’t know how it happened, but he suddenly felt like gravity turned on
double and he was fighting to keep himself from being pinned to the ground. What the
hell was wrong with his aunt? Why hadn’t she paired him and Rose up? They’d been
unwritten partners since sophomore year. Before he got a chance to give his aunt the evil
eye, Bella came sliding in.
“So we have insincerity, antisocial behavior, no motivation and poor judgment.
Funny how that sounds exactly like Dylan.” Bella and Dylan had been on again and off
again ever since Bella slept with Dorian sophomore year. It was that moment that Sven
realized that they were off. Sven nodded and wrote down the four traits on a piece of
paper. “You still love her, don’t you?”
Sven shot up from his writing. “What?”
“You and Rose. You still really like her.”
Sven’s gaze slowly fell to Rose and Finn as they worked. “I just feel like she’s
denying what we had.”
24
“You know, seeing how Dyl and I have been…let me just tell you something
from someone who believed that I was going to marry my high school sweetheart: once
you break up once, your relationship will never be the same again. Save yourself the
heartbreak and wait for someone who won’t break up with you.”
He raised an eyebrow at her. “Are you moving on?”
She bit her lip. “I want to.” She paused. “But sometimes I just feel like I’ll never
be able to look over the way his blue eyes shined when he held me in his arms as we lay
on his roof on the strand, the beach to our left and the stars above us.” She pushed a piece
of hair out of her face. “So uh, when do you wanna work on the project?”
“How about we get it all done in one shot tomorrow morning?” Bella nodded.
“So what sort of cute things did you and Rose used to do?”
Sven hesitated. “I used to sing to her and we’d watching old cartoons together. I
dunno. We drove a lot together.” Oh, how he wanted to tell her about all the times they’d
risked their lives together, about how they got to live out a teen’s action fantasy together.
Bella nodded, still wearing that straight face. “How far did you two get?”
Sven instantly felt uncomfortable. “How far did you and Dylan get?”
“Shit!” Everyone automatically turned toward their teacher, who was inspecting
her essays. “I wrote the comments in Greek!”
Sven smirked. “It’s about Oedipus, isn’t it?”
Ariadne blinked. “Authenticity! Yes, good job, Sven. Ten points for Gryffindor.”
“No way, I’m Ravenclaw!”
25
Ariadne and the class returned to their work, leaving Bella to give her answer. She
blushed. “All the way.” Her blushed slowly crept away, leaving her with a quizzical
expression.
Sven knew that no matter how disappointed and angry he was at Rose for having
ended their relationship, he would never become a gossip. “So um, insincerity. Would
that mean like not having real emotions?”
When Sven looked back at his aunt, she smirked at him. For the first time since he
was a child, he couldn’t interpret her smirk for the life of him.
*
*
*
Finn and Rose decided to work on the project that day after school. At Finn’s
request, they ended up at Rose’s house.
“Hey Mr. Crowe,” Finn greeted Crowe as they set their bags on the counter.
“Hey Finn, haven’t seen you around in quite some time.”
Finn chuckled. “Yeah, it’s been almost ten years I’d say. The last time I
remember being here was in third grade.”
Crowe smiled. “Please disregard everything I told you as a kid.”
“Oh no, that was in middle school. Or, I dunno, end of fifth grade or something.
Don’t worry, I permanently stuck it in my mind so whenever I think of you, I think of
that.” He looked down and nearly fell, not expecting a fox to be scratching at his pant leg.
“Holy hell, is that a fox?”
The Crowes nodded. “His name’s Demetri.”
Finn shook his head. “I swear, everyone in the Hills Section is freaky.”
Crowe gave him a look. “Don’t you live in the Hills Section?”
26
“Well yeah, I have a pet snake, but I think you two beat me out.” He paused. “By
the way, I never formally got to give my condolences for Mrs. Crowe.”
Crowe nodded. “It’s alright, Finn. Hey, didn’t you and Rose go to Paris
together?”
Finn playfully put his arm around Rose. “Yupp, me and Rosie here, out against
the world of rude Frenchmen.”
“Did you learn a lot?”
“J'ai beaucoup appris, de façon surprenante.”
Crowe smiled. “Nice. Well, I have some work to do. It’s a beautiful day, I’d work
outside if were you.”
Following Crowe’s suggestion, the two went out and sat by the pool. As Rose
pulled out Finn’s laptop, he gaped at the sight.
“I know I live in this section too, but your house is amazing.”
Rose laughed. “It’s not that great.”
“You have a zipline.”
“Which I’m not even sure works.”
“Can I try it out?”
“If you want to go flying into the ice cold pool, be my guest.”
That hadn’t occurred to Finn. “Okay, you win. What have we got again?”
“Superficial charm and intelligence, absence of delusions, absence of anxiety, and
unreliability.”
“So…like the Joker?”
27
Rose smiled. “Yeah, like the Joker. But it’s the idea that you can’t really tell that
you’re hanging with a psychopath because they just have this magnetic personality, like a
predator attracting prey.” She paused. “Kind of like how girls tend to favor the villain
because he has this form of attractiveness to him. Psychopaths have that.”
Finn nodded. “Do you like charming evil men?”
Rose laughed. “Um, I don’t know about the evil part…”
“As I search absence of delusions, humor me, Rosie. How’s life been?”
Rose looked out at her backyard. “It’s been good, I guess. I dunno. Applied to
college, gonna get some acceptances I hope. I want to become someone in education
administration when I’m older.”
“Cool. I wanna be some kind of a detective. What colleges did you apply to?”
She shrugged. “I was told to just go for a basic match for undergrad then go big
for post graduate. I mean, I applied to a few UCs, a few CSUs, USC although I’m sure
I’m not getting in, a few out of state.”
“Which UCs?”
“UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara…”
“I applied to UC Davis too! Personally, I just wanna try out a bigger college. You
know, just to get a feel for it. I kind of like being anonymous.”
Rose nodded. “For now, anyway.”
“Why aren’t you setting your goals higher?” He paused. “Mind you not me
asking.”
“It’s no big deal. I just kind of don’t have an edge to me besides my grades.”
“What about your film?”
28
“My short films…well, I kind of lost one of my best films and the others aren’t up
to par. Besides, with the career path I’m on, it doesn’t matter that much. Eh, I’m content
enough. How did you decide that you were gonna be a detective?”
He smiled. “My grandpa was a police officer back in the day. And, well, I’ve
always loved every police TV show, movie, and book.”
“You know my dad used to work for Interpol, right?”
Finn’s eyes brightened. “Seriously? That’s so insane! What did he do?”
“I think he was part time undercover with the criminals and other times he and my
mom traveled around pursuing them. It was really cool, according to them.”
“Why’d your dad retire so young?”
“When Mom died…”
“Oh. Right.”
“I seriously am bummed about that. Your mom was a great person.” He stifled a
laugh. “You remember when she made me call you pretty in middle school?”
“Don’t remind me.”
When Rose looked over at him, he was smiling. “You know I meant that. You
were pretty. Well, you still are pretty…”
“I get it. Thanks.” She lightly pushed him. “You’re pretty handsome yourself.”
She pulled out her paper once more. “So anyway, what was that thing about lack of
motivation?”
“If that’s what constitutes a psychopath, does that make Dylan a psychopath?”
Rose laughed. “I never got why you two were friends.”
29
Finn shrugged. “We’ve just been friends since forever and being friends with him
kept people wanting to hang with me. I know that’s stupid and stereotypical, but it really
was the only way I felt was to make friends. Middle school sucked.”
Rose nodded. “Definitely. Hey, you’ve had a girlfriend before, haven’t you?”
“Aww, doubting my abilities?”
“No, no, it’s just—”
“I’m kidding. Yeah, I dated Nina Simpson summer before freshman year but
otherwise I’m pretty content with being single.” Something occurred to Rose, making her
laugh. “What?”
“Nothing.”
He suddenly became concerned. “What?! Seriously!”
“I shouldn’t tell you.”
“No, you really should tell me.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes!”
“Over the Paris trip, Devon was convinced you were gay.”
For a moment, Finn was quiet. “Dammit, Ghanzi!”
Rose fell into a fit of laughter. “God, that along with the Slag quote were our trip
mottos.”
30
Chapter 3
Fever
“Ariadne, I have a task for you,” Dr. Zane Hunt, Ariadne’s office mate since her
first year at Tungsten, said as she walked into her office on Wednesday.
Ariadne grinned. “Do I get to dissect something?”
Zane looked around in a disconcerted fashion. “Err, no…”
Ariadne physically flung her and her chair from her spot to across the room so she
could be up close and personal with him. “What do you need me for?”
Zane adjusted his scarf. To that day, Ariadne couldn’t tell if he was gay or
metrosexual, and his scarves were a major topic of discussion while all the teachers were
stuck in school on the day after finals writing between twenty and sixty paragraph or
more long personal assessments of their students and everyone is completely and utterly
delirious. “Okay, so you know how I have my freshmen watch Osmosis Jones?” She
nodded. “Well, we’re a bit behind thanks to some geniuses.”
“I know! I was grading their Oedipus Rex essays and,” she made the gun sign
with her hand and shot herself in the mouth.
He smiled while trailing off. “Yeah, so anyway, I can’t decide if I have time to
show it or if I should just teach them myself about the immune system. So, what I need
you to do is after school or at lunch or something, I was wondering if you could watch
the movie and periodically tell me if you learn anything from it.”
Ariadne stared at him. “Why are you specifically asking me to do this?”
“Because I know you know the least science out of all of us.”
31
She made an insulted gasp. “Excuse me, but you made me sub for your
freshmen!”
“I said you’re the least knowledgeable about science. You happen to have a vast
knowledge about human sexual behavior.”
Elizabeth Wallis, the resident math teacher/squeamish quiet member of the office,
nearly choked on her coffee. “Did you just say that you had Ariadne teach a biology class
because she knew the most about sex?”
Zane shrugged. “It was during the sex ed unit. All she did was answer student
questions.”
“That alone is a terrifying thought.”
Ariadne quickly flashed her the bird. “I am able to be mature about sex, thank you
very much Wall-E.” She turned back to Zane. “So anyway, I’ll do it during lunch. What
room?”
“My lab.”
“Sounds good.”
Come lunch, and Ariadne was eagerly waiting for Zane to load the DVD into his
computer.
“Are you gonna watch?” she asked.
“Yeah, so I can know what you could answer.”
Ariadne nodded. “Um, should I be taking notes?”
“Thirty notes in full sentences.”
“Dammit, Zane! You didn’t say work was involved in this!”
He gave her a concerned glance. “I was kidding.”
32
About twenty minutes into the film, Zane stopped it. “So Ari, what did you pick
up?”
Her expression was that of an entranced delinquent, mouth slightly agape, eyes
wide and staring, her head resting on the desk. “Fever.”
Zane’s eyes brightened. “What about fever?”
“No, not the sickness fever. The song, uhh, ‘Fever’ by Peggy Lee.”
Zane’s eyes went back to normal. “Dare I ask why you know anything about
jazz?”
“My friend loves jazz. Course, I more think of people like him listening to jazz
while doing recon while sharpening their knives as they prepare to murder someone. But
yeah, the virus is humming ‘Fever.’” She paused. After a few experiments with bars, she
got the hum of the character down pact.
“Ari?” She was already lost in her own humming. “Ari!”
“Huh?”
He paused. “Anything else?”
“The virus, yo, what’s his name?”
“Thrax.”
Ariadne’s eyes lit up. “He’s hot. In a totally unintentionally punny way.”
Zane could do no more than stare for a few seconds. “You find a cartoon virus
attractive? How long has it been since you got laid?”
Ariadne gave a half-hearted dismissive wave. “Okay, look—his voice is made of
absolute sex appeal and, I don’t know, he’s wearing a nice coat. Now, I am unsure if you
33
are attracted to men, women, or formaldehyde or something, but you ask anyone and
they’ll say it’s sexy. And yeah, I have a voice fetish. Kill me.”
“First of all, I am not attracted to formaldehyde. Second, are you trying to tell me
that this entire time all you’ve focused on is how hard you would screw Thrax’s voice?”
She shrugged. “Basically.”
“Like I said, how long has it been since you got laid?”
She made a face. “Umm, last night…?”
His eyes widened. “Jesus, you really are needy.”
She raised her head just the slightest bit. “I’m not needy, I’m just perfectly in tune
with sexual behavior. And yes, even as a married woman, there is nothing unnatural
about being attracted to a cartoon character.”
Zane smirked. “Does your husband’s voice turn you on this much?”
She looked directly away from Zane. “Cor’s voice is…cute. I certainly wouldn’t
call it, um, sexy. It’s nothing against him. It’s just not that alluring. I think it’s cause it’s
not at the pitch I prefer. I mean, I’m more a singer tenor but almost more of a baritone for
speaking. Ahh, I don’t know, he’s got his funny little accent. It’s…I mean, let’s face it,
his accent makes him seem more tasteful and I guess I prefer to the mystery and killer’s
edge in a voice. Am I totally going off topic?”
“Yeah.”
She scratched her head. “Uhh, I learned that…well hot damn, don’t fucking eat
eggs after they fell into monkey cages.” Zane shook his head. “Dude, I can’t remember
shit. I told you, I was—”
34
Zane couldn’t hide his grin. “I’ll let you keep watching your Thrax if you will
admit to me that you hear his voice and think about wanking to him.”
“I am not—!”
“Chi-cken.”
“I wasn’t—!”
“Come on, Ari. There’s no shame in it, after all.”
She threw up her hands. “Fine Zane, I’m going to go home and finger myself in
the shower thinking about Thrax’s voice. Happy?”
“It’s only funny because it’s true.”
“Now could you please return me to my movie, bro?”
“Do you want me to just look up Thrax clips for you?”
“No!” She hesitated. “For the record, this movie is really disgusting. I don’t get
how it got a PG rating.”
Zane shrugged. “When have you seen a PG-13 animated movie that wasn’t an
adult TV show to begin with?”
“Bro, hello, Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker?”
“What gave it the rating?”
“Disturbing images? Dunno.”
He turned on the movie. “Because I know you well enough…” Since the scene
wasn’t one with Thrax, he muted it. “So should I show the kids?”
“Depends on how many horny chicks you got in there.”
He pursed his lips. “Probably a few.”
35
“Then just show them that scene and see how many of the have the bang me
face.”
He paused. “You do know how disturbing you are acting to me right now, right?”
“Hey bro, you know you had a man crush on Mufasa when that movie came out.
Him or Scar. Same principals.”
“Who else are you in love with besides your husband?”
“Dude, stop! I swear, only voices beat out Cor’s. Like, yeah, there’s a West End
actor whom I adore, but mostly because he can sing. I mean, Cor is kind of a really
attractive man and we honestly have a soul connection. I consider love a very serious
word, and I can honestly say that I only love him.”
Zane nodded. “How big is he?”
Even though she knew Zane was messing with her, she couldn’t help but defend
her relationship. “Irrelevant, Zane. And if it did matter, he’s perfect.” She paused. “Zane,
are you gay?”
He stared at her before slowly shaking his head. “Didn’t I show you a picture of
Leah?”
“I thought that was your beard…”
He rolled his eyes. “As opposed to you and Jasper, I don’t need to bring in my
lover’s pube in order to prove that we’re dating.”
“Hey, I didn’t bring in a pube! He actually came in and admitted with the
awkward blush of a recently deflowered teenage boy that we’d slept together!
Completely different.”
36
Zane laughed. “You honestly amuse me to no end. I don’t remember how this
school functioned without you. By the way, your lover is back on.”
She managed to give him the finger before going back to focusing on the film.
*
*
*
With all her classes done before lunch, Ariadne found herself drifting home after
her movie session with Zane. As the blocks before home got shorter, she felt the
excitement build and build on itself. Never in a million years did she think she would
ever be so excited to go home to a baby, but Teo was different, oh so different than
anyone she had ever met. No matter how hard she may have thought about how
disgusting and tiring taking care of a baby was, she could never stop adoring her son as
much as she adored him the moment she found out she was pregnant.
She found Teo in the jungle themed ExerSaucer, eagerly grabbing onto a hanging
monkey.
“He doing well?” she asked Erin, who was dutifully watching him.
She smiled. “Great. So I only fed him breast milk with some cereal, but he’s
getting ready for other solid food. Also, he’s getting a little fussier. Probably teething.
Are you gonna get him some teething rings?”
Ariadne bit her lip. “Should I care about phthalates?”
Erin shrugged. “I suppose you should, but don’t become obsessed over it.”
“I don’t want him to have poor quality sperm, Erin!”
Erin laughed. “He’s going to have perfectly viable sperm, don’t stress over it. But,
hey, if you want, just give him whole carrots. He can suck on them until he has top and
bottom teeth.”
37
Ariadne gave the girl she had known for decades as the identity forger/criminal
extraordinaire. Sure, her hair was back to its natural blonde, short style and she no longer
wore her numerous piercings, but Ariadne still couldn’t get the image out of her head.
“How do you know so damn much about babies?”
She shrugged. “I paid attention when Fletcher was a baby and I babysat for
years.” She turned to Teo. “Bye, Teo!”
Teo was too distracted to answer. “Hey, before you go, how are you and Adam?”
Erin shrugged. “Good. I mean, you know how great of a guy he is. Speaking of
him, I ought to go buy some groceries before he gets home.”
Ariadne laughed. “You making a sandwich for when Macho Man gets home from
work?”
Erin snorted. “No way! He’s making me dinner.”
“Atta girl!”
Erin hesitated. “Have you heard from Logan lately?”
Ariadne shrugged. “I see his daughter almost every day now, but I can’t say I’ve
heard from the old man in a while. Why?”
Erin chewed on her lip. “I just sent him an urgent email a while back and he
hasn’t responded.”
Ariadne gave her a look. “Why don’t you call him or knock on his door? He’s not
dead.”
“I just—I don’t know, it’s kind of weird approaching Logan.” She sighed. “I
know I should. You got his number?”
“You don’t?”
38
She threw her hands up. “Fine! I’ll go drop by his place in the next few days.”
“Procrastinators unite!” Erin glared at her. “Have a good night, okay baby?”
With a nod, Erin was gone, leaving Ariadne alone with her son. She cherished
these few moments when she could go back to the times when she was pregnant with
Teo, when he was only hers. Kneeling down on the floor, she got eye level with him.
“Hey buddy. You having fun?” She ran a hand through his soft hair, already a full
head of it despite only being six months. For a moment, he looked up, his smooth, coffee
brown eyes staring right at her. “God, you are just getting more handsome by the day,
aren’t ya?” She chuckled. “I love you, Teo.” He broke the stare by focusing on an
alligator stuck to the saucer to his right. “What’s that, Teo? Is that a gator?” He
responded by picking up a retractable piece and hitting the alligator with it. Ariadne
stifled a laugh as he continued to hit the saucer. When he looked up, he smiled a gummy
smile.
For the next several hours, she and Teo were never apart for long, him bouncing
in a hanger while she prepared lunch and dinner or rolling on the floor as she played with
him or graded papers. He still wasn’t advanced enough for actual speech, but she found
herself smiling as his babbles came out sounding like mama.
“Hey Aunt A,” Sven said as he passed her and Teo and headed into the kitchen.
Ariadne rolled her eyes. “Dinner’s on the counter. Teo’s going to bed in a hour, so
don’t go walking by his room with your swag music, okay?”
“Whatever!”
She turned to Teo. “Typical seventeen-year-old. Can’t wait til you’re that age.”
After a twenty-minute bath, Ariadne wrapped her shivering son into his pajamas and sat
39
them in the rocking chair in his nursery. “One more feeding before bed and then it’s off
to bed, mister.”
If there was one thing Ariadne couldn’t believe she’d come to accept, it was
breastfeeding. She’d been sort of forced to watch her sisters-in-law with their children,
and had always found the practice primitive and just a bit too strange for her taste. Yet,
she’d been going along with it ever since his birth when she’d nearly suffered a heart
attack from the onslaught of new sensation. For the first few months, she’d kept the ‘it’s a
hormonal bond’ in plain sight, but she’d begun to just enjoy the peaceful moments she
and Teo shared during his feedings.
When she looked down at his droopy eyed expression after burping him, she
laughed to herself. It felt like so little time since he had been a newborn with his red face
and thin dark hair. His growth was alarming as well, even if he was in the 50th percentile
for just about everything.
“Sleep, my little angel,” she whispered as she kissed his forehead. Even with his
eyes shut, she could tell he wasn’t asleep yet. She moved to put him in the crib, but it
only agitated him more. He cried out almost instantly. Ariadne frowned and every antiparent instinct in her told her to panic. Taking a deep breath, she put him on her shoulder
to rub his back while she tried to find a clean binky. “Come on, Tay. We’ve had a long
day, and I’m sure you’re tired.”
When pacing around the room rubbing his back didn’t work, she placed him in
the crib.
“Hush little baby, don’t say a word, Mama’s gonna buy you a mockingbird. And if
that mockingbird don’t sing, Mama’s gonna buy you a diamond ring. Kai an af!tó to
40
diamanténio dachtylídi metatrépei oreíchalko , mamá eínai gonna na se keráso!éna
kathréfti!.Kai an psáchnete óti paírnei gyalí éspase , mamá eínai gonna na se keráso!éna
katsíki Bíli . And…this song stopped rhyming after two lines oh shit now I forgot the
lyrics soo I’m just gonna switch songs…” She looked down, realizing that Teo was fast
asleep. “Thank you, Jesus.” She kissed his fisted hand before turning off the light and
closing the door.
“Hey Aunt Ariadne, can I ask you something?” Sven asked once she returned the
kitchen.
She pulled on her reading glasses and began grading again. “Yeah, sure.”
He grabbed his half-eaten dinner and took the seat next to her. “How did you deal
with breakups?”
She raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”
“Like…how are you still friends with all your exes?”
She shrugged. “We had a good enough friendship that it wasn’t a huge deal when
the physical aspect was taken away. Besides, we ended on mutual terms.”
“Did you ever have your heart broken?”
“Baby, the closest thing I got to heartbreak was Cor and I breaking up. You know
me. I never let people close enough to have my heart broken.” She bit her lip. “Still not
over Rose?”
He shook his head. “I thought I was but now…I just don’t know. Why’d you have
to pair Rose and Finn?”
Ariadne leaned back in her chair. “Jeez, I’ll be sure to appease my boy during his
man period. I dunno, thought I’d mess with the usual pairings. Because, let’s face it: you
41
and Rose would’ve chosen each other, Bella and Finn would’ve got together by default,
and the other four would’ve chosen each other.”
“But you put Levi and Megan and Wes and Ozzy together!”
“That’s because I was not aware of their relationship dynamic. Look—those butt
buddies are not gonna be together next project.” She paused. “Bro, are you jealous that
Finn and Rose are working together?”
Sven clasped his hands together. “What if they realize their love and get together
because of this project?”
“Whoa there, Paranoid. It’s a freaking English assignment. And, you know what,
if they do, that’s their choice. I don’t want to hear you meddling into their business.”
“Why would she choose Finn over me?”
She gave him a clueless look. “Because he has more sex appeal? I don’t know! I
still think Scar has more verbal sex appeal than Corydon.”
He paused. “May I find your finding a fictional lion sexy to be disturbing?”
Ariadne shook her head. “Don’t diss on Jeremy Irons, young man. Anyway, what
I’m saying is that every guy and girl has his/her high and low qualities. People need time
and experience to be able to decide which they need in a mate and which they can just
admire from afar from unattainable sources. Let Rose experience life, Sven. And, oh, I
don’t know, why don’t you go out and experience the world? There’s nothing wrong with
you dating new girls. I think you’ll feel better.”
“But what if Finn hurts her?”
“Then Finn’ll hurt her. You can’t scamper in her shadow and expect her to come
back to you.”
42
“What about you and Adam and Melissa? You never once got jealous when they
got with other people?”
“First off, Melissa and I were bed buddies. Second, Adam and I ended on terms of
I wasn’t sure I wanted a relationship. I was happy to see him see other people. We’re just
going in circles, baby. You’re the jealous type and I have a voice fetish. Yeah, great,
woo, that’s all established. Here, I’ll give you my damn best advice for the jealous type
and you give me advice about my fetish not getting in the way of my marriage.”
Once Sven stopped staring in horror, Ariadne dropped her smirk and gave her
advice. “First, accept that you are the jealous type. Second, I want you to logically stepby-step observe the way Finn and Rose interact and treat it as if you and Rose had never
been together. If Rose seems happy, don’t ruin that. Remember, you wouldn’t have
wanted Finn to bust in and ruin your relationship with Rose, right?” He nodded. “And,
act cool when Finn approaches you. Just remember, high school relationships don’t last
forever and you’re going to be thanking me when she’s crying on your shoulder when
they break up.” She put her hands together in a schoolgirl fashion. “Now for my advice.”
Sven ran a hand through his hair. “Uhh, what exactly am I advising you about?”
“Zane Hunt seems to think that me preferring animated characters’ voices over
my husband will dissipate my marriage.”
“I…have no idea what that means.”
“No, you know what that means, but you don’t want me to know that you know
what you know.”
“But if you know what I don’t want you know that I know what I know, then why
are we even bringing it up?”
43
“Because I want you to say ‘fetish’ and not cringe.”
“Why?”
“You’re going to be a college man in less than a year. If you can’t say ‘fetish,’
‘penis,’ ‘vagina,’ and ‘my girlfriend’s pussy tastes amazing,’ you will never be able to
get laid in college.”
He stared at her with a blank expression. “I am…soooo confused.”
She stood up. “I’ll just talk to Corydon when he gets home. And, heh, I’m sorry. I
haven’t slept properly in months. Please, please, just ignore whatever shit comes out of
my mouth. Love you, buddy.” She gave him a kiss on the cheek, grabbed her papers, and
pranced upstairs.
44
Chapter 4
Smooth Cop, Erstwhile Cop
Out of all the characters that have showed up at Logan Crowe’s door at the
ordinarily ungodly hours of the morning, he never expected one of those people to be a
cop.
“Good morning, Logan.” Crowe’s light brown eyes widened. “Come on, old man!
You surely haven’t forgotten me already.”
Crowe had done far from forget the Interpol agent standing at his front door. His
name was Kyle Pappas, and he hadn’t seen him since Bianca’s funeral where he was a
face among the Interpol pool that had formed into one corner of the memorial. Self
consciously, Crowe looked down at his clothing. Luckily, he’d gotten right out of bed
and into street clothes, so he wasn’t facing his former coworker in pajamas.
Crowe forced a friendly smile. “Quite a surprise to see you again, Kyle.”
Pappas’s grin suddenly faded. “If you don’t mind, I’d prefer you call me Inspector
Pappas.”
Beside himself, Crowe blanched at the rank change; Crowe had usurped him as
sergeant to constable for his entire career, and the power Crowe knew he now had scared
him. Even if he had no idea what Pappas wanted to do with him.
“Come on in, then.” He paused. “Inspector.”
Crowe ushered his guest into the living room where Rose was pouring herself a
bowl of cereal. She was put just as aback by the guest as Crowe, helplessly staring at her
father and waiting for his command.
“Why don’t you go upstairs, Rose?” Crowe suggested.
45
Pappas lightly patted Crowe’s back. “How rude, Logan. Won’t you introduce me
to your daughter?”
So Pappas is bipolar; how wonderful, Crowe thought as he ran over the mood
swings from the past few minutes.
Before Crowe could do a half-hearted introduction, Rose was up and shaking
Pappas’s hand.
“My name’s Rose.”
Pappas smiled. “I was your parents’ coworker back when they worked for
Interpol. It’s an honor to meet you.”
Rose blushed. “Same to you, sir…”
“Oh, how stupid of me. My name’s Inspector Kyle Pappas.”
Rose nodded; based on what little she understood about Interpol, inspector was a
pretty decent title to hold. Rose looked between Pappas and her father. As curious as she
was, she figured it would be wise to leave the men to their business.
Once Rose was out of the room, Crowe offered Pappas a seat. As smoothly as he
could without taking his gaze off of him, Crowe pulled up a chair facing him.
“Let’s cut the bullshit, Pappas. You spent at least seven years trying to put me
behind bars. You resented my immunity. Now the only person who kept you from
strangling me with my own handcuffs is dead. Why are you here?”
Pappas ran a hand through his short, dark hair. “Just wanted to check up on you,
Logan. No malice intended.”
Crowe rolled his eyes. “Yeah, sure. And what constitutes a need to come check up
on me? Interpol doesn’t trust me?”
46
Pappas shrugged. “You know Sampson had a heart attack, don’t you?”
Mr. Sampson, a.k.a. the leading man in Interpol who had originally given Crowe
his immunity. Crowe’s stomach dropped. “I hadn’t heard. Is he okay?”
“He’s in the hospital. No one knows if he’ll recover or not.”
“Why are you telling me this? You the messenger boy for the American sect
now?”
Pappas shook his head. “Let’s get a few things straight, Logan. What exactly do
you think you have immunity for? What has Interpol dismissed?”
Crowe bit his lip. “All work between the years of 1984 and 1994. All works
within the frame of a lack of first degree murder, rape, and kidnapping. The money that I
couldn’t free from investments must not be further invested if an opportunity for
withdrawal occurs. I mustn’t reveal my past to anyone, including family. I think there
was something about if I murdered someone after 1994 that I’d get automatic fifty years
in prison…”
Pappas scratched the side of his nose as he pulled out his phone. “Let me remind
you of the portion you forgot. If you are to commit one more act that would be
constituted as a felony within the United States borders, you’re receiving a minimum of
twenty years in prison. If the felony is committed outside of the United States, it’s thirtyfive years. If it’s found that your crime was anything that involved murder, rape, or
kidnapping, you’re getting between fifty to life.”
Crowe licked his lips. “Now hold the phone. When I agreed to immunity, there
was nothing about life sentence if I stepped out of line. Who authorized this?”
“Sampson authorized it yesterday under my recommendation.”
47
Crowe shook his head. “And, uh, why? Like I said, have I done something out of
line? What the hell are you doing at my house?”
Pappas stood, a disgusted expression on his face. “Look at this place. You’ve
probably spent millions on it. And where did that money come from, Logan? Whose life
savings did you scrape off the walls? Who did you put on the streets in order to have the
Murano glass?”
Crowe stood as well. “How dare you accuse me of that. I’ll have you know that
every piece of this house was bought with either from the money I made working at
Interpol or from stock investments. And no, I didn’t get all my starting money from my
crimes. I worked nearly twenty-four hours a day as a young man in order to get that
starting money. Besides, how could possibly talk to me in that tone when you don’t even
know what I went through that brought me that low? Have you ever had to watch your
parents get slaughtered by a group of criminals just because of their name?”
Pappas rolled his eyes. “You know what, Crowe? I’m going to be honest, like the
good cop I am. I don’t like you. I’ve never liked you. I don’t think you should’ve ever
been allowed to escape the cuffs, let alone be granted immunity and a place within
Interpol. Bianca’s dead, so she can’t protect you anymore. I know your type, and I know
that you have some dirty little secret hidden in that mind somewhere. And, you know
what? I’m going to find it.”
Before Crowe could kick Pappas out, Rose crept downstairs. “Sorry, I, uh, forgot
my bio textbook…”
She tried to run back upstairs with book in tow, but Pappas stopped her. “Rose,
why don’t you join us? Your father and I have been having some great time reminiscing
48
and your mother talked highly of you.” Rose dropped her textbook on the counter and
pulled up a chair. “So you have a photographic memory?”
She shrugged. “It’s faulty, but I guess I do.”
He glanced down at her book. “Advanced placement biology. They never offered
courses like that when your dad and I went to school.”
Rose rolled her eyes. “You don’t have to be that smart to get in. Hey Dad, how
much do you know about the physiological composition of a rat?”
Crowe blinked. “Absolutely nothing.”
She passed him a worksheet. “You seriously can’t fill in these fucking diagrams?”
For a moment, Crowe was put in a state of shock. “Okay, first, what does it smell
like and second, what is that stain on it?”
Rose looked down. “Well, the stain’s probably rat embalming fluid and it smells
like formaldehyde.”
“Why didn’t you get the notes in class?”
Rose rolled her eyes. “Because I was partnered with Devon Ghanzi and two of the
squeamish people. So while they made stupid disgusted comments and filled in diagrams,
I had to make sure Ghanzi doesn’t mutilate our rat while performing the dissection. Of
course, they fail to give me the worksheet answers and the lab’s due tomorrow. Ergo, I
need to fill in these diagrams or Dr. Hunt will kill me.”
Pappas studied the paper. “The top right thing is called the larynx.”
Rose snapped her fingers. “And above is the submaxillary salivary gland! Sweet,
okay, now all this is coming back to me. Thanks, Inspector Pappas.” She paused. “Why
have I wasted two hours trying to remember this when it’s all on the Internet?” She
49
turned to her father in shame. “I’m sorry, Dad. I must’ve gotten high off formaldehyde
during the dissection. I’m just gonna write the reflection to this and tell Ms. Evans that
she wrote a Target list and an A on my last reflection handout so she’ll give me an
extension.”
Crowe smiled. “She losing it on anyone else’s work?”
Rose shrugged. “She wrote grading comments on the freshmen’s essays in Greek,
but they were reading Oedipus Rex, so she just laughed and translated it in class.” She
turned to Pappas. “What exactly do you do for Interpol?”
He shrugged. “I’m the one assigned cases on the big dogs. You know the sort,
basically I’m a police officer on a larger scale.”
Rose nodded. “Mom was an inspector for a while. Was she your superior or
inferior?”
“Superior. We worked on a lot of cases together in the ‘80s.” Pappas glanced at
Crowe. “You have any interest in a career in law enforcement?”
Rose shook her head. “The fast life isn’t my pace. Besides, look at how crazy Dad
turned out because of the life. And, well, Mom’s kind of dead.” She giggled. “Yeah, I
really don’t wanna suffer those fates. I’m actually going for a career in education
administration.”
“That’s interest—”
“Yeah, cause if you think about it, being a dean or principal is like being a police
officer, except only have a slight chance of dealing with the raging psychopaths. Plus,
you never know, you might be able to convince them to call you Inspector. I think I
would.”
50
Crowe looked down at his daughter, the wires really starting to connect. “Rose,
why don’t you just go to bed?”
Rose picked up her textbook and worksheet and walked back up to her room.
Once she was out of sight, Pappas showed just a slightest smirk. “Charming girl, isn’t
she? Beautiful too, just like her mother.”
“Oh, like you’d like anything I bore. Now, if you don’t mind Inspector, I’d
appreciate it if you left.”
Pappas stood to leave. “Don’t be surprised if I return, Mr. Crowe.”
Once the door shut, Crowe let the experience with the Interpol agent to slip away
into the back of his mind as he ran upstairs. “Rose, you better have a written form stating
how much formaldehyde was inhaled in that room or I’m assuming you laced pot!”
*
*
*
Come AP bio the next day, Rose somehow managed to hand in her worksheet.
“Dr. Hunt, I’m so charging you for the brain cells that died yesterday,” she
commented.
Dr. Hunt chuckled. “Please expound, Miss Crowe. How did I cause the untimely
death of your brain cells?”
“Do you have any idea how much formaldehyde I was forced to inhale
yesterday?”
He crinkled his brow. “Didn’t you put on a mask?” Rose shook her head. “Why?”
“My partners took the masks and filled out the paper while Ghanzi and I did the
dissection.”
51
Dr. Hunt turned to Anna and Clara, the two girls that he recalled were grouped
with Rose and Devon. “Girls, first, you’re supposed to, oh, I don’t know, participate
actively in the dissection and two, if you aren’t going to get ample exposure to the
formaldehyde, please don’t make your classmates suffer. Devon, did you get high too?”
Devon nodded. “Okay, Rose, Devon, I apologize. Here, since I’m sure you couldn’t study
last night, I’m giving you both As on the quiz. Feel free to stand outside for the twenty
minutes I’m going to be giving the quiz.”
Once Devon and Rose shut the door, they smiled at each other. “Well,” Devon
said, clapping his hands together, “that went really well.” He smirked. “Did your family
ask if you were smoking weed?”
Rose looked away. “Um, yeah, I did get that…”
Devon laughed. “For the first time in my life, I heard my dad ask if I was using
fry. I swear, I didn’t even think he knew what crack was, let alone fry. But yeah, I had to
tell him that I didn’t purposely inhale formaldehyde.”
Rose sat on the floor. “Well, I’m pretty sure that my dad got visited by an old
Interpol coworker and then, yeah, Dad asked me if I smoked fry.”
Devon nodded and smiled as Ariadne passed by the two. “Hey Ms. Evans!” She
stopped. “Have you ever smoked fry?”
Ariadne turned around and walked back to the pair, unsure if she heard them
right. “Did I ever smoke fry? Like laced pot?”
Devon nodded. “Like pot laced with formaldehyde.”
52
Ariadne considered this. “Well, I—hmm. That’s when you see all those
hallucinations and the off balance and delayed reactions? Yeah, I think I did that once.”
She looked down at them. “Why?”
Devon smiled cheerily. “We got high off formaldehyde yesterday.”
“How lovely. Well, I’ll y’all what: smoking fry is way worse than just
formaldehyde. Trust me, Zane—Dr. Hunt and I get unintentionally high every time we
have to write year-end comments.” She paused. “Why are y’all outside? Did you get a
time out or something?”
“We got excused from the quiz because of the formaldehyde thing,” Rose
explained.
Ariadne looked around the empty hallway. “So we have our Paris continued
group therapy thing tomorrow, right?” They nodded. “I swear, I have no idea what we’re
gonna talk about. The only other Tungsten trip I went on was seven years ago when Zane
and I went to Athens with a bunch of juniors. Our reflection period was spent seeing who
could do the better Carlton dance impression.” They stared at her blankly. “Carlton?
Like, from Fresh Prince of Bel-Air? Come on!” They shrugged, causing Ariadne to huff.
“So y’all are taking a quiz?” She glanced in the window. “You know what, I feel like
being interruptive. Wish me luck.”
With that, Ariadne turned on Tom Jones’s ‘It’s Not Unusual’ and proceeded to do
an impression of Carlton’s dance to the song in the show as she entered the room. The
silent class instantly snapped their necks to watch her, some staring wordlessly as she
only slightly succeeded at doing the white-but-done-by-a-black-man moves while
keeping a completely straight face and others laughed.
53
“Ariadne, what the hell are you doing?” Dr. Hunt demanded, his voice unable to
muster an angry tone.
In response, Ariadne pulled him out of his chair and continued dancing. “If you
don’t dance…I’m going to do awful things to you…”
Dr. Hunt grudgingly began dancing. By the time the song ended, the class was
unanimously in hysterics.
“Good job, Zane. Still got that white swag,” Ariadne said as she patted him on the
back.
“Why did you do that?”
“Nostalgia. For instance, these children didn’t watch Fresh Prince. Hey, I gotta
get running before Erin starts teaching Teo Swahili.”
Dr. Hunt rolled his eyes as Ariadne slipped out the door.
*
*
*
That night, Crowe invited his girlfriend of nearly a year, Harper, over for drinks
after dinner.
“Just by the way, you’re enjoying the DBS, right?”
After about a month of searching, Harper had Logan decide to buy a black Aston
Martin DBS coupe. “Yeah, it’s great.” He hesitated. “If I stared talking Interpol, at what
point would you get confused?”
She shrugged. “I’m going to go with once you start going through the individual
differences between the ranks of Interpol.”
Crowe nodded. “Then hear me out.” She leaned just the slightest bit closer to him.
“When I worked for Interpol, there was this guy who always kind of hated me. Now, I’m
54
still not exactly sure why. Whenever I asked Bianca, she never told me. Anyway, this
guy, Kyle Pappas, just showed up at my door yesterday, tells me he got promoted to
inspector…” he paused, “a rank above what I was in Interpol. Anyway, then he starts
rattling off on the terms of my immunity and is convinced that he’s going to get me
arrested. Should I, uh, be worried about this?”
Harper hadn’t spent long within the world of Crowe’s crimes and punishments.
So far, all she knew was that Crowe had once been a criminal of an unspecified nature
and had been granted immunity and a job by Interpol.
She took a sip of her wine. “Well, I think that it all depends on if he’s bluffing or
not. Does he have anything against you?”
Dare he say the answer was yes? “There’s no way he could come up with a good
enough case without evidence.”
Harper shrugged. “Then just keep your nose clean and don’t worry about it.
Maybe he just still has that lasting grudge on you and with the promotion, he feels like he
now has some way to get you back for whatever you did to him.” She paused. “What did
you do to him?”
“I can honestly tell you that I have no idea. I mean, yeah, I guess I was once a
criminal, but I never did anything to specifically him.” Something occurred to him.
“Either way, I doubt he actually got Sampson to change anything on my immunity.”
Harper nodded. “So as long as Sampson’s good, there’s nothing he could do.” She
paused. “Could he rewrite your immunity?”
He shook his head. “Not without Sampson, and Sampson loves me.” He winced.
“Pappas said Sampson was in the hospital.”
55
“So…if he dies then…he can’t change anything anyway?”
Crowe laughed. “Basically. Maybe I should give him a call, send him some
flowers or something. Pappas isn’t that charismatic; I’m sure Sampson would accept my
kiss ups to his.” He pecked her. “Thanks.”
She nodded. “Anything for you.”
56
Chapter 5
Picking Straws
Friday morning, Sven’s anxiety had not been lessened.
“Aunt Ariadne, is there something wrong with me?” he asked as he grabbed his
books.
Ariadne bit her lip. “You’re a bit too inquisitive with repetitive questions.”
“Enough with the smartassed-ness, Aunt A. I’m serious!”
She threw her hands up. “What do you want me to say? Sven, I think you’re a
perfectly decent guy. Yeah, there’s something wrong with you, but there’s something
wrong with me, there’s something wrong with President Obama, there’s something
wrong with Dr. Weisberg, and there’s something wrong with Rose. Are you asking me
why you can’t get laid, because that’s because you refuse to wear t-shirts to show your
arms. Chicks dig arms.”
She set a bowl of mashed banana on Teo’s high chair tray. “But…do you think
that there’s something repelling about my personality?”
Ariadne picked a baby spoonful of banana and sent it toward Teo’s mouth.
“Ahhh, banana test day one, I should be getting this on cam-er-a because Daddy will kill
meee…”
“Aunt Ariadne!”
“Are you dying of hunger? Shut up, I’m trying to concentrate!”
“He’s not even getting nutrition from that!”
“Would you like me to feed you just breast milk? He needs variety in his life.”
57
Sven pushed his face into his backpack as Ariadne nudged the spoon into Teo’s
mouth. “Bananas in. Time: seven twenty-one.” A few seconds later, Teo spat it out, the
mush dripping down his chin and bib. “Shata, bananas rejected after ten seconds.”
“Aunt Ariadne, please. I have no one else to ask advice of.”
“Tis be improper to end a sentence with a preposition. And look Sven, I think you
are perfectly attractive in ways of looks and personality. You can sing, you’re a perfect
gentleman, you’re funny, you’re adorkable, and you’re loyal. If high school girls can’t
see that, then they’re all stupid hos.”
“Who’s a stupid ho?” Corydon asked as she walked in.
“High school girls who don’t want to get into Sven’s pants.”
Corydon glanced at Sven. “Seems logical. May I relieve you of your maternal
duties?”
Ariadne stood up. “T’s refused the bananas. I’m kind of hopeless.”
Corydon laughed. “He likes avocado better. Here, I’ll show you once Sven’s
gone. When you going to work?”
“Noon to three. I got the boy.” She gave Sven a kiss on the cheek. “Go tap some
ass, okay?”
Sven rolled his eyes and walked out. Once the door shut, Ariadne gave her
husband a wolfish smile. “Let’s do something fun over the weekend…”
He smiled. “Like what? Aquarium hopping?”
She put a hand on his chest. “No, more like…Let’s get kinky.”
“How so?” He paused. “I don’t really want to dress up as Batman…”
Ariadne shook her head. “Let’s have a symposium!”
58
“Doesn’t that involve more than one man?”
Ariadne paused. “Not if we don’t want that…look, I’ll go read up on Ancient
Greek politics and art, we throw back some wine, and see what happens.” She looked
over at Teo, happily chewing on a (phthalate free) teething ring. “I promised myself that I
wouldn’t be a doting mother, but he’s just so damn adorable…”
Corydon laughed. “He is quite a wonderful son, isn’t he?” He put his arm around
her. “We did good.”
She nodded. “Even if all he can do is roll over and drool and I’ve technically had
dogs smarter than him…”
“Hey! Wait a few months and he’ll be smarter than your dogs.”
“I hope so cause otherwise I’d consider this a near complete failure.” She paused.
“Are you getting vibes that he’s gay?”
Corydon gave her a look. “He’s six months old! No, I don’t think he’s exhibiting
a sexual orientation. Why?”
“No reason.”
He shook his head. “Whatever, love. I’ll see you at five.”
*
*
*
Ariadne was the last straggler into her room for the first reflection meeting for the
class of ‘14’s summer trips. She kept her head down, knowing that at least three of the
Paris kids were giving her over exaggerated disappointed faces.
“So how is it that we can be late to class, but you guys can’t?” Devon asked.
59
Jasper Barnett smiled. “Because we are your universal superiors. That’s like
saying a man who owns a business can be late to work. Our classrooms are under our
control.”
Ariadne sucked air in through her teeth. “Well, assuming Dr. Weisberg doesn’t
kill you first.”
“Hey! You’re the one who was late!”
Ariadne pulled a seat into the circle Barnett and the other eight kids had formed.
“So everyone’s here? Devon, Sven, Bella, Rose, Finn, Morgan, Dylan, Marissa…yay,
we’re all here!” She looked to her coworker. “Now what?”
A look of imminent failure on his face, Barnett pulled out a couple pieces of
paper. “Tungsten says that the purpose of these trips was to establish three things: foreign
integration and culture learning, independence, and being able to rely on people other
than your friends.”
“Oxymoron!” Ariadne proclaimed.
“Yeah, whatever Ari. ‘Each of the groups of students should have added other
themes to the list based specifically on their trip. What are these other terms?”
Marissa raised her hand. “Ability to distinguish reality from fiction.”
Everyone turned to Ariadne. “Hey! Every story I told on that trip was true!”
Bella raised her hand. “Conquering fears even when forced.”
“Popular! I know about popular, and with an assist from me to be who you'll be,
instead of dreary who you were...uh, are. There's nothing that can stop you from
becoming popular... lar...” Ariadne sang under her breath.
“Ms. Evans, stop! That was seriously gave me nightmares!”
60
Dylan gave her a look. “Her singing one of the most pink bubblegum songs in the
world scares you?”
“Hey, Dylan, let’s lay off the digs. Yeah, I tortured all of you with catacombs and
horror films. I know.” She took a bite of her lunch. “Wuff’s mess um tha lisf?”
“What did we learn? Like, actual life lessons.”
“Can we just skip to the part where we all bask in the fact that Ms. Evans was
drunk the whole time?” Finn joked.
Ariadne swallowed. “Hey! I was buzzed, not drunk!”
Kids began shouting out all at once.
“You told us that Jesus loved you so much that you’d become a demon hunter
when you die.”
“That Scar’s voice was fuckable.”
“That Greeks and Italians are secretly cousins.”
“That your depression started when you found out you couldn’t eat ice cream.”
“That we don’t know if we all have schizophrenia or not!”
“That romantic guys don’t exist.”
“That battle scars look sexier on women than men!”
Ariadne had nothing to say for a few moments. “I believe all that stuff sober.”
Everyone stared at her. “But…” Finn began, “you were drunk at least once,
weren’t you?” She shrugged. “Come on! You tried to start a flash mob in some Paris
fountain while singing some theatre song! People don’t do that sober.”
61
Ariadne’s eyes brightened. “Now I remember that! No, I was tipsy then. Trust me,
you have to be sober enough for finesse but buzzed enough to actually have the balls to
do it. What bet was that?”
Barnett smirked. “You tried to beat me at Candy Land.”
“Oh maaaan, I remember now! I beat your ass at Scrabble though!”
“You’re an English teacher! What do you expect?”
“Look Jazzy, let’s face it: I can get more action than you and I know more of the
English language than you.”
Devon smirked. “What was this bet that you two were in the whole trip?
Something about making out with a bunch of dudes.”
Ariadne and Barnett exchanged a look. “Yeah, don’t worry Devy, we held tight to
our terms,” Ariadne answered. “The terms, you ask? I had to French kiss at least five
guys over the course of our trip and then sleep with my priest. If I accomplished this,
Jasper would have to break up with his bitchy girlfriend.” She smirked. “Seven men and
one laicized priest later, and yes, I won. And I bet Jazzy’s thanking me.”
Barnett shrugged. “It was for the better. And, for the record, I broke up with her
because we just weren’t working. I was giving more than I was getting, not because you
somehow got Corydon to admit to the Office that you slept with him.”
Devon raised his hand. “What’s laicized?”
“When a clergyman gets his duties stripped. Basically, in a spiritual sense, he’s a
priest for life, but now he can’t give sermons and can marry me. We are perfectly unscandalous Catholics…ignoring the starting an unofficial sect of Catholicism thing…”
She stared at Barnett. “So did you enjoy your date last night?”
62
He shrugged. “She was nice.”
“She was amazing and you know it. Oh, what’s that sound? That’s the sound of
Jasper knowing his girlfriend will honestly take care of him and love him. I. Am. A.
Beast.”
Dylan smirked. “Hey Ms. E, Mr. B, what exactly did we do that was illegal during
that trip? Don’t lie and say we didn’t do anything.”
Ariadne and Barnett exchanged a look. “I guess we went into that park…” Barnett
answered.
“But like, the catacombs. Were we really allowed in all those places? Or the
basement?”
Ariadne sighed. “I showed some of y’all some not so tourist-y areas of the
catacombs and yeah, the basement was off limits. Why are you asking?”
“To spice up my written portion of my final essay.”
Ariadne’s eyes widened. “Whoa there, Ackles. We cannot mention anything that
paints Jasper or I as incompetent.”
“Why not?”
“Come on, Dylan. I could write an essay on Mr. Barnett and his encounter with
Italian women in Rome and get an A,” Bella quipped.
“Guys, for God’s sake, if you’re going to be hurling insults at each other, do it
outside of Paris Reflection Time. As much easier it is to stomach your arguing over your
lovey dovey cuteness, we have an agenda,” Ariadne said. She turned to Barnett. “We
have an agenda, right?”
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Barnett nodded. “’What challenges have you overcome now with skills that you
gained on the Paris trip?’”
“Ms. Evans, what was that song you were dancing to in AP bio yesterday?” Bella
asked.
“ ‘It’s Not Unusual’ by Tom Jones.”
Bella’s eyes lit up. “I know that song now! Blaine sang it on Glee during the
opener to season three!” Everyone bit back grins and laughs as Ariadne gave Bella a
blank stare. “Mr. Barnett, why’s she looking at me like that?!”
Barnett shrugged. “She’s internally planning how to kill you.”
Bella shrank into her seat. “Why?”
“Tom Jones is the shit, and comparing him to Glee is one of the highest levels of
musical blasphemy you can attain.” She put a hand on Bella’s shoulder. “When you get
home, go look up Carlton dance and you’ll not only understand good music, but good TV
as well. If you fail to complete this mission, I will fail you.”
“But…I already got into college…”
Ariadne sucked air in through her teeth. “A sudden F in English when you got
accepted into Middlebury? That’s bad.”
Horror suddenly sunk into Bella’s features. “I’m sorry, Ms. Evans!”
Another few minutes passed with the message pretty clear: they were not going to
get anything done, no matter how hard they tried. So, with that known, the teachers called
the meeting adjourned. While the teachers slinked out, all eight seniors stayed put.
“Does anyone else find it funny that none of the Paris couples ended up lasting?”
Morgan mused.
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Devon smirked. “Yeah guys, what happened? I mean, Dylan and Bella were the
power couple and Sven and Rose were just adorable.”
Dylan leered at Bella, Bella shuffled her feet, Sven put his gaze on the floor, and
Rose looked at Finn’s shoes.
“Did you really sleep with Dorian sophomore year?” Devon asked.
“I’m not—” Bella began.
“She did,” Dylan confirmed.
“Dylan—!”
“He ruined it. Our entire relationship was perfect until the Aussie came into the
picture and made you into a slut.”
The room gasped, Bella staring in horror.
“Jesus Dylan, could you tone down the jackass factor a notch?” Finn shot back.
“Get out of this, Finn. This is between me and Bella.”
“In front of six other people who don’t need to know your business. Cool it.” By
the time everyone had their attention back on Bella, she was gone. “Go talk to her, Dyl.”
He took a deep breath. “One more try, but then I’m done with her shit…”
With that, Dylan was gone too. Devon turned to Sven and Rose. “I’m sure you
guys had a lesser breakup.”
“Devon, I appreciate the care, but Sven and I aren’t going to talk,” Rose said.
“She broke up with me,” Sven muttered.
“Sven…” Rose sighed.
“We’ll talk later,” he said as he left.
Devon made the “wow” face. “Well then…”
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“Kind of a dick move there, Devon,” Rose said as she left.
Devon looked to his remaining room members. “Should we, uh…leave?”
Finn smiled. “You are a hilarious dick, Ghanzi. I’ll see you in English.”
“See ya!”
Devon looked around the room. “Hey ladies…”
Morgan and Marissa picked up their stuff and left. “Bye, Devon!”
*
*
*
Come A block, and Ariadne was blissfully unaware of what had transpired after
she left the Paris meeting, eager to begin the Phantom of the Opera unit with her
freshmen.
“So now that we’re done with Oedipus, let’s get into some good old fashioned
stalker fiction. Yes children, we’re finally on the Phantom unit and I am so psyched. By a
show of hands, who has already seen the musical or movie?” Most of the girls and one
guy raised their hands. “For those of you who are blissfully unaware, The Phantom of the
Opera is a gothic novel written in 1910 by French author Gaston Leroux. The story
follows a young chorus girl named Christine Daaé as she deals with an ever complicating
relationship with her stalker/music teacher who also serves as the resident ‘ghost’ in the
Opera Garnier where she performs. Basically, Christine’s old lover Raoul becomes the
patron of the opera house, her stalker finds out, and shit hits the fan. It’s been adapted
into a silent film, several plays, and the famous musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber and
the movie based on the musical. We’ll be watching a concert of the musical as our media
reference point, and I think everyone will find it both helpful and life changing.”
“Life changing?” one guy questioned.
66
“Yeah, y’all obviously haven’t seen the twenty-fifth anniversary. It’s amazing.
And yeah, we’re all going to get to learn about the fabulous theme of loving someone so
much that you let them go to be happy.”
“Wait, Ms. Evans, is this a romance?” one girl asked.
“If you’re throwing reference points out in terms of the musical to book, no, the
book is not a romance, it’s a horror story.”
“Isn’t this book like really hard to understand?” another kid asked.
Ariadne shook her head. “Don’t worry, with the French novels, we read
everything in class and I make sure everyone understands. Trust me, y’all, if we get time,
we’re gonna watch the crack cartoon of this book with animation worse than the oldest
Scooby Doo shows. It’s gonna be uber fun.” She paused. “By the way, what’s your
guys’s offered Tungsten trip?”
“Prague.”
Ariadne chewed her lip, suddenly remembering that she needed to call Logan
about something…
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Chapter 6
Of Old Stirrings
Ariadne wasn’t sure at which stage she was at with the whole sleep depravation
thing. Sure, she was enjoying Teo’s ability to sleep six-hour spurts at a time, but
somehow it felt worse than in Paris when she was up all night planning. Then again, a
baby was way more work than planning a heist. As she set Teo into his crib that Friday
night after calming him when he woke suddenly at eleven, the doorbell rang.
Ariadne huffed; Corydon was working late so he could have Saturday and Sunday
off to hang out with her and Teo. In other words, she would have to be the irrational one.
Or, she thought that was what she was being when she found herself picking up her
walking cane from her knee replacement. Please don’t be a psycho murderer please don’t
be a psycho murderer…
She opened the door to a guy in his mid thirties with flawless but pale skin,
golden hair, blue eyes, and the hint of a sly smile on his face. He went from leaning on
her doorway to a stance leaning on one side, his right hand in the pocket of his jeans.
“Hi, Ariadne,” he said simply, but almost with excitement of a child.
Ariadne just stared. This guy looked kind of familiar, but not enough to where she
didn’t feel mortified at the fact that she was standing in Star Wars pajamas, a t-shirt
without a bra, and her general face looked like she got run over by a train.
“Uh, refresh my memory…”
He smirked. “You bought those pjs with me.”
Ariadne’s eyes widened. “Nick? Like, the male stripper?”
He chuckled. “Yup.”
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“Umm, what are you doing here? I uh, I’m in no need of your services…”
He shrugged. “Just want to talk.”
Ariadne, on some combination of lack of sleep and the restless hormone surge
reminding her why she’d enjoyed her past time with Nick, caused her to sweep her hand,
letting him in. As he walked, all she could do was stare: even in his age, his face was still
just as actor-like as when they were younger, and his white t-shirt easily showed his
muscled arms and carved abs. And the voice—she hadn’t even remembered it from when
they had originally hooked up—was at just the right pitch.
“Nick, please, I’m married. I can’t have you here,” Ariadne said in an attempt to
keep her mind in the right place.
He took a seat on the couch in her living room. “I’m not trying to get you to have
an affair. Just…you know, wanted to catch up. Did you see A Phantom Menace in 3-D?”
She nodded. “It’s…Revenge of the Sith this year, right?”
“Yup. You gone back to any more conventions since our last one?”
She shook her head. “I’m too old for that kind of stuff. Besides, all the guys there
are forty-year-old virgins who live with their moms. The fact that I met you was probably
as likely as getting struck by lightning.” Against her will, her eyes floated to his arms.
Corydon was fit, but he certainly didn’t spend his time working at his muscles. “So
repeat, why are you here?”
“The marriage going well?”
For a moment, Ariadne froze, having forgotten his involvement in the wedding.
“How do you…?”
He chuckled. “Come on, Ari! You remember your bachelorette party, don’t you?”
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Memories slid back into place, about how she promised herself that she’d never
give Corydon the full details of that night. “Yeah, I do. Sorry. It’s just—my son’s six
months now. He sleeps, but not enough.”
Nick didn’t even flinch at the mention of a son. “Did you end up telling your
husband?” She shook her head. “I bet he had some ladies.”
Ariadne shook her head. “He’s too religious for that. I’m sure he just got a beer
and played hockey with his friends. What we did was way crazier.”
A slight smile on his face, he shook his head. “Ari, Ari, Ari…you really ought to
tell him. Secrets are never good for a marriage. It’s not like we even had intercourse…”
“You were supposed to give me a strip tease! No more, no less. But we…I was
drunk and you were just so accessible…”
“Ariadne, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Here, I’ll say it: I licked you out. And
I’m probably the only guy you’ve ever known who did it right.” Ariadne refused to make
eye contact. “Come on, it’s not like we’re going to touch each other like that again. It’s a
bachelorette party. You didn’t cheat.”
“Nick, for the last time, why are you here?”
He attempted to crack his knuckles. “You didn’t pay me in full for the party. It’s
only a hundred. You paid most up front.”
Ariadne’s suspicions shifted; she swore she’d already paid him, but if it were only
a hundred, he surely wouldn’t scheme out this entire meeting. “Would you like a check or
should I stick a hundred ones in your ass?”
“A check would be lovely.”
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She could feel his eyes pierce her as she picked up her checkbook from the room
adjacent to them. Ignoring the fact that her checks were covered in Batman images, she
wrote Nick in for his money.
“Anything else?”
Nick chuckled. “I’m not going to hurt you, Ariadne.”
Ariadne stood up. “You wanted some action, didn’t you? I’m a married woman,
Nick! I have a son! I’m not going to just throw it all away because you saunter into my
house. I’m not twenty-five anymore. Get out of here!”
He followed her orders. “I swear I wasn’t going to suggest anything like that. It’s
been nice seeing you.” He pulled a card out of his pocket and set it on the table, the paper
hitting the table with a slap. “Have a good night.”
Ariadne barely walked him to the door, and waited several sentences out in
silence before locking the door. Grabbing the card, Ariadne checked on Teo and returned
to the warmth of her bed. Somehow, through the cloud of her mind, rage was on the brink
of boiling. How could he just walk in like he owned the place and act like she was some
whore who’d go for him by just the sight of him? She knew she already paid him for his
work at her bachelorette party!
Despite the fatigue, she pulled out her battered paperback copy of Twilight by
Stephenie Meyer and her array of colored highlighters. As a challenge from her fellow
English teachers, she was to annotate the book heavily enough to be able to show
students exactly what the English Department viewed as a horrid excuse for literature
was. She reviewed her key she put at the beginning of the book.
Blue – misused/awkward fancy synonym
Green – unneeded adverb
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Red – “Mary Sue” characteristic – Bella
Pink – Bella/Edward lust NOT love
Orange – lack of realism (even in supernatural)
Yellow – Tell, not Show
Purple – et cetera issues (review in notes)
She cracked the book open to her last dog-ear. Page 260. She’d heard things about
this chapter, and got her highlighters ready. First things first, she pulled out her blue and
marked a total of three adjectives. Took the purple and marked the entire first paragraph
for purple prose (laughing to herself at the coincidence). One awkward pink phrase on the
next page. Another block of purple for useless description. Purple for general creepiness
(and not in the good Stephen King kind of way). Purple for awkward grammar. Reds and
oranges occasionally dabbled onto the pages. Pretty much every line had a yellow mark
or green.
Later that night, Corydon, after feeding Teo a bottle Ariadne had stuck in the
fridge, smiled at the state he found his wife in. As per Ariadne, she was sprawled across
the bed, an old copy of Twilight spread over her face, with at least half a dozen
highlighters littered around her like they’d fallen from the sky.
“Silly Ari,” he chuckled as he collected the highlighters, dog-eared her page, and
set the book on her nightstand.
After stripping down and pulling on a pair of pajama pants, he joined his wife,
who had switched to a side sleeping position. As quietly as he could, he slipped in behind
her and wrapped his arms around her waist. Her hands slowly moved up so she was
holding his hands. He closed his eyes as she took a deep breath. Her hair smelled like
some soft combination of violet and some fruit, soothing.
“I love you, Ariadne,” he whispered.
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*
*
*
Saturday night came with quiet speed, Ariadne realizing with slight panic that she
agreed to a date night with Corydon and had subsequently forgotten to find a babysitter.
So, being lazy and cheap, she decided to hire Sven, who didn’t have anything better to do
anyway.
“Don’t you want to invite someone over or something?” Ariadne asked as she
stuck the emergency contacts on the fridge. “Like, I mean, someone who isn’t Ghanzi?”
His eyes lit up. “Like Rose?”
Ariadne shrugged. “Yeah, sure.”
Within the next fifteen minutes, Rose was sitting on the couch as Ariadne laid
down the schedule.
“So Cor and I are gonna get back around three am, so just get him to bed around
nine. But, I mean, if he’s tired, let him sleep. Just, basically, feed him a bottle I put in the
fridge, read to him, and he’ll sleep. Until then, he’s a pretty chill guy. Just let him play in
his ExerSaucer, on the floor with some toys, the like. He doesn’t watch TV, but he likes
music. He can’t crawl yet, but he’ll be rolling over. Uhh, don’t feel a need to give him
solid food, maybe just some cereal in with his dinner. He’s kind of starting to teeth, so if
he gets fussy and you can’t figure out why, just give him a teething ring or a washed
carrot. I assume you know how to change diapers and stuff. If you need anything, you
know who to call…” She paused. “Ghost Busters! Sorry, uh, Sven’s got money to order a
pizza and you guys can buy a movie or whatever you want really.”
Sven smirked. “So casual sex isn’t crossed off the list?”
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Ariadne mirrored his grin. “Aww, where you gonna get your condoms, macho
man?”
“Like I don’t know where you keep them.”
“Joke’s on you, scout, cause I don’t use condoms.”
“Good to know you don’t have a dick, Aunt A,” Sven muttered under his breath
as Rose waved Corydon and Ariadne goodbye.
As soon as the door shut, Rose got down on her side and began watching Teo as
he pushed himself up from a belly-down position.
“You are just the cutest thing I’ve ever seen,” she cooed as he looked at her and
smiled. “So what’s up, Sven?”
Sven went to the other side of Teo and lay down. “Not much. Classes. Got a few
college acceptances.”
Rose’s eyes lit up. “Which ones?”
“Spring Hill, University of Montevallo, Colorado College, Sewanee, Belmont,
Rhodes, and UC Santa Cruz. You?”
“UC Davis, UC Santa Cruz, Chapman, University of the Redlands…”
“Which you thinking?”
She shrugged. “Probably just a UC. Nothing fancy. Education right now is just
getting in and out. I’m shooting for John Hopkins for post grad. Oh, and Colorado
College. What are you thinking?”
He shrugged. “I’m thinking about going back to my roots. I mean, I’ll either end
up in Alabama or Tennessee.” He hesitated. “Or maybe Colorado College. Depends on
how I feel. Where’s Vivienne going?”
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Rose smiled. “She got into Bowdoin, her first choice. She’s got some family in
Maine too, so she’s excited to get to see them. Devon?”
“University of Washington. Said he wanted to try out a bigger crowd.” He paused.
“Can you believe that we’re all separating in June? Like, it feels like yesterday that we all
were awkward freshmen just trying to find a face to sit with at lunch. I remember I was
too shy to sit with any of the kids, so I ate lunch with Aunt Ariadne and she ended up
telling these awful stories about me to her officemates.” He laughed. “I guess her plan to
get me away from her didn’t end up working until May.”
Rose smiled. “I still don’t get why Devon was so friendly with you in Paris.”
Sven shrugged. “Devon’s friendly with everyone. Besides, we kind of didn’t have
much of a choice. I mean, we were stuck in a room in Paris together.”
Rose nodded. “Same thing with me and Bella. Like, you could tell that Marissa
and Morgan were already buddies and so Bella and I just kind of gravitated towards one
another. I gotta say, I really appreciate that Tungsten allowed me to be able to get to
know her better. It’s so weird how I once thought she was a complete bitch by rumors.”
Sven stood up. “I think I’ll order that pizza soon. Where do you want it from?”
Rose shrugged. “Whatever you want. Just make sure it tastes good.”
“Dominoes it is.”
Rose laughed. “Cheese pizza. Get bread sticks.”
“Is their medium small?”
“Well, if we’re getting breadsticks and knowing you, chicken, I don’t think we
need more than a medium.”
“We’re getting a large, half pepperoni, half cheese.”
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“Fatass.”
“Growing boy.”
Teo started whimpering once Sven left to make the order. Rose frowned and
picked him up. “Sven, do you—?”
“Check his diaper!”
Rose rolled her eyes. “That’s not the only reason babies cry,” she mumbled as she
checked his diaper and found him clean. What was she going to ask him before Sven
started talking? “Where’s his teething rings?”
“Fridge.”
After handing the ring to Teo, he quieted back down. Staring at the little boy on
the floor next to her, Rose couldn’t help imagining the time when she’d be watching her
own child chew on a teething ring. The idea was daunting, but the years of prep time she
knew she’d have for it made it comforting. She knew she’d want a daughter and a son.
The boy would have a strong, classic name and the girl would have a beautiful name like
her mother’s. Maybe she’d even name her daughter after her mother…well, by giving her
a middle name, anyway.
When Rose looked back up, Sven was staring at her. “What?” she asked.
“What’s the deal with you and Finn?”
Rose had been dreading this for days. “Not much.”
“Not much yet?”
Rose put her eyes back on Teo. “I guess. I mean, look Sven—I like him. There’s
just something comforting about him. I think it’s kind of romantic how we’ve known
each other since we were kids and can mess with each other like we’re still little. Come
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on, Sven. He’s one of the sweetest guys in our school.” Sven shrugged. “We can just fill
hours recalling stories. Don’t you have someone back in Alabama who can just exchange
childhood stories with? Maybe even someone here?” She smiled. “We were talking the
other night and he gets me out of an AP slump by reminding me about the time when we
were in preschool and he tried to impress me by peeing behind his parents’ couch. Just
stuff like that.”
“I wouldn’t date a guy who pees behind couches.”
She gave him a look. “Ariadne told me about how you got a vodka bottle stuck on
your penis when you were seven.”
“I was seven!”
“He was four.” She stifled a laugh. “What was the logic behind that anyway?”
Sven blushed. “Kids told me it would feel good…Hey, okay, can we stop talking
about how much of a stupid kid I was? So have you and him kissed?”
“Sven, you’re acting way too hostile about this. We’ve been broken up for ten
months. I’m moving on, and you should too. Finn’s a great guy and you know it.” She
paused. “How am I ever going to know if I can ever love you again if you don’t let me
try? Besides, doesn’t it make you unhappy to be preventing my happiness? Why don’t
you focus on your own?”
Sven looked at Teo. “Did Aunt Ariadne tell you when to feed him?”
Rose nodded. “Don’t you take care of him often?”
He shrugged. “Erin mostly takes care of him if Aunt Ariadne or Uncle Corydon
aren’t home.” He paused. “I swear, Erin is one of the coolest people I know. How did
your dad originally meet her?”
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“Something about his immunity and making sure his rep was clean when it came
to anything outside of his affairs with Interpol. Like, so when I applied for school and
stuff, that wouldn’t be able to show up anywhere. She’s ridiculously smart.” She crinkled
her brow. “How did Erin get in touch with your aunt about babysitting?”
“I think Erin and Adam are dating and so Erin and Aunt Ariadne got closer that
way.”
Rose stopped to consider this. “Somehow, I can really easily see Erin dating a
trans-man.” She hesitated. “Adam isn’t…well, a guy, right?”
“Like parts wise? No, he’s afraid of surgery or something. Just said he’s never
gonna go through with it. He’ll probably do hormone treatment or something. Dunno. I
always thought it would be really hard to be in relationship with a transgender. Well,
okay, like the sex part seems…”
Rose cracked a smile. “Ask your aunt.”
“Eww, no. It’s bad enough when she alludes to her straight sexual history. Her
pansexual stuff is just weird. I mean, I’m cool with gay and trans people, y’know, like, go
ahead, get married, have kids, live your lives, but I really don’t need to know about your
sexual lives, just like with straight people.”
Rose shook her head. “Somehow I get his impression that you have never looked
at porn before.”
“Well, I’ve seen it, but it’s not like I’m uber eager for the day I can go buy it
legally.” He smirked. “You’re eighteen. Are you naughty with your new privileges?”
Rose blushed. “No.” With a screeching cry, Teo started crying. Both of them
flinched and turned to him, Rose grabbing him. “Aww Teo, what’s wrong?”
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Sven sniffed him and gave Rose a weak smirk. “It’s his diaper…”
She sighed. “Come on, Daddy. I’m only getting paid five bucks an hour.”
Sven stopped. “Wait, you’re getting paid?!”
79
Chapter 7
Spic and Speck
The aliens are coming, the aliens are coming. C’mon, sir, get your machine gun
ready. They’re at your door, They’re at your doooor…
Startled by his eerie train of thought, he sat up and stared down at the clock. 6:12
am. On a Sunday. Why would he be up at 6:12 am on a Sunday? Abby was at her friend’s
house and Emma was studying late last night, so she’d be sleeping in.
He listened as his doorbell ran one last time, echoing the chime that both his
daughters had been associating with alien attacks since they were little. He rolled his
eyes; to think his girls thought nothing of it now, and he was the paranoid one.
If someone was at his door at 6:12 am, it had to be important. And, well, if it
wasn’t, they’d be getting a mouthful from him.
Traveling Bible salesmen would be in church on Sunday, anyway, he figured.
Pulling on a jacket and socks, he trudged downstairs, passing by his oldest daughter’s
room to make sure she hadn’t been woken up by the ruckus.
He wiped his nose on his jacket sleeve and peeked through the peephole.
The man at the door was wearing a black suit jacket over what looked like a
collared shirt and tie, shiny black shoes, and an equally shiny badge in his left hand.
He gulped. Should he answer the door? If he answered it, who knew what the cop
wanted. But if he didn’t…
The girls were going with the mother on Monday. He glanced out the back door.
He could jump into his neighbor’s yard and go from there. They were out of town for the
week. As far as he knew, they didn’t have any dogs.
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Before he could even think about skipping out the back door, he heard the squeak
of the front door open.
“Dad, someone’s here to see you!” he heard his oldest daughter call.
What was she doing up? What made her think that she should open the door this
early in the morning? Damn her, when she goes off to college, she’s gonna get fuckin’
raped with that logic. He watched as his daughter jumped into the kitchen and pulled him
toward the front door.
“I’m so sorry, Inspector. Dad’s just weird sometimes,” she apologized.
The cop smiled. “Thank you, Emma. If you don’t mind, your father and I would
like to have a quick chat.”
Emma nodded and ran upstairs. Once out of sight, the cop started tossing his
badge between hands.
“Stanley Luke, you’re under arrest for repeated weapons trafficking and assisting
of an international fugitive in the countries of the United States, France, Spain, Belgium,
and the Czech Republic.”
*
*
*
Crowe didn’t really know why, but he let Rose sleep over at Sven’s place that
night. Well, he supposed he couldn’t really tell her not to sleep over, but it still bothered
him. He knew Sven and her weren’t together, but something told him that something like
having an actual relationship would prevent them being inappropriate with each other,
whether that meant sex or something completely different. No matter how well behaved
Rose usually was, he’d noticed her straying from the perfect child mold and he had no
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idea how far she could possibly go. Sure, he believed that the formaldehyde thing was an
accident. Yet, it was a bit unnerving.
He sighed. Only four more months until she was graduated and he could throw
himself the college excuse whenever he wanted to spend nights awake worrying about
her.
He slapped the newspaper down that morning, hoping it was Rose saying she
forgot the garage door opener. He opened the door to Inspector Kyle Pappas.
“I had the most interesting step forward in your case, Mr. Crowe,” he said as he
invited himself in.
