Rachel Colt

1.2 The Picture of Perfection (MLWC)

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Winter in Twinbrook is not so forgiving. Harsh winds blowing across frozen muddy slush, rattling the walls, and knocking out the unreliable power for days. You throw logs in the stove or you go to a neighbor’s and hope you don’t have to share a room with a sneezing, infectious child. If I had hoped for warmer weather up north, then I was foolishly mistaken. Snow-covered bogs may not sound normal where you come from, but here in Bayou, this is what we know.

A primary school teacher once told me that our people who came from Old Eorthe thousands of years ago have warmer weather in their southern hemisphere. It is not the case here. That teacher was reported and fired. I guess they didn’t want us longing for a world that we had no hope of ever returning to, not that most of us in the second grade had any concept of life on other planets, let alone in another star system.

So we accept snow in the swamps. We have to. We are Southern folk of the Bayuck. If we weren’t resilient, we couldn’t survive here. Sometimes starting at the bottom means you wear the only peacoat you have for days because it’s the nicest thing you own and you do laundry in a rusty washer and creaky dryer on the high porch in winter because you need to look good for your interview.

Everyone knew the mayor of Twinbrook. Silver Argento Racket had a reputation that preceded her. The Racket family had connections of a certain sort, the kind that could kick you up the ladder and help you move places. Nothing happened in this town without a Racket knowing or scheming. The Rackets built this town – this community on peat and bog land that no one said they could do. They started the school and brought educators from all over the world to give their children the best and brightest futures. They forged alliances banking industry and convinced them to invest in this backwater place. They raised City Hall, built parks, and brought commerce, breathing life into this stagnant godforsaken territory. They made people want to live here again, or they forced them out. All funded through shady backroom dealings and illicit black market trade. It was the Wild West renaissance of the south. If I was going to succeed in this strange, new world, I had to pay my dues.

“Don’t be nervous. This is just a formality. You come with high recommendations,” Silver said, with a smooth silkiness to her voice like a rattler luring its prey, priming for an attack.

“Thank you,” I smiled modestly, trying to ignore the sense of unease and awe in her presence. “I appreciate your high vote of confidence.” 

“Speaking of votes, that’s what you’re here for… to help me get votes for next fall’s reelection campaign,” Silver explained. “That’s the bulk of this internship… to make me look good.”

If anything, Silver Racket was known for her looks. The former Miss Bayou, Silver participated (and won) nearly every pageant under the sun. She redefined beauty standards when she dyed her hair a shimmering silver-white at the age of sixteen. Born and educated in the Sim Union, she was given every advantage and indulged in the high life. Her father, Antony Argento was paramount in the rebuilding of the industry on the eastern seaboard after both Xeno Wars. After an unfortunate incident to which no one referred, a “minor scandal” as Silver would say, because no one would believe your legitimacy otherwise, she was forced to relocate to the Nation. She had to give up her privilege in Nueva Barcelona to manage her father’s company dealings in Bayou. Quick to adapt, she set her sights on her ticket out of ‘bureaucracy hell’ and married into the infamous Racket family.

“Image control. Do you think you’re up for the challenge?” 

Some may say I was foolish to align myself with the likes of someone like Silver Racket… or anyone in the Racket family for that matter. I could smell the danger almost as real as the unfortunate scent wafting from my coat that desperately needed another wash. The appliances were on the fritz again. I needed the money. I wanted the power. I knew if I worked for Silver, I could go anywhere. Maybe even as far up as governor of the state someday. I hoped Silver would overlook the slightly foul odor wafting from my wool and could focus on my credentials instead. Now was my opportunity to ‘sell’ it to her.

“Yes, absolutely, I have experience from my hometown volunteering in city superintendent’s office,” I answered. “I was responsible for the look of the website and campaign materials. The administrator needed a clear and honest message and to demonstrate his approachability in a single photo. I managed to demonstrate everything he wanted and more. He won that election and every one after it until his sad death from cancer last year. It’s all in the recommendation letter he wrote before his passing.”

It was a fib. But a mostly honest one. I was part of a team, and I didn’t lead the team. But Silver didn’t need to know that. She was smart, smarter than most people gave her credit for, but she was incredibly vain and spent an exorbitant amount of time on her figure and appearance. She paid other people to think for her so she could wow people with a single glance. If I was going to literally get in on her ‘good side,’ I had to really sell my abilities and my soul… just for a little while. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t the whole truth.

“It doesn’t matter what the other side says, who your opponents are, or what the judges determine. What matters is how you get there. And Mrs. Racket, I am your ‘how.’ I will help you succeed in a way you have never before and I have the skills, attitude, and willpower to go far, when you give me this opportunity.”

“Hmm… when… not if?” Silver arched a brow. “You have guts saying something like that, especially to me.”

I nodded. “You need guts and grit if you’re going to get glory. I’m your woman. I can take you there,” I said eagerly. “I’m willing to work long days, nights, and weekends and for little pay. Hell I will pay you to be part of this campaign because I believe in you and what you are doing and I want the people to believe in you too, and I can get you there. My daddy always used to say – if you believe you are a winner, you will be a winner.”

She was a Daddy’s girl, even after he banished her. I could see it in her frosty blue eyes, thawing and lighting like firecrackers. It didn’t matter that it was actually my mother’s partner who said such a thing. The point was those were the words Silver needed to hear, and I handed her myself on a silver platter, with a bow to boot. The carefully constructed lies would all come crumbling down around me someday, but at this point, it didn’t matter. I was hooked, addicted to the idea that ambition meant everything. And more importantly, Silver was hooked.

“I like how you think,” Silver said. “Okay you’re hired.”

“Mrs. Racket…”

“Please call me Silver…” she said as a cliched response, one in which I anticipated. “You work for me now and Mrs. Racket makes me sound like that overanxious hag who lives up in the Big House.”

Well if that’s how you really feel about the matriarch of the Racket family… no time to waste, I blinked and continued. “Silver, I would like to start as soon as possible. Today even. There’s still daylight left and we’re burning it. I’d like to be useful, so is there anything I can help you with now?”

“Hmm… well…” she wiggled her fingers in the air as she pondered her options. “Since you are paying me for this experience… how about putting some of your money where your mouth is?”

Never mind that I just went two weeks acting dirt broke and putting off paying the water bill just to get here. Never mind that I had to eat with my neighbors because I couldn’t afford groceries and needed to mooch off their WiFi. Never mind that I left behind everything I had ever known to move into my great grandmother’s stick-in-the-mud home. I needed this connection like I needed oxygen to breathe. I saved and used every last simoleon from my worthless daddy to build a fund that would pay into Silver’s campaign . The irony was I wouldn’t have landed here if I didn’t have the deed to great granny’s land. Oh the foolish dreams of youth! The limits I pushed to provide myself a future.

“I am hosting a neighborhood grill-a-thon tonight… a little competition to bring some goodwill to the people,” Silver said. “It would be a good opportunity for you to mingle and show the good people of Twinbrook just how fortunate it is to have the Racket family in their backyard.”

I smiled and nodded. Fortunate was code for line their pockets… and I wasn’t above bribery. If I was going to be Silver Racket someday, I would have to look like and sound like and be Silver Racket. A woman has to do desperate things to survive and succeed. Sometimes you have to lie down with dogs to rise with the wolves. My grandmother and mother did it. Silver did it. Now I would too.

“I understand.”


Author Notes: Thank you for reading. It took me a long time to post another chapter of My Life with Criminals, formerly Colt Family Traitacy. My writing inspiration is all over the page these days. I’m planning to try and wrap up a few other older stories here and there as well. In case you missed the reboot post, it’s here. I enjoyed giving more depth and breadth to both Silver Argento Racket and Rachel Colt in this chapter. It’s interesting writing from an omniscient (though slightly unreliable) narrator’s perspective as she reflects on her checkered past.

1.1 On My Own (MLC)

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When I was in my early twenties, if you had told me that I would become a successful politician, a wife, and a mother, I would’ve been thrilled. However, life is rarely as easy as one expects. There are always sacrifices. When I was younger, there were sacrifices I was willing to make to achieve my dreams, things I was willing to do to attain power, compromises I was willing to make to secure stability. Now these sacrifices and things and compromises seem incomprehensible. If only I could warn my younger self… but then I wouldn’t have the life I had. It’s not all bad… but it’s not all good either. This is the story of how I became associated with the most notorious family in the South.

Here I am… fresh out of college. Questioning my fashion choices. Not my favorite grey peacoat, but my high-heeled boots in snow. It rarely snowed here, but the day I moved 1200+ miles from my university campus, the ground was covered in five inches of snow. As I stared at the beat-up rusted trash can outside my new home, I wondered if I would ever be able to find a replica of the famous Bridgeport cheesesteaks. At least the Crescent City jazz scene was only a short forty minute drive away. I was itching to hear the Bayuck steel drums live and in person.

It was January of 2404. I had just inherited my great-grandmother’s tiny cabin on stilts in the backwater swamps of the great state of Bayou. I was young, eager, ambitious, excited to make friends and connections, with a strong passion for politics. I wanted to make a difference and change the world. Doesn’t everyone in their own way?

It wasn’t until my senior year, final semester that I realized I made a critical error. I had neglected the important rite-of-passage – a political internship. Finding work post graduation had been tricky. I spent the last seven months answering phones at a temp agency and bussing tables at a bar on the wharf at night.

Ma said I could come home to the sunny beaches of Sultona. She promised me that she would find me a job through her connections to the State Assembly. But I needed to make my own way. I had vowed never to go back. I wouldn’t face my father ever again. Not without making something of myself first.


Author Notes: Welcome to the first official chapter of the re-write of Colt Family Traitacy… now known as My Life with Criminals. If you missed the context for this decision, read my ramblings here. 🙂

1.71 Return to Light (Dennis) [TAT]

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Fleeing the country, Dennis Racket finds himself in Simnadia, and in a job he never thought he’d take. Still a friend owed him a favor, and now he’s guaranteed protection if he goes straight. Whenever the “kids” need advice, he’s still happy to relive the good old days before the Racket crime family went sideways.

Two Weeks Ago

“No man is an Island, entire of it self; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main.”

The man dressed in black with a singular red rose pinned to his lapel tapped the leather-bound book pressed between his hands. No man is an island? He read the words a hundred times, perhaps a thousand times, and yet each time, he felt both peace and pain. Peace – because he knew he had been given a second chance at life, a chance he did not deserve, a chance a thousand better men deserved, no, ten thousand better men. Pain – because of the ironic twist of life, blackmailed by his father, back-stabbed by his wife, separated from his children… all of them, and rejected by the woman he loved. She was living a lie, he smiled wryly, but he would’ve been living a lie with her if he ever thought she would choose his heart over her career. And the most ironic thing about it – he lived on an island.

“Watch your head, sir,” the pilot warned him, pointing to the whirring blades overhead.

As Dennis Racket, a.k.a. Deon Merton, stepped from the helicopter onto the freshly fallen snow, he mused over the romance of a man past his prime living alone. He never needed to worry about keeping a spouse awake when he poured over his books late at night by the light of an oil lamp. He never needed to concern himself with his late hours at his place of work because no one would be waiting up for him when he arrived home. His accommodations were sparse, something his wife would’ve hated. No, he chuckled to himself, she would’ve absolutely despised the tiny one-room cabin in the woods with the only way on or off the island was by boat, and if Azure Lake was frozen, by helicopter.