Crowe yawned, hoping to seem uncaring. “And what is that, Inspector?”
In the moments when Crowe still felt like he had the upper hand, he looked
Pappas over. He was just about Crowe’s six feet, but he looked like he worked out much
more than Crowe. He imagined that Pappas was in the stage where he figured looking as
physically attractive as possible made his life quality better. Otherwise, his dark hair was
just as dark as his youth sans some stray grey hairs. He kept it short, almost spiky. Cleanshaven. Once again, going for the youthful look. His dark brown eyes revealed nothing.
“Are you aware that Stanley Luke was arrested this morning in France?”
Crowe’s stomach twisted. Luke? Arrested? Sure, he and Erin had joked about
Luke getting arrested for years, but the reality of it was downright terrifying. If Luke
could get arrested, where did that leave him or Erin? “I wasn’t.”
“Well, he was.” A slight smile appeared on Pappas’s face. “And he told me some
interesting things.”
This was it. Crowe was getting arrested. He swallowed. “Like what?”
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“Are you going to deny a partnership with him?”
Crowe shook his head. “It was an on and off thing. He got me weapons.”
Pappas nodded. “So yes, he went through all the works before your immunity.
Now, two interesting pieces of information came into this. First off, I can’t believe I
didn’t realize it sooner, but he gave me names of your accomplices pre-immunity.”
Crowe almost felt the weight push the air out of his lungs. “I believe the names were
Matthew Crowe and Ariadne Evans, according to him. One was,” he paused, “murdered
in 1996. Ms. Evans, who I suppose would be in her thirties now if she was a teenager
when she worked for you, currently works in a pretty respectable position in a Los
Angeles private school. Pretty well off, has a few more shiny things than most teachers.”
A certain spark appeared in his eyes. “And then, Luke mentioned something very
interesting. He seems to say that you were buying items from him with intention of
pulling another ‘heist.’ Now, you gotta listen to this one, Logan. He said this happened in
2011. Twenty-eleven. Funny, because you promised Interpol in 1995 that you would no
longer be doing anything illegal. I believe this is an infraction of your immunity.”
That incompetent, ratchet jawed cocksucker. What happened to honor among
thieves, never give away another man? When he gets out of jail, I’m going to shove his
heart down his fucking throat.
“Can you really just trust Luke’s word?”
“Of course not. I’m investigating this further. But, for you, I’d like to give you
everything I plan to accuse you of, now that I know that everything is not as it seems.
First things first, I’m accusing you of breaking your immunity with infractions of
stealing, arson, and assisted suicide, all in summer 2011. In winter 2011, I have one more
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infraction of breaking and entering and stealing. I have a possible kidnapping case,
depending on how my conversation with Ms. Ariadne Evans goes. Lastly, I’m going to
accuse you of murdering your wife.” Crowe swore he had an out of body experience. It
was as if his physical body went cold and his soul lifted from it, and he was staring at
himself, at the absurd Interpol agent, and his future.
“I swear on my life, I did not murder Bianca.” The word tasted like bile on his
tongue.
“Well, you leave the situation with suspicious circumstances. Because, when we
saw the body, she had a stab wound in her back. It was obvious that the corpse was
concealing the wound at the funeral. It was universally accepted by the mourners that she
died from a household accident.” God, Crowe hated the Interpol agent sitting across from
him in that moment. For so long, he’d convinced himself that there was nothing to worry
about. That he’d been so clever with hiding his tracks. That a murder case would be too
much hassle. Who would care anyway? The words rang through his head, laughing at
him. “Care to comment, Mr. Crowe?”
Should he confess? He was sure there was someone who could vouch for him.
“Bianca was murdered, but it wasn’t by me. I walked in and found a robber in my house.
I have several people who can vouch for me.”
“Why didn’t you say it was a murder case from the get-go?”
Crowe took a long breath. “I went through hell when my brother died and the
murder trial only made it worse. The only evidence they had for the perpetrator was my
word and no one even believed that he existed.”
“Who was this?”
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“Damon Rasim. The body Luke mentioned in Paris. Anyway, knowing that, I
decided that I wouldn’t push the murder case for Bianca. She wouldn’t have wanted it
anyway.”
“How would you know what she wanted?”
For a moment, Crowe froze. Pappas hadn’t used emotion the whole time, and
suddenly he snaps at him. He filed a mental note and tried to scrap something to say from
the corners of his brain. “Um, I was her husband for seventeen years. Don’t know if that
counts…”
Pappas shook his head. “Do you understand your accusations?”
“Crystal clear. So, let’s say, hypothetically, everything you say is true. What
would be my sentence?”
“Life.”
Crowe didn’t give himself time to fully swallow this. “Is there anything I should
be aware of?”
He rubbed his chin. “So you say she was murdered? Where?”
Chewing on his lip, Crowe led the Interpol agent to his bedroom. He stamped his
foot on the spot he found her dead. Pappas looked to Crowe. “Do you have an X-Acto
knife?” Crowe pulled one out of his nightstand. “How would you feel if I tore up your
carpet to confirm?”
Crowe didn’t want to seem incompliant. “It’s fine.”
Crowe watched as he took the knife and cut up the carpet into a two by four or so
foot rectangle and pulled it off. His eyes widened as the wood underneath was stained
red. Stained red with Bianca’s blood.
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“Well, we know it wasn’t her falling down the stairs, now don’t we?”
Crowe crossed his arms. “Do you need me anymore?”
Pappas shook his head. “That’s all. If you could, tell Ms. Evans that I’ll be paying
her a visit soon.”
Pappas was out and gone before Crowe completely registered everything that he’d
said.
*
*
*
The following Tuesday, Ariadne waited until all her opinion forms on Lord of the
Flies were in before beginning the actual lesson.
“Okay kids, so one thing I noticed we’re having a bit of trouble on is basic
grammar. Look y’all, I’m just getting annoyed with this whole your/you’re issue. I will
teach you proper grammatical syntax even if it kills me. So, because I know everyone
hates grammar, we’ll watch Schoolhouse Rock.”
“Is it the bill song?” Finn asked excitedly.
“No, Finn. This is not your damn history class.”
Ariadne slid over to the computer and put on ‘Conjunction Junction.’ A few of the
kids had goofy smiles plastered onto their faces as the videos started. When Rose looked
at Finn, he smiled and winked.
Once the video was over, Ariadne turned off the projector and went to her seat as
the focus of the parabola that the desks made around her.
“Okay, so here’s the deal with you’re and your. Let me use the example my
friends on the Internet use, and you’ll never forget. Your spelled Y-O-U-R is used when
it’s a possessive. Example, it’s your fucking turn to take out the trash. Now the
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contraction you’re is just that, a contraction. It’s actually you are. So, if you can’t
substitute you are in the sentence, then—”
“Ms. Evans…”
“What?”
From the kids’ point of view, they had watched as the projector turned on in
perfect silence and pulled up the YouTube page Ariadne had minimized.
By the time Ariadne looked back, the computer started blasting ‘Them Not-SoDry Bones,’ a different Schoolhouse Rock video. As per Ariadne, her response was to
startle herself so bad she dropped her full coffee mug on the carpet, the mug shattering.
When she turned back to the kids, her face was just as pale as the rest of them.
“This isn’t even on the suggested list,” she muttered.
“Ms. Evans, you have the projector remote, right?” Levi asked.
“If I did, would I have literally dropped my coffee onto the floor?”
“You might be a good actress…”
She grabbed the remote, turned off the projector, and went to staring at blank
screen. “I would be proclaiming it as the Lord, but I don’t think He’d waste his time
turning on projectors. And uh, did anyone else notice the bones video? Yeah, it was a
ghost…” She stopped dead. “Shit.”
“What?” the class pushed.
“Back in the day like four years ago, the old head of the English department,
Muriel Bachman, told me that there was a ghost in this place. I didn’t believe her and
then she died.” All the kids stared at her, their jaws nearly on the floor. “…Of natural
causes.” They relaxed. “But then I took her job.” She paused. “They’re coming for me!”
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For what felt like a whole minute, Ariadne patted her chest in attempt to find her
rosary she’d bought on her and Corydon’s first anniversary trip to Italy and Greece,
replacing the one she’d lost in Maul Mason’s. When she finally found it, sapphire beads
for her birthstone and a thin silver cross dangling, she kissed it.
“Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the
wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do Thou,
O Prince of the Heavenly Host - by the Divine Power of God - cast into Hell, Satan and
all the evil spirits, who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.” She
took a deep breath as she crossed herself. “Okay, no demonic energy in this place.” She
paused. “Now, for the other problem.”
“Our grammatical issues?” Wes asked.
“No, my coffee mug.” She looked down at her shattered mug. “If I had a nickel
for every time I broke a glass coffee mug in front of y’all, I’d have two nickels.” She
frowned. “And even that is too fuckin’ much.”
Bella raised her hand. “Ms. Evans, what are opinion forms?”
Ariadne stared at her. “What do you think, Bella?” Levi teased.
“Bella,” Ariadne began, “they are papers I make y’all fill out in order to gage
interest in our reading selections. Despite what many think, I actually take my job very
seriously and one of my theories behind my teaching style and how this school should be
taking literature is that if the students aren’t engaged, they won’t learn. So, if y’all
decided that say, Lord of the Flies was lame and outdated, I’d meet with the department
and find a new book that had similar themes within it, but was better suited for the kids.
In case you haven’t noticed, the reading list has basically changed every year.”
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“You get all the older know it all English teachers to listen to you?” Bella
confirmed.
Ariadne nodded. “They’re not all old and condescending.” She looked down at
the shards of mug. “Besides, if they were, they left. Dr. Weisberg personally selected me
for the head of the department.”
Finn sat up. “So you can ask if we can read The Pillars of the Earth?”
“Or Twilight?”
“Finn, I would read Pillars, but length makes it difficult. Bella, please don’t say
that name in my presence. The department is currently making me annotate it word for
word to find its failure as a story.”
“Try Going Bovine by Libba Bray. It’s kind of a modern Don Quixote. Anything
by that author, actually,” Megan suggested.
Ariadne smiled. “I’ll bring that one up in the next meeting. Hey guys, if you have
book suggestions, email me.” She clapped her hands together. “I’m going to go get some
glass proof gloves and then we’re going to continue with Dorian Gray.”
To everyone’s slight surprise, Ariadne literally opened a drawer and pulled out a
dustpan and some gloves.
“Y’see kiddos, Edward Cullen is just a wannabe Dorian Gray. If some Twitard
tries telling y’all that Edward Cullen is amazing, tell them these exact words: Dorian
Gray, an epically attractive male/murderer since 1890. Go suck it.”
“Ms. Evans, will you tell that to English department?” Finn requested.
Ariadne snorted. “That’s our slogan.”
*
*
*
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With Erin working a few extra hours, Ariadne stared around her department, a
network of four other teachers, all with range of age, gender, and education levels. In
fact, Ariadne was out-degreed by a forty-something year old male teacher who taught
junior English, AP and basic. But, they had a mutual respect for one another that had kept
him from leaving like the other doctors who refused to accept an educational inferior as
their head of department.
Ariadne pulled open her laptop as she passed a file into the middle of the
conference table.
“Would anyone like to raise any quick issues with the department?” Ariadne
asked.
“Another kid complained about the in-class essay requirement,” Kara Jones, a
sophomore and freshman teacher, said.
“About the improvisation or the cramping hand?” Ariadne clarified.
“Both.”
“My students do one in class essay and four out of class. Dr. Reynolds, do you
have any input on this? I know AP lang and lit have to write in class essays.”
Dr. Reynolds shrugged. “As long as they get some experience with it. I’d
recommend that if you have five essays, you do two in class and three out of class.”
Ariadne glanced around the room. “Accepted?”
“And if it’s less?” a sophomore/junior teacher asked.
“If it’s odd, it’s minority in class. For instance, freshman year, I assign three
essays, one for each book. One in then two out. Sophomore year, with the even numbers,
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I’d go even because of the APs. Junior year, just do one in basic. Senior year, same thing.
If they’re not in AP, they’re not going to use the skill. Agreed?”
“So is it two or one for juniors and seniors?”
“How about at the teacher’s discretion? But if I get another complaint about this,
we’re keeping it minimum. How about the typing issue? Hand write or type?” It was
unanimously decided that handwriting was better. Ariadne clapped her hands together.
“Alright people, we have two books up in question and one book up for grabs. First, I got
my seniors’ reviews on Lord of the Flies. Dr. Reynolds?” He passed her his stack and she
leafed through it. “I’m getting some outdated, some boring, and some enjoyed. How easy
would it be to replace it?”
“Robinson Crusoe?”
“It’s almost older…I got the wackiest request from my freshmen and seniors.
Anyone heard of Beauty Queens by Libba Bray? I’m told it’s completely ridiculous on
the outside, but has some deep stuff deep down. But I don’t believe it’s about social
issues. Hell guys, I’m just gonna write us a survival story with only girls and see how it
goes.” She paused. “So I’ll read Beauty Queens and report back. Shall we keep Lord of
the Flies for the time being?”
Dr. Reynolds’s eyes lit up. “What about Blindness by José Saramago?”
Ariadne smiled. “Perfect! And the seniors could totally role with that one! Hey,
how are y’all feeling about The Hunger Games? Kids have wanted it for years.”
“Freshmen?” Ariadne’s fellow freshmen teacher clarified.
“So for freshmeat we have Oedipus Rex, The Kite Runner, Phantom, and Les Mis.
Wanna move Les Mis to sophomores and put The Hunger Games in instead?”
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The teachers nodded. As Ariadne noted it, she couldn’t help but feel a twinge of
sadness at the thought of Les Miserables’s popularity dwindling. Personally, that book
had been her window into literature, and she hated it being unappreciated. “Then sophs
have To Kill A Mockingbird, The Tempest, Les Mis, and…okay, sophs need some really
epic entertaining book.” She snapped her fingers. “Jurassic Park. Or, hmm, did the kids
like Salem’s Lot? Let’s get some good old-fashioned horror in there. Salem’s Lot?” The
teachers agreed. “And we switched Lord of the Flies for Blindness. We’re good with
Dorian Gray and Clockwork Orange?” She took a long breath. “One last matter. I wanted
to try out an experiment. I want to have the seniors present me with a one-chapter
modernization of any of the books they’ve read over their time at Tungsten. Thoughts?”
Dr. Reynolds shook his head. “Ariadne, you’re a crazy genius. It sounds like a lot
of fun.” He smirked. “You write the scene where Caliban tries to rape Miranda into a
modern age?”
“Umm, is Caliban some dude in a bear costume then?”
“You decide, writer.”
Ariadne shut her laptop. “Challenge accepted. Okay, so I have to read Beauty
Queens and write a rape scene. Everyone else got their assignments?” They nodded.
“Meeting adjourned.”
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Chapter 8
Damn Nerves
Crowe wiped his palms on his jeans one last time as he headed to Ariadne’s place
that Wednesday. When he found his hands still slick, he cursed under his breath. He
wasn’t the nervous type. He shouldn’t be wiping his sweaty palms like a middle schooler
before an oral presentation. So why was he so freaked out when it came to telling
Ariadne about the accusations?
It was late afternoon. Not late enough for Sven to be home from baseball practice,
but late enough for Ariadne to be home. As he rang her doorbell, he considered asking
her for a house key; if she had a key to his place, he should have one to hers.
Ariadne smiled when she answered the door, Teo lying on the floor in the front
room.
“Hey you. What’re you doing here? Erin Barro told me to tell you something, but
I can’t remember what. What do you need?”
“May I come in?”
Ariadne paused. “Okay, please ignore my past stupidity. Yeah, come on in.” She
slid to the side and gave a welcoming gesture. “You want a drink?”
“If you have anything open.” She poured him a glass of wine and sat down around
Teo. He glanced at her. “You drinking?”
She shook her head. “Gotta feed Teo in an hour.” She leaned back. “So what did
you need from me?”
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Crowe focused on Teo for a moment, but shook his head and gave Ariadne his
full gaze. “Ari, Luke was arrested a couple days ago.”
She rolled her eyes. “Always knew he was dumbshit.”
“But when they arrested him, they questioned him.” He paused. “And he
practically sang to them.”
“Who’s they?”
“Interpol.”
Ariadne’s eyes flickered a moment of fear. “So what?”
“This agent, Kyle Pappas, is getting a case on me. But, this isn’t just me. When he
talked to Luke, Luke mentioned you.”
Ariadne blanched. “By name?”
“By name.” When he looked at Ariadne again, he expected the color to have
returned to her face. But, when he met her stare again, she almost seemed paler. “He said
he’d be dropping by to question you. He wants to see what kind of a case he can build if
you say you were kidnapped or something.”
“Logan, please tell me you’re kidding.”
He shook his head. “I wish I was.”
“Could I…I—?”
“Get jail time?” He took a deep breath. “Ari, I have no idea. I mean, if he tries to
turn the guns on you for being my accomplice, I can’t say. Obviously, we’d be trying to
avoid that…”
Jail time. Jail time. Read the headlines now: Local English Teacher Arrested in
Conspiracy as International Thief’s Accomplice. Your life’s over…
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“…But he can’t prove that…”
Say goodbye to your house, to your nephew, to your husband, to your son. They
won’t be visiting you in prison…
“…Besides, I’d be willing to…”
Oh yeah, and remember that career that you spent six years in college and over a
decade in low paying teaching jobs for? Favorite son for Head of School? So much for
that, eh?
“…Ariadne?”
No matter how solid she was in her seat, she could feel her losing grip on gravity.
When she looked down at her hands, they were shaking near uncontrollably. She looked
back up a Crowe. She opened her mouth to talk, but couldn’t even muster a simple breath
the pressure on her chest was so heavy.
With fading memories of her early days pregnant emerging, her stomach lurched.
“I’m gonna throw up,” was all she could mutter before dashing out of the room, only to
collapse to her knees and hands in the next room over.
For what felt like minutes, she waited for the bile to come up. Instead, she let her
final hold go, dropping onto the floor where wrenching sobs racked her body.
Crowe had watched the entire scene in complete shock. He had expected some
questions and a few angry remarks. This—Ariadne lying on the floor bawling—hadn’t
even come close to happening since Mattie’s death. Should he have expected this? Sure,
she’d kind of rubbed her face in Mattie’s corpse, vomited, and passed out when she’d
found out about his death. But this? He hadn’t even confirmed that she’d be getting jail
time.
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After glancing to make sure Ariadne’s son was okay, he found himself crawling
over to her. “Ariadne, please calm down. I didn’t mean to scare you so bad. I never said
you’d be getting arrested. No need for the tears…”
All he managed to do was get her to bury her cries into her arms and chest. Just
watching her was starting to put Crowe on edge; he was fairly certain that she was having
some kind of mental breakdown, and he had absolutely no idea what to do. Was he
supposed to just wait until she overwhelmed herself and passed out?
He nudged her face out of her arms and pulled her to her feet. “Ariadne, you’re
overreacting. What’s wrong?”
She tried to form words over the snivels, but it was no use. Crowe grabbed her
shaking hand and put her back to a sitting position on the couch. He grabbed her a glass
of water and placed it on the coffee table in front of her.
“You’re just in shock, Ari. Drink some water. It’ll make you feel better.”
She tried to lift the glass, but Crowe took it from her after half the water sloshed
out the sides.
“Ariadne, I promise. You’re not going to get arrested. What’s got you so upset?”
He got another sob in return. “Ariadne, please. Please talk to me.”
She sniffled. “I-I-Iyyee, my-my-m-m-my.” She swallowed. “G-Gone. I-It’s-s a-all
g-g-g-onna b-buh-bee g-g-gone…”
“Ariadne, I’m not—”
Before he could get another few words out, Teo’s squeals turned to cries. Feeling
more responsibility for Ariadne’s helpless son, he picked him up and started bouncing
him.
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“Whoa, buddy. Now what’s wrong with you?” he whispered.
He continued to cry. Crowe swiped his index finger over the baby’s cheeks and
found them dry, implying he wasn’t actually in major distress. As he nudged his finger
into his mouth, he went over all possible causes for a crying baby. After he rejected his
finger and Crowe felt a clean diaper, he could almost feel thoughts of his own hysterics
coming on. He was way too rusty for Mommy to be an emotional wreck.
He tried to just block out the baby’s crying as he held him just a little bit tighter
and rubbed his back. Most likely, he was just over stimulated.
“You tired, buddy? It’s probably been a long day…”
With faint memories poking through, he nudged Ariadne and went to go find
Teo’s nursery. Walking through the house felt almost creepy, as if his dead brother’s soul
had permanently stained itself onto the walls, mumbles of his voice and laugh echoing
ever so softly through the silence. Well, partial silence; Ariadne’s sniffles were trailing
behind him.
Ariadne collapsed into the rocking chair in Teo’s room as Crowe put him into his
crib. When Crowe turned around, Ariadne handed him an old iPod. It only took a few
seconds for him to realize that it probably had lullaby music for Teo, and about that time
to plug it into the dock by his crib and have it start playing some oddly familiar
percussion.
“What…is this?” he whispered.
When she couldn’t calm herself enough to tell him, he looked at the song info one
last time. He had supposedly just put on Warning from the album Lullaby Renditions of
Green Day.
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“You are so weird,” he mouthed.
She wiped her eyes and walked out of Teo’s room, dimming the lights on the
way. Crowe, after a glance at a sleeping Teo, followed.
“Ariadne, you need to calm down. I never said he wanted you. He doesn’t even
want to arrest you, he wants to have as solid of a case against me as possible.” He huffed,
tired of Ariadne trying to keep her back to him. He caught up and forcefully turned her
around. “Look at me, Ari. You were fifteen years old when I first recruited you. Fifteen.
No fifteen-year-old has the developed mind enough to clamp onto a criminal deal with
full intent of causing harm. As far as they can tell, you have no motives and they can’t
possibly throw the book at you. They’d have to give you a psychological exam.”
Those last two words resonated with her, stuck like two needles jabbed into her
skin. What would that entail? Would it be like the movies, with the uncaring doctor with
clipboard forcing her open like a clam? If she were forced to do that, or anything for the
cop, her work would find out about it. There was just no way they couldn’t. And then
what? Who’d hire a principal who was suspected to have mental problems?
“Ariadne, are you listening to me?”
She swore that her conversation with Logan was just a dream, that she was really
underwater—possibly having fallen into the koi pond like she’d do every once in a
while—and unable to breathe. When she looked up and saw Crowe’s chest effortlessly
rising and falling, panic gripped on. Knowing Logan was off on his rant and wasn’t going
to help, she risked running off, him only able to catch up when a paper bag was already
clutched in her hand.
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Crowe took a breath when he watched his partner, eyes glimmering with tears,
mascara paving her tearstains, face blotchy, clasping a paper bag as she tried to avoid
hyperventilating. Her state was still chilling, but he couldn’t be the weak one. He had to
be there for her, unlike how he’d been with her and Mattie.
“Ariadne, you were fifteen. You were in no place to decide whether or not you
wanted to commit crimes for a living. As far as they’ll know, I forced you to do it. Luke
didn’t mention you being involved during the second reign of the Murder. Look Ari, no
matter what, no matter how grim things look, I won’t let them hurt you. You’re too good
for that, you’ve built too much for yourself.” When he looked down at her, the bag was
down and she was staring at him with a certain intensity that almost made him jump. “I
promise you, they’re not going to touch you.”
So unlike the stone cold persona he’d created for himself, he pulled his old
partner into a hug. Ariadne was so off set by the embrace that she forgot to hug him back.
She couldn’t help but go back to the times as a child when she’d indulge in those few
bear hugs she’d get from her father. The older Ariadne got, the less and less she’d see
him, the more times she’d scream his name through tears, alone in the arguments with her
mother. Yes, she’d embraced those moments until they were near gone, when financial
instability had kept her dad from her. In that quiet moment with Logan, she could recall
every detail of those moments with her father, his woodsy smell, his strong arms held
tight around her, and how his stubble would tickle her cheeks.
“Thanks, Logan,” she whispered.
An hour or so later, Sven came through the door, bat and glove in tow over his
shoulder.
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Crowe snickered as he got ready to leave. “It’s Sven Evans with a blunt object. I
no longer feel safe in this house.”
Sven blew his hair out of his eyes. “Funny, Mr. Crowe.”
“Since when do you even play?”
Sven put the bat down. “Come on, Mr. Crowe! It’s an American tradition!”
“Didn’t think you played major sports in rural Alabama. Thought you’d play with
sticks or something.”
Even though Sven knew he was joking, he still pretended to slam the door on him.
Once Crowe was gone, he turned to his aunt. “What’s for dinner?”
Ariadne rolled her eyes. “Yes, I’m well, Sven. Thanks for asking. And I’m
making baked mac and cheese.”
“With bacon?”
“Ham. Do you mind?”
He shook his head, a smirk subtle in his features. “Since when are you not a
health nut?”
She shrugged as she got all the ingredients out. “Look for the bare necessities, the
simple bare necessities. Forget about your worries and your strife. I mean the bare
necessities, Old Mother Nature's recipes that brings the bare necessities of life…” she
close to hummed it was so quiet.
Sven, rolling his eyes at his aunt’s seemingly normal methods to cooking and
singing at the same time, left the room with his backpack dragging behind him. Once she
knew he was gone, she tucked a string of hair behind her ear. “It’s not like being healthy
is worth anything in the long run. You die no matter what…”
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*
*
*
Rose nearly had a heart attack when her phone chimed a text message, her a bit
too absorbed in the movie version of The Picture of Dorian Gray. She hadn’t been that
much of a reader, especially that of the classics, but she had to admit that Ariadne had
great taste in them.
Hey you! Get out here, I have a surprise 4 u. Well, assumin’ u can help me study
4 AP bio. :S
It was from Finn. Rose glanced at the clock: 4:45 on a Thursday. Her dad was out
with Harper, so there was no curfew that would be suggested. Rose grabbed her bio
notebook and ran outside, Finn’s house a few down from hers. When she opened the
door, she found Finn sitting in a wagon with a towel and a bio textbook in his lap.
“Wanna go for a ride?” he asked as he pushed his shaggy hair out of his deep blue
eyes.
There was something Rose had always liked about Finn’s hair, how it was
towhead light on top, but his roots always looked dark brown. Then again, his dark
eyebrows suggested that perhaps his hair had just been sun kissed with all the time he
spent playing soccer. Finn wasn’t very tall, probably 5’7” at most, but he made up with it
with his speed.
Rose smiled. “So long as you don’t kill me.”
Finn rolled his eyes and got out in order to allow her room. “Scoot toward the
front.”
As Finn pulled the wagon off Rose’s front yard and into the street, Rose made an
observation. “When did you stop painting your nails?”
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Finn laughed nervously. “When I realized that I was going through a very
awkward scene boy stage. Beginning of sophomore year.”
The street Rose and Finn lived on was an almost straight shot to the beach give or
take twenty minutes. While they rolled on to the beach, they began quizzing each other.
“Produced in the pineal gland—” Rose paused, and Finn just stared at her.
“What?”
“I thought you’d laugh at that.”
Finn smiled. “Guys who laugh at penis jokes can’t get theirs out of their heads
and into the ladies. Anyway, made in the pineal gland…”
Rose quirked her eyebrows but continued. “And regulates sleep.”
“Melatonin. C’mon girl, give me something difficult!”
“Okay, okay! Thyroid.”
“Thyroxin. Regulates metabolism. Endorphins?”
“Nature’s happy pill, it relieves pain and stress, somewhat involved in love…”
“And? Say it! What do endorphins do for fun?”
Rose sucked air in through her teeth, joking that the task was difficult. “Or-OrOrg—”
“Orgasm! You prude! Oxytocin. It causes contractions during birth, unneeded
attachments among friends with benefits, and…?”
“Causes orgasms! Okay? I said orgasms!”
Finn winked. “Give me another.”
Rose looked forward and nearly screamed; they were about to Strand, which
meant a couple staircases before reaching the sand. In an only slightly coordinated action,
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they slid their feet against the pavement, barely stopping in time. As they caught their
breath, they laughed.
“Epinephrine rush?” Rose said.
Finn nodded. “Just a bit. C’mon, let’s walk it down to the beach.”
Once their toes sunk into the cool sand, Finn set down the blanket and sprawled
across it. Rose rolled her eyes and jumped on top of him.
“So how’s life, Rosie?” Finn asked.
“Good. Got into some colleges. Really enjoying biology. Planning on doing a few
more short films just for fun. We’ll have to see. I’m really looking forward for Ms.
Evans’s assignment with the creative writing—”
“What assignment?”
Rose stopped herself. “Oh, she’ll explain it on Monday, I’m sure. So how have
your hobbies in question evolved since our days of shooting Hot Wheels into my walls?”
Finn laughed. “Soccer. Um, I guess I read a lot. Learning a bit of woodworking,
but not that much. Favorite subject is definitely biology. You?”
“To add to mine, I think the coolest thing on earth is urban exploring and I’m just
waiting until the day Ms. Evans lets us paranormally investigate Tungsten.”
“You believe in that stuff?”
“Do you?”
He shrugged. “If it happens, it happens. If not, I’ll just go on with my physical
things in my physical world.” He grinned. “Prove me wrong. Where’s the most haunted
house in Los Angeles?”
Rose smiled. “Barney’s Beanery.”
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“Dude, I love that place! It’s not haunted!”
Rose shook her head. “2011 article. But hey, don’t take my word for it. Your
parents still own the house in Laguna Niguel?”
“The tiny house in the gated community that overlooks the ocean? Yeah. Why?”
She shrugged. “I remember it being fun.”
He laughed. “It’s only fun when you have someone fun to be with. Otherwise you
have about four options: swim in pool, play tennis, walk, or screw around in the house.”
He winked, and she lightly pushed him. “Or go to the beach or go shopping.”
“Yeah, yeah. Hey, so where are you thinking of for college?”
Rose shrugged. “Still thinking. Did you get all your acceptances?”
“It’s…March something, isn’t it? Close to them all. But I’m thinking I’ll just go
for UC Davis. I want to try out something not so private school small. It sounds
refreshing and hey, if I don’t like it, I’ll transfer.”
For a moment, Rose considered telling him that she was highly considering UC
Davis too. For a moment, she swore UC Davis shined with an intensity she hadn’t even
imagined before. Maybe she could even offer to share an apartment with him. Surely her
father would be fine with it, and it could be tons of fun. Finn was smart too, and they’d
complement each other’s majors, even if that really didn’t make much sense.
“Sounds good. What’s in the posterior pituitary gland?”
“HGH?”
“Nope, oxytocin. Failure on every level.”
He chuckled. “Oh, Rose. So smart…”
She rolled her eyes. “You’re plenty smart too.”
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“Yeah, but you have that photographic memory, don’t you?”
She shrugged. “Close to. I mean, I can memorize really well, is all.”
Hours passed swiftly, and after the sun set, the teens returned home, promising
each other that they’d make hanging out a more regular thing.
*
*
*
Rose’s prediction for Ms. Evans and her assignment she’d told her about was a bit
off, her explaining the assignment on Friday.
“Now, through my studies and experiences working with high schoolers, I’ve
found something quite interesting. Y’see, a lot of kids say that initially the concepts of
classic novels seem cool, but the writing is dry and slow. So, in order to combat that, I’m
going to let y’all use the left side of your brains. Each one of you is gonna pick one
chapter, whatever length, of any of the novels you’ve read over your careers at Tungsten
and modernize them. For instance, I was challenged by the English department to
modernize Caliban’s attempted rape of Miranda in The Tempest. How am I gonna do
this? Miranda is still a young girl, probably thirteen or fourteen, who lives in a stately
mansion where her father is an eccentric illusionist who’s made millions. Her home’s
caretaker is a man who, because of what is thought to be his lack of proper schooling and
burly appearance, was nicknamed Caliban. Caliban spends years growing an attraction to
the girl and eventually makes his move. Any questions?”
“So…any chapter?” Finn asked.
“Any. If you want to get lazy and only pick a one page chapter, I’ll grade you as a
the lazy child you are.”
“What about plays?”
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“A scene should suffice. Less if you feel overwhelmed.”
After a few logistical questions, Rose raised her hand. “I don’t mean to be
nitpicky, but what scene did Caliban attempt to rape Miranda?”
“It was alluded to in act one, scene two.” She smiled. “Nice to see someone caring
enough to remember. What I’m technically doing is not quite y’all’s assignment, since
I’m technically writing a prequel and modernizing. For keeping it easy, just modernize.
Also, if we could help it, I want your chapters on Monday chosen; I want us to get a lot of
variety for this.”
Levi raised his hand. “Can we do A Clockwork Orange?”
Ariadne looked pleadingly to the ceiling. “That book’s already modern! Have
some respect. Jesus…”
After school, Rose decided to wait a few hours later than release time so she could
take her best friend Vivienne to Jamba Juice after her track practice. So, by around four,
the school was pretty empty, her reading through her copy of Les Miserables, trying to
decide if that was the book she wanted to modernize.
“Hey Rose.”
She looked up to find Finn, a similarly worn copy of Sophocles’ Theban plays in
his hands. “Hey Finn.”
He plopped down to the floor beside her, spreading his legs straight out, matching
her position. The hallway they sat in was known as the secret hallway, since it was an
offshoot from the bustling halls of Tungsten, the only students who entered it only
glanced by its entrance in order to get to the administration wing.
“What scene are you thinking of?” Rose asked him.
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He smiled. “The fight between Antigone and Ismene when they’re quarrelling like
sisters and Creon’s just like, ‘I’m surrounded by crazy ass bitches.’”
Rose smiled. “How to modernize it?”
“So the story goes that a couple Eastern Orthodox sisters, that their brother dies
from drug overdose. Their uncle plans to give him a simple ceremony, but the brother
told one of the girls that his only wish was to have his ashes thrown into the sea since
their father died at sea. It’s not much, but it’s all I got. How about you?”
“Chapter 23, ‘Orestes, Fasting, and Pylades Drunk.’ It’s when Enjolras and
Grantaire die.”
Finn raised his brow. “Wow, deep there, missy.”
Rose nodded proudly. “It was the most resonating part for me. Their friendship
was beautiful.” She rubbed her neck. “It’s a little short, though. I’ll see what I’ll do.”
“Modernization?”
“Reimagine them in the ghetto, two young gang bangers who realize that they no
longer want to be a part of what they’ve been pushed into. Their gang shows up and in
one last moment of glory, choose to die with each other.”
Finn nodded in approval. “Nice. Can’t wait to read it. Do you know how long it
should go for?”
“Like five to ten pages double spaced. It’s not that long.” She paused. “Finn, do
you remember when my mom stopped you walking with your friends in middle school so
you’d call me pretty?” He nodded. “Did you mean it?”
He smiled. “I did.” He intertwined their fingers. “I still do.”
She blushed. “I like you, Finn.”
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“I like you too.”
She hesitated. “Like, I really like you.”
She barely had the words in the air for five seconds before Finn’s lips met hers.
The sixteen months managed to catch up with her, her brain completely forgetting how to
kiss. So, like a sailor holding onto the railing during a storm, she held the kiss while his
hands cupped together on the back of her neck. His hands were strange, calloused in
some areas but soft in others, seemingly with no patterns or reason. Slowly, she allowed
her own arms to wrap around his waist, comfortable on his familiar skin.
Finn’s kissing was a little awkward, but he persevered. She liked how he kept
going, kept trying to get those little moves right, like she was some great painting that he
had to have every detail perfect with. He gently pulled her closer to him until they were
all but touching chests. He moved one hand from her neck and wrapped it around her
waist.
Sure, she’d always felt safe when in Sven’s arms, but she felt something more
with Finn. As they pulled away and met each other’s eyes, she found it: protected.
“I really like you too,” he said, smiling.
She returned his smile and kissed him once more on the lips. “I gotta get going.”
And Sven, who had been walking out of the administration building, dashed out
through the fork between the two halls, desperate to erase every second of what he’d just
glimpsed at.
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Chapter 9
Sacrifices for the Character
Sven wasn’t an emotional person. In fact, he’d made it a huge deal all his life to
not be the emotional guy. It was the emotional guy who donated his hard earned money
away to the undeserving. It was the emotional guy who let the names his father called
him to turn him into a drugged out mess. It was the emotional guy that ended up like his
aunt.
Yet, Rose Crowe turned him into the emotional guy. And, even sixteen months
after breaking up, she still had a chain around his neck, keeping that emotional guy stuck
in his soul, fighting with the true Sven, the one who didn’t let words affect him.
Be careful, Sven. Don’t do anything crazy, he told himself as he signaled into the
first major street on his way home. He wasn’t going to be the idiot who drove carelessly
and ended up in the hospital. This was his problem, not the driver he was bound to hit’s
problem.
By the time he safety parked his car on the street, he slipped through the garage,
past Ariadne’s blue Jaguar XF and Corydon’s silver Audi A4. His aunt and uncle’s
choices of cars were always funny to him: it didn’t reflect their socioeconomic status in
the least. Well, he supposed Corydon made enough to indulge a bit, and technically the
Jaguar was a gift, but it still amused him.
He nodded his head, pleased that rational thoughts were beginning to run back
through his head, washing out the overzealous emotions. He opened the garage door to a
silent house. He imagined that Erin had taken Teo out for a walk; California’s strange
weather had left it sunny in late March.
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He walked outside and sat in front of Ariadne’s koi pond. He could easily identify
his fish, a white fish with an orange patch on its head and black splotches down its back.
He’d named it Jing King after a character in his favorite video game series as a child. His
blissful thoughts were shut off when he watched an all white fish named Aang float over
Jing King.
Rose had named the fish Aang, after the amine TV show they’d religiously
watched reruns of ever since they got to know each other. He had wanted to name the
first Zuko after the fire prince in the series, but she had insisted on Aang. Now, the fish
was stuck with her stupid name. Sure, he was all white, but how did that suddenly make
him childish and peace loving? What if Aang hated peace? What if he wanted to cause
anarchy within the pond? His name was stopping him from doing that, yet his name-er
wasn’t even around to keep the name alive.
In one horrible, horrible moment, he thought about taking Aang out of the pond,
thinking he would be taking the fish out of his misery. It only took the ice shock of the
pond water to realize what he was about to do. Disgusted with himself, he pulled his hand
out and clutched it to his body, like he’d broken it.
No. I promised myself that I’d never hurt another animal again. I won’t hurt
Aang, even if I hate his name. Timidly, he backed back into the house, away from the
helpless fish he had moments before contemplated hurting.
He hated himself. He hated how he had let the emotional guy win. He hated how
he’d almost let the emotional guy hurt Ariadne’s fish. But, most of all, he hated that the
emotional guy cared so much that Rose kissed another guy.
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He found himself gravitating toward the liquor cabinet, where he knew his aunt
had a plentiful collection of wines, vodkas, tequilas, and spirits that she hadn’t drunk
since learning she was pregnant with Teo. That, and Corydon’s occasionally stocked
whiskey or Canadian beer.
Sven took a deep breath and pulled out an unopened bottle of Everclear 151
proof. Considering Everclear was the alcohol of the South, he might as well go down
with his roots.
After getting the bottle open, he poured it into a cup and swished the colorless
liquid around. He slipped a mouthful of the drink into his mouth, only to barely get it
down. He coughed and tried to bite back tears brimming in his eyes. He gasped for air,
picked up his glass, and ran into the kitchen. Inside the fridge, all he could see was apple
juice.
He paused. Well, he supposed making some makeshift apple moonshine would be
good enough. He uncapped the apple juice and poured it into his drink. Already starting
to feel the heaviness of the drink, he glazed over his concoction, threw his head back, and
downed the remaining couple ounces.
And that’s how Ariadne found him, bleary eyed, half drunk, staring at an empty
glass, a conspicuously opened Everclear bottle on the bar counter. A million things ran
through her head—demands of explanations, accusations, insults, points of action—but
none seemed right. She took a deep breath, shook her head, and, once he put his bleary
grey-blue eyes on her, stared at him.
Sven was nearly taken aback by the way she looked at him: her features were
completely relaxed, but the way her eyes reflected showed nothing but hate,
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disappointment, and shame. Shocked still, he watched as she took his keys off the
counter, grabbed the Everclear bottle, resealed it, stuck it back in the liquor cabinet,
produced a small key, and locked it. Giving it a tap for effect, she disappeared upstairs.
Several hours and a cold shower later, Sven walked into his aunt’s bedroom, her
lying on her bed, deeply entranced in a book. It was always weird watching her read: only
then would she wear her glasses, and she read at an inhuman speed. It never surprised
him that she was an English teacher.
Just to completely distract him from what he was doing, he glanced at the cover of
her reading material. He stopped completely; it was the image of a blonde chick with a
seemingly spray tan, baby blue polka dot bikini, and an ammo sash made out of lipstick.
“Wacha readin’?” he asked.
She set the book on her chest and looked up at him with a holier-than-thou
expression. “A satirical novel about beauty pageant contestants who get stranded on an
island with deeper themes of self image, consumerism, and the horrors of reality
television. Now, if you could keep your questions quick, this is a bit more important than
whatever you have to tell me.”
Her words stung like hand sanitizer on a fresh wound. “I’m sorry about the
alcohol.”
She brought the book up to reading level again. “And what does your apology do
for me? Besides, I’m not the one who needs an apology. I’m not the one who got wasted
on alcohol that was nowhere near what my liver could handle.” She glanced up. “I’m not
the one ready to puke. It’s all you.”
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“Aunt Ariadne, please. I know how disappointed you were. I’m sorry that you had
to see me drinking.”
“So implying that you aren’t sorry that you disobeyed me, stole my liquor, and
broke the law? Only that I saw it? Pathetic.”
She flipped the page. He rubbed his cheek. He did feel like puking, and his aunt
was ripping what little words he could muster like old wallpaper. “Please Aunt Ariadne,
just accept my apology. I know how much it hurt to see me drinking. I’m not going to
end up like you.” God, he felt like crying, and that was probably the weakest thing he
viewed in the world. “I just—I had a really bad day today…”
She put the book down and removed her reading glasses. “And what was drinking
going to solve?” Her tone softened, but not by much.
He sniffed. “I saw Rose and Finn kissing in the secret hallway.”
Ariadne considered this. “Sit down, Sven.” He did as told. “Why does this bother
you so damn much?”
He hiccupped. “Peripeteia.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Yeah?”
“When Oedipus found Jocasta dead. It was his peripeteia, because until then,
everything was in his head. He realized that he had slept with his mother and killed his
father, but nothing had happened, nothing had changed. But…But when he found Jocasta
dead, something had changed, something had happened because of his actions. He
couldn’t undo Jocasta committing suicide.” He rubbed his face again. “I let her go, Aunt
A. I let her go and now, she and Finn are together. There’s nothing I can do.”
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Ariadne wasn’t sure if it was the beautiful Oedipus analogy or the look of pure
vulnerability on his face, but she put a hand on his shoulder. “Sven, I know this is hurting
you, but you have to face the facts. And, yes, there are some cold, hard facts, but there are
hopeful ones too. You’re going to get over Rose. Rose and Finn aren’t going to get
married. Life will go on, whether you and her are together or not.”
“How would you know? It’s not like you’ve ever had your heart broken. You’ve
never had to watch the girl you love loving someone else.”
Ariadne bit her lip. “I was in high school, fourteen years old. There was this one
boy named Terry Zarkota. Let me tell you, he was all that and then some: shaggy black
hair, these beautiful brown eyes, the epitome of grunge fashion that somehow made its
way to Alabama, had this perfect Sly Cooper-esque voice about him, and we both loved
Sloss, which is like freaking no one. Anyway, I was allowed to go on the freshmen retreat
cause I was fourteen too and I dunno, got an exception. Anyway, my bestie from my age
group, this chick named Brandi convinces me pre-retreat that Terry really liked me, and
so on the retreat she offers to convince him to ask me out since they were in a group
together. So, anyway, that night, she comes to sit by me by the fire and tells me that she
thinks Terry likes her and that she thinks that Terry is going to ask her out. So, I’m so in
shock that I start crying. Anyway, I come home crying to my mom and,” he paused, “she
said something that made me cry more, but now I realize that she was right.”
“What did she say?”
“She told me, and I quote, ‘Ariadne, this may seem bad now, but in ten years,
maybe twenty if you develop as you are now, will look back and say wow, I was a
overdramatic prick.’”
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Sven blinked. “Why was Grandmother so weird with you?”
“To hell if I know. Anyway, yeah, I had my heart broken and Brandi and Terry
ended up going out for months and I just had to watch. But y’know what, Mum was right:
in the end, I have a wonderful husband and I’m better in bed than Brandi will ever be,
and Terry was an immature d-bag.”
He wiped his nose. “Your story didn’t really make sense…”
Ariadne was extremely tempted to tell her nephew off; that story had made
perfect sense—way more than her usual stories. Alas, perhaps he needed a different
approach. “Sven, you want to be the Phantom one day, right?” He nodded. “What’s the
one theme that we must take away from that play?” He didn’t answer. “Erik loved
Christine, Sven. He loved her with every fiber of his being. But you know what? Erik
loved Christine so much that he was willing to let her go so she could be happy. You
know his pain, Sven. You let the Punjab lasso off Raoul’s neck, and now you have to
stand your ground as they go off singing ‘All I Ask of You.’ But you’ll be okay, bud.
You’ll be okay.”
“But Erik and Christine got back together in—”
“Sweetie, that’s not canon. You…You must remember Erik’s sacrifice, because
it’s a sacrifice every noble and truly loving man may make, and must when the time calls
for it. She’s happy now, Sven. Let her be happy and I promise, you’ll be happy too.” She
pulled him into a hug. “But please, bud. Promise me that you won’t drink again. Things
can get scary pretty quickly.” She stopped. “Wait, what drink did you make?”
“Apple Moonshine. Kind of.”
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Ariadne let go of Sven. “Well.” She made a clicking sound with her tongue. “I’m
gonna go pump, then maybe finish off that apple juice…”
About ten minutes later, Teo was happily crawling around his play pin while Sven
and Ariadne lay across the living room couch, playing Sven’s favorite old thief game.
Well, Sven was sitting. Ariadne was lying upside down, laughing her head off at every
little thing each character said. When Corydon arrived home from work, he wasn’t really
sure how to respond.
“What’s going on?” he asked.
“Eh?” Sven tacked on, smirking.
Corydon rolled his eyes. “What happened to my wife?”
Ariadne pointed at the TV and laughed. “He’s got a hotter voice than you too,
Cor! And I see what he did there!”
Corydon could do no more than look questioningly at Sven. He shrugged. “Apple
Moonshine.”
“You gave her moonshine?! Sven, you don’t give a Southerner with a high liquor
tolerance moonshine!”
He looked back at his game. “Well, how was I supposed to know that?”
Ariadne continued to laugh. “Cor, I wanna try moose milk!”
“Sure thing, honey. Once you stop breastfeeding.”
“By the way, you’re breastfeeding Teo tonight.”
“Yup.” He looked at the screen. “Dammit, that Canada is a caricature!”
Sven rolled his eyes. “Calm down, man. At least the Canadian buffalo has more
robot parts than any other of them.”
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“SHE HAS A SEXIER ACCENT THAN YOU TOO!” Ariadne shouted, pointing
to a character with a cockney accent.
Sven and Corydon turned to Ariadne at the same time, soon unsure as to why they
considered that any stranger than usual. “So um, I’m gonna go put Teo to bed and then I
think your aunt should get there too…”
“Corion Eliopoulos, come over here and jump my bones!”
Corydon gave Sven a sympathy look, to which he shrugged. “She’s been saying
dirtier things to the characters in this game.”
Corydon sighed. “Ariadne, I have deep sympathies for the state of Alabama
whenever you got drunk off moonshine.”
“Duuude, we’re waaay more likely to drink Alabama Slammers than Moonshine.
Trust me.”
Corydon nodded, grabbed Teo, and left Sven alone with his aunt. When he
glanced at her, he knew that she’d be pissed once she sobered up. But, he supposed he
could still enjoy whatever time of buzzed Ariadne he could get.
*
*
*
Erin couldn’t help but feel a twinge of guilt over not remembering exactly how
long it had been since she first sent Crowe that email. She shook her head nonetheless
when she rang Crowe’s doorbell that Saturday. To her slight relief, Rose opened the door.
“Hey Rose, is your dad home?”
Rose snickered. “As if he actually has somewhere to be. Yeah, he’s in his office.”
Erin murmured a quick thank you and followed Rose to her father’s office. Rose
knocked on the closed door.
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“Dad, Erin’s here!” she called inside.
Seconds later, the door opened to the least high maintenance Logan Crowe Erin
had ever seen. In other words, it looked like he hadn’t dyed his hair in a few weeks and
was wearing jeans and a t-shirt. Yet, he still had managed to age as beautifully as Johnny
Depp, Erin observed. “Thanks Rose, but the adults can take it from here.”
“Technically, I am an adult, Dad,” she retorted as she left.
Crowe closed the office door and offered Erin a seat.
“So I have to talk to you…”
“I do too.”
“It’s about my immunity.”
“It’s about your immunity.”
They both stopped. “So what did you want to say?” Erin asked.
“Inspector Kyle Pappas, Interpol agent has come to my house twice over the last
few weeks. He has accused me of breaking my immunity with supposed felonies,
possibly kidnapping a fifteen year old girl, and murdering my wife.”
Erin’s eyes widened. “Now I get the breaking immunity and Ariadne, but killing
Bianca? Is this guy seriously off his rocker?”
Crowe shook his head. “I have no idea. But he, he called it, Erin. He noticed that I
didn’t file a murder when she died. I don’t know how he knows, but he does. And, God,
he’s got Luke…”
Erin’s eyes widened. “What do you mean?”
“He’s arrested, Erin! They got him a week or so ago, I can’t even remember
anymore! But he had everything. He buried Rasim’s body. He knew everything about my
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Paris operation. He told them everything. The only thing Kyle has to confirm is Ariadne’s
kidnapping and Bianca. What am I supposed to do?”
“Well, we have to attack three points, right? Kinda like debate but we’re betting
with your freedom. So first, can they trust Luke as a source?” Crowe shrugged. “But we
have to see if your immunity truly was violated. Because, if we can make a few minor
changes, it wouldn’t be because you technically didn’t murder anyone in Paris. All lesser
infractions. I mean, yeah, you burned down a building, but there’s no proof. Who died in
Paris?”
“Rasim and Lousteau.”
“Lousteau. Who killed him?”
“Rasim.”
“Can you prove that?”
“He pinned a goddamn safety pin into the guy’s skin saying he did it.”
“Good. Rasim?”
Crowe looked around the room. “Ariadne shot a shard of glass into his back and
we handed him a gun and he shot himself. I had Luke burn the body and take the teeth.”
Erin’s gave him an exasperated look. “You had Luke dispose of the body! Logan!”
“I didn’t know this would happen!”
“Logan! Even if we can prove that you didn’t kill Bianca, they’ll pin Rasim’s
death on you!”
“But Erin, it was self defense if that. He was going to kill Rose! What was I
supposed to do?”
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“Can you prove that Rasim was going to kill Rose?”
“Uhh, how about a fucking knife scar on her neck? How about her recounting the
whole thing? How about him on record killing my brother and parents?”
“What was Rose doing there to begin with? In a police-y sense.”
Crowe took a deep breath. “I don’t think saying she was on a school trip would
work…”
“Unless you admitted to manipulating your daughter.”
“How much would that get me?”
“Less than murdering Rasim.”
“Okay, what about kidnapping Ariadne?”
“That’s all up to her. You guys have to see who wants the blame. As for Bianca’s
murder, do you have an alibi?”
His eyes lit up. “I was picking Rose up from the Paris trip when it happened. I
have the school to confirm.”
“They know when Bianca died, right?”
“Yes.”
Erin let a tiny smile slip. “So your only accusations that might go through are
murder from self defense and kidnapping. And uh, breaking immunity.”
“How much time is that?”
She shrugged. “Twenty, I’m guessing. If Rasim is ruled as self-defense, you could
get nothing. But you know kidnapping itself can be five to life. For stealing ten million,
you could get ten to thirty, I guess. Arson is five to life, depending on if anyone died.”
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“No one died. And that’s a minimum of twenty, max life and that’s assuming
everything falls through. And what if everything works in our favor?”
She shrugged. “I’m going to have to say at least ten. I mean, they can’t ignore
Ariadne or the ten million.”
“Ten years?! Erin, Rose is graduating high school within that ten years. She’ll be
married in that ten years. Who knows, maybe she’ll have her first kid in that time!”
“What do you want me to say? ‘Don’t do the crime if you can’t take the time’?
I’m going to help you the most I can! Hey genius, why don’t you go talk to Ariadne!”
“I already did!” He stopped.
“What did she say?”
“What did she say? What do you think she said? She started sobbing, saying her
life was over. I promised her that I wouldn’t let her get jail time.”
Erin just stared at him. “Loge, you know what that’s implying, right?”
“That I have to allow kidnapping on my list. Well, unless Ariadne wasn’t
involved to begin with.”
“How can you possibly say she wasn’t there? Luke said—”
“Luke knows that she was with me. That doesn’t mean she was working for me. I
could’ve just had a secretary mailing my letters. That doesn’t mean I made her do
anything illegal or that she was kidnapped. Her parents think she left. It’s just crazy
enough that it might work.”
Erin licked her lips. “We can try it.” She clicked open the briefcase she had been
holding onto. “Now, let’s actually look at your immunity…”
“Hey, are you a lawyer?”
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“Yup. And yes, I’m defending you.” She pulled out a pile of paper. “It says here
that all crimes that are done after 1996 not limited to the stealing of more than a thousand
dollars, arson, kidnapping, rape, or murder, are a direct violation of your immunity and
will result in immediate imprisonment.”
Crowe cracked his knuckles. “So the only way to avoid that one would be to
change the papers?” She nodded, and, for a second, her eyes lit up. “What?”
“Nothing.”
“What?”
“I already told you, it’s nothing. Alright, so we have a solid plan. Great. Have
Rose ask her school for a copy of that sign out sheet. I’m sure they keep records.”
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Chapter 10
Begging for It
Can’t hear you, darling. What do you want?
He pulled her last layer of clothing down, past her knees, off her feet. She licked
her lips as she pulled them from their sitting positions to lying on the bed, their form
joined and imprinting the bed.
Just don’t take your hands off me.
He laughed and kissed her neck.
You know what I want, darling?
What?
I want. He kissed her collarbone. I want you, I want to enter you, wet and ready.
Then, I want you to keep your lips moving, begging me to go faster, to go harder. Say you
want it to hurt. Then, I want you to claw your fingers into my chest, and scream my name
as loud as you can.
His kisses got a bit wetter, and he trailed his tongue down, between her breasts
down to her navel.
Come on, baby. A little more. She smiled. Just for me?
He slid his index finger under her right breast. Like this?
Mmmhmm. He cupped it, squeezed it. A soft moan escaped her lips. How low can
you go, baby?
His fingers lightly skimmed their way down, coaxing shivers of pleasure the
lower they went. Please, baby. You’re braver than that…
He smiled, white teeth gleaming. I suppose I could…
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She watched as his golden hair brushed her navel, then gasped at the first shock of
his lips. He kissed her, then paused. I’m not doing this for free.
For a moment, impatience bit at her. Dammit, what was holding him? What do
you want me to say?
He chuckled, his finger lightly circling her opening. Tell me what to do, darling.
I’m new at this…
Make it up.
She nibbled at her lip, then took a sharp breath as he pressed harder. I’ll have your
eyes rolling back in your head in thirty seconds. Just call my name.
He lowered his head, and his tongue ventured in with the certainty of a
knowledgeable explorer. She sighed. Oh God, baby. Keep going…
She was so close. Come on…
The pleasure receded for just a moment. You know what I want.
Come on, you jackass. Just do it.
His tongue grazed over her sweet spot, making her shiver. I surrender.
Say please.
Please. Dear God, please!
She felt his warmth completely go away, and soon he was back face to face with
her. Sorry darling, I’m a bit of tease.
You’re an asshole…
Hmm…just give me one more second…
And, just like that, he was in her. Now, what do you want again?
She exhaled. Fuck me. Fuck me so hard I won’t be able to walk tomorrow.
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He smiled. Gladly.
Within minutes, she was right back where she was with his tongue on her. Now
say my name, darling.
Almost…
A few more seconds…
The pleasure was overwhelming, with her breath caught in throat before she
followed his every wish, behind a scream, NICK!
Ariadne bolted up from bed, the room dark and her husband lying next to her. She
felt her blood begin to calm, taking a few breaths to help. Panic still held tight, even as
her setting was beginning to familiarize itself again.
She was in her bedroom, it was about five thirty in the morning, Corydon was
sleeping soundly next to her, Teo would wake up in about thirty minutes, and Nick was
nowhere near her.
Her stomach turned to knots as she realized something: when she brought her
hand up, it was wet.
Shame rushing over her, she threw back the covers and put her faucet on the
hottest it would go. Gritting through the burn, she repeated one phrase over and over
again: I’m not that wife, I’m not that wife, I’m not that wife.
By the time she fell back into bed, her alarm clock went off.
*
*
*
Ariadne flopped into her office chair an hour and a half later.
“What’s wrong, Ari?” Zane Hunt asked casually.
“I’m pretty sure I scalded my hand this morning,” she said cheerfully.
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“How?”
She looked to her unopened email. “Martyrdom.”
Jasper Barnett scoffed. “You and you Catholics and your martyrdom. I swear,
why would the Lord want you to burn yourself anyway?”
“Jasper, I didn’t mean it literally.” She took a deep breath. “Do any of you guys
remember Nick Carver?”
“Who?” Elizabeth Wallis asked.
“You were in high school at the time. Guys?” The longer teaching teachers—
Helen York, Zane, and Jasper—shook their heads. “He was blond, blue eyed, nice
body…”
“Ari, just say it,” Zane suggested.
“He was a stripper.”
There was a unanimous “Ohh.”
Jasper could hardly contain a smile. “What about Nick the Stripper?”
“So this is a really long story, so bear with me. So it was a few weeks ago, I’m not
really sure cause I live on Teo Time God bless the day that boy can sleep through the
night, and so Nick shows up at my door. Now, he does the weirdest thing. He tells me
that I didn’t pay him in full and just asks me casual questions.”
“So?” Zane interjected.
“He was wearing a tight t-shirt and jeans. I mean, like guy clothes they wear when
they want chicks to notice them! And it was just weird, so I paid him and he leaves me
his card. So flash forward to last night…” She blushed. “I dreamt about
us…together…like in bed…and…”
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“You had a wet dream about Nick the Stripper?” Jasper asked, making Ariadne
cringe.
“Thanks Captain Obvious, you’ve now been promoted to Admiral,” Zane
quipped. “Ari, I don’t see the big deal. You have weird fetishes and Corydon’s still with
you.”
“But, this is different. Those were all fictional characters. Nick is real guy…a real
guy that I actually have slept with. I just—I feel so guilty looking at Cor now. I feel like I
cheated on him.” She shook her head. “I already betrayed him when Nick gave me oral at
my bachelorette party. How can I face him knowing what’s going through my inner
conscience?”
Helen shook her head. “Ariadne, take it from a woman. I understand that you feel
bad about this, but you never acted upon it. You’d be surprised at how often Corydon
catches himself thinking about other women. It’s just a natural thing people do. What
happened with Nick at your party isn’t something you count as cheating. Sure, you
should tell him, but that’s it. Don’t be so hard on yourself.”
Zane looked at his nails. “If it’s so concerning for you, go sleep with Corydon and
remind yourself why you married him and not Nick. I’m sure the answer isn’t hard to
come by.”
Ariadne seemed to relax. “Thanks, guys. So all I have is A block today…thinking
about staying here for a bit to write that rape scene the English department conned me
into doing.”
“The English department is making you do what?” Zane questioned.
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“Long story. Write an attempted rape scene. I hate this, because writing
something I haven’t experienced always feels so plastic.”
“So what? You gonna go get raped for research?” Jasper joked.
Ariadne rolled her eyes. “No.”
“What you should do is write a sex scene from the guy’s point of view and reveal
later that the girl didn’t consent.”
“It’s attempted rape. I just don’t know how far they’d be going.” She pushed a
stick of gum into her mouth. “Wait, I don’t have English 12 today! Yess!” Ariadne turned
to Elizabeth. “Yo Wall-E, what’s up?”
She shrugged. “Nothing. As usual, my Monday morning is awkwardly opened up
with you talking about your sex life.”
Ariadne began to laugh, but something occurred to her. “Wait, I don’t always talk
about my sex life. Why does that one come to mind?”
Elizabeth blushed. “No reason.”
Ariadne continued to stare. “Lizzie, are you a virgin?” She didn’t answer. “Oh,
first things first. I totally respect that about you, but you could’ve told me, babe. I’ve
probably mind raped you multiple times and I am sincerely sorry. Lizzie! Jesus, now I
feel disgusting…”
“I’m sorry!”
Zane looked to Helen. “Will we ever have a normal Monday morning?”
Helen shook her head. “Unless you count this as normal.”
Jasper roughly pushed himself out of his seat. “Wait a minute! Ariadne began her
whole rant by calling us ‘you guys.’ What the hell?”
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Ariadne stopped in shock as it sunk in. “My mom said if I ever stopped saying
y’all, that the Lord would smite me and make me allergic to butter.”
“What?” was all Zane could think of.
“Aren’t you already allergic to butter?” Jasper asked.
“Hunt, you’ve never been to the South. Jasper, no, I’m not. And seriously y’all,
Mum already said that if I lost my virginity before I got married that the Lord would ruin
my life and I became lactose intolerant around then!” She looked up. “Dear Lord, please
spare me. I was having a serious emotional moment.”
“I would love to see you and your mom stuck in a room together,” Zane
commented before returning to his computer.
Elizabeth slammed down the papers she was looking at. “I swear to God, I’ve
known Ariadne for nearly three years and I still can’t hear her Southern accent!”
All heads turned to Elizabeth. “You don’t? I kind of use y’all whenever I can,”
Ariadne commented.
“Elizabeth, did you chew on lead paint when you were a child?” Jasper
reprimanded.
“It’s alright, baby. It’s very mild,” Ariadne said.
“Right there! She said baby with the accent! Like bay-beh,” Helen commented.
“I didn’t hear it! Here, say something really Southern!”
Ariadne gave Elizabeth a look. “What does that mean?”
“Anything!”
“The folks in Alabama have a way friendlier disposition than y’all Californians.”
“I didn’t hear it!”
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Ariadne threw her hands up. “Lizzie, it’s not easy to hear! Wait til after I come
back from Birmingham. It comes way back when I actually go there. No big deal. Now, if
y’all will excuse me, I have to set up my class.”
Just the luck of being in a school of approximately two hundred students, Ariadne
ended up bumping into Rose far sooner than she would’ve preferred. As much as she
wanted to tell Sven to be a man, she still felt a need to protect him. She caught up to
Rose’s stride and put her arm around her shoulder.
“Could we talk?” Ariadne asked.
“Of course.”
Ariadne turned Rose toward her path to her classroom. “Don’t take this the wrong
way, but…well, look Rose—Sven saw you kissing Finn. Now I—”
Rose blanched. “He saw us?! But we were in the secret hallway—”
Ariadne’s features fell into those of horror. “You made out in the secret hallway?!
Rose, that place is semen central! Do you even realize how many awkward teenagers
have played baseball in there? I swear, I dread going down that hallway for fear I’ll be
forced to glimpse at awkward teenage sex. Rose, the first time I got here, I glanced over
and saw a freshman giving another one a blowjob and then it occurred to me how vomit
inducing and gauche they looked. It made me realize how awkward I must’ve looked like
when I had sex as a teenager. Your teachers will never un-see what they see in that
hallway. Don’t. Do. It. Again.”
Rose motioned for her to stop. “That’s not the point, Ariadne. I had no idea he
saw. Is he okay?”
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She sighed. “Rose, he’s not taking it well, but you can’t blame yourself for it.
Don’t break up with Finn. Please just…if you could, please just don’t do any PDA in
front of him. He’s still sensitive about it, y’know?”
Rose nodded. “I’m so sorry Sven had to watch that.”
Ariadne shook her head. “It’s fine. You didn’t mean anything by it.” She stopped.
“So have you picked a scene yet?”
“I was thinking Grantaire/Enjolras death in Les Mis.”
“Nice choice.”
Ariadne let Rose go to keep walking. “Wait, just nice?”
Ariadne shrugged. “I think you could do better. Pick something more personal,
not more emotional.”
Rose felt oddly lost. “Wait, Ms. Evans, what do you suggest?”
“That you think and reach deep within yourself. Tomorrow is only for presenting
ideas. I don’t need a definite answer until April.”
Rose got no further answer.
*
*
*
Mid afternoon, with Teo napping, Ariadne got ready for the heaviest research
session of her post-college life. She had approximately five hours to learn about hetairai,
or rich Greek prostitutes, failure not an option.
The clothing and overall look was probably the easiest, mostly because it was
nearly impossible to recreate, leaving a more creative string to her.
In general, the topics of interest at the roleplay she was going for included love,
gender differences, and philosophy among them. She could do that easily.
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As for the setting-type stuff, they put honey in their wine, and she figured they
could go with the typical bread/cheese/fruit/nuts for before.
Once she mentally planned her night, she pulled up a near blank Word document.
Miranda looked up only once during dinner. The soup had been a bit flavorless,
so she looked up to ask Caliban for the saltshaker. When she looked up, he was staring at
her, with an expression she couldn’t read. But, as her father had taught her, she did not
hold the stare. After receiving the salt, she nodded and focused as each grain of salt fell
from the snowy expanse inside the shaker.
With a thin ring around her bowl, she excused herself from the quiet dinner.
That was all Ariadne had already written. Now, she was at the turning point:
would Caliban attempt to rape her in the shower or in her bed? She wasn’t sure why, but
her stomach was knotting up simply at the thought of writing the scene. She bit her lip
and tried to look ahead. In terms of literary value, the bedroom provided a defilement of
personal, comforting space, of a young girl’s dreams fading into nightmare, of that fear
realized when one looks at their bedroom door late at night. Monsters under the bed being
real and whatnot.
Yet, the shower provided place for vulnerability, for the idea of pain being
washed down the drain. She felt a full on body shiver run down her.
Don’t scream.
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Ariadne shook her head. What the—Where had that come from? Don’t scream?
Don’t scream at what? Was this her damn wet dream coming back, telling her that
Corydon would hear her? She cursed Nick and set her fingers back on the keyboard.
After carefully picking a pair of pajamas and underwear to wear to bed, Miranda
laid them in a neat pile in her bathroom. Even with her room only a few steps from the
bathroom, she didn’t want to risk Caliban seeing her. Heat rushed to her cheeks just
thinking about the mortificationjoho
Ariadne looked down at her fingers, shaking violently enough to actually make a
typo. She moved them off the keys and stared. The knots in her stomach still hadn’t left,
and now this? What was freaking her out so bad? Was she embarrassed to be writing this
scene? Was she so ashamed of what she was going to produce that she was fearful of the
outcome? She let one last curse slip before setting her fingertips back on the keys. She
was just going to power through it, quality or not.
She finally let herself relax once the warm water began hitting her back, the
hissing drowned out the outside sounds. As she went through her routine, she forgot
about the outside world entirely. She poured a splotch of her favorite watermelon
smelling shampoo into her palm and allowed a moment to waft the smell.
Once she weaved it into her dark hair, she shut her eyes, enjoying the feeling as
the soap fell from her hair onto her back. In the back of her mind, she heard a knob twist,
but ignored it.
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Her eyes flickered open, and she realized that she wasn’t alone. Standing in front
of her, stark naked, was Caliban. He reached one strong, hairy arm over and grabbed
her neck, the other turning the shower off.
“Don’t scream, Miranda,” he whispered.
Too shocked, she forgot to follow orders. She opened her mouth and willed her
vocal cords to produce a scream, but his hand clamped over her mouth.
“You stupid bitch,” he hissed as he threw her against the shower’s tile walls.
The world became hazy as the blood flowed down her neck, dirtying her clean
hair. She didn’t even notice as her body slipped down to the floor of her bathtub.
“Close your eyes, honey. It’ll all be over soon,” he cooed, his breath with the
distinct odor of brandy sticking to it.
She swallowed the bile threatening to come back up and squeezed her eyes shut.
One of his hands held her left arm down, the other hand the other arm. She cried as she
felt his erection poke at her thigh.
She could still feel the blood coated to her back. More tears fell as she felt his
poke move closer and closer to her.
Ariadne stopped when the sound of her own teeth clattering became a distraction.
She saved the document and closed it. What was she so freaked out about? Or, worse yet,
how had that part of the scene come so easily for her? She swore it would’ve taken more
thinking than inspiration to write a scene like that.
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She shivered; something inside her was tempted to break that document back out
and keep writing. It was as if something inside her had begun telling that story and
wanted to finish it. Finish the rape.
She turned off her computer and went upstairs to make sure she was completely
shaven for Corydon. The wet dream was bad enough; she in no way needed to be
thinking about damn rape scenes when it came to her and Corydon’s special night.
*
*
*
Corydon himself got home around eight. When he called Ariadne, she seemed a
bit flustered, and it had been bugging him ever since he left work.
“Ariadne? Is everything okay?” he asked as he set his lab coat near the front door.
“Yeah babe, everything’s great.”
Corydon turned around and found his wife completely dressed up: tight black
dress, five-inch stiletto heels, dark smoky eye makeup, dark purple lipstick, her hair
somehow perfectly coiffed yet tousled, and a silver nose ring through her left nostril that
he seriously didn’t remember her having.
“Whoa, Ari…”
It wasn’t that Corydon wasn’t pleased by the act she was giving, but he honestly
was not good with basic communication of his feelings. Ariadne took this into account as
she waltzed over to the bar and poured her husband a full glass, making sure the clacking
of her heels on the wood floor was the only sound he heard.
“So I figured we could have a symposium of sorts…Would you prefer here or
upstairs?”
“Where’s Sven?”
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“Don’t mind him.”
“Upstairs.”
Ariadne picked up the wine bottle and the tray of compliment food and balanced
them as she walked upstairs.
“How are you doing that?” Corydon asked as he followed close behind.
“Waited tables in college. No biggie,” she replied.
After setting everything down, she motioned for Corydon to close the door.
“How you feeling, Cor? Sore?” She crept behind him and started massaging his
back. “I want to make this your night.” She kissed the side of his neck. “What do you say,
honey?” She put her hands on his shoulders and dragged them down to his lower back.
“Taste a little wine, loosen up those tense shoulders.” She traced her fingers around his
sides until she had them on the bottom button of his shirt. “Then, ooh baby, leave the rest
of the relaxing to me.”
“Ari—” He stopped when she unbuttoned his bottom button and lightly outlined
the skin beneath the elastic of his underwear. A smile of guilty pleasure fell on his lips.
Lightly, she pushed him onto the couch by their bed. “Stay put.”
She came back with the wine glass, taking a quick sip before straddling him.
“Tonight, I’m your servant.” She tilted the glass ever so slightly at his lips. He took a sip.
“You seen Antigone?”
It took Corydon a moment, but he caught on. “Just last week. Not sure how to
swallow Antigone.”
Ariadne quirked her eyebrow as she gave him another sip. “Didn’t like how she
stepped out of her realm? She did get her end…”
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He smiled slightly. “Although, I suppose I appreciated her courage.”
“You want anything else?”
“What kind of cheese did you get?”
“Please pardon my cross-culture buys. It’s parm and the wine’s Italian.”
He chuckled. “I’ll try some.”
As she fed him, she went on musing. “A bit off for the time, though. Almost
makes it more impacting.” She smiled. “Oh how convenient that good ol gynecon Ismene
survived?”
“Ah, but Eurydice, equally as obedient, did meet a harsh end.”
Ariadne began unbuttoning the rest of his shirt. “Doing as a Greek woman should
of course, in response to her son’s death. Not her niece’s death, I may add.”
“And how does that work the other way? The Greeks allowed Jocasta her
mourning.”
Ariadne stifled a laugh as she pulled his shirt off. “Mourn her? Her own death was
her Nemesis. Jocasta was seen as the root of all evil.”
Corydon smirked. “Where does that leave you?”
She grabbed his arms and pulled him to his feet, falling under him onto the bed.
“Under you.”
“Whoa there, I don’t even get you undressed?”
Ariadne cursed internally, but didn’t let it show through. “I respect Antigone,
personally. She shows that one doesn’t have to be in the profession to have heroic
qualities.” She unzipped her dress from the side, a bit below the top to the very bottom,
revealing a hint of lingerie and her leg. “But, as professions go, hetaira isn’t bad.” She
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slipped the dress off, fully uncovering her lingerie: white with black lace bra and
matching thong. “It’s much better than living in the gynecon.” She bent down to remove
her heels, far enough that Corydon got a clear view of her cleavage. She winced at the
pressure put on her fake knee, but pushed on through, removing each shoe and tossing
them aside. “And then,” she scoffed, “the most important female role would involve
being a virgin.” She turned around and unclamped her bra, letting it fall to the floor, her
Sloss Furnace and shoulder blade tattoos in full view. She covered her breasts with her
hands and turned around. “What do you think? Would you rather be a prostitute or a
fortune teller?”
Corydon didn’t have time to answer, Ariadne’s hands skillfully removing his
pants.
“Now, sit back,” she brushed her fingers off his chest, motioning for him to lay
down, “and enjoy the show.”
She pushed her fingertips down into his underwear. “Are you ready, big boy?”
“As ever,” he nearly growled back.
She smiled before she put her tongue just below his navel. “I think you won’t
regret it.”
Corydon closed his eyes as her tongue’s touch went lower and their underwear
joined the strewn clothing around the room. She rode him with a certain elegance, an
expertise that allowed her to be able to nearly predict his reaction to each move she made.
But, the dominance also made her call the second of each shot, including stopping
seconds before he was ready to climax.
“Ari, come on…” he groaned, trying to clear his head.
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“You didn’t think we were done, now did you?” she replied as she kissed his
collarbone.