“Thanks Arnard,” he lifted a gloved hand to wave goodbye as he watched the helicopter lift from the helipad.

Pulling his red coat lapel up around his neck, he exhaled heavily, seeing his breath impale the night. He sniffed the air. Wood smoke. He turned in the direction of his cabin. Perhaps someone was waiting up for him after all.

He embarked on the short jaunt over the ridge, through the trees. Thanks to the full moon, Dennis didn’t need to rely on his superior eyesight, although he was used to the path of darkness. Only a few years before did he escape a penitentiary through the sewer, relying on nothing but touch to find his way. He was nothing short of pro, a fact that was useful in  jailbreaks.

Once outside the prison, he was met by someone unexpected… his older brother, Dudley. The man was a state police officer, and he surely could’ve put his kid brother back behind bars, especially given the family estrangement.

I know what you did,” Dudley said, his voice low and too even to deduce emotion.

Dennis was not scared easily. He waited. And then Dudley did something unexpected. He unlocked the handcuffs, and patted him on the back.

You smell like hell, Dennyand I know you protected Ma.”

Dudley gave Dennis a package with a change of clothes, some fresh supplies, and a book… by Merton Thomsim, a Jacoban monk, poet, and mystic. It was only fitting he picked the name from the author of the last gift the woman he loved gave him. She inscribed the inside page to him and promised she would never forget him. For that, he practically memorized the book.

Your woman really loves you. She did a hell of a lot convincing to get me to come here,” Dudley admitted, taking off his signature cowboy hat and wiping his brow.

Dennis was grateful, but…

If she loved me, she’d be coming with...”

Dudley opened his mouth to speak and Dennis waved him off. “She’s got her own priorities and a kid…” he blinked. “…two kids to think about.”

He didn’t add ‘my kid.’

I know,” Dudley said, quietly. “Can’t have a babe on the run. It’s why I… you know…” he placed his hat back on his head and gave a lopsided smile. “…all those years ago…” he cleared his throat.

Dennis knew the reference.

“…it’s a dangerous life… police detective an’ all… ‘specially when your family’s the mob.” He patted Dennis’ pocket and slipped him some Simos. “‘Sides, she’s a good girl. Skeet and…well…”

Dennis understood why his brother didn’t mention the name of the woman he loved. He understood very well.

“… he done raised her right. And Bill… will..er…raise your boy right…if he gets his head outta his ole stinky behind.” 

Dennis resisted the urge to laugh. He hoped so. For Rachel’s sake.

I’ll look in on ’em from time to time if yer like,” Dudley offered.

“I’d appreciate that,” Dennis smiled. More than you know. 

More than you know. Dennis puffed out another beat of visible air as he reached the ridge. His brother had told him to scoot before he changed his mind. Dennis knew it was a bluff, but since the man was a state police detective, and he could get fired or worse for aiding and abetting a fugitive, he decided to leave before he’d cause his big bro any more trouble. He never once looked back. He would always be grateful. He owed his freedom to Dudley… the ironic family black sheep… and Rachel.

Dennis squinted his eyes. Wood smoke was billowing from his watch tower. Someone had set a fire, probably to keep warm on the chilly night. The temperature was nearing the teens. Probably some tourists who lost there way. It wasn’t the first time someone had used his cabin. He didn’t particularly mind. It was nice to get company every once in awhile. Still, he patted the standard issue weapon in his sidearm. He couldn’t be too careful.

His new identity aside, Dennis had never been one for disguises. He could be recognized by the wrong people if he weren’t careful. He was still a wanted man. That was why the odds of his landing protective detail for the queen herself was one in a billion. But Cat owed him a favor. He smiled slyly as he maneuvered through the trees to get a better view of the docks. It was strange that her royal highness allowed him to call her Cat, but he knew her a century ago, when the affectionate nickname was more appropriate. Not even her latest husband called her Cat.

A boat. So they did come by sea? He knelt down at the edge of the hillside, following the trail that was barely visible since the snow hadn’t stopped falling for the last few hours. Definitely a they. Two people, he suspected as he slid down the hill and knelt to touch a boot print. A woman? he frowned and glanced forward a few steps. And a wounded man. Well… Dennis stood and brushed the snow from his gloved hands. He wants her to think he’s wounded. The gait was hesitant and dragged a little too heavily as if the man was trying too hard to appear slow. Probably to garner sympathy. 

A quick gaunt over to the dock confirmed his suspicions. The boat, with a gaudy monstrosity of a logo on the side, and the vehicle was tied with an unusual knot, convinced him that he had a friend awaiting him in the cabin. He only knew one person who used this kind of loop and there was only one guy this person would go to for a boat – James Brand – and like his namesake, the latter enjoyed marking his properties and shipments and just about everything with a Cyrillic ‘b.’

Dennis shook his head and clucked his tongue. Still doing business with the Brand? His friend was predictable. He glanced up at the cabin. A friend who wasn’t alone and most likely entertaining. Dennis smirked. Should I interrupt their fun? He decided first to use the facilities. A hot shower after a long week of service detail might help him relax. Plus, it would give the man and his ‘catch of the month’ a chance to finish up in the main house.

As he rounded the curve, Dennis noticed the lights in the outhouse were on. In the winter that wasn’t unusual given he typically kept the power on continuously to the little hut. There was nothing he hated worse than a freezing bathroom floor. Even so, out of politeness for a friend and his guest, he decided to knock. He rapped on the door three times with his gloved knuckles.

“Yes? Is that you, Billy?” a sweet young voice called out to him.

There were many times he wished he could still be back in the Racket mansion, not for the drama and the violence and the blackmail and mayhem, but for the little things. Like the sound of her voice in the morning when she was finishing her routine in the bathroom. He liked to knock on the door and check in on her. He would just be getting home from an overnight shift, usually involving balancing books or checking weapons shipments or arranging for someone to be put in the hospital. And she would be just getting ready to leave for work, her important job at City Hall, keeping the people of Twinbrook safe with her policies to clean up the streets.

Oh how he loved her naivete and her optimism! She was so young… too young for his brother, Bill, actually, about half his age. And even if Dennis was a little closer in age, she would never look twice at him. She still had yet to learn the irony of getting mixed up with the likes of the Racket family, and he prayed she never would know the full depth of consequences. She had such big dreams and high hopes and lofty aspirations. She would go far… if she could only get out quick enough… and without any scars… which was nearly impossible with the Rackets. The only way out was in a body bag. He learned that the hard way. He died so he could escape prison. The only ones who knew the truth were Dudley and… well…

She would open the door, usually dressed in a nightgown, usually squeezing the water out of her hair with a towel or applying her makeup. She would offer him a  smile, and ask if he needed the room. Most days, he would say ‘yes’ just to cover up the fact that he only knocked to see her smile. He wished his own wife would smile at him like that. Never before in his life did he want something so badly, and yet need her to stay so very far away in order to not get hurt. He doubted Silver would even move when he climbed into bed beside her, and if she did, it would be to grunt and complain about his cold toes or something, interrupting her beauty sleep. His wife was a former model. She did need her… rest.

Dennis could count the number of days he knocked on her door as he passed by the bathroom. He could count the number of days he fantasized about knocking on his current bathroom door, wishing he could see her face again, her lovely smile, the innocence in her liquid brown eyes. It would never be there again and he knew it. Every year spent with the Rackets corrupted her, even more, and he could kick himself because that corruption was what caused her to be unfaithful. He had no right to take his brother’s wife, especially while his own was in rehab and vulnerable, and yet he felt so desperate to be loved, he overrode his logic and his chivalry and choose to cave to his instincts. And he would forever bare the consequences. Rachel certainly had.

Dennis opened the door slowly. The screeching young girl startled Dennis Racket and he took a step back. Her red hair whipped about as she backed into the wall, her eyes filled with fear. She couldn’t have been much younger than his daughter. He realized his grimace at her loud vocals probably didn’t help his harmless dad impression.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you,” he spoke.

“Who…who…who are you?” she stammered. “And what are you doing in here? My boyfriend is…” she pointed a shaky hand to the doorway. “…just out there. He probably… heard me scream. And… I…” she hiked her chin in the air. “…know a martial art or two… so I could hurt you if you try anything.”

“Don’t worry,” Dennis shook his head and lifted his hands in mock surrender.

Her threat amused him.

“I’m not here to rob or hurt you. I’m Deon…Deon Merton…” he introduced himself, offering a hand. “I own this here…outhouse and the watch tower back there.”

He still was unaccustomed to hearing the name he had chosen for himself, but he had to say something to calm the girl down.

“…and you are?”

“What are you doing here?” she said, evading his question. “And your eyes… they are…” her eyes widened. “…glowing.”

“Really?” he rubbed his jaw thoughtfully. “Must be a trick of the light.”

“Are you Billy’s friend?” she asked, tilting her head as if she didn’t quite believe him.

He stepped into the doorway, and motioned for her to pass him. “In a way.”

“What’s that supposed to mean? And you didn’t answer my question…” she stared at him. “Are you actually the… owner… of this establishment?” she planted her feet shoulder-width apart and placed her hands on her hips.

He realized he was only confusing her. “Yes, I am Billy’s friend.”

As if right on cue, Billy Caspian appeared outside the hut. The young man rushed through the door and placed a protective arm around her.

“Red, are you okay?”

“Yeah…um…” she eased off the wall. “This is your friend? Deon?”

“Yeah, Deon is my friend…” he glanced at Dennis and arched a brow, before continuing. “Kass, why don’t you go and warm up by the fire? Deon and I will be up to the main house in a few minutes.”

The girl called Kass hesitated, but once Billy gave her a patronizing kiss on the forehead, she sighed and slipped out into the darkness, making a comment about them letting all the cold air in.

“She’s pretty,” Dennis shrugged.

“Don’t get any ideas, Deon,” Billy narrowed his eyes. “I wasn’t expecting you until tomorrow.”

“If you stopped bringing your lovescapades here, then I wouldn’t keep surprising you,” Dennis walked to the mirror and opened the cabinet, retrieving his eye drops.

“You know if you were true to yourself, you wouldn’t have to use those,” Billy folded his arms and leaned against the doorway.

Dennis plopped a few drops in each eye, blinked a few times, and grabbed a paper towel to dab the excess moisture. “That’s rich coming from you,” he snorted. “Like you’re honest about your true self.”

Billy shrugged. “She knows.”

“About the werewolfism?”

“Yes.”

“About the vampire part too?”

“Not yet.”

“Ah… yes… and you’ll tell her?”

Billy exhaled sharply, and puffed a stray piece of hair from his eyes. “I don’t see how it’s any of your business what I do and don’t tell her.”

“It’s not,” Dennis said, closing the mirror and blinking a few times, seeing his eyes return to normal. “I figured you might want to tell her eventually. Just friendly advice.”

“The last woman I told everything dumped me, remember? She couldn’t handle the truth,” Billy replied, his voice agitated and defensive. “And why am I taking advice from you, old man? You haven’t been with a woman since…”

Dennis turned, leaning against the sink, sending a warning glare in Billy’s direction. “I’d watch your tone. I’m still your…”

“Yeah, my long last whatever who just so happens to be cramping my style,” Billy spit out sarcastically.

“You weren’t out here with her. How long has she been gone?”

“I dunno. I fell asleep.”