A playful smile touched his mouth. “Suppose not.” He re-adjusted himself. “Now
it’s my turn. What will I have to do to get you going?”
Ariadne grinned, leaning into him, whispering, nearly nicking his ear. “Fuck me
so hard that I won’t be able to walk tomorrow.”
When everything was said and done, both of them were sweaty and catching their
breath, smiles plastered on their faces.
“I love you, Corydon.” She kissed his cheek. “Give me a second to get all this
crap off my face.”
He nodded, squeezing her hand before letting her go.
She returned to bed by pouncing on it and taking Corydon in her arms. “You
know how amazing you are, right Cor?”
He shook his head, a slight smile still glowing. “Thanks. I love you, too.” She
nuzzled into the crook of his neck. “Ari, do you think I should call Babas?”
Ariadne’s bliss suddenly drained. “Why?”
“I just—I’ve been thinking about him non-stop.”
Ariadne knew it shouldn’t have affected her, but his words were like a punch to
the gut. “What do you mean by non-stop?”
“Ariadne—no, I didn’t mean like that. You know our making love is special—”
She turned away. “Did you, for even a moment, think about someone else besides
us?”
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He sighed. “For maybe a moment I thought about Babas, but you have to
understand. This has been a huge issue for me lately. You know how it is to deal with
family issues. Please Ariadne, I didn’t mean you any disrespect.”
She sighed. “It’s okay.” The anger was gone, but there was still a twinge of pain.
“I’m sorry I snapped at you. Really, truly, I love you with all my heart, Corydon
Eliopoulos. I can’t imagine my life any other way than it is right now. You’re my savior,
my rock, my angel…”
He chuckled. “Why the showering of flattery tonight? Usually I’m the one doing
it.”
She swallowed. “Change of pace.” He leaned over to kiss her, but she pulled
away. “Nick Carver gave me oral at my bachelorette party.”
“Who?”
“Nick the Stripper. I invited hired him at my party and he gave me a strip tease
and we went into the guest room and he gave me oral. Cor, I—I’ve felt so bad about this
ever since it happened and I know we said we wouldn’t talk about our bachelor parties
until we’d been married for five years, but I just couldn’t keep it in. Cor—”
“Ariadne, I’m not really sure what you want me to do with this information.”
She felt hysterics edge into her voice. “Anything! Scold me, yell at me, accept it!
I don’t care. But acknowledge it! I’m not the squeaky clean virgin girl your family
wanted. I’m sorry I couldn’t be her.”
“Wait, slow down, Nick Carver, like the guy you met at the Star Wars
convention?” She nodded. “How did you meet a male stripper at a Star Wars
convention?”
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“That’s not the point!”
He shook his head. “Ariadne, sure, whatever, I’m not mad about it. Bachelor
parties get crazy. There’s nothing saying you can’t have some fun. I mean, it’s not like
you slept with him after we got married.”
Ariadne hesitated, causing Corydon’s expression to twist into that of shock and
betrayal.
“I didn’t sleep with him,” she muttered.
The blood began to return to his face. “Jesus, Ariadne! Don’t scare me like that!”
“But things aren’t over exactly. Last night,” she nearly choked on her own words,
“I had a wet dream about him. We slept together. I—Cor, I’m so ashamed, and I’m so
scared for us. What did that mean after only two years in our marriage? I don’t want to
lose you.” He didn’t move to speak. “Cor…?”
He put a hand up. “Please, just give me time to think this one over.” Off in the
distance, they heard Teo cry out. “I’ll check on him.”
She was alone before she had the chance to utter another word.
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Chapter 11
The Shadow in the Corner
Ariadne was awoken from a fitful sleep several hours later. She rolled over and
glanced at the clock, but the magnitude of Teo’s screaming distracted her from catching
the time. Paranoid, she touched her side, trying to remember if she was wearing clothes in
case Sven was up pulling an all nighter and saw her. She pulled herself out of bed once
she felt her nightgown and shivered once she was fully immersed in the cold outside her
bed.
As she tiptoed down the hallway, she couldn’t help but have a cloud of dread
wash over her. Teo should’ve been starting to sleep for eight to ten hour shifts, and she
could guess he’d only slept for four hours. Would she end up having one of those babies
that needed sleep training? Would she be one of those slightly d-bag parents who just let
their kids cry it out?
When she glanced inside Teo’s nursery, something was very, very wrong. For
instance, Teo wasn’t in the room and a different baby was. Her eyes filled with tears.
“Penelope?” she rasped behind the onslaught of emotion.
The baby turned to her name, her blue eyes staring at Ariadne. Her light brown
hair was dampened, her body shivering.
Ariadne looked up to see who was holding her. At first, she was surprised by the
figure. It was shadowy, but it was fully human, as opposed to her usual half-demon
monster images of how she’d always perceived Slag, an old ghost from the haunted iron
mill she used to live by. When the shadow figure turned to her, she could make out a
fully human face of a boy about Sven’s age with long hair that fell into its face.
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Ariadne opened her mouth to speak, but no words would dare come out. The
figure gave her one last glance before disappearing into Teo/Penelope’s bathroom. She
followed behind, with just enough time to view the full bathtub with steam rising from it
and the figure standing over it. She mouthed the word “no.” The figure glanced back at
her before dropping the baby into the water, the last sound Ariadne heard her head hitting
the bottom of the tub.
She tried to move, but the shadow figure went after her next, grabbing her,
throwing her against the wall behind her, and—
Her eyes shot open to a world she could only process one thing at a time. Her
muscles were all dead, plastering her arms to her sides, cold sweat coating all nonexposed skin that touched her nightgown. Old tears were crusted at her eyes and, beyond
all, she had a massive headache somewhere in the back of her head.
It was just a dream, she told herself, just a bad dream.
The images and feelings were too raw to go back to sleep with, and the headache
was getting overbearing. So, throwing off her nightgown, she stepped into the shower,
turning the water on hot enough to cleanse her but cold enough that it would be relaxing.
She lowered herself to the floor, hugging her knees to her chest as the water began
raining against her skin.
If there was one thing Ariadne truly missed about Alabama, it was how often it
rained. She’d always loved it, how at night she could just lie away and listen to the pitpit-pit of the drops hitting her roof. As she got older, she learned that she was always
more creative when it rained in Cali. There was just something about staring out into a
near empty street, lesser congested roads and a grey sky, the only outside visitor being
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Mother Nature that just calmed her. So, when she started hearing the tiny pit-pit-pit of the
shower water hitting her back, she took her first deep breath.
Just a nightmare, she thought. None of that is real.
The headache was still raging strong, despite the panic having washed away. She
rubbed her temple, but moved back. Could a dream truly give her a real-life headache?
And it wasn’t even the type of headache that one got from feeling sick: it was plain old
throbbing pain.
She felt around back her head and gasped when she felt a ridge of what she
assumed was scar tissue on the back of her head. When she touched it, it hurt more. She
had been sitting in the dark, so she had no way of viewing her injury.
When could I have possibly gotten that? She couldn’t remember actually falling
and hitting the back of her head.
Her heart all but stopped.
She could almost feel the scratches on her back as water hit them. Yes, she knew
if anyone asked, only her husband would believe her. She took a deep breath that came
out as a shudder. If some kind of demonic force had given her the scratches, then what
would stop them from clinging onto her, giving her the injury on her head? She knew, she
knew she didn’t hit her head on anything in the time frame it would’ve taken to produce
that kind of scar.
Suddenly, all the stories Corydon had told her rushed back into her head. All the
signs were there: the nightmares, the mysterious injuries. She had no reason to believe
otherwise.
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The entire day had just been weird. What, with the wet dream, the strange feelings
with the rape scene, the nightmare, and now the head injury.
She had two options: either she was suffering from some rare mutation of Mad
Cow Disease causing her mind to slowly peel away, or she was being tortured by
demons. Well, or she was seriously sleep deprived, but she filed that one away.
She buried her face into her arms. Who was the shadow figure in her dream? She
knew it wasn’t Slag. Slag had been a consistent character with his own specific look, and
it had been that way since she was first told about Slag when she was five. She knew it
hadn’t been a man, so that eliminated most people from her adult life. She knew it wasn’t
Sven because, A) she never thought of Sven as a baby killer and B) she would’ve easily
recognized Sven.
So that left her students, a wayward nephew she’d forgotten about (and perhaps
with good reason considering the dream), or someone from her childhood. Could demons
take their own form, or did they prefer being in a recognizable form to the victim?
She couldn’t imagine ever thinking of one of her students in that way, nor her
nephews.
Was there a reason it wasn’t Teo in her dream? She loved Teo, loved him and
would do anything to protect him. Why was the baby in the figure’s arms Penelope?
Although it racked her with guilt, she really hadn’t had a long think about her miscarried
daughter since Teo was born. Was it her brain trying to remind her to think about her
daughter, or was it some symbol for how she felt about Penelope, how she felt she was
always in danger and there was nothing she could do about it?
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She swore. Being an English major sucked when it came to over-analyzing
everything. She was seriously sleep deprived and it was messing with her.
Penelope’s in Heaven, brain. Stop thinking of her anywhere else. A loud noise
nearly gave her a heart attack, but she soon realized it was just a trashcan falling on the
sidewalk. She took a deep breath. She’d never really noticed it much before, but showers
really did freak her out.
She huffed. And there was one more thing to analyze in her ever complicated life.
Get out of the shower and go to bed, you water waster.
She turned off the shower and dried herself off as best she could. She knew her
hair would go rouge in the morning, so she’d have to get up early to fix it. Wonderful.
By six in the morning, Ariadne gave up on her hair, threw it into a bun, and went
to tend to Teo.
“Hey Teo,” she greeted her perfectly alert son. “You slept ten straight hours! God,
aren’t you just growing up?” She picked him up and kissed him. “Well, I guess I should
expect that, shouldn’t I?” She pulled off his pajamas and placed him on the changing
table. “You’re seven months today!” She changed his diaper and pulled on t-shirt and
pants. “I bet Daddy has some breakfast for you. Are you hungry, Tay?”
As she walked him downstairs, he babbled away, her heart swelling when she
caught “ma-ma” among the talk. The high chair Teo was placed in already had a plate of
cottage cheese, some mashed fruit, and a sippy cup on his tray.
“You already breastfeed?” Corydon asked.
“I pumped really early this morning. Should be in the fridge.”
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He nodded, scooped up some mashed fruit, and fed it into his son’s open mouth.
“I heard you get up last night.”
Sven came down. “Do we still have muffins?”
“Behind the toaster,” Ariadne answered.
“Anyway, I heard you get up. You okay?”
“Aunt A, could you drive me to school today? My car’s almost out of gas,” Sven
asked.
Ariadne rolled her eyes. “Sure, but I’m not staying until baseball’s over.”
Corydon faked a cough. “So, anyway…what’s up?”
Ariadne looked around the room, as if it’d have more than her nephew and son.
“What do you know about demonic oppression?”
“Lots. But uh, you’re not demonically oppressed.”
She felt the tiniest pang of jealousy as she watched Teo eat cottage cheese. “What
about demonic clinging?”
He raised an eyebrow. “You think a demon is clinging to you? You seen stuff?”
“I had the weirdest nightmare last night. Some shadow figure drowned Penelope.”
He stopped feeding Teo to consider this. “And it wasn’t Slag?”
“No.”
Teo noticed his lack of food, and proceeded to pick it up himself. “No one you
recognize?”
“It was around Sven’s age with long hair. That’s all I remember.”
He shook his head. “That’s really weird. You sure you don’t recognize him?”
“Certain.”
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He took a long breath. “Well, if you start seeing things, I could give you an
informal checking. I mean, you know I’m not able to perform an actual exorcism now…”
She nodded. “I know, but thanks.” She paused. “Are you still mad at me?”
“I’m not comfortable with what you told me, but as long as you promise not to
see him, I’m okay.”
Ariadne nodded. “Of course. Don’t sweat it.”
He smiled. “Last night was a lot of fun.”
Ariadne mirrored his smile. “Thanks.”
*
*
*
Rose looked down at the twelve books she’d brought to school, no further ideas
sprouting to her head for her assignment. She wasn’t sure whether to be angry with
Ariadne for messing with her decision or if she actually had a point. Rose truly hadn’t
dug deep inside herself since at least Maul Mason’s, perhaps even since her mother died.
“Hey Rose.”
She turned around and found Bella. She let herself relax; just Bella. “Hey. What’s
up?”
She smiled. “Still deciding on your scene?”
Rose nodded. “What are you doing?”
“Alice’s suicide in Last of the Mohicans.”
“Why?”
“I just loved how Alice seemed so submissive and quiet, but then when she killed
herself, it was like this huge finger to everyone trying capture her. Plus, in an awful way,
it’s kind of romantic how she stood by Uncas.”
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Rose nodded. “Sounds good. Any ideas for me?”
Bella pursed her lips. “You should do… what can’t we do?”
“To Kill A Mockingbird, Carrie, and A Clockwork Orange. Ms. Evans said I
shouldn’t do something I’d usually do.”
Bella set her stuff down on the desk. “What would you usually do?”
Rose shrugged. “A death scene, I guess.”
“What book are you likely to do?”
“Either Phantom or Les Mis.”
“So that leaves…” She peered onto Rose’s desk, “The Tempest, Sophocles, Last
of the Mohicans, The Book Thief, The Devil in a White City, Huck Finn, Dracula, Lord of
the Flies, and The Picture of Dorian Gray.”
Rose gave her a look. “Thanks so much.”
“Someone’s time of the month…”
Rose sighed. “Sorry, it’s just been stressing me out lately.”
Bella rolled her eyes good-naturedly. “It’s all good.”
Just around then, Ariadne walked in. “As clarification, children, I only want an
idea today. Who has an idea?!” A bunch of kids raised their hands, all with the
competitiveness of elementary kids. “PIGGY’S DEATH!” Ozzie called out.
Levi and Wes huffed. Finn raised his hand and was called on. “The argument
between Antigone and Ismene.”
Bella next. “Alice’s suicide in Last of the Mohicans.”
“Gavorche’s death,” Sven said next.
“Dorian’s murder,” Megan said.
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“I’m not sure where, but some scene from Dracula,” Levi said.
“That magic-y scene from The Tempest. Or no, when Trinculo and Stefano find
Caliban!” Wes said.
Everyone turned to Rose. “Have you thought of anything else?” Ariadne asked
her.
Rose shook her head. “For now, I’m still doing Grantaire and Enjolras’ deaths.”
Ariadne nodded. “Guys, I totally respect your decisions, but I’m hearing a lot of
death scenes. In fact, I don’t think I heard one that isn’t a death scene. Or okay, good job,
Wes and Finn. Guys, I want this assignment to show me some of y’all. Show me a scene
that truly resonated with you. Show me a scene that you actively related to a value you
have, a characteristic you have. For instance, if given the opportunity, I’d do this
assignment on Antigone’s first confrontation with Creon because the book relates to me
because my ancestors lived by those rules. As well, when I grew up, it was near
impossible to be taken seriously because I was a strong-willed girl among boys and men
who didn’t care. My mother was metaphorically in the gynecon and unable to defend me.
Most of my life, I was up against men who had serious power over me, yet it was
characters like Antigone who convinced me that it’s what I think that matters, not what
others believe. There’s a deeper story with the Polyneices, but that’s not for today.” She
looked around. “Everyone get me? I’m not mad, but I do want to push y’all. For the rest
of the year, we’re gonna be finishing up A Clockwork Orange and working on this
assignment. In retrospect, it’s not much. And remember, I’m here to throw around ideas.”
Bella raised her hand. “And what if the death scene really did resonate with us?”
“Explain how.”
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Bella fidgeted for a second. “Well, the way she was all quiet and stuff for most of
the book, yet she ends the book by leaving with a big bang. I mean, she jumped off a
cliff.”
“Do you admire her reasoning for jumping?”
“You mean not wanting to be apart from Uncas? Yeah, kinda.”
“You…think suicide is romantic?”
Bella stopped. “No.”
“Yet you agree that it is romantic in this context?”
“I guess not.”
There was a silence. “Bella, I don’t mean to sound condescending, but did you
read the book?”
“Yes, of course I did!”
Ariadne fought to keep a straight face. “Alice doesn’t commit suicide in the
book.”
There was a long silence were kids weren’t sure whether to chuckle or stare. Bella
shrank back. “Oh.”
“No harm done, but do you have another choice?”
“I’m gonna have to think about it.” She paused. “Could I meet with you privately
outside of school?”
Ariadne stopped. “We have Thursday and Friday off, don’t we?” Everyone
nodded. “I’ll help you on Wednesday night.”
“Why night?”
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“I’m busy until then. So guys, if you seriously want my help choosing, I’m here
Wednesday night.”
Finn raised his hand. “Ms. Evans, why do we have Thursday and Friday off?”
She shrugged. “Staff development day or something.”
“Shouldn’t you know?”
She shrugged. “Department meeting doesn’t start until I walk in.” She cracked a
smile, but quickly realized that no one understood how that could be a joke. “Let’s just
get A Clockwork Orange out…”
After class, Rose slipped into Ariadne’s office.
“Ariadne, are you sure you can’t help me?” she asked.
“Not until Wednesday. Did Sven lend you season three of Ghost Adventures?”
“It’s in my locker. Do you want me to get it?”
“That’d be great.” Rose returned within minutes. “‘Return to Bobby Mackey’s’ is
the episode where they talk about demons and messing with you, right?”
Rose nodded. “The bishop was talking about how demons get to an emotional
core.” Ariadne looked down at the DVD. “You wanna watch this with me?”
“What block is it?”
“B. My classroom’s empty.”
“Sure…”
As they watched, there was an elephant in the room.
“Ms. Evans, were we demonically messed with?” Rose asked.
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Ariadne stared at the paused screen. “I know Erin had her self image thing. She
had that. Sven…Sven’s different, but I can’t tell what they would’ve hit. Your dad got hit
with something. Did you?”
“So they take your deepest emotional scar?” Ariadne nodded. Rose thought about
it. What had changed since coming back from Maul Mason’s? She supposed it might
have to do with her bout of sloth over her future. But, what had it hit, then? “I think they
did hit me.”
“They hit me, and I thought I knew what they hit, but now I’m not so sure.”
Rose nodded. “Tomorrow night?” She nodded. “What are we really gonna do?”
Ariadne leaned back. “Paranormally investigate this place.”
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Chapter 12
Discussion Topics Disclosed
It was sunny.
Sure, it being sunny wasn’t something new for Crowe. No, it certainly wasn’t new
after living in Bakersfield, California for nearly thirty years.
But, as he slipped on a pair of sunglasses, he couldn’t help but find the weather a
bit peculiar. It seemed as if every other time he’d come to the cemetery, it had been
overcast. Then again, he tended to go in the morning and it was two in the afternoon, but
he didn’t let the little details get to him.
The grass had a nice crispness to it as he walked through the sea of tombs, so
unlike the sopping mess that the lawn was when he came after a rain shower. It almost
reminded him of control, like the grass itself knew exactly what was happening and
would make sure that all of Crowe’s plans would go exactly according to plan.
He shook his head; God, I’m losing it. How many days had it been since Inspector
Kyle Pappas had read him off his accusations? A little over a week, hadn’t it been? He’d
gotten his visit from Pappas on March 23rd. Yes, he knew it had been March 23rd because
Rose had been running around the house sometime that week with college acceptances.
To think my life has only been screw over for a little over a week. He followed the
crinkling grass to Bianca’s grave.
Bianca Sienna Moretti Crowe
1964 – 2011
Loving wife, mother, and daughter.
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Brave patriot
Il coraggio da solo è immortale.
Courage alone is immortal. It had been a phrase one of their friends in Interpol
had come to say in a parrot-like fashion ever since she’d uttered something like it while
on one of her more dangerous missions. It was close to the only Italian he could speak.
Chuckling to himself, he wondered if Mamma and Papà would’ve liked him better if
he’d actually learned Italian. Then again, as they liked to think, they were Americanos
and Americanos did not espeak I’Italiano. He found himself close to laughing, memories
of family dinners with the Morettis sifting through his memory.
MAMMA, ¿DOVE È I’INSALATA DI POLPO? MAMMA!
Logan would ask as one of Bianca’s sisters charged around the house. What are
they screaming about?
Bianca would smirk. Octopus salad.
Why can’t they just make pasta and be done with it?
Bianca would laugh. Because that’s’a not how da people di Venezia did it,
m’amore.
Your family’s crazy.
BIANCA! TELL YOUR PORCA TROILA ‘USBAND TO STOP SMIRKING AND
‘ELP.
He still wasn’t sure which of their marinara covered dishes was the octopus dish,
and he knew that his in-laws still kind of hated him for being not Italian-American (‘e’s
not from New York? Well what’s ‘is…Czech?! What use is ‘e?), but he was still slightly
155
tolerated because of Rose. Plus, it was pretty fun being called a pig slut every other
second. He wondered if Giovanni and Viola had gotten rid of their accents. Knowing
their tenacious natures and the goal in plain sight, he imagined that they’d done it. Plus,
Bianca and all her siblings had completely American accents.
He sat down in front of his wife’s grave. “Hey Bee. I hope you’re doing okay.
Things are screwed up down here, as usual. Well, for me, anyway. You know Kyle
Pappas? Yeah, the guy’s a major asshole. And yeah, I know you’d be getting mad at me
for saying that, but it’s true. I mean, can you believe the nerve of this guy? I would never
kill you, and everyone who ever saw us together would know that.” He sighed. “I’ll make
sure it works out. I know how you feel about justice and all, so I hope it comes to
something you’ll be proud of me for. I love you, so much.” He shook his head.
“Rose is graduating in two months. Can you believe it? Our little girl is
graduating in two months. She’ll be going off to college soon. She got accepted into a
bunch of places. Sure, nothing like Yale or Harvard, but she’s going somewhere
nonetheless. I’m so proud of her. I mean, I could easily see how in light of what
happened over the last few years that things could get hard for her, but she powered
through. She’s still a little uninspired, but I’m sure that will go with time. I’m sorry she
hasn’t come to see you recently. But, hey, with acceptances in, I’m sure she’ll be seeing
you more often. She loves you so much.” He took a slow, deep breath. Even the air felt
crisp.
“I wish you could talk back sometimes. I know I don’t believe in all that ghost
crap that Ariadne is into, but I’d believe it if it were your voice. What I’d give to hear it
for real one last time. I get so scared when I can’t recall your face or your voice on
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command. God Bee, what am I gonna do for the next forty or so years? Guess I’ll—we’ll
have grandchildren to distract me in ten years or so.” He sighed. “Harper’s good too, in
case you wanted to know. Suppose she can distract me for a while too. You’d like her.
She’s a great girl and I don’t think I love her as much as I love you, but she means a lot to
me. I hope you’re happy too, wherever you are.”
As he got ready to go, he noticed a tiny line of uneven earth by her tombstone. He
mentally noted to mention it to the caretaker of the cemetery. Sure, it wasn’t big, but it
certainly was noticeable, and his wife deserved nothing less than perfect, even in death.
*
*
*
“Aunt Ariadne, the phone’s for you!” Sven called Wednesday evening before she
left for helping English 12 with their projects.
Ariadne put Teo back in his play pin for a few extra minutes before Corydon got
home. “Who is it?”
“Can’t remember what he said.”
Lazy bastard, she thought as she picked up the phone. “Hello?”
“Is this Ariadne Evans speaking?” The voice on the other end was clearly male
with a certain confidence that she recognized from somewhere. But, more strangely, he
referred to her by her maiden name. Sure, no one could really spit out her married name
and everyone at work called her by her maiden name, but she knew it wasn’t anyone even
slightly associated with work.
“It is her.” Is that bad grammar? … Does anyone care besides me?
“My name’s Inspector Kyle Pappas. I work with Interpol.” She blanched; well
that explained the confidence.
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“Is there something I can help you with today, Inspector?”
He paused for a moment. “I’d just like to ask you a few questions about your
relations with Logan Crowe. Nothing difficult, just your take on the situation. What time
works best for you?”
Ariadne could barely hear over the ringing in her ears. “It’s hard to work with
weekdays, but Saturdays work well for me.”
He hummed, as if he were checking a calendar. “Would this Saturday work? I’m
sorry it’s such short notice. I promise, it should only be an hour at most.” Wait a minute,
how the hell did he get my phone number?
“No, no, Saturday works fine.”
“Morning, afternoon, evening…?”
She struggled to remember Teo’s schedule. “My infant’s up at six usually, so
maybe nine?” My number’s probably in the phone book or some directory or something.
It’s not like he’s stalking me.
“Sounds good. Thank you for your cooperation. Could I have your address as
well?”
After she dictated her address and a few casual goodbyes, she hung up the phone.
Out of all the questions swimming around her head, one managed to get right to her:
If you say a single word wrong, he’s going to take your life from under your feet.
Fluids seemed to fill her inner ears, her vision started to get blotchy, her own
living room began to feel foreign, lightheadedness kept her from finding up from down,
and she swore she was dying.
“Aunt Ariadne?”
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Of course, she wasn’t dying, but it took a bit too long to figure out that she was
actually about to vomit. By the time it registered, all she could do to grasp for whatever
privacy she could was to duck behind a couch.
“Uhh, Aunt A, you okaaay?” Sven asked as he watched her kind of fall behind a
couch and start making retching sounds.
It was really pretty quick, Ariadne emerging from the couch, one hand on her
forehead and the other wiping her mouth. “I’m uh, fine…”
He raised an eyebrow. “You sure?”
She looked down at the mess she made. Thank God for the…oh short carpet. “I
think I can’t blame this on the dog…” She paused. “Where are my cleaning supplies…?”
“Aunt A, are you okay? Like, seriously.”
She snapped out of her trance. “Just whack nerves, Sven. It’s fine. Just let me
clean this up before Cor gets home.”
She started walking out. “Wait, you’re still going out to work?”
She huffed. “Yes, Sven! I’m fine. Leave it.”
He blinked. “Do you want me to clean this up?” Please say no, please say no,
please say no.
“No! Why would you?”
Sven swallowed and looked over to Teo, blissfully unaware of his mom’s distress.
Within a few minutes, Ariadne had scraped off the vomit and spread baking soda on the
stain. As she waited for it to absorb enough for a vacuum, she stared at Teo, foot tapping
nervously.
“So you’re fine…?”
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“Dammit Sven, I’m fine!” she snapped.
He winced. “Could you teach me how to clean like this?”
Ariadne gave him a look. “Why?”
“Dorms have other people in them…”
She rolled her eyes. “Scrap off what you can, pour something absorbent like
baking soda on the stain, wait ten to fifteen minutes, vacuum it up, sponge the spot with a
dry-cleaning solvent, blot, and blot again with a dishwasher soap vinegar warm water
mixture and sponge with cold water to get rid of the vinegar solution.”
“In all honesty, how do you know this?”
She crossed her arms and glanced at the wall clock. “Mum taught me two things:
how to cook and how to clean.” When her ten minutes were up, she started her tedious
vacuum and blot process. “Hey Sven, take Teo into the kitchen; I don’t want him
breathing in any bad fumes.”
Touchy, but still on planet Earth, Sven noted.
By the time Sven got back into the living room, the stain and his aunt were gone.
Ariadne wasn’t really surprised by the extreme lack of motor vehicles parked in
Tungsten’s parking lot when she arrived. It was about seven, and she guessed that the
remaining cars were either administrative personal or students who just couldn’t get a
ride home. When she walked inside, she found Rose and Bella lounging in one of the
clumps of couches having casual conversation with a few freshmen.
“Y’all ready?” she asked, approaching but not joining them.
Rose and Bella stood up and gave a quick goodbye to the lowerclassmen. “Are
there other kids?” Bella asked.
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Ariadne shrugged. “As far as I know, no. But hey, the less people, the more
focused we can be.” She pulled out her keys and opened up the classroom. “We should
have minimal interruptions.”
With that said, a so-called “interruption” burst through the door a few minutes
later.
“Ariadne, mujer! ¿Que pasa?” Marco Fuentes, a Spanish teacher in his mid
twenties said as he hung off the door.
“It’s Ar-ee-add-nee, not Ar-ee-add-neh,” Ariadne joked.
He laughed. “So seriously, what’s up?” His accent was distinctly Hispanic, but he
purposely emphasized it when he talked to people he liked joking with. He had just
moved into the office with Ariadne that year when Dr. Weisberg realized that their office
lacked a language teacher and Pat had retired.
She shrugged. “Just friends and family. Not much.”
He strolled around her and slapped her ass. “Not from what I’ve heard, you
skank!”
While Rose and Bella were plain slack jawed, Ariadne wasn’t sure whether to let
her eyes stop bugging out long enough to slap him. “What did you hear?”
Marco continued to smirk. “Jasper said you slept with a stripper the other day.”
While Rose was mildly used to this, Bella was still staring in horror. “I did not
sleep with a stripper! Dammit Marco, if you’re gonna go spreading rumors about me, at
least be present on Monday morning therapy sessions!”
Marco laughed. “I sincerely apologize. So fine, give me the gossip from the
source.”
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Ariadne glanced back at the girls. “Do y’all mind? We have a while.”
They shook their heads. “This is pretty entertaining,” Rose admitted.
Ariadne turned to Marco. “One, I did not sleep with Nick. Two, tsoula is slut in
Greek. Three, if you slap my ass again, I will turn around and kick you so hard in the
balls that your wife won’t need a single pill because y’all won’t be having any more kids
ever.”
Marco laughed. “I don’t know why, but I do fear your gringa might.”
“Excuse me, but gringa is kind of an insult.”
He scoffed. “How? You’re white and from Alabama.”
“I happen to be one hundred percent Greek, meaning close cousins to the Italians,
and Italians are one accent away from Spanish.”
He held back laughter. “You—my God, soo glad I joined your crazy office.” He
turned to Rose. “Ey Crowe, why aren’tcha takin’ español?”
Rose shrugged. “Passed the OPI last year.”
“So? You do know what we do in AP Spanish, right?”
Rose nodded. “Attempt to drive other seniors’ cars and apparently fail to a major
degree.”
Ariadne snickered. “No way, chica. You missed El Orfanato.”
Ariadne stopped laughing. “That was a great movie.”
Marco put an arm around Ariadne. “See? Even your crazy ass English teacher
says it was worth it.” He turned to his coworker. “What are you guys doin’ here
anyways?”
“They need project help. Hey, there’s still ice cream in the fridge, right?”
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He gave her a confused look. “Aren’t you lactose intolerant or somethin’?”
“Why does everyone know that?”
“Would you rather everyone know your cup size?”
She glared at him. “No one at this school knows my cup size, Marco.”
“’Cept Zane.” He winked.
She gasped. “Zane Hunt does not know my cup size!”
He giggled. “And what exactly do you think happened in Greece, senora?”
“I was in Greece and the only dirty secrets on that trip included how amazingly
Zane can do a Carlton dance impression and that we combined know every lyric to every
Tenacious D and Tom Jones song.”
Marco’s eyes widened. “Zane can dance? What the hell?”
Ariadne nodded. “Those two can back me up.” Rose and Bella nodded. “Dude,
have you gone on any Tungsten trips?”
He nodded. “I went on the Spain trip.”
“I got food poisoning in Spain once.”
“Ariadne, you get food poisoning everywhere. Like, even in the Estados Unidos.
It’s cray. Like, I honestly think you should be dead right now.”
She rolled her eyes. “Gee, thanks.”
“But seriously! Like,” he turned to Rose and Bella, “yo, Zane’s AP minions, can’t
food poisoning kill you?”
“From like dehydration…” Bella answered.
“No, like long term effects!”
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They exchanged a glance. “Umm, teeth decay, salivary gland swelling, and
possible ulcers and tears in the esophagus,” Rose answered.
“I love these kids! I feel like I’m talkin’ to doctors!” Marco commented.
Ariadne smiled. “Thanks for the dental advice, Marco. Now, if you’ll excuse us,
we have to work.”
Marco didn’t move. He licked his lips and gave Ariadne a playful look before
picking her up and throwing her over his shoulder. “One more thing: aren’t infant
mothers supposed to be pudgy? You’re so damn skinny! Know my wife didn’t lose the
pounds for a year…”
“Marco, put me down!”
“Marco Fuentes has the girl, and it seems escape is impossible.”
“MARCO!”
Marco attempted to get over to Ariadne’s beanbag chair set up across the room by
crossing over a couple desks, but Ariadne forced herself out of his grip, falling forward
from about seven feet up Marco lost his balance from her struggle and fell backwards.
Spitting out curses along with mutters of pain, Ariadne just lay on the floor. Marco
recovered a bit quicker, offering his coworker a hand up.
“That. Failed. So. Epically.”
“Sorry, friend.” Ariadne put too much weight on her bad knee, the pain causing
her to whimper in pain. “You okay?”
“Yeah, just had to make some sacrifices for love and it screwed with my fake
knee.”
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He laughed. “Sacrifices for love? Oh come on, A! Cut the bullshit, you were just
screwing too hard.”
“Shut up, Marco! Like I don’t get this enough from Jasper!”
“C’mon babe, how else could you afford that Jag? Got ratchet jaw while you were
at it?”
While Bella and Rose had been snickering in the background, they were dead
silent then. “Marco?”
“Yes?”
“Shut up. Please. The only man I make love to is my husband, thank you very
much.”
He patted her shoulder. “Just so long as you know that you’re sucking someone’s
dick for those fancy designer boots.”
Rose and Bella had started laughing and Ariadne had no other comments aside
from giving him the finger. He laughed and flipped her off in Greek.
“See you on Monday, Caesonia.”
“See you on Monday, Caligula.” Once Marco was gone, Rose and Bella found it
fit to just stare at their English teacher. “So uhh…let’s get to work now, shall we?”
Ariadne pulled all her copies of their options and laid them out across a desk in
front of her.
“Now, there are two ways to work through this: we can pick a defining trait and
try to find scenes based around it or we can go naming off scenes that stuck with us.
Which shall we do?”
“I’d prefer thinking of scenes,” Bella said. Rose nodded.
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Ariadne nodded. “Let’s start this way: pick one book you loved and one book you
forgot was even on the reading list.”
Rose picked Les Miserables as her favorite and sat puzzled over the second
option. Bella was a bit quicker, picking The Picture of Dorian Gray as her favorite and
Lord of the Flies.
“Which one of these wasn’t in your frontal mind, Rose?” Ariadne asked.
Rose bit her lip. “What do you think?”
Ariadne chuckled. “I can’t read your mind, luv.” She glanced at the book spread.
“But I think if you think really hard about your life, you’ll know which book to pick.”
Rose squinted at the list. And, like the joy of finally finding the light switch in a
dark room, she found it. “The Book Thief.”
The tiniest hint of a smile played on Ariadne’s mouth. “Now we have this set.
Pick one scene from each book that stayed with you.”
“With Dorian Gray, the scene where Dorian dumps Sibyl. With Lord of the Flies,
it was Simon’s death.”
“How would you translate that into a more modern voice?”
“I’d set up the scene as if it were two college lovers where the boy was a theatre
lover and the girl wanted to get with him, so she joined theatre and bribed them into
giving her a part in an upcoming play. Of course, she sucks, so when he sees her, he
breaks up with her because he lied to her.”
Ariadne nodded. “Does that entice you to write it?”
“Yeah, definitely.”
“Then you have a piece.” Ariadne turned to Rose. “And you, my child?”
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Rose shrugged. “My favorite scene in Les Mis was Eponine’s death. I’m not sure
about The Book Thief.”
She looked to Bella. “Did you bring a laptop?”
“Yeah, but I left it in my car.”
Ariadne and Rose watched as Bella opened the door (Ariadne’s classroom was a
unit in itself built into the side of the school, the only way in and out of it through a door
that led to the parking lot), unlocked her car from her spot by it, set her keys on a desk
nearby, and ran to her car.
Ariadne rolled her eyes, grabbed her keys, and stuck them into her pocket.
“What are you gonna do with Bella’s car?” Rose asked.
“She has a Beemer. What am I not gonna do?” Rose would’ve protested, but she
was still a bit weirded out by Bella’s blatant trust of her and Ariadne and found the irony
a bit humorous. “So which scene in the book?”
Rose bit her lip. “I guess one of the scenes with Liesel and Papa…”
Ariadne leaned back in her seat. “Rose, you’re not pushing yourself. Doing a
scene with Liesel and Papa would be safe, it would be predictable. I want you to look
through this book and pick a scene you never in a million years would want to take on.”
“What do you mean by that?” Rose huffed.
Ariadne put a hand on Rose’s shoulder, which she quickly pushed off. “You’re
frustrated and I get it, but please try. This will be the last assignment you do for me and I
want you to be proud of it, no matter how many years pass before you look back at it.”
“I just don’t know which scene to pick. It’s not like I’m not trying.”
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“Rose, if you really think about it, dig into your heart, you’ll realize how easy it is
to pick.”
Rose turned to her. “So you know exactly what you want me to do, don’t you?
Why can’t you just tell me?”
Ariadne shrugged. “Then there would be no learning involved in it, of course.”
By the time Bella got back, Rose was quietly working, hoping she’d have the
damn epiphany her English teacher so greatly wanted her to have. Hours passed, and
while Rose wrote out a few unfinished strings of scenes, Bella all but finished hers.
Eleven pm rolled around far sooner than any of them expected, Bella starting off
the time by groping through her pockets for her keys.
“Hey, have you guys seen my keys?” she asked.
“I hid them somewhere in the school,” Ariadne said nonchalantly as she graded
papers.
Bella’s head whipped around. “What?”
“You heard me.” She didn’t look up.
“Why?!”
“I want you to come ghost hunting with me.”
Bella groaned, full memory of the Paris catacombs returning to her. “No way…”
“I heard the hot spot is the girls’ bathroom in the hallway headed to the
administration building,” Rose added.
Bella’s eyes widened in fear as Ariadne’s grew in interest. “I know that place!
Never been in there though.”
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Rose stared at her. “You’ve worked here for over ten years and you haven’t been
in the girls’ bathroom?”
Ariadne made a face. “There’s a certain wall that must be established between
teenagers and adults, and one is bathrooms. Either way, some people just don’t know
bathroom etiquette, and I don’t deal with that shit anymore after my childhood. In sum,
no, I haven’t been there.”
“Yeah,” Rose continued, “it’s got some wild vibes going on in there. I brought
three infrared cameras.”
Ariadne pulled out a briefcase and opened it, revealing a couple pieces of
supposed ghost hunting equipment that she’d kept at home since Maul Mason’s. “Bella,
I’m giving you the easiest job ever. You’re going to sit there and hold this.” She handed
her a recorder. “Meanwhile, the room I’m putting you in has your keys. If you find them,
you can go.”
“Great, when can we go?”
Rose handed Ariadne a camera and they walked out of the room, out into the
parking lot, and back into the pitch black school, even the cleaning staff already through.
Ariadne pulled out a flashlight and swung the light throughout the entryway.
“Go ahead, Bella. Pick a room, any room,” Ariadne said.
“Ms. Evans! There are dozens of rooms in this school!” Bella complained.
“Well, I guess we have a long time to go.”
Bella, picking through a haystack for the needle, started walking forward. Rose
leaned into Ariadne. “Did you really hide her keys?”
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Ariadne nodded. “So the ghosts around here are two on record. One was stabbed
to death here in a gang related accident when the school was a warehouse. Otherwise, I
suspect that Muriel Bachmann haunts this place.”
Ariadne and Bella switched places. “So Rose, are you and Finn an item?”
Rose shrugged. “I guess.”
Bella smirked. “Hot hot ho—” She ran straight into a wall, causing Ariadne to
chuckle despite herself.
Once Bella collected herself, Rose answered. “I guess, but nothing’s too serious.”
“How far have you gotten?”
“First base.”
Bella’s jaw slacked. “What? That’s it!?”
Rose blushed. “Yeah. We’ve only been together for a few days. Calm yourself.”
Bella tried to push Rose, but couldn’t find her in the dark, accidentally pushing
Ariadne. When she realized the mistake, she gasped.
“Oh God, Ms. Evans. I’m soooo sorry!”
Ariadne stood poker faced. “You’re going to fail, Bella.” A few seconds later,
Ariadne burst out laughing. “Love you, Bells.”
Bella moved back to Rose’s general area. “You should probably get to the bases
pretty soon. Guys don’t stay interested for much longer otherwise.”
Rose rolled her eyes. “Whatever you say, Bella.”
By then, Rose and Bella were actually following Ariadne, who stopped abruptly
in front of the girls’ bathroom.
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“GO FIND YOUR KEYS!” Ariadne said as she pushed Bella through the door
and ran off, Rose awkwardly trailing behind.
“Did you just lock Bella in a bathroom?”
“No, she can get out.”
Rose turned on one of her night vision cameras. “Are they really in there?”
Rose heard a distinct thud. “Nope.”
“You are so mean.”
“When she turns on the light, she’ll realize it.”
“And if that doesn’t happen…?”
Ariadne shrugged. “Let’s split up. I have a REM pod and a PX device. You got a
thermal camera. Kalí tíhi.”
With that, Ariadne was gone and Rose was left with only the colors of a thermal
camera working its magic. As she walked aimlessly with the camera, she shook her head.
Everything felt so similar to Maul Mason’s, yet the air wasn’t ominous at all. Why was
Ariadne so adamant about exploring the school? Why hadn’t she done it before if it was
such a great idea?
So, that left Ariadne losing her mind, as usual. Rose yawned. She really should
decide on her college soon. If she went anywhere besides UC Davis, she wouldn’t know
anyone. Now, she didn’t mind making new friends, but the idea was a bit scary. Plus,
going to school in California would mean she could prolong her relationship with Finn, a
relationship that she honestly thought could go somewhere. Plus, she wanted to be able to
see her dad.
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Even so, it would be pretty cool to go to Colorado College. It was awesome that
she even got in there, and almost felt bad not taking them up on their offer. After all,
wouldn’t her mother want her to go to the best school she could? So she’d take four years
in the best undergrad she could get into, then work her butt off and get into John
Hopkins.
She chewed on her lip. Sven said he might be going to Colorado College, so she
could room with him…
She looked down at her camera. Nothing.
But Sven wouldn’t go to Colorado College if it were his first choice. He’d want to
go somewhere in the South. She shouldn’t rely on Sven in order to make her decision.
Taking a deep breath, she sat herself down and stared at the thermal camera’s
screen. She was looking down the hallway that led to the gym, the door to the gym with
its see-through window shining a bit warmer than the rest of the hall. Even though it was
no more than a toy, she wished her dad hadn’t taken away her Ovilus.
*
*
*
Ariadne found herself trailing off toward the math section of the school, noticing
with slight amusement that Bella’s car keys were still on the floor as she passed. After
finding a nice place to set up shop, she sat down cross-legged and turned on the REM
pod, or a tiny device that set off an electromagnetic field that would light up if that field
were disturbed.
“Alright Muriel, tonight’s your night. If you wanna come talk to me, put your
hand over this thing. It’ll light up.”
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After fifteen minutes of the device sitting idle, she turned it off and turned on the
PX device, or a sort of spirit speak-and-spell.
And what felt like right away, she got a word: LABS. Ariadne just about squealed
in delight and ran off toward the labs. However, before she could even get there, she
caught a glimpse of something from the corner of her eye. The labs were lined on a
hallway that ended with a glass door that led to a different parking lot, and she swore she
saw a figure pass by the door.
She stopped and stared at the door, making sure it wasn’t a trick of her eyes. Sure
enough, she saw it again, walking from the door toward the farthest lab entrance. Ariadne
gaped as it turned around and stared at her. Her hand trembling, she lifted her night vision
camera and pointed it at the figure. The screen was blank. She lowered the camera and
still saw it. Raised the camera one last time, and still saw nothing. One more time down,
and it hadn’t moved.
“Hello?” she called down the hallway.
The shadow stared, its long hair a clear detail.
As much as Ariadne bragged to people that she confronted adversaries, she found
herself running like hell away where she managed two perfect corners before running
into a wall by the gym. While she recovered, Rose came running in, jumping in front of
her in complete excitement.
“Ariadne! Oh my God, I got a thermal image. It’s the shiiiit!”
I’mhallucinatingI’mhalluncinatingholyshitI’mfuckinghallucinating.
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Ariadne watched as Rose rolled the film, a shot of the door to the gym that around
half an hour in showed a cold spot move across the window with a distinct shape of a
person.
“What do you think?”
Ariadne hadn’t heard Rose this excited in a while. “It’s cool…”
“Did you see something too? Something better?”
She grabbed Rose’s arm and marched them over to the hallway. When Ariadne
looked, she couldn’t find the figure anymore.
“Rose, if I saw something, it would show up in night vision, right?”
“If you saw something with your naked eye? Yeah, I think it would.”
She put a hand on her forehead. “I’m losing it, Rose.”
Rose chuckled. “We’ve known that for years.”
“I mean I saw something that seriously was not there, not even in a ghost way.”
“How do you know?”
Ariadne swallowed; she knew because she recognized the shadow, recognized the
shadow from some dark place years ago that she couldn’t remember. But, she knew that
this shadow actually existed somewhere.
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Chapter 13
Don’t Scream
Come seven am Saturday morning, Ariadne finally got her phone call from
Crowe.
“Hey Ari, how…ya doin’?” he asked, unsure if small talk was even necessary.
Ariadne glanced at the clock and back at Teo as he fed. “Oh wonderful. I’m ten
pounds under my baby weight loss goal.”
“How nice…”
If Teo hadn’t been sitting on her lap, she would’ve stood up in indignation.
“Because of stress vomiting. Goddammit Logan, do you have any idea what kind of a
mess you’ve turned me into?”
There was a pause on the other end. “Wait, you’ve been so stressed out that you
lost ten pounds puking? Ariadne, you cannot blame me for that.”
“It’s your fault—Logan, if I say one word wrong, Pappas is gonna haul me off to
jail.”
“I already told you, he doesn’t want you, he wants me. But hey, you’re talking
with him today, aren’t you?”
“Yeah.”
“Erin and I came up with the perfect cover up for you.” She set down Teo, as if
she’d be able to hear better without him. “You were hired a job as my secretary. They
can’t arrest you for filing papers and they can’t arrest me for kidnapping if you went
willingly.”
“What if they ask about the illegal stuff?”
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“Say you weren’t involved.”
Panic started to bubble up. “But I was! How am I supposed to lie to an Interpol
agent?”
“You’re an actress! What do you mean how do you lie to him?”
“Logan, there is a huge difference between acting and lying to an international
police officer.” She stopped. “What if they have our phone calls bugged?”
“Ariadne, we bugged stuff because it was illegal. They can’t do that. Now, do you
need me to give you full details or can you make it up?”
“What if he figures out I’m lying?”
“Then you can always say I made you say that, but I trust that you can pull this
job off. Please Ariadne, if I’m gonna have your back, you gotta have mine. Try to make
this work.”
Ariadne swallowed. “I’ll try.”
“Call when you’re done. And don’t worry about Pappas. He’s a really laid back
guy if you’re not me.”
“Thanks.”
When she looked back at Teo, he had his little fingers clamped to the side of the
couch, about to take a step forward, eyes on the couch a few feet from him. Ariadne
smiled, got down on her knees, and took her son’s hand.
“I really should buy you a walking toy, shouldn’t I?” Once he reached the other
side, he clamped onto the other couch in the same fashion. “So your she-dog Aunt Ithaca
isn’t coming in until noon because she must do some American shopping, so it’s you and
me while I talk to the nice police officer. Now, what game do you wanna play?”
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Teo ended up falling from his standing position. With a displeased cry, he
proceeded to crawl toward his pile of toys in the corner of the living room. Ariadne
smiled when he chose a plastic aqua dinosaur that when balls were fed into would pop
back into the air. It had startled her out of her mind many times, but she figured it might
be better than him just plain old throwing the balls around like in his ball pit.
“No music, though, honey.”
Teo picked up a purple ball and put it into the dinosaur. A few seconds later, it
popped back up, bouncing a few feet away. Teo squealed in delight and went off to fetch
the ball. Ariadne barely had a moment to admire her son’s spirit when the doorbell rang.
She was pleasantly surprised to find that Inspector Kyle Pappas was not a 6’4”
dude with ‘no funny business’ written into his face. In fact, he smiled and gave her a
rather loose handshake, like he was physically trying to not be intimidating.
“Would you prefer I call you Ms. Evans or Ariadne?” he asked.
“Ariadne is fine, and it’s Eliopoulos now.” She hesitated. “In case you needed it
for record.”
He nodded. “Thank you.”
Ariadne motioned toward the couch. “If you don’t mind, I’d like to make sure I
can see my son. No babysitters available on short notice.”
Pappas took a seat. “It’s no trouble. Shall we begin?”
“Do you want anything to drink? Coffee, tea, water…?”
“I’m fine, thank you.” Ariadne took a seat, crossing, uncrossing, and re-crossing
her legs. Pappas smiled. “So all I want from you is to understand a bit better exactly what
went on in Logan Crowe’s earlier raids. Now, could you describe to me your relationship
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with him?” He pulled out a notebook and a pen. Ariadne waited until he tapped his pen
up and glanced at her.
“What exactly do you want me to describe? There’s a lot to it.”
“How did you meet him?”
Ariadne glanced at Teo, who was feeding balls into his toy. “I was fifteen and a
half, about. 1994. I was pushed up a few grades because my parents needed to work, so I
was a senior in high school. His brother came into my school—he was only about
eighteen so he fit in—and flirted with me.” She glanced up and found Pappas nodding.
“Anyway, his brother offered a sort of job to me, which Logan elaborated on. He told me
that he was a wealthy man who in order to perform philanthropic duty was offering
underprivileged high school graduates an opportunity to work as his secretary and travel
abroad for a few years and he’d pay me full ride through college.” She cringed when the
pop from Teo’s dinosaur sounded. She watched as Pappas responded to the pop, tensing
but relaxing once he saw her son and his toy.
“Did your parents agree to this? You were only fifteen.”
She nodded. “My parents weren’t that happy with it, but a free ride through
college made it worth it.” First lie down. She clasped her hands together.
“So you took a secretary job with Mr. Crowe?” She nodded. “And I imagine he
provided basic necessities: clothing, food, the like?” She nodded again. “So he treated
you well?”
“Like I was family.”
“And what did he do while you were off taking care of his paperwork? How often
did you spend time with him?”
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She looked at her hands. “Logan was gone most of the time. Never said what he
was doing, though. He claimed meetings and the like. I spent most of my time with his
little brother, Mattie.”
“And what did Mattie do?”
“He occasionally helped out with Logan’s affairs, but mostly kept to me.”
“So you don’t know what either Crowe did while they were gone?”
“No.” He stifled a laugh, causing Ariadne’s gaze to whip up to him. “Something
wrong, Inspector?”
“You are so tense, love. I swear, I’m not going to bite.”
You would if you knew what kind of lies I’m telling you. Ariadne swallowed.
“Sorry. Anyway, yeah, we worked like that for two and a half years.”
“Any other notes? Did Crowe do anything besides pay for your college?”
Ariadne rubbed the back of her neck. “Well, it’s a funny story. Mattie and I ended
up dating during that time period and Logan bought us a house when I was eighteen.
Mattie died in 1996, but Crowe let me keep the house. This house.” Pappas glanced
around the living room, as if fascinated that he was sitting in the setting of the story.
“Logan and I stopped communication around then, but some fourteen years later I ended
up having Logan’s daughter as my English student. Logan convinced me to work for him
one more summer doing similar work. He paid me for that summer with a Jaguar.”
Pappas nodded. “Do you still talk to him?”
“Only on a professional level when I have to talk about his daughter’s
performance in class.”
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He hummed as he wrote notes. Ariadne was surprised to find that she recognized
the song.
“ ‘Desensitized’ by Green Day?” Ariadne asked.
He stopped writing. “Yup. One of the only bands outside of my decade that I
enjoy.” He studied her. “You were in your teens when Green Day was popular, weren’t
you?” She nodded. “Right in your generation. So you consider Logan Crowe a good
guy?”
She shrugged. “I guess. A little cocky, but he treated me well. His daughter’s
sharp as a tack.” Ariadne was physically startled by the popping sound.
“Are you aware of Logan Crowe’s criminal history?”
How was she supposed to react? Be surprised, disgusted, scared? All she could
manage was to blanch from the nerves. “I-I d-d-didn’t.”
Pappas nodded nonchalantly. “But over it all, I shouldn’t add kidnapping to the
list?”
“N-No. I chose…”
Pappas shook his head. “I usually don’t get witnesses who are this anxious unless
they feel imminent doom in talking.” He quirked an eyebrow. “Are you expecting
imminent doom?”
“Your last name’s Greek?”
He nodded, but answered hastily. “Ancestors from Corinth.”
“When did they immigrate?”
“Nineteenth century. Ariadne, if you please—”
“How’d you get on Logan Crowe’s case?”
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“Ariadne, please, don’t make me repeat myself.”
Ariadne swallowed. “I just, I-I…I’m scared of what happens if I don’t—if this
doesn’t go well.”
Pappas leaned back. “So Logan did not kidnap you?”
“No.”
“Has Logan been telling you what to say?”
“No.”
He rubbed his chin. “It’s mentally stressing you to talk about all this. Was there
some kind of traumatic event that took place while you were with Logan?”
Ariadne was shivering now. “No.”
Pappas stood up. “You sure? You’re very nervous and I can’t imagine you’d have
anything to be afraid of.”
“Ari…aren’t you…uh, supposed to uh, bleed?”
“I did…didn’t I?”
“It doesn’t necessarily have to do directly with Logan Crowe.”
“You didn’t bleed, Ari. I know. Did you, uh, maybe break it before tonight?”
She could feel that sick feeling creeping back over her. Panic started climbing up,
fearing she’d have to get sick in front of Pappas. As if that’d help her “I’m fine” case. “I
swear, Inspector: Logan Crowe did nothing but have me file his papers and gave me
money for college. He might be a…criminal…but he never did anything to me.”
“I didn’t break it before tonight. I am—was a virgin.”
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Her shoulder went cold as he put his hand on it. “Hate to think you’re so worried
by all this.” He removed his hand and clicked his pen. “Thank you for your time, Ms.
Eliopoulos. I’ll call you if I need any follow up. Feel better.”
He hummed ‘Desensitized’ as he walked out.
Chills engulfed Ariadne’s whole body.
You didn’t bleed, Ari. You didn’t bleed you didn’t bleed you didn’t bleed. She
never rode horses, she never did heavy sports, and that story she told people about the
ghost just wasn’t true.
She still hadn’t finished that almost rape scene for the English department. She
glanced down at the coffee table; her laptop was right there, but she wasn’t sure where
her copy of The Tempest was. Teo fed a red ball into the dinosaur.
I’m just tired and dehydrated. Just need to sit down. She fell onto the couch and
started leafing through the books on the coffee table.
She picked up A Clockwork Orange. Opened it up to a random page. Looked
down.
Alex was raping the little girls.
She could feel herself going fuzzy. Alex was raping the little girls. Alex raped the
little girls. Alex raped the little girl…
Alex. Alex. Alex.
Vertigo hit her full force.
Alex Ross. Alex Ross, the boy with the honey brown hair that fell into his eyes
and grew down almost to his shoulders. He’d always kept her eye as a kid: to put it
simply, he’d been gorgeous. Her heart would beat a million miles per hour when he
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glanced her way with those hazel eyes and that crooked grin. He always dressed well, far
better than her family, with flannel shirts, straight leg Levi 501s, and black Converse or
new white v-neck t-shirts with his black leather jacket with a gleaming pair of Aviators.
Sometime, early on, she lost her crush on Alex.
“Don’t scream.”
“Shit, this better wash off.”
“Would you stop crying, you little bitch? You’re ruinin’ the moment.”
“Get the blood off the tub before you leave.”
Ariadne looked over at Teo, who watched his toy with determination. Get the
blood off the tub. She knew where that blood Mattie was worrying about was…
She heard the front door open. When she looked over, she saw Ithaca, Corydon’s
older sister and her daughter Kate standing beside her. Both looked at her with worry.
“Ariadne, are you okay?” Ithaca asked.
Alex Ross had raped her.
“Could you—?”
Just as the dinosaur spat up the red ball, Ariadne passed out.
*
*
*
She woke up to Ithaca’s face a feet inches from hers.
“Well Arr, I gotta say you sure know how to make someone feel special upon
entrance. You okay?” Ithaca said. Kate came in with a glass of water. Ithaca, out of
determination to make Ariadne feel better, snatched the glass from her daughter and
shoved it under Ariadne’s chin. “Drink some.”
Ariadne did as told, taking short sips. “Thanks, Ith. Is Teo okay?”
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Ithaca looked over to find Teo crawling after the red ball that had caused Ariadne
to freak out. “He’s fine. You’ve only been out a few seconds.” She looked over at her son
and smiled at him. “So you know why you passed out or is this a regular thing?”
“Just flooding nerves. I’ll be okay.”
Ithaca raised an eyebrow. “Pass out because of nerves? You need a break.”
Ariadne shook her head. “No breaks. Got a son, husband, college-bound nephew,
and a budding career to worry about. Hey Kate.”
Kate had a pretty interesting look with her, some twist on a skater/punk look with
just the touch of elegance. That day, she wore a band t–shirt, a black blazer, and a tight
black skirt. To make sure the look wasn’t too fashionable, of course, she complemented it
with Vans sneakers with Muno from Yo Gabba Gabba, or a red shoe with one giant eye
and a mouth with two buck teeth impressed into it, several mismatched bracelets, and a
black newsboy cap. Her dark hair was pulled into a ponytail, her nails were painted dark
purple, and she wore no makeup whatsoever, not even to cover up the few zits most girls
her age would’ve covered.
“Hey Aunt Ari.” Kate paused. “Where’s Sven’s room?”
“Up the stairs, to the left, and the door on the right. You’ll know you have the
right room if you see a bunch of Megan Fox posters.”
“Thanks.”
With that, Kate was gone. As Ariadne slowly sat up, she was given a hundred
dollar bill. “Uhh…”
“Please, for the love of God, go get a massage or something.”
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Once she was sure Ithaca was serious, she took the money, watched as her sisterin-law grabbed her son and proceeded to get him a snack. Looking down at the
awkwardly given bribe, Ariadne drove herself to the nearest masseuse, blocking out her
revelation like her life depended on it.
*
*
*
“Hey Sven, you said we’d go to Disneyland today,” Kate said as she sat on the
side of her cousin’s cousin’s bed after letting all the light possible into his room.
Sven groaned. “Normal people don’t get up this early just so they can go fight the
crowds at Disneyland which, by the way, are going to be shit.”
Kate picked up a pillow and threw it full force at his unprotected head. “Get your
lazy ass out of bed!”
“Kate! I’m not dealing with you right now! Come back in two hours!”
With no further response, Kate picked his phone up off his desk and scrolled
through contacts. His most recent conversation was with a girl called ROSE -__Hey Rose, wanna go 2 Disneyland 2day?
She got an instant response.
Uhhhh…sure? When?
I pick u up in half an hour?
Is it just us?
No, I’m bringing my cuzin from Canada
Oh, ok. Can I bring Finn?
Sure.
Okay, cya in 30 :)
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Kate smiled to herself as she backed herself against the wall, ran full force at
Sven’s bed, and jumped clean on top of him.
“KATE!”
“Come on, you lazy asshole! I invited your friend Rose already to Disneyland so
we’re going!”
Sven’s eyes widened. “You invited Rose to Disneyland?”
“Yeah, why?”
“You invited my ex girlfriend to Disneyland!”
Kate waved a dismissive hand. “She has some guy named Finn going too. No
awkwardness.”
He paused. “You invited my ex girlfriend and her current boyfriend to
Disneyland?”
“Ooh, that’s awkward. We can go to Knott’s instead.”
Sven gave her a straight face as he moved into the bathroom. “You are so lucky
I’m going to college out of state.”
Thirty minutes later, Rose and Finn climbed into Sven’s car, Kate head banging to
some old recording of Sven’s theatre when he was a kid.
“Kate, you don’t look ironic, you just look stupid,” Sven said as Kate and Rose
met gazes.
“Kate Asker, Canadian,” she said as she awkwardly put her arm back for a
handshake.
Rose chuckled to herself and shook her hand. “Rose Crowe, American.”
“Pleased to meet you.” She winked and moved her hand to Finn.
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“Finn Franco, Greenland.”
Rose lightly punched his arm. “Your ancestors aren’t even from Greenland.”
“It’s cooler than being English from a million years ago. Hey, so is anyone else
aware of the crowds we’re going to have to get through to get to Disneyland?”
Sven changed the song on the radio. “Kate said we could go to Knott’s if you
guys want.”
Rose and Finn exchanged a glance. “Sounds better. But damn, I was so ready to
have an epic lightsaber battle with you, Evans.”
Sven smiled. “I was too. Too bad, ain’t it? And I even stole my aunt’s Darth Maul
lightsaber.”
Finn’s eyes widened. “Dude, your aunt does not have one of those!”
“I’m pretty sure she has a General Grievous one too.”
Finn shook his head. “You seriously have the coolest aunt ever.” He paused. “So
wait, dude, I thought all your cousins were from Alabama?”
Sven glanced at Kate. “Kate’s Uncle Corydon’s niece.”
“Ohh, the one who looks like Anakin Skywalker!”
Kate huffed. “I swear to God, I have no idea where that one came from. Uncle C’s
not cool enough to be a Sith Lord.”
“Dude, he’s an exorcist! That’s kind of really epic,” Sven commented.
Kate rolled her eyes. “Y’see, you’re kind of blindsided. You like uptight
conservatives. And oh my God, that whole thing with him being a priest? What’s up with
that? So one minute he’s a priest and the next he’s married to some American chick…no
offense to your aunt, she’s pretty legit.”
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“So what’s the big deal? He got laicizated. He brought another child unto God.”
“And how much does he have sex?”
Sven stopped. “Are you asking me that question?”
“You live with them.”
Finn and Rose stifled laughter from the back. “So?”
“You should know. Come on, Sven. You know.”
“Why do you even want to know?”
“I need to prove my mother that all Uncle Corydon did was leave the priesthood
because he needed his basic human lust met. She’s convinced he’s not of this earth.”
Sven would’ve made a frustrated gesture, but he was kind of driving on the
freeway. “That’s so stupid! Of course Uncle Corydon’s ‘of this earth’! His favorite movie
is Star Wars Episode V, he plays hockey every Friday night, takes me hunting on my
birthday, lives for all those Canadian punk rock bands of the 2000s, and has told me on
multiple occasions that he could live on chocolate chip cookie pie alone if it weren’t for
Aunt Ariadne.”
“Chocolate chip cookie pie is loved by God,” Finn commented.
Kate leaned back. “All I’m saying is I think Corydon is just one of the examples
of the corruption of the Catholic Church. Not only does the Vatican cover up their child
molester popes but lets their priests leer at one woman still be called a holy figure just
like Jesus Christ himself did with Mary Magdalene.”
Finn and Rose, despite not having an official religion, were put silent by her
statement.
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“Kate, if you don’t stop dissing Jesus, I’m going to throw you out the window and
you can go meet him,” Sven said, his voice completely even.
Rose laughed, hoping she could break the tension before anything got too serious.
“So Kate, any reason you’re in town?”
“I’m going to USC next year so I thought I’d check the state out.”
“Congratulations. What are you gonna study?”
“BA in Cinematic Arts Film and Television Production.”
“Awesome. So you’d want to work up to producer or something, right?”
“Yep. Any tips to surviving California?”
Rose exchanged a glance with Finn. “Just go to In-N-Out and you’re pretty much
set.”
Kate nodded. “Sounds good. Where are you two going to university?”
“UC Davis,” Finn said immediately.
“I’m deciding between a liberal arts college and a UC.”
“Way different choices. If I were you—Knott’s!”
Rose huffed when she caught onto Kate’s sudden absorption into the window,
knowing she’d never get her answer from Sven’s cousin’s rather interesting cousin.
*
*
*
By the time Ariadne returned from her massage, Corydon and Ithaca were already
bantering…rather loudly.
“I can’t believe you are actually concerned about the well being of that
blockheaded dick!” Ithaca said, throwing her hands into the air.
“Oh, so suddenly caring for my own father is such a horrible thing?”
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“It is when he mentally abused you for eight years, hell, no, decades if we’re
counting now. Abused children don’t love their abusive parents, Corydon! If you hold
him in high esteem, what if you start accepting his actions as okay? What if you start
doing the same thing to Teo?”
Ariadne plopped down between them, so if the fists started flying, she could
perhaps be an incentive to stop...or at least for Corydon.
“How dare you accuse me of becoming him! Yeah Ithaca, I am aware of the
horrible things he did! But that sure as hell doesn’t mean I’m going to become him. And I
don’t know what you’re bitching about, because you just got ignored for three goddamn
years. I’m the one who got talked about like I was less than a throw rug. And you know
what, if I want to be concerned about his life, then I will be. For the record, the only
reason I want to talk to him is so I can chew him out for not being a part of his
grandson’s life.”
“Oh my God, you just don’t get it, do you? Here’s an idea, genius! Why don’t you
just not have Sotiris in your grandson’s life? He already has a wonderful grandfather on
his mother’s side.”
“Oh, mature, Ith. I’m not the one with all the problems here if you can’t even call
Babas by his title. Give me your phone.”
“No.”
Corydon raised an eyebrow. “Why not?”
“It’s none of your business.”
When he caught a glance of the phone on the coffee table, he snatched it and
scrolled through contacts with one hand while keeping his older sister at bay with the
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other. To Ariadne’s slight discomfort, her husband started laughing, the tone just a few
notches away from crazy.
“Birthgiver? Sperm Bank? This is what my forty-two-year-old sister calls her
aging parents?” He pushed his hand out of his eyes. “You’re so pathetic.”
“Well, at least I’m honest! I don’t consider Babas and Mana more than a birth
giver and a sperm bank, and I have as much right to believe that as you do to call them by
their cutesy Greek names. Look at us, Corydon! We converted to Catholicism. It’d be
like you disowning Teo because he decides to become Jewish, fuck, no, decides to
become a Baptist because newsflash, we all do believe in Christ. That’s all. We decided
that the Holy Spirit came from Father and Son. We didn’t become different people, we
did nothing wrong. So why were we exiled from the family? He is and was an awful
person, and I don’t think you need to have any more relations with him.”
Corydon stood up. “Alright, let’s get a few things straight. First off, how dare you
call Mana no more than a birth giver. She spent hours screaming at Babas because of how
he treated us. She’d slip us extra presents at Christmas when Babas gave us less. She was
fully supportive of every single Catholic ritual we ever did. She found me a sponsor for
my Confirmation. She slipped me the money for college when I told the family that I
wanted to become a priest. You know how much she wanted us all to have kids, yet she
accepted me when I told her that I wanted to dedicate myself to God. And don’t give me
any bullshit that she didn’t support you, just like she supported all us kids. Second, I’m
regaining contact with Babas because unlike you, I actually follow through on my
commitments. I didn’t leave the Catholic Church after ten years to go become some
apathetic, closed-minded atheist. And, you know what, I’m going to keep my promise to
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love and honor my father, to be the bigger person. I appreciate all you did for me to
introduce me to Western Church, but I’m on my own with your guidance.” He stopped.
“Also, if you would, please name one event Babas didn’t let you attend.”
Ithaca stood as well. “I can’t believe you’d actually bring up broken promises to
me. Look at you, Mr. Priest! How long did that one last? You decided to wear the holy
robes for maybe ten years before dropping it all to make Ariadne’s babies!”
Ariadne stood up and got right between the siblings, pushing them apart. “Alright,
I’m fucking sick of this. Y’all are fighting like a couple teenagers and are hitting each
other like animals. You guys are just so…God, can you stop trying to control each other’s
every move? Corydon, Ithaca had as much a right to become an atheist as she did to
become a Catholic. Corydon, if Ithaca wants to call Babas her sperm bank, let her. Can’t
you guys just spend this time focusing on what brings you together and not what sets you
apart? I let Ithaca and Kate come so they could visit with us and meet Teo, not so y’all
could shriek at each other. Now, if the siblings would excuse me, I’m having a really
shitty day and could use a breather. Thanks for the massage, Ith.”
Corydon, as he watched his wife walk away, couldn’t help but notice something
off about her, off in a way he’d literally never seen on her. He considered running after
her, but he knew his sister needed closure more urgently.
*
*
*
Kate’s love of Knott’s Berry Farm was a rather amusing spectacle to watch. Being
the off season, the crowds were minimal, leaving Kate to literally run from ride to ride
while the natives took their sweet time, pulling her cousin onto rides he’d much rather
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skip, and nearly shaking of excitement as they waited in line. Her hyper-focus on the
theme park was only broken a handful of times, mostly to address her cousin.
She nudged him as they waited in line at Ghost Rider. “I think she’s looking at
you.”
Sven sidestepped away from Kate. “Not that it matters. Please Kate, I’m trying to
get over it.”
She rolled her eyes. “You’re sure doing a crappy job at keeping that box closed.
For instance, you can’t keep your eyes off her boyfriend.”
The two watched as Rose and Finn walked back into line after taking a trip to the
bathroom.
Sven shook his head. “Finn’s my friend. I’m not angry with him.”
“I’m not saying you are, but you’re ridiculously jealous.” Sven winced as he
watched Finn give her a kiss on the cheek and the pink that he used to cause creeping up
into her face. “Did you actually try to tell her that you still have feelings for her?”
He shook his head. “Not gonna happen. She broke up with me, and I can’t keep
clawing at her door like some stupid puppy.”
“It doesn’t make you any more a man by giving up.”
He glanced at them, now a few feet from them. Rose smiled at him, and he smiled
back. Slowly, the smile receded, and he bit his lip. There was some part of him that
desperately wanted to follow Kate’s advice, to spill his heart out to his ex right in front of
all these people, in front of her current boyfriend. If he let the fantasy stray beyond any
grips of reality, she’d grin, and, in a whisper, tell him that she loved him too. Finn would
be hurt, but he’d get over it. Maybe some hopeless romantics would clap.
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He opened his mouth.
“Finn? Wanna go grab the girls some drinks after this? Kate wanted to talk to
Rose about college.”
Finn blinked for a second, and Kate opened his mouth. Sven elbowed her before
she could get a word out. “Suure, man.”
Sven nodded. Why did I just ask that?
By the time they walked off Ghost Rider, Sven still hadn’t found an answer to his
question. So, a bit high from the adrenaline still leveling out, he and Finn started walking
to a food stand.
“So how are you and Rose?” Sven asked.
Finn seemed to lose a little color. “Fine. We’re uh…just starting out. Thanks for
letting me come with you guys. It means a lot to me that you’re okay with this.”
Finn stole a glance, a glance that turned into a full stare. “It’s no problem but um,
are you sure that you guys aren’t rushing into things?”
Finn shrugged. “We’ve known each other since we were little kids. I’ve had a
crush on her since middle school.” He laughed. “Gotta say, I was really jealous when you
got with her.” He licked his lips. “I mean, yeah, I guess this part of the relationship is
moving fast, but it’s not like I’m expecting her to have sex next week. Whatever happens,
happens, y’know?”
“How far have you guys gotten?” Sven desperately hoped that he didn’t sound
more emotional than necessary.
“Somewhere between first and second base.” He paused. “How far did you two
go?”
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“Third.”
“Major or minor?”
“Minor.”
Finn nodded. “After one a half years? Sounds just about Rose.” He hated the way
he put it; “just about Rose,” like he knew everything about her.
Sven offered a sympathetic smile. “Well, watch yourself.”
Finn’s eyes went to the floor. “I know she broke up with you. It’s cool.”
Sven looked ahead. “Not that. You know she has some major family issues,
right?”
What am I doing? “You mean with her mom and stuff? I know.”
“I mean with her dad.”
Finn raised an eyebrow. “What about her dad?”
Sven stopped. “It’s just a lot. She gets moody sometimes. Erratic. Not your
typical teenage girl.”
Finn laughed awkwardly. “I think I’ll survive. But thanks for the tip.”
They bought their drinks and returned to the girls, where Finn migrated to Rose
and Sven to Kate.
“So how’d it go?” Kate asked.
“I don’t think anything happened.”
“You didn’t tell him?”
He shook his head. “What did you tell her about college? Or did you talk about
something else?”
Kate blinked. “I have no idea. But hey, so you didn’t do anything?”
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Sven almost felt shameful. “No.”
Kate muttered something along the lines of “dumbass” as Rose approached Sven,
grabbed his arm, and jolted him off away from their guests.
“Why did Finn just ask me about my dad?” she hissed.
Embarrassment flooded over Sven. “I don’t know.”
“You can’t lie when you know it’s stupid.”
He huffed. “It’s nothing, Rose. He asked if there’s anything he should know about
you and I told him that your family life was different.”
She grabbed his shirt. “Sven, Finn already knows that my mom’s dead. There’s
nothing else to tell.” Her eyes widened as he didn’t give a quick answer. “Oh my God,
you didn’t tell him about Dad’s criminal stuff, did you?”
He pushed her off him. “No, of course not! I’m not stupid, something you may
have forgotten after you got with Finn.”
“Well I’m sorry for thinking that. What else could you have told him? You hinted
at it, didn’t you?”
He gave a dismissive wave. “So what if I did? It’s not like he’ll ever figure it
out.”
“Sven! He’s going to be a detective when he’s older. He’s a complete Sherlock
Holmes junkie. You can’t just bait him like that! What the hell am I supposed to do when
he keeps asking about it?”
“Well, what’s he gonna do? It’s not like you or your dad will tell him. I sure
won—”
“After this? I’m not so sure.”
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“For the last time, I wasn’t going to tell Finn about your dad!”
“And for the last time, I can tell when you’re lying! Why would you even think
about doing that to me?” She moved in close enough to whisper in his ear. “You know
what it would do for me if people knew I was the daughter of an international criminal.”
She moved away. “I can’t believe you’d even—why, Sven? Why?”
He looked away. “No reason.”