“Exactly, and…” Dennis took a step forward and ran a finger down the glass of the shower door. “By the looks of it, she was out here for awhile before I interrupted her.”

“So?” Billy sniffed.

“So… maybe I’m not…” he used air quotes. “…’cramping your style‘ if she was hiding from you.”

“She wasn’t hiding from me!” Billy shoved off the hut door, dropping his arms to his side as he balled his hands into fists. “Kass is… she’s good for me. I like her a lot.”

“But are you good for her?” Dennis said, knowing the answer.

Racket men were never good for women.

“She’s fine, Deon…” Billy grunted. “She chose to be with me. And I haven’t been with anyone since… well… that hook-up in Califorsimia… which meant nothing,” he kicked at a loose floorboard. “‘Sides… Kass loves me.”

“Then why was she crying?” Dennis sighed.

He knew the look too well. The woman who tried to cover up her tears. His mother. Silver. Rachel. Even Billy’s mother at one time. Racket men didn’t know how to be good, and that’s why their women ended up shredded. Dennis wished he had words of wisdom he could impart. He hoped his sons would learn from his mistakes. They could be better than the previous generations. Dennis and his brothers may be lost causes, but Billy? Shark? Even little Ernest? Maybe not so much. And the hitch in Billy’s voice when he said his latest girlfriend loved him indicated he wasn’t fully certain about it. Dennis stepped forward and laid a hand on Billy’s shoulder.

“Maybe I’m not the best person to give you advice, but that girl was crying. You upset her somehow, and if you like her as you say you do, you should make things right with her… starting by being honest with her about who you are. No man is an island… you need to open up if you expect to keep her. Does she even know your real name?”

Dennis figured he already knew the answer as the girl had called out for Billy.

“No,” Billy shook his head, shoving his hands in his pockets as he walked out the door in a frustrated huff. ” I’ll see you at the house.”

“William?” Dennis called out, hoping the boy would return.

“I don’t think she can handle the real me,” was the last thing he heard Billy say.

Dennis sighed. The special ones can. He watched his son stomp up the steps to the watch tower as he, himself, left the outhouse. Turning his face fully into the view of the moon, Dennis closed his eyes.

The special ones can help you return to light. 


Author Note: Thanks for reading. Oh yeah! For those of you familiar with generation 1 of the Colt Family Traitacy, you recognized the bomb I just dropped. For the record, I always planned to have Billy Caspian not be exactly who he says he is, and I always planned for him to have some connection to a criminal family. It just worked out perfectly to interweave him into Dennis’ family. You’ll learn more in the future, and also more about Dennis’ “surprise” supernatural state. FYI, Merton Thomasin is actually my Simworld version of Thomas Merton, the Catholic monk. Hope you enjoyed. 

1.64 Fade to Black (CFT)

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Author’s Note: For some odd reason, the previous chapter didn’t publish on the correct date. In case you missed it, please read it first here – 1.63 Need to Know. There’s important information in that chapter you need before proceeding. This is the final chapter in Generation 1: The Price of Ambitions. I’d love your feedback below, and if you’d let me know who you’d like to see in the future in the poll below also, I’d appreciate it. Thanks for coming along this bumpy journey with me in the Colt Family Traitacy. 


Rachel’s whole world came to a crashing halt… only she couldn’t afford to stop long enough to process. To breathe. To think clearly. To escape. She knew what she wanted to do. But she chose the best she could do, whether it was right. No matter what the price for her ambitions was… and she hoped it was worth it.

Four months ago, Rachel walked down the aisle for the second time to meet her husband, William Alton Racket. Everything inside of her had wanted to cry. She knew she was signing her heart’s death warrant, but there was too much at stake. She would be the proper Southern wife. She would go to counseling and make things work for the sake of her family. She would be the epitome of grace. She would be the representative of her city and act as a mayor should. She would provide the best stability for her daughter and son. She would be the woman she should be and rise above it all, despite the horrible truth… one which she would leave in the gnarly pit of despair forever

Bill had looked so handsome in grey tuxedo with his white scarf. The vow renewal had taken place in the Racket mansion backyard. Someone had sprinkled purple rose petals up the aisle. The shepherd had stood waiting beneath the beautiful wooded arch with white magnolias for the “happy couple.” Gala served as the matron of honor, her husband, DeAndre, and their baby girl, Quiana seated behind. Lolly was the extra bridesmaid and her boyfriend, Sinbad was even dressed served as the extra groomsman, and Dennis… had been the “best man.” It didn’t seem fair. Rachel knew it wasn’t fair. It was horrible. But she couldn’t do anything. She couldn’t say anything. She could lose everything and so could he. So on that day four months, two weeks, and six days before, Rachel Nyssa Colt held her head high and smiled at their guests as she reached for Bill’s hand to take him to be her husband… “till death do us part.”

Lolly and Sinbad returned to school.

Her mother and Virginia had returned home.

Gala and DeAndre moved to New Simoleans to open a restaurant.

Dennis went to visit Shark in rehab.

It was just Bill and Rachel, Hope, and the baby on the way in the manor. Rachel had never felt more lonely in her life. She should’ve been happy. She should’ve been grateful. This was supposed to be the happiest day of her life. The kind of day little girls dream about where they marry the wealthy man who loves and cares for them. Sure, Bill and Rachel hadn’t done things the traditional way, but things were better now.

A year ago, she was considering divorce. Now she was wondering if she made the best decision. But looking at her daughter, seated in the high chair, snacking on cereal for dinner, babbling about colors and fishies in the water, Rachel knew she could never leave her precious baby girl.