She threw her hands up. “You’re impossible. You know, if you have something to
tell me, it’d help a hell of a lot if you’d just swallow your pride and tell me.”
She was gone before he could even attempt a “Rose, wait.”
*
*
*
Allowing Ariadne a few hours to cool off, Corydon, Ariadne, and Ithaca managed
to have a pretty decent dinner, the conversation mostly keeping to superficial family
dinner topics and admiring the funny little things Teo did while he ate. By the time Teo
was in bed, Corydon decided to dig a bit to find what was bothering Ariadne, leaving his
sister with a “have a good night” and on demand television for comfort.
He found her curled up in bed, staring at (but not reading) a book.
“So is Miss Alabama any accurate?” he joked, knowing she had been staring at
the same line for what was probably minutes.
She sighed as he wrapped his arms around her waist. “Cor, could we talk?”
“Mmhmm.”
She swallowed. “Like, really talk? Like, the type of talk that could determine if
this marriage can last?”
A spike of cold hit his stomach, but he kept cool. “Sure.”
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He let go of her and sat up. She shut the book, set it down, and sunk into the bed.
“Cor, would you still love me if you knew I lost my virginity?”
He gave her a look. “Arr, I know I didn’t marry a virgin. It’s okay. Why? Didn’t
you lose it to your first boyfriend?”
She shook her head. “I lost my virginity, Cor. Like, I really lost it.”
“Okay, we’ve been talking for less than a minute and you’ve already lost me.
Plain English, please? American or Canadian is acceptable.”
“Maybe lost isn’t the right word. Stolen might be better.”
For a second, he thought he was understanding, but soon realized that he didn’t
want to. “Who stole it?”
“I have a story to tell you. If that’s okay.” He nodded, his fingers brushing against
hers as they hung limply at her side. She flipped over so she was facing him. “When I
twelve, I had this really big crush on one of my brother’s friends named Alex. Alex was
the richest kid in our neighborhood with this really nice black 1990 Camaro, all the
newest clothes, and this amazing smile that would make my heart melt whenever he
looked at me. Anyway, one day, Todd had to baby-sit me because everyone was out of
town and Alex came over. I had started getting breasts a few months before that. They
weren’t that big, but I dunno, I wasn’t exactly flat-chested.
“Anyway, Alex and Todd were fifteen at the time, but Alex brought over his
Genesis, that stupid old game console back in those days and I was watching them. Alex,
he uh, he accidentally jerked back a couple times and one time he kind of slapped my
breast, like this,” she took Corydon’s hand and lightly hit it against her breast, “but he
wasn’t rude about it or anything. He apologized and I thought nothing of it. Anyway,
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Todd offered to go rent a movie that they could watch later on. There was a Blockbuster
down the block, so it wouldn’t take long. Alex offered to keep an eye on me while he was
out. Anyway, I told you that I was sort of going through puberty then, so I was really
self-conscious about how clean I was at any given moment.
“So, I decided to take a shower in my mom’s room because she had the shampoo
that smelled nice. I was giddy with excitement that Alex was over, so I wanted to impress
him.” She paused. “Should I keep going?”
Corydon nodded, clasping his hand in hers.
Ariadne opened her eyes after a couple combs through her soapy hair with her
fingers. She had been a victim of getting shampoo in her eyes for years, and hoped that
perhaps with the quick approach of womanhood that that little quirk may go away.
She opened her eyes to a figure in front of her. Startled, she went back, almost
slipping on the wet floor of the bathtub/shower. She squinted, unable to truly process
what she was looking at.
Alex.
Todd’s friend Alex right in front of her.
Naked. Todd’s friend Alex right in front of her stark naked.
If she hadn’t been so shocked, she would’ve blushed madly. For a moment, she
was thoroughly convinced that she was in a dream of hers, where the god-like Alex was
staring at her still awkward body with her barely-larger-than-mosquito-bites breasts and
the fat only beginning to pile into the right places.
“Ale—?”
His hand fastened over her mouth. “Don’t speak.”
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“Why n—?” He pushed down harder.
“Ariadne, quiet!”
“What are we—?”
He sucked air in through his teeth. “We’re gonna play a game, okay?”
Although the air itself held a sense of wrongness around it, the one thing that
truly turned Ariadne to the danger was her unconscious glances down at his private
parts. With every embarrassed peek at her brothers’ parts, they’d always been limp, but
Alex’s wasn’t. What had once been a guilty curiosity was now turned to pure fear.
In one move, Ariadne broke from his grip and tried to move for the glass door of
the shower, but his grip was tough and fast. Nails digging into her skin, he pulled her
back, grabbed her shoulders, and pushed her against the nearest wall. Unknown to him
at the time, the temperature knob was directly behind her, her head slamming against the
jutting object, the sharp edges digging into her head.
She cried out in pain as the shudder of it hit her. Once she slid to the floor, she
began to feel the blood dripping down her damp neck, no more water spilling from the
showerhead to clean it off. Alex knelt down and put his hand over her mouth again.
“Don’t scream. If you blow this, you won’t want to know what comes back, okay
you loudmouthed little bitch?”
Ariadne just looked up at him, up at the hazel eyes that she once would melt at the
sight of. They radiated nothing but wild passion and anger now.
“Now, let’s see how excited you are…”
She watched helplessly as his fingers crawled from her thigh to her own private
parts, just barely sprouting pubic hair. She wasn’t sure which had her attention more:
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watching his fingers, one by one, disappear inside her, or the clawing pain and the
unwanted penetration as they went. Hot tears welled in her eyes as she bit her lip through
the pain and humiliation. Ma and Daddy had told her never to let anyone besides them or
her doctor see down there, let alone touch, let alone have a boy touch it.
And it hurt. She hadn’t even realized how much it hurt. Her mom had briefly
mentioned that she wouldn’t want to use tampons when she started her period because
they were a bit uncomfortable for little girls. She never thought that actual pain would be
involved. If one day she’d be letting the man she married to stick his private parts inside
hers, why did it hurt so bad?
Eventually, his fingers did resurface, covered in a thin coating. He smirked.
“Now that you’ve had your fun, I’m gonna get mine, right?”
Ariadne’s breathing hitched as he seized her right hand by the wrist and brought
it to grip on his penis. With his free hand, he curled his fingers into a little tunnel and
motioned for her to do the same. Her unsure fingers barely wrapped around him.
“Tighter grip, sweetie.” She did as told. “Up and down.”
The tears spilled down her cheeks as she listened to him moan and force her to do
dirty, horrible things to him.
“Would you stop crying, you little bitch? You’re ruinin’ the moment.”
She swallowed her sobs as he allowed her to take her fingers off him. She tried to
clean them, but the water from the shower was gone. Only the blood remained. Even so,
she’d rather have the blood on her fingers than the white stuff currently crusting.
He made a sound somewhere between a growl and a groan of pleasure. “Now,
let’s get down to business, okay princess?”
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She wished Todd were there. She wished Todd would burst in, find her, and beat
the living shit out Alex for hurting her. He flipped forward, so he was on top of her. With
on hand on each wrist, he held her down. She winced as she felt his hard on poke her
inner thigh.
He entered her, prodding a cry of pain out of her initially and another when he
squeezed her wrist so hard she thought he broke it.
Pain, pain far worse than the pain of his fingers, shot through her with each
movement of his. She let the tears fall silently. She prayed to God that Todd would come
and save her.
He started to go faster. She squeezed her eyes shut and simply wished that it
would all end. That she would wake up in her own bed from a nightmare. Her head hurt
too.
He filled her. She kept her eyes shut, ignoring the feelings of the foreign substance
invading her. Please God, let this stop. I’m not bad enough to deserve this.
He pulled out, the pain like ripping a bandage off. The weight began to recede.
“This shit better wash off.” He must’ve been talking about the blood. She heard
him stand and step out of the bathtub. “Clean the blood off before you leave.”
And she was right. Slowly, she sat up and looked around. The red was brushed
everywhere, and there was a conspicuous pool by her private parts. She was sorer than
any day out playing sports with her brothers could do.
She wiped her tears and turned the bath tap on.
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She couldn’t smell the nice shampoo anymore.
Ariadne was on the verge of an emotional breakdown as she stared at the blank
expression of her husband. “Cor?”
“Ari, please, I’m still trying to process all this.” His expression soured. “Excuse
me if I have go vomit.” He finally met her gaze, his eyes filled with an array of emotions,
so many that she couldn’t tell one from another. “Why did—Am I—who else have you
told this to?”
“Just you.”
“Ariadne, he—you—my God, that was just so awful, far beyond what I could’ve
ever imagined. How are you so…Ari…what can I do? I’m so deeply sorry that I treated
you the way I did today. You must’ve had this locked up for so long…”
There were tears sitting on the brim, but Ariadne held them in. “Cor, if you could,
I need one thing from you.”
“Anything.”
“Say nothing, and do nothing more than wrap your arms around me and remind
me that not every man in this world is a monster.”
He did as told, and watched as she closed her eyes and fell into a tired sleep. As
soon as he knew she was asleep, he kissed her eyelids, and spent the next several hours
running each word she just told him through his head again and again.
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Chapter 14
Picking Up the Little Pieces
Ariadne awoke to a quiet bedroom, Corydon’s bloodshot brown eyes looking at
her, or through her, she couldn’t tell.
“Thanks,” she whispered.
He looked down at her, just the slightest bit more animation in his eyes. “I love
you, Ari. Just know that what you told me last night did nothing to hurt us.” He paused.
“Can I…ask you a few questions?”
She nodded. “You gave me my breathing room; go ahead.”
He scooted just the slightest bit away, so they could talk without being in each
other’s faces. “Is that why you always make me come in the shower at the same time as
you if we shower in the light? Why you shower in the dark?”
She nodded. “I figured if there wasn’t any light on, maybe no one could show up.
But, please, keep in mind that this has all been subconscious. I stopped directly reliving it
a few weeks after it happened. It’s when I started hanging out at Sloss Furnace instead of
at home and when I cracked down on learning Greek. I told myself that I’d rather be with
ghosts than monsters.”
“Todd never found out?”
“He and Alex were friends for another year before falling out. I managed to avoid
him so well that I haven’t seen him since that night.”
“And no one ever suspected? Like, your family?”
She shrugged. “Mum scolded me for being too slow for a few days. It…I guess he
really fucked me so hard it hurt to walk.”
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He shook his head. “A whole night trying to process it, and it still disturbs me.
But…Arr, how did it all come back now?”
She shook her head. “It all really started to come together after I talked with that
Interpol agent for Logan. Nothing really happened in that he was accusing me of
anything, but he asked me if anything traumatic happened while I worked for Crowe. I
remembered how when I consented to ‘losing my virginity,’ Mattie noticed that I didn’t
bleed. I guess it sprung up from that.”
“But weren’t you thinking about Mattie all through Paris a couple years ago?
Why didn’t it pop up then?”
She stopped. “Cor, I think it did. I was informally paranormally investigating the
basement where Rasim killed those people and Devon Ghanzi asked me what I was most
afraid of. I told him showers and when Hector psycho-ed me.”
He chewed on his lip. “There was more to that story, wasn’t there?”
She nodded. “When he scared me, I slipped, hit my head on the wall, fell down,
and hit my head again on the bath faucet. I cracked my head open and Hector had to take
me to the ER. Yeah.”
“And the ghost story about the prison?”
She sighed. “I’m not the angsty person, Cor. I have reason to be, and sometimes I
can’t help it, but I’d rather have someone laugh than pity me. So, I made those stories.”
She paused. “I think a lot of my stories come from bad places. Could you pretend that I
only told you the funny stories? Cor, I don’t want to be a victim. I don’t want this to rule
my life. Yeah, I was raped by my brother’s friend. There are probably thousands of
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stories like that. At least I didn’t get pregnant or he didn’t cause any lifetime damage. I’m
not mute, I’m not suicidal anymore. I just want to live now, to be happy.”
“One more question?”
“Okay.”
“How did you…like, how did you become so accustomed to having sex after this?
I feel like rape victims have some aversion to it all.”
She nodded. “I can still unconsciously remember the process. I hated how he
dominated over me. I was angry about that. I never wanted to be the subordinate one
again, and more than that, I wanted the man to feel subordinate. So, I had sex with the
mentality that I’d make them beg, that I’d be on top, that they’d be wanting to call me
afterwards and I wouldn’t answer.” She looked at him. “You’re the only guy who’s got
me comfortable enough that I let myself be vulnerable with. You should feel special.”
He kissed her cheek. “You okay with dinner last night?”
“Yeah. I’m actually kind of starving right now.”
“C’mon, let’s go make breakfast. Is Sven home?”
“Yeah.”
With the Canadians and Sven still locked in their rooms, it was just the couple and
Teo that morning, the quietness peaceful. They kept the breakfast relatively simple, with
fried eggs and toast for the adults and some baby oatmeal for Teo. Teo was having a
particularly good time scooping the oatmeal out with his hands and splattering it all over
his face, so the amused parents let him keep going.
“Let’s play trivial pursuit, couple style. If I were eating scrambled eggs right now,
what would I put on them?” Ariadne asked.
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“If you’re with company, you tend to do the Italian pan olive oil, string potato
dish, but you really are just a boring American ketchup person.”
“You got me. You put hot sauce on them.” She laughed. “Hold on.” She whipped
out her phone and looked up Canadian breakfast. He caught a glimpse at it, gasped, and
started laughing. “No, no, shut up! I gotta look this up. Ahh, ah ah, uhh…okay, here, I
got it: Canadian bacon covered in maple syrup!”
He started laughing harder. “You’re so awful! What if I go look up traditional
Alabama breakfast?”
“I’m just gonna start putting maple syrup on everything I give you. Pancakes?
Maple syrup. Eggs? Maple syrup. Tuna melt? Maple syrup.”
“And I’ll put ‘Merican bacon on everything you eat.”
“See hun, that freaking works. You can put bacon on literally everything and it
will still taste good. You ask Sven. It’s as true as my name is Ariadne.” She kissed him
on the cheek. “And I know you really like eggs benedict best, don’t worry. Okay, now
wait, can you explain to me what’s up with Canadians and hot dog toppings?”
“Okay, so ‘the works’ in Canada is bolognaise sauce, chopped onion, and
mustard. Yes, I’ve had it that way before, but it’s not my favorite. Do you put the
‘Merican works on your hot dogs?”
“Dude, there are two ‘Merican ‘works’ I am aware of: national is mustard,
ketchup, chopped onions, and relish. Southern style is ketchup, mustard, chili, onions,
dills, and oyster crackers. How do Greeks do it?”
“How they do everything: tzatziki sauce, chopped kalamata olives, tomatoes, and
sliced onions.”
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“Coney Island is pretty famous too: mustard, chili, and onions. Dude, I’m so
blanking, cause I totally went to Pink’s in LA and I can’t remember what their siggie
was. I’m gonna have to say it was just like Coney.”
He paused. “Wait, Ari, don’t you only eat turkey dogs?”
“Irrelevant!”
He rubbed the back of his neck. “Oh man, where were turkey dogs when I went
Kosher for a year? All I remember was that beef dogs were just eh, and then veggie dogs
were just a sin in themselves…”
Ariadne burst out laughing. “Why were you ever Kosher? You were a frickin’
Catholic priest!”
“I wanted to be open to their ways.”
“No bloody Canadian bacon for you, mister.”
“Yeah, that was part of it. Whew, not doing that one again. Jews are the strongesthearted people I’ve ever met, beginning with their dietary laws.”
“Hey Cor?”
“Yeah?”
“Thanks for making me laugh. It means a lot.”
He nodded.
*
*
*
After church, Sven locked himself in his room to crack down on his college
choice, Corydon took his sister, Teo, and Kate out to Sunset Blvd, leaving Ariadne alone
to grade papers. Well, alone grading papers for about ten minutes. Her phone lit up with a
text message.
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Hey Ariadne, I had a sort of idea for ur project. Ru busy today?
Ariadne stared at Rose’s text message, throwing her day’s plans around her head.
Grade essays or help Rose? She decided on Rose, figuring that the freshmen were gonna
be around for another three or so years anyway.
Sure baby, you want me to pick u up and we can discuss over coffee or somthin?
Sounds great. Umm, if u don’t mind…Dad took my car for sum long drive (thinks
ppl will scratch his Corvette/AM -__-)
Fifteen minutes later, Rose jumped into Ariadne’s Jaguar XF, still just a bit
enamored with the interior.
“This car is seriously beautiful,” Rose complimented.
Ariadne smiled. “Thanks. We have your dad to thank for that one.”
“You’re so damn lucky. Dad didn’t pay me with a car.”
“What would you have done with an expensive car, anyway? Aren’t you the one
who refused to drive alone for a month?”
Rose blushed. “Maybe. So about the scene—”
“Hey, do you wanna nix the coffee and go to Pink’s Hot Dogs in Hollywood?”
Rose paused. “Um, sure. I’ve never been there.”
Ariadne gasped. “Seriously? Girl, you’re crazy. You like hot dogs, right?”
“Yeah.”
“Yeah, they’re kind of amazing. The line’s long, but you can go celeb spotting.”
With the traffic rather merciful for a Sunday in Los Angeles, they found
themselves standing in a long line, but it was a line to be expected for the famous hot dog
stand. For the first few minutes, they found themselves snickering at the blatantly
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obvious tourists as they took pictures with the restaurant with every angle possible and at
the occasional photobomber who managed to sneak a place into the photos.
“So you seriously haven’t been here before?” Ariadne asked Rose.
“Yeah. I dunno, I haven’t been to a lot of tourist places around Hollywood.”
Ariadne took another glance around. “Nothing so far.”
“Are you really celeb searching?”
Ariadne laughed. “No. Of course it’d be cool to meet Leo DiCaprio, but I’ve
already met my super celebrity crush and eh, when it comes to famous people, you sleep
with one extremely attractive man, you’ve slept with them all.”
“If you’re making some sideways reference to my dad, I will die right here.”
“Oh God no, I meant this guy named Nick—oh wait, I’m married, I meant
Corydon.”
Rose laughed. “Smooth save. What do you recommend here?”
She shrugged. “How purist are you?”
Rose assumed that she meant toppings-wise. “I’m pretty open to it, but just
nothing ridiculous.”
“I’ve been craving a chili dog all day, so that’s me. Honestly, you can’t really go
wrong. Oh, and we’re not out to attract men; feel free to order as messy as you want.”
Rose nodded, and waited until Ariadne had placed her order. “Uh, I’ll have the
Guadalajara dog, no relish, a side of guacamole, and a Diet Coke.”
Once they sat down, Ariadne just gave her a shocked look. “What?” Rose asked
once the awkward became uncomfortable.
“How did you say that in one go without a second of stutter?”
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Rose laughed. “I’m half Italian; the romance languages just come naturally to
me.”
“Like I said before, you’re crazy, girl.” Ariadne waited until Rose took her first
bite before starting. “So, was it worth it or what?”
She swallowed. “I’m proud to be American.”
Ariadne laughed and dug into her own food. When they were nearly finished, they
started the conversation back up again.
“So how’s your dear old dad doing?” Ariadne asked.
Rose shrugged. “Just really freaked out with this whole Interpol thing. I mean,
rightly so, but just very unsettled. Did you call him after you talked to Inspector Pappas?”
“Nope.” She paused. “Let him suffer a little; he put me through some wild shit
this week. But don’t worry, I’ll call him.” She pulled out her phone and set an event as
CALL LOGAN!!!!
“Do you think he’ll be happy?”
She laughed nervously. “Um, weeeell, I was kind of a nervous wreck, so I can’t
say. That all kind of depends on Pappas himself. Hey, did you—” Her eyes widened.
“Did your dad even tell you about all this?”
Rose stifled a laugh. “Yeah, I met him when he first came over. Except, erm, I
was kind of high on formaldehyde then so I can’t say we got good first impressions. Like,
I think he thought I was a pothead and he…I can’t really remember much about him. He
called me beautiful like my mom. Kind of awkward.”
Ariadne’s eyes lit up. “You know what I realized, Rose?”
“What?”
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“Inspector Pappas actually worked for your mom.” Rose’s eyes widened. “Pappas
was a constable when your mom was a inspector. They worked together. Now, I can’t
remember if they had any other work,” she made an indistinguishable sign that Rose
assumed meant sexual, “but they definitely worked together.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yeah.”
“Maybe he did have a thing for my mom. It would explain why he complimented
me like that.”
Ariadne nodded. “Pappas is a weird one. Something’s off about him, aside from
the fact that he seems so dead set on arresting him. So how often do you see your
grandparents?”
Rose shrugged. “Not that often as of recently. But hey, I love Nana and Papa and
I wish I could see them more. They just don’t like Dad much so…y’know.” She cracked
a smile. “I guess they liked Mattie better.”
“Rose, everyone liked Mattie better. Well, okay, no offense to your dad. Hey,
could I ask you something kinda taboo?”
Rose squirmed in her seat. “Are you gonna ask me if I masturbate or something?”
Ariadne was thrown dead off her tracks. “Uhhh…gotta say no…but if you wanna
talk about that…”
“No, no!”
“Oh, okay. Well.” She cleared her throat. “How are you doing? Like, in terms of
not having your mom around.”
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She frowned, but tried to come off as casual. “I mean, it’s not easy. I still sit in my
room alone and think about the fact that she’s not here and that she’s not coming back,
and yeah, I still shed a tear every once in a while, but I know I can’t think like that. No
matter how hard I cry or think about her, she won’t just magically appear alive just in
time for graduation. Life isn’t some cheesy movie. So, y’know, I know that Dad will be
there at graduation and I know that he’ll be proud when he sees me take that diploma, so
I’m okay. As far as I’m concerned, I live a good life for another eighty years and then I’ll
get to see her again, and that time, she won’t be able to leave me.”
Ariadne wiped her eyes. “I have to think that way too, sometimes. Especially with
Penelope and all…I almost feel guilty sometimes, especially with Teo growing up and
developing his personality. It’s hard to think that if I hadn’t lost my little girl that he
wouldn’t exist.” She shook her head. “I’m glad you have that frame of mind. It’s crazy,
though, isn’t it? Babies and all. I know you haven’t thought about it much, but it really is
crazy. Inside of you, right now, is half of your future children. The other half of your
children doesn’t even exist yet, and it won’t exist until minutes, maybe hours before he
and or she is conceived. I swear, when I first saw Teo’s face, all I could do is sit there and
think that he’s been inside me since I was born, but it took thirty-five years and a little
extra set of chromosomes from Corydon to bring him out. I mean, it’s like half of us has
been alive as long as our mothers are alive. You’ve in a strange way been alive since
1964 and me since 1944. When you see baby girls, somewhere inside of them, their
future children are lying dormant.” She coughed a laugh. “Corydon had to convince me
for a moment there that I didn’t kill not only our daughter, but thousands of our
grandchildren. Rose, please promise me that you’ll make sure that you pick out a stable,
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responsible, wonderful man that loves you like his life depends on it to marry. It might
take longer, but you’ll never once regret that decision. Corydon has been one of the
greatest blessings I’ve ever received.”
Rose nodded. “I’m glad things have worked out so well for you.”
“And they’ll work out for you too, just wait.”
“Hey Ariadne, how’s Sven been?”
She shrugged. “Haven’t seen him since Friday. Why?”
“We kind of had a falling out.”
Ariadne nodded. “Don’t sweat about it. He’ll come around. Just probably has a lot
on his mind with college and his dad and stuff.”
“Have things gotten better with his dad?”
She shook her head. “And I doubt they will. God, family life has been so stressing
lately, and with—” For a moment, Ariadne considered telling Rose about her rape. But,
looking into Rose’s eyes and seeing just how innocent she really was, she decided against
it. “Y’know Rose, when you get married, I hope it’s with a guy with a really good
mother. So you’re still good with woman figures? If there’s one thing I regretted about
my childhood, it was my lack of female role models. You’ve got me as your godmother,
not saying that’s so great but whatever, and then…” She smiled. “You’ve got Harper.
Hey Rose, how’s your dad’s girlfriend doing?”
She smiled. “Harper’s really nice and I think it’s great that Dad has someone like
her. She’s gonna be a great distraction for him when I’m off at college.”
“Where are you going?”
Her smile faded. “I can’t decide between UC Davis and Colorado College.”
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Ariadne raised a brow. “I don’t see the question. Pick Colorado College. You did
so well in the small environment, so why change something that works so well? Besides,
then when you go to some East Coast school for graduate school, it won’t be as wild a
change. Why is there a decision? I get staying in California for less of a change, but not
much else.”
Rose blushed. “Finn’s going to UC Davis.”
“Ohh, I seeee. Don’t wanna leave our boyfriend.” She put a hand on Rose’s wrist.
“Trust me, you want to enjoy college, even the first four years. If you don’t love the
college, don’t go there. It’s the place that matters, not the person you may know for a
year or however long your relationship will last. Finn’s a wonderful person, but I think
it’s better to think about what’s going to make you happy for not only the next four years,
but for your whole life. You may regret not taking the best options life hands you.”
“But you went to UCLA. You loved it, didn’t you?”
She flashed the slightest glimpse of a smile. “UCLA was my only option. If I’d
gotten to do it again, I would’ve gone to Vanderbilt U in Nashville, Tennessee. Hands
down best education in administration grad program in the country and I can handle the
Southern ways of life. Don’t get me wrong—John Hopkins is sixth in the country for
education, so it would be an excellent place for grad school. Just think about you more
than anything else.”
Rose nodded. “I was looking at the graduate school at John Hopkins and I can’t
wait. I can get special education in being a leader in an independent school.”
Ariadne smiled. “Gonna steal my job, sweetie?” Rose would’ve given a quip
back, but she noticed something, turning Ariadne’s wrist over, revealing the healed
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remains of her cuts from 2012. “Nope, I’m not the best role model, but hopefully I can
teach you what my mom never taught me about being a woman at the very least.”
Rose nodded. “Mom kind of started that.”
“Then I’ll finish it.” She paused. “Have you and Finn gone past where you and
Sven went?”
“Not yet.”
“If you do, remember protection.”
“I will.”
Rose cleared her throat. “So uh, about your project….”
“What did you find?”
“Maybe the scenes with Liesel and Max?”
“Not yet, but you’re getting warmer.”
“Really?”
“Nope.”
*
*
*
On April 12th, three days before her procrastination was going to force her to
finally work her taxes, Ariadne slipped into Sven’s room and, after a bit of preparation,
took out a bag of frozen marbles, pulled up all his sheets, and poured the marbles into the
indent his body made with the bed. It only took a few seconds of being bombarded in
frozen marbles before Sven flipped out of bed from his surprise. With his bed a bit more
raised than most and wood floor on the ground, the landing was way too much for a
Saturday morning.
“What do you want?” Sven moaned.
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She went over to his body and kicked him in the stomach. “Get up, you lazy
bitch! You’ve done nothing but mope around the house for the past week, and I’m sick of
it. You know what, your ex girlfriend doesn’t want to be with you anymore. Big deal.
Now, let’s get over our post-breakup insanity that a-likes you to legions of sobbing girls
with chick flicks and tubs of Ben & Jerry’s post-breakup. We’re going to go out into the
real world and I’m going to help you pick up bitches.”
The last line got Sven wide-awake. “You’re going to be my wingman?”
“Better! I’m gonna be your ever-wiser bisexual wingaunt. Trust me, I can pick the
ones with real tits. There’s no fun when they’re fake or three cup sizes bigger thanks to
pushup bras.” She looked down to inspect his current shape, complete with the fact that
he was wearing nothing but his boxers. “Let’s start with dress. Go take a shower, put on
some black boxers, and we’re going shopping.”
“We’re going to the mall with me only in underwear?”
She huffed. “I figured that the other clothes were self explanatory.”
He got to his feet and dragged himself to his bathroom. “You suck.”
She smirked. “You’ll be saying that again, but it’ll be when I ask you about how it
was to get your first blowjob by a major hottie.”
“PLEASE, DON’T EVER SAY BLOWJOB AGAIN!” he called from the
bathroom.
She shook her head; today would be a very amusing day.
“Now,” Ariadne explained as Sven drove her to the mall, “we are in my Jaguar
because chicks dig British stuff and Jaguars are like, sexy boat cars. Plus, the midnight
blue implies that you have a slick style, and the four door implies that you are not a wild
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man, that you are willing to take their friends around or perhaps have kids one day. The
back looks sporty, y’know, like, he could be cool, fun. But the four doors, yeah, you
know. Now, people in the South like American cars, but it’s a bit less in Cali. Now, you
are driving me around because girls appreciate a guy who’ll take around his family if
they ask. And, y’know what, girls will be jealous if you can get older women.”
Sven gave her a horrified look. “You’re gonna be my date?”
She shoved her oversized Kate Spade sunglasses higher up on her nose. “No, but
if they think that, that’s cool too.”
“This is a disaster waiting to happen.”
“Au contraire.”
As soon as they walked into the mall, Ariadne pulled him to the closest Pac Sun.
“Now, you have blue eyes, so we’re going for something that will subtly bring
that out, and I say we throw on a light shirt, dark skinny jeans, and buy you some shoes.
Now, unless it is physically hurting you, trust me with everything I do.”
By the time Ariadne and Sven had taken a break, sitting in the courtyard outside
the AMC sitting on the upper level of the outdoor section of the mall they were at, Sven
looked distinctly sharper: a tight off white v-neck with thin brown stripes, tight dark blue
skinny jeans, grey twill classic Vans with a brown leather tongue and backing with
matching rope-style laces, and a small silver cross necklace.
“Aunt Ariadne, I look like a hipster.”
She turned to examine him. “No you don’t. We didn’t go into Urban Outfitters
once. Besides, I see no signs of hipster glasses and all hipsters are atheists anyway;
religion is too mainstream.”
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“But the fact that religion is seen as mainstream makes it not mainstream so
they’d wear cross necklaces saying they wore them before it was cool.”
She threw up her hands. “What, were the hipsters around in Ancient Rome,
because that was when Christianity wasn’t ‘cool.’” She stopped and snapped her neck
toward a group of girls approaching to their left.
“See those girls? When they come by, give a crooked grin and give a very casual
one handed wave.”
Sven did as told, prompting a couple giggles and hushed whisper among the girls
as they walked a few yards more and took up shop a couple benches from them. Sven
turned to his aunt alarmingly. “Did I do it right?” Ariadne nodded slowly before breaking
open a Corona and taking a swig. “Since when do you drink beer?”
“Since every night, I kiss a guy who drinks it.” She lowered the bottle. “Now,
when the girls look over, I’m going to offer you this beer and you in your bashful way are
going to decline. Chicks dig straight edge guys.”
After spending a second locking eyes with one of the girls, he did as his aunt said.
When he glanced back, the girls were just breaking their gaze on him. From there, she
pulled out a copy of A Child Called “It”.
“Start reading. This book is the ultimate ‘oh, he’s so sweet’ book.”
Sven spent a total of twenty minutes reading and stealing glances at the girls at
the bench across from him. He was startled when Ariadne’s keys suddenly appeared on
his book.
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“Put them in your front pocket and make sure they can’t see them,” she whispered
to him. He slipped them into his pocket. “Now, go walk off when I tell you to and don’t
come back for ten minutes. Trust me.”
“Hey sweetie?” Sven looked up at his aunt and closed his book.
“Yeah?”
“God, Sven, I think I left my keys in a dressing room in H&M. Could you do me
a big favor and go get them?”
His aunt had been faking a limp all day. “Sure. You said H&M, right?”
“Yeah.”
He stood up, making sure he had perfect posture. “Alright, I’ll be back in a few.”
He turned to leave, taking a few steps. “Thanks, Sven!”
“No prob, Aunt A.”
As he walked past the girls, he sung a couple lyrics of ‘Masquerade’ from
Phantom of the Opera, just loud enough for them to hear. When he got back, keys now
dangling in his hand, he barely had a moment before the girls sacrificed one of their own,
a pretty girl with straight honey brown hair, dark eyes, and a bit below the level of easy
that the other girls wore. Her undershirt showed a little bit of her cleavage, but it seemed
like it accidentally slipped. Her shorts stopped halfway up her thighs, and her makeup
was done so it was hardly done.
“Hey, my name’s Eden. I, uh, well, I’m sorry I’m bothering you. I just—” She
looked down at his book. “That’s a great book.”
Sven looked down at the cover. “Oh, yeah. My name’s Sven and don’t worry
about bothering me. You live around here?”
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Tentatively, she took a seat. “I live in Hermosa Beach. You?”
“Manhattan Beach.”
Her eyes lit up. “Do you go to Mira Costa?”
He shook his head. “I go to an independent school in El Segundo.”
“Oh, that explains why I haven’t seen you before.” She caught herself looking at
his shoes, shifting her gaze back up to his eyes. “So what grade are you in?”
“Senior. You?”
“Junior, but I’m already seventeen.”
Sven smiled. “I’m turning eighteen in May.” He glanced at her group of girls.
“Hey, I’m not taking you away from them, am I?”
She gave a dismissive wave. “You saw how they pushed me here. You sing really
well.”
He nodded. “Thanks. I’ve been doing professional theatre since I was a kid.
Phantom is one of my favorites. Have you seen it?”
“I’ve seen it like ten times.”
“Who’s your favorite Phantom?” He glanced at his aunt, who was sipping beer
and giving him a thumbs up.
“I’m a John Owen Jones fan, personally.”
“Ah, yeah, he did really well as Jean Valjean. If you ask me, you can’t go wrong
with Michael Crawford, but I’ve been a Ramin Karimloo fan since my aunt is kind of in
love with him. You heard of him?”
“He was in the 25th anniversary, wasn’t he?”
“Yup.”
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“Hey, this is gonna be off the wall, but have you seen Wicked?”
He laughed. “Yes, I have. Definitely one of my favorites as well. Why?”
“Your voice kind of suits Fiyero. Can you sing a few bars?”
“Pick a song.”
“‘Dancing Through Life.’”
Sven bit his lip before clambering to his feet. “Dancing through life, mindless and
careless.” He ran his hand along the bench, passing over her hers. “Make sure you wear
less trouble in life.” He faced away from her, only pivoting to look her directly in the
eyes after the line ended. He offered her his hand. “Woes are fleeting, blows are glancing
when you’re dancing through life…” They stepped up onto the bench and he gave her a
twirl. “Is that what you mean?”
She tried to hide her blush. “Yeah, just like that. You are quite the actor.”
He shook his head. “Not really.”
She slowly allowed a smile to come through, and he gave his crooked grin. “You
have a phone?”
He pulled it out of his pocket and handed it to her. After inputting her number, she
smiled, slid her fingers along his upper arm, and walked back to her group. Ariadne went
back into her place.
“Nice job, slick. Major swag points for the impromptu performance.”
“Swag is for boys. Class is for men,” he said as he texted someone.
She rolled her eyes. “Whatever, you still don’t have any class. Who are you
texting?”
He smirked. “You’ll see.”
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Eden came back. “I’d love to.”
Sven smiled. “Well come on. Hey Aunt A, could you…?”
She blinked. “Do what?”
“Give me the keys…”
“Oh. Yeah. I’ll have Corydon come by to hang with me.”
Sven smiled. “Okay, thanks. I love you.” He leaned over and gave his aunt a kiss
on the cheek.
As she watched Sven and his little friend walk away, she couldn’t help thinking
about how sly a devil he was. That, and that she seriously needed a ride home.
First: hubby.
He didn’t answer. “Hey baby, so I can see that you’re not at the phone right now
and this is gonna sound awkward when you open this message with me in the room, but
you should seriously be answering the phone right now. Thanks so fucking much.”
Second: Logan Crowe.
Twenty minutes later, she was sitting in the drastically different yet just as
luxurious interior of Logan’s Aston Martin DBS.
“So you got Sven a hookup and they left you at the mall?” Crowe clarified.
“Yup. It worth it, though.”
“So sweetie, we have some things to discuss, namely where you are with the
Pappas case.”
She took a deep breath. “Logan, I was a nervous wreck. I’m not gonna sugarcoat
it. I was seriously nervous and it showed. I don’t think he interpreted it as you kidnapped
me, but I can’t tell if he bought the story. When’s the last time you talked to him?”
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“Not since my accusations. I’m scared, Ariadne. Like, genuinely scared. I don’t
know what he’s gonna come up with and prison—I know I seem so cool about all this,
but the idea of prison terrifies me. Look at me: I’m average height, not that muscular, and
pretty-faced. You know what they do to guys like me in prison?”
She shook her head. “I only know that as a song from somewhere.”
“Ariadne, come on! Prison rape!” She felt all the color drain from her face.
“What’s wrong with you?”
She looked away. “Nothing.”
“You know someone who was prison raped?”
She shook her head, unable to get word ‘rape’ out of her head in the bright red
letters it showed in her head. “No.”
He knitted his brows together. “Then what?”
“Nothing, Logan. Can you drop me off at home?”
“Funny, cause I was planning on dropping you off in Compton. Dammit, you
ruined my plans.”
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Chapter 15
Escaping Genes
Even with Sven donning his first smile in a couple weeks after his undisclosed
time with Eden, Ariadne still couldn’t help but feel some emptiness in her life, something
that she just needed to do to fix it. For once, she was fairly certain that it did not have to
do with her nephew, or any actual family for the matter. So, that day, when she was
informed of a big game for the baseball team out in San Fernando, she decided that
support in school functions must be the hole.
Plus, eh, Sven was kind of playing in the game.
Walking out to her car, ready to be forced to recall every baseball cheer she’d
ever had to learn when watching her brothers’ games as a child, Ariadne was called to
from a crowd of students waiting for the fan bus.
“Hey Ms. Evans, could you take us?”
The voice belonged to a freshman boy currently in her A block. She supposed he
wouldn’t be that annoying, and it might be refreshing to have some new voices to hear.
“Sure, but hurry up!” she called back.
As soon as the first freshman started running toward her, another five or so
decided that they wanted to come too. Ariadne gave an awkward welcoming wave,
unconsciously giving the remaining three spots in her car to whoever could run there
faster.
The first freshman jumped into the front seat of the Jaguar and two freshmen boys
quickly took the backseats, one standing outside with the middle seat taken by Teo’s car
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seat. The boy, a relatively quiet kid named Cooper, stared at her with pleading eyes. She
cracked a smile, threw the kid on the left out of his seat, and threw the car seat in the
trunk along with the boys’ backpacks.
“Alright,” Ariadne said as she stepped into the driver’s seat, “I have Roth,
Cooper, Andie, and Ned, right?”
“Yupp!”
She looked to her right, Roth quietly admiring the interior. “You’re gonna be my
copilot. In other words, you make sure I told kill y’all and you get to control the radio. If
you put it on rap, I will kick you out of the front seat and put someone with better taste up
front.”
He picked up the iPod attached to the car. “I’ll work from your library.”
Ariadne smiled. “Good idea.”
A few seconds into the ride, and Ariadne quickly learned that her husband had
taken her car out for a spin, Billy Talent blaring out as soon as Roth selected USB.
“Damn Canadian punk music. Roth, go ahead and change it.”
Roth leaned back and bobbed his head. “It’s pretty catchy. What’s the band?”
“Billy Talent.”
He stuck his tongue out in concentration. “If this is your iPod, why do you have it
on there?”
“It’s a married people thing: you’re kind of forced to share music. I mean, I like
most of my husband’s bands, but it can get tiring. In case you can’t tell, my husband’s
from Ontario.”
“Was he the one who used to be a priest?” Andie asked.
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“Can’t get no job, can you spare a dime? Just one more hit, and I’ll be fine. I
swear to God, this’ll be my one last time!”
“A priest listens to music about drugs?” Roth snorted.
Ariadne raised an eyebrow. “Just because Corydon was a clergyman doesn’t mean
that he isn’t a normal person. They don’t make priests only listen to gospel, if that’s what
you think.”
“Ms. Evans,” Cooper began, “if our church is so progressive, why couldn’t Father
Eliopoulos remain a priest and marry you?”
Cooper, a self proclaimed, “Cashew,” or a baptized Catholic boy who identified
deeply with Jewish practices, had quickly fallen in love with the idea of Corydon and
Ariadne’s church, and had been a loyal member since the beginning of the school year.
Ariadne drummed her fingertips on her wheel. “Y’see Coop, no matter how much
our church isn’t really a church, we like to think that we truly are still a Catholic church,
just in a much purer form. Yes, it doesn’t make sense that we couldn’t allow priests to
marry, but Corydon is—was—is, a member of the Catholic clergy, and there are certain
ancient laws that he must abide by. It felt better for him to formally leave with the
Church’s blessing before marrying me.”
Andie, a boy who had just recently come out of the closet much to the discomfort
of his Christian parents, bit his lip. “How progressive is your church?”
Ariadne prepared herself for a very long explanation. “So the church is called St.
Max after the St. Max Kolbe who was killed by Nazis but was known for his tolerance
and forgiveness of the oppressors as well as taking the place of a father and husband
when ten men were ordered to starve to death in Auschwitz. Now, my husband and I, we
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met in the early 2000s and he told me that he’d suffered mental abuse from his father in
light of him converting from Eastern Orthodoxy to Catholicism and wanted to truly make
a difference with the faith that he held. We were actually in line for a punk concert, and
outside the venue there were people holding signs saying how God hated gay people.
Both of looked at those signs in disgust, saying how modern Christianity and Catholicism
was marred by an inexcusable amount of hypocrisy. So, our goal in making this church
was to form a purer form of Catholicism for the people who felt alienated by their
religion but still wanted to be faithful in a comfortable place.
“For us, the one thing that we wanted in our church was tolerance. We’d watched
how countless ideas brought on by religion, namely how slavery was once excused by
religion, and how that died. We observed that religion shifted and formed based on truths
found in the modern age as well as truths founded originally by Jesus. So, we looked at
homophobia: gay people by nature are doing nothing more sinful than straight people. So,
why persecute them more? Sure, Leviticus 18:22 does state that homosexuality is
detestable, but Leviticus in 11:10 also states that lobsters are an abomination. We don’t
hate on lobsters now, so why hate on gays? So, one of our first norms in the church was
to be openly gay friendly: we’d encourage homo or pansexual people to find love
wherever it comes, to adopt children, to be virtuous people. If they had premarital sex,
we’d treat it as we treat straight people who have sex out of marriage. We know that
sexual behavior is human nature and we can’t punish one type of people more for it.”
Andie’s eyes seemed to brighten as she spoke. “Then the other form of tolerance
we tried to achieve was religious tolerance. So often these days we hear about Christians
hating on other religions, and vise versa. We wanted our church to feel open and friendly
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to other religions. We want to learn others’ point of view and apply it to our own faith.
Because, Corydon and I both held the notion that the afterlife isn’t just the Catholic
answer, or the Jewish answer, or the Hindi answer, but a little bit of each. We encourage
Jews or Muslims or atheists to sit in on a mass and learn a bit about Catholics. We try to
help give Cashews a place between the two religions.”
“Isn’t a lot of that stuff kind of an abomination?” Roth asked.
Ariadne could sense the devil’s advocate in his tone. “Yes, but what defines
abomination? Faith shouldn’t be limited to word for word what some guy reading from a
book says. I am heavily religious, but I don’t believe everything that is said in the Bible.
Why can’t we encourage people to follow a religion for its community and a history rich
in knowledge but still allow people to make their own conclusions and form their own
opinions?”
Andie nodded. “Are you liberal?”
“Politically? Would you like to hear my anti tax song for April fifteenth?”
“So you’re conservative?”
“I’m fiscally conservative and hold mostly social liberal views mostly in that of
gay rights, but I’m still heavily pro-life. It’s a mixed bag.”
“So what are you registered as?”
She rolled her eyes. “Republican. Is this really necessary to know?”
“So you are a registered Republican yet run a totally whacked out liberal church?”
“Basically.”
Roth glanced at his teacher. “So how are you two not famous?”
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She chuckled to herself. “Why go parading about it? We’re trying to be humble,
offering it to people who ask. Keep in mind even after all this time, the congregation is
still small. But anyway, did I answer your question, Cooper?”
He nodded. “It’s really cool going to mass. Like, there’s this really nice air to it
all.”
“That it?”
“You know I’m not articulate.”
“It’s Passover soon, isn’t it?”
“It ends tomorrow.”
Ariadne nodded. “Right, we have a bunch of extra bread. Do you celebrate?”
He nodded. “The food isn’t as good as Hanukkah.”
“It’s about the enduring nature of the Jews, not the food. Hey Coop?”
“Yeah?”
“How do you feel about forgiveness? Would you forgive someone if they did
something horrible to you?”
He bit his lip. “How horrible?”
“Ripped your childhood at the seams, stole something precious that can never be
returned, and latched onto your life so strong that you didn’t feel comfortable in your
own home.”
Cooper’s eyes widened. “Uh, well, I don’t know. Did they seem like they wanted
forgiveness?”
“You haven’t communicated with them since the night they sinned against you.”
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“I think we should forgive everyone. No one is just one story. He may have
sinned against you, and it may have even been a horrible sin, but it’ll hurt you more to be
holding the grudge.”
“But what if they don’t deserve forgiveness?”
“If you forgive them, you’re the bigger person. But, y’know what I think is more
important? I think being able to forgive yourself for letting it happen is more important.”
She nodded.
The game went by in the flash; she was pretty sure that Tungsten won, but
couldn’t even remember how many innings went by. It was a dusty pink as she drove the
boys back home, a Green Day ballad playing in the background, the car in a silent patch
among the chatter that the ride possessed.
She was shot out of her fog when her Bluetooth in her car rang out the original
theme of Zorba.
“Ariadne, ópou eínai Corydon. Den tha apantísei to tiléfono kyttáron tou.”
She wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or dreadful that her mother-in-law called
her. Plus, she sounded inarguably flustered. Ignoring the blank faces of the freshmen, she
replied in as fluid Greek as she could manage.
“Den xéro, Mana. Odigó sto spíti tóra. Tha prépei na ton kalései?”
“Sas parakaló, paidí mou.”
“Tha sou tilefoníso, an apantá. Parakaloúme na iremíso, Mana.”
With that, she ordered her car to call the house. Of course, she got the answering
machine. “Hi baybeh, it’s yer wife. I uh, your mother just called me all with her granny
panties in a twist over you, and it’s obvious that now I have to get my panties in a twist
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because you don’t seem to enjoy answering phones. Now, I’m not mad, but if you could
maybe work on this skill, I think it would benefit us both. I mean, I don’t know about
you, but if Teo decides to, for instance, blurt out some off-put Nazi statement about how
he loves cookies as much as Hitler loved his dog or how Caligula loved his horse, I have
this strange feeling that I would not feel comfortable taking that one alone. So, anyway,
please call back. I’ve got some freshmen in the back of my car, but I’ll be home in
twenty. Love you, pórni choíron. Oh, and call your goddamn mother!”
She stole a glance at Roth, who was still staring blankly. “I thought you were
lying about knowing Greek.”
“My in-laws all speak Greek as a first language. My family’s 100% Greek. Why
wouldn’t I learn it? And I find that insulting, young man. I do no lie to y’all about
anything Greek.”
After dropping the kids off at their respective houses, she came in to a quiet
home. Eerily quiet, if she had to be honest.
“Corydon?” she called into the house. “Honey, are you home?”
Her stomach knotted when she found him sitting on the floor next to the
answering machine. She was tempted to make a remark to lighten the tension, but she
knew that he was in no state for jokes.
“Corydon, what’s wrong?” she whispered as she knelt down beside him.
“He’s dead, Ari.” His voice was so dead she couldn’t even sense the inflections
his accent made.
“Who’s dead?”
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“There was a Catholic church by my house in Peterborough. It was the one I
joined. The priest there first encouraged me to become a priest myself. There’s a tiny
railroad that runs next to the church. You’d always be able to hear it whistle by an hour
or so after mass. When I was little boy, even before I converted, I used to drop coins onto
the tracks and they’d come back squished.”
“Corydon, who’s dead?”
He finally looked up at her, his eyes brimming in tears. “Babas, Ariadne. He
killed himself today. He—he jumped…he jumped in front of the train in front of my
church…”
Ariadne had certainly not been her father-in-law’s biggest fan. She’d always been
spiteful about how he treated Corydon, had always found him to represent the exact
opposite of everything St. Max was. Sure, he wasn’t a horrible, horrible man—he’d been
generally friendly to her, and he did have some great stories about living in Greece. With
all the confusion over her opinion of him, she still felt the impact of her husband’s words.
Her legs became weak, and she could do no more but get into a lying position similar to
Corydon’s and hug him.
“Oh Cor…” she whispered, unable to think of anything more to say.
She listened as hiccupping sniffles started sounding, so unlike the composed man
she’d leaned on when she was an emotional wreck. Lightly, she rubbed his back, trying to
get the images of his body flying from the impact or being crushed by the several ton
machine out of her head.
“Did they know why?” she asked.
He pulled away from their embrace. “I—th-they didn’t…”
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“Oh…”
He managed composure for a brief amount of time. He sighed. “It’s not like it’s
hard to figure out. Wh-who cares why he did it? He—he laid it all out for me, Ar-Ari.
There are miles of railroad. He did-didn’t-t need to do it there.”
She put a hand on his face. “Corydon, no, no, he didn’t do anything because of
you…”
“Ithaca was right, Arr. He h-hated me.” He began having a hard time breathing
regularly, so he took a few seconds to allow his lungs to catch up. After what sounded
like a very strained breath, his tone took a 180. “This whole thing is such bullshit. What
kind of father does this? And don’t try to convince me that I’m wrong. I know he killed
himself in front of the church for a reason. How dare he take one of the only places I was
truly happy in and mar it in his selfish sins? I swear to the Lord above, that man will get
what he deserves. You wait, Ari. That bastard is burning in Hell.” He coughed. “You
know why he jumped in front of a train, Ari? You wanna know?” She could do no more
than stare at him. “It was all—I-It was all a big fuck you.”
With that, he collapsed into his wife’s arms, sobbing like a baby. Ariadne bit back
tears and squeezed him tight. As she hugged him, let his hung head cry into her
shoulders, she hoped he got the message: I’m here for you, no matter what happened.
*
*
*
As much as Ariadne hated it, Corydon insisted after a couple hours that she
should get their taxes into envelopes and mail them out before the IRS got to them. And,
with him trudging into bed, she had no reason to disagree.
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Sven had been pretty detached when it came to the whole Babas issue; he didn’t
know the guy and Corydon seemed to just want his space. So, when given the
opportunity to hang with his aunt and do taxes, he took it.
“Welcome to the New Variety, sit and relax! I’m that song and dance
phenomenon, Max. Let me sing for you, do my thing for you, 'till they give me the axe.
Here's the song I'm doing, gonna fill you in on tax,” Sven sang as he did an overexaggerated dance entrance to the desk Ariadne was working at.
“Tax is that familiar melody, sinful and true. Hum it if you've earned a dollar or
two.” Ariadne hummed. “Bucks are being spent by the government for whatever they do.”
Ariadne snorted. “Anyone who earns a living gives more than a few.” He snapped,
pointing at his aunt. “So our schools can be their best—”
“Says the thousands spent on the district admins’ vacations.”
“So our roads will have no cracks.”
“Not to say for the welfare system’s heads…”
“Someone fix those train tracks! I hear you callin' Uncle and I'm payin' my tax.”
Sven handed a toy stick he’d been dancing with to his aunt. “There are many different
ways we pay what we owe. Ladies if you'll form a lovely tableau.”
Ariadne took over the singing. “Income—”
“35%.”
“—Property, sales—”
“7.25%.”
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“—Utility. Candy bars in my show. Licenses for dogs and cats, and that's not all
you know. Out of almost every dollar a person can make, City, State and Federal
governments take...”
“Take what?” Sven asked, sarcasm dripping off every syllable.
“What they think is fair you givin' your share; Now and then there's a break.” She
slapped her stick down on Sven’s hand. “Max is talking taxes. Hey, have I kept you
awake!”
They took it together. “For the things your town may need. For the things a
country lacks. All good things take green backs. We hear you callin' Uncle and we're
paying our tax.” They snickered.
“People do complain, Say their taxes are high; What am I to get in return?”
“Honestly,” Ariadne said.
Sven took her hand and put her in a dance. “Look around you friend, Max is
showin' you why. With your taxes you support how we live and how we learn.” He twirled
his wrist in an unfocused gesture. “Soo, be kind to your parents at tax time.” He shoved a
half-full glass of whiskey toward his aunt. “And remember April 15th. April 15th…”
They high-fived each other. “Yay Democrat 4th of July!” Sven cheered, causing
Ariadne to laugh as she sealed her last envelope.
“No IRS bitches gonna come knocking on my door…” she muttered.
After bidding Sven goodnight, she climbed into bed, curling up into her sleeping
husband. Shutting her eyes, she knew it wouldn’t be an easy night to sleep; there was just
too much on her mind.
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What exactly was the “good wife” reaction to the father-in-law dying? She was
sure he’d reason to stay home the next day. All she knew of grief was the horrible things
she herself had done in reaction to the loss. Did most people do things like that? Did they
think about doing them? What stopped them from committing the acts?
She glanced down at her wrist. When Penelope died, Corydon didn’t go into her
emotional rock bottom. Yet, she honestly couldn’t remember how he reacted. She cursed
herself for having been so self absorbed. How could she have been so concerned with her
own woes that she couldn’t even acknowledge that her husband was hurting just as much
as her?
Well, there she was, unable to be absorbed into her own woes and forced to keep
her husband in check. Or, she felt like she had to. A good wife would take care of her
grieving husband, be there at his every beck and call until he felt better.
She glanced down and noticed her hand stroking his arm. Maybe she was just
overreacting; maybe his grieving process would just involve being quiet and sleeping a
lot.
She shut her eyes again. She hadn’t talked to Sven much, not since that weekend
anyway. Despite all the threats, she had failed to get the dirt on his date with that girl out
of him. Would he start walking different if the girl had deflowered him? Would he have
even allowed it with his high standards?
Two things to add to the To Do list: take care of Corydon and talk to Sven.
By the next morning, she tried to go through as familiar a routine as possible, sans
Corydon. She pulled Teo out of his crib, changed his diaper, dressed him, breastfed him,
prepared his breakfast, and stuck him in the high chair.
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“Do you think we should visit Daddy, Teo?” she asked as she sifted her spoon
through a bowl of cereal. He didn’t reply, too concerned with licking his baby food off
his fingers. “He’s really sad right now. I know you won’t understand for several more
years, but I think maybe you could help him. He loves you so much, you know.” She
paused, thinking about the late Mr. Eliopoulos. “You’re very lucky.”
Once breakfast was cleaned up, Ariadne took her son into her bedroom.
“Hey Cor, someone wants to say hi to you,” she whispered as she approached the
bed.
He flipped over, a slight smile creeping out as Ariadne dropped Teo on the bed
next to him. The infant instantly grinned and crawled to his father, babbling as he went.
Throwing one hand onto Corydon’s collarbone and the other onto his face, he laughed.
Squirming under his son, he pulled him into the air and back onto his chest.
“Good morning, little guy,” he cooed as he gave him a kiss.
Ariadne crossed her arms. “So I only have to teach until eleven today. I can come
home and we could hang out, watch some movies or something. I just want you to be
comfortable for the next few weeks. I imagine I can call you in sick at work?”
He ran a hand through his hair. “Ari, you don’t need to worry so much about me.
Yeah, I’ll take a few days off to collect my thoughts, but I think you should go to work
and get whatever needs to be done done, and I’ll take care of Teo today.” He stroked his
hair. “I don’t want Babas’s death to be about grieving, I want to learn something from it.
And, honestly, I don’t grieve by lying around crying. I want to be with the people who
make me happy, and just being with you and Teo is enough. Come here.” He kissed her
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cheek. “Go have fun at work and when you come home, we can watch a movie if that’s
what sounds good.”
She started to leave, but hesitated. “Are you sure you’re alright?”
He grimaced. “I’m fine.”
She considered pushing him further, but she didn’t think the good wife would
want to put more stress on her husband.
“I’ll see you later. I love you.”
“Love you too.”
After throwing a lunch at Sven, she pulled herself into her car. Even at those
fleeting seconds as she left the room, she could see the sadness, the anger, and the
confusion in his eyes. How could she have just left him there? He needed support,
someone he could let those emotions burst with. What if he decided to have a mental
breakdown while taking care of Teo?
For a moment, she considered turning around, calling in her own sick day. Once
at a stoplight, she closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Corydon would be fine. Teo
would be fine. There was no reason that she shouldn’t go to work.
The light turned green, and she finished her drive.
*
*
*
By the time English 12 ended, she couldn’t get her worries out of her head.
“Rose?”
Rose stopped packing her bag. “Yeah?”
“Is your dad home?” She nodded. “Could you ask him if he could swing by my
house?”
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“Right now?” She nodded. “No cell phone policy?” Ariadne gave a dismissive
wave, allowing Rose to take her phone out. “Hey Dad, could you—no, I’m fine. Yeah,
I’m sure. Could you go to Ariadne’s house?” She glanced at her teacher. “Not sure. But
could you?” There was a pause, and Rose smiled. “Great. I’ll tell her. Thanks. Yeah, see
you after school. Love you too.”
Rose put her phone away. “He’ll be there in a hour. He’s gotta talk with Erin for a
bit before he comes over.”
“Thanks.”
The hour struggled by, Ariadne jumping up from some news show she wasn’t
watching very intently. She gave her friend a small smile, but skipped the bear hug she
usually gave him to make him squirm.
“What do you wanna talk about?” he asked as he took a seat.
She turned off the TV and sat. “Corydon’s father committed suicide yesterday.”
“I’m so sorry. But um, I—what do I have to do with this?”
“Nothing, but I—I can tell he’s messed up about it. I mean, who wouldn’t be,
right? And—”
“Aunt A, do we have any ham?”
Ariadne turned back in utter confusion to Sven with a bag of bread and a jar of
mayonnaise. She had a mini spazz attack. “Sven, I packed you a lunch!”
“I had to give it to poor kids!”
Crowe snickered. “Who?”
“Isaac Ziegler.”
“I gave you a ham sandwich. He’s Kosher, dumbass!”
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Crowe started laughing as Sven’s face registered in an oh crap expression. “Well,
I don’t have a lunch…”
She shook her head. “There should be more ham in the fridge. Open your eyes
and look.”
Crowe pushed a piece of hair out of his face. “Testy today, aren’t we?”
“He will never be able to live on his own. Anyway, I wanted to talk to you about
the accusations.”
Sven stopped mid step back to the kitchen.
“What about them?”
“I want to try to clear them. Corydon doesn’t need me being accused of
accomplice-ing on top of his father’s death. Do you think we could pull it off?”
Crowe smiled. “Finally you’re talking sense! Now, care to make your next
questioning a bit more effective?”
She frowned. “What’s the next step?”
“When I think of it, I’ll tell you.”
“You’re a douche.”
He smiled. “Can’t have you happy if I’m not. So how’s Sven doing? I know Rose
is pretty happy right now.”
Ariadne shrugged. “Sven got with some girl on Saturday, but I don’t know the
details. Hey bro, are you worried that Rose and Finn are going too fast?”
He shrugged. “They’ve been together, what, two and half weeks? Look Ari, I’m
not happy that she’s so comfortable with Finn only because I fear she’ll slip into going
farther than she’d like with him, but Finn’s a sweet guy and I don’t feel like he’s pushing
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her into sex like Sven was. I trust him, I trust her. Besides, she’s eighteen. She’s…I
mean, I guess she’s at an age where having sex isn’t a huge deal. I’d advise her to wait a
little longer, but it’s her life. If she ends up regretting it, there’s nothing I can do about
it.”
“Logan, you’re her father. Haven’t you taught her anything about respecting her
body?”
He shrugged. “A lot of women don’t necessarily make love their first time and
don’t regret it. If I tell her not to have sex with Finn, then she will.”
“How long has Rose known and been good friends with Finn?”
“They were best buddies as kids. They got closer after Paris. It’s kind of like
they’re comfortable enough around each other.” He rubbed his face. “I’m not sure about
this, Arr. What should I be telling her?”
“Honestly, all in all, tell her that if it feels right, go for it. Otherwise, there’s
nothing wrong with waiting.”
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Chapter 16
For the Greater Good
Rose hated how she felt this deep separation between her and Sven. For one, she
didn’t have the courage to communicate with him any other way than text message, even
when he called her asking if they could talk.
What do u wanna do? She asked him.
Com 2 my haus ASAP
It was already Wednesday the week before Spring Break. She was still fiddling
with the idea of going to UC Davis over Colorado College, but was on UC Davis’s side.
Besides that, Spring Break was going to be pretty chill; she’d hang out with Finn for the
first part then probably Vivienne or Bella for the rest. She glanced at the clock: 6:10 pm.
Her dad wouldn’t mind, so she might as well. Besides, the anger had dissipated, leaving
the open wound with only stinging edges. Sven was her friend, maybe even her best
friend, and she should make a sincere effort to patch up the rips.
B there in 10
Cool :)
She winced at how he still put that smiley face at the end of his texts like when
they were together. Seven minutes later, she was pulling into the Evans’ (Eliopoulos’?)
driveway, Sven actually running out to greet her.
“Hey you,” he said, giving her a hug.
She hugged him back. “Hey. So what do you want?”
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He pulled away and started walking inside. Somehow, he completely missed his
turn up the stairs and led them to the kitchen, where Ariadne was busy cooking, Teo
already busy his own bowl of food. Ariadne turned around and smiled.
“Shall you be joining us for dinner?” she asked.
Rose stopped. Was this his plan; charm her with his family dinners? Yet, if she
went back home, she’d be eating Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. “Sure. Would you like me
to set the table or something?”
Sven opened his mouth, but his aunt shot him down. “If you could, that would be
great.”
Just as Rose finished setting the table, Corydon made his way downstairs, still
sluggish from another day in his bed, trying to come to grips with the past few days. As
soon as he saw Rose, he froze, embarrassment leaking into his features.
“Ari, why didn’t you tell me we were having company?” he asked between gritted
teeth.
“Because it was Sven who invited her over ten minutes ago,” she replied with the
same gritted teeth.
“Jerk,” he muttered, cracking a slight smile as he slightly pushed her.
“Keep throwing me around and I might accidentally pour gravy on you.”
He took his seat, taking a baby spoon and making sure some of Teo’s dinner
actually made it into his mouth. Following Sven’s lead, Rose took a seat, unsure if she
was to be served or get food.
“Rose, stop looking like you’re about to jump up. You tell me what you want and
don’t want and I can handle the rest.”
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Rose wasn’t sure why, but she figured that Sven’s family had Greek food more
often than not, resulting in slight surprise over the meatloaf, mashed potatoes, rolls, and
salad being served.
“I’m sorry if you were expecting something healthier; Cor’s dad died on Monday
and he needs his comfort food.”
Rose looked over at Corydon, aware of how much she had hated people giving
her “I’m sorry”s when they heard her mom had died. “The pain numbs after a while. It’ll
get better, I promise.”
“Thank you.” He hesitated. “How long did it take you with your mom?”
“A month before I could take my mask off and be okay. I wasn’t good until
maybe two months. Humans are made to adapt; accept they’re gone and leave the rest to
your survival instinct. Above all, we want to sustain life, and grieving doesn’t help the
process.”
Corydon nodded. “I tend to think more in a spiritual over a physical sense, but I
suppose science has its points.” He sighed. “It just drains you, y’know? It feels like every
time I smile, it’s fake somehow.”
“When’s his funeral?”
“Tomorrow. I’m heading out tonight.” He took a napkin and wiped his son’s face.
“Don’t make yourself think that the funeral is the stopping point for mourning.”
“I won’t. Promise.”
Sven jumped into the conversation, tired of its grey tone. “You know what makes
me happy?”
Ariadne rolled her eyes. “ ‘The Cooper Gang Robs KFC.’”
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Rose was surprised to find herself answering the question alongside Sven’s aunt.
Sven clapped his hands together and transitioned the gesture into a gun hand with one
hand. “Yupp!”
Rose stifled a laugh. “Sven, would you please change your voicemail greeting?”
Corydon and Ariadne groaned.
Sven crossed his arms. “Hey, my outgoing message is perfect!”
Ariadne was the first one to break out laughing, followed shortly by her husband.
“Sven, your greeting tells us that a fat pink pants-less hippo is dinging you,”
Ariadne stated.
Corydon shrugged. “Maybe this is his way of coming out, Ari. Let him be.”
“And we think that he has a hippo fetish?”
“Come on, English teacher! It’s probably a symbol for husky guys.”
Ariadne started laughing again. “If the hippo isn’t wearing the pants, then who’s
on top?”
Corydon glanced at Sven. “I would put Sven as the receiver, but I feel like he’d be
crushed…”
“Stop ruining my childhood! Aunt Ariadne already ruined Cartoon Network for
me!” Sven protested.
“So Ms. Elio—” Rose began.
“Rose, my name is Ariadne. No need to change it because Cor’s here.”
“Sorry, Ariadne, uhh, what was going on today? With the chairs?”
Ariadne’s eyes lit up. “So this morning, Helen brought in some chocolate and
cappuccino chip cookies and so, the natural reaction is to eat like ten of them and oh my
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God, the caffeine buzz on those suckers was off the charts. So Marco and I decide to
throw chair races along the main hallway. All the major heads of school were out at some
educational retreat meeting, so the staff didn’t mind. And yeah, I beat Marco.”
“Well, you pushed him off a chair. I guess that’s winning,” Rose commented.
“He could’ve pushed me off, but he chose not to. His loss.” She turned to
Corydon. “You’re gonna crash with Anatolia, right?”
He nodded. “Ithaca’s not going.”
“Are you sure you don’t want me to come?”
He shook his head. “I don’t want you to have to lug Teo around and either way,
there might be some tension. Plus, y’know, you gotta work…”
She nodded. “Whatever you say. Kids, when you’re done, I made brownies.”
Brownies in hand, Sven and Rose walked upstairs, Rose thanking Ariadne and
Corydon for dinner.
“So what did you want to talk about?” Rose asked as she took a seat in Sven’s
desk chair, him sprawled across his bed.
“I heard your dad and Aunt A talking. You know about your dad’s problem,
right?”
She nodded. “I was there when Inspector Pappas first came over.”
He raised an eyebrow. “Are you concerned?”
“Sven, of course I’m concerned. But is there anything I can do? No. We can’t go
fighting battles out of our skill set.”
“But what if he goes to jail?”
Her stomach knotted. “He—if he does, it’s what he deserves.”
247
“You know you don’t believe that.”
“So he gets five years or something! It’s not a huge deal. He’ll get out eventually.
It’s not like he’ll steal again. He doesn’t need a job. There’s nothing we can do.”
Sven bit his lip. “But, what if there is something we can do?”
“Like what? Take the immunity papers and change them? None of us are that
good.”
“Rose, look—my aunt’s involved in this too and I can’t have her going to jail. I
don’t want your dad in jail either. So, I’m going to try to help, whether they want it or
not. If nothing else, aren’t you curious about why Inspector Pappas wants to get your dad
so badly?”
“He and my mom were partners. He was probably mad that my dad got it off so
easily.”
“He wouldn’t spend so much effort on him if he were just mad that he got
immunity. There has to be another reason.” He paused. “Rose, I’m sorry that I was so
disrespectful to you at Knott’s. I want us to be friends again, and I ask you, as my best
friend for all these high school years, will you embark on one last adventure with me?”
He jumped up and stood over her. “For your family, for me, for you—will you try to
bring unlock the mysteries to a grave injustice?”
He held out his hand, and she took it. “You remain an overdramatic prick, but I’ll
do it.” He smiled. “As long as I don’t lose my college acceptances.”
He laughed. “You won’t. C’mon, let’s go call Erin.”
“Erin Barro? Why?”
“Because she won’t tell our parents about what we’re doing.”
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She looked up. “Dear God, it’s sophomore year all over again…”
*
*
*
Corydon couldn’t pull himself from the slightly dusty mirror in his sister’s house.
This would normally concern him, seeing as the only reason he’s ever cared about his
physical appearance was either in some misguided attempt to win Ariadne even as a
priest, or to seem professional. Yet, Ariadne and work were thousands of miles away
from Peterborough, Ontario.
He adjusted his clerical collar, somehow unaccustomed to its feel even after
having worn it near continuously for a decade or more. He took a deep breath, watching
how his clothing moved along to his rising and falling chest.
So priests breathed. It didn’t look right, and with reason. He was technically no
longer permitted to wear these clothes: the collarino, the crystal blue rosary hanging
deeper than the collar. He ran a hand through his recently cleaned hair. At least he wasn’t
wearing his mass clothing.
Father Corydon Eliopoulos. Imagine it now, Corydon. Bishop Corydon
Eliopoulos.
And now he could no longer even conceive the idea of Bishop. Not that he really
minded, but it was hard to imagine a time when he thought he could go that far into the
clergy.
Corydon would make an excellent pharmacist, wouldn’t he?
Him. Oh, of course he could. The only good thing about him is his careful little
feminine fingers, perfect for picking up tiny pills.
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At least his pill-picking job got money in the house, got food on the table. What
had the eight years studying theology done? Made him more spiritually sound, he
supposed. But, as it seemed, not worth it enough. Not worth it according to Babas.
Nothing he’d done in his life was worth it according to Babas.
So why was it worth it for him to go to his father’s funeral?
He shook his head; it didn’t matter whether Babas had been a good father. He had
been a God-fearing man and that was nearly a ticket into Heaven. As a fellow follower of
Christ, he must honor his passing. If not to be a good son, then to be a good Christian.
He slipped the cross on the rosary between his fingers. He could still vividly
recall when he and Ariadne had bought it. They had been wandering around the Vacatin
for hours, a few steps from collapsing, but something inside both of them told them that
they had to buy a genuine Roman Catholic rosary from the Pope’s home. It had been a
quiet affair, with soft touches as they inspected the beads and soft voices as they
discussed options.
You should get the blue crystal one, Cor. It fits you. You’re so pure, so mild, so
kind. Plus, you’re translucent.
She had been right about most of those traits, but he wasn’t sure about the
translucent one. For the most part, yes, he wore his heart on his sleeve. Yet, in light of
recent events, he wasn’t sure how open he truly was being about his emotions.
He finally broke away from the mirror, stopping only to grab a coat to bear
through the cold with. The church the service was to be held at was only a few blocks
from his sister’s house, so he volunteered to walk in order to save room in the car for his
nieces and nephews.
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He arrived to mild stares from the audience of the funeral. Most who didn’t know
Corydon didn’t even glance twice; it was his family who stared. He took a seat next to his
mother, already sobbing into a handkerchief. He put his arm around her, pained at seeing
his poor, sweet mother in such distress, especially over an asshole like Babas.
When he looked to his left, he met eyes with Perseus and Nyx, his younger
siblings. While Nyx looked only in a curiosity overpowered by grief, Perseus looked with
an intensity, an almost anger.
“You must’ve forgotten to tell me this was a costume party,” Perseus sneered.
“Well, the man we’re celebrating was a clown. I figured why not?”
Perseus attempted to stand up, but Nyx held him by his arm.
The ceremony began with an Eastern Orthodox priest stood and held a mass.
Once the mass ended, the floor was left to family and friends to give their eulogies. With
Ithaca nowhere to be seen, Anatolia’s husband read her eulogy. He found himself drifting
after the thirty-second mark.
Why did Ariadne send me here with Return of the Jedi?
At that point, he and Ariadne had seen the film enough times to quote each word.
As the eulogy droned on, he found himself instead reviewing quotes, trying to figure out
what she wanted of him. As much as Ariadne would simply send him with his favorite
movie to a sad occasion for some smiles, he knew she was also a deeper meaning freak.
Ariadne said Episode VI was her favorite because of the redemption of Darth
Vader. Is that what she wanted me to think about?
“Corydon?”
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He didn’t hear his name. Vader turned from villain to tragic figure, almost martyr
by the end of the film. It was his death that defined his change…
“Corydon!”
He broke out of his trance, only to see Perseus looking down at him. “Yes?”
“Would you care to give a few words?”
Corydon shook his head. “I’m speechless.”
“Oh come on, Corydon. You’re composed enough.”
He hadn’t shed a single tear the entire service, in fact.
“Really Percy, I have nothing to say. Go on and say your eulogy.”
“Are you sure?” His words hit like knives.
“Certain.”
Unable to escaping the gaze of his little brother, Corydon kept his eyes on a crack
in the podium, trying his hardest to block out all sound coming from the room, whether
that meant the cries of his mother and sisters or the kind words they said about their
father.
The service ended, and Corydon slipped out of the funeral procession, instead
trudging through the snow back the real spot where his father was buried. It took a bit of
time, but he found himself standing in front of his old church. On whim, he walked
inside, perhaps to spot a familiar face.
He smiled when he met eyes with his old priest, hair a bit whiter, but nothing else
new.
“Corydon,” he greeted, putting him in a hug.
“It’s so nice to see you, Father Lizotte.”
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“So your dreams of joining the clergy have come true, huh? I’m so proud of you.”
He took a deep breath, somehow getting more emotional hugging an old friend
than at his own father’s funeral. “I was a member of the clergy, Father. I was laicized a
couple years ago to pursue my soul mate. We have a wonderful son right now. I was—”
Father Lizotte nodded. “Ah, the pull of love. I never saw you as distant enough
for the clergy, but I’m glad you still actively practice.” He paused. “I’m sorry to hear
about your father.”
He nodded. “I’m kind of lost with that.”
“Because of the way he treated you?”
“Yes.”
“A man’s true colors are revealed when he faces death. It’s why we look so down
on suicide. But only you can decide if your father is worth more than a proper burial.”
“Do you know the spot he died in?”
He hesitated. “Yes.”
The spot would’ve otherwise been rather arbitrary; there were no marks that a
death had occurred in the spot the priest brought Corydon to.
“I didn’t see it happen, but this was it. I’ll leave you be. Thank you for visiting me
Corydon, and May God bless you and your family.”
“I hope you’re happy,” Corydon whispered to the lone spot. “You’ve got me at
wit’s end. I can’t remember why I was ever happy in this family. I’m sure that’s what you
wanted, though. After all, you could never have a Catholic son.”
When he returned to his old home, his mother’s home, he couldn’t help but stop a
few inches inside the doorway.
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A kid about fourteen was staring at him, covered in blood.
“Hey man, this isn’t some open home.”
Corydon rolled his eyes; his dotting Greek mother had decided to open her home
to underprivileged teenagers, and this specimen was a regular.
“I’m Sophelia Eliopoulos’s son, dumbass.”
“Oh. Sorry man.” He stopped. “Aren’t you supposed to be at a funeral?” He
looked over his current apparel. “Or leading a mass or something?”
“Should you be covered in blood?”
“I’m trying to clean this raccoon. Gonna make a real coonskin hat.”
Well that explained the horror movie level gore covering the boy. “I have this
strange feeling that you aren’t skinning a raccoon nor that you are doing it right either
way.”
He soon found himself in front of a mutilated bear carcass. “So what are you
gonna do with the bear?”
“Make a cape.”
“And what of the meat? Hunters who waste are nothing more than cheap fur
collectors.”
“I’ll sell it.”
“Well, let’s start with the basics, shall we? Skin it.”
Corydon would’ve felt bad about defiling his mother’s house, but luckily the boy
was working the garage. Of course, it was freezing, but at least he wasn’t in the house.
The boy was eager to get the work, but his work only resulted in a sloppy rip and, while
he tried to jingle the skin from the flesh, ended up splattering blood everywhere,
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including all over Corydon’s clothing. After a few seconds, he snatched the skinning
tools away and, within minutes, had the animal skinned.
“Now you do the rest. Don’t waste the meat and don’t track anything inside.”
Disgusted, Corydon felt like jumping out of his robes, but was met by his mother
and Percy.
“Oh Corydon, you must’ve forgotten to tell me about your psychopathy diagnosis.
Sure explains a lot,” he sneered.
“Mana’s kid was trying to skin a bear and did it wrong. I’m sorry, Mana.”
Corydon would’ve been more offended by his little brother’s quips, but he knew
that he was just stressed and hurting.
“Cory, go take a shower. Percy, apologize to your brother,” Mrs. Eliopoulos
barked in Greek.
Corydon was in the shower before Perseus could even think up an apology. By
the time he returned downstairs, Mana was alone, sipping tea as she stared at a couple
photos of her late husband.
“I’m sorry I’ve disappointed you, Mana,” Corydon said as he joined her.
“Why would you have disappointed me?”
“I didn’t cry at Babas’s funeral. Or say anything.”
She put a hand on his shoulder. “Son, I’m a proud mother. I’m proud that you
overcame your anger at your father and even showed up.” She took another sip. “His
death was tragic.”
“Suicide isn’t tragic, Mana. It’s pathetic.”
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She nodded. “I know you think that, especially after how he treated you in life.
But please my son, listen to me. He did love you.”
He crossed his arms. “No he didn’t.”
“He did, whether you acknowledge it or not.”
“He told me that I wasn’t his son anymore. He didn’t love me.”
She sighed. “He took to drinking lately. Old man regrets I suppose.”
Corydon snorted. “Like what?”
“Like you and your sister.”
Corydon’s expression softened. “What do you mean?”
“He drove here on the night he died from Vancouver. He asked if I’d spare him
money for a plane ticket out to the States.” She paused. “He told me that he wanted to
meet Teo. I told him that I couldn’t afford to buy him a plane ticket and he told me that
his car had broken down.”
“So why’d he commit suicide?”
“Corydon, you must understand: when he came to me, he was completely
inebriated. Flat broke too, spent every penny on booze. When I told him that I couldn’t
help him, he went running out.” She wiped her eyes. “Hours later, I got the call.”
“So he…he didn’t commit suicide as a remark against me?”
She shook her head. “Corydon, your father may have been bad at showing his
love, but he would never hand you such an offhanded insult.”
His eyes filled with tears. “But I—Mana, I’ve been calling him pathetic ever since
he died. What have I done?”
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“Corydon, he was pathetic. Pathetic because he took so long to try to apologize to
you. Please son, if you hated him in life, at least admit to his attempts to make things
right at the end of his life.” He nodded. “And don’t mind Percy; he’s just had a lot of
stress put on him ever since he thought that his father elected him man of the family.”
Corydon put his mother into an embrace. “Thank you, Mana.”
*
*
*
Although Perseus was ruthless with his spite, Corydon considered the trip an
overall success.
“Soo,” Ariadne said as her husband unpacked, “did you figure out why I gave you
Return of the Jedi?”
“It was either to remind me that you want to change Teo’s name to Anakin or to
say that a man’s character is judged by his death.”
“Ding ding ding!” She kissed him. “I’m so happy you’re home.”
“Me too.”
“But um, about that other right thing…Do you wanna go down to the city hall or
where ever you change names and get Teo’s name legally changed to Teo Anakin
Skywal—Eliopoulos like we planned to do seven months ago?”
He smiled. “Why didn’t you name him Teo Anakin when he was born again?”
“You know what, it’s because of that bitch nurse saying I was too tripped out to
name him and asked you and you said Xenophon.”
“I thought you said to say Xenophon so he could write Teo X. Eliopoulos on all
his legal papers.”
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“I said Anakin if I was in labor for more than three hours because I suffered too
much to not get to name him after my favorite Sith Lord.”
He folded all his clothing except for his priest garb, still stained in blood. “Wait,
didn’t we agree that we wouldn’t name him Anakin because of the evil connotations?”
“Y’know, I have the strange feeling that he won’t ever have to have an epic
lightsaber duel with Obi Wan Kenobi. And you know why, Cor? Because Emperor
Palpatine died in the sixth movie!”
He stopped. “Ari…are you okay?”
“Besides,” Ariadne continued, waving her hand dismissively, “Anakin is an
American ass name. An American dude made it up, a—”
He smirked. “A Canadian actor wore it.”
“An American actor did the voice over for his Sith Lord persona—”
“Whose body was a British guy…”
“I went through nine months of hell for that child, and if I wanted to name him
Han fucking Solo I would’ve done it whether any bitch nurses want me to or not.”
He shook his head. “Ari, what’s wrong with you?”
“Helen gave me the recipe for her cappuccino chip cookies…”
Corydon rolled his eyes; welcome home. “Could you help me get the bloodstains
out of this?”
She sprung back. “Sure, but I can’t scrub your soul clean.”
“I was gutting bears with one of Mana’s wayward teens she houses.”
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She threw her hands up. “Again with the fucking bears! I thought I ended this
conversation when we sold Sven’s bear rug.” She snatched the clothing away. “If I have
to wash this in holy water…”
“You don’t.”
She shuddered as she took the garment. “Glad you’re home, love.”
“Glad to be back.”
259
Chapter 17
Back in the Groove
By Wednesday, Rose and Sven were driving up to Palos Verdes to meet Erin,
who seemed rather eager to have them visit. In fact, they received Latin Americaesque
cheek kisses and a plate of snicker doodles upon entrance. While Sven happily took the
plate of cookies, Rose kept her focus on Erin.
“You seem pretty happy to see us,” Rose commented.
“I am.” She put each hand on their backs and nudged them forward. “Assuming
we get some talking done.”
They found seats by the entrance to the backyard, a limited view of the ocean off
in the distance.
“So you guys found out?” Erin began. They nodded. “Logan and I have been
working on our options for a while, and the main thing we’d like to accomplish involves
a bit of change on his immunity papers. Now, the closest thing we’ve gotten to now is
make a mock copy and change a few words that would dismiss all his crimes done after
1996. But, there is the issue that somehow, we would have to switch the papers Pappas
keeps with him with our version. And, of course, that’s where the hard part flies in.”
“Would Sven and I potentially be able to help?”
She nodded. “We need recon done around Pappas, and he’s more likely to trust
you and Sven than any of the adults.”
“How much could we get busted for if he caught us?” Sven asked.
“Probably not much. He’d just transfer manipulation onto Logan’s list of crimes.”
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“Is Dad into this idea of using us?” Rose questioned.
“Not at all. Hence the reason they don’t know you’re here. If you guys accept this
job, you’d begin—Rose, I’d put you to this—by trying to shadow him.”
Rose’s eyes lit up. “It would be so easy! I could just say that I want to follow in
my mom’s footsteps.”
“Have you guys met?”
She blushed. “Once.”
“And…?”
“It’s a long story, but he probably thinks I’m a druggie.”
Erin looked to Sven in confusion. “Uhm, okay then. Could you change that
opinion?”
“Probably.”
She clapped her hands together. “Alright, great. Sven…Let’s wait for an
assignment for you.”
“Dammit!”
Erin chewed her lip. “I actually have something you could try out if you want…”
Sven’s eyes lit up. “I want to!”
“C’mon, but you gotta take off your shoes.”
Rose wasn’t sure how identity theft could be a prosperous field, but Erin Barro
certainly had some money. That, or her version of her father’s car indulgence was strange
playgrounds.
What she could only guess was in several hundred square feet area was a
sprawling jungle gym like structure made up of a covered tunnel system and tower-like
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buildings, almost like a little city. Between the towers, ropes hung loosely. Tiny lights
littered the ground level floor as well as the ceiling, highlighting the ropes caught up
there, like snakes glued to the ceiling.
“What is this?” Rose asked.
Erin grinned. “A sim city for heist training. Those lights have sensors in them that
when disturbed will sound an alarm. The goal is to get from a starting point to there,” she
pointed to a box locked within structure and blinking lights, “without sounding any
alarm. Who wants to go first?”
Sven was already climbing up the closest tower before Erin pressed the start
button. The dim lights fell even dimmer, leaving the only light the blinking lights. With
all the workout from baseball, it was insanely easier to navigate the sparse hooks to the
top of the tower, way easier than rock climbing had ever been in his childhood. The
platform of the tower was pretty small, being forced to crouch down with his hands on
his knees. Slowly, he bent to a standing position and surveyed his options. There was a
rope that crossed to another platform, but the jump wasn’t far. Smirking, he bent his
knees and sprang forward, only to have his socks slip on the edge of the launching
platform and throwing him off. After burning his hand in an attempt to grab the rope, he
landed with a thud on a foam floor. The sirens sounded over his swearing.
Erin smirked as she watched him ask for a redo and clamber back up the tower.
This time, he decided to try the rope, in which he scampered across it, only to
have the other side’s security piece come loose and cause him to fly backward, hit his
head on the tower, and fall onto a light. Another do over.
Rose leaned into Erin. “What’s the trick to this?”
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“Slowness.”
Sven’s third attempt involved climbing from the hooks on the ceiling, and ended
up having a rope catch his fall. Crying out in pain, he secured himself and inched himself
across. To his surprise, he made it to the other side. Still a bit achy from the fall, he
grabbed onto the next rope and started climbing on the upward slope to another platform.
“It rewards patience, something rooky thieves don’t have,” Erin explained.
Once at the higher platform, he jumped to the next, waited, and slipped down
level by level until he was at ground.
“Now, this is the hardest part. Let’s see if he figures it out.”
Sven was staring at a cardboard box. He peeled the flaps back and found a rubber
ball inside. Smiling, he grabbed the ball and crawled through the tunnel opening and out
by Erin and Rose.
“I won!” he cheered, showing Erin his prize.
She smiled. “Nope. You actually just lost.”
His gleaming eyes fell dim. “What?”
“You have to take the box with you. Good thieves don’t leave evidence.”
*
*
*
With Friday off, Rose decided that she’d find Pappas. To her surprise, it wasn’t
that difficult; he’d left his phone number on his father’s desk, with the heading of “call
whenever you want.”
“Ah Mr. Crowe, I can see that you’ve come to your senses. Care for a plea
bargain?” Pappas’s voice rang from the other line as she called him that Thursday night.
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Rose took a silent breath. “Inspector Pappas, this is actually Logan’s daughter,
Rose.”
“Ah, of course. May I help you?”
She rubbed the back of her neck. “Yeah. As part of my graduation requirements, I
have to shadow with a professional for at least a day and write a paper about it. I know
this is last minute, but I figured that since you were around, you might be able to help me.
I’ve been really interested in crime fighting ever since Mom told me about her job…”
There was an everlasting bout of silence on the other end. “I have to go back
home to San Diego by the end of tomorrow, but I suppose I could help you out tomorrow.
Did I leave my temp office’s address with my number?”
Rose glanced down. “Yes.”
“Come around at ten or so.”
Rose couldn’t help but notice how easy that had been. Did he suspect her? He
must if he’d been so cooperative with that. What if he was going to use her as leverage to
arrest her father? She’d never be able to live with herself if it were her fault that her dad
ended up in prison. For a moment, her hand wavered over the phone.
She snapped it back. She had to try. If all else failed in her life, she had to know
that she at least tried to help her father.
The next morning, after declining a breakfast with her dad and Harper, she drove
out to Pappas’s office. She was slightly surprised to find him in a tiny, worn down
building miles from the near beachfront office she was expecting a man like him to have.
“Now, I’m going to honest with you,” Pappas admitted as he poured her some
coffee, “I can’t decide if doing this has some ulterior motives.”
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Rose shook her head. “I’m honestly curious. So much about my family has been
kept from me, and I fear that with my mom dead, all her stories of the light side of justice
will be lost forever. I was hoping you could shed some light on it.”
He nodded. “So what do you want to accomplish together?”
She folded her hands together. “Honestly, if there’s anything you can teach me
about the whole job of being an Interpol agent, that’d be great.” She paused. “Maybe
even tell me some more about my mom.”
“How do you feel about your dad’s accusations?”
She was caught off guard. “I—I mean, I don’t like it, but I guess…I guess it might
be necessary…”
He sipped his coffee. “So you do understand how justice on his case works? Has
he told you about everything that I’m trying to nab him on?”
She shrugged. “More or less.”
For a moment, Pappas considered taking the opportunity to find out about her
involvement with any of the more recent affairs of Logan Crowe. Yet, the more he talked
to and looked at Rose, the more and more she reminded him of Bianca. He would never
manipulate Bianca like that, so he could do no such thing to his daughter.
“Would you like to hear the law’s side to it all?” She nodded. “Your dad literally
burst out of nowhere, back in 1994. We were told that a pretty famous international
contract killer employed by a small criminal organization called the Erudires was found
with his head bludgeoned in and his entire house ransacked. Our only lead was a young
man who left the building posing as a mailman. The contract killer ended up living and
being sent to jail, but we could never reacquire the money. A few weeks later, we get a
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call in Egypt that an exiled prince had jumped off a cliff and his fortune was cleaned out
as well. Also a member of the Erudires. A few more weeks later and some evidence
surfaces about a crime committed months before the contract killer heist where Julien
Lousteau, a French child pimp and member of the Erudires, was ransacked. So, in
geographical logic, the closest Erudire to Egypt was Turkey, so Interpol—your mother
and I—set up shop in Patrick Astello, a drug lord’s palace.” He paused. “While your
mother got a bit distracted for that night, we caught Astello, and there was a significantly
less amount of money stolen.”
“Weren’t there six Erudires counting Rasim?”
“Only four excluding Rasim. Anyway, we did see that Rasim was the only
member of the Erudires not in prison or dead, but any search for the man was in vain. Up
until Stanley Luke revealed his—you know who Luke is, right?” Rose nodded. “Figured
your father would tell you. Anyway, we only recently learned that this Rasim really
existed. The next year and a half or so there were a few smaller heists pulled with your
last name pinned to it, but not much else.”
“How did my dad receive immunity in 1996?”
“Your mother requested it years ago and Interpol believed in his reform after his
brother was murdered. He was in a heavily medicated state, and they believed that it
made him less erratic.” She cringed when she heard how dully he admitted to knowing
each and every detail regarding her father’s mental state. “Of course, that’s not to say he
was ever a bad policeman. He actually worked undercover for us between Bianca and his
marriage and his brother’s murder. It was in 1996 that he became a fully focused agent
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who didn’t mingle with criminals.” He took a deep breath. “Rose, I trust you. If I asked
you if you knew something, would you give me an honest answer?”
“Would it put my dad in jail?”
Pappas chuckled. “If could, and it couldn’t. Did your father kill your mother?”
“No.”
“And you know this?”
“Aside from the fact that he was literally bawling and clinging to her dead body
like a kid holding a teddy bear on a stormy night, he was picking me up from school
while she was being killed. Besides, what motive would he have? He loved her, still loves
her.”
“I just worry about him covering the murder up.”
Rose shrugged. “I’m sure you understood my father’s mental condition after the
death of his brother, and how that case was never closed. He knew that the same thing
would happen with my mom.”
“Do you know who killed her?”
She hesitated. “It was a small time robber. A no name. I don’t even know his
name.”
“And you’re telling the truth?”
“Didn’t I tell you I wouldn’t lie? I swear it. As far as I know, my dog was barking
like crazy when I came home, and he wouldn’t do that if my dad had killed my mom. It
was a stranger.”
He rubbed his chin. “A victim of circumstance?”
“Yup. Life sucks.”
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“How are you doing?”
“Well I have AP tests in a month, so I gotta start studying for those…”
“I meant with your mother’s death.”
She hadn’t been asked that question in a while. Or had she? She lost track of the
amount of times it’d been asked. If there was a frequently asked questions section of her
life, that was probably number one.
“I’m doing okay. Sad that she’s gonna miss my graduation, but it’ll be easier to
escape it all when I’m off at college. I can’t wait to get a fresh start. I mean, at least I’ll
have Dad at graduation.”
For a moment, Pappas was struck with a piercing sense of guilt over what he was
doing. Here was a perfectly normal, good moral-ed child born into a world of sin and
whom life had tossed every bad card it could. And he was ready to throw another card at
her.
“Do you have other family?”
“My mom’s side, so my grandparents and a couple cousins and aunts and uncles.
No one I’m that close to.”
“Will they come to your graduation?”
She shrugged. “They might. Depends on what else is going on.”
No, Pappas thought, you can’t throw in the towel to give one girl mercy. Think
about all the people criminals never gave mercy to. He pulled Bianca into this mess. If it
weren’t for him, Bianca wouldn’t be dead. He needs justice, no matter who it affects.
“You’re a strong girl, Rose. I wish you greatness in life.”
“Thanks, Inspector.” She hesitated. “So you were my mom’s partner?”
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“Yup.”
“Did she ever seem swaying to you? I just can’t imagine how she could ever fall
for my dad after what she saw.”
He resisted saying his real opinion on the situation. “I can’t say.”
“Were you mad at her because of what she did? Because she fell in love with a
criminal?”
“I was, but for other reasons.”
“Why then?”
“So what APs do you take again?”
She resisted sighing. “AP biology.”
“What have you taken? These APs are so interesting to me. We were never
offered college level courses in high school.”
“I took AP environmental science and AP US history last year. I got a five on the
APES test then five on the US history, so whatever college I go to should accept the
credits. I’m hoping I can pull a five on AP bio because it’s all memorization and I have a
photographic memory.”
“You must have a nice GPA.”
“Yupp. Never gotten below a 4.0.”
“Are you going to any good colleges?”
Rose shrugged. “The best college I got into was this liberal arts school in
Colorado Springs called Colorado College.”
“You going there?”
“I’m still deciding.”
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He nodded. “Hey Rose, would you want to come back to my house in San Diego
on Wednesday? I need someone to watch the place and I have loads of hard copies of old
stories that Interpol releases about the criminals we catch. It might interest you to see the
specifics of your mom’s work for your paper.”
Rose smiled. “That sounds great.”
“I’ll give you the address on Wednesday and meet you up there to get some
logistics down. It was nice talking to you.”
“Thank you, Inspector Pappas.”
The moment Rose got home, she called Erin and told her the news. Maybe she
would be able to help her father in some way.
*
*
*
From: Dorian Draper <[email protected]>
Subject: Re: Big News!
Date: September 3, 2013 10:12 PM
To: Rose Crowe <[email protected]>
Yo Yo Mini Crowe,
That’s so great about Ariadne’s baby! Must be pretty amazing, especially after
what happened with the miscarriage. Tell her I’m psyched for her. So is his name Teo
Xenophon or Teo Anakin? I’d easier see Ariadne naming her kid Anakin. Besides, isn’t
her hubby obsessed with Star Wars too? I think it’d be cooler to name him Obi Wan…Teo
Obi Wan Eliopoulos….ok maybe just Teo Kenobi Eliopoulos. But whatevs, if that’s what
they want, they can do that. Although…I don’t know how to pronounce Xenophon. Is it
like xylophone?
Send me your college list and I can send mine! I’m so psyched for college. High
school sucks when it’s not in your crazy ass American schools.
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~Dory
From: Rose Crowe <[email protected]>
Subject: College List
Date: September 10, 2013 7:10 PM
To: Dorian Draper <[email protected]>
Hey Dorian,
Sorry about the wait, but my college list is as follows. I do not expect to get in
everywhere I apply:
UC Davis, Colorado College, John Hopkins University, UC Santa Barbara,
University of the Redlands, Reed College, Middlebury College, LMU, USC.
I do not expect to get into more than two of these.
~ Rose
From: Dorian Draper <[email protected]>
Subject: Re: College List
Date: September 11, 2013 5:12 PM
To: Rose Crowe <[email protected]>
Whoa there, girl. You are getting into every single freaking college on that list.
I’m applying to UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, some Florida schools. Notice the
lack of Australia schools? I’m moving to the US for sure next year! So SO psyched!!!!
Don’t forget to smile, chica.
~D
From: Rose Crowe <[email protected]>
Subject: Re: Re: College List
271
Date: September 13, 2013 11:14 PM
To: Dorian Draper <[email protected]>
That’s so awesome about college!!!! It’d be soooo cool if you got into a Cali
school! We could visit each other almost every day! If we both get into UCSB, we could
be roomies! Dude, you gotta come out and see some colleges. Maybe visit us for a while.
I could use a good laugh.
~R
From: Dorian Draper <[email protected]>
Subject: Visita
Date: March 21, 2014 1:12 PM
To: Rose Crowe <[email protected]>
Ahh God Rose, I’m so sorry I haven’t gotten back to you in so long!! How’s life
been? How’s Sven/Daddy Crowe/Ariadne/Teo Anakin Skywalker? How’re the APs?
Dude, dude, dude, guess what??? I GOT INTO UCSB!! Oh man, that was my first choice
and I’m so incredibly excited! Rose, you gotta tell me where you got in and then btw,
could I, uh, maybe stay with you for a few days over Spring Break?
~Dor
From: Rose Crowe <[email protected]>
Subject: Re: Visita
Date: March 21, 2014 5:19 PM
To: Dorian Draper <[email protected]>
Are you serious? You got into UCSB? That’s so incredibly amazing!! I’m so
proud of you. :D
272
Don’t worry about missing me. Sven’s doing really well. He got into a few great
liberal arts colleges and is still working on his theatre. Dad’s just Dad…trying to help
out the poor, getting stressed over strange things as usual. Not sure how Ariadne’s
doing; she’s teaching, she’s loving hanging with Teo, and she’s completely in love with
Corydon (surprise there…I swear those two count down seconds while they’re at work).
And Teo is absolutely adorable. Think he’s six months now…lots of crawling and rolling
over.
…That’s great to hear about your college success. I didn’t get into John Hopkins.
I’m really bummed about that, but I suppose not everyone gets into their first choice,
right? Got into U of Redlands and UC Davis.
Oh, and hell yeah you can come stay with us during Spring Break.
~ Rose
From: Dorian Draper <[email protected]>
Subject: Re: Re: Visita
Date: March 25, 2014 11:14 AM
To: Rose Crowe <[email protected]>
Aww Rose, I’m so sorry about the John Hopkins rejection. That school doesn’t
know what it’s missing. Don’t worry! You’ll get into some great college, and you’ll be
like, screw all those colleges that rejected me. It wasn’t meant to be for a reason. Yo, tell
me when you’ve got your final decision! Can’t wait to see you. My Spring Break is from
April 19-May 5th but I’m at a Marine Bio camp from March 26-May 3. Maybe we could
hang the week before?
~Dorian
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From: Rose Crowe <[email protected]>
Subject: Re: Re: Re: Visita
Date: April 18, 2014 5:19 PM
To: Dorian Draper <[email protected]>
Hey oh man, it’s been too long! Sorry about not emailing! First things, we’re for
sure on for the trip, right?
Next, I’m choosing between Colorado College and UC Davis. When you come
here, you’re gonna help me decide.
Third, have I told you that Finn and I are dating?
Hope all is well in Perth and I seriously cannot wait to see you!
Rose :)
274
Chapter 18
Nix That
“Hey Rose,” Crowe said as he set down the paper that Friday night, “are you
doing anything this week?”
She shrugged. “I’m going to Finn’s beach house from Sunday til Monday. Why?”
“Thought maybe we could do something.” She crinkled her brow, staring at him
for clarification. “Like, I dunno, you’re going to be gone soon. I thought maybe we could
do something together before we don’t have the opportunity all the time. When’s Dorian
coming in?”
“Um, Monday.”
Crowe nodded. “I’ll get the guestroom ready for him.” He paused. “Rose, do you
feel like you have enough female figures in your life?”
She nodded. “Ariadne’s been a lot of help to me lately. She’s no Mom, but she’s
nice.”
“Has she actually told you anything useful?”
She shrugged. “She told me that you’re at greater risk for car accidents while
having a miscarriage.”
Crowe blinked. “And when did she tell you that?”
“While chewing Finn out on a debate she sat in on. Her exact words were ‘And
Finn, excuse me but you are greatly increased in risk of car accident if you have a
miscarriage while driving. Do you know how much a fucking miscarriage hurts? No, no,
don’t even try. Does your vaginal wall cause such excruciating contractions that you
275
can’t do anything but scream? Yeah no. Alright, look – miscarriages, on a scale of period
cramps to childbirth, are ten steps above the actual overbearing pain condition. And ohh
shit, that is basically this pain is going to kill me and I literally cannot move. So yeah, no
comments there bro, although I did appreciate all power in your voice receding after you
said period. I’d love to hear you say I lick clitoris in a debate.’”
“That sounded so scary.”
Rose smiled. “It was pretty funny to see Finn’s face.”
He shook his head. “And to think I pay nearly thirty grand per year to get that in
your classroom.”
“Was Ariadne that weird when you knew her as a kid?”
“My favorite quote of hers remains ‘I went into that Jew school you told me to
check out and they told me that it was Jesus’s fault that everyone got the plague because
he said Christians don’t wash their hands.’”
Rose laughed. “Well, that’s technically true, just not directly his fault. So what do
you want to do?”
“Whatever you want.”
He smiled. “You know that vacant house a couple blocks down?” She nodded.
“You wanna go check it out tonight?”
She obstructed a smile behind her hand. “I gotta baby-sit for the Eliopouloses
tomorrow, but I guess we could go.” She paused. “But instead of that home, I was
thinking that we finally pull the Redondo Beach pier. You in?”
Twenty minutes later, the two were walking down the pier, eyes set on the
sketchy-looking arcade cornered into the back of the area. On suggestion from Colorado
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College, Rose toted a camcorder with her; despite the lack of the near feature length
ghost documentary, they’d still been impressed with her other short films.
“So Dad, what are you gonna do this week?” Rose asked.
He shrugged. “Don’t know. Hang with Harper. Talk to Erin and Ariadne about
Pappas.”
“Pappas doesn’t seem like that bad of a guy.”
Crowe’s gaze snapped to her. “What are you talking about? You met him once.
While high.”
“I mean, like, do you ever wonder if what you’re doing is right?”
“Doing what?”
“Come on, Dad! Don’t play dumb. You’re trying to weasel out of your jail
sentence.”
He gave her a chastising look. “Rose, I’m simply not taking the fall for what I
didn’t do. I didn’t murder your mother, so I got references from Tungsten saying I was
picking you up as she was being shot.” He paused. “Rose, did I mention that I want you
to testify for me against the Rasim murder charge?”
She blanched at the thought of the witness stand. “What would I have to say?”
“Just how Rasim was going to kill you if I hadn’t done anything.”
“Okay. But what about the general broken immunity thing? Isn’t that what’s
really getting you?”
“That and Ariadne.”
“Are they saying you kidnapped Mattie too?”
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“Mattie was eighteen when I would’ve kidnapped him. So, he wasn’t a minor and
either way, he’s not alive to say I did kidnap him…and he was my brother. Trust me, it’s
Ariadne that’s the real problem.”
“And what are you gonna do about it?”
“Rose, are you asking me if I plan to cheat the system?” Rose kept her mouth
shut. “Am I allowed to be insulted by that?”
“No. You’re perfectly capable of doing so.”
He raised his eyebrows. “Well then.”
Contrary to the common thought of urban exploring being all about some clever
entry, the bars on the gate on the arcade were spaced far enough apart that a small child—
or Rose, could squeeze through. From there, she flipped a switch and lifted the gate just
enough to allow her father to crawl through.
Even during the day, the arcade wasn’t anything to put on the shining pages of a
children’s magazine: the floors and walls were concrete with chipping Bigfoot footprints,
the Tilt-A-Whirl’s paint was fading from the bright colors it once was, and gave off a
rickety appearance, patches of the metal pushing through the paint. There was a moaning
as the carts shifted. Looking around, they had plenty of arcade games—games that
ranged from Skeeball to driving games to carnival games with enormous stuffed animals
hanging as prizes, but everything also had a cheaply constructed look, like they forgot to
dust the machines or stitch holes in the prizes. Yet, nighttime gave it a whole new feel,
one that was almost creepy, especially in the low light.
“Do you remember when I used to drag you and Mom here just so I could win a
pink dolphin blow up toy at that ball throwing game?” Rose asked as they walked.
278
“Yeah. I used to win it for you, you but you’d never accept the prize unless you
did it.” He smiled. “Do you remember what Mom told you?”
She mirrored his smile. “If I rubbed the ball then even if you threw it in, it would
be me winning.”
“And you finally accepted that damn dolphin.”
She nodded. “But I beat you at Stack-Em.”
“The Skeeball one?” She nodded. “I still don’t know how you were so good at
that.”
She lightly pushed him. “I am hand eye coordinated.”
“Says the kid who played outfield in softball for a whole game only to have the
ball bounce off your face.”
She gasped at how her father was laughing. “You’re such a—oh my God, that
seriously hurt!”
“You were six. And besides, I’m not laughing at you…Mattie had the same thing
happen to him except him was staring right at it for a minute before it popped him in the
eye.”
He glanced at the camera. “Glad to see you filming again. Did you decide which
college you’re going this fall?”
She bit her lip. “I’m between UC Davis and Colorado College.”
“You still wanna be a principal?” She nodded. “Well, if you go to UC Davis, at
least you’ll have the Morettis for company if you need anything. Which sounds better?”
“There’s something glamorous about the adventure in going to Colorado.”
279
He patted her shoulder. “You know Colorado isn’t that glamorous, but I think it’d
be a lot of fun. I regret not being able to go to college, so I’m just happy that you’re
going. Do you know anyone going either?”
She blushed. “Finn’s going to UC Davis, but I don’t know about Colorado
College.”
“It’s up to how you’re feeling, baby. Do you want to jump headfirst into a new
experience or do you want to slowly get used to the water?” He smiled, ducked through a
machine, and ran out of her sight. Rolling her eyes, she ran after him, grabbing onto him
as he tried to climb into the Tilt-A-Whirl. “You wanna know what I really think?”
“What?”
“Go to CC.”
*
*
*
Ariadne didn’t know what possessed her, but somehow the phrase “let’s have a
party” seemed like a great idea. Then again, a lot of things sounded good when they came
out of Adam McIlrath’s mouth after he’d gotten a glass or two of wine into her system.
So, yes, she agreed to host another party. At the very least, Adam had specifically called
it as a Star Wars party, eliminating most chances that there would be any awkward
confession moments like all the other alcohol beverage present parties Adam had made
her host. Plus, Corydon was psyched—maybe even more psyched than her—and it felt
good to see him smile.
T-minus two hours before the party, and Rose arrived to a deserted house aside
from Teo romping around with the help of a wooden (phthalate free) walking toy in
shape of a lawn mower with three green alligators that made clicking sounds as it moved.
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“Teo, where’s your parents?” she asked the infant, as if he could answer.
From the top of the stairs, a figure in black jeans and a Marc Ecko Darth Maul
hoodie pulled up far enough to obscure the face jumped out and brandished a lightsaber
in the most agonizing long way possible, one end of the Darth Maul signature weapon at
a time.
A second later, another figure, this one decked out in black jeans and a similar
Marc Ecko hoodie, but in the image of Darth Vader. Pulling open a red lightsaber, the
Darth Vader ran at Darth Maul, who all but jumped the entire staircase. The lightsabers
were just about as nerdily realistic as they could get, complete with the sound effects and
morphing of the light as they clashed.
It started off with Darth Maul with the upper hand, the double-sided lightsaber a
major asset. Darth Vader was pushed against a wall, but slithered out of the way of a
deathblow, pushing Darth Maul into the couch. Vader ran to the couch, feet on the
cushion as Maul stepped onto the top of the headrest. Just as they raised their weapons,
the couch tipped over and Maul went running, jumping up onto a table. Vader raised his
weapon and charged. Using a chair to get some air, he launched himself and met
lightsabers with so much force that Maul was propelled backwards, lost footing, and
slipped off the table. With Maul on the floor, Vader kicked the chairs away from the table
and slid under, Maul meeting the attack with a protecting blow. Both of them tiptoeing
with their knees almost fully bent, they held attack and defense until they could straighten
out. Maul threw in a series attacking blows, pushing Vader back to the stairs. After a
moment of hesitation, Vader lifted his weapon for the deathblow, only to have Maul
break his footing completely with one swift swing.
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With Vader on the floor, Maul stomped on his right hand, throwing the lightsaber
out of his hand.
Maul was seconds from terminating the fight when someone in a Boba Fett Marc
Ecko hoodie, wielding a purple lightsaber, jumped down the stairs and all but bulldozed
Maul to the floor. In the moment of confusion, Vader, instead of thanking his savior,
swung one strong enough hit to knock Boba Fett to his ass, his lightsaber flying away.
The battle went back to Maul and Vader. A couple dozen perfectly graceful moves, and
Vader knocked Maul’s weapon out of his hands. The moment seemed to be a defeat for
Maul, but a couple seconds of contemplation led to him bringing up his leg as fast as the
Force would allow, kneeing Vader in the crotch.
Vader fell instantly, crying out in pain. Maul slipped Vader’s weapon into his
hands, poked Vader’s chest in a winning mark, slid over to Boba Fett, still grounded, and
all but stabbed him in the chest with the toy.
With a laugh of victory, Ariadne unzipped her Darth Maul hoodie, kicking Adam
as he unzipped his Boba Fett hoodie.
“Shit Ariadne, are you trying to kill me?” Adam groaned.
“You freaking side tackled me! What did you think I was gonna do?”
Rose tried to acquire some expression other than completely and utterly confused,
slowly taking in the character change.
“Um, I think Darth Vader is still down…” she said, looking to the figure, still
rolled into a ball on the floor.
Ariadne ran over and unzipped Corydon’s hoodie. “Nice fight, babe.” She kissed
his cheek.
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“What the hell was that?” His voice was distinctly higher.
“Winning.”
She smirked as his expression turned to surprise. “You kicked me in the balls!”
“So?”
“That’s not how a Sith Lord fights!”
She looked at her nails. “If there were women allowed to wield lightsabers, that’s
how they’d win.”
“Babe, there were female Jedi.”
While Corydon struggled to get to his feet, Ariadne swooped Teo into her arms.
“Come on, little guy! You get to play with Rose for a few hours. Doesn’t that sound like
fun?” Teo whimpered, arms flailing out towards his toy. She put him into Rose’s arms.
“There’s a mini-fridge in Teo’s room and it has his dinner and milk. I’ll pay you when
the party ends, which should be around twelve or so. Thanks so much, Rose.”
Rose nodded as she grabbed Teo’s walker toy and took the baby upstairs.
Once they were out of sight, Corydon pushed his hair out of his face and laughed.
“If we have bed problems, I’m saying it’s Darth Maul’s fault.”
She snorted. “All your bed problems are because of him. And besides, I don’t
think Darth Vader even had balls. Hey Boba Fett, I thought you got the Storm Trooper
hoodie.”
Adam shrugged. “Boba Fett’s my favorite character.”
Ariadne pulled out the DVDs and put them on the coffee table. “You got the
cocktails?”
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“Yup. Now, I feel awkward about this, but is blue milk, Wookie Cookies, and
Han Solo trapped in Carbonite gelatin enough?”
Adam just stared at her. “How did you think of all that?”
“Internet.” Adam went walking into the kitchen, and Ariadne followed. “Who’d
you invite, bro?”
“You, me, Father Elio, Melissa, a couple of your coworkers…I wanna say Jasper
and his girlfriend, Marco, Zane, umm, a couple people from conventions we’ve
connected to, and yeah, that’s about it. We’re watching A New Hope, right?”
Much to Ariadne’s complete surprise, Adam had been a bit too unspecific with
the guest list.
“Hey Ariadne,” said someone in a Darth Vader mask as guests filed in.
“Hey,” she replied, unsure of who would come in with just a mask on. So far,
people had come in vintage t-shirts, or at the most a hat.
She studied the figure as guests swooped past her, a couple minutes before they
began the movie. “Thanks for inviting me.”
The fact that the mask had the voice-changing feature only irked her more. She
smiled. “Let’s take off the mask, eh stranger?”
Just as Corydon came around and put an arm around his wife, the mask came off.
Ariadne’s jaw slackened as she found herself once again face to face with Nick Carver.
“Who invited—?”
“Nick Carver,” Nick said to Corydon as he held out his hand.
Corydon smiled and shook his hand. “Corydon Eliopoulos, but you can call me
Cory.”
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Cory was Corydon’s work name, and Ariadne still wasn’t sure why he chose a
Star Wars party to start telling everyone to call him by his “American” name. Nick
smiled.
“It’s a pleasure to be at your house.”
“Are you Adam’s friend?”
He glanced at Ariadne. “Your wife’s friend, actually. But yeah, Adam and I are
acquainted and he invited me.” He chewed his bottom lip. “Favorite character?”
“Call me stereotypical, but Darth Vader.”
Nick nodded. “Perfectly reasonable. I’m an Obi Wan Kenobi guy.”
Throughout the nearly three hours of movie and subsequent hour or so of Adam
forcing everyone to say whether they’d roleplay Leia/Storm Trooper, Padmé/Anakin, or
some other combination, Ariadne couldn’t keep her eyes off of Nick. No, there were no
feelings present, no yearnings toward him. Yet, something felt off about him being there.
Plus, they’d been making eye contact for at least a minute.
“Corydon,” Nick said once everyone dispersed for a refill, “could I borrow your
wife for a minute? I have to ask her a question.”
Corydon didn’t seem to care; perhaps he’d had a bit too much to drink. “Go
ahead.”
Nick motioned for her to follow him, and followed him she did, right into a
bedroom.
“Nick, what are you doing?”
He locked the door.
“We need to talk, Ariadne.”
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She backed up, eyes darting for some kind of blunt weapon in case he tried
anything funny. “I don’t want to sleep with you.”
“Ariadne—”
“No, I’m not gonna do it! I don’t care how physically attractive you are. I won’t
let myself become the cheating wife. It might not seem it, but Corydon’s going through a
really tough time. I can’t just throw this boulder at him. Besides Nick, I have a son. I
have a son named Teo Anakin Eliopoulos even though his birth certificate says Teo
Xenophon Eliopoulos and he’s—”
“Ariadne!”
“He’s seven months, Nick! He’s a real person. He’s starting to get his own
personality. He loves this stupid wooden walking toy, listening to music, and he’ll talk to
me and listen. He—”
“Ariadne, oh my God, will you—”
“—And you might think it, but I won’t let you ruin any of that. I’m a faithful
mother and wife—”
“Ariadne!”
“What?!”
Nick took a deep breath. “I didn’t come here to ask you if you’d sleep with me.
What kind of a whore do you take me for?”
She gave him a look. “Excuse me, but you’re a male stripper.”
“You know I don’t do repeat gigs. Look Ariadne, I came here from the beginning
back a few weeks ago for one reason and one reason only: you’re friendly with Logan
Crowe, right?”
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Ariadne froze as the name came out of Nick’s mouth. “Um, yeah, I guess…”
“And you know how he’s in trouble with the law?”
“Yeah…”
“My brother’s James Carver. He’s set to take Sampson’s place once he kicks the
bucket.”
“Who’s Sampson?”
“Really high ranking officer in Interpol.”
Ariadne stopped. “Wait, so your brother is a few days or weeks from becoming
the head of Interpol?”
Nick nodded. “My brother used to work pretty closely with Logan and Bianca
during their glory days. He doesn’t like how this punishment is being played out.”
She crinkled her brow. “Okay, wait, stop. What exactly are you trying to tell me?”
“Just tell Logan and his advisors about my brother, and he’s willing to help in
whatever way he can. But…just know that Sampson has to die before he can help.”
Ariadne wasn’t sure what came over her, but she put Nick into a hug. “You better
not be lying…” she whispered into him.
*
*
*
Once the party died down, Ariadne found Rose reading a book while Teo slept.
“G’night, angel,” she whispered to her son as she kissed him goodnight.
Rose followed her out of the room and into the hallway. “Ariadne, could we have
a serious discussion?”
“Sure. Whaddaya need, sweetheart?”
Rose hesitated. “Pre sex rituals and contraception.”
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Ariadne raised her eyebrows. “Wow. C’mon, let’s get some privacy.”
Locking Corydon out of his own bedroom (not that he really wanted to leave the
remains of the party with Adam), Rose and Ariadne found themselves sitting on the floor.
“So what do you mean?” Ariadne asked.
“I mean, like…so Finn and I are gonna be going to his beach house alone
tomorrow and…well, I don’t know what’ll happen. I wanna be prepared.”
Ariadne nodded. “First things first. You ready?”
She nodded. “I want to…physically, I want to mentally, and I trust Finn. We kind
of talked about it before a couple months ago, like before we were together, and we both
said that we really wanted our first time not to be with a temporary lover but with a
lifetime friend. Like, someone who you can always look back on favorably, not just on
the days before you break up. So yeah.”
“Sounds solid enough. Okay, so before…it’s pretty simple, honestly. Shave.”
“That’s it?”
“Shower and shave. Yeah. I’m guessing you won’t be giving him lingerie and a
strip tease, and no need. Just casual is fine, especially if you’re not necessarily going for
romance. Yeah, y’know, shower, brush your teeth, and shave.”
“Contraception?”
“Are you on the pill?”
“No.”
Ariadne bit her lip. “Use two or more, always a properly used, not cheap condom.
Otherwise, spermicidal lube would work, or the sponge and a spermicide with a condom
288
works. I don’t recommend Plan B because it’s pretty unpleasant. But yeah, make sure
you’ve got the condom on right and have a second protection and should be good.”
“How did you avoid the STDs and stuff when you slept around? I thought guys
didn’t like condoms in the ‘90s.”
Ariadne laughed. “You want to know my real secret?” She nodded. “I kept a box
of condoms in my pocket at all times and told each guy that I had gonorrhea. Told each
one that if we wore a condom, that it couldn’t possibly pass. Most of the guys were
already into me and had gone through all the efforts of finding me that they just took the
condom.”
Rose nodded. “That is actually really smart.”
“Thanks. It really wasn’t, but I didn’t get one STD.”
“So that’s it?”
“Yup. You know how to put on a condom?”
She hesitated. “Could you teach me?”
She nodded. “Give me a second to raid Sven’s stash.” She pulled herself to her
feet. “It’s not like he’s gonna use them,” she said with a wink.
*
*
*
Still cleaning up the remaining gelatin, Ariadne was surprised to find Todd show
up at her door.
“Hey sis,” he said as he walked in.
Ariadne raised an eyebrow. “Did I let you in?”
“Hey Todd,” Corydon said as he watched his wife, his clean up duty finished the
night before.
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Todd motioned toward Corydon. “Your husband let me in with his friendly hello.
Now, what are you doing?”
“Do you like Jell-o?”
Todd smiled. “Yes! I’ll take it!”
Ariadne handed him the Jell-o and went to Teo. “Hey Cor, I read somewhere that
it’s good to let babies sort of paint with food. Should I let him?”
Corydon shrugged. “If you clean his high chair.”
Ariadne placed a glob of red applesauce on his high chair, and he immediately
pushed his hands into it. “So where’s the wife and child, T?”
He shrugged. “Sleeping. Hey Cory, when’s the next time you’re playing hockey?”
Corydon snickered. “You? Hockey? Bro, no offense, but I find ulterior motives in
this.”
Todd huffed. “Look man, my friends challenged me to this charity hockey game
and they made bets that I couldn’t keep steady on the ice.”
Ariadne laughed. “You can’t stay steady on the ice.”
“Okay, it’s been a discrimination thing for years. There’s no reason that a onelegged man can’t do anything a two-legged man can do. Somehow, these guys seem to
forget that I lost my leg fighting for my country, and I’ll remind them what I’m made of.”
“But still, hockey? You can’t just beat them up or something?” Corydon persisted.
“No! Cory, you gotta stop thinking like a Canadian.”
He kept from smiling. “Didn’t know I was. I’m so sorry,” he said, emphasizing
his accent while saying “sorry.”
“You have the weirdest accent ever, bro.”
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Corydon rolled his eyes. “Look man, I have an ‘American’ accent for the most
part – it just sometimes sounds British and sometimes I pronounce words the ‘Canadian’
way and yeah, occasionally it’ll sound a little Greek.”
“Okay, say the phrase ‘I’m sorry about stealing your boots and tzatziki sauce.”
“I’m sorry about stealing your boots and tzatziki sauce.”
Ariadne was not amused. “Todd, could we talk privately? Cor…uh…I’m gonna
go outside.”
“Feel free,” he said, mocking how submissive she was acting.
Ariadne and Todd ended up sitting by the banks of the koi pond. Whenever
Ariadne looked at her second youngest brother, she could only see how similar she and
him looked to their mother: medium-light brown hair, the family’s light eyes, graceful
hands with slender fingers, the arched eyebrows, and the smile that just formed perfectly
no matter the circumstances. Despite the array of different dispositions of the remaining
brothers, they just couldn’t get that natural charm in their smiles. Even happy-go-lucky
Hector had to work at expressing himself.
Ariadne frowned.
“Todd, do you remember Alex Ross?”
“Yeah. He was fun for a bit. I think he still—”
“Do you remember how I avoided him until you guys stopped hanging out?”
He nodded. “Yeah. Why was that?”
She swallowed. “He raped me.”
She hadn’t meant to say it so forwardly, and his dumbfounded expression only
proved that. “He did what?”
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She stared at the koi, remembering how Adam had killed them all when he forgot
to feed them over the Paris 2011 trip. Don’t cry. “He raped me that night we watched
movies together.”
“I should’ve known when that asshole touched your boob. Oh my God Ariadne,
I’m so sorry. I—”
All she could do was stare at him. “You’re sorry?”
He crinkled his brow. “Yeah. What else do you want from me?”
She slipped her hand through the cold water, keeping herself alert. Don’t cry. “Do
you get it, Todd? You just had to go to the damn Blockbuster. Do you wanna know what
he did to me, T?”
“No. Quite frankly, I don’t. I don’t need to know what that—”
She grabbed his shoulder with her cold hand. “I was taking a shower when it
happened. He shut off the water, slammed my head into the tile enough to make me
bleed, pushed me down, fingered me, made me give him a handjob, and screwed me. Left
me bleeding and told me to clean up the mess. I was twelve, T. Twelve fucking years old.
You could’ve—”
“Come on, Ari! I was at the video store. There’s nothing I could’ve done about it.
I—I just—”
“I can’t believe you! It’s your fault that you were even friends with that son of a
bitch. You didn’t kick him out when he tried feeling me up. You saw the leers he was
giving me. You saw me limping and wiping up tears afterwards. You saw how I never
came home when he was there. How could you possibly have been that much of an
idiot?” Don’t cry.
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“You’re talking to me like I don’t feel guilt about this. Ari, please, look at me.”
He forced her focus, her staring into his blue eyes, mirrors of her own. She could
recognize the pain in his eyes. “I never—Ariadne, my sweet little sister, I don’t know
what I can possibly tell you. You can’t even begin to understand how angry I am right
now, how many awful things I want to do to him. Ari—”
Her voice became quiet. “As he did those things to me, all I could remember
thinking was how much I wished you would come rushing into the room and beat him up.
I remember thinking afterwards that one day you’d figure it out and all you guys would
gang up and beat him. I just—I always thought that’s what brothers did, protected their
little sister.”
Her words truly struck Todd. “I’m a horrible brother, Ari. I’m sorry I wasn’t there
for you, truly. If I could change anything, you know I would. I love you.”
“I—”
“I gave my life to save her. The ocean turned to red. In the fall, in the fall, when
the tide took them all. Cut down like lambs at slaughter—”
Todd and Ariadne looked down at her phone, the name the same Greek spelling
of Corydon.
“Babe, why are you calling me?”
“I need to watch Teo. Tell Todd his wife called and wants him home soon.”
“Kay.”
She hung up the phone. “It’s his favorite song. It’s called ‘The Navy Song’ by
Billy Talent. Some Canadian band.”
He nodded. “I can relate. It’s poetic, beautiful in the tragic sense.”
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She furrowed her brow. “Didn’t you serve in the army?”
“Navy.”
“But didn’t you—?”
He swallowed. “Mom and Dad wanted me to go to the army, but I always felt a
calling to the sea. I didn’t lose my leg stepping on a mine. I lost it helping a fellow
crewman.”
“Why didn’t you tell us?”
He took a deep breath. “He was a pretty bad guy. He knew where I was from, and
always used to call me white trash among other things. He believed that religious people
would be weak in the sign of peril. Anyway, it was a stupid accident. He got into a fight
with a bigger guy, and the guy had a knife. He pulled out the knife and tried to stab this
guy, but I intervened and he stabbed me in the leg. Pushed me aside and stabbed him in
the chest. He ended up dying, and the knife was so infected that it spread and I had to get
my leg amputated.”
She squeezed his hand. “I wouldn’t’ve have been ashamed of that. You were
brave. So it didn’t work; you proved him wrong.”
“I’m such a failure, Ari. Look at me: I couldn’t protect my little sister and I
couldn’t protect a fellow navy man.”
“You aren’t just your failures, T. Look at you: you are your charming smile, your
loyalty, your courage, your patriotism, your love.” She kissed his cheek.
He squeezed her back. “And you’re not your past. Ari, are you gonna set things
straight?”
“By what?”
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“Going back to Alabama. Trying to find him. You’re not closed with this.”
She shook her head. “Forgive and forget.”
He stood up, something she was rather impressed with considering his handicap.
“I think you have to forgive in order to do that.”
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Chapter 19
Those Dark Things
If there was one thing Corydon would never regret about becoming a priest, it was
meeting Bishop Kurt Jerome. They’d originally met when Corydon first moved to
America for grad school, and he’d taken the young soon-to-be priest on as a pupil. And,
upon hearing that Corydon lost his father, Bishop Jerome, at sixty years and counting,
made the journey from his Kentucky base out to California for the second time in not
even a year.
“As usual, thank you for inviting me,” the Bishop said after he was settled into the
guestroom. He wasn’t a large man, but he commanded a certain amount of respect. His
dark skin had aged well, wrinkles graying hair only suggesting experience, and his hands
always had a soft touch with them, despite the ancient calluses the skin had been forced
to form over. Having been raised in the racism of the 60’s and 70’s, life certainly hadn’t
been handed to him. He had worked labor jobs until, after viewing the killing of one of
his friends, turned to religion for answers. Inspired by the tolerance of God, he became a
priest, and despite all odds, had become a Bishop.
Corydon smiled. “I really should be the one thanking you.” He looked between
Corydon and his wife and child. Despite all that second thoughts he felt when he advised
Corydon to leave priesthood, he looked upon his new life with content. “I have the
strange feeling that you aren’t the only one with something bothering you.”
Ariadne coughed. “Let’s start with Corydon.”
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He turned to his former pupil. “Have you forgiven yourself for the ill feelings
associated with your father’s death?” His voice was a deep purr, a tone that was calming
for Ariadne and Corydon.
“Yes.”
“You attended your father’s burial?”
“Funeral.”
“And have you forgiven him?”
“Yes, Your Excellency.”
He rolled his eyes at Corydon’s formality. “You seemed to have solved the
problem on your own. What do you know?”
Corydon picked up Teo. “I’m still unsure about Cecil’s death.”
Bishop Jerome sighed. “Corydon, there was nothing you could’ve done. He was a
vulnerable soul. He chose not to leave the building, and it kept its claws on him until he
could do no more resistance. You banished the demon from him, and that was all you
could do.”
Corydon pet his son’s arm, the skin still as soft as when he was born. “Do you
think he made it to Heaven?”
“I think it’s possible. And if not, he’s with familiar company.”
“You don’t think he’d be in Hell?”
“Hell is for evil people. Now being a trapped spirit—that’s for the lost souls.” He
turned to Ariadne. “You’ve got yourself a beautiful wife, inside and out. I’m glad you
chose her.”
Ariadne blushed. “I’m not that beautiful inside, Your Excellency.”
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“Why’s that?”
*
*
*
There weren’t many places away from home that Rose was comfortable in, but
Finn’s family’s beach house was one of them. Located up in the hills above Laguna
Niguel, the house was within a series of homes, two units per property. Finn’s was on the
left on the end of a block that dipped downward and required cars to do a u-turn in order
to escape from. His view was a bit blocked by the other houses, but the ocean was a clear
feature of sitting on the balcony outside.
The place was small, with three levels: two bedrooms and a connecting bathroom
on the second floor, a living room, laundry room, and kitchen on the ground level, and a
master bedroom and bathroom on the belowground floor. The walls and carpets were
white, shoes were not to be worn inside, and the furniture was simple and comfortable.
Finn threw his jacket onto a coat rack, removed his shoes, and took Rose’s bed up
to one of the two bedrooms, her getting the full bed while he took one of the other room’s
twin beds.
“It’s just as amazing as I remember it,” Rose said as she ran a hand over the
covers of her bed.
“And no parents. Isn’t this great?”
She nodded. Sure, she felt a little bad that her father no longer felt authority to tell
her what to do, but it wasn’t like she would set the place on fire. Finn’s parents, with
enough trust in their son, had barely allowed this as an early birthday present for his
nineteenth, an event still several months away.
“What do you wanna do first?” Finn asked.
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Rose shrugged. “Wanna go swimming?”
He smiled. “I’ll grab those stupid floating boards.”
“And your swim trunks perhaps?” she called as he ran out of the room.
She couldn’t bite back smiles as she pulled on her bikini and cover-up.
“Aww, teasing me?” he joked as she joined him in grabbing towels.
“Totally. You’re going to hate bedtime.”
He laughed. “I can tease too.”
She patted his back. “Sure you can. If you put your mind to it, you can do
anything.”
He rolled his eyes as he walked into the garage to grab the kickboards he’d
mentioned. From there, they walked the couple blocks it took to get to the gated
community’s pool.
Just their luck, the pool was empty, prompting Finn to toss his towel onto a chair,
throw the kickboard into the water, and attempt to jump straight into the board. His
attempt was in vain, immediately losing his balance and falling backwards, splashing
yards around him.
Rose laughed, nonchalantly pulled off her cover-up, and jumped in after him.
“Now that’s what I’m talking about,” he commented as he wrapped his arms
around her.
She put her arms around him as well. “Glad to hear you’re happy.”
They held the embrace for only a few seconds, the weight quickly being thrown
off balance, plunging them under the water. Rose escaped Finn’s grip and surfaced on the
other side of the pool.
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For hours, they romped around in the pool, spilled gallons of water out of the
pool, and pieced a silly conversation together between the pokes above and below the
water. Once they were nearly too exhausted to move, they changed to the Jacuzzi.
The hot water was unlike any remedy available for sore muscles and chills of the
lukewarm pool.
“So how’s life, Rose?” Finn asked as he put an arm around her.
“Good. Well, now that I’m with you, it’s super good.”
He smiled. “Have you decided your college yet?”
“Nope. Dad says CC, Vivienne says CC, Ms. Evans said CC, and the Morettis are
still discussing. Haven’t asked Sven yet. What do you think?”
“Well, I’m a bit biased, but if you want to try out the big school thing, we can
room together or something. My parents want me to have an apartment because they
don’t trust dorms because of some apparently horrible dorm accident my dad suffered
through in college. So yeah, you could room with me. It could be a lot of fun. Big
football games, ambiguity, a fresh city, and the comfort of still being in Cali. Plus, they
have a good education program for your undergrad. But hey, CC is a great school too.”
Rose nodded. “You already got your pre-registration material?”
“Not sure, but I’m definitely going. Why haven’t you asked Sven yet?”
She shrugged. “I keep meaning to ask him, but I keep getting distracted. I’ll get to
it eventually.”
“Did you ask all your former advisors? It’s how I picked between UC Davis and
UCSD.”
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She nodded. “Haven’t tried that. In fact, you know who I really should ask? Dr.
Weisberg. You’re a genius, Finn.”
He blushed. “Not really, especially not when compared to you. Do you remember
that stupid little book of discussion questions that Mr. Barnett brought to the table at
every dinner we had in Paris?”
She laughed. “Mr. Barnett challenged me to memorize it.”
“Ask me one.”
“Something along the lines of if by having a two inch by two inch tattoo, it would
save seven lives, would do you do it? Where would you put it and what would it look
like?”
Finn bit his lip. “Well, number one, yeah, I’d get the tattoo. I’d put it…hmm, I’d
put it right here,” he rubbed the side of his ribcage, “and I think it’d be a really
complicated tattoo of a connect the dots in the shape of a mountain goat but the numbers
would be really complicated mathematical expressions like instead of one it’d say Sine
ninety.”
Rose laughed. “Sounds like a pretty cool tattoo.”
He raised an eyebrow. “What would you do?”
“In the simplest cartoon possible, I’d put the image of a stereotypical cat burger
and the stereotypical cop hugging onto each other inside a magnifying glass and all
around it have a sort bunch of tiny black dots that form a mass.”
“Cool.” He furrowed his brow. “But I don’t get it.”
Rose smiled. “I’ll explain it later.”
She leaned in and kissed him.
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And, as the time flew in their embrace, Rose knew that there was no way that the
night would be a bad one.
*
*
*
Ariadne took a deep breath. “I’ve been keeping a secret from myself, Your
Excellency. When I was twelve, a friend of my brother raped me.” She paused and
glanced at the Bishop, although his expression gave nothing away. “I’m not sure what I
should be feeling. I’m angry that he stole my virginity from me, angry with my brother
for not having done anything to stop it, angry with myself for letting it happen. But…I’m
also ashamed. Virginity is supposed to be something sacred, and I didn’t even get to
choose when I gave it up. I feel filthy every time I think of that monster and what he’s
carrying around with him.”
Bishop Jerome nodded. “Well, you’ve already gone through the first step to
healing.”
“What’s that?”
“Told people about it. Who was the first person you told?”
She glanced at her husband. “Corydon.”
“Has he been a good support?”
“A great one.”
He cleared his throat. “As in Catholicism, we must forgive ourselves for our own
sins, but forgive those who sinned against us as well. It may take longer to forgive the
perpetrator, but you first must forgive yourself.”
She swallowed down tears. “But how do I do that?”
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“Acceptance is first. Accept that you had your virginity stolen from you. Accept
that there was nothing you could’ve done to stop it. Accept that God will not hold it
against you. But then, Ariadne, you have to go to it. Can you go back to the exact spot it
happened?”
“Yes.”
“Relive the emotions, let all the guilt and anger surface, and breathe until you feel
them begin to settle. You’ll look around, and you’ll realize that this experience was
traumatic, but it is not deadly. Just like everything else that happens to us in life, we must
keep climbing our mountains before we can reach God’s Kingdom.” He rubbed his chin.
“Would you consider any legal action against this perpetrator?”
“I don’t know where he is.”
“Then while you’re there, I want you to imagine the face of your perpetrator, then
I want you to imagine his mother’s face if she found out he’d been killed. Dismiss any
angering feelings from you. If he truly was a bad person, God will punish him in the next
life.” He looked down at Teo, who was nodding off. “You want to be a good mother for
your son, don’t you?”
“Of course.”
“The clearer head you have, the better for your son and family.” He raised an
eyebrow as he panned from Ariadne to Corydon. “You and Corydon have had very
difficult lives, I’ve noticed. It’s interesting to see how the blind lead the blind with you
two.” He smiled. “Although perhaps one of you is blind in the left eye and the other in
the right, so you complete each other’s sight.”
The couple smiled at the thought of this.
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“As well, I see only bright things for your son. He’ll be a bright, strong boy one
day. Perhaps a bit mischievous though, considering his parents.” He folded his hands.
“Are there are more questions you two would like to address?”
Ariadne nodded. “Your Excellency, what defines a sin?”
*
*
*
After a light dinner Rose and Finn combined efforts to make, they found
themselves up in Rose’s room, watching TV while cuddling. Unlike Sven, Finn shared
Rose’s near obsession with the Investigation Discovery Channel, perhaps even liked it
more than her. After watching a particularly gruesome episode of Dateline, Finn turned
off the TV.
“Okay, that was kind of awful. Wanna switch moods?”
She smiled. “Yeah, sounds like a good idea.”
He pulled her into a soft kiss that quickly tuned into something much more. Rose
was hardly even aware of how new everything began feeling, how sudden this urge of
wanting truly was. She felt the way she imagined teenage boys felt: itching to touch and
taste every inch of Finn’s body, and impatient about it.
Her hand traveled down to the zipper of his jeans. “C’mon, Finn.”
He smiled. “If that’s what you want…”
After a few seconds of struggle, she removed his jeans and helped him with hers.
He allowed her to pull off his shirt completely before he even put his hand on hers.
“May I?” he asked.
“Go ahead.”
Why didn’t he assume he could? She guessed it was just his personality.
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It was soon apparent that Finn had not had much experience with bras, Rose
guiding his hands to the hook on the back. Luckily, he got that one down sooner. For a
moment, Finn stopped moving, savoring his first real peek at the female body. He was
embarrassed to admit it, but he’d honestly never gotten a girl naked.
“Is everything okay?” Rose asked.
“Yeah. Sorry, this is all just so new to me.”
She closed her eyes within the first moment of Finn’s light touch on the side of
her breast. He hesitated a few more seconds, and underlined the bottom of it, cupped it in
his hand.
“You having fun?” she asked. He squeezed it, but barely. “C’mon Finn, it’s fine.”
She kissed him, aware of helping him feel a bit more ready, sucking on his lower
lip. A moan escaped his lips, and his hands started moving lower. She smiled and moved
her mouth lower, now right below his Adam’s apple.
“God Rose, why do you know what you’re doing?” he asked between moans.
She chuckled. “I did a little homework. Try behind my ears.”
As she played with the elastic on his underwear (boxer briefs, something she soon
realized she preferred over Sven’s boxers), he experimented a little. Just his fingertips
didn’t do much, but when he tried his tongue, she felt a tiny moan at her throat.
As she pushed her hands into his underwear, he started using his tongue a bit
more, feeling around her breasts and down past her navel. She couldn’t remember if
she’d already felt this type of pleasure, but there was definitely something addicting
about it.
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Meanwhile, he was happy with where things were going with her hands. As she
got her bearings, she had to squeeze her eyes shut in order to not compare Finn and Sven.
She gasped when Finn’s tongue went past her elastic. “Just take it off,” she
breathed.
As her underwear disappeared under the covers, his did as well.
All of the sudden, they stopped. Neither wasn’t sure exactly why at first, only that
this warmth and intimacy…it was a moment they didn’t want to soon forget. Slowly,
almost carelessly they grinded against each other.
“Rose,” Finn said, and Rose instantly remembered.
She reached over to her toiletry kit and pulled out a box of condoms. When she
met back with Finn, he was holding his own box of condoms.
They laughed. “Well uh, whose do you wanna use?” Finn asked.
“I bought mine yesterday.”
“Mine today. I guess we should use yours before they…go bad?”
She handed the package to Finn to open while she grabbed the spermicidal lube.
“This too.”
He ripped the package open. “Probably a good idea, considering I’m not sure if I
learned how to put this on right…”
She laughed and took it from him, pushing the covers off so she had a clear view.
*
*
*
“A sin, you ask?” the Bishop clarified.
Ariadne had always kind of associated Bishop Jerome with Yoda, and had to keep
herself from smiling. “Yeah. Like, I feel like I’ve done so many sins that the book
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defines, but I don’t feel like a bad person. I feel like…like they’re all just so unrealistic. I
know that humans can’t possibly keep from sinning, but then why do we look down so
much on people who do sin? Who decided what a sin is and isn’t?”
He sighed. “Ariadne, there’s no real way I can explain this, but I’ll try my best.
Sins are, simply, things that have a negative affect on the self and on others. When you
cheat on your husband, you betray your husband’s trust and put guilt on yourself and
your other man for breaking marital laws.”
“I get those, but what about other circumstances? What if a man steals a loaf of
bread in order to feed his family in desperate times?”
“Ariadne, do you recall in the Book of Mark what Jesus told the Pharisees when
they asked him why he was working on the Sabbath?”
“When in crisis, King David ate bread meant only for priests.”
“You must understand that Jesus believed in the spirit of the law, not the word of
it. Catholicism…well, it’s become a bit hypocritical when it comes to Jesus’ original
message. In our hearts and souls, despite all the law we try to teach, we do understand
that sin is really in the spirit of things. Yes, stealing that loaf of bread was bad because it
took food away from someone else who needed it, but God will forgive you for it.” He
paused. “Ariadne, what might you be referring to with this question?”
“Premarital sex.”
He nodded. “Your own sins?”
She nodded. “I was misguided, Your Excellency. I let my anger for what
happened to me as a child fuel a need to let other men use me. I’ve gone to Confession
for this hundreds of times,” she motioned toward Corydon, “and I feel like it’s behind
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me, but I always fear that God won’t judge me in favor because of what the book says.
Prostitutes don’t go to Heaven, and I was an unpaid prostitute.”
“You cannot let fear run your life. You’ve been a pious Catholic, and your faith
will be rewarded. Overall, God doesn’t judge on the little sins, it’s how you react to them.
If you hold grudges and build sin after sin, then no, He won’t look upon you favorably.
But you, you clearly care about your soul, and He can’t possibly ignore that. We’re all
human, Ariadne. We can’t help make mistakes.” He turned to Corydon. “Same goes for
you, Corydon.”
“My premarital sex story is just embarrassing.”
“Don’t let shame rule your life.”
After a second of staring, Corydon realized that the Bishop was joking.
“Do you two know why pride is the worst of all sins?” the Bishop asked.
Corydon nodded. “Every other sin can be realized, but with pride, it prevents self
realization, and ultimately the path to healing.”
He nodded. “Never let pride get ahead of you. Now Ariadne, if you let pride come
into your life, you can guarantee that spot in Hell. Stay humble.”
She nodded. “I understand, your Excellency.”
*
*
*
Rose was relieved to find that she did remember how to put a condom on.
Skipping third base, Finn pulled Rose on top of him and looked right into her eyes.
“Are you sure about this?” he asked.
“Certain. Let’s do it. I care about you, Finn. Deeply. I want my first time to be
with you.”
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He smiled. “I do too. Rose, God, you have no idea how happy I am that we got
together. It’s been so many years of longing, of waiting. I just, I can’t believe this
moment has finally come…”
She kissed him. “Before you confuse yourself.”
“Squeeze my hand if it starts to hurt too much.”
He took her right hand in his and entered.
“Precious, irreplaceable, and together,” he whispered to her after he heard her
gasp in pain.
She smiled. “Pure magic.”
And they shared one last kiss before finishing.
With everything said and done, Rose felt pretty content with everything. She
smiled and kissed his cheek as he stared at her, a small smile on his face. Sure, he hadn’t
lasted that long and it had hurt, but nothing had been that extreme. She was glad that he
hadn’t made her say she loved him. After how hard it had been to say the three words to
Sven, she appreciated his sensitivity. She nestled her face into the crook of his neck.
“This has been really nice, Finn.”
“I’m sorry I couldn’t get you to—”
“It’s fine, Finn. Most girls don’t have great fun the first time.”
He sighed. “So you liked it?”
“Yes. You were caring, gentle, good humored…I don’t think I’ll ever get that
from another guy. Thank you.”
“I’m glad it was with you.”
One last kiss and Finn turned the TV back on, caressing her hand.
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“Phineas and Ferb or some rom-com?”
“Phineas and Ferb.”
“Definitely glad I chose you.”
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Chapter 20
Done Deal
That Tuesday afternoon, Rose stepped home and found herself met by Erin,
Crowe, Ariadne, and Sven.
“Did someone die?” she asked.
“I told your dad about the recon you did with Pappas and he wants to know what
you established,” Erin explained.
Rose took a seat among the company. “He offered me a job where I housesit his
place in San Diego for a couple days starting tomorrow.”
Crowe nodded. “So you’d have free access to his house without him there?”
“Sounds like it.”
He glanced at Ariadne and Erin. “What do you two think?”
Ariadne was least interested in the whole fiasco, chewing gum and staring at the
wall.
“If you ask me, it’s an opportunity you can’t pass up,” Erin said.
Everyone turned to Ariadne. “What do you want me to say? I have absolutely no
interest in pulling another heist or in any other way risking what I have now. Do I want
Logan in jail? No. But that doesn’t mean I’m encouraging rash decisions. We aren’t
dealing with little criminals anymore, we’re dealing with a ripe Interpol agent who’s
probably dealt with dumbshits like us time and time again.”
Crowe raised an eyebrow. “Quite a new approach, Mrs. Eliopoulos. Usually
you’re the one bouncing for this opportunity.”
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“In case you don’t recall, Mr. Crowe, I’ve never been the heist gal.”
“And what about your own accusations?” Erin added.
“That I was an accomplice?” She stayed quiet.
“You need this heist too, Ariadne.”
Sven raised his hand. “If I may, what exactly are we going to steal?”
“It’s a bit of a different job, Sven,” Crowe explained. “We’re not stealing
something as much as doing an information grab and a switch. Rose, did Kyle mention
what he was going to be doing while you were house-sitting?” She slid her cell phone
over to her father, where Pappas had recently sent her further information. “Says
he’s…going to be on the train from San Diego to LA. That’s roughly two and a half
hours. Even gives her the exact time and everything.” A smile spread across his face.
“He’s making this too easy.”
“Must only be easy in Logan World. Where’s this plan?” Ariadne asked.
“We split up, kids and adults. You and Erin accompany me on the train. The kids
go to Pappas’s place and find out where he keeps his copy of my immunity papers. We’ll
switch them with the changed version. He surely won’t read them until the court date,
and when that happens, we challenge it and suddenly all my crimes done after 1996 are
obsolete. We already know how to avoid the kidnapping charge and Rose’ll say how
Rasim was all self-defense. I could get out with nothing, and same with you, Arr.”
“And what if he keeps his little papers locked up? What if they aren’t even in his
house?”
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“If it’s locked up, it’ll have a password. The guy Pappas, Bianca, and I worked for
always made us keep a file of passwords, and I’m sure the habit hasn’t been lost. It’ll be
on his computer.”
“He’ll notice if we take his computer,” Erin pointed out.
“We buy an exact model and…Ariadne, you can screen share, right?”
She straightened up. “Like look at his screen without him noticing and make an
exact surface copy? Yeah.”
“So we do that. First, Rose and Sven’ll arrive and tell us if they see the papers. If
not, we’ll go onto our computer swap.”
Ariadne looked around. “Two and a half hours for all that?” She sighed.
“Whatever you guys think is best.”
“We have no choice,” Erin said.
Ariadne studied her for a moment. “Dare I ask why you’re even helping? It’s not
like your life’ll change if Logan gets arrested.”
Erin shrugged. “It’s called loyalty.”
Ariadne rolled her eyes. “If you weren’t already a major criminal, I would call
you stupid beyond your years.” She turned to Sven. “And you. Would you fucking finish
your WebAssign!? You’re never passing AP chem without it.”
“Chemistry is stupid.”
Crowe rolled his eyes. “I can finish his chemistry homework; it was my best
subject in school.”
Ariadne raised an eyebrow. “And you still remember it?”
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“Rose had to take regular chemistry sophomore year, so I cleaned off the rust.”
He pulled out his wallet and threw Ariadne a pouch of bills. “Go buy a computer with
Rose. Rose, you make sure the model is 100% accurate. Erin, you go buy the train tickets
with accordance to this.” He handed her Rose’s cell. “Sven, I need you to go pick Dorian
up from the airport. He’s coming from terminal three, V Australia.”
“I got the easy job!” Sven cheered, throwing Crowe his WebAssign username and
password.
*
*
*
“So Rose,” Ariadne began, her tone airy, as they drove to the mall in order to
reach the Apple store. “How was your trip?”
She blushed. “Really fun.”
She raised an eyebrow. “How was Finn?” She winked.
“You don’t know we did anything.”
Ariadne shook her head. “You wouldn’t asked how to use rubbers if you didn’t
plan on doing anything. So spill. Did you enjoy yourself?”
She nodded. “It was sweet. Like, I feel like we both genuinely cared about each
other, and I can’t see myself regretting it, even after we break up.”
“Good. Protection sound?” Another nod.
“Those tips you gave me on sensitive spots worked really well.”
She smirked. “Kid’s still got game. So do you think it’s gonna become a regular
thing?”
She shrugged. “I guess, but we’ll see.”
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“Did Finn enjoy himself—okay, well obviously he was having a good time in that
respect, but did he seem satisfied with himself? Most boys who want to impress the girl
will hate the first time. Even some thirty-something year old men want to impress.”
She nodded. “He was disappointed that he couldn’t get me to…y’know…and I
guess he didn’t last that long, but it wasn’t like a I was completely let down. How was
your first time with Corydon?”