Today, Rachel had given birth to Ernest Phillip. Bill wanted their son to have his name, but she couldn’t do it. She literally could not write Ernest Phillip… Racket on the birth certificate. She wrote Colt instead. She also hesitated to write Bill’s name on the line as father. It was too painful to think about – he wanted to be a good dad and a good husband, but she couldn’t let him. In her heart, it was Dennis.

He was the one who had been there for her when she was pregnant with Hope. He was the one who had been there for her when Shark and Lolly confided in her and she needed help. He was the one who had been there for her when Max stabbed her last fall. She still had the scars. Dennis was the one who had held her in his arms when she cried because Bill never showed up at the ICU. Dennis was the one who made love to her like no man had ever done after she hadn’t wanted to go back to her hotel room alone after her release from the hospital. Dennis had been a man trapped in a loveless marriage. She should be grateful that her spouse was nothing like Silver. At least Bill cared and loved her now. He was around. He tried.

In the past few months, so many things had changed. Shark had continued to have ups and downs with his rehabilitation, and had made two more suicide attempts. Russ’ wife, Bo and their baby son were killed in a “mugging gone wrong” three weeks ago, and all hell broke loose. Drive-by shootings and gang fights in alleys had become more commonplace. Bodies turned up in the swamps. The Racket family business continued its in-fighting. It was practically civil war on the streets of Twinbrook. The national guard had come assist, and they had all but enforced a city-wide curfew. Rachel had tried desperately to liaise with the police and other emergency services, but she couldn’t do much since she had been about to give birth. Bill ordered a twenty-four hour guard to follow Rachel in the last days of her pregnancy, terrified she could be next if Russ chose to retaliate.

He did… but not in the way people expected.

Dennis had been arrested… for the murder of Timmy DeBleu. How the hell he figured that cold case out was beyond everyone, but nonetheless, Dennis sat in the Twinbrook County Jail, awaiting sentencing. Rachel had decided today was the day she would go see him. When everyone thought she was sleeping, she slipped out of the pregnancy care center, and took a taxi across town. After a few minutes of processing, she waited nearly forty minutes before the guards brought Dennis in his orange jumpsuit. She pushed the intercom button.

“How are you?” she asked softly.

“Rachel?” he seemed shocked. “Why are you here? Is everything okay? Didn’t you have the baby just recently?”

“Yes,” she replied. “But I had to see you… and make sure you were okay.”

“I’m…” he scratched his head. “As well as can be expected. Did the labor go well? I wish I could’ve been there.”

“Labor was fine,” Rachel said, numbly.

It didn’t feel as though she had just given birth.

“I name him Ernest… Ernest Philip.”

She saw the slightest twitch of his brow. He remained silent for a moment.

“Congratulations, Rachel,” he said slowly.  “I bet Hope will be happy to have a new baby brother. Please pass along my congratulations to Bill.”

Fidgeting in her chair, Rachel changed the subject. “Are you really okay in here? Do you need anything? Do you know what’s going to happen? I’ve heard so much gossip. It’s hard to filter out the truth.”

“I always knew this would catch up with me one day. It’s time I did time.”

Rachel leaned forward and touched the glass with her hand, tears brimming in her eyes. “Dennis, you can’t… you don’t know… you could get…” she couldn’t bring herself to say it.

“The death penalty?” he said quietly. “I know.”

“What about your federal contacts?”

“Murder kinda negates my contract with them. I mean, I was trying to bring them Russ, but they’ve cut off ties since the arrest.”

“But it was in the past… so long ago.”

“Rachel, you should know better than anyone that murder has no statute of limitations.”

She cracked her knuckles nervously, wondering how Russ found the information. She wondered how he found the proof… unless… he had been in contact with Silver. Could that have been why? Rachel’s eyes widened. …why Dennis stayed married to Silver for so long? Why he never left her? A drunken affair with her husband’s cousin wouldn’t surprise Rachel. In fact, the pieces fit and made sense now. It was Silver… and Russ… holding this awful burdensome secret over Dennis’ head. It had to be. It was the only way to explain everything. And now with Silver dead and his own wife and son dead, Russ thought he had nothing left to lose.

“I know… I studied law… I just… there’s word on the streets…” she added, worriedly. “Russ is amping up something huge. Bill and I are talking about leaving Twinbrook at the end of my term.”

“You won’t need to worry about Russ much longer,” Dennis clenched his fists.

Rachel leaned forward into the glass. “Dennis…” she breathed. “How can you say that?” she glanced around as if expecting guards to swoop in on them. “…you’re in prison.”

“I made some assurances before I was taken in by the police,” he replied cryptically. “Look, Rachel, it was the only thing I could do. I wanted my family to be safe. He made threats against Shark and Lolly…and I’ve heard rumors about you and Bill and the kids. He needs to be handled once and for all.”

She lowered her eyes, feeling eternally grateful, even though she was terrified.

“This might be the last time I see you,” he added.

“What do you mean?” her eyes widened.

“Things are being handled. I’ve heard the rumors though too.”

“Please Dennis… tell me… what are you going to do?”

“I didn’t want to worry you more, but Russ has put a hit out on me.”

She gasped. She wasn’t surprised, but she never felt so fearful in her life. He seemed so calm. How could he be so damn calm? Rachel balled her fists and resisted the urge to drop her head on the tiny ledge table.

“Dennis…” she whispered.

“I know, Rachel, it’s okay. Things will be okay. I have plans. I won’t be in danger much longer.”

“How can you say that?”

“Because… just trust me, Rachel.”

“Please, please, stop saying my name.”

“Why?”

“It hurts too much…”

He sighed. “Does Bill know? About our night together?”

She shook her head fiercely.

“Good, it’s better that way. It’s better for everyone. Safer that no one knows he’s my son.”

Rachel gasped. “How did you know?”

They sat in silence for a moment, and Rachel’s heart ached. She wished everything was different. She wished she could go back and change every bad decision she ever made. Most of all, she desperately wished she had met Dennis first.