She bit back a smile. “It was nice. I mean, he was completely and utterly
determined to make me have some serious fun, but quickly realized that it was too hard. I
let it slide and we just made love. He didn’t last that long, and kept apologizing, but it
wasn’t the physical act that really mattered. Because, y’know what, it was the way I felt
with him that mattered, it was that initial moment when our bare bodies shared warmth,
the sweet things he whispered to me afterwards.”
Rose rubbed the back of her neck. “I guess that’s what happened to me.” She
paused. “When did he manage to reach his goal?”
“Of making me climax? Second time. I think he got lucky.”
“What was that like?”
She bit her lip. “I don’t think you want to know…”
Her eyes widened in fear. “What happened?”
“Rose, you don’t want to know.”
“Come on!”
“You asked for it!”
“Okay!”
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“He was Anakin Skywalker post Padawan stage, so y’know, the black Jedi outfit,
the metal hand, sort of, you know, how he looked when he got married to Padmé, and I
got to be Padmé.”
Rose’s face was completely blank, but her eyes read horror beyond all belief.
“Did you really have to tell me that? Oh God, I don’t need to think of what you two did
after that party…”
“I told you I didn’t want to tell you! And hey, so Eric Foreman can get Princess
Leia and roll with the Storm Trooper scene, but I can’t do a roleplay in the most
obviously needed roleplay place?”
“Did you just like the prequels because you thought Anakin was hot?”
“No! Okay, look, Luke was cute and Han Solo…yeah, kind of childhood crush,
but yes, Anakin and Padmé were attractive—I did not just say that out loud, did I?”
Rose sniffled a laugh. “Yeah, you just admitted your female crush.”
She sucked air in through her teeth. “Well, I seriously did not plan that one.” She
and Rose shared a brief but meaningful glance. “I only have two, okay! Yes, they are
Natalie Portman and Keira Knightly. Now stop! Okay, yes, I was in love with the
Anakin/Padmé pairing in the way that most creepy fangirls are in love with those made
up gay pairings in their fandom. Great, now that we’ve allowed Ariadne to humiliate
herself, let’s continue on with normal life.”
That moment on, they talked of no more than computer features.
*
*
*
Dorian and Sven shared in some form of surprise upon their reunion, but they
were significantly different flavors of the emotion.
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“Didn’t expect to see you here, Sven-y,” Dorian said with a cocked eyebrow once
his suitcase was thrown in Sven’s trunk.
Sven shrugged, trying to keep his own surprise unnoticeable. “Rose is off doing
something for her dad, so I got put on Dorian Duty.”
Dorian nodded. “Fair enough. So, how’s life? Am I still staying with the
Crowes?”
Dorian had certainly changed since his time in America as a sophomore: gone
were his purposeful bed head hair, piercings, and strange clothing. Instead, Dorian
presented himself as an…almost respectable guy: his brown hair was brushed and ear
length, the only metal that gleamed was his silver wristwatch, and he wore nothing but
plain brown Vans, skinny dark blue jeans, and a grey t-shirt.
“Yeah, you are.”
Dorian smiled. “Something wrong, mate?”
“You tamed down.”
Dorian looked Sven up and down. “And you look slightly less awkward.”
“Thanks. Where you going to college…or university…?”
“UC Santa Barbara. I got accepted into their marine biology program, and it’s
really good. You?”
“Choosing between a college called Rhodes in Tennessee and Colorado College.”
Dorian’s eyes lit up. “Rose got into Colorado College too. Are you two—wait,
never mind.”
“Never mind what?”
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He whistled. “Forgot you two broke up. Rose told me back in junior year.” Sven
wasn’t sure why, but this stung a little to hear. “Well, if you’re deciding between possibly
being with her, I suppose you’d have to convince her to go there too.”
Sven nodded. “I’m kind of leaning toward Rhodes, but I want Rose’s opinion
first.”
“You two still good mates?”
“Definitely. I mean, it’s been kind of weird with Finn and all, but we’re trekking
on.”
Dorian smirked. “Have you gotten any action since, or have you been too busy
crying about your broken heart?”
Sven shot him a dirty look. “I hooked up with one girl—”
“How far and when and…was she hot?”
“Why would I tell you?”
“Because would you rather tell someone else?”
Sven considered this; he hadn’t told Devon simply because he knew Devon
wouldn’t understand the emotional part to it all. Devon himself actually hadn’t gone past
kissing another girl, his family and religion too big of influences to allow him more. He
was a bit embarrassed by it, but never actively let Sven onto it. So, for those reasons, he
knew if he told Devon, he’d laugh and tell him to get some.
“Do you promise not to tell anyone?”
“Sure, but then I’m gonna post it all over my Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr,”
he replied in a sarcastic valley girl accent.
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Sven blushed. “It was a couple weeks ago, it was with a junior girl from Hermosa
named Eden, and…well, she uh, she gave me a blowjob.”
Dorian’s eyes widened. “How long did you know her?”
“We’d just met that day.”
“Damn, you went with a slut! I’m so proud of you!”
Sven set his eyes on the road. “I’m not.”
Dorian rolled his eyes. “Of course little Catholic boy isn’t proud. Look man, it’s
good experience. Now you can say you got head from a probably very attractive young
woman. As long as you used a rubber, you’re fine in terms of someone bitching that you
didn’t use protection. I bet it felt good. Have you talked to her since?”
“On and off.”
“Honestly man, hook ups are fun. I’m glad you got the experience.”
Sven bit his lip. “I was just hoping I could’ve done that with—”
Dorian put up a finger. “Sven, we cannot say her name in that context anymore.
Besides, you and I both know Rose and we both know that she would probably think oral
sex is disgusting. So, if you’d been with Rose, you would’ve never gotten it.”
“She gave me a handjob.”
“And a blowjob? Nice job, tiger!”
“No, Rose did. When we were together.”
Dorian’s eyebrow rose for a second, but he remained straight-faced. “Hmm, well
it’s a bit surprising, but less so than the blowjob. It takes a certain slutty girl to willingly
give head without being in a supposedly loving and stable relationship. Chicks think it’s
kinda gross, like how guys are kinda ick with giving girls oral. But hands, like we as
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humans are used to having to touch potentially gross-ish things, so it’s not such a huge
deal. But yeah, nice job, Sven.”
“Oh, and did I mention that Aunt Ariadne forced me to try to find this girl?”
Dorian burst out laughing, no time for questions. “That doesn’t surprise me at all.
Oh God, I’m guessing nothing has changed over the past two years?”
Sven wasn’t sure how to continue the conversation, and even after he dropped
Dorian back at the house, couldn’t keep it out of his head. After checking his WebAssign
(Mr. Crowe had done 3% more than his teacher wanted, something he’d have to thank
him for later), Sven found himself on autopilot, driving out to his deserted old elementary
school playground and taking up shop on top of the monkey bars.
“Down once more to the dungeon of my black despair. Down we plunge to the
prison of my mind. Down that path into darkness deep as hell!”
He looked around, still alone. He took a deep breath. If he were ever to perform
with the emotional intensity he wanted, he’d have to practice, have to practice feeling the
emotions, being the character himself. He imagined the scene: he was a horribly
disfigured man, he had just found someone who cared about him because of who he was,
and she had just betrayed him, shown him to the world as if he were a freak in a show. He
continued singing the lyrics of pain and suffering because of his face. But, when the tone
changed, he stopped as well.
Wait, I think, my dear, we have a guest. Sir, this is indeed an unparalleled
delight…
It was the moment in the play where the other lover is presented, the new, shiny
lover who had eons more than him to offer to her. He would have been angry, but also
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sadistic, aware of the upper hand he held. The pain of needing the woman would’ve
driven him to kill once more, even if it would hurt her as well.
The tears I might’ve shed for your dark fate grow cold and turn to tears of
hate…Farewell, my fallen idol and false friend. One by one, all my delusions shattered.
Angel of music, why this torment? Why do you curse mercy, Angel of Music, you’ve
deceived me. I gave my mind blindly.
The words are like daggers to him. Would he have been listening to her as he sang
about her choice that needed to be made? Would his voice have faltered, or would he
have ignored the pleas all together?
“You try my patience.” He said it with a certain bluntness to it, a certain
impatience. “Make your choice.” He would’ve sounded mad on the outside, but Sven
could sense a bit of fear and anxiety in the tone.
Pitiful creature of darkness, what kind of life have you known? God give me
courage to show you, you are not alone.
Somehow, those lines had always been the saddest in the play. They rang clear
with pity, but also with hope. He loved thinking that the Phantom did have someone in
the world that loved him, that he did in fact touch her heart.
Take her, forget me. Forget all of this. Leave me alone, forget all you’ve seen. Go
now, don’t let them find you. Take the boat, swear to me never to tell the secret you know
of the angel in Hell. Go now and leave me!
Sven knew those lyrics would be a hard pill to swallow, but he had to try. “Take
her, forget me. Forget all of this.” Now you’ve got to do it, Sven. Think about Rose, think
about how you had to let her go. “Leave me alone, forget all you’ve seen. Go now, don’t
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let them find you.” You told them to leave. You told them not to worry about you. You
spend each day pretending to just be friends with her. “Take the boat, swear to me never
to tell the secret you know of the angel in Hell.” She knew all about his secrets, about his
family, about his parents that either hated him or didn’t care about him. She’d supported
him through them all. He knew she would never betray him. A lump started to form in his
throat. “Go now and leave me!”
His voice completely and utterly cracked at that last word. He coughed, took a
deep breath, and started swearing.
He still loved Rose. He let her go. She was with another guy, possibly in love
with him. There was no chance that she’d ever love him again. He had to let her go.
But he couldn’t. He still loved her. He could never let her go.
But he had to. He had to go on with his life. He had to try to be happy. He got into
a bunch of great colleges. He was on a clean path for a theatre career, just like he’d
always dreamed. He could join a Young Republican club in college and get involved with
politics that way. Maybe he could get a pilot license. Hell, he could do just about
anything. So why should he let some girl get in the way of his future?
He looked down, and saw a kid probably six or seven.
“Hi,” Sven said, hoping she didn’t hear his swearing tirade.
“Hi. You sing really good.”
Sven smiled. “Thanks.”
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Chapter 21
First World Problems
Turning off WebAssign (never thinking chemistry could be so fun), Crowe turned
to Dorian as soon as he walked in.
“How ya doin’, Aussie?” he greeted his former host son.
“Not too bad, Daddy. So it’s no big deal that I’m staying here?”
Crowe shook his head. “Of course not. My house is your house, after all.” He
paused. “But, if you don’t want to feel guilty, there is something you could do for me.”
Dorian raised an eyebrow. “And what would that be?”
“Accompany Rose and Sven to San Diego for a day or so. They’re house sitting.”
Dorian smiled. “Now when you say house sitting, do you really mean recon?”
“No, I actually mean control center. We’re pulling a train heist tomorrow.”
Oh Mr. Crowe, always talking so casual, Dorian mused. “And all I’d have to do is
play stupid?”
“And maybe open a laptop.”
It sounded simple enough for a mildly lazy guy like him to roll with. “Do I get
paid?”
“No. Consider it a deed done out of the goodness of your heart.”
“Well, when you put it that way. You know, I hate how no is always a negative
word. From now on, I want everything good to come in the form of a no.”
Crowe rolled his eyes. “Would you like to visit Ariadne later?”
“No.”
“She’s home now.”
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Dorian smiled. “I’ll be back in an hour or so.”
Dorian didn’t like babies that much, but seeing Ariadne’s kid was actually pretty
cool. He found him sitting in a ball pit, showering the bright colored plastic balls all over
the living room.
“I’m guessing you’re Teo?” he said as he lay on the floor, meeting the baby’s
brown eyes.
After hearing the slightest rustle of the carpet, Dorian turned around, a smile
forming on his face.
“Hey Ms. Evans!”
Ariadne put down the Darth Maul lightsaber. “Oh thank God, I thought you were
a burglar.”
Dorian gave her a look. “And hitting a burglar with a toy space sword would’ve
stopped him?”
“That and my feminine ferocity.”
He pulled himself to his feet and gave her a hug. “Cute kid you’ve got there.
What’s his full name again?”
“Teo Xenophon Eliopoulos, but as far as I’m concerned, I’m too lazy to legally
change his name to Teo Anakin Eliopoulos.” She took a seat to watch her son. “So what
colleges are you in at?”
“I’m going to UC Santa Barbara in the marine biology program.”
“Excellent. Hey, if you need anything, feel free to contact Logan or I.” She
paused. “Has he told you about the job?”
Dorian’s eyes widened. “What job?”
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Ariadne blanched. “Shit, nothing nothing nothing!”
Dorian stifled a laugh. “I’m kidding; he told me the first moment I saw him.”
She glared at Dorian as Corydon walked into the room. “Ari, could we talk?”
“Only if Dorian can hear it.”
Corydon made brief eye contact with a cleaned up version of the Australian kid
who lived with the Crowes the year he and Ariadne got married. “Hey. Yeah, it’s fine.”
He sat down next to her, leaning into her like a child. “So I have a problem.”
“Yeah, it’s called you lost your equilibrium and are two seconds from an elbow in
the gut.”
He smiled and straightened back up. “It’s about Mana. She’s—well, she’s having
a kind of hard time cleaning out Babas’s house—”
“Weren’t they divorced?”
“Separated. Anyway, Percy, Any, and Nyx are being dicks and won’t help, so I
thought I’d go to Toronto for a few days and help her out. Would that be okay with you?”
She nodded. “Family is family. Go help your mom.”
Corydon made a surprised face. “I thought you’d be mad…”
She put a hand on his cheek. “Why would I be mad? I understand familial ties. A
wife should never be angry with a husband for caring for his natal family. Please, just go
do what you gotta do, love. We still have decades to spend together.”
He raised an eyebrow. “You are acting so weird right now. Are you pregnant
again or something?”
She backed off. “No, no, nothing like that! I just wanted some one on one time
with Teo. I’m sorry. I didn’t want you to feel bad.”
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He laughed. “So now the truth comes out. Hey Ari, remember there’s no
umbilical cord connecting you to that child anymore.”
She kissed him. “You’re an asshole sometimes.”
“Yet you’re still with me.”
Dorian smirked. “Shall I depart, leaving time for you two and your passionate
goodbye sex?”
“Well since you offered…” Corydon said. Dorian laughed, but Corydon lopsided
grin quickly turned to a frown. “But seriously, go home.”
Dorian snapped and walked out. “I see what you did there. Have fun in
Nowhere!”
Once Dorian shut the door, Ariadne leaned into her husband. “I’d be scared
shitless if I lived in Nowhere.”
He smiled. “The town in Courage the Cowardly Dog? Hell yeah. I would too.”
“So,” she said, twiddling her thumbs, “when are you leaving?”
“Late tonight. I like getting into Canada when it’s dark. It’s…serene.”
Ariadne smiled. “I get you. With Alabama, it works both ways, although in the
summer the humidity is easier to take when it’s dark out.” She bit her lip. “I’m going to
have to head out there once school ends. Ugh, go screw yourself, ridiculous humidity!”
He mirrored her smile. “Totally get you. The summers in Cali are reason alone to
spend your life savings on living expenses.”
She traced circles on his palm, smiling at how his wedding band glittered in the
sunlight. That ring is his devotion to me. Her heart still fluttered thinking about it.
“Hey Cor?”
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“Yeah?”
“Maybe we should take Dorian up on his offer.”
He grinned. “Something atypical or just a normal romp?”
She chewed on her lip. “We’ve already pulled Anakin/Padmé, Greek symposium,
and normal stuff. We have two options: I dress up as Leia and you dress up as a
Stormtrooper, or we just do something normal.”
He threw her over his shoulder. “I have an idea.”
Their dining room was centered by a large lacquered wooden table. As gently as
he could, Corydon placed his wife on top of the table. A grin played on her lips as he
jumped up and straddled her.
“Do you need these pants?” she asked him. “And if not, wanna try something
new?”
He shook his head. “What do I do?”
“Don’t take off your clothes.”
Pulling him closer to her, she started sliding her body up and down. She smiled as
she not only felt him begin to excite, but slide against her as well. He had come a long
way from the timid almost virgin, and she loved seeing his sexual confidence grow.
And that’s just about how Sven and Rose found them: heavy breathing, muttering
and moaning, woman straddled on the dining room table.
“Aunt Ariadne, have some class!” Sven shrieked.
Excitement gone, Corydon flipped off of Ariadne and they slipped off the table.
While Corydon and Rose were red faced and staring at the floor, the Evanses easily saw
eye to eye.
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“At least I was wearing clothes,” she countered.
“And suddenly borrowing your porn is doesn’t seem so bad.”
Rose and Corydon forgot their embarrassment long enough to stare at Sven.
“Sven…” Rose began, “are you gay?”
“No! I—it’s her woman one!”
Now eyes fell on Ariadne. “I thought I threw that away years ago!”
“Why did you have porn to begin with?” Corydon asked.
She stared at him. “You know Melissa as well as I do.”
“Not really, but understood.” She coughed, and looked to Rose. “Did you need
something?”
Rose shook her head. “Yeah, I was gonna ask you if I’m going in the right
direction with my draft.”
Ariadne’s eyes lit up. “Of course.” She glanced at her husband. “’Ey Cor, meet
me in our room…when’s your flight?”
“Eleven.”
“At eight.”
“And Sven…give me back my porn, you horny thief.” She put an arm around
Rose. “And you, with me.”
As Ariadne’s eyes darted from line to line of Rose’s work, she tried to pick up a
humbled attitude.
“I don’t think it’s great, but I used the scene where Rudy and Liesel steal the
apples and get sick afterwards. I thought it kind of showed how I feel about my life
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sometimes. I kind of had to expand the scene and stuff, but I think it worked. But, like I
said, it’s a first draft. It’s—”
Ariadne put a finger to Rose’s lips, still keeping her eyes on the paper. “No
negative thoughts.” A few seconds later, she tapped the papers into a neat pile. “Very
nice. This is the exact scene I wanted you to try out, and I love how you expanded it.
Your plot is pretty solid and your re-imagining is very clever.” Rose smiled. “However,
there’s one crucial part missing in this piece that it needs to have to work.” The smile
faded. “It needs more emotion. Rose, I know you have a personal connection to this
scene, I can see you doing so much more with this. It—Rose, look—it could be so much
rawer. There. That’s what I want. I want raw. I’m only pushing you because I know you
can do so much more than the average student: you’re clever, you have vision, and you
have the spark to put that idea into a finished product. One more try. One more try and I
promise that I won’t bother you and give you your A. Deal?”
Rose sighed. “Deal, but only because I have time to write while house sitting. Hey
Ariadne?”
“What?”
“If Corydon’s leaving town, who’s going to take care of Teo while you’re on the
job?”
Ariadne’s eyes widened. “Rose, I love you, but if you don’t mind, please return
home so I can go scrape through my list of babysitters.”
Rose laughed. “I’ll see you later.”
Ariadne rushed out and pulled out her babysitter list.
Erin Barro
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Adam McIlly
Helen
Rose
Todd
Logan
For the next several hours, Ariadne made call after call, her first choices either in
the train job or out of town.
“SVEN, WE DON’T HAVE A BABYSITTER!” she announced as she ran into
Sven’s room.
“Oh no, the world’s gonna end. And what do you mean we don’t have a
babysitter?”
She grabbed his arm. “We have a job to pull tomorrow. Corydon’s out of town.
I’m out of town. I have an almost eight month old who desperately needs supervision. All
my trusted babysitters are out of town.”
“Why don’t you call one of the girls in your classes? I’m sure they’re good
babysitters.”
“No way am I letting any of those sluts watch my kid.”
“What about hiring a babysitting service?”
“Sven, let me lay this down plain and simple: Teo is my only son. He will remain
my only son until I die. I already lost one child, and I refuse to lose another one. If I feel
he is at all at risk, I will not put him into that situation. If I don’t know this babysitter up
and down, I will not hire him/her. Understand?”
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He rolled his eyes. “Whatever you say, but I think you’re crazy.” He paused.
“Wait, does this mean that you’re taking Teo with you?”
“Yup.”
“Mr. Crowe’s gonna be pissed.”
“Logan can suck my metaphorical dick.”
He handed her some magazines. “Here’s your um…reading material.”
She rolled them up. “Into the trash with them.”
*
*
*
If there were one reason to think that the Murder’s end would be internally
caused, the sole evidence needed to support the claim would come from Mattie Crowe.
Ariadne and Logan had stopped counting, but it was a safe bet to say that Mattie had
indirectly caused them to get food poisoning five times in the past six months.
The night had been an absolute hell for all of them, even Mattie. By morning,
everyone was passed out on the floor, Ariadne by Logan’s bed in front of a decorative
wastebasket, Mattie against a wall, a trashcan in his loose grip, and Logan on the
bathroom floor.
Ariadne woke up first, surprised to find herself alert. Not perfect feeling—she was
still drowsy and a bit queasy, but she was at the tail end. Looking around the room, it
was clear that Mattie was not going to be awake soon. So, knowing that Logan had a
pretty good tolerance for these kinds of flash illnesses, ventured into the bathroom.
“Logan? You okay?”
Weakly, Logan turned his head. “What do you want?”
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She twiddled her thumbs. “We have a job to pull today. Remember? You said we
had forty-eight hours. Our two days are up in about three hours.”
“What?! I still have to grab the vase with the keys like Medicci said!” He tried to
get to his feet, but collapsed under his feet. “Ariadne, is Mattie awake?”
“Passed out cold.”
“Shit. Ariadne, I can’t move for the life of me. How are you feeling?”
“Okay, I guess.”
He grabbed her wrist. “This is your moment, Ari. I need you to get those keys for
me.”
Her eyes widened. “What are you talking about? I’m the plan person! I’m not a
field gal!”
“Ariadne, I need you to do this. You’re our last chance.”
Logan was sounding really melodramatic, but he was serious. “Logan, I can’t!
It’s too dangerous.”
“Come on, Ari! How old are you?”
“Seventeen.”
“Exactly. You’re seventeen. What’s stopping you? If you get caught, I’ll take the
blow. I promise you, you’re great. You can do better than you could ever imagine.”
“Logan—”
“Here.”
Fear raced through Ariadne’s veins as she realized that Logan had handed her a
gun. It was tiny, small enough that she could slip it into the pocket of her jacket. One last
glance at Logan, and she received a nod.
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She left the room and pulled on some fresh clothing.
You can do this, Ariadne. Be like Han Solo when he jumped into the Carbonite
freezer. He knew he could die, but he was willing to sacrifice himself.
Stuck on the Han Solo fix, she pulled on a pair of jeans, a white shirt, and one of
Mattie’s black vests. Giving the handgun one last look, she stuck it into her pocket and
ran outside. Of course, she forgot her room key, but details were details.
Shivering at the winter winds as they rocked Venice, Italy, she waited alone for a
water taxi. When one arrived, he stared at her for a while.
“Han Solo?” he asked.
She nodded. “I no talks Italian,” she said in whatever lame excuse of the
language she picked up. “Go Murano.”
The taxi driver laughed. “Come on in, Han. It’ll take twenty minutes. You pay in
advance?” he said in perfect English.
She handed him the euros necessary for the voyage and took a seat in the boat. As
soon as the boat started, she regretted agreeing to the job. Her stomach was still raw,
and the rolling waves and jerking vehicle were aggravating her fast.
The driver took one look at her and laughed. “Feeling sick, signorina? Or should
I say signorino?” If she weren’t feeling so bad, she would’ve been tempted to give the
driver a couple verbal lashings, or at least attempt to give him the finger. “Outside the
boat, if you have to. I charge extra for having to clean up.”
Turning away from the driver, she leaned over the edge and stared at the grayish
water.
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Don’t throw up. Han Solo would never get sick on the way to an important
mission.
From then on, she concentrated on taking deep, calming breaths. Mind over
matter had to mean something.
Miraculously, she managed to step onto the still island of Murano without a
problem. She thanked the driver and promised to be back in half an hour. Ariadne wasn’t
sure why the man agreed to her terms—perhaps he thought her Han Solo getup was
amusing—but didn’t question it. She bit her lip, checking the name of the glass factory
with the one Logan mentioned.
Yes, she was at the right one. She swallowed and wrapped her shaking fingers
around the handgun. She didn’t think she needed it. No, she hoped she didn’t need it. In
truth, she was terrified, was only half certain as to what she was supposed to do, and
knew she couldn’t string a single sentence together if asked to do so.
She stopped walking for a moment, her ears feeling as if they were being filled
with warm liquid. Her stomach churned and the blood left her head.
Please don’t pass out. God, you can’t lie on the floor in a damned Han Solo
costume.
She took to the cobblestone street, sitting with her knees hugged to her chest.
Letting her head relax on her knees, she closed her eyes.
You’re strong, Ariadne. You can do this. If Han Solo could survive Carbonite
freezing and three films, you can do this.
Cautiously, she returned to her feet and walked into the store. When she asked
where the showroom for the glass was, a worker led her upstairs. The showroom was
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fantastical: soft carpet, classical music floating through the air, and piece after piece of
Murano glass: chandeliers, vases, statues—anything that could be made was made. Plus,
the entire showroom was like a maze: room after room of new pieces. After declining a
glass of water, she let her eyes guide her through the glass.
As she resisted touching the glass, she almost forgot what she was looking for. It’s
a twelve inch glass bottle: kind of looks like a mushroom on top with a neck then a kind
of heart shaped bottom. It should have dark blue, green, light blue, red, and pink running
through it. Open it up. It’ll have the key in it, Logan had told her.
To her complete surprise, she found it. Every detail was perfect. Hands shaking,
she picked it up, opened the top. A smile spread across her face as she spotted the key.
Adrenaline started rushing through her, causing her to stick the vase into a pocket in the
vest. In a dream-like state, she met gazes with an attendant. She took off running before
he could even question her.
Skidding through the actual store on the first floor above the showroom, she
managed to knock over a few little statues. By the time she got outside, she had at least
three guys running after her. Heart slamming in a tightened chest, she searched for her
boat man. Running along the canals, pigeons flying out of the way, she felt tears burn in
her eyes. She was going to get caught, she was going to go to Italian jail and Logan and
Mattie would never find out.
Running farther down the canal, she could see the men catching her, their long
legs making near double of her strides. She had perhaps moments left. She had to lose
them. Looking around, she was surrounded by shops on one side and the canal on the
other.
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Her brain still muddled from the night before, Ariadne chose the canal. The first
thing she remembered was how cold the water was. Now, she wasn’t one who really
swam a lot, nor did she care much for water. Within the next two years, when she sat
down with a college buddy to watch The Titanic, she’d find herself falling asleep within
the first fifteen minutes, completely skipping over Jack’s description of cold water. But
that water, that cold Venetian water, she could never get it out of her head. Freezing,
perhaps even so cold that it was warm, the salt burning her eyes, and the control loss that
came with not being able to find the surface.
A sudden jerk pulled her by her vest out of the canal. She hit her head on
something solid, then her back, and her head again. Looking up, she realized that she
was lying in her boat taxi’s boat.
“You are a crazy little bitch. Wanna go back home?”
“Go now! They’re—they’re—”
He laughed. “It’s fine, Han. Look outside.” She looked out, and saw nothing but
sweet Venetian ocean. “Never thought I’d see the day that Han Solo stole something from
a glass store. Let’s see it.” She pulled out the bottle. “It’s nice.”
She coughed. “You’re not going to report me?”
“No. Perhaps if you weren’t so pretty and in a rather amusing costume, I
would’ve. You’re lucky. I won’t report you.”
“Won’t you get in trouble?”
He shrugged. “I’m movin’ out of Venezia in a week. What’re they gonna do?”
“Thank you.” She coughed again, just about hacking up her insides.
“Like I said before, Han. No messes in my taxi.”
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Ariadne scooted over to the edge of the boat and looked out.
Once the keys were in Logan’s hands, he allowed her to keep the bottle as a
souvenir.
Ariadne slid her fingertips along the bottle, a piece still in her home. Maybe if I
dress up like Han Solo again this’ll actually work.
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Chapter 22
Bitten Tongues
For what would probably be the last time in a while, Crowe sat down to breakfast
with Harper.
“What’s on your mind, Loge?” she asked as she sipped coffee.
He sighed. “I just can’t tell where my life’s going anymore. These accusations—
Harp, I know you don’t really get it, but this guy is going to accuse me of some serious
stuff. And, yeah, maybe I did do some of it, but some of it is just complete lies. I can try
to defend myself, but it’ll take months to reach a verdict. And, let’s face it, they’re gonna
set the bail at some ridiculous price, so I’ll be stuck in jail for all that time. What if I miss
Rose’s graduation? I could never live with myself if I—”
“Logan, doesn’t Inspector Pappas have to arrest you first?”
“I’m so stressed out right now. I just—I have no idea when he’ll do it. It could be
today or it could be in a year from now. I can’t stand the anxiety, that waiting feeling.”
She bit her cheek. “Are your ulcers back?”
“Yeah. That, and the no eating, no sleeping thing. I swear, I’m going to end up
killing myself before he even gets the chance.”
“Don’t say that! Logan, you gotta keep one thing straight in your life, and it’s that
you cannot take your own life for any reason. You have to remember that you still have
Rose…and me. But mostly Rose.”
Crowe cracked a smile. “It was a joke.”
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Harper rolled her eyes. “You’re too serious a person to be cracking jokes. And
would you care to tell me why you’re not eating? Are you really not hungry or are you
just wallowing in self pity?”
He scratched his face. “Probably a little bit of both.”
“God dammit Logan, eat!” She shoved a fork of pancake in his face. “And now I
sound like my mother…Great, just great…”
“So if it comes to it, should I take a plea bargain if it means I could for sure go to
Rose’s graduation?”
“But if you get a sentence, which I’m fairly sure you would, wouldn’t you be in
jail when her graduation rolled around anyway?”
“If I’m taking the plea bargain, they have to let me have something, don’t they? I
mean, come on Harper, I was a loyal Interpol agent for more than a decade. They can’t
just pretend I never reformed, can they?”
She took another sip of coffee. “Logan, I think Interpol can do whatever they
damn want to. But hey, that’s just me.” She took a bite of her pancakes. “Did you ever
send Sampson a flower arrangement or something?”
“Shit, no. I’ve been—”
She raised her brow. “Do you know where he is?”
“In the hospital still. I think.”
She smiled. “Good job keeping up with your former boss’s health issues, Logie.”
“Why would I normally?”
“Did you leave Interpol on good terms?”
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He shrugged. “I left saying I was too heartbroken to keep going. They were okay
with it.”
“You’re weak,” she said into her coffee mug.
He smiled. “What was that?”
“I said you’re the bravest, smartest, most handsome man on Earth.”
“That’s what I thought.”
They shared a quick kiss before Logan asked for the check.
“Remember,” Harper advised as she pulled her purse over her shoulder. “Think
about Rose before you do anything.”
“I will. Have a good afternoon.”
“You too.”
Did he feel bad about not telling Harper about the train heist? Yes. Was he going
to let it eat at his conscience so she wouldn’t have to bear the weight of his rash decision?
Yes. If he were less realist, he would’ve maybe even called it romantic. He glanced at his
watch; it was still pretty early in the morning. As far as he knew, Rose and the boys
would be leaving in maybe an hour, and he and the girls shortly afterwards.
Lost in his thoughts, Crowe didn’t notice Harper’s smile fade to a grimace.
When he got home, Erin and Ariadne were lounging in his living room.
“Um, Ariadne, I think you forgot to leave something home,” Crowe commented,
staring at Teo.
“No, I meant to bring him.”
Crowe blinked. “Um, you plan to bring your infant son on a heist?”
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Her expression was hardened into determination. “You said it yourself: this heist
isn’t inherently dangerous. Besides, the more cuddly family we look, the less Pappas
would suspect.”
“Did Pappas ever see Teo?”
“Briefly, but all babies look the same.”
“Care to hear why I think you’re the stupidest woman to ever walk this earth?”
She frowned. “Not particularly. And no, I don’t plan on changing my mind. If it’s
Teo and I, or nothing.”
“It’s the Sith who take everything in extremes.”
She smirked. “And guess who survived the Jedi genocide?”
He shook his head. “So now we have a baby to deal with. Okay, thanks for adding
an extra ton to my stress, luv. How do you plan to work with this?”
She shrugged. “I put Teo in a car seat and fix Pappas’s computer while we wait
for the kids. I take Teo on the train and hang out with him. He’ll probably fall asleep.
When it comes to the switch, I’ll set him in Erin’s lap for all of five minutes, switch the
computers, and find Pappas’s password and send it to the kids. They’ll switch le papers
and we quietly ride to Los Angeles. Done.”
Crowe smirked. “You know, this could work to our advantage.” She reached out
to Erin’s hand and moved a ring on her pointer finger to her ring finger. “Guess who’s
gonna be a frustrated lesbian couple who desperately want to get married in Cali in order
to seal their family, including their sperm donor born son?”
Erin and Ariadne exchanged a long stare. “Why do I feel like we’ve already done
this?” Erin commented.
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“Aspen,” Ariadne replied into her sleeve.
Erin nodded. “Riiiiight.” One last glance. “Do we have to be PDA-ing?”
“Subtly.”
“Great.” She turned to Ariadne. “Pocket practice, part two?”
She snuck a smile. “Definitely.”
“Who’s the woman in our relationship?”
“Who has the vagina?”
She hesitated. “Both of us?”
“Then we’re both the woman.”
“Okay, but you get to carry him.”
She snorted. “As if I trust you.”
Not letting them have longer than two seconds of happiness, Crowe pulled Erin
aside.
“We need to have one last think about this.”
Erin brushed a stray hair out of her green eyes. “Why? I thought you didn’t want
go to jail.”
He swallowed. “I don’t but…I don’t know. Something feels kind of wrong about
this. Morally.”
“How so?”
“I just,” he rubbed his neck, “I just feel like we’re doing something bad for a bad
reason. We’re stealing a policeman’s computer so a criminal can avoid jail. I feel like
Bianca wouldn’t have wanted this. Plus, there’s just—something about this whole case
feels wrong.”
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Erin shrugged. “You know what, Logan? I don’t think Bianca would’ve wanted
Pappas to arrest you. We’re setting things right.”
He took a deep breath. “I suppose you’re right.”
She patted his shoulder. “Just keep your guard up.”
*
*
*
Rose glanced at her phone once last time before walking out the front door. She
had approximately forty minutes to talk with Finn before she’d have to finish packing for
Pappas’s place. There was some strange joy that came from Finn’s accessibility.
Although she wasn’t much of a romantic, she did like the boy next door angle; the
thought that she and Finn had that…it was incredible.
Finn’s father opened the door, a business minded man with slicked back blond
hair, neutral colored clothing, and a bit of a beer belly. He gave Rose a friendly smile and
invited her in. Finn’s stepmother brushed past her husband, offering Rose a drink. She
declined and continued up to Finn’s room. Even though Finn’s stepmom had been around
for at least eight years, Rose still had a stronger familiar feeling around Finn’s real mom.
When she’d asked him his opinion on the matter, he shrugged and said it was better that
his parents separated instead of staying together and being unhappy.
“Hey Rose!” Finn’s older sister called as she passed by her room.
Rose smiled. “Hey Eve.”
Finn wasn’t surprised to find Rose in his room, jumping off his bed to greet her.
“Hey angel,” he said, kissing her.
“Hey Finn.”
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He invited her onto the bed. “What’s up? Thanks for coming to the beach house
with me, by the way.”
She smiled. “It was one of the best vacations I’ve ever had. I really should be the
one thanking you.”
He smiled bashfully. “It was no problem. Hey, you doing anything today?”
She bit her lip. “That’s kind of what I wanted to tell you about. I gotta go down to
San Diego for a few days.”
He frowned. “Aww, I wanted to spend the rest of Spring Break with you.”
She hugged him. “Trust me, I did too.”
“So what are you doing?”
She took a deep breath. Finn wanted to be a detective. Surely he would eventually
deduce it, right? How easy would it be to lie to him?
She internally shook her head. Every single relationship she’d ever seen had died
once a secret was kept between the couple for too long. Would it be worth it to tell Finn
about her father? Well, she was possibly going to UC Davis, possibly sharing an
apartment with him. She shouldn’t disrespect him and not tell him about her dad.
Besides, it wasn’t that big of a deal really. Maybe he’d find it cool.
“Finn, if I told you a secret, would you promise not to be mad?”
His eyes brightened. “Of course not. What’s up?”
“Finn.” She paused. “My dad’s an international criminal.”
His eyes widened, before he started laughing. “Good one, Rose. Your dad?
Suave-o Mr. Crowe? More like a spy maybe.”
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“I’m serious. Finn, look at me.” He did as told. “My dad has probably stolen over
fifty million dollars in his career. He’d built up a giant network of other international
criminals. He met my mom because she was the Interpol agent assigned to his case. They
fell in love after sleeping with each other at a ball held by an international rupee dealer.
My dad only got immunity because the leader of Interpol at the time said he had potential
to work undercover because of all his connections. He did undercover work until I was
about a year old. A crazy guy named Damon Rasim,” Finn’s eyes widened at the name, it
crawling up from that night with Ms. Evans in the basement, “killed my uncle and gave
me this.” She motioned toward the scar on her cleft lip. “Afterwards, he did basic local
field work while my mom took a desk job. In Paris, my dad paid sixty grand for our trip
so he could keep us under a microscope. At night, he had me help him with jobs and then
Rasim showed up and gave me this.” She motioned toward the scar on her neck. “When
we got home, a low life criminal killed my mom. Now, my mom’s former partner got
promoted to Inspector and has made it his life goal to get my dad in prison.” She paused
for breath. “So I’m going to San Diego in order to…I’m not really sure what. Dad
believes that Inspector Pappas manipulated his immunity papers, so maybe we’re
changing them back. I don’t know.”
For what felt like an eternity, all Finn could do was stare. “Um, could you repeat
that?”
“Finn, please understand. I hate this secret. I hate what my last name means. My
dad isn’t a bad guy. Of all people, you know that. You remember when you used to come
over nearly every night because you were so mad at your dad? My dad was as much a
dad to you then that he is to me now. Please Finn.”
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He took a deep breath. “Rose, I’m not sure what to—screw that, yes I do. As an
aspiring detective, I want to know the law. Some part of me does want to bend the rules
for this one, but—you know what, fuck, fuck fuck fuck, I have no idea what to say. Rose,
what the hell? How have you never told me about this before?”
“When would I have told you?”
“When we were kids? When we were teenagers? Before we slept together? I don’t
care! This is like—one of the most arbitrary moments ever!”
“I didn’t even find out until freshman year.”
He put his hands in his hair. “Then why didn’t you tell me then?”
“I didn’t tell anyone then!”
“What about Sven?”
He had never mentioned Sven before. “What about Sven?”
“When did you tell Sven? Surely you told him.”
She didn’t want to lie. “Yeah, I told him. Well, he kind of just found out…”
“How?”
But she had to. “He was suspicious about my scars and I told him.”
“Just like that?”
“I trusted Sven.”
He hesitated. “And you don’t trust me?”
She threw her hands up. “Didn’t I just tell you? Obviously, if I told you, I trust
you too! Come on, Finn. It’s hard enough having Sven be the jealous type with us. Please
don’t tell me you are too.”
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“I’m not. I just—Rose, I’m really confused right now. Could we…I don’t know,
take a breather?”
“I’m still going to San Diego.”
“Okay. I’ll uh, could you text me when you get back?”
She sighed. “Sure.”
“Have fun.”
“Thanks.”
There were about a million different ways that that could’ve gone better, she
thought gloomily as she dragged her feet back home. For the first time in so long, seeing
Sven sounded like possibly the best thing ever.
*
*
*
Dorian didn’t expect much when he went walking through Trader Joe’s, some
American grocer who prided themselves on natural foods. Actually, the only thing he
expected was to buy some delicious barbeque chips for the road.
It certainly wasn’t seeing Bella while she bought pita chips.
A grin spread across Dorian’s face. “Hey, Ianov!”
Bella stiffened, and turned to her name like a dog. Her eyes widened. “Dorian?”
The entire experience was surreal; she thought she’d never see Dorian again after
he left at the end of sophomore year. What were the odds that she’d see him again after
all these years? And just her luck: Dorian had possibly gotten a million times hotter.
“Hey Dorian.”
He laughed. “Hello, beautiful ghost of my former life. How’s ‘Merica going?”
She blushed at his compliment. “Okay. I got into Middlebury.”
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“Aww, couldn’t get into Goodbury? Guess it’s better than Badbury.”
She laughed. “You’re such a dork. Where are you going? What are you doing in
America?”
“I’m in at UC Santa Barbara and I’m here to get a lay of the land. Where’s
Intermediatebury?”
“Vermont.”
“D’aww, no sporadic Dory visits. So how’s the loser you were dating? Oh, excuse
my French, Dylan Ackles.”
Bella swallowed. “We broke up before senior year.”
Dorian’s eyes lit up. “Good news, if you ask me. Any new men in your life?”
She rolled her eyes. “Lots of boys, but no men.”
He smirked. “Not yet, anyway.” He picked up his chips. “Have you had these?
They’re absolutely addicting.”
She laughed. “Yeah. They are kind of the shit.”
He leaned into her. “Buy a bag. I dare you,” he whispered into her ear.
She laughed and picked up a bag of barbeque chips. “Happy now?”
“Completely and utterly satisfied.”
They paid for their chips and headed outside, where Dorian walked Bella to her
car.
“It was nice seeing you again, Dorian.”
Before she could open her car door, Dorian’s lips were on hers. And, although
every instinct told her to push him away, to question who he thought he was, and to even
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push her tongue into his mouth, she stayed put, savoring the unique taste that was Dorian
Draper.
“Dorian—”
“Call me in a few days.”
With that, Dorian strolled off, eco friendly grocery bag dangling off his fingertips
as he jumped into Rose’s car (something Rose herself was unaware was being used).
Bella watched the whole time.
*
*
*
Trying to ignore the fact that Ariadne and Erin were practicing putting their hands
into each other’s back pockets, she approached her English teacher.
“Hey Ariadne, did you bring me that journal?”
She smiled, shoving her hand out of Erin’s pants with enough vigor to cause her
to move backwards in surprise. “Of course I did! Come on, baby!”
“You slapped my ass!” Erin called out as Ariadne pulled a journal out of her
purse.
“Just look through here. I don’t mean to brag, but my emotional description is
badass.”
Picking an open couch, Rose opened it up to an arbitrary entry.
Date: 1-15-94
Place: London, England
Dear Spinner,
We just arrived in London a few days ago. I don’t know why, but I thought we were
going to France. Everything’s been going fine, I suppose. I’m still reeling from the news of all
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this. I mean, the Crowe brothers are international criminals? We’re going after an even bigger
international criminal?
I don’t know if I should tell you this, but Mattie told me some pretty awful things
today. Logan was out doing a couple checks before he knew he could infiltrate A Mr. Jack
Gray’s house and umm, I guess his work place as well. He apparently laces stuff with gold and
sells them on the black market…
ANYWAY, Mattie told me some heavy stuff today. Told me why Logan’s been so edgy
lately.
Mattie and Logan were born in Bakersfield, California to two middle-lower class
parents of the World War II generation: Noelle, a straight faced, devoted stay-at-home mom
and Henry, a metal worker of sorts. When Mattie was a couple months old and Logan was
eleven, four visitors showed up at their door.
Logan had been playing Trouble with his father at the time, his mother in the other
room passed out. Baby Mattie had exhausted her so much that she didn’t even make it to the
bed. It started off as a knock. Sure, it was a bit late at night, but Henry Crowe wasn’t afraid of
anything, or so Logan thought.
The first set of eyes that Logan saw belonged to an Arabian-looking man, his eyes so
dark that they were nearly black. The man was slim, draped in black clothing, and with a
certain confidence in the way he leaned off to his side, like a teenager as he smoked behind the
Dumpster at school. The man’s face was clear: smooth tanned skin, chiseled cheekbones, and a
hypnotizing smile. But, above all, Logan remembered his dark, dark eyes.
The men flanking him weren’t as noticeable: one was a blond man with a funny
mustache and a strange bright colored tie, one was a tanned man in rich man’s clothing, one
was another Arabian-looking man who kept his eyes down, and the last one was a white man
with short brown hair, wearing black pants, dress shoes, a sweater, and a fedora.
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The man with the dark eyes smiled as he entered. “How good to see you, Mr. Crowe.”
Henry Crowe looked back at his son. “Logan, ru—”
The dark eyed man shot him down with a single bullet, smiling the entire time. Terror
sunk into Logan like the burning of a vaccine. His motives were split: save baby Mattie
upstairs, warn his mother in the next room over, or hide. Being a panicking 11-year-old boy,
Logan ran for a coat closet.
He dropped to his knees, peeking out through the shutters. There was a spare wool
sweater on the floor, and Logan wrapped it around himself, hoping it would stop the shivers.
His eyes immediately darted to his father.
It didn’t take a genius to figure out that he was dead. Even at 11, Logan had watched
enough movies to know that. Henry Crowe—once Logan’s biggest hero—was lying on the floor
stomach up, pool spilling from his chest onto his clothes and the floor. It was embarrassing, the
amount of blood. It stained his clean white shirt, it stained his pants. He could remember his
friends snickering about one girl in his fifth grade class and how she’d stained her pants red.
He didn’t want anyone to think that his dad had accidents like that girl.
He felt tears ready to cloud up his vision, burn his eyes, but he needed to see what
happened next. Wiping his tears and snot with his sleeve, he pressed his face against the door,
not once thinking that these men could want him as well.
His heart started thudding when he heard the scuffling into the room his mom was in.
So much of him just wanted to scream “TAKE ME! LEAVE MY MOMMY ALONE!” but he
never did.
His mother’s scream shook through him unlike anything he’d ever experienced before:
more than the thunderstorms, more than when he stole his friend’s copy of 1984 and he threw a
bunch of toy rats at him, and more than the first time his father slapped him as punishment
for talking out of line.
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He felt a scream bubble in his own throat, but swallowed it down. Despite the
distractions that watching this warped nightmare unfold presented, survival instincts kept
Logan’s hands at his sides and his feet on the closet floor.
He watched as the men formed a circle around his mother, now on the floor.
“Give me her,” the man with the fedora said.
“For what?” the dark eyed man asked incredulously.
The fedora man smiled. “You’re not the only one having the fun, Rasim.”
So the dark eyed man was Rasim. Logan noted it.
Rasim made a disgusted sound. “You’re a revolting man, Gray. Get it over with before I
lose my dinner.”
Rasim turned away, playing with his gun as the other men gathered around to watch
Gray. Logan watched in horror and perplextion (is that a word?) as Gray unzipped his pants
and got down on his knees over his mother. She was a bit tired from what Logan could see, but
thrashed and cried. The other two men kicked his mother, told her to shut up.
“You guys wanna have a go when I’m done?” Gray asked the men as he pulled Logan’s
mother’s skirt down.
“No! This isn’t some brothel, you horny little shits,” Rasim snapped.
The three men became quiet, as did Logan’s mother. Gray took his mother and pulled
off something that not only made Logan blush, but got his stomach churning.
Her panties—something Logan was always taught was a woman’s private business—
were on the dirty floor. From there, Gray took out his penis (Logan looked away, red flushing
into his cheeks) and stuck it into his mother’s private parts. She cried out in pain, but no one
responded to her.
As Gray’s jerking became faster, his mother called out four names.
“HENRY! LOGAN, MATTIE! HENRYYY!”
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No one answered her. Gray pulled out of her, a dribble of blood landing on the floor.
Raism didn’t even give Gray a moment to put his parts back in his pants before he pushed him
aside.
“Dammit Gray, put your fucking pants on. Lousteau, Egypt, get out of here.” The
three men darted out of the room, only looking back to see if the woman was still alive. Rasim
bent down to his mother. “I’m sorry Gray’s such a disgusting man. I wanted to give you
dignity as you died.” He leaned down and kissed her forehead. “For good luck.”
And he shot her.
Logan didn’t allow himself to truly swallow the events until each man was out of his
house. Once gone, he pushed the closet door open, crawled over to the body of his father, pulled
himself onto his body, and cried. For hours, he cried. Cried so hard he couldn’t breathe. Cried so
hard he dry heaved on the floor next to the body.
By then, his cries were joined by his little brother’s, and that’s about when the
neighbors called the police.
Now, back to my POV, I really only have one thing to say about this.
Gray raped Logan’s mother. Logan watched it happen.
I’m scared to see what happens when they see face-to-face.
With love,
Ariadne
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Chapter 23
Grocery Lists (and Ewoks)
The moment Rose met eyes with Ariadne, there was a surreal breaking of glass
between the story she’d created and the reality it held.
“Was this the guy whose head got bludgeoned in?” Rose asked.
Ariadne nodded. “How do you know about that? Your dad never talks about it.”
“Inspector Pappas told me.” Ariadne raised an eyebrow. “Yeah. I just—I never
knew. That was….that was so sad. I never knew my grandma was—God, how can
Dad…how can he live with that?”
Ariadne frowned. “He—you know your dad isn’t well, right Rose? You know
about all his health problems, physical and mental?”
“I know he has anxiety problems and gets the ulcers.”
“Trust me, he didn’t take the experience lightly.” She sighed. “But if there’s one
true thing about Logan Crowe, it’s that he’s a survivor. It’ll all be alright.”
Ariadne turned to Erin. “Can you pull out Teo’s outfit? I think it’s gonna be chilly
today.”
“It’s spring.”
“I don’t care. Trains are cold.”
Erin’s eyes widened as she pulled out what looked like a bear costume. “Can’t
you just buy him a winter coat?”
“No. Besides, it’s cold out.”
Erin looked up, as if sniffing the air. “Bad omen.”
“No one needs to hear your pagan mumbo jumbo.”
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She put Teo down, removed his shirt and pants, and pulled on the bear costume.
Crowe, Sven, and Dorian soon joined the ladies.
“Now why is Teo in a bear costume?” Crowe groaned.
“EWOK!” Dorian and Sven said in near unison.
Ariadne grinned. “See Logan, he’s an Ewok.”
Crowe blinked in disbelief. “You dressed your son up as some furry alien?”
She adjusted his hood, making his outfit complete. He would’ve looked cute if it
were Halloween: the outfit really looked like he was a furry creature with a dark brown
cloak as its clothes. Teo looked uncertainly at his mother.
“You are a fierce warrior, my son.”
He started babbling, as if questioning his mother’s sanity.
“Now I’m not against the Ewok thing, but why is he dressed up?” Sven asked.
“The only reason I didn’t drown in the canals in Venice back in the old Murder
days is because I was dressed up as Han Solo.”
“Ariadne, if you don’t just have a knit cap Ewok for the kid, I will remove his
clothing and have him go in just his diaper,” Crowe said.
Ariadne glared at him. “Fine.”
Crowe turned to the kids. “You three. Out of here.”
Once the teens were gone, Crowe pulled Ariadne aside. “Ariadne, we’re a lot
closer than we think.”
Ariadne gave him a look. “In what ways?”
He sighed. “Ariadne, you have remained the only girl I’ve slept with besides
Bianca. I had to have had made that decision for a reason.”
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“You haven’t slept with Harper?”
“No, Ariadne stop. That’s not the point. Please Ari, I need—I don’t know what’s
going to happen on this heist. I need to get some things off my chest with you. Does
Corydon know about us?”
“You mean does Corydon know about our one night stand? Yeah. He filed it
under the same category as Nick. Why?”
“Ariadne—” he sighed. “I’ve never been able to get that night out of my head. I
just—I want you to know that I…I appreciate all that you’ve sacrificed for me. Including
your metaphorical chastity belt.”
“Don’t say it so loud! I’m trying to convince myself that I lost my metaphorical
chastity belt to Corydon.” She huffed. “Look Logan—if there’s anything on your chest,
you can tell me, but don’t bring that night back into this. I’ve accepted it, but I don’t need
an extra guy on my mind.”
He sighed. “Ariadne, I’m terrified. I can’t go to jail.”
“Why not? You’ve been there before.”
“Never plain up hardcore American prison. Ariadne, I never thought this would
become a reality. Do you want to know what my two biggest fears in life have been? Rats
and rape.”
“It was watching your mother, wasn’t it?”
He covered his eyes. “You have to understand. My parents were conservative in
every sense possible. Private parts were just that—private. My parents taught me to be
ashamed if I ever caught a glimpse at my mother naked. Seeing her with Gray—I’ll never
forget the feeling. My world shattered that night, and it wasn’t because Rasim shot my
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parents and kissed my mom goodnight. It was because of what Gray did to her. It’s the
one human evil I’ve never come to comprehend. I can’t—I can’t imagine what it’d be
like to actually go through it.”
She bit her lip. “It’s not that bad, Logan. You’ll get over it.”
She tried to walk away, but Crowe held her back. “What do you mean it’s not so
bad?”
She swallowed. “You get held down, their nails dig into your wrists, and if you
close your eyes, you can pretend the pain doesn’t exist.”
“Ariadne, what are you—?”
“You remember how you asked me if there was a head I’d like to bludgeon in? I
do know someone, and his name’s Alex Ross. He was fifteen at the time, me twelve. If I
could handle it at twelve, you can take it at forty-whatever. Besides, there are ways to
avoid it.”
“I’m sorry you had to go through that.”
“Whatever doesn’t kill you. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to redress my son.”
As he watched his closest friend walk away, Crowe knew he’d have to make it up
to her, make up for all the sacrifices she’d ever made for him.
*
*
*
The drive down to San Diego was filled with bottomless conversation regarding
opinions on classic films. Leaving the boys in the car, Rose stepped out with a small bag
and met Pappas.
“Good to see you, Rose. Did you have a good trip?”
“Yes.”
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Rose would’ve been embarrassed to say such a lame response, but Pappas’s home
was out of this world. Literally. It covered at least twenty or thirty thousand square feet,
the building itself a modern, fancy, wood covered spaceship.
“Your house is amazing.”
Pappas smiled. “Thank you. Would you like a quick tour?”
She nodded. All around the place, there were desert-like plants dotting the floor.
Windows were as big as walls. Entering through the side gate, Pappas showed her out to
his backyard.
“You can use whatever you want. I’ll show you the controls for the lights on the
pool.”
The pool was a slender infinity pool connected to a Jacuzzi, them together
presenting a neat rectangle. Pappas led her through what she’d thought was a glass wall,
but turned out to be a giant sliding glass door as tall as the ceiling running along the span
of the kitchen and living room.
“Down that way is a guest room and my office upstairs.” Past all the Murano
glass and simplistic neutral colored furniture lay a door and a staircase. “Over there is the
garage where you can park your car and my bedroom.”
He led her downstairs, the wall down to the bottom floor all glass, a mirror image
staircase outside to a courtyard on the same level as the bottom floor.
“Here we have an entertainment room, an exercise room, and some bedrooms and
a music room.”
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They were standing in the entertainment room, complete with modular couches
and a projector screen. To their left lay the exercise room, and the music and guest rooms
to the right.
“Oh, and a sauna.” He pointed to a door on the hallway to the bedrooms. Turning
to her, he smiled. “Any questions?”
“Am I really staying here?”
He laughed. “Yup.” He patted her back. “I’ll just be a few minutes getting
finished packing. I’m set to watch Mr. Sampson, God bless the poor old man. Feel free to
get settled in the guestroom by my office; it’s the nicest room.”
“Thank you so much, Inspector Pappas.”
Once Rose had set her bag in her room, she pulled out her cell. After texting
Ariadne, she ran up to Pappas’s office and locked the door.
Taking a deep breath, she located Pappas’s laptop and opened it up, relieved that
he left it logged on.
“Alright, now does he have Skype?” Ariadne asked from Rose’s speakerphone.
“Yup.”
“Turn it on and tell me his username.”
Once the information was given, Rose accepted Ariadne’s screenshare request.
“Won’t he notice this?” Rose asked.
“So long as he doesn’t suspect, he won’t go sniffing through.”
She watched for what felt like hours as Ariadne’s ghost mouse opened up
documents, closed them down, and mumbled to herself through the phone call. Rose’s
ears perked when she heard Pappas’s footsteps from the kitchen.
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“I gotta go!”
“We’re done here.”
Shutting down every program she’d opened up, Rose closed the laptop and rushed
out of the office. By the time Pappas reached Rose’s guestroom, she had a couple articles
of clothing out and on the bed.
“I’ll be leaving once I grab my laptop. Once again, thank you so much for your
help.”
“Thanks for offering me this job. It means a lot.”
“Anytime.” He left her with a wink.
With tired eyes, Rose watched Pappas drive away. Waiting ten minutes, Rose
invited Sven and Dorian into the house.
The boys stared with shocked and hungry eyes, neither of them having ever been
to a house this luxurious.
“Who owns this house?” Dorian asked as he ran his hand through the infinity
pool.
“An Interpol agent. Well, I don’t know if agent is the right word…an international
police officer.”
Sven raised an eyebrow. “Policemen don’t make that much money. How could he
afford this?”
Rose shrugged. “Maybe he came from a rich family.”
“Strange.”
Rose rolled her eyes. “Conspiracy Theory Man speaks again.”
Sven grinned. “For the record, my theories are almost always right.”
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Dorian seethed. “Whoa there, mate. Never use the word ‘almost’ with the ladies.
You could have almost gotten a boner when you two wanted to get weird, but it sure as
hell doesn’t mean you did.”
For a moment, Rose and Sven stared at their Australian friend. “What?” Rose
finally asked.
He shook the water off his hand. “Just giving the boy some woman tips, Rosie. I
can give you some too if you’d like.”
“I’m good.”
“I say we have a hot tub movie party tonight,” Dorian announced.
“We’re pulling a day long heist. I don’t know if that’s realistic.”
Dorian gave her a dismissive wave. “You’re still a party pooper.” He turned to
Sven. “So Sven, have you accomplished everything on your pre-college bucket list?”
“I didn’t even know I was supposed to have a pre-college bucket list.”
Dorian rolled his eyes. “You guys have your phones?”
Rose shook her head and Sven pulled his out of his pocket. Dorian snatched the
phone out of his name and threw it into the sole grass patch in Pappas’s backyard.
“Stuff like this.”
Before either of them could properly react, Dorian grabbed onto them and ran into
the pool. Pulling their shivering bodies out the pool, Sven and Rose glared at him.
“What the hell was that?” Sven demanded as he threw his sopping hoodie to the
floor.
Rose did the same, soon realizing that it was a horrible day to wear a white shirt.
“Sven, your shirt’s pretty bad too,” Dorian joked.
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“You just want to me to strip because you don’t think I could do it.”
Dorian smirked. “Nope, I don’t. Go ahead, Evans. Do it.”
“No. I do have self respect.”
Dorian laughed. “And who gives a shit? Not me. Not your ex. C’mon Evans,
remind her what’s she’s missing out on.”
“No Dorian, it’s okay,” Rose said as she pulled her shoes and socks off.
She stared moving toward the house, desperately in need of some fresh clothing.
Sven saw her leaving, and, although he wasn’t sure exactly why, took Dorian up on his
dare.
“Fine Dorian, I’ll get dirty.”
Dorian laughed as Sven pulled his shirt off, revealing his getting toned abs and
arms.
“You’re still wearing pants, mate.”
Shaking his head, Sven danced out of his skinny jeans, leaving him in a pair of
damp, clingy black boxers. Rose stopped.
Dorian wolf whistled. “Now take off those panties!”
Rose felt herself blushing madly, so she took that as the opportune moment to run
out into the house.
Her own panic caused her to slam the door. Instead of checking on the poor
(expensive) door, she pulled the curtains over the glass door and last glimpses at the boys
outside, and jumped into the shower to clean off the chlorine.
Stop thinking about it, Rose! You’re not with Sven anymore. You can’t be thinking
of him like that.
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In truth, she had been totally attracted to Sven in those moments, perhaps even
more than seeing Finn completely naked. It took all her willpower not to rip those
“panties” off herself. No matter how hard she scrubbed, she couldn’t get the crusted
shame off.
You’re with Finn. He might love you. You might love him too. You have to meet
more guys than just Sven.
Her skin was beginning to redden, but she wasn’t sure if it was because of the
scrubbing or the burning hot water she hadn’t adjusted yet.
Think about how you felt with Finn in bed. You felt cared for, it felt meaningful.
Intimacy with Sven never felt that way. You made the right choice.
She turned the shower off with her skin stinging. One look in the mirror and she
could see all her scars: the sewn cleft lip, the healed slit on her throat, the burn from the
ink. She couldn’t see the scar from Maul Mason’s, but quickly remembered that it was an
internal scar; she’d lost her best friend and lust for life.
It hurt her to admit it, yet the pain somehow felt good. I lost my lust for life, she
repeated over and over again in her head.
The masochistic thoughts quickly turned sour, causing Rose to throw on her
clothes and go looking for a distraction. Luckily, she had failed to unpack, so she filled
the time with putting her clothes into the floor to ceiling cabinet across from the bed.
One opened door and her eyes were shining.
There was a secret door inside the closet door.
Dropping her clothes, she walked inside the closet and pushed the door open. The
“secret room” was tiny, and contained only one thing.
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A safe.
A safe with an old fashioned combination lock attached to it. A smile spread
across her face with an intensity she didn’t recognize. She pulled her phone off the bed
and sat it down with the Notes app open.
Starting by pulling the dial up and finding its sticking spots, she got 1, 3.5, 4.5, 5,
7.5, 9.5, 12.5, 15, 15.5, 16.5, 25, and 35. Eliminating the seven .5 numbers, she was left
with 1, 5, 15, 25, and 35. She took 1, the sole number that didn’t end in 5, and divided it
by the protocol 4. With a remainder of 1, she wrote that down as the third number in the
combination. For the first number, she took one, added four, and did the same process as
the second number.
Her final options were 5, 9, 13, 17, 21, 25, 29 and 33 for the first number. For the
second number, she subtracted two from three, getting her one. Since the one was one of
the exceptions her father taught her, she added two to it. From there, she added four to
her two and wrote down all the possibilities.
Her final options were:
5, 9, 13, 17, 21, 25, 29, 33
6, 10, 14, 18, 22, 26, 30, 34
1
After about ten minutes, she popped open the safe with 17-6-1. She wasn’t sure
why, but she was expecting something of monetary value to be locked up. Instead, she
found a moleskin journal.
3-14-1990
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I could never forget her. Gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous. Long, thick, hair the color of
dark chocolate. Light brown eyes with the eyelashes mascara commercials wish they could
have. Perfect, pink heart shaped lips with pearl white teeth. A cute nose. Slightly arched
dark eyebrows, giving her a quizzical expression even with a straight face. Model
cheekbones.
She smiled at me today, and her smile is dazzling. She was just wearing jeans, boots,
and a sweater, but I can tell already that her body is just as breath taking as her face.
Mr. Sampson asked me if I wanted to work with her today. He had me ask her if I
wanted join. She smiled at me, put a hand on my shoulder, and told me sure.
Her voice so sweet.
God, I must be the luckiest rookie ever. For the next few months, it’ll just be me and
Inspector Bianca Moretti.
Rose gasped. Thoughts flooded into her mind, but she shut them out in order to
keep reading.
6-24-91
Bianca is so much more than I ever imagined. More than a year has passed, and my
infatuation has not dimmed a wink. I feel like I’m walking on clouds. Bianca’s like a tornado:
unstoppable, with a personality that one simply can’t ignore. She speaks her mind. In fact,
she’ll even speak her mind when regarding me. Apparently, the James Bond pocket gun I
purchased a few weeks ago is a woman’s gun, and no one will take me seriously if I whip it
out.
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Sure, most men would hate this kind of belittlement, but I appreciate it. I’ve been
meaning to ask her about her past love life, but never muster up the courage. Yesterday, she
asked me if I had a girlfriend. I blushed and told her my love life has been far from successful.
She laughed and asked me what was wrong with all the girls I hung out with.
She has no idea how much that made me glow.
As well, each day has presented itself as a time of learning. Not only am I learning
about criminals, how they think and operate, the ways of the street, and the words of the law,
but I learn more and more about my partner each day.
She’s a painter. She paints urban landscape, and it’s absolutely amazing. She set up a
studio back at her house, and honestly picks bricks off of the street and will paint on them
when we get free time. When she’s frustrated, she takes paint and flings it onto canvases.
She’s given me two paintings so far…one landscape of some city in Germany and splatter
paint done when she was training me (I guess I’m not that easy to teach).
Her family’s from Venice, which I think is possibly the coolest thing ever. She even
showed me the house her parents lived in before moving to America. Obviously, her Italian
is flawless, as is her French. I swear, she’s like a character out of a romance novel.
Today’s had a weird taste to it. We’re currently in the United States—San Francisco.
She’s worried. She’s got this crease in her brow like what she gets when she gets assigned a
really messy case.
I asked her what was going on, and she said that it’s been too quiet. I was thrown
aback when she said this. How could she be so stressed if things were quiet?
When I questioned her, she told me that it’s always calm before the storm.
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Rose sighed. She really didn’t know much about her mother. Sure, their house had
been full of paintings, but Rose never knew that they were her mother’s. When had she
stopped painting? Had it had something to do with her father? She shook her head. Her
father loved her mother; why would he have discouraged her from being creative and
doing something she loved? She wondered where those brick paintings were.
1-12-92
I asked Bianca out today. She said yes.
1-13-92
I don’t think the date could’ve gone more perfect. I took her out to some upscale
steakhouse here in the States. She wore the most dazzling deep blue dress, and I think my
heart stopped. She smiled when she first saw my face, and I couldn’t believe that her perfect
smile was for me.
After we drank a bit and got over the fluffy conversation, she leaned into me, took my
hands, and grinned. She told me that coworkers shouldn’t date. I wasn’t sure what she was
going to do next, but she ended up looking right into my eyes and telling me that she didn’t
care. I leaned in and kissed her.
Her lips tasted like wine and Heaven.
When we pulled away, I saw a little pink in her cheeks.
She looked down at our hands before meeting my gaze. Her eyes seemed to sparkle.
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“I think we should go back to your place after this,” she said as she stroked my hand.
No, we didn’t make love that night, but I could feel the fire coursing through us as we
kissed, bodies entangled, nothing but silence around us.
2-13-92
She said she loved me today. I told her that I loved her too.
1-13-94
It’s Bianca and my two-year anniversary, but she doesn’t seem that into it. We’re in
London right now. She’s snappy.
You remember that storm? Yeah, I finally found it. His name is Logan Crowe.
He’s this young guy, maybe my age, and he’s a legend around these parts. Moves like
a ghost, with even less evidence. Even Bianca can’t figure out his motives, and she’s been
working with criminals for years. She’s seen him once. Apparently, they got eye to eye on a
busy street. He walked right past her and winked at her.
Based on the few photos we’ve gotten of the guy, he’s a good-looking guy too.
I know I shouldn’t be worried, but the allure of those mysterious guys is
overwhelming for women.
I’m really stressing myself out. You know what, I really shouldn’t be so worried.
Bianca would never stray from me. I mean, I may not be Logan Crowe, but I’m not bad
looking.
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What am I saying? Logan Crowe is a goddamn criminal. Bianca would never go for
a guy like that. Bianca has more self-respect than to go for scum like him.
1-18-94
Logan Crowe has officially left London. Bianca was so pissed. Apparently, she just
missed him. When we walked into the last place he’d been seen, we found a low life gangster
named Jack Gray. None of us could figure out why, but Crowe had literally bashed this guy’s
head in. No, he wasn’t dead when we found him. Comatose. They say he has a 50/50 chance
of survival. We’d heard some revolting things about him, but it still isn’t clear what Crowe
had against the guy.
I guess this Crowe guy is a bit more work than we thought.
I’m worried about Bianca. If she’s so mad today, is this going to turn into some
obsession?
2-13-94
It’s cold as hell here. We’re in Paris. Someone spotted Crowe again. Today’s case is
actually pretty interesting: it looks like his target is a slick nightclub owner named Julien
Lousteau. Lousteau is rumored to have a chain of child prostitutes under his wing, but
there’s been no real evidence to suggest it.
Oh, and Crowe had another meeting with Bianca. He told her that she looked
beautiful that day and disappeared into a crowd. Bianca came home cursing and screaming,
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unable to believe that she was so close and let him get away. I held her in my arms and
watched her hold back tears.
Damn, this guy is really messing with her.
Or she’s on her period, but I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.
2-14-94
Crowe struck again. Julien Lousteau was found unconscious after being electrocuted
with a ring…no this doesn’t really make sense to me, but it is Julien Lousteau (rumored to be
a pretty weird guy). Oh, and his nightclub now has a gaping hole in it where a disco ball fell
and broke the floor. There WAS money in there, but not anymore.
I’m guessing Logan Crowe is counting his loot. Disgusting son of a bitch.
2-17-94
Just cleaning up after the Lousteau mission. Bianca’s been trying to find connections
between Gray and Lousteau so we could try to predict Crowe’s next move. We figured it out
today.
Both Jack Gray and Julien Lousteau belong to a criminal group called the Erudires
(pronounced er as in grr – oo- di as in dye rr).
3-5-94
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I asked Bianca to marry me today. She said yes.
I think this is the happiest day of my life.
3-7-94
I asked her about planning the wedding. She motioned a hand at me and told me that
she had to try to find Logan Crowe. I wanted to get mad, but I couldn’t make my angel
unhappy.
3-17-94
We had our first fight. I finally told her that I felt like she cared more about Logan
Crowe than me, and she blew up. She said that she was simply putting work before personal
affairs and I accused her of caring more about a bunch of criminals than me. She told me to
leave, but invited me back in with tears running down her face. She hugged me and told me
that she was sorry.
3-25-94
She found a lead on Logan Crowe. He’s in Turkey. We were supposed to sit down
and discuss the wedding today, but I guess that’s not gonna happen. Maybe tomorrow.
3-26-94
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We fought again today.
3-27-94
And today.
3-28-94
Another fight. I’m sleeping in the streets of Turkey tonight.
3-29-94
I tried to apologize, but she’s still not buying it. I can’t even remember what we were
fighting about. I’m getting a hotel room, I guess.
3-31-94
She dropped the ring on my doorstep today. Told me we were better off as just work
partners. I’m not an emotional guy, but I haven’t stopped crying yet.
4-2-94
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There was a huge masquerade last night. I mean, HUGE. All hosted by our target
Patrick Astello. The guy’s a real girl: diamonds everywhere, fancy fabrics swishing from the
ceiling, and every person required to put on a masquerade getup.
Bianca looked gorgeous, but that’s no news. We’re supposed to be arresting Astello
tonight, but we’ll just have to see when the opportune moment comes. Bianca’s supposed to
give me and the other Interpol workers a sign.
When I looked out on the dance floor, Bianca was dancing a stranger. It was mind
boggling how well they danced together. It was like they were mechanically made so they
could dance in synch. Once their dance finished, they whispered to each other and snuck out.
A couple hours later, a whole load of drugs magically fell from the ceiling, the only
slight leads being two teenagers running away from the scene. The kids were lucky that we
were too occupied with arresting Astello to care.
No signs of Logan Crowe.
I hoped Bianca was alright, wherever she was…with whoever she was with.
5-26-94
Today, I received a wedding invitation.
It was from Bianca.
She’s getting married to Logan Crowe.
I’ve lost all sense of my life, starting now.
7-94
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I don’t want to remember the date. It was July, and that’s all the matters. July—the
month when my heart was torn from my chest. I sat next to my fellow Interpol workers—
Mr. Sampson, Frank Belk, a new guy named James. I suppose the wedding was beautiful.
Bianca was breath taking, but that’s nothing new.
Most people cry at weddings, but they cry out of happiness.
No one noticed me crying out of sorrow.
10-1-95
I’m in the hospital. Bianca’s daughter was born today. I don’t know why she invited
me to come, but here I am. The little girl was born a few weeks early, so she’s smaller than
most babies, but she’s beautiful. Easily as beautiful as her mother.
Crowe and I exchanged a few glances, but nothing more. There have been talks
about having Crowe do more than the undercover work he’s been doing. To say the least, it’s
been excruciatingly painful to watch those two work together, even if it is only for a few
minutes at a time.
Looking at Crowe, I want to hate his child. I want to hate her as much as I hate him.
But she has Bianca in her. She has the woman I love in her.
For that reason, and that reason alone, I wish Bianca’s baby girl all the best in the
world.
2-15-96
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Logan Crowe has received immunity. Full immunity. It’s as if he did no crime at all.
Mr. Sampson is the biggest pussy I’ve ever met. I hope he steps down soon. If not, I’d
rather watch him go down than this whole sect.
2-16-96
Bianca stepped down in order to pursue a career as a mother. Not to say I blame her;
maybe she saw the corruption with Sampson. Crowe took little James on as his apprentice, or
Sith apprentice, as young Mr. Carver insists on being referred to as.
8-26-11
Bianca died today.
I went to her funeral. I know she didn’t die from a household accident.
I don’t trust Crowe. I never have. I’ll never forgive him for what he did to me. He’s a
criminal, and will remain one until he takes his last breath. I don’t care what it takes, but I
will have justice served. The world just doesn’t need to make room for another corrupt soul
walking the streets.
Rose shut the book and put her fingers to her face. She was crying.
“Rose!”
She wasn’t sure if it was Sven or Dorian calling, but didn’t care.
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Despite all she knew about the good in her father and the love he gave her, she
still cried for Pappas and his lost love. No one deserved to be crushed like that.
376
Chapter 24
Meaningless Teen Angst
When Rose did finally emerge from the bedroom she’d locked herself in, Sven
couldn’t keep his eyes off her. For a long moment that probably lasted hours, he
wondered if he really should’ve come to this near empty house with Dorian and the girl
he still loved.
So, in order to keep his gaze from Rose, he focused on Dorian, even if Dorian had
just made him strip down to his underwear for seemingly no reason.
“So how’s your family?” he asked Dorian.
Rose glanced over at the boys for a moment. Dorian shrugged. “Dad’s just…eh.
He’s never really had much of a life. Lately, he’ll just yell at me if something really bad
happens. He’s sad that I’m leaving Perth, but I know he’s really excited that I’m making
something of my life.”
“Are you gonna go on scholarship?”
“Yup.”
Sven nodded. “I’m not on financial aid, and it’s so weird. Like, this whole
financial change has been really recent.” He crossed his arms. “It still doesn’t feel right,
though.”
Dorian raised an eyebrow. “Why do you care?”
Sven reached for the open bag of chips Dorian brought. “All my life, I firmly
believed that taking stuff for free is the lazy way out. Since I can’t say I worked directly
for my college money, I don’t feel right accepting it from my aunt.”
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Dorian shook his head. “You’ll be a good family man, but until then, you’re
crazy.”
Sven rolled his eyes. “Gee, thanks.”
Dorian pulled the bag closer to himself. “When’s the final decision day?”
“May 1st.”
Dorian chewed thoughtfully. “Not too far from now.”
“Not at all. Are you sad to be leaving Perth?”
Dorian shook his head. “I really like America. I’m hoping to one day become a
dual citizen. Hey, why don’t you ever talk about your parents?”
Sven shrugged. “Cause emotionally, I don’t have any aside from maybe Aunt
Ariadne.”
“Where are they?”
He sighed. “Tricia is wandering somewhere around the United States, and Dennis
is sitting at home in Aliceville, Alabama with his young wife and two young kids.”
Dorian clicked his tongue. “You are clearly not their biggest fan.”
Sven took another chip. “You wouldn’t be a huge fan of a guy who tells your
half-siblings that you are their cousin and deny all relationships and when confronted,
punches you in the fucking face and nearly breaks your cheek.”
Dorian’s eyes widened. “Shit mate, I had no idea. Sounds like your old man’s a
regular SOB.”
“Grandmother isn’t the problem. Yeah, he’s an asshole, but the family has begun
cutting him out of the picture. I’m sure he’ll be fully gone once Al and Gabriella can
drive themselves to familial events.”
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“Do you ever wonder what life would be like if you had a stable mother and a
stable father?”
Rose’s full attention fell on Dorian and Sven.
Sven shrugged. “I don’t like wallowing in ‘what if.’ At one point, I did have a
stable father. It ended, but I know what it’s like. Aunt Ariadne has treated me just as good
as any stable mother, so I know what that feels like. I don’t need more than that.”
Dorian leaned back in his seat. “I wonder what having a mum is like. I guess I’m
hoping if I surround myself with enough girls I’ll learn. Maybe if I have a kid or two, I’ll
learn from my wife.”
The boys turned to Rose. “It’s the easiest thing to take for granted, and the hardest
thing to lose.”
“You worried about your dad?” Dorian confirmed.
She nodded and turned back to the TV. Against all better judgment, Sven still felt
a need to comfort his friend. They exchanged a wordless stare, but nothing more. If he
knew his ex well enough, then he knew sometimes talking just wasn’t her thing.
All that talk about fathers had gotten him thinking. Despite all the setbacks of
their family lives, Rose and Dorian always had a dad. Rose for sure had a pretty damn
good dad. Ever since Mrs. Crowe had died, Mr. Crowe had always been there for her;
he’d certainly had enough time around the house to notice. Sure, their relationship wasn’t
perfect and he was sure that he couldn’t fully fill the mother figure, but it was still a
functioning relationship.
Sure, he loved his aunt and all that she did for him, but he did wonder sometimes
about what a father figure would be like. Despite how much he did love his uncles (and
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even Corydon sometimes), he’d never felt particularly close enough with any of them that
he’d talk to them. And, although Corydon did give a unique brand of 90s youth inspired
Ontario view of the world, there just wasn’t enough time for them to get to know each
other well.
So, for the time being, Corydon would remain his mother’s figure’s husband. If
one day he did become a father figure, Sven wouldn’t stop it. Still, the thought of no
instant gratification was a bumming one.
Dorian’s comment about his wife teaching him about a mother figure hit him
home. What would his children be like? Would he be a good dad? Would he better than
his father was? He sure didn’t want to end up like his dad. He knew he’d never want his
kids to end up like him.
He glanced at Rose.
Was it even in the realm of possibility that Rose could ever be the mother of his
children? If he thought too much about it, he could even imagine their children. He could
imagine the banter it would take to name the kids, about how his daughter would tag on
his late mother-in-law’s name. He didn’t mind the thought of that.
*
*
*
Itching to get away from the awkward air between the exes, Dorian decided to go
exploring. With the modern layout, there wasn’t much green in the backyard, but he
figured it was worth a little walk.
Ten minutes walking in circles around the grass by the side door, and Dorian was
bored out of his mind. He glanced down at the green outside the basement level. Maybe
there was some interesting hiding places down there.
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As soon as he reached the last step, something caught his eye.
Despite a distinct lack of palm trees, there was a giant palm leaf covering a
portion of the green in corner of the area. When he pulled the palm leaf off, it revealed a
giant hole.
Like, giant. Like the holes from that book about holes. What was it? Five feet
diameter and five feet deep? Yeah, the hole looked like one of those. Well, except it
wasn’t a circle, but a rectangle. A shiver ran down Dorian’s spine as he realized that it
looked exactly like a hole that gravediggers made.
He called Sven and Rose out to look.
Sven’s first reaction was to jump in the hole. “Maybe there’s some treasure down
here!”
Rose rolled her eyes. If Sven wanted treasure, the only thing he’d get would be a
notebook full of Pappas’s relationship failures.
“You could check if you want, I guess,” Rose commented.
Dorian licked his lips. “This is seriously whack. Who puts a giant hole in their
backyard?”
Sven smirked. “Maybe he was burying a body.”
“Then where’s the body?”
Sven made a shocked face. “He must’ve burned the body and stores the ashes in,”
he pointed to the fire pit, “those red fireplace crystals!”
Dorian and Rose laughed. “You are so weird,” Dorian commented, patting his
back.
Rose smiled. “He was a lot worse freshman year.”
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Sven blanched. “Please don’t bring that up again.”
Dorian nudged him. “Ey boy, wǒ de wánjù zài nǎlǐ?”
Sven just stared. “What the fecking hell did you just say?”
“Cannibal speech,” Dorian answered.
Rose smirked. “That didn’t sound like Greek.” Sven and Rose laughed, leaving
Dorian silent. “But seriously, what’s up with the hole?”
Sven and Dorian shrugged.
“Extraterrestres!” Sven suggested.
“Is that the only Spanish word you know?”
“Yo recibo el bizcocho de los extraterrestres cuando yo muestro los chichis de
una puta.”
She patted his shoulder. “Good to know, dork. You gonna finally pass the OPI?”
Sven grinned. “I passed the day before Spring Break.”
Rose shared his smile and hugged him. “I knew you could do it!”
It only took a second or two before Dorian felt a need to make a comment. “Whoa
lovebirds, there are children here.”
Rose pulled away from Sven as if she were inhaling poison coming off his skin,
blushing madly.
“Jeez, I didn’t think I was that repulsive,” Sven joked, rubbing the back of his
neck.
“I’m sorry,” she said before walking back into the house.
To her surprise, it was Dorian who found her first.
“Chica, we gotta chat,” he said, sitting beside her.
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“About what?”
“Don’t play stupid. You and Sven are seriously messed up around each other.
What’s even wrong?”
She gave him a look. “You’d know as well as I would.”
“So Sven obviously still loves you. Do you?”
She felt a lump rise in her throat; for the first time since breaking up with him, she
wasn’t sure. “I’m with Finn. We slept together. I can’t just leave him.”
“Does he know you’re with your ex now?”
“He said we were taking a breather.”
“Then why not give Evans another chance?”
“Because I don’t love him anymore. Because I won’t do anything if it’s even
relatively like cheating.”
He put a hand on her shoulder. “I can tell when you’re lying.”
“I’m not lying. I just—I—”
He removed his hand. “You don’t know what you want.”
She swallowed. “No.”
Dorian shrugged. “I don’t know about you, but I get the vibes that you want Sven,
sweetie.”
She shook her head. “I can’t just leave Finn like that. Our relationship is just
getting started. We’re going to UC Davis together next year.”
“Or you and Sven could go to Colorado College together…”
She shook her head. “Sven won’t go to CC.”
383
“What makes you say that? If he was so dead-set on going to some school in
Tennessee, I think he would’ve already mailed his stuff in. Clearly he’s just as willing to
go to Colorado as Tennessee. Maybe it’d be good if you could see him in an environment
that isn’t Cali.”
“Dammit, Dorian, don’t you get it? I don’t want to rekindle my relationship with
Sven! I want to give my current boyfriend my all. I’m over Sven, and it’s getting really
goddamn annoying that you can’t let me move on.”
He shrugged. “I’m only going off my observations. You and Sven clearly still like
each other. Did you tell your beau that you loved him when you two had sex?”
She hesitated. “No.”
“Then I suppose you can’t love him all that much.”
She turned away from him. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“As soon as I got back to Perth after sophomore year, I tried getting over Bella. I
dated other girls, kissed other girls, slept with other girls. All I wanted was to love
another girl, someone whom I could actually see. I never could. Before we came here, I
kissed Bella when I found her at the market. Maybe nothing will ever come out of it, but
it’s one thing I don’t regret. Not all high school relationships are silly.”
Rose blocked out his words and walked back outside and collapsed into one of the
lounge chairs.
“Rose?”
She huffed. “What? Can’t you two see that I just wanna be alone?”
Sven shuffled his feet. “I just wanted to get your opinion on something.
Something kinda important.”
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She spared him some eye contact. “What is it?”
“College.”
She’d been dreading this question, and he the same. “What about it?”
“Should I go to Rhodes or CC?”
Rose swallowed. Rhodes was a small liberal arts college in Tennessee. She
couldn’t remember Sven really enjoying Colorado during the road trip last year. Then
again, that road trip had been…well, not great. What did he do when they reached
Aspen? Oh yeah, watched the crazy neighbor’s cat with a shotgun. If he wasn’t a skier, it
might not be as fun for him to go to Colorado, especially if he had the option of going to
a not ski college.
Plus, Sven was a Southern guy. It was just a part of him: the pro-America thought
process, the conservative values, the devout Catholicism, and the appreciation for rolling
fields and fried food. She’d heard him talk about Alabama all the time when they were
together. It would probably help him if he spent another few years back in the South.
And…well…if he went to Rhodes, she wouldn’t have to worry about having an
awkward meeting with him if she ever transferred to CC. In fact, the likelihood that he
ever saw him would only be when they came home for summer and Christmas. She could
handle that kind of time with Sven. She’d have her devotion to Finn sorted out by then.
She could just see him as a friend, and she was sure that he’d meet a nice Southern girl in
Tennessee and not worry about her like that anymore.
“I think you should go to Rhodes,” she finally said.
“Even if it means that we wouldn’t see each other often?”
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He didn’t sound particularly upset, but he was an actor. Rose studied him, hoping
to find some kink in his poker face. “I think it might be good if we really go where we
want to go. I can tell that you want to go to Tennessee.”
He nodded. “Does that mean you’re going to CC?”
Rose crinkled her brow. “When did you hear that?”
“Well, if you’re going to a college you want to go to, I figured you’d go to CC.
You were so excited when you learned that you got in.”
Rose shook her head. “I’m going to UC Davis.”
He bit his lip. “I thought you didn’t like big schools.”
She rubbed the back of her neck. “I want to try something new.”
“I guess it’s your life.” He paused. “Are you sure that you’re making it for the
right reasons?”
“Yes Sven, I am. Could you drop it?”
“What does UC Davis have to offer?”
She nearly tripped her words, but caught herself. “They have a great education
program—”
“I thought you wanted to go to John Hopkins for grad school.”
“You’re assuming I can even get in. Anyway, they have a great education
program and it’s right by my mom’s family, whom I never see. So I’d visit them more
often, get to see Davis, and still be close enough to my dad to see him. Plus, Finn said I
could room with him in his apartment.”
“Realistically, you know those arrangements usually never work out.”
“Thanks for the concern, but we’ll be okay.”
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“Whatever you say. I just think you’d have more fun at Colorado College, even if
we don’t end up going together. You really like going to Colorado and the college is
really cool.” He swallowed. “I just hope you know what you’re getting yourself into.”
“I do, Sven. It’s okay.” Rose glanced over at Sven’s watch, touching his hand for
the first time in months. She felt her cheeks go red, but ignored it. “They should be
calling with the combination for Pappas’s briefcase soon.”
“Hm. Do you know where it is?”
“Yeah, it’s up in his office.”
He hesitated. “Rose?”
“Yeah?”
He looked her right in the eyes. “Just so you know, if you ever feel down or lost
or lonely or anything, remember that I’ll always be here for you. You’ve been the best
friend anyone could ever wish for.”
He leaned over, kissed her cheek, and walked off to explore some other part of the
house. Rose touched her fingertips to the spot he kissed her.
It left her stiff and cold, yet it felt overwhelmingly warm.
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Chapter 25
Last Chance
“Are we doing this right?” Erin asked Ariadne as she shifted her sweaty hand
from one position to another.
“Well, I think the main goal of holding hands is to hold hands, sooo…”
Erin dropped Ariadne’s hand. “Screw this! You aren’t taking this seriously.”
Ariadne resisted rolling her eyes. “I don’t think we’ll be discovered based on how
well we can pretend to be lesbians.” She turned to Crowe. “Right, Logan?”
“As long as you two don’t attract unnecessary attention.”
Both women stopped joking as soon as they heard his tone. It was…given up,
almost. Hollow.
“Logan, keep faith. This has great chances of succeeding,” Erin encouraged.
“Totes,” Ariadne added.
He rapped his fingers against the steering wheel. “It just feels wrong. Like,
something in my gut is telling me we shouldn’t do this.”
Erin snorted. “And instead wait like sitting ducks until Pappas arrests you?”
“At least I’d be arrested as an honest man.”
Ariadne stuck a pacifier into Teo’s mouth. “Bro, I think you stopped fitting the
honest man label a couple decades ago.”
“But at least I didn’t resist what was coming for me.”
Erin rolled her eyes and attempted to give her fake partner a kiss on the mouth,
which only came out as overwhelmingly awkward.
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“Please, for the love of God, stop!” Ariadne pleaded. “Here.”
Without batting an eyelash, Ariadne planted a peck on Erin’s lips, and pulled
away casually.
“How the hell do you do that?”
Ariadne shrugged. “I kiss lady lips.” She paused. “On their vaginas.” Erin
shuddered involuntarily. “Jeez, Erin! If you can’t stomach the image of me eating out, I
can’t imagine how wonderful your and Adam’s sex life is.”
“He doesn’t like me touching his parts.”
Ariadne smirked. “He let me…”
Erin knew she meant it as bait, so she left it hanging. “Wait, so Ariadne’s making
the switch and hacking? What am I doing? What are you doing?”
“Here, Erin, you make the switch. Ari, you still hack. I’m instructing Rose.”
Ariadne stroked Teo’s head. “Oh, don’t make me feel important by assigning
meaningless job switches. We all know how well that went at the crazy bitch’s house.”
“Me?” Erin asked.
“No, not you!”
In a moment of boredom, Crowe glanced back and met eyes with Teo. “I can’t
believe you seriously brought your kid on this heist.”
“Oh, because it’s not like you bring your kid on every single fucking heist or
anything!”
“My kid is a teenager!”
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“You wanna know the difference between teenagers and babies? It’s years alive,
because you know what? They both spend a vast majority of their time crying, screaming,
and puking. Great, now that we all have that established, I think I deserve an apology.”
“For what?”
“Insulting my baby’s usefulness.”
“He’s eight months old!”
“So?”
He gripped the wheel tighter. “Your husband’s a damn saint to put up with you.”
“Thanks, Logie Bear.”
“Lemme try again!” Erin announced before putting Ariadne into a French kiss,
somehow ten times worse than the kiss they’d shared in Aspen.
It took longer than Ariadne imagined to push her off. “Oh my God, just let me do
the PDA! You can stick to hand squeezes!”
“You guys, do you really think this is gonna work?” Crowe asked again.
Both women looked to him in full focus.
“If you keep doubting yourself, we might as well turn around now,” Ariadne
replied.
Erin shook her head. “Logan, do you want to go to jail?”
“No.”
“Then shut up.”
*
*
*
390
Rose lay on the concrete by the pool, too engrossed to go inside and grab a jacket
to avoid the nip in the air. She watched in silence at Sven, who sat back to her on the
roof. She wasn’t sure how he got up there, but it entertained her to think about it.
He was singing a song she didn’t recognize, but spoke of a girl who “needs
support” and how he’s “become the crutch” would “play the game,” but he’s “the
referee.” Even just picking up on the lyrics, she recognized the theme of friendzone-ing.
It was almost physically painful to think that he was probably singing about her.
Even after everything from junior year, she couldn’t help but fall for his voice.
Since day one, it had always been akin to angels, a voice that she’d pay to listen to, even
if it were only for a few lines. She hoped with all her might that he’d get his showbiz
break.
For a moment, she thought about how lucky she’d been to hear him sing. To
have…to hear him sing to her. It was impossible to count how many girls wished that
they had a boyfriend who could sing, and sing as well as him. She could still clearly
remember the butterflies in her stomach whenever he sang classic love songs to her. She
could even boast that a boy had sung such songs as ‘A Heart Full of Love’ and ‘All I Ask
of You’ directly to her.
Despite all of Sven’s setbacks, he knew how to profess his feelings. She felt
herself wincing at how un-romantic her first time had been, especially when compared to
her first official kiss with Sven on that broken train.
To think she was about to be dealing with another train in what could be a few
minutes…
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She shook her head. She hadn’t even wanted something romantic for her first
time. Finn did nothing wrong. She needed to stop comparing the two boys. She was with
Finn. Sure, they were taking a breather, but they were going to stay together. Sven was
going to Rhodes, and she and Finn were going to begin their lives in UC Davis.
His song ended, and she closed her eyes, hoping Sven would glaze over her when
he looked out.
With her eyes closed, only one scene stayed in her mind.
A couple minutes before, she’d heard Sven and Dorian talking.
“So…was there any foreplay or anything?”
“We only got to third base. I don’t think you do foreplay.”
“So what did she do?”
“I dunno…kissed me, pulled down my pants, and uh…blew me. Was she supposed
to do something else?”
“No. But damn, Evans! I didn’t think you had it in ya! Did she play you like a
professional? Do any tricks?”
“Dorian, stop it! I don’t know.”
“You’re blushing, mate!”
She never thought about it much, but something about that conversation bothered
her. She knew it shouldn’t; boys would be boys. Yet, she could never imagine Sven
letting some random girl take him to third base for the first time. And the way he talked
about it…she could imagine him being really unsure about it. Sure, he would’ve enjoyed
it, but she could imagine him regretting it later.
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Was it bad that she blamed herself for this incident? If she were still with him, she
could’ve led him there. He wouldn’t have regretted it.
She opened her eyes and forced her brain to focus.
She wasn’t Sven’s girlfriend anymore, and she had no right to think as such.
She replayed his kiss in her head. He’d been so sweet about it, so Sven. Good old
Sven, always being the sweetest guy she ever knew. Even after all the crap she put him
through, he was still willing to be her shoulder to cry on. She’d probably never find
another friend quite like him again.
She rubbed her cheek, as if his warmth would still linger.
Maybe in another life, she thought as she stepped to her feet.
*
*
*
“Ariadne?”
She turned to Erin’s voice, which had broken a fifteen-minute silence.
“Mmhmm?”
She hesitated. “Can we talk about Adam?”
She kept a straight face, but her eyes lit up. “Sure. What do you need to know?”
“So uh…when you dated him…did he uh, he did let you touch him?”
Ariadne licked her lips. “Uh, yeah. Well, it took a little while and in all actuality,
he had on um, ah, a strap on, and I was so excited that I ripped it off and worked on him
directly. He wasn’t thinking happy thoughts, I’m sure, but it felt good to him and guys
just kind of submit themselves when a girl does something that makes em feel good.”
“So he didn’t really say yes?”
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She nodded. “Y’see, up until I got with Cor, I’d always been a very aggressive
straddle-and-go kind of lover. Guys like getting prostitutes because they just know what
they’re doing, and I kind of gave guys that but without AIDS.”
“What changed with Corydon?”
“Do you want me to be blunt?”
“Sure.”
“He uh, he took my hand off his penis and told me to wait until he was done
kissing and caressing me.”
“Aww, that’s so sweet.”
“I guess. He just didn’t really like dominance in general because he lost his
virginity to one of those control freak girls. I mean, he ended up not minding me helping
him a bit, and after a while he started letting me show him my tricks, but he’s always
been set to give me what I give him.” She smiled bashfully. “He’s getting there.”
“So with Adam…Ariadne, I’m not much of an impulsive risk taker.”
Ariadne bit her lip. “So he’s still No Surgery Man?” Erin nodded. “Then tell him
to screw off and if you want to touch your lover’s pleasure centers, you sure as hell will. I
mean, you’re okay with doin’ stuff there, right? It’s just like pleasuring yourself—”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m okay with it.”
“Then have your strap on sex then afterwards take it off and finger him or
something. Look Erin, he’s a guy, if you believe it. Treat him like a guy. I swear that one
trans-man is more masculine in personality than any other guys I’ve known. Hell,
Adam’s more masculine than my husband. So, y’know, if you’re cool with that, treat him
as you would any other XY specimen in this world.”
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“Thanks.”
“Any time.” She smiled. “Isn’t Adam amazing, though? Just like personalitywise? And, y’know, he makes a pretty cute guy too.”
Erin smiled. “Definitely one of my better decisions. And, y’know, he passes really
well. He’s always so proud of himself when he does; it’s cute.”
“Yeah, I was convinced that I could identify with Corydon more if I watched his
Canadian teen drama shows, which of course he later told me that I was watching the
wrong season, but anyway there was a transgender kid on the show and it’s so cool to see
them begin to be more accepted.”
Erin crinkled her brow. “Aren’t you…?”
“Pansexual. Yeah, I think so. The idea of it all is I’m attracted to people not based
on gender. I dunno, I might just be bi and really open. Like, with Adam, I told him up
front that I’d be completely willing to get sexual with him regardless of his
transformation, and at first he thought I was lesbian when we broke up, but really it was
just I didn’t care. I mean, I guess I like men more than women, but I can be a wingman
for either.” She shrugged. “Doesn’t matter now; I’m married and love my husband to
death.”
“Can I be straight?”
“Yes, and I can be a fuzzy panda.”
Erin sighed. “No, I mean being with Adam…”
“In an open world, yes, you’re straight. People on the street think you’re straight.
If you think Adam is a man, you’re straight. Look sweetheart, I think you’re straight and
also have a beautifully kind and accepting soul. It’s the ones who adapt who live. It’s a
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good way to live.” She paused. “I’m proud of you, Erin. Not just getting with Adam, but
cleaning all that shit off your hair and looking professional again. Are you gonna, well,
get a new job once all this blows over?”
She shrugged. “I have some saved money from my heyday and I was thinking of
just waiting to see if Adam proposes and maybe try to have some kids. Seeing you and
Teo, I appreciate your work ethic, but I’d like to focus my every moment on my kids.”
“Would you adopt or get a donor?”
“Could go either way. I mean, I’d like to have my own kids, but maybe it’d be
nice to save a kid and look hot while doing it.”
Ariadne laughed. “Yeah, whoa, first few weeks after giving birth were not my
catwalk days.” She grabbed for where her love handles were. “I will be the first to admit
that I look damn good now, but there’s still a bit of weight I’d like to keep off.”
Erin rubbed her eye. “It’s probably the drinks.”
“Huh?”
“Like how often you drink. It can add a lot.”
*
*
*
You keep showing up in my dreams, Crowe thought as he glanced up at the photo
of Bianca clipped to his visor. Are you causing this? Is this how you live on? I would
believe in ghosts if I could just see you one more time in the flesh.
As he pulled off the freeway and waited at a spotlight, he found himself
mesmerized by her. It was almost as if he were looking into her eyes while she was in the
flesh. The thought of how fuzzy his last memory with her was almost brought a lump to
his throat.
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He was back in his and Bianca’s hotel room from their honeymoon in the south of
France, kissing the same lips he’d come to love over the past few months. It was
electrifying; feeling her soft touch like it had been yesterday. She was whispering things
to him, but he couldn’t understand her. He tried to squeeze her tighter, but suddenly he
wasn’t the man she was about to make love to.
He sat on a chair, facing the king bed with the silk cream sheets and the oil
painting on the wall above it.
He tried to peer in, but a hand fell on his shoulder. He glanced over and found
himself staring at Bianca, standing in a thin white robe, her dark hair disheveled yet
perfect. She wore no makeup.
“Do you remember this night, Lo?”
She was the only one to call her Lo. He reached his hand out to grasp hers. “I do.
It was the first night we made love after getting married.”
“It was incredible.”
He smiled. “Without a doubt. You were so beautiful, and I loved you so much.”
He looked up. “I still do. Every day.”
“How’s our baby?”
“Great.”
Bianca bit her lip. “You’re lying to me.”
His hand was inches from hers. “Why would I?”
She crossed her arms, pulling her hand away from his grasp. “She isn’t great.
You can’t lie to me. You’ve never been able to.”
“She’s fine, Bee. I promise.”
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“She’s not happy, Logan. If you’d take one second away from yourself, you’d see
that.”
“Bee, please…”
“No. I can’t believe what you’ve turned into. If you really loved me, you’d be
trying damn harder to be a good father for my daughter.”
“The accusations…”
“You deserve to go to jail for what you did. You broke the law. I won’t harbor a
fugitive.”
And she was gone.
Crowe stiffened when he heard one of the girls tell him to “get his ass moving.”
He shook his head and let go of the break.
You deserve to go to jail.
Did she really think he deserved to go to jail? He couldn’t remember exactly
when he’d heard her say that before, but he figured it was significant enough.
You deserve to go to jail.
Was she right about Rose? Was she really unhappy? He’d failed to ask Ariadne if
she knew anything about Rose and Finn (which, considering Rose’s choice in people to
tell, was likely to get some results). He really hadn’t talked to her at all about Finn. Had
he? God, he couldn’t remember a single clear conversation with Rose in weeks.
Why would she be unhappy? Was it because of college? Because of something
Finn did? Something completely different?
Was it him?
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He took a hand off the wheel so he could rub his temple. Of course it was him.
What else could upset a kid more than her father potentially going to prison while her
mother was dead? Did it matter that she was going to college? It was a complete loss of
support, and even though she was strong, she was not strong enough to not have any
parents.
At a stop sign, he glanced back.
Erin would be fine if he went to jail. She wasn’t even really involved.
But then there was Ariadne.
He couldn’t stand the thought that she was so involved in this. She really had been
so young when he started her off. She’d been so timid, yet so loyal. She didn’t let her fear
get in the way of all the jobs he made her do. Despite all that he put her through, she
turned her life around. She had a loving husband, beautiful baby boy, and was probably
notches away from finally getting that promotion.
He couldn’t be the man who ruined all that. There was just no way that he could
let her get in trouble for what he did.
Even if Bianca and Rose hated him for what he did in his past, he couldn’t take
anyone else down with him.
399
Chapter 26
Cozy in Coach
There was nothing to particularly note about the interior of the train Crowe and
the girls stepped onto: it had booth-like step ups with two pairs of two seats facing each
other lining two sides of the train. The seats were made of grey plastic, a cheap blue-ish
material on the back and brown shining material for the headrest, probably to avoid any
lice outbreak. They’d been lucky enough to be in the same car as Pappas, Erin and
Ariadne able to see him if they craned their necks. As by Crowe’s request, there was no
way that Pappas could look back and see him.
Once everyone sat down, Ariadne handed Teo a soft octopus looking toy with
different colored shapes on the ends. He stared at it for a few seconds before sticking one
of the shapes in his mouth.
“He’s due for a nap in half an hour.” She handed Erin her phone. “Go over to
Pappas in the most inconspicuous way possible and get a photo of desktop so I can adjust
accordingly.”
Erin looked between the phone and Ariadne. “I think you should do that.”
Ariadne rolled her eyes. “Always have—”
“Since he shouldn’t see each of us more than once.”
Ariadne couldn’t exactly disagree with that one. “Fine. Logan?”
“Yeah?”
“Go see who he’s with. We need to give Erin here a solid idea for her
schmoozing.”
“I’m not schmoozing! I’m just taking the computer.”
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“That’s what I meant.” She looked back to Crowe. “Got it?”
He pulled himself to his feet. “Will do.”
Before he started walking, he mentally checked his disguise: a pair of basic
sunglasses, a Cal State Bakersfield baseball cap, his Batman hoodie and an old pair of
Vans. He personally thought he looked like a hobo, but he supposed that helped.
The restroom was beyond Pappas’s seat, so it worked out pretty well. Pappas was
hunched over his laptop when Crowe spotted him.
He was sitting next to a young blond man with a pretty face, blue eyes that
glanced up then down at a book, long lashes surrounding them. His hair was chin length
but professional, a bit darker than its usual shade because of hair gel. He wore smart
casual attire: a pastel yellow collared shirt and a dark pink tie under a dark blue sweater
vest with black trousers and loafers.
Two men sat across from the blond man and Pappas, both in smart casual
clothing, but with more neutral colors. One read a paperback while the other was playing
with his phone. Both wore dark sunglasses.
Crowe took no time to gawk, slipping into the bathroom and slumping onto the
toilet seat.
The blond man next to Pappas was his old partner. Young partner, rather. He’d
only been in his early twenties when he first came as an eager beginner. He’d taken the
kid on multiple criminal excursions, and he’d been the life of the Interpol party for as
long as he’d been with him.
401
James. Little blond boy James who insisted he get to be a “Sith Lord” and had
gone so far as to come to work in a black Sith robe just to prove his point. Hadn’t
Ariadne mentioned him?
James…yes, little James was high in Interpol, wasn’t he?
But he was with Pappas. It didn’t matter that James had once been one of his best
friends, almost close enough to be the replacement little brother he needed after Mattie
died.
James was with Pappas. The close to head of their division was sitting right next
to Pappas, dressed within the same code as everyone else, even though he’d tried to liven
it up with color.
Which could only mean that the other two men across from them were Interpol
workers as well.
At least four experienced Interpol agents against him and the reluctant girls.
He couldn’t even hope that it would be fun.
He was getting old.
*
*
*
“What are we looking for again?” Dorian asked Sven after Rose informed them
that the adults were on the train.
“Umm, any signs that we’re being watched or something,” Sven answered, still
distracted by the expensive things sitting on the expensive shelves on the expensive walls
of the expensive house.
“Well that’s painfully specific.” Sven waved a dismissive hand. “And you’re
trying to convince me that you’re not gay?”
402
“Jeez Dorian, just because I didn’t really like getting a blowjob from some
random chick and make apparently flamboyant hand gestures does not mean that I’m
gay!”
Dorian stifled a laugh. “Sorry, mate. Didn’t know it was your man period.” He
nudged him. “Tell me next time.”
Sven rolled his eyes. “Do you see any cameras?”
Dorian tried to match his gaze with Sven’s. “Umm, no.”
Sven stopped. “Dorian, we suck at this.”
“Well look who finally figured it out! C’mon, let’s go do something else.”
“Like what? Mr. Crowe told us this was our only job. We look like massive
failures right now.”
Dorian patted Sven’s shoulder. “Well, how about we play recon by you following
me around as I refrain from looking for cameras?”
Dorian ran out the door before Sven could even reach for his shirt. He managed to
go outside, nearly fly down the outside staircase, and jumped into the hole, disappearing
before Sven’s eyes.
“Dorian, get out of there!” Sven crouched down and stared into the hole. Dorian
was facedown on the floor of it, not moving. “Dorian!” No response; Sven’s heart started
pounding. “Dorian!” Another pause, and still no answer. “Goddammit Dorian, this isn’t
funny!”
“You said goddammit! Hell yes!” Dorian said as he flipped over.
“Asshole!”
He climbed out of the hole. “Ey mate, have you seen the dirt pile for this thing?”
403
“Have you?”
He nodded. “Over there. Go look at it.” Unsure of where he was going with all
this, Sven located a pile of dirt shoved out of the way and stood by it. “No, go put your
hands in it. There’s a little left in here, and the texture is ridiculous.”
Sven stuck his hand in the pile and picked up a handful. He had to admit; the dirt
was soft as sand. He would’ve expected garden dirt to be hard and chunky. He furrowed
his brow. “Dorian, why would it be so soft?”
Dorian shrugged. “Well, my guess is that he’s been handling that particular dirt
for a long time.”
“Why would he handle this particular dirt more than once?”
“Well, there is that possibility that he’s been digging and covering up and digging
this hole for a while.”
Sven shook his head. “Dorian, you’re crazy. Why would anyone dig and fill holes
for no apparent reason? Especially a guy like this.”
Dorian wasn’t sure how to follow up with this thought flow. Why would a guy in
general dig and fill in holes? Secret job as a gravedigger? Treasure hunter? “Maybe he
has some exotic exercise routine.”
Sven rolled his eyes. “Let’s go find Rose and mention it. She’s usually good at
these puzzles.”
Dorian smiled. “It’s funny seeing how hard you try to not seem in love with her.
Oh, she’s ‘usually good at puzzles.’ More like she’s the smartest chick you know.”
Sven didn’t answer, and kept quiet even as they approached her. “Any word from
the grown-ups?” Dorian asked, forgetting about the dirt.
404
“They’re on there, but haven’t made any moves yet. Dad mentioned that there is
more than one Interpol worker on there, but that’s about it. Seems like it shouldn’t be
much of a problem.”
Dorian fidgeted. “Could we take control center for a bit? It sounds really cool.”
“Only if you tell me the minute they start talking again and don’t touch anything.”
With her short-lived break, Rose decided it’d be a good time to relax a bit. Maybe
it was just senior year, but she felt like she hadn’t been relaxed in years. Then again, she
really hadn’t been able to since freshman summer, so she supposed years was actually
accurate. Would this heist be the last she ever did? The rush that robbing Lousteau had
worn off far before, perhaps even before robbing the Katz sophomore year. If she got
nothing out of the experience, at least she knew that illegal activity was not on her list of
future careers.
Plus, her dad had only taken the job on out of desperation. Once it all blew over,
perhaps he truly would change his life. Harper was nowhere near her mother, but she was
a good woman for her dad. It was almost cute how they went out to breakfast nearly
every day and joked with each other about her father’s car buying addiction. If he really
tried to reform, he could have a perfectly nice life and not have to bother her in college.
And, all in all, she should be far more excited than stressed. All she really had to
push for was getting a five on the AP biology exam. Otherwise, it was just smooth sailing
to graduation. Vivienne had mentioned that she was going to speak for the class, and
Rose couldn’t wait to hear her first draft of the speech. She’d already gotten into college
and when the time came on May 1st, she’d confirm that she was going to attend UC
405
Davis. As much as everyone wanted her at CC, she wanted to try something new. At that
point, it would take a bit more convincing to change her mind.
Somehow, through all the thoughts possible, she thought about her assignment in
English. So yes, she’d finally picked her scene, but was now unsure of what to do with it.
Basic concept: stealing apples and getting sick afterwards because the body couldn’t
handle the indulgence.
In other words, her mother dying because her father needed just one more heist. In
a certain sense, her mother’s life had only been worth ten million dollars in the end. Rose
took a deep breath, unable to believe that she had just put a monetary value on her
mother’s life. Ten million dollars. For her, it could’ve been ten billion dollars and she
would’ve given it all back to Julien Lousteau if it meant keeping her mother.
Where would they have been if her father hadn’t gone after Julien Lousteau? Who
would still be alive?
Julien Lousteau himself, for one; the whacky-speaking, accent-sensitive French
nightclub owner had been killed my Rasim in a trap for her. Nicholas, Rasim’s supposed
son, would perhaps be alive. Damon Rasim himself would probably be alive, and,
thinking about that tiny kiss he’d given her grandmother before her death, she almost felt
a twinge of sorrow for him.
And, of course, her mother would be alive.
Just the thought nearly brought tears to her eyes. Her mother was a reality of the
past, and that would never change. There were times when she had a hard time recalling
her voice. In fact, she really hadn’t heard it since July 2011. Almost three years. It would
be another seventy or eighty years until she did.
406
Years beyond that, Maul Mason’s caretaker Cecil Zagan might still be alive. Of
course that one was probably more of a coincidence. She still wondered about the Corolla
driver who had trashed her father’s Maybach and what had become of him.
Would Ariadne and Corydon have still gotten married if Bianca hadn’t died?
Well, they broke up initially because of the Barro/Barrow job. So, they probably
would’ve gotten married earlier, and had an entirely different baby to take care of, maybe
even a little girl like she knew they regretted never having.
Yet, it hadn’t been all bad. She’d met Dorian. She’d gotten to know and
eventually love Sven. She grew much deeper relationships with her father and Ariadne.
No, it hadn’t been all bad.
Perhaps she’d take the whole scene in a metaphorical sense. It’d be easier, treat it
like an allegory. But, if nothing, she was not going to make it “raw” and write about her
father’s experience, like she knew Ariadne wanted.
407
Chapter 27
Ignorance is Bliss
Crowe managed one last walk by the Interpol workers, slipping into his seat as
Ariadne handed Teo to Erin.
“What was last on there?” she asked, pulling open the duplicate laptop. He
handed her his phone, a picture of the screen a bit out of focus, but readable. “Let’s hope
he doesn’t stroll down.”
Erin glanced over and watched as Ariadne created and typed up several pages of
Pappas’s document. “How do you do that?”
“Make documents? Well, I’m pretty sure you could ask any six year old that one.
And uhh, I type 130 words per minute.”
“Look who’s set to be a secretary,” Crowe joked.
“Hey man, my typing ability has gotten me very far in life.”
Crowe rolled his eyes, tempted to mention her salary. “Keep focused, Alabama.
This isn’t an everlasting job.”
“Says the guy who spent ten minutes doing the first walk by.” She closed the
computer and she and Erin exchanged the baby for the computer. “Alright Erin, don’t
disappoint us!”
Erin glared at Ariadne before picking up the laptop and walking back. She
paused. “Ariadne, the best pickpockets work in pairs.”
Ariadne looked up at her. “And what exactly do you suppose I do? Give Teo to
Logan?”
408
“Bring him. It’ll be a distraction.”
Ariadne glanced at Crowe, who shrugged. “Unless you think Kyle will recognize
you.”
Ariadne pulled on a pair of sunglasses. “Worth a shot, I guess. What do you want
me to do?” She paused. “I guess I could talk to James. I know his brother.”
How do I do this without looking like a stalker? Ariadne thought.
As soon as she approached James Carver, however, all those thoughts were lost.
“Nick?” Ariadne asked.
The Interpol agent Crowe had already identified as James Carver looked up. “No,
but my brother’s named Nick.”
Ariadne was tempted to split right then. “Wait, wait, you’re Nick Carver’s
brother?”
James laughed. “Yes stranger who supposed knows my brother, I am his identical
twin. What’s your name?”
Erin nodded; Pappas was out of his seat and the other men were distracted.
“Ariadne.” She stopped; wouldn’t it help to give her last name too? Her cheeks
reddened. “Uh…”
Nick’s identical twin James grinned. “I knew a girl with your name once.”
“When?”
He shook his head. “It’s pretty embarrassing.”
Now Ariadne was just plain curious. “What?”
“Um, how fast can Han Solo and the Millennium make the Kessel Run?” He
cringed, as if preparing for a punch.
409
“Well, he made the Kessel Run in under twelve parsecs, but it is widely noted that
parsecs are a measure of distance and therefore he was probably giving false information
to Obi Wan and Luke.”
A moment of silence passed as James stared at her. Erin exchanged the computers
and walked back to Crowe. “Wait, Ariadne? Like, the Ariadne dressed in the Sith robe
over the slave Leia outfit back at that convention in 2003?”
“Wait, no, no, I met Nick at that convention. He told me…”
James shook his head. “Oh my God, Ariadne, wait! I used to use my brother’s
name in public places because I was afraid of anyone recognizing me. My God, I’m so
sorry I didn’t clarify that. That was me who um…who slept with you that night.”
“But—but, then who came to my bachelorette party?”
“Nick. He really is a professional stripper.”
“And my house? My nerd party?”
“All Nick.” He laughed. “Come on! Who honestly will just say their favorite
character is Obi Wan? It’s like how anyone can say their favorite characters are Yoda or
Darth Vader or Luke.”
“Then who is your favorite character, holier-than-thou?” Did she really just call
the near head of some part of Interpol holier-than-thou? Who was she even talking to?
“Sabé and Han Solo.”
“Sabé?”
“Yeah. I spent the entire first movie either watching Darth Maul or trying to
figure out what the hell was going on with her and Padmé. Oh, and I’ll add Vader onto
the list. Would you like to give me your top three?”
410
“Come on, man. It’s Han, Vader, Maul every time.”
James glanced up at Teo. “Why did I ask you about the Kessel Run? Your kid has
Wicket on his head.”
Ariadne nodded. “So um, I’m going to go process that I slept with a highly ranked
Interpol agent now.”
James laughed. “Have fun with it!”
Even as Ariadne gave Teo to Erin, took the computer, sat down, and opened the
computer, her expression never changed from its shocked expression.
“Something wrong, Alabama?” Crowe asked, trying not to laugh at her
expression.
“I slept with the near head of Interpol.”
Erin and Crowe stared blankly. “Did you now? I hope you mean James,” Crowe
answered.
“Yeah, James…”
Crowe bit his lip. “Um, how did you figure this out?”
“He asked me about the Kessel Run…”
“Dear God,” Crowe muttered under his breath.
“What is she talking about?” Erin asked. She stopped. “Wait, is this another damn
Star Wars reference?”
Ariadne leaned into Crowe. “She would’ve been fifteen when the prequels started
coming out. It’s no wonder.”
“Hey Government Hooker, get working,” Crowe replied.
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Ariadne ignored the comment and started searching. “Looks like it’s…eight, four,
two. Seriously? I could’ve guessed that shit. Go call your daughter, Loge.”
Erin looked between Crowe and Ariadne. “Well, that didn’t take long.”
Ariadne shrugged. “Not all heists are difficult.”
Erin bit her lip. “But you’re still…well, not getting weird vibes about this? Like,
Pappas is smarter than we think?”
Crowe snorted. “Pappas? Way too emotional to think these things through. He’s
always been rather impulsive. This doesn’t surprise me.” He picked up his phone and
dialed Rose’s number. “Ari says the number is eight, five—”
“Four! Four, dumbass!”
“Eight, four, two.”
Rose glanced down at the briefcase she’d found sitting in Pappas’s office. She set
her on speakerphone, pulled on a pair of gloves, and dialed in the combination. The case
clicked open. “I’m replacing the papers now.”
“Excellent. Erin will put the laptop back. Once we signal the okay to you guys,
feel free to start driving home. Anywhere you wanna go to dinner to celebrate?”
“Whatever you want.”
“Okay. See you soon.”
Rose hung up the phone and stared at the papers in the briefcase. Just as any legal
documents, the typeface was small and the papers were pristine. She would’ve read the
terms, but a guilty feeling spreading through her guts left her unable to focus enough.
Amazingly enough, Erin’s duplicate immunity papers were just that…a perfect double
aside from some nuance deep between the words.
412
She pulled the real papers out and placed the fake ones in. Shut the briefcase. Put
the lock back on. Stuck the real papers into the protected folder that the fake ones had
come from. Texted her dad saying the switch was made.
For a while, all she could do was sit back and stare.
She had just tampered with papers that Interpol had made. Very, very important
people had made those papers. What gave her the right to touch them with her average
citizen fingers? Worse, with slightly tainted criminal fingers.
What had they gotten themselves into? They weren’t stealing from criminals
anymore. When was the last time they were? Lousteau, she guessed. Hayden Barrow had
been a nutcase, but not necessarily a criminal. Maul Mason’s and Cecil hadn’t been
criminals. There was no way that Inspector Kyle Pappas and the entire international
police force were criminals.
So gone was that Robin Hood aspect of the jobs. They were no better than petty
thieves who stole from innocent people.
She stood up and left the room.
Was this justice? Was she doing the right thing by keeping her father out of jail?
If she weren’t his daughter, it would seem bad. So, why did her position within the family
make such a huge difference?
She shook her head. She knew her father. She knew the good in him. She knew
the struggle. The story about how her grandparents died was still new, but when it was
added onto the long list of horrible things that happened to her father, it added up to quite
the pity list. It made all his mental problems seem like lucky breaks. How could she
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possible accuse him of deserving jail? Didn’t she believe in second chances, about the
good in everyone?
To think she was about to accuse her father of deserving life in prison. It was
monstrous. She felt guilty just thinking about it.
She glanced back at the office. If her dad didn’t deserve prison, then why did the
entire heist feel so wrong?
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Chapter 28
The Death of Ariadne
At some point, Rose’s aimless walking led her straight to where Sven and Dorian
were lying around the hole they’d found.
“What’s up?” she asked as she joined them.
“The dirt’s really soft,” Sven said.
“Umm, great?”
Sven shook his head. “Not like that. I mean, it seems as if Pappas has been
digging this hole over and over again.”
“We thought you could figure it out,” Dorian added.
Rose couldn’t help but shiver at the shape of the hole; it truly was in the shape of
a grave. Why would Pappas want to dig a grave over and over again?
She shook her head; Pappas wasn’t crazy. You’d have to be crazy to continuously
dig and un-dig a hole.
“Could he have been practicing for something?” she asked.
Sven scoffed. “Practicing for what? The Gravedigger Games?”
Rose shrugged. “You wouldn’t practice digging if it were a hole being created,
now would you?”
“What else could you do with a grave?”
Rose swallowed. “Dig someone up.”
Both boys stared at her with horror. “Who would he want to dig up?”
Rose felt the blood leave her face as a memory resurfaced. She’d gone to visit her
mother to ask what she thought about college, thinking maybe some epiphany would hit
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her. Of course, it didn’t come and she left the cemetery still conflicted. But, something
had been off when she visited her mother’s grave. There had been the tiniest chunk of
grass that didn’t fit properly in the ground.
She jumped to her feet, and, as if possessed, found her feet taking her back to that
secret room in her closet. Still confused, Sven and Dorian followed her frantic walk. In a
careless move, she’d left the safe open and the moleskin notebook on top of it. She pulled
it out and sat on the edge of the bed. As she flipped through blank pages, the boys peered
over her shoulders.
“Rose, what are you doing?” Dorian asked.
It was on the second to last page. An enigmatic list of numbers, all between four
and twelve. He was recording how long it took to dig that same hole night after night. He
was perfecting it. After all, one doesn’t have just any old time to dig out someone’s coffin.
If she tried really hard, she could pretend that she was just being paranoid. She set the
book down and closed her eyes, hoping to banish out the dizziness, revulsion, and fear.
But, she opened her eyes and the book one last time.
March 2, 2014
Done. After months of preparation, I saw her. Nature’s been kind to her, in a sense. I
still wish it weren’t true.
Alas, no point in thinking in the past. It’s time for the future.
I saw her death blow. It was a bullet wound, nothing that could be taken for
anything but.
Death of Bianca Moretti – case open. Watch your back, Mr. Crowe.
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Rose had to place her head between her knees to keep from passing out. Inspector
Kyle Pappas was the monster, not her father. The ‘honest cop’ had just admitted to
digging up a grave. His sweet love affair with her mother had turned twisted and
disgusting.
“Rose, what’s wrong?”
She took a deep breath, waited a few seconds, and raised her head. “Guys, Pappas
is screwed up. That hole—it was, it was practice for him to get evidence against my dad
by photographing my mom’s injury.”
“But how did he—” Sven began. “Like her corpse?” Rose nodded. “Dear God…”
“I have to call my dad. If he did that, who knows what he’ll do to get what he
wants? Where’s my phone? Dammit, where the hell is my phone?”
“Did you leave it—?”
Rose bit back tears. “I have to go find it. I probably left it by the hole…”
She went running out.
*
*
*
“Ari, you gotta calm me down,” Erin said as she sat down, having just switched
the computers back.
A devilish smile played on Ariadne’s lips. “Here.” She leaned over and gave her a
kiss. “Feel better?”
“No.”
Ariadne rolled her eyes. “Well, good job Logan, one of your heists actually
worked!”
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Crowe could hardly believe it himself. “I guess it did. Now we just have to make
sure he doesn’t reread the papers.”
Erin shook her head. “Among a bunch of other legal stuff! Guys, we aren’t out of
the clear. Please stop acting like it.”
“Well aren’t you the epitome of relaxation via yoga?” Ariadne joked.
“I broke my finger in yoga class once.”
Ariadne laughed. “Loser.”
“Aren’t you the one who fell into your koi pond and killed all your fish?” Crowe
commented.
“No, I fell into the koi pond and Adam killed my fish when he forgot to feed them
during Paris 2011.”
“Adam killed fish?” Erin asked, an unnecessary panic in her voice.
“Yeah, he did. Rest in Peace Zuko, Panda King, Luke, Lando, Almidala, and
Puck.”
“Who’s left then?”
“Aang, Amon, Jing King, Jango, Grant, and Sidious.”
“You put way too much effort into naming pets,” Crowe said. “Oh, and A, Teo
needs to be changed.”
Ariadne looked down and felt his diaper. “Shit man, you’re good.”
“No, it’s uh, actually because he’s two seconds from—”
With that, Teo started crying. “Oh, sweetheart, okay, okay…” Ariadne cooed as
she stood up.
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Ariadne bit her lip as she was forced to walk past the cops, keeping her eyes on
Teo. She counted the steps. One more step to James. One in front of James. Two in front
of James. One past James. Two past James. She spied the vacant sign on the bathroom
door. Home free.
Teo’s face untwisted as his diaper was changed. Once the diaper was fastened,
she tickled his tummy, causing him to smile.
“I love you, buddy.” She kissed his forehead. “When you’re older, and I tell you
about all the crap I’ve been through, I hope you think I’m pretty cool.”
Back onto the battlefield.
As much as she tried to avoid James, he had his gaze right on her.
Something…intense. She’d seen those eyes in such extreme places, yet this wasn’t one of
them. He…he almost looked like he was ready to cry.
She shook her head. What did she know about reading faces? She was probably
just imagining things. She sat back down and pulled out her phone.
“Something wrong?” Crowe asked.
“No.”
A sudden cold went through Crowe’s spine as he felt someone behind him. His
phone started ringing. With the eagerness of pulling off a Band-Aid, Crowe turned
around.
Pappas smiled and pulled out his badge. “Logan Crowe, you’re under arrest for
repeated violations of your immunity as of 1996 with infractions of stealing over ten
million dollars, kidnapping, and second degree murder.”
Crowe merely smiled back. “Subtle, Kyle.”
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Minutes from departing, everyone in the car was staring at the scene. “Once we’re
out, I’ll read you your rights.” He leaned in, so only Crowe could hear. “You didn’t really
think I was that stupid, now did you?”
As soon as the train stopped, Inspector Pappas and the two unnamed officers
exited, followed by the regular rush. As the train emptied, Ariadne realized Teo was
crying. She picked up Crowe’s phone and read the message as Erin grabbed the baby bag.
“Dad, oh my God, we have a major situation here. Pappas—Pappas is—Pappas
dug up Mom’s body! I—God Dad, why aren’t you answering your phone? This is
serious! Shit Sven, he isn’t—FUCK, DAD, ANSWER! DEAR GOD, PLEASE ANSWER!”
Ariadne could feel the shock begin to crack, and sounds began to seep in, but they
were muffled.
“Calm, Teo. Please calm,” she whispered to her crying son.
She and Erin stepped off the train and were met by a blond man in smart casual
clothing.
“Ariadne, please stop,” James pleaded. She kept walking, unsure if it was because
she didn’t hear him or if she didn’t want to hear him. “Ariadne, you have to stop.”
She turned around. “Why the fuck should I? You’re disgusting. After all Logan—
”
“You need me.”
“For what?”
“Don’t you remember? I can get Logan out of jail too.”
She hesitated. “Walk with us.”
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“I can drive you two home.” The girls followed James Carver. “We have a
situation. Look Ariadne, I didn’t want to arrest him, but there’s nothing I could’ve done.
If I had defended him, they’d say how he violated his immunity. I can’t lose the position I
have.”
The walk seemed shorter than expected, Ariadne sinking into James’s BMW’s
interior.
“We have to look to the future,” James continued. “And at the moment, our future
revolves around Mr. Sampson. He’s recovering in his house from the heart attack, but
he’s still fragile.”
“Cut to the chase, James. I don’t want to hear this.”
Erin handed her a pacifier, which soothed Teo almost instantly. “As long as
Sampson is alive, I have no right to change Logan’s papers.”
“Well isn’t that just lovely? You have the Grim Reaper’s number?”
“Look Ariadne, here’s what we can do: have Logan’s daughter pay bail and get
him out until his court date. If Sampson isn’t dead, have him take a plea bargain. Pappas
will charge more if he has to fight, and if Logan gets convicted of two murders, a
kidnapping, and stealing, he’s getting life, maybe even death sentence.” Ariadne
blanched. “But if he pleas, it could even go as low as, I don’t know, twenty or thirty with
parole.”
“How likely is it that Sampson dies within now and Logan’s court date?”
“I don’t know, but whenever he does die, I’ll get Logan out of prison. I promise.”
“How old is he?”
“Sixty something.”
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“So he could potentially live another twenty years. What good would you do?”
James sighed. “I know this situation isn’t ideal—”
“Ideal?! This situation is the worst fucking situation I’ve ever seen! Are you even
aware of how unstable his daughter is going to become if he goes to prison? About me?
Or how about Logan himself? He taught you everything you fucking know, loved you
like a brother. You’re revolting, to think you’d sell him out to keep your position. I can’t
believe I wasted a second on you after the convention.”
“I’m sorry.”
“And a liar to top it off.”
She picked up Crowe’s phone and called Rose.
“Rose, you have to keep calm. Your dad gave you the spare to his car. Drive Sven
to the train station and have him drive your dad’s car home. Dorian’s going to drive you
home, and you can come to my place if you want.” She swallowed. “Your dad’s been
arrested.”
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Chapter 29
Hubris and Nemesis
2-17-1993
“Mattie!”
Mattie Crowe looked over at his older brother. “Yes?”
Twenty-seven year old Logan Crowe had grown a deposition much too
precocious, already acting like a forty-year-old. “First of all, take that gum out of your
mouth.” Mattie stopped chewing his sour blue raspberry Bubble Tape. “Now listen. This
is serious.”
Mattie plucked the gum out of his mouth, inspected it, and stuck it onto Logan’s
cheek, giggling.
“Mattie!” Logan snapped as he pulled the gum off and threw it on the floor.
“Dammit, if you’re going to keep acting like a toddler, I’m not taking you with me.”
Mattie stopped laughing. “Sorry bro, I’m just messin’. So what’s the plan?”
Logan huffed. “One more time. One more goddamn time before I leave you and
put an ad in the paper for a new accomplice.”
“Damn Logie, if you’re getting a new accomplice, you might as well as new
brother into the ad too.”
“Shut up, Mattie. Now, would you care to hear what you’re jumping into?”
“I would like very much for my master to tell me what it is that I shall be doing.”
Muttering a few more curses under his breath, Logan continued what he’d been
trying to spit out for what felt like hours. “This job really isn’t that hard. Where are we?”
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Mattie looked outside their hotel room. “Santa Monica. Oh yeah, why are we not
in Bakersfield?”
“Because Bakersfield is lame.”
“I have school on Monday.”
“It’s Wednesday.”
Mattie pulled out his Bubble Tape and took another piece. “Well, darn me and my
memory. Keep going.”
“So we’re in Santa Monica. All I want you to do is pickpocket a few locals.”
“Okay. What are you gonna do?”
“Watch you.”
“Loser.”
“I already know that I can pickpocket. It’s you who’s the problem.”
Mattie rolled his eyes. “I guess I can do whatever it is that I need to do.”
Logan patted his brother’s shoulder. “Good luck, bro.”
Mattie scoffed. “Not that I need it.”
Mattie’s first victim was soon decided to be a girl about his age give or take a
year or two waiting in line by the dragon ship on the pier.
“Hey,” he said, sticking his hands in his pockets.
She looked back. “Um, hi.”
She was carrying a clutch purse. Great. “Have you been on this ride before?”
She glanced away from him. “Yeah.” She paused. “Why?”
“My little cousin wanted to ride, so I’m supposed to find out if it’s too scary.”
She relaxed a bit, but her shoulders were still tense. “That’s sweet.”
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“So, how is it?”
“Not bad.”
Mattie internally huffed; why wasn’t this girl seduced by his charm? “Thanks.”
Out of ideas, Mattie bit at his nails and boarded the ride, the girl a row or so
behind him. She watched as she placed her bag on the floor of the ride. Idiot, he thought
gleefully. Once the ride had the girl at the top, the purse slid to his feet. He picked it up
and sat it between his legs. He pulled out her cash and stuffed the purse back on the
floor.
He managed to walk his way past the ride without the girl noticing. He grinned,
ready to tell Logan just how easy his little job had been. He pulled the money out and
started counting.
Seventy-three bucks. He bet even Logan hadn’t made that much on his first
heist…
“Hey, you!”
Mattie pivoted only to come face to face with a college-aged guy with long blond
hair, a healthy tan, and a t-shirt with some expensive surf brand on it. “Yes, sir?”
The guy glared at him. “He’s the one, Cal! He’s the one who stole my wallet!” he
heard the girl shriek.
Mattie froze. The guy Cal cracked his knuckles. “Why I oughtta…”
He shot a punch at Mattie, but he caught his fist, not flinching. Another few
seconds passed before he retaliated with one smooth punch to the middle of the guy’s
chin.
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Hardly a second passed between Cal falling to the ground and a hand on Mattie’s
shoulder.
“Show’d y—”
Mattie was thrust backward and into Logan’s arm. “Do you know what you
are?”
Logan’s voice was a whisper, and for a second, Mattie was almost frightened by
his tone. “No, sire.”
Logan dragged him literally back to their hotel room without a word.
“Dumbass. Dumbass, dumbass, dumbass!”
*
*
*
1-13-94
Bianca adjusted her striped blue and black scarf as it blew into her face by a gust
of English winter wind. Every drop of Italian blood in her body told her to pack her stuff
and run for the homeland as her Roman ancestors did near the fall of the Rome, but her
job kept her feet to the snow covered floor.
As much as she should’ve kept her eyes peeled, the night’s lack of sleep and the
biting cold weren’t keeping her focus at its peek. She yawned, almost amused by the
plume in front of her face.
She shook her head. She had to focus, and if she couldn’t handle one cold
assignment, they would never let her live the Italian jokes down.
People passed by, and she couldn’t help but notice that the layer upon layer of
clothing made it a bit difficult to distinguish one person from another.
For a moment, she even forgot who she was trying to find.
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And, like a lingering phantom, her answer walked out in front of her. She resisted
gasping.
There he was, five feet in front of her, having just turned a corner.
Somehow, she was surprised that every feature in her reports matched him. Dark,
curly hair. Light brown eyes.
It was the model’s face that surprised her the most.
As they passed, he smiled at her.
She wasn’t sure why, but heat rushed to her cheeks.
He left her with a wink, disappearing into the crowd.
She stopped right in the middle of the sidewalk, a few rushing people pushing her
from side to side. Collecting her head, she leaned onto a wall, away from the people.
She’d just been within feet of Logan Crowe. Feet away from an arrest. Feet away
from actually doing her job. She cursed loud enough to turn a stray head.
Yet, through all the anger and disgust with herself, something about him had
made her feel…rushed. Maybe even excited. There was just something about him, about
the way he carried himself.
She began her trek back to the hotel room she and Kyle were sharing. Should she
tell him about this? Well, she supposed there was no reason not to. Kyle was as much a
part of this job as she was; he deserved to know that she located their target.
The journey passed in a rush, the familiar door of her hotel room hitting her as if
she’d literally walked right into it.
“Hi Kyle,” she said as she shed her winter layers.
He smiled as she joined him on the couch. “Hey baby. How was your walk?”
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Tell him now? She sighed. “Kyle, I saw Logan Crowe.”
His eyes widened like a small child’s at the sight of good news. “You did? Really?
What did he look like? Did he talk to you?”
He didn’t even ask if she arrested him or not. “No, no, it was…surreal, to be
honest. He kind of just passed me. Y’know, one minute not there, the next he’s winking at
me and walking past.” She rubbed her temples. “This job is gonna be messy.”
“No offense, but he just kinda sounds like a douchebag.”
Bianca smiled. “He probably is.” He probably is…
“Yeah, I mean, come on? Winking at you while just walking on the street? Teen
boys do stuff like that.”
She nodded. Or did he know I was a cop? Did he know I was his cop? “Yeah,
you’re right.” She leaned over. “Nothing like the sweetheart I work with.” They kissed.
“Hey, I don’t mean to be rude, but I think my blood got replaced with slushy. I’m gonna
go take a hot shower.”
“Have fun.” He winked.
“Definitely more mature than a high school boy.” She stuck her tongue out at him
as she walked into the next hallway.
But, once she stripped and was standing in the shower, her smile faded.
It had been perhaps a few seconds of an encounter, yet she couldn’t get Logan
Crowe’s face out of her head. Every second that she’d spent with Kyle, she’d compared
him with some fantasy she thought Logan Crowe as: the brooding thief who was really
only working to care for his family. She hated it, but she was a hopeless romantic.
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Her and Kyle…yes, it had been romantic at first, but now…it just…it was boring.
And yes, she would tell him, but she didn’t want to seem needy. Plus, it really wasn’t his
fault; they were busy. In fact, they were busy trying to apprehend the exact man she was
beginning to fantasize about.
She had to keep her priorities straight.
Kyle Pappas was her boyfriend. Kyle Pappas was on the right side of the law.
Logan Crowe was a criminal. A good-looking criminal, yes, but a criminal. His
good looking shell probably would crack open to reveal a twisted soul.
She had one goal with Logan Crowe, and that was to get his pretty face behind
bars.
*
*
*
2-13-94
Ariadne almost couldn’t look at Logan as he drove her to Julien Lousteau’s club.
“Are you sure about this?” she asked her boss.
“Yes, Ariadne. I’m absolutely certain.” Ariadne blushed as she noticed Logan
glancing at her. “You okay?”
“Women dressed like me are sinful and repulsive.”
The almost fifteen-and-a-half year old was dressed in clothing that hardly
covered more than a pair of panties and a bra. Coming from a town where even if it was
above a hundred degrees and humid and it was still expected that a lady not expose her
cleavage and too much of her legs, she might as well have been naked.
Logan chuckled. “It’s only a quick costume. Think of it as an acting job.”
“But I’m—”
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“Trust me, Ariadne. You look great and this is all an act.” He smiled. “You’re
very brave. I’ve gotta say—you certainly live up to your reputation.”
“Is that a good thing? Cause…my reputation involved being a hacker.”
Logan shook his head. “You’re funny, Ariadne. Now, you remember what I
said?”
“Yeah.”
“I’ll pick you up around two.”
Just the sound of a time way past curfew sent a shiver down her spine. Even
though it’d been a couple weeks since she left Alabama, she couldn’t get its pull out of
her mind.
“Good luck,” were the last words Logan said before Ariadne exited the car.
Sometime between the first step out of the car and the last step on free Paris
street, her mind became numb. Despite what felt like hours of debriefing, the information
Logan had told her felt wishy-washy as it sloshed around her brain.
A large man in a black suit looked her over and asked something in French.
Ariadne, only recently having begun learning French, stared in horror.
The man rolled his eyes and repeated the question in English. “Are you here to
see M. Lousteau?”
“Yes. Um, Oui.”
The man grunted. “It’s Americans like you who butcher the language. Go through
the hallway behind me, the first elevator on your left, then straight ahead on the second
floor.”
“Thanks.”
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Definitely not in Alabama anymore, she thought bitterly.
The walk through the hallways was painfully silent, Ariadne’s thoughts getting
too loud to shut out. She swallowed once she approached Lousteau’s office’s door. She
rapped on the black wood with a shaking fist.
The door was opened by a wispy haired blond man with a soul patch and one of
the loudest colored suits she’d ever seen. He smiled at her, revealing a mouth of pearly
white teeth excluding a silver glint in the back of his mouth.
He announced something in French and pulled her into the room. “What’s your
tongue, sweetheart?” he asked her in heavily accented English.
“My what?”
A few of the other scantily clad women giggled. The blond man smiled.
“Language? English, I’m guessing?”
“Oh. Yeah, I uh, I speak English.”
“Nous avons notre dix.” He glanced at Ariadne. “We have our ten. Let’s go to
the car.” He bit his lip and let his gaze once again fall to Ariadne. “Actually, how about
only you come with me, soixante-deux.”
With that, Ariadne left the room full of women dressed like her by the arm of who
she could assume was Julien Lousteau. Still with the skip in his step, Lousteau led her out
to a flawlessly kept Rolls Royce. She wasn’t given a moment before he opened the back
door and ushered inside.
She sunk into the interior of the car as Lousteau entered the other side.
“You like it, sweetheart? It’s only the finest money can buy,” Lousteau explained.
“It’s amazing.”
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If she were to survive this, she’d need to distract herself, right?
“How rude of me! They call me Julien. What do you call?”
His English was starting to get so confusing that she would’ve preferred French.
“Um, my name’s Ariadne…”
“A beautiful name. Greek, isn’t it?” He studied her. “You’re definitely not from
Greece.”
“My ancestors are from Greece. I was born in America.”
He put a hand up. “You’re from…Alabama. Northern, I’d say.”
Ariadne stared at him in shock. “How did you—?”
He grinned. “A talent, my girl. I can sense accents down to the city.”
For a moment, she truly was in awe. “That’s incredible.”
“It’s nothing.” He pulled a bottle of champagne out of the car’s cooler. “Once
the driver gets going, I want you to tell me something interesting. It doesn’t have to be
about you.”
Around then, a driver jumped in and the car started moving. After a few moments,
she spoke. “Why do you call me that name?”
“Seventy-two. You know…like how people say that Muslim terrorists commit their
acts because they think they get seventy-two virgins in Paradise. You walk like a virgin.”
Ariadne wasn’t sure how to react to that. “Um…thanks?”
He shrugged. “But you looked interesting. I figured why not try you out.”
In all honestly, she wasn’t sure if he meant he wanted to have sex with her or not.
“Do you have a religion?”
“Not really. I was raised Catholic but I’ve lost time. Let me guess…Baptist?”
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“Catholic.”
He quirked his eyebrows. “Well, I never said my talent was guessing religion.”
He handed her a glass of champagne, to which she took a polite sip. It was strong, but
left her feeling good. “In all honesty, I don’t like Christianity. It ended the greatest
empire in history.”
“Roman?”
“Yeah. They were the strongest, most no funny business empire in history until
good ol’ Jesus showed up. Turned them into pudding. They were too busy praying to
watch the limes.”
Ariadne had some memory of the Roman Empire collapsing because of an
invasion, but she let Lousteau talk. “I didn’t know that.”
He nodded. “All very interesting.”
He leaned over and kissed her, sending every hair on end. Without her noticing,
he pulled away.
“I—I’m so sorry, signor—monsieur. I—” He stared at her. “I-I promise, I’ll
finish the kiss when I have more experience. I’m only fifteen.”
Lousteau leaned back in his seat. “I hope you’re a young lady of your word.”
*
*
*
4-17-04
For Sven, the first few months of living in California were spent trying to
remember that he was still in America. Luckily, there was always Little League baseball
to play. He could hardly keep still as Ariadne drove him to his game.
“Had a bit too much coffee today, scout?” she joked.
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“Sorry Aunt Ariadne, I’m just so so so excited.”
She smiled. “Is your team gonna win?”
“Yeah! We’re gonna win by ten points, I bet.”
She chuckled. “More like twenty.”
“Five. You’re not going to be like those crazy moms and scream mean stuff to the
other team in the stands, are you?”
Sven must’ve forgotten that I’ve been at every game, she thought. “Don’t worry,
Sven. I promise on Harrison Ford’s grave that I won’t be like those crazy moms.”
Sven’s eyes widened. “If you’re betting on Han Solo, you must be pretty serious!”
“I am, buddy. I definitely am.”
He bit his lip. “You didn’t bring any papers to grade, right?”
“Of course not. Besides, I grade papers on Sunday.”
Sven focused on his uniform, still pristinely white after a recent trip to the
washing machine. “Are we gonna do something special if I win?”
“Hmm, how about this: if you win, I’ll buy you one scoop of ice cream, and if you
lose, I’ll buy you two.”
“Okay.”
“But don’t let that be a reason not to win.”
He giggled. “I wouldn’t lose on purpose, silly.”
A few minutes later, Ariadne took a seat in the stands while Sven ran to his team.
After a quick warm up and pep talk, the boys ran onto the field, Sven into his place as
first base.
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Sven took a deep breath and squinted against the spring sun. The first hitter was a
tall kid with dark hair and a grumpy expression on his face. He swished his hair and
swung the bat onto this shoulder.
Sven barely had time to blink before a ball came crashing down on him. Out of
pure survival instinct, he dodged the ball, leaving the outfielders scrambling. The tall kid
practically danced around the bases, leaving Sven’s team groaning at him.
Determined to get his teammates’ approval back, he single handedly got the other
team their first out. Another three points for the other team, and they were down to two
outs.
Sven ran his cap along his sweaty forehead. The bases were filled, and he knew
his team would die if the other team got any more points. He shook his head and focused
on the ball as it twirled around in his teammate’s hand.
The ball whizzed into the air and fumbled right out of his hand. His heart banging
in his chest, he picked up the ball and threw himself forward, hoping the runner was still
running.
When he opened his squeezed shut eyes, the ball was pressed into the runner’s
shoulder. He stole a glance at the pitcher, who gave him a thumbs up.
After three base hits, it was Sven’s turn. As much as Sven had been dreading it,
the tall guy who nearly killed him was still the pitcher. From the way the ball had nearly
knocked him out, he knew this kid had wanted him to get hit. He couldn’t prove it, but
something in his gut told him it was true.
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Plus, he knew how he hit. Even if he was only mediocre at best at playing field, he
was a great hitter. He cracked his back before he picked up the bat. Yeah, if he really
wanted, he could probably hit a homerun. Show this jerk that Sven Evans meant business.
He settled the bat on his shoulder and followed the pitcher’s eyes. He performed a
perfect pitch, Sven hitting mere seconds too late.
“Strike one!”
Sven could feel the rage boil inside him. No way was this jerk going to strike him
out at his first time up to bat.
The kid served his second pitch, overdramatic gestures and all.
Sven watched the ball all to the last second, the bat connecting with the ball with
enough force to nearly knock him off his feet. Mind in an adrenaline-fueled cloud, Sven
went running, easily reaching the shocked face of the first baseman.
It was around then that he realized something wasn’t right. Following the
baseman’s stare, his eyes traveled to the pitcher’s mound.
The pitcher was lying on his back, hands over his face. The ref called a time out,
in which several people rushed to the pitcher, including Sven himself.
His face wasn’t visible under all the blood. Sven swore he’d never seen more
blood than that flowing from this kid’s face.
And he’d caused it.
When he searched for support from his teammates, all he got were boyish smiles.
Terrified, he ran to the stands, only to have one of his teammates hold him back.
“Calm down, Sven. They’ll just put in a new pitcher.”
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Sven took one final glance, toward his aunt in the stands. She wore a concerned
face that followed her as she walked over to Sven’s coach. She whispered something in
his ear, and he beckoned Sven over.
“How about you sit out for a couple innings, okay Evans?”
Sven nodded. “Thanks.”
“The kid’ll be okay.”
Sven repeated that phrase until the final moment of the game. His team lost by
one point, but Sven stopped caring long before. He resisted running into his aunt’s arms
once he was released from the final pep talk.
“Aunt Ariadne—” he said as he shut the car door.
“Sven, calm down. The kid’s okay.”
“But I hurt him! There was blood everywhere and I didn’t even get to say I was
sorry.”
“Baby, I promise, it’s all okay. You meant to say sorry, and that’s what matters.”
“But Jesus said the thought doesn’t count.”
She reached her hand back and grasped his. “Jesus isn’t gonna be mad at an
innocent almost eight year old boy. Now, do you want Ben & Jerry’s or Baskin
Robbins?”
“Ben & Jerry’s and Aunt Ariadne, I still feel really bad. I didn’t mean to hit him. I
mean, I was really mad that he almost hit me with baseball, but then he got hit! I don’t
know what to do!”
Ariadne pursed her lips. “I say you stop babbling about it, eat the ice cream I’m
going to buy you, and remember that you have to hit a little less ferociously.”
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“Ice cream won’t solve my problem!”
Ariadne smiled. “Ice cream causes my problems, but I don’t let that get in my
way.”
“Are you gonna eat any?”
She laughed. “I’m okay.”
Fifteen minutes later, the pair sat on the local Ben & Jerry’s patio and watched
the cars go by.
“See, you feel better now, don’t you?” Ariadne said.
He licked the ice cream on his upper lip. “I guess.”
She smiled. “You wanna know what?”
“What?”
“I think that little brat had it coming.” Sven stared at her. “Hey man, I’m twentyfive! I don’t have to be a stuffy old lady for a while.”
*
*
*
12-3-08
Rose took one last look at herself in stained bathroom mirror of her middle
school. She sighed; her puffy red eyes had been reduced down to a few visible veins in the
whites of her eyes.
She took a deep breath, needing confidence that she’d lost her hiccups.
The hiccups were gone, so she pulled her hood up and walked out of the
bathroom, her eyes on the floor. As she walked through the crowded tables of the
courtyard, she couldn’t help but catch sight of the table of girls who’d caused her to run
to the bathroom crying in the first place.
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It wasn’t like they’d said anything new; it was still nothing more creative than
“the freak” and “the midget” and “the ugly bitch.” To that moment, she wasn’t sure
exactly what she’d done to those girls. The only slight string she had was how good of
friends she’d been with Finn in elementary school and that one of the girls had been
chasing after him for years.