“I always knew,” he said, his voice catching. “I just didn’t think you wanted me to know.”

Rachel stared at him with tear-filled eyes, wishing the glass wasn’t dividing them, that she could hold the father of her newborn son, that she could hug him and tell him how sorry she was, and explain why she picked Bill over him. But he knew. She knew. It just couldn’t be.

“Ernest… it’s a nice name,” he croaked.

“After The Importance of Being Earnest,” she replied sorrowfully. “After your favorite book.”

Dennis leaned in his chair and lowered his voice. “Come with me.”

“What?” she asked as if she hadn’t heard him.

“Come with me. I know I’m risking a lot to tell you, but I just…” he continued.

“Don’t go,” she cried.

All the words they weren’t saying…

“I have to… it’s the only way… I can…” he began, but she interrupted.

“No, no,” she cried. “Dennis… I can’t… you can’t… I don’t want you to leave.”

“If I stay…” he seemed to ponder for a moment. “No, it’s the only way to be alive someday for our son. I have to go… but you can come with me.”

“I can’t,” she shook her head.

“We can be together… you… me… and Ernest… we can get away from here.”

“Dennis, it’s wishful thinking.”

“…they would never find us. We would be safe. Please, come with me, Rachel. You could meet me. I’d arrange everything. You wouldn’t have to worry.”

“But Hope…” she thought of her daughter with Bill. “And this town… my career… Bill…” she couldn’t believe she said the name of her husband. “Oh how I want to… Dennis… believe me, I want to… so much…”

“I know,” he dropped his head into his hands.

Rachel said words she never thought she would be able to say aloud genuinely and freely.

“I love you Dennis…”

 Dennis met her gaze. His eyes misted with tears. Rachel knew he had never once heard those words sincerely from his wife. Rachel knew he desperately needed and wanted to be loved just as much as she did. He reached up to touch the glass, but quickly jerked his hand. The finality of his movement only further demonstrated how trapped they both were – trapped by their lies and secrets and ambitions. She longed to hear the words from him in return, but she knew this was wishful thinking.

“…goodbye, Rachel.”

 


Author Note: This is the final chapter in Generation 1: The Price of Ambitions. I am feeling overwhelmingly bittersweet about this, and I hated to end on such a depressing note, but it was time to move on. Rachel and Bill are not traditional legacy founders, but it felt appropriate to end with the “vow renewal” ceremony, though the circumstances are happily ironic here.

Yes, Silver had conspired with Russ to hold the truth about the murder of Timmy DeBleu over Dennis’ head. That’s how long Russ has been operating in the shadows and driving wedges in the Racket family organization. I know that it’s a little late to be introducing that tidbit, and maybe it’s lazy writing, but I wanted to fit it in before finishing this generation.

I want to cry as I end things with Dennis and Rachel here. I wrote an alternate ending where the two run away together, but it just didn’t feel right, even if this option was infinitely more depressing. Rachel choose her career time and time again and sacrificed nearly everything for it, and now she can’t get back up to the surface. It didn’t feel realistic to have her abandon everything, plus I just couldn’t do that to darling Hope as she would forever be a reminder of Bill to Rachel since he is her father.

I also didn’t want to resolve absolutely everything in this ending. There are many things up in the air – What will happen to Russ? Will Dennis succeed and run away? Will the Rackets-Colts ever see Dennis again? How will Shark recover? Will Lolly and Sinbad stay together? Will Rachel and Bill stay together? What about Ernest? Will Rachel ever tell Bill the truth? Does she know the whole truth about Bill and his one-night-stand? Will Rachel continue to advance in her career? What is the fate of Twinbrook?

I’d love to hear your thoughts about the Colt Family Traitacy – your predictions for the future, what you enjoyed from this generation, and answer any lingering questions you may have. Please let me know in the comments below. 

I also plan to continue with the Racket/Colt family. I’m not moving along to Generation 2 just yet. I plan to write an interlude – Generation 1.5 from the perspective of Shark and Lolly Racket. I already have chapters outlined. I will continue to write about Rachel Colt in the background.

I’d love your feedback about who you’d like to see, in addition to Shark and Lolly, in Generation 1.5: The Choices We Make.

1.63 Need to Know (CFT)

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“You’d think since I’ve already done this once, I could do it again,” Rachel lamented to her best friend and niece.

Only an hour left. Rachel’s stomach flip-flopped and she felt the life inside her kick as if trying out for the football team. Wincing, she paused in her application of mascara. The vow renewal ceremony had been the suggestion of their marriage counselor. Rachel had agreed to go through with it as Bill insisted they do a “proper” wedding this time. He had been incredibly sweet recently, almost a completely new Bill. He gave her back rubs and foot rubs nearly every day, made her breakfasts in bed, and brought her flowers for no reason. He went on the patch, quitting cigarettes altogether, and spent as much time with his daughter as possible. He even started going to mass. He seemed like a truly repentant man, and when he kissed Rachel good night before bed, she knew he really loved her… which only made her feel more guilty.

The recent tensions in Twinbrook between rival factions of the Racket crime organization only proved the brevity of life. Rachel worked with the city police to try and make the city safer while Dennis continued to mount evidence against his cousin from the inside as best as he could, even more motivated since his son nearly was blown to pieces. That and Shark’s attempted suicide. Dennis had accompanied Shark to rehab in Appaloosa Plains, and returned even more distant, and she figured it was because he had much on his mind.

Rachel had gone to see him in Appaloosa Plains in early January. She told Bill she was visiting her mother to tell her the news about the baby. She told herself she wanted to make sure Shark was okay, but really she had an ulterior motive. She needed to know.