Still, as much as she wished to see the good in them like her mother had done with
her father, she didn’t have the heart to yet. In fact, she hated every one of them. She hated
their slutty booty shorts, too-tight Abercrombie shirts, and “cute” versions of the Vans
sneakers she wore every day. She hated how they caked on makeup, ran after boys like
desperate hookers, and gossiped about people who’d never done more than offer them
help with a homework assignment.
At the moment, the bitch who had been running after Finn, Nina something,
pulled out her iPhone and flashed it around for all her friends to see. Nina had attended
her elementary school, but she certainly hadn’t been top tier in terms of her family’s
money. In fact, Rose was confident that her parents had at least double in the bank as her
family.
But, Rose didn’t hate her because she wasn’t as rich; it was that she pretended
she was richer than she was. Her group was mostly from elementary schools from less
affluent parts of their town, and Rose knew the friends thought she lived in a multi-acre
mansion with the amenities of the White House.
And there she was, waving around another one of her shiny toys.
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Rose watched from behind a book as the girls giggled, chattered, and eventually
left to watch the boys play soccer on the field. Moments before, Rose had watched Nina
place her phone in the pocket of her backpack.
She found herself walking over to the table of unguarded backpacks.
Instantly, she honed in on Nina’s white backpack with the bright colored peace
signs. Even as hesitance bit at her brain, she plunged her hand into the pocket and pulled
out the phone. The anger still strong enough, she zipped the pocket and walked back to
her table.
Placing the phone on top of her book, she found herself staring at the shiny screen
for a few moments. What had she just done? Had she really just stolen Nina’s phone?
She noticed a rusty spot on the table.
She pulled out the phone and ran its screen along the rusty spot. When she pulled
it back up, the screen was scratched beyond usage.
She resisted smiling as she dropped the phone back into the backpack and
returned to her spot.
Could she very easily get in trouble for that? Of course. Did that make it feel any
less good? Nope.
She watched as Nina returned, found her phone in the state it was, and ran off
yelling about how her parents were going to kill her.
For a moment, Rose felt a wave of guilt.
She looked up and found Nina standing over her. Her stomach did a somersault,
but she kept a straight face.
“Hey Freak, did you see what happened to my phone?”
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“Nope.”
“Come on, you remember everything. You had to have seen something.”
Rose settled her eyes back on her book. “Sorry Nina, but I can’t help you. I’ve
been reading this whole time. What kind of phone is it?”
“My God, it’s an iPhone!” She waited another second. “God, you’re so useless!”
Rose shrugged. “I can give you my parents’ business cards if you really want a
private investigation.”
One of Nina’s friends put a hand on her shoulder. “Nina, come on. Rose doesn’t
know anything.”
Nina rolled her eyes and left with a muttering of “bitch” under her breath.
The wave of guilt quickly passed.
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Chapter 30
Stretched Too Thin
Rose thought she’d lost her self-hyperaware tendencies once she bid middle
school goodbye. But, standing at a counter after having just handed some desk worker at
the local jail over two hundred thousand dollars she’d been instructed to extract from her
own bank account; her college money. Sure, her father would be sifting the money back
into her account, but it still stung to take it out and then hand it over.
About five minutes later, Rose met gaze with her father.
“Thanks, sweetheart,” he mumbled. He turned to the man who escorted him.
“Back here on May third?”
He nodded. “Eight am sharp. Don’t be late.”
Crowe smiled. “Wouldn’t dream of it; wouldn’t want any bounty hunters on me.”
“May third, Mr. Crowe. May third.”
Once Rose had shut the car door of the passenger side, she threw out her
questions, questions that Ariadne and Erin had failed to answer for several days now.
“How did you get a court date a week from now?”
He shrugged. “If I’m taking a plea bargain…”
“Why are you just giving up like this? I already showed you the evidence.
Inspector Pappas is messed up!”
He sighed. “Look Rose, I know. But, y’know what? I’m a pretty messed up guy
too. If I tried to plea my case, I’m at risk for life or even the death sentence if they can
pin Rasim’s death on me. At least with the plea bargain, the worst charge on me is
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Ariadne’s kidnapping and the money.” He paused. “I don’t even think he’ll mention the
kidnapping.”
She looked out the window. “I hope you know what you’re doing.”
He forced a smile. “Don’t worry about me, love. Look at you: you still have a
month or so of school left. Focus on leaving with a bang.”
She swallowed the lump in her throat. “How can you expect me to focus on
schoolwork when you’re a week away from going to prison?”
Her words truly began to sink in. Crowe ran a hand through his dirty hair. “Did
Dorian leave?”
“Yeah. He wished you good luck.”
“Sweet of him.” He paused. “And Ariadne’s doing okay?”
She nodded. “Nothing noteworthy.”
“Do you need a biology tutor?”
She crinkled her brow. “No. Why would I?”
“Just wanted to make sure you were good for your AP. It’s soon, isn’t it?”
“Seventeen days, and we’re at a steady pace in class. I already told you, Dad. I’m
gonna be fine.” She took a deep breath. “Are you?”
He hesitated. “I’m gonna be fine.”
“Oh, Dad?”
“Yeah?”
“Ariadne told me to tell you that…James can only help you if Mr. Sampson is
dead.”
Crowe nodded.
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*
*
*
Six days passed, and every moment was spent with James’ words stuck in
Crowe’s head. If Mr. Sampson is dead…All Crowe’s memories of Mr. Sampson had
flooded back over the few days, from the first time he shook hands with the man as he
accepted his undercover job to how he’d come to his house and given Bianca’s death his
sympathy. He wasn’t a bad guy. Sure, he might’ve been a bit stupid to hire an
international criminal, but he’d never been a bad man.
He’d cracked once, and called James. James told him that Mr. Sampson was
recovering in his apartment in Hollywood. Somehow, James had even given the address.
Crowe glanced at the clock the evening before his trial.
9 pm.
Crowe had spent the past six days researching, possibly his least favorite activity.
Hours had been spent with his eyes glued to a computer screen or TV special about the
California prison system. Names and situations flooded through his mind whenever he
shut his eyes. He could still recall the body shiver when he Googled “California prison
rape” and received over eight million results.
To think that he could prevent this whole nightmare with one visit to Sampson.
Maybe if he talked to Sampson, he’d tell him that Pappas had forced him to sign the
papers changing Crowe’s immunity. If James couldn’t help him, maybe Sampson could.
Sampson and Pappas had never gotten along well, anyway. There was no reason that
Sampson wouldn’t side with Crowe if it came down to it.
Plus, he’d bought him a gift basket that morning. He really ought to give it to his
old boss before the trial.
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Crowe pulled himself off the couch, his eyes traveling to his bar. There was a tiny
bottle of scotch that he’d been aging for a couple years. Maybe Sampson would like to
share a drink with him.
He picked up the bottle and his basket and headed out to his car. Once the basket
was secured in his passenger seat, he inspected the scotch.
Maybe he should try a sip to make sure it would be a good treat for Sampson.
He took a sip and placed the bottle back in the cup holder.
He wasn’t sure how, but the closer he drove to Sampson’s apartment, the lesser
the scotch would become.
By the time he was in front of Sampson’s building, things were getting a bit
unsteady. He took a deep breath and gave his walk his all, somehow convincing the man
at the desk that he was perfectly fine to give a get well present to his old boss.
The door to Sampson’s door was unlocked, so Crowe strolled right on in.
After placing the basket on his kitchen counter, he wandered off to find
Sampson’s bedroom. It was ten at night, so Crowe wasn’t sure if he were sleeping or not.
He found himself smiling when he found Sampson asleep.
Suppose it doesn’t really matter if he’s awake, he thought as he pulled out his
final gift for his old boss.
The turkey carving knife he’d taken from his kitchen glinted under the city lights
shining from Sampson’s window. He walked up to Sampson’s sleeping body and rested
his free hand on Sampson’s right shoulder.
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Even as Crowe lifted the knife a foot or so above Sampson’s chest, the old man
didn’t so much as flinch in his sleep. Crowe couldn’t pull himself to shove the knife into
his chest, the tip slowly migrating toward Sampson’s skin.
The tip stood mere centimeters from Sampson’s chest when Crowe stopped trying
to move his hand.
In a moment of clarity, Crowe pulled his arm back and stumbled backwards.
What was he about to do?
His gaze shifted dizzyingly from the knife and Sampson.
I was about to murder my boss. Crowe dropped the knife and leaned into the wall
as faintness came over him.
I was going to kill my boss in order to get out of jail.
Even in his state, guilt bombarded him. Sampson had been nothing but kind to
him, and there he was, inches from savagely ending his life.
First Elmer the innocent Corolla driver, now this. Look at you, stud.
That would’ve been two.
Two.
He’d already killed one person. No, he’d burned a man to death. Number two was
a few alternate seconds away. All he had to do was lift that knife one more time and he’d
have killed two people. Two innocent people.
Murderer. Oh, and you really want Bianca to ever love you again?
A lump rose in his throat. Who was he kidding? Bianca would never love him
again, not even in the next life. He was everything she despised. Worse yet, how could he
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ever face his daughter again? He could never look into her sweet blue eyes and tell her to
be a good person when he was a murderer.
You’re a waste of space, a son of a bitch who’s overstayed his welcome. You
might as well end on a good note by getting rid of yourself.
His eyes darted to the window. His legs followed his eyes, soon standing and
looking out at the view.
He stood at least fifteen stories up.
If he couldn’t make Bianca love him now, maybe he could convince her now.
Why wait to see his family again? They were all a jump away. In the matter of a minute,
he could see his mother’s, father’s, brother’s, and wife’s faces again.
He opened the window, the chill of the night air both exhilarating and terrifying.
“Dad?”
Crowe whipped around, the voice familiar yet unrecognizable in his state of mind.
And that’s how Rose found her father: wasted beyond belief, a knife on the floor,
about to jump out a window.
“Daddy?”
Maybe if she said it enough he’d break out of this shell. Crowe turned completely
to his daughter. “Bianca?”
“Rose, Dad. Your daughter.”
He blinked. “Rose…”
She stepped forward. “Take my hand, Daddy. Everything’s gonna be okay.”
He took a step forward. “Bianca’s waiting for me, Rose…I have to say suh-sor…”
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She put her father into an embrace. “Mommy’s not taking you from me before I
say so. Come on, Dad. You’re wasted.”
“But Bianca…”
She pulled him out of Sampson’s room. “Mom’s in Heaven, Dad. You don’t have
to worry about her being unhappy.”
“I almost—”
Rose didn’t want to think about the knife. “You need to rest. Please, just walk
with me to my car. You can pick yours up later.”
They stepped out of the elevator and into the lobby. “Rose, did I get the job
done?”
Rose shook her head and strapped him into the front seat. “Go to sleep, Dad.”
“But did I?”
“You need to sleep. It’s a big day tomorrow.”
He grabbed her arm. “Rose, look at me.”
“I’m driving, Dad.”
“Did I kill Sampson?”
Rose’s eyes filled with tears, and, when she finally glanced at her dad, he was
passed out. Turning the radio onto some top forty station, she distracted herself. Sure, she
might’ve despised the genre they played, but it kept the emotions at bay.
Once she pulled into the garage and left her dad passed out in the car, she pulled
herself into her room and cried.
*
*
*
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At eight am, with special arrangements, Crowe, Rose, and Ariadne were escorted
into a conference room and across a table to some kind of prosecutor and a judge.
“Let’s keep this quick, alright Mr. Crowe?” the judge began.
Crowe nodded.
The prosecutor pulled out a couple pieces of paper. “With accordance to the plea
bargain you filed a week ago, your current charges include the theft of ten million dollars
in summer 2011 and the kidnapping of a fifteen-year-old girl, Ariadne Evans, currently
present, for approximately two years, from 1994 to 1996. How do you plead?”
“Guilty.”
Ariadne, having never heard a word of this arrangement, had to keep her horror at
bay. What was Logan talking about? He hadn’t kidnapped her. When had kidnapping
become part of the accusations? Why had he kept that one in when he could’ve kept the
arson charge or something? Her stomach knotted, thinking back to all those late night TV
specials she’d watched. Can’t kidnapping get life?
“Judge Martin, what sentence have we arranged?”
Judge Martin unfolded his hands. “With careful thought into Mr. Crowe’s past
records and the damage done, we agreed to fifty years in state prison.”
Rose and Ariadne gasped, but Crowe only looked on with a straight face. “Do I
have the possibility of parole?”
“Yes.”
Crowe nodded. “Will the sentence begin now?”
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The judge stood. “Yes.” He paused. “You may have a few moments with your
daughter. Thank you for your cooperation. The taxpayers are sure to appreciate your
aversion to a trial.”
Crowe flashed a weak smile before the legal men left the room.
“What the fucking hell did they mean by fifty years?” Ariadne spat.
Crowe shrugged. “Look Ariadne, if I wanted you to avoid anything, I had to take
the blame. It’s okay. I deserve fifty years for all that they don’t know about.”
“But the nerve! They say fifty years like you’re going to have a couple decades
afterwards! You’re forty-eight! Fifty years is life.”
Life sunk into Crowe’s gut like a rock. “It’s okay, Ariadne. If it’d gone to trial, I
could’ve gotten the death sentence. This is better.” He smiled. “I can even get parole. It
won’t be hard for James to get me out.”
“Would you stop talking about that bastard like he’s worth something? James
Carver betrayed you. Why would he change his mind in a few years?”
“Look Ariadne, thanks for coming and all, but I want to talk to my daughter for a
bit.” He leaned over and kissed Ariadne’s cheek. “Take good care of my girl, okay?” She
nodded and rubbed her eye. “Stay strong, Ari. I’m keeping you out of prison so you can
make something of yourself.”
Ariadne led out a giggle that shifted into a cough. “I’ll meet you in the car, Rose.”
With that, it was just father and daughter.
Rose fell into her father’s chest, sobbing like a baby. Tenderly, he closed his arms
around her shuddering body. His hangover had left his eyes sullen and bloodshot, and the
grimace from his first night sitting in jail had left itself on his features. He hadn’t dyed his
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hair since before the heist, leaving grey hairs to sprout like weeds. For once, even
donning the nicest suit he owned couldn’t safe his looks.
“It’s okay, Rosie. You’re going to be fine. I’m gonna be fine. Now come on,
darling, stop this crying. You need to rise above this. You can be more than your family
name. I know you, Rose. You are going to become a wonderful young lady who’s going
to put her old man to shame. Go on, baby. Get a five on the AP bio exam, graduate from
Tungsten, go to CC for a couple years, transfer to John Hopkins, go become a principal
or whatever it was, meet a man who treats you the way you deserve, and when you come
visit me, you can introduce me to my grandchildren.” He kissed her. “You have so much
good in you, and I don’t want to see it go to waste. You’re strong, baby, stronger than
you know.”
“B-But D-D-Daddy…”
“Hush now, Rose. I know it’s going to hurt at first, but the pain will subside. It
was meant to be this way. Please, just let me believe that. I did all this for you, Rose. I
didn’t jump out that window because of you. Now please, remind me every day why I’m
still living. I love you, Rose.” He sighed. “I may even love you more than your mother.”
“Daddy…”
He squeezed her one last time. “Carpe diem, Rose. You’re still young. You can
still be the person you were meant to be before I ever tainted you.” He kissed her
forehead. “I love you, my little angel.”
She swallowed. “I love you too, Daddy.”
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Tears blurring her vision, she watched as one man took her father away in
handcuffs and another held her running after him. Once she was sure he was gone, she
returned to Ariadne’s car, where she met grey mirrors of her own eyes.
“He’s gone, isn’t he?” she whispered to the woman who had become so much
more than her English teacher.
“Yes.”
They exchanged one embrace, tears falling onto each other’s shoulders.
*
*
*
In light of the day’s events, Rose picked up Demetri and a suitcase, and spent the
night at the Eliopoulos’ home. The day echoed silent as Corydon studied with Rose for
her AP bio exam and Ariadne struggling through the AP economics terms with Sven.
“Alright everyone,” Ariadne announced Sunday morning, “we can’t just keep
pretending that life has to be this lifeless. Corydon, you’re coming with me to Anaheim,
Sven, go take Rose out to do something, and then we’re coming home to a homemade
dinner.”
Sven raised his hand. “Ooh, can we make pie?”
Ariadne turned to Rose. “Do you like pie?”
Rose shrugged. “Yeah.”
“Yeah, whatever. Come on, Cor! If we can’t make the early mass, we won’t be on
the freeway til evening and these sales don’t come that often!”
“Why can’t we just do online sales?” Corydon complained.
“Um, what sales are you two going to?” Sven asked, although he was fairly
certain he’d regret the answer.
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“Um, excuse me you worthless son of a bitch, it’s May the Fourth.”
“Oh God…”
Ariadne turned to Rose. “Do you want to go to mass or would you like to watch
Teo?”
“I’ll watch Teo, but thanks for the offer.”
Ariadne nodded. “Alright Cor, let’s go.” She picked up the Darth Vader mask that
had been lying on the counter and stuck it on her head.
“Baby, you can’t drive with that on…” Corydon mentioned as they walked out the
door.
“Don’t question me,” she replied, her voice the growl of James Earl Jones thanks
to the voice changer in the helmet. “Sven, let’s go!”
“Yes, Lord Vader.”
With that, Rose was left alone with Teo and Demetri. She sighed, helped Teo
achieve his standing position while clutching onto the couch, and watched him nudge
forward. She didn’t know much about babies, but it looked like he’d be walking soon.
She shook her head. Alone with a baby probably wasn’t the best time to let her
imagination run to her father. He’s tough, she thought. He’ll be fine.
All she had to survive was one church service and she could distract herself with
Sven. Teo stumbled and grabbed onto Rose’s shirt. Rose smiled and offered the infant her
hand. Immediately, his fingers were around her hand, and he attempted to walk forward.
Rose led the baby on until he tripped and fell forward. From there, she watched as
he stuck his hands on the floor and crawled to his toys on the other side of the room.
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If an eight-month-old baby could take blasts of new experiences and adapt, so
could she. She shook her head; she really was getting old.
Or maybe not even older, but less innocent for sure. She could hardly remember
the last time she could just sit back and think that the world was a wonderful place. It
certainly hadn’t been since freshmen summer. Middle school was out.
Had it really been seven years since she believed in the world’s wonder? Looking
forward, she couldn’t see college exactly being the time to regain her trust in the
universe. Would she ever? Was this all some part of growing up? If it was, how were
there happy adults in the world? Did she just have to accept it?
Not that it really needed to be thought up then. She had goals to accomplish,
namely pass the AP bio exam and graduate. Small steps. After that, she’d just need to
survive an undergraduate education from UC Davis and perhaps get to start the happier
part of her life in graduate school.
Her father’s words regarding CC rang fresh in her ears. Was it the wrong decision
to have picked UC Davis? Sure, it wasn’t her favorite schooling environment, but it
couldn’t be that bad?
Besides, why did her life have to be run by her prison inmate father? Why should
she listen to him? He was the one who gave up at the first chance and landed himself fifty
years in prison. He was the one who committed the crimes that deserved that time in the
first place. He was the one causing all her pain.
Davis. That was in Northern California, so she could finally be closer to her
grandparents and extended family. It could be fun to get to know them better. She could
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fully visit Bakersfield and see his dad’s childhood home and all the places he mentioned
in stories.
Where was her father, anyway? Prison wise.
She could recall them mentioning his choice of prisons in the plea bargain. It was
a famous place, and close to some form of “home.”
California State Prison, Corcoran. Wasn’t that it? The prison with all the famous
people inside. Charles Manson was one, right? Was he in the same area as him? Would
he be in general population? She could recall some reason he wouldn’t, but couldn’t
remember it.
Sven returned before she knew it, and they took Teo out to lunch, giggling to each
other as people misinterpreted them to be teen parents and shot constant dirty looks. After
a bit more toting Teo around, they returned home to find Ariadne and Corydon
surrounded by Star Wars memorabilia.
“You guys spend ninety percent of your wedding present money on Star Wars
shit, yet somehow you aren’t done yet?” Sven complained.
“You can never be done collecting Star Wars shit, naïve Padawan,” Ariadne
answered. “But ohmigod, guess what finally came in the mail?” She pulled a box out of
their pile. “This toaster makes toast with Darth Vader’s face on it!”
“Let me guess! We’re having toast for dinner!”
“No, patty melts. I’m not that stupid.”
“When you grill it, it’ll lose Vader’s face.”
“Not if I do it Juice Lucy style. Now shut up.”
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Ariadne stood first, tapping Sven backside the head. Corydon stood next, picking
up Teo.
“Oh the complexities of ‘Merican cooking, eh?” he joked.
“I swear, your family is hilarious,” Rose commented.
“You know what I swear? I’m going to go to college and some nerdy wanker is
gonna mention some Star Wars whatever, and I’m going to say something that I learned
from these wankers and forever be transformed into a wanker myself.”
Rose blinked. “That was the most I’ve ever heard you use the word ‘wanker.’”
He rolled his eyes. “Only because it’s true.”
Dinner was served an hour later, everyone except for Sven just a bit intrigued by
the Darth Vader images in their sandwiches.
“So…could you guys give any tips for college?” Rose asked to start off the
conversation.
Corydon shook his head. “Don’t double major, especially not the way I did.”
“What did you do?”
“Major in religious studies and a pre-pharm for undergrad then seminary on top of
my Pharm.D.”
“Yeah, Corydon was kind of a dumbass with pulling himself too thin,” Ariadne
commented.
“Thanks, honey.”
“Anyway, the thing with college is you need to balance work and play. Yes, make
sure you’re doing as well as you need in your classes, but that doesn’t mean you have to
bust your ass,” Ariadne continued. “But, that also does not permit any dumbass partying
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to go down. Try to do something useful with these years. It’s just as—perhaps even more
fun—to go to movies, attractions, and just hanging out with friends as a college student.
Of course you can go to parties, but they really aren’t anything that cool. Hopefully, you
won’t catch the party bug, and I think your experience will far surpass your partying
counterparts.” She turned to Corydon. “What else, sweetie?”
“Don’t double major when one of your majors is pre-pharm.”
Sven snickered. “Like you avoided the partying scene.”
Ariadne stopped for thought. “Does anyone want to hear my fry story?”
“You did fry?” Corydon asked. “Oh wait, this doesn’t surprise me.”
Ariadne stuck her tongue out at Corydon before diving into her story. “So in
graduate school, it was Adam, Melissa and I living in this two bedroom apartment next to
a park and a Jack in the Box. Anyway, Adam had this tendency—Rose, you know who
Adam is, right?”
“My eighth grade English teacher, yeah.”
“Yeahh, that guy. Anyway, me, Sven’s second grade teacher, and him all lived
together for grad school. So Adam had this tendency to bring strange substances home
and one day he brought home fry. Now, I was bored and thought, why not? Now, I was
the responsible one; I only took a small hit as with Adam. Now, Melissa went kinda
crazy. Like, she got freaking stoned with that stuff. So, as everyone knows, once you get
high, you have to go on an adventure.
“So, of course, Melissa decides that she wants to go to Jack in the Box. Now,
when high Melissa goes to Jack in the Box, the result is she goes up the counter, pulls her
shirt down, and asks for twenty free tacos. The worker looks her up and down, quirks an
457
eyebrow, and asks if she would like fifty free chicken sandwiches to go with it. Adam
saves the day by redoing her order to five tacos and one chicken sandwich. So, y’know,
ten minutes later, we get our order and Melissa starts complaining that we didn’t get
enough tacos, and they even gave us an extra one.
“So, besides the fact that she threw taco toppings out of hands as she ran with two
tacos per hand, she decides to take off her shirt and run around LA like a dumbass.”
“What happened to you and Adam?” Rose asked.
“We took two tacos and her sandwich.” She hesitated. “And played checkers.”
Rose stifled a laugh. “Don’t worry, I don’t really plan to go flash people with
tacos flying out of my hands.”
Ariadne shrugged. “It’s always possible.” She turned to Corydon. “Prépei na
periménoume?”
“Dóse mou mia óra.”
“Tóte periméno mia óra.”
Once dinner was done, Sven pulled Rose outside and into his tree house.
“Is there a reason we’re socially isolating ourselves?” Rose asked, half joking.
“You obviously didn’t see the Vader and Palpatine costumes. Trust me, I’m
preserving your sanity. Besides, it’s kinda nice to unplug for a while.” He pulled out a
box with the words MOUSE TRAP printed on it.
Rose laughed. “I haven’t played this game in years.”
Sven smiled. “Figured. C’mon, let’s get a genuine smile on that face.”
After about five minutes of playing, and they abandoned the actual game in favor
of just setting up the trap and setting it off.
458
“How do you think my dad’s doing?” Rose asked.
“He’s doing fine. I mean, he’s probably in a PC or something.”
“A what?”
“PC. Protective Care.”
The thought warmed Rose’s heart. “You think?”
Sven looked up and smiled. So maybe he and Rose weren’t together; it certainly
didn’t mean she didn’t like him. Maybe one day, if he kept up his act, it like would turn
back to love. “Definitely.”
*
*
*
For Crowe, life either had to be in complete chaos or complete peace in order for
him to keep his cool. But, as life went, his initial hours of being formally arrested were
spent in a swimming state where his mind was in disarray, but everything around him
was completely clam.
He sat in a private car specifically for transferring inmates, with two other men:
the driver and little James Carver, hired as a representative to make sure he arrived in
prison without any trouble. If it weren’t for the biting chafe of handcuffs on his wrists, he
may have even been comfortable.
“Logan, please, just—” Carver said for what felt like the fifth time in the past five
minutes. Crowe glanced at the car’s clock. His mistake; it’d been fifteen minutes since
leaving the conference room.
“There’s nothing to talk about, James,” Crowe replied.
“You have to understand. I’ll—”
459
Crowe glanced at his nails. “I don’t think it’d be wise to discuss plots. It certainly
won’t get you that promotion.”
Carver leaned back. “Well, Corcoran is a really nice facility.”
Crowe rolled his eyes. “The Four Seasons of prisons, I’m sure.”
“You’ll be in a PC. Maximum security.” He paused. “For you. Your safety.”
“How wonderful. It seems my valiant sacrifices, blood, sweat, and tears poured
over you have resulted in a PC unit. Please excuse my rudeness if my thank you card is
written in crayon.” Carver opened his mouth, but Crowe was far from done. “Oh, is your
next sentence about how you’ll be undressing me as well? If you’re taking my home,
daughter, and life from me, you might as well take my dignity while you’re at it.”
Carver smiled. “Like that hasn’t already been taken.”
Crowe only responded with a glare, Carver realizing a bit too late that the old
banter they used to exchange was no longer humorous to his old mentor.
“Jesus. You two tease like a couple flirting teenagers. You know each other?” the
driver commented.
Carver kept silent, knowing even the fluffiest of gushing about his mentor would
get Carver no further than the glares and odd looks from the men sharing the car with
him.
The car ride passed faster than Crowe imagined, the lights of prison shining
against a dimming sky.
Keep your gaze forward, Crowe thought, reminding himself of all his research
and word of mouth he’d heard over the years about prison.
460
With James Carver on one side and a prison guard on the other, he was lead into a
processing room. He took a deep breath as he was instructed to stand on top of the two
red painted shoeprints.
“Any piercings, jewelry?” a prison worker asked. Crowe removed his Rolex and
handed it to the man. “Anything else?”
Crowe glanced at his hand. “Just my wedding band.”
He removed the ring, handed it to the worker, and followed him to a different
room. The man gave him a once over.
“I’m guessing this is going to take a while,” he commented, referring to the suit
Crowe was wearing.
Crowe never felt the pink truly leave his cheeks as each expensive piece of
clothing was removed and thrown into a corner by the worker. For the time he was left
alone while the worker grabbed his new uniform, he stared at his tattoo.
Henry and Noelle Crowe
1940-1976
Matthew “Mattie” Crowe
1976-1996
July 18, 1994 – Yours in Love, in Loyalty, in Forever
Rosanna Noelle Crowe
October 1, 1995
Bianca Sienna Moretti Crowe
1963 - 2011
461
So there he was: dead parents, dead brother, dead wife, and a daughter left in the
turmoil of it all. And, because of his own actions, he’d have to wear that pain on his skin.
The worker returned with a jumpsuit and lace-less blue shoes. While Crowe
dressed, the worker stuffed his clothing into a box.
“We’ll be mailing this home.” He motioned for Crowe to follow him. “We’ll be
shaving your head next. Lice prevention.”
Crowe nodded and took a questionnaire as the man shaving his head handed it to
him.
Are you suicidal? Crowe swallowed. No.
Are you on any medications? Paroxetine.
Liquor? No.
As some sort of instinct, Crowe ran his hand over his thin sheet of hair once the
barber was done. This is really happening, isn’t it?
To his relief, he was escorted right to the protected care unit.
Eyes forward.
Even with his eyes forward, he could hardly keep sparks of surprise out of them.
As the guards walked him forward, he caught glances at people who wore names he had
only seen in newspapers and TV screens.
His cell was a single cell–another relief.
“Could I write a letter now?” Crowe asked the guard about to lock his cell.
“Gimme a sec.”
Within a few minutes, Crowe was given a safety pen, a sheet of paper, and an
envelope.
462
Rose,
The processing wasn’t that bad. I mean, yes, it was, but it was nothing I didn’t
expect. It’s humiliating, this whole experience. If anything, it’s all been that. James
Carver tried to apologize the whole car ride, watched me hand a correctional officer my
wedding band, watch, and clothes, and left without another word.
I’m not sure you’d even recognize me. My head’s shaved, I’m in one of their ugly
jumpsuits, and I’m completely dignity-less.
Suppose I deserve it. Or, I guess they’ll be trying to convince me of that.
(They’ll be sending you my clothing and jewelry. Could you put it away?)
I’m 90% sure I walked by Charles Manson today. We’re in the same unit,
protective care. I guess since my crime involved a minor, I’m automatically protected.
Not much for a celebrity citing, but what more do I have?
I hope all is well back home. I love you and miss you like nothing else, even
thought it’s only been a few hours.
Write back soon.
Love,
Dad
P.S. Only 18,249 days left.
P.P.S. Could you send me some pictures? One of you as a baby, one of you as a
child, and your senior photo. One of Mom too. You pick any.
463
Chapter 31
Change of Plans
Rose sighed as she looked out at the crowds collected on June 11th, 2014. The sun
peaked out from behind a sheet of June Gloom; Rose had heard Erin talking about a
sunny graduation.
As she scanned the crowd, she easily picked out the only ‘family’ that sat for her.
Her extended family had wanted to come, but something had stopped them. She couldn’t
remember the excuse, but she didn’t care much; the less people, the less brave faces she
had to wear.
Erin smiled at her as they caught gazes. Rose smiled back, but only for good
effect. In truth, she was pretty sure that there was nowhere she’d rather be less than
sitting in front of her teachers, principals, underclassmen, and parents.
Despite her mood, she clapped as loud as she could when Vivienne walked up to
the podium.
“Good afternoon students, teachers, parents, and others as we come together to
celebrate the class of 2014.”
Rose, as much as she tried to listen, couldn’t help but have her mind drift to her
letters from her father. They’d been pretty consistent, with one every week. The last one
had talked about her father’s quest to relearn chemistry without a calculator. She
supposed he’d be pretty good at mental math when he got out of prison.
If.
“And we had to tell Señor Fuentes that cucumbers are not grown on trees…”
464
Rose smiled to herself. Sr. Fuentes did give them a pretty hilarious year in
Spanish junior year. She’d have to thank him for teaching her how to curse in Spanish.
What had she told him about in her last letter? Was it about AP biology? No, it
wouldn’t have been. She’d taken the test on May 14th. Maybe she’d mentioned Sven’s
eighteenth birthday and how they went to Barney’s Beanery. Sven had her play him in
arcade basketball and it turned out that they both sucked immensely. Corydon had spent
the entire time with his eyes glued to some hockey game.
“And, as a rarity I think to many schools, relationships with teachers were at their
prime at Tungsten. In particular, Ms. Evans proved to be more than just a mentor.”
Vivienne stifled a laugh. “My favorite memory would have to be during a passing period,
I was the only kid in the room when the fire alarm went off. Ms. Evans startles herself
backward, drops her coffee mug, and screams out ‘fucking hell!’ before turning to me,
staring at me, and walking out the door like nothing happened.”
Ariadne, despite seeing the story coming, blushed from the audience, Corydon
and Todd nudging her.
God, she wished her dad were there. She couldn’t believe that only three years
ago, she believed that her mother and father would be sitting there smiling at her from the
audience. How naïve she’d been. She wiped her eyes.
This is your life, Rose. Crying won’t get Dad out of jail. Crying won’t bring Mom
back to life.
“As the years pass, I know some of you will return. How could we not? This
school—this community, this family—has made a tremendous impact on each and every
465
one of us. But, for those who don’t return, never forget what high school has given you.
With your memories, no matter how strange, keep us alive…”
Tremendous impact. Had going to the school she went to really affected her life
that much? Was it because of her choice to go to Tungsten that her mother died? Stop
thinking like that, Rose.
Before she knew it, Vivienne was walking off the stage. Her friend patted her
shoulder as she moved back to her seat, and Rose smiled at her.
Eventually, the speeches ended, and the kids started receiving diplomas, Rose in a
complete trance as from the moment her name was called up to when she sat back down.
Devon grabbing his diploma was the only highlight of the event, his exact words being
“Goodbye seniors, goodbye class, all my teachers can kiss my ass.” As he waved to the
audience, at least twelve teachers—Ariadne, Zane Hunt, Jasper Barnett, Marco Fuentes,
included—responded with a conspicuous scratching of their noses with their middle
fingers. To anyone who hadn’t been in class and heard the witty banter, the exchange
would’ve been horrifying. But, for the majority of the faculty and students present, the
event was laughable.
The tassels were turned and caps were thrown, Erin running up to meet Rose.
“I’m so proud of you, Rose,” Erin said as they hugged.
Rose looked out to find Vivienne, who took several pictures together. Then Bella.
A couple group photos followed. Finn snuck one photo between the girl pictures. Lastly,
she found Sven running to her, his entourage—Ariadne, Corydon and Teo, Todd, Adam,
and Melissa—following close behind. Ariadne was crying, but her expression bore a
smirk, origin unknown.
466
“One picture for the graduates,” Melissa said as Sven put his arm around Rose.
Melissa and Ariadne exchanged a quick glance before the photographer stepped
back.
“Congrats, Rose. Your parents would be proud,” Ariadne said as she put her arm
around her.
She shrugged. “They’ll have pictures, I guess.”
“And hey, your mom saw the whole thing.”
Rose wiped her eyes.
The moment she separated from Sven, Devon Ghanzi, in all his Devon-like glory,
ran up to Sven and planted a big kiss on his lips. Their fellow graduates responded with
woops, clapping, and laughs.
“Thank your aunt, Ronald Reagan,” Devon whispered to his friend.
Sven turned to his aunt in some cross between horror and anger.
Melissa’s eyes lit up. “That reminds me!”
And Melissa handed Ariadne a similar kiss, only hers going a bit deeper than
Devon’s. This time, the faculty joined in on the laughs.
“Oh. My. God!” was all Ariadne could say.
“Tradition, loser,” Melissa replied as she tapped her butt.
Ariadne turned to Corydon. “Aren’t you even a bit offended?”
Corydon bit his lip. “Yeah.” He turned to Melissa. “Hey Mel, get your paws off
my wife. Her pussy are mine, no matter how much you want it.”
“Oh, is there a sign on it or something?”
Corydon lightly tapped Teo’s arm. “Yeah, there kinda is…”
467
“Just so you know, bro, you picked it up from the thrift store,” Barnett quipped.
Corydon rolled his eyes. “I got a used certificate. Was it lying?”
Barnett laughed. “Raise your hands if you used her.”
To Ariadne’s horror, Zane, Jasper, Marco, Melissa, and Adam all raised their
hands.
Corydon still stood nonchalantly. “Look, you guys may have tried it on, but, like I
said, I’m the only one who really broke it in.”
Ariadne stifled a laugh. “I don’t know why, but I thought you were sweet.”
He kissed her cheek. “I would, but PDA is for sluts.”
Corydon shifted over to Todd as Ariadne went out to hug the graduates. “Hey T,
are you up for hockey later this week?”
“I would, but I’m going motorcycle shopping.”
Corydon lifted an eyebrow. “Why?”
“You know the Westboro Baptist Church?” Corydon made a gagging gesture.
“Well, I’m going to join a veteran motorcycle gang who goes around to their protests and
drowns out their noise. Care to donate?”
“My hatred for that church is high, but if it weren’t for their protesting, I wouldn’t
have met Ariadne. So, I’ll give you four hundred.”
“What can that buy?”
“A helmet and a year’s supply of Twinkies.”
Todd patted Corydon’s back. “You’re my favorite brother-in-law.”
“Aww, what about David?”
“He’s my gay brother-in-law. There’s a big difference.”
468
“There is?”
Todd nodded. “David didn’t want to go to my bachelor party. Yes.”
Corydon rolled his eyes. “I’ll miss you, man.”
Beyond all the chaos, Rose managed to find Finn.
“You look amazing today.” He kissed her forehead. “On the inside, too.”
“Are your parents proud?”
Finn glanced back at his family, both estranged parents standing within talking
distance of one another. “I hope so.” Rose couldn’t keep her emotions at bay any longer,
her face falling into his chest, tears flowing strong. “I know your dad’s proud of you.
Your mom too.”
“I just—I just—”
“Miss them?”
She wrapped her arms around him. “So much…”
*
*
*
Daddy,
So, I graduated. It feels so weird. I mean, everyone’s gonna be leaving. Sure, I’ll
still see Vivienne and Sven and Finn, but it stills feels bittersweet. I’m gonna try to make
it a fun summer. Dunno what I’ll do though – maybe spend more time with Viv and Sven
before they leave. Ariadne offered to take me to Alabama with her and Corydon and Teo
and Sven. I guess it could be fun to see this famous state without the connotations of Sloss
Furnace and junior year. Sven said he could take me to other areas around the state.
How’s your life? No different, I bet. I hope your chem and stuff is going well.
With Love,
469
Rose
P.S. Photos attached.
Ariadne had always been notorious for dreading seeing family, but this quick
summer visit to Birmingham was almost having a physically draining effect on her.
“Ari, are you alright?” Corydon asked as he, Ariadne and Teo sat in a cab, the
teenagers already having ordered a cab elsewhere.
“I don’t feel well.”
He rested the back of his hand on her forehead. “You feel okay.” He paused. “It’ll
be fine, love.”
She hugged herself. “I just don’t know if I’m ready for this.”
“You’re one of the strongest people I’ve ever met. It’ll be a cinch.”
“Cinch is giving me too much credit. Cor, I was so traumatized that my brain all
but erased the event. I’ve honestly never been back in my mom’s bathroom, and it’s been
twenty-four years.”
“It’s fine.” He kissed Teo’s head, now with a full head of straight dark brown
hair. “Teo could take a bath with you, if you want.”
“No, no, I don’t want to associate him with that.”
He raised an eyebrow. “You know the point of this is to get new memories for
that place, right?”
She nodded. “Let’s just get it over with.” She paused. “Could I go in first?”
“Of course.” He pulled out the last of a traveler’s pack of tissues. “Dammit! God,
why did I agree to this? It’s been thirty minutes and I can’t breathe whatsoever.”
470
Ariadne stifled a smile. “I’m sorry. But hey, you probably get the same allergies
in Canada.”
“Not as much as Pollen City, USA.”
Mr. and Mrs. Evans greeted their daughter’s family with warmth and a couple
jokes (“If you can’t even take care of yourself, how can I expect you to take care of my
daughter?”), which soon turned into doting over Teo.
Corydon and Ariadne exchanged a glance. “Should I?” she asked him.
He shrugged. “You sure you don’t want me?”
She nodded and excused herself from the dotting.
She shook her head as feelings of dread crept up; it wasn’t like she hadn’t walked
down this hallway millions of times before. As her hands grasped the doorknob, she took
a deep breath. You aren’t six anymore. There’s no monster in here.
She opened the door and walked inside, instantly turning off the lights. Without
the lights and the door closed, the room was almost pitch black. Slowly, she flipped the
switch back on, revealing pretty much the same bathroom her mother had always had:
one sink with a mirror that opened into a cabinet, a toilet, and a shower/bathtub with a
glass door encasing the side not against the wall. Dull pink flowers spotted the walls.
The only different thing was a plastic bin of bath toy letters; she supposed her
mother had gotten them for Teo or one of the younger grandchildren to play with.
Her eyes darted back to the bathtub. She willed her feet forward, but they stayed
put. Come on, you pussy! It’s a bathtub.
471
She dropped to her knees and inched herself forward. She placed a hand on the
outside of the glass, just as she once did as a twelve year old from the other side. What
was so special about that shampoo anyway? What flavor was it? Fruity or floral?
She was knocked out of her trance when the bin fell on her head. It wasn’t that
heavy, but it still startled her to the similar extreme that the fire alarms back at Tungsten
did.
She wasn’t sure why, but once she eyed the toy, anger boiled to the surface. Why
had her mom kept everything the same after twenty-four years? How had she never
thought once that Ariadne had been hurt that night? Hell, she’d chastised her the next
morning for having a limp. What kind of a mother did that? What kind of a mother only
bonded with her only daughter by teaching her housewife skills? What kind of mother
couldn’t tell when her own daughter had been taken advantage of and was absolutely
terrified of the thought of it happening again? She was only twelve. She should’ve gotten
support, therapy, and love. What did she get? A nag and Alex Ross for another year. And
yet she still yelled at her for spending so much time at Sloss? At least Sloss Furnace gave
her a place to forget.
Her mother was never willing to share the pain. If she wasn’t willing, she’d just
have to give it to her.
She pulled herself to her feet, picked up the bin, filled it with a bit of water, and
sat back down in front of the glass door.
FUN FACT: I WAS RAPED IN HERE WHEN I WAS 12. YOU NEVER ASKED WHY I WAS
LIMPING THE NEXT MORNING.
472
With that, she slipped out the front door, claiming she was going out to buy
Corydon some allergy medication. Of course, she went nowhere in that direction. I gotta
go see Gage, anyway. He’d like to see the scar I got from Slag.
*
*
*
Mrs. Evans saw the message ten minutes after Ariadne left. As much as her
daughter thought she didn’t know anything about her, she knew one thing.
As much as it tolled her aging body, Diana Evans walked the full trail to Sloss
Furnace, a place she’d disliked ever since she first laid eyes on it as a child. A worker
greeted her as she entered, her quickly remembering that the place was now a museum.
“May I help you, ma’am?” he asked.
“Have you seen my daughter, Ariadne?”
He nodded. “She’s with Gage. C’mon, I’ll bring you to her.”
How often does she come here? she thought as the man led her.
She found Ariadne and an older black man looking at her phone. “Jesus H. Christ,
Ariadne! Now that is a marking from Slag!” she heard the black man laugh.
He turned around and smiled at his friend. “Who’s this, Mr. Walt?”
“Little Ariadne’s mom.”
Gage’s eyes lit up while Ariadne’s widened.
“Ariadne, let’s not be rude and turn around,” Mrs. Evans chided.
Ariadne sighed. “What do you want? In case you forgot, I’ve been out of your
jurisdiction for eighteen years.”
She grabbed Ariadne’s wrist. “We need to talk in private.”
Ariadne waved goodbye to Gage. “I’ll send it to you, okay?”
473
Gage waved back.
It wasn’t until mother and daughter were on the street did Mrs. Evans begin
talking.
“Was what you wrote on the bath door true?”
Ariadne snorted. “No Mom, I just wanted to get your knickers in a twist.”
Her comment was received with a sharp slap to the face. “You watch your tongue,
young lady.”
“‘Young lady?’ I’m thirty-six, in case you forgot. And how dare you think you
can still hit me around like some misbehaved child? If I want to be a smartass, I damn
will. Don’t think I’m not pissed at you too.”
“How could you have never told me?” Her tone was still bitter.
“Why would I? When I came limping into the kitchen, you told me to man up and
get over it.”
The memories suddenly shot back. “Who did it to you?”
“Todd’s friend Alex.”
Alex Ross raped my twelve-year-old daughter. It was painful just to think about it.
“And you never thought to tell me a second time?”
“No, Mom.”
Mrs. Evans paused. “Was that…was it why you—?”
“Never stayed at home. Yeah. Congrats, Sherlock.”
Ariadne started walking back home. “Ariadne, please, I’m just trying to make
sense of this.”
“It’s a bit too late for that.”
474
“What is this really about?”
She turned back around. “Really about? This is really about how you were a shit
mom who never tuned into my hugest pains and taught me nothing about how to be a
woman in this world. You wanna know why I slept with so many guys? Because no one
ever told me to respect my body. Because I was so traumatized by Todd’s fucking friend
raping me that I vowed to never be subordinate again. For someone who wanted a
daughter so bad, you sure weren’t prepared to raise one. And, for the record, are you
aware that Dennis punched his son in the eye last year? Yeah, a great mom.”
As Ariadne continued walking, Mrs. Evans felt tears well in her eyes. “Ariadne—
”
“I don’t need to hear it.”
Mrs. Evans only caught her a few feet from the house, and pulled her into a hug.
“Love, please, I’m so, so sorry. You have to understand—I know I wasn’t a great mother
to you. I accept the blame you’ve put on me. It’ll take several lifetimes for me to forgive
myself for letting Alex hurt you like that. Please, just give me one chance to make it up to
you.”
A lump rose in Ariadne’s throat. “It’s too late…”
“Just give me one chance. I love you, Ariadne.”
“I love you too, Ma.” She wiped a hand across her eyes. “Do you have allergy
meds for Cor? He’s suffering.”
After Corydon took a few allergy pills, Mrs. Evans started her side of the bargain.
“Hey Aleck, have you heard from Alex Ross lately? Y’know, Todd’s old friend.”
475
Mr. Evans licked his lips. “Alex Ross? Didn’t that kid die of an overdose a couple
decades back?”
Ariadne felt a strange mix of emotions fall over her. When she exchanged a
glance with her mother, she caught one phrase: He can’t hurt you anymore. She nodded
to her mother.
“Where’s Sven going to school?” Mr. Evans asked.
“Rhodes. It’s in Tennessee,” she answered.
“Good. The boy’s getting a solid, old-fashioned education.”
Ariadne chuckled. “Sure, Daddy. Hey Cor, did you get my book back from
Nowhere?”
“Which one? The anthology with ‘Ariadne’s Death’ or The Rise of Darth Vader?”
“I was thinking the anthology but what is one of my favorite Darth Vader books
doing in Canada?”
“What’s…” He picked up a book off the coffee table, “Darth Vader, a 3-D
Reconstruction Log doing in Alabama?”
“I dunno, but I found The Rise and Fall of Darth Vader in Teo’s closet.” She
paused. “No comments, Father.”
“I wasn’t going to,” he retorted.
“Hey, y’all, look,” Mrs. Evans said.
When everyone looked up, Teo was up on his feet, hobbling toward his parents.
“Teo?” Ariadne said, unsure of what to say in response to this moment.
He stopped with one hand clamped on Ariadne’s knee and one on Corydon’s.
“Ma-Da.”
476
Corydon and Ariadne smiled. “He’s growing up, isn’t he?” Corydon commented.
Ariadne put an arm around her husband. “Looks like it.”
“It gets boring by kid four,” Mr. Evans said.
Corydon and Ariadne exchanged a glance. “One more try?” he offered.
She nodded. “Let’s go see the washroom.”
“If you keep making fun of my accent, I’ll do the same with yours.”
Once the door was shut and locked, something finally occurred to the couple.
“Can we both even fit in there?” Ariadne asked.
Corydon rolled his eyes. “Like we care about personal space.” Corydon turned on
the water while Ariadne pulled her clothes off. The tub was halfway full when she was
fully naked. “Go ahead, love.”
She slowly submerged herself into the water, hugging her knees to her chest. She
shut her eyes.
“Baby, I want you to keep your eyes open.” Still hugging herself, she watched as
Corydon stripped, stepped in, and hugged his own knees to his chest facing her. “See,
this isn’t bad.”
“Could I confess something to you?” she whispered.
“Sure, but I can’t do anything about it.”
She took a deep breath. “Sometimes—I know this is awful—but I—I wish Teo
could’ve been a girl…”
“I miss Penelope too.”
“I just—I can’t stand it, Cor. If I had Penelope, I wouldn’t have Teo. Teo only
exists because Penelope died. How could I ever love both of them?”
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He took her hand. “There’s no reason you can’t. They’re both our children.”
“Do you think Logan’s okay?”
“I think he’ll be fine. Good men have good things happen to them.”
“I might as well have killed Rasim. When I shot him in the back, I almost shot
him in the other eye. I almost just wanted to watch him suffer.”
“Rasim deserved to die.”
“There was good in him, though. He respected women. He—he didn’t like
admitting it, but he told me that he killed a man because he was about to rape a young
woman.” She paused. “It’s why Darth Vader has always been my favorite character, aside
from Han Solo. Han had bad in him, but the good outweighed it from the beginning.
Vader—he fell to the darkness, fell into a chasm he shouldn’t have been able to climb out
of, yet he did.”
“Do you think there’s good in Sven’s dad?”
“I do, but he hasn’t climbed out of the chasm yet. I don’t think Sven should see
him for a while.”
Corydon swallowed. “I’m glad I married you. You know that, right?”
She nodded. “I love you.”
“I know.”
After a moment of silence, both of them burst out laughing.
*
*
*
— Five Years Later —
Crowe awoke from a relatively restless sleep to a guard’s face. “Pull your junk off
the wall, Crowe.”
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Still dazed, he did as told, collecting his hundreds of letters and pictures Rose had
sent him over the years. “Why?”
“Your parole was approved. Now get going.”
The words didn’t ring meaningful as he followed the guard out. As he shielded
the summer sun from his now sensitive eyes, he recognized two faces.
Erin Barro and James Carver smiled at him. “What’s…?”
Carver pulled Crowe into a hug. “You’re free, Logan. See, I told you I’d pull
through. C’mon, we have a long drive ahead of us.”
You’re free, Logan. What was Carver talking about? Was he dreaming? He was
sure he’d had this dream before.
In a rush, processing rooms, the prison gates, and the city of Corcoran blurred
past him.
“James, what’s going on?” Crowe asked again.
“You’re going home. It’s a surprise for Rose,” Erin answered.
Rose? Wasn’t Rose at school? What day was it? “Isn’t Rose—?”
“She’s back for summer from John Hopkins.”
Brief memories flowed back. Rose had gotten into John Hopkins for grad school.
There was something in between, but he couldn’t remember it. “How is she?”
“Better than early on, but she’s still a bit depressed.”
Crowe nodded. “How are you?”
“Good. Adam and I eloped last month.”
“Cool. Ariadne?”
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“Great. Teo’s going into kindergarten in the fall. It’s pretty crazy. He’s such a
blessing for those two.”
“Any more kids?”
“No.”
“Sven?”
“I think he’s in New York, but I can’t remember.”
Crowe turned to Carver. “I don’t remember anything about parole.”
“Sampson died in May. I’ve been working for it ever since. You’re out, immunity
reinstated. As far as they’re concerned, with Pappas’ sketchy case and your loyalty, five
years is enough.” He paused. “As long as you don’t cause any trouble.”
“Is the money gone?”
“You lost your Paris apartments and the Aspen house. And uh…I think your
cars.”
Just the word car brought a sting onto Crowe; Harper had broken up with him
pretty early on in his sentence. He didn’t blame her, in all honesty. He wouldn’t have
wanted to date to a prisoner either.
“So…is Rose home?”
“Yeah.”
With the three words Rose is home stuck in his head, he gritted through the fivehours-too-long car ride and the merciless silence as was unable to keep conversation for
five minutes without tripping up on some current event. By the last hour, Erin threw him
a t-shirt and jeans, guessing he wouldn’t want to walk into his home in a prison jumpsuit.
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When he stepped out of the car and onto the porch he called home for decades,
emotions threatened to knock him off his feet.
He was out. He was home. His daughter was inside, waiting for him.
After fumbling with the front door, he walked inside to a confused Demetri.
“Erin?” came a call from the living room.
“Close,” Crowe responded.
Rose peeked her head out from the living room and immediately put a hand over
her mouth. Crowe smiled. “It’s me, Rosie.”
Tears started spilling as she ran to him and pulled him into a hug that nearly sent
them to the ground.
“Daddy…” was all she could choke out.
He kissed her forehead. “I’m home.”
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Epilogue
Beneath the Gleam
Three Years Later
Rose couldn’t believe that she was back. Well, it’s not like she hadn’t been ‘back’
before, but this was the first time since leaving UC Davis for Colorado College for John
Hopkins University. Things were really beginning to form the image she had originally
had placed in her head from Dr. Weisberg, and it only gave her positive thoughts for the
years to come.
She watched as her father winked as he caught a glance at her from their seats in
the Pantages theatre, somehow seeming a million times smaller than the Broadway
theatres she’d frequented during her time in grad school. Yet, she saw every benefit to the
theatre in correlation to her mission.
“Don’t look at me like that,” she said to him as she looked away. He chuckled.
“I’m not thinking that.”
Ariadne snorted from her spot next to Rose. “Uh, yeah you are, luv. That’s all I
was thinking about at her age.”
“Yeah, but Daddy said you were a slut at twenty-five.”
Ariadne gave her young son a reprimanding look. “Teo, we do not use that
language and/or disrespect our elders.”
“So you’re saying you’re old…?”
She glared at him. “Shut your mouth, boy.”
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Teo grinned. “I’m just kidding. I love you, Mommy.” She put him in a tight side
hug knowing he was beginning to hate it. He paused. “What are we seeing again?”
Ariadne rolled her eyes. “Wicked.”
“Why?”
“Because.”
“But why?”
“Because your cousin is in one of the main leads and we can’t have a welcome
home party if we don’t even see his show.”
He crossed his arms. “I hope it’s not boring.”
Ariadne leaned all her weight onto her son, making his squirm. “It’s not boring.
When I was younger, all I wanted to do with my life was play Glinda. You’ll love it.”
Rose smiled as she read through the program, Sven’s name printed clearly next to
Fiyero, the lead male in the show, his professional photo—the same one she’d seen when
she’d watched Sven play Raoul on Broadway—sitting next to a description that named
his theatre career beginning at age seven when he played Gavroche in local Californian
programs.
Just as she’d always been when she watched Sven’s work through the shadows,
his performance captivated her and not even the genius of the female leads—normally the
showstoppers—couldn’t steal her attention for a second. By the time the curtain fell for
the final time, she was almost numb with anticipation.
She felt someone nudge her, finding it quickly to be Ariadne. “Go to the stage
doors; he has no idea.”
“But I—”
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She smiled. “Just go. You don’t need flowers.”
With those words, Rose went running, her still barely getting to five feet height
allowing her to duck and dodge through the crowds with enough speed to get to the doors
just as Sven started to leave, causing them to awkwardly collide.
“Jesus, I’m so sorry—” Sven began, his voice full of the confidence that had
before prevented him from being sexy from “hello.”
“Hey loser, look who you’re talking to,” Rose replied, putting him in a hug.
“Uhh…” Sven looked down and realized who he was hugging. “Rose?”
She looked up into his eyes. “Hey Sven.”
His eyes could’ve lit up the room. “I can’t believe it’s really you.”
“You were amazing up there; ‘As Long As You’re Mine’ made me wish I was
Elphaba.”
He grinned. “Glad you liked it.” He paused. “I’ve been thinking about you for a
while.”
She snuggled into his chest. “Me too. C’mon, you’re going to your aunt’s house
for the party they’re throwing us, right?”
He chuckled. “Um, I guess I am. I’m probably being forced.”
She kissed him on the cheek. “It’ll be fun. Hey, I’m parked a few blocks from
here. I’ll take you back home and we can listen to alternative pop-punk mixes like when
we were younger.”
He smiled. “I’d like that.”
*
*
*
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As soon as Teo got home, he ran up to his room—still green like when he was a
baby except more leaning toward lime over mint—and grabbed the book he was currently
reading with his mom, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. So, as the adults
poured themselves wine, he took a seat in the backyard right next to the koi pond where
he had already named all the fish and given them personalities.
“C’mere, Teo,” Ariadne called to her son.
“But Mom, I’m reading!” he whined.
“I don’t care, now come here. It’ll be quick.”
“But Kelly said if I didn’t finish all the Harry Potter books that she wouldn’t let
me hug her in fifth grade!” Teo was only going into third grade, but he tended to think
beyond the now.
Ariadne laughed. “You don’t need to worry about girls now. Come over here and
tell me who your real love of your life is.”
He put down his book and dragged his feet to the adults, where he looked around
at the slightly familiar yet slightly unfamiliar faces staring at him. “Do you promise to
read a whole chapter when I got to bed?”
She smiled. “Of course, Tay. I love our story time, so long as you finally take a
bath tonight.”
He huffed. “Deal.”
“So is Kelly going to replace me?” Ariadne joked, frowning.
“Don’t be silly, Mommy. You’ll always be my number one girl.”
There was a chorus of “awws” as Teo leaned in and kissed Ariadne’s cheek.
“He’s such a charmer,” Rose whispered to Ariadne.
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She smiled. “Poor thing’s so, so gay…”
Corydon gave her a look. “You just want him to be gay.”
“He dresses like a tiny Italian boy in those Bambini fashion magazines!”
“Hey, maybe Mrs. Crowe’s reincarnated in him,” Sven joked.
Crowe chuckled. “Bianca actually disliked shopping, but nice try.”
“Do we have any food, Mommy?” Teo asked.
She looked around. “No, you’re gonna have to go out and shoot us some dinner.”
He gave her a pouting look. “You’re not funny!”
Ariadne smiled. “No, but Uncle Adam’s bringing it. Why don’t you go on the
trampoline for a while?”
He looked out at the trampoline. “Can you come with me?”
Ariadne put down the non-alcoholic wine—a necessity for her newly found 99%
sober lifestyle—she was about to swig. “Um, moi?”
“Yeah, moowah. Come on, when I was little, you used to jump with me all the
time.”
Ariadne paused, rolled her eyes, threw off her shoes, and trudged behind her son.
Despite the metal knee, Ariadne had always kept active with her calm yet adventurous
son, having been jumping with him on the trampoline since he was a toddler. After a few
minutes of hesitant jumping, she and her son were jumping to extreme heights, the falls
and recoveries happening so fast it was hard to tell where one began and another ended.
Corydon leaned into Crowe. “They’re going to butt heads in three, two one…”
At the moment Corydon said “one,” Adam McIlrath, armed with takeout bags and
Erin Barro, burst into the backyard. “ADAM IS HERE, MOFOS!”
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Moments later, Ariadne and Teo banged heads, both falling and ending sprawled
on the trampoline, Ariadne yelling something in Greek while Teo rubbed his head.
“What did she say?” Sven asked.
Corydon smirked. “Shit Teo, I thought this pain was supposed to end after you
came out of my fucking vagina.”
Sven laughed as Adam dropped the food and ran to hug Rose with the same fierce
intensity Ariadne gave with embraces. “Oh mah God, it’s the Dean of effing Students!”
Rose smiled. “Congrats on your position too.”
He snorted. “I’ve been there for three years. It’s you and Ari who are really
starting this party. I’m seriously stoked for the first day.”
Through a good master’s degree and a lot of recommendations from the new
Head of School, Rose had gotten a job as Tungsten’s Dean of Students and was starting
within the next week. Even with all the calls she and the Heads of School had completed
in the past few months, she still couldn’t believe that she’d gotten the job.
Adam patted her back. “Like I said, with you as Dean, me as Assistant Head, and
Ari as Head, we’re gonna rock this school. S’gonna be epic.” He moved his attention to
Ariadne. “Hey puta, Teo’s not living in your uterus anymore now come give the other
living members of this universe some love!”
She flipped Adam the bird and clambered out of the trampoline, nearly falling
into the koi pond in the process.
Once everyone had finished eating, Sven and Rose found themselves sneaking off
to Sven’s old room, where they locked the door and got down to business.
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“Okay, so let’s get the dirty questions out of the way. How have you been?” Sven
asked.
She gave him a look. “What exactly do you mean by ‘how have I been’?”
He rolled his eyes. “Let me translate what went on once you went to college?
Love life and all.”
She huffed. “Aren’t we a little old for this?”
“I need major details. We haven’t talked seriously since senior year.”
She looked away. “I lost it to Finn during Spring Break. We were getting rough,
but with college, we started really getting close since we both went to UC Davis. We
broke up when I pretty much lost my mind and transferred out of UC Davis to Colorado
College. Things got kinda better in Colorado, but it really got better when I started going
to John Hopkins for my master’s. Since Finn, I’ve just been dating. You?”
“Lost it to a college girlfriend a few months into freshman year. Yeah, I’ve had a
couple relationships but mostly just dates.”
“What about that girl senior year?”
“She gave me a blowjob. I’m serious, I’ve only had two serious relationships, and
you were one of them.”
She laughed. “Oh, come on! That passion you put into Raoul had to have come
from somewhere.”
His eyes widened. “You saw me play Raoul?”
She nodded. “I saw one show each month. You were amazing.”
He smiled. “Wow, I mean…thanks.” He paused. “Rose, I gotta confess something
to you.”
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“Go ahead.”
“I haven’t stopped thinking about you since we left for college. All those shows
where I played the love interest—I imagined I was singing those songs to you. I know
what love is now, and now I realize that I’m still in love with you.”
Rose smiled. “Well, I still have to check a few things about you, but I think I’m
feeling it too.”
He chuckled, a goofy smile plastered onto his face. “How about a date before you
start working? How long has it been since you went to Disneyland?”
“A long time.”
He smiled. “You, me, and Smee. Disneyland. August 31st. You down?”
Rose couldn’t believe that Sven still remembered their favorite Disney movie and
the one character that they’d quote almost to the point of stupidity as teens. “You don’t
have to ask me twice. Yeah, I’m in. Pick me up around eight.”
“Hey Rose?”
“Yeah?”
Before he could answer, he had his lips on hers, an innocent kiss that quickly led
to them flopped across his floor, arms tight around each other, redrawing every path
they’d ever discovered on one another, passion and a heavy bliss adding themselves to
the immature emotions they remembered feeling for one another.
Once they pulled away to return to the party, one thought went through Sven’s
head. I’ll propose to her with that ring Ithaca Eliopoulos kept from her grandmother, the
one with the heart shaped mystic topaz with the white gold accents and the sterling silver
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ring. Course, I’ll have to become Ithaca’s slave, but it’ll be worth it. Even if she is some
crazy Greek-Canadian lady.
*
*
*
Come the morning of September 6th, Ariadne still hadn’t gotten the butterflies out
of her stomach. She’d been a teacher at Tungsten High for twenty years, yet there was an
element of fear in finally representing the school she’d become so attached to. Plus, she
was first freaking person to speak for the school year; those freshmen were relying on her
to give them that first nudge into comfort, a comfort that would affect them for all four of
their years.
She glanced at the sidelines to catch glances with Adam and Rose, who both
smiled. After one last glance at the audience, she took the mic.
“I don’t think any of y’all know how tempted I am to just call everyone out and
ask the bitches in the house who actually read their summer reading books,” she began,
getting everyone from laughing gasps to clapping from the teachers and students who
knew her. “My name’s Ms. Eliopoulos for everyone who cares, but I’ve been going by
my maiden name Evans for twenty years and at least fifty of y’all will literally murder me
with a crossbow if I change it now. So, a lot of you…guys, okay, okay, can we just stop
for one second.” The room became silent. “Bleh, I did not just say you guys. Ah, okay,
so, yeah freshies and new staff, I’m from Alabama, will deny it for coolness’s sake, then
drop all the cute Southern sayings instinctually.” She stopped and did the acting hand
motion of breathing while moving her hand down. “So, my name’s Ms. Evans and I’ve
been a teacher at Tungsten for twenty years now, so I know how things roll around here.
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From my time here, I’ve gotten a list of ten things that I want every student and staff
member—new and old—to remember as they dive into this new year at Tungsten.”
She pulled out a list that she’d written in Greek and motioned for the current
techie working the projector to project it behind her. “Just so everyone can follow along.”
Everyone laughed. “Number ten: we encourage creativity, but do not bring those colors
out of the line and smash that periwinkle crayon into the pretty white tablecloth.
Translation: we encourage stories to be written like crazy episodes of Degrassi, but do
not start any stupid drama for the sake of starting it. We here at Tungsten enjoy keeping
our drama to the theatre program, ‘kay thanks. Number nine: if it’s less than two hundred
pages, don’t just pick it up. Being a freak English teacher getting my kids reading Les
Miserables, I’m quite the fan of the long novels. But, what I mean is that everyone should
challenge themselves; I’ve nudged the English program into more student-chosen literary
selections. Because, let’s face it, you can learn about description from the most boring
book in the world and from a Stephen King novel.” A selection of kids cheered.
She went through the list down the last one with a lot of laughs and a few cheers.
“Number one: we’re all family here. I know it sounds like some bull that I’m just saying
because I’m paid to, but it’s for real. I’ve met students whom I honestly consider my
children. The kids I took to Paris back in 2011 will recall with fever how much more
human I became. I love seeing students and teachers having casual conversation in the
halls, encourage communication beyond the classroom, and pride myself when I can read
comments where parents will compliment the staff on how close they feel our teachers
are to our students. Just as students will become like siblings, I promote each and every
freshman to find him or herself a mentor. Throughout the years, I’ve found that my
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students with a mentor have done genuinely better than those without. You guys need to
get over a fear of adults, and this is the place to start. After all, we hire based on levels of
BAMF at this school.” A few kids laughed. “It’s true. I mean, true story, one kid I
mentored is actually so attached to this school that she’s back. Sorry Rose, I’m gonna
have to single you out. Ms. Crowe, please rise.” Blushing, Rose stood up. “Former
student of the class of 2014. Four-point-whatever grades. Helped me write a series of
erotic harlequin novels.” Rose turned pale as the room broke out into laughter. “I’m sorry
freshmen who are currently questioning the tuition price, that’s kind of a Tungsten joke.
Anyway, Ms. Crowe’s joining us fresh out of college for the Dean of Students, so feel
free to drop by her so you can give her a good impression before she has to pull you into
her office.” She waited until the room was quiet once more. “So anyway, Ms. Crowe also
created a short film documenting all the crazy stuff I did in Paris, and somehow
convinced me to show y’all one of the deleted scenes. So yeah, this is who’s leading your
school.”
The shot panned over the image of Ariadne in full on Star Wars pajama pants and
a red Enjoy Vagina t-shirt.
“Jasper,” she began, “where’s my coconut milk?”
“I threw it out.” The camera backed up to show the entire Paris crew sitting in the
living room. “It tasted weird.”
“It’s made of [bleep]ing coconut! What do you think it’s gonna taste like?!”
Barnett backed up. “Whoa Chewy, let’s calm the femm-o nerves here.”
“Jasper! I—” She stopped. “Oh, by the way, where’s all my clothes?”
He looked around. “You mean all your other clothes?”
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She nodded, an exasperated expression on her face. “No [bleep], Sherlock.”
He put a coffee cup to his lips. “I hid them.”
Ariadne took a long breath. “You just want me to walk outside with this on, don’t
you?”
Barnett smiled a toothy grin. “Uh-huh.”
Ariadne picked up a steak knife from the counter. “Jasper, let me spell this out for
you: if you don’t tell me where my clothes are, I will go all Italian Mafia on your
[bleep].”
He took a Poveglia Island doctor’s mask he’d bought in Venice and put it on.
“Can’t tap the doctor.”
“JASPER, WHERE ARE MY [bleep]ING CLOTHES?”
The scene cut to Ariadne outside a bedroom what appears to be several hours
later, in the same pajamas but with her t-shirt covered by a Darth Vader costume hoodie.
“So Jasper made me stay inside all day so we’re gonna play a little prank on him.” She
pulled out the same doctor’s mask Jasper had worn before and placed it on her face. She
chuckled to herself as she put a black fedora over it, now nearly every part of her
covered. “Rose, give me the knife.” A 9.5-inch boning knife was placed in her hands.
The camera moved as Ariadne crept up on a sleeping, snoring Barnett. Ariadne
flickered on her reading lamp to give a bit of light, lifted the knife above Barnett’s face,
and kicked his bed frame.
A few seconds after Barnett woke up, he screamed a few octaves lower than a
little girl, fell out of bed and into a lamp, knocking the lamp clean over, stumbling
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backwards and finally falling to the ground because of the lamp. The scene closed with
Ariadne laughing hysterically with the mask still on, her hands over her face.
The entire room was laughing hysterically, and, although Barnett no longer taught
at Tungsten to hide under a chair like Ariadne once had, his spirit was clear in the stupid
smile plastered on Rose’s face.
“So yeah, I have candy in my office; come visit me,” Ariadne finished her speech.
She left the stage with applause.
*
*
*
Once the clocks around Tungsten read 3:25, not only did a third of the students
file out the school, but Ariadne went running through the masses in order to reach Rose’s
office.
“Rose, I forgot to give you my rookie gifts,” she said as she shut the door.
Rose turned off her monitor and turned to Ariadne. “Whatever you want, boss.”
Ariadne laughed as she found a coffee mug and poured some of the coffee she
brought in a thermos into the mug.
“Drink this. It’s a Tungsten staff tradition.”
“So is it painful to walk by Le Office?” Rose asked before she took her first sip.
“It’s sad with all my staffies gone, but with Adam—” Ariadne’s gaze fell on the
look of horror on Rose’s face. “I can tell you what’s in that if you want. Now, would you
prefer a spit take or the possibility of vomiting?” Rose just stared. “No, I’m kidding, it’s
just an Irish coffee with Everclear 150 instead of Irish Whiskey.” Either way, Rose spit
what was in her mouth back into the cup, much to Ariadne’s disgust. “How dare you
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waste perfectly good alcohol?” Ariadne took the cup and downed the ounce or so she’d
originally poured Rose.
“That is disgusting,” Rose commented, wrinkling her nose.
Ariadne laughed. “I’m yo boss now, so it don’t matter.”
Rose paused, an out of body moment hitting her: she was Dean of Students at
Tungsten High, her bosses were Adam McIlrath and Ariadne Evans. Her boss had just
handed her a cup of Everclear-infected Irish coffee and was laughing about it.
“I’m really glad that my dad picked you up from Alabama.”
Ariadne smiled. “Me too, luv. Me too. I mean, hey, as Thernadier says ‘We’re the
ones who take it, we’re the ones who make it in the end and when we’re rich as Croesus
won’t we see you all in hell.’”
Rose stared at her blankly. “Huh?”
Ariadne took another sip of her coffee. “I dunno, Rose. I’m kinda drunk right
now.”
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Author’s Note: The Evolution of Ethics in the Crowe Series:
When writing a novel where the protagonists steal things, ethics comes in pretty quickly.
How can we truly justify what we should think of as bad? Throughout the series, I’ve
tried to both justify what the Murder did as well as make sure it was obvious that stealing
in general is not ethically sound. The ethical justification of stealing throughout the series
slowly degenerates through several aspects.
First off, the who they steal from slowly becomes less “bad.” In Flayer Masquerade, they
stole from Julien Lousteau, a perhaps sympathetic figure, but a child pimp no less. A
child pimp who would feel no remorse in his girls dying. Plus, his money he earns goes
right back into pushing the business along. Removing the money would seem more like
justice than a crime. In A Criminal by the Picking, there were two points to the stealing:
taking from criminals and stealing something back. The Katz, the small time gang Rose
and Sven originally stole the statue from were in fact criminals, but so little backstory is
given on them that we (and the thieves themselves) don’t know if they’re stealing from
murderers or boys trying to feed their families. As for Barrow, yes, she ended up being an
awful woman, but they would’ve stolen from her—inevitably causing some stress and
property damage—whether she was or not based on the sense of right they felt.
In On Your Honor, the right starts to really degenerate. Yes, Maul Mason’s bought items
from perhaps unclean places, but it stood as a museum—no more, no less. Even so, the
Murder sees no real issues in robbing from the establishment, the only hiccup occurring
when Ariadne has Logan leave the diamond there. Finally, we have Beneath the Gleam.
The heist in this novel is far, far from the structured, step-by-step heist of book one, and
is much more ambiguous with the act. Their goal: steal from an agent of Interpol, a
righteous police organization. Their reasons for stealing are simply to keep a criminal out
of jail. Yes, sympathy for Logan and Pappas’s dirty work throw more dynamic on the
situation, but there was a reason that Crowe had to be arrested in the end. He was no
longer helping anyone besides himself, perhaps indirectly Ariadne, but no one more.
The sin that always complements the reason has importance as well. Every book is led by
one of the Seven Deadly Sins: Flayer Masquerade with Greed, A Criminal by the Picking
with Sloth, On Your Honor with Wrath, and Beneath the Gleam with Pride. Every book
has this vice eventually lead to their decision to steal, and then poses as a catalyst for the
“Nemesis” for each one: Bianca and wayward driver Elmer Aldman’s deaths and Logan’s
arrest evident examples. As for Sloth, this more plays into Rose’s future: instead of
pushing herself toward greatness, it takes a couple major falls in life before she actually
gets her life in order.
So, by the end of the series, is stealing an ethical practice? I say no. From the very
beginning of the series, desperation was never part of the deal, one of the main reasons
that stealing could be justified. Crowe no longer steals to feed his family, as his ancestors
once had. This series was never going to just be a romp around build tops with the whirr
of action as the only things gained from these books. I wanted to make these books both
entertaining and meaningful. Just as Ariadne realizes in one of the last scenes of the
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book, “it’s not considered stealing unless you’re getting caught, but you’ve been caught
stealing” (‘Shoplifter’, Green Day), and every great thief should one day pay for their
crimes, whether it be from jail or self realization of their sins.
In sum, the Crowe Series, no matter how glamorous it seems to make stealing, never once
painted it as something ethical.