Dennis had been surprised to see her, but graciously accepted her arrival. They had talked for hours, or what felt like days, about anything and everything under the sun. Rachel asked him about how he felt about Silver’s death, and he had admitted what she had already known – he was relieved. The woman had held a dark secret over him all these years, one which he finally shared with Rachel.

When Dennis and Silver were in college, she was dating another young man, one from a rival crime family in the state of Bayou. His name was Timmy DeBleu, Dennis told Rachel. And he was a bastard. A real abusive son-of-a-bitch. He beat Silver regularly. Dennis was tending bar during this time and she would come in and cry at the counter over peanuts because she told him she couldn’t afford a meal. He would buy her a sandwich or a hamburger and let her pour out her sorrows. Sometimes he’d let her come home with him and sleep on his apartment couch. One night, she convinced him to be with her because she wanted to know what real lovemaking felt like. Dennis said he had a soft spot for broken birds, and he should’ve seen through Silver’s elaborate sob fests.

When Silver came into the bar with broken ribs and a broken nose, Dennis had enough. The next day he drove to Timmy’s residence and broke into the man’s home. He found the guy on top of Silver in the bed, choking her. Dennis threw the man off the poor woman and gave him a taste of his own medicine. Only he went too far. Timmy was dead. Silver cried in relief and said she wouldn’t ever tell a soul, and she thanked him for rescuing her. They dumped the man’s body in the swamp and they drove back to Twinbrook. Silver moved in with him that day and within a few months, they were married.

Then on his wedding night, he learned who Silver really was. A manipulative, conniving bitch. She and Timmy contrived a plan to kidnap a Racket for ransom by having Silver pretend to be a victim. Silver realized it was a stupid idea and decided to do a longer con by marrying into the Racket family and divorcing him later and getting a huge settlement, and Dennis delivered better than she expected by killing her boyfriend. She realized by staying in the marriage, she could inevitably have more.

I killed a man for that woman, Dennis admitted sorrowfully. It was his first time. He had thought he was protecting Silver, but he played right into her evil schemes. She threatened if he ever tried to divorce her, she would reveal the video tape she had – of Dennis choking Timmy to death. Rachel had felt sick when she learned the news. She should’ve felt scared but instead she felt nothing but sorrow and pain for a man she wanted to comfort, a man she was growing to care deeply about – a man who was not her husband. And Bill had been nothing but good to her since she announced her second pregnancy.

Bill helped form the citizens-against-crime committee for the mayor’s office, leading the charge and trying his best to make sure his wife’s political reign wasn’t marked by rising crime rates. Rachel appreciated his help. He had spent hours in the library doing research and calling other cities in the state to find out what they did to reduce crime. Rachel liaised with the governor’s office in Crescent City, calling in every favor she could to bolster the police department, make the streets cleaner, and help the families of Twinbrook feel safer. Even so, her poll ratings were lower than she would like. But that was the least of her worries.

“You’ll be fine, mamma,” Gala, her best friend, and maid of honor assured her. “You have nothing to be nervous about.”

Easy for you to say, Rachel thought, but said, “Thank you.” Gala had a loving husband and a baby girl all her own, Quiana, and a flourishing catering business. Rachel had the appearance of success – a wealthy, doting husband, a happy, healthy child and another on the way, and political power to make an actual difference, but she wasn’t happy. She couldn’t put her finger on why. Most women would be over the moon if they could make their marriage work even after an affair, but Rachel felt empty.  Like she was living the wrong life.

“You look beautiful, Aunt Rachel,” Lolly said sweetly. “Grandma’s diamonds suit you.”

Rachel absently fingered the necklace gracing her collarbone. Marigold’s final gift to her daughter-in-law before passing away in her sleep. She had been released from prison after the police determined the death was “accidental.” However, her memory deteriorated even more rapidly and the woman was placed in a nursing home for the final weeks of her life. In a rare moment of lucidity, Marigold asked Rachel to take the piece of jewelry, a gift from her own mother on her wedding day.

“I don’t have much to give you,” Marigold had chuckled. “And Bill already gave you the family jewels…” she smirked. “Though I think she got more of you than him. Hope is a lovely girl.” 

Rachel had smiled and hugged the elderly woman.

May it bring you more luck than it did me, dear,” she had said, patting Rachel affectionately on the cheek.

“Thank you, Lolly,” Rachel returned to the present, and squeezed her niece’s hand.

She was grateful the girl had come home on spring break for the wedding. She considered Loyola Racket a friend in addition to family.

“You two look great too,” she said.

“Oh stop,” Gala waved her hand. “You’re the bride. You look better than we do.”

“Of course,” Lolly piped in.

Rachel smiled, wondering what she would do without these two.

A knock on the door interrupted the ladies, and Gala slipped out for a moment to speak with the catering staff. Rachel sighed and patted her stomach, wondering if the baby would behave during the ceremony. She already felt nauseous. She had no reason to feel nervous. It wasn’t like she hadn’t been with Bill a thousand times, but tonight was different. Tonight marked the sobering reality – there was no going back. This was it. She was committed. Rachel wasn’t sure why that made her feel so terrible… so trapped.

“Are you okay, Aunt Rach?” Lolly asked, her face showing genuine concern.

“Yes,” Rachel answered quickly. “I’ll be fine.”

Will I? 

“Are you sure you want to do this?”

The question completely surprised her, especially coming from her niece. Rachel turned to face the young woman, wondering what prompted her to ask such a thing. Lolly looked completely serious, and she held out her car keys.

“I have a full tank of gas and you can stay in my Olde Towne apartment if you’d like,” she offered quietly. “Sinbad and I won’t be back for several days. We’re going to take a drive down to Sultona for the remainder of my break.”

Rachel’s eyes filled with tears. Did Lolly know? Suspect? How? she wondered in bewilderment. She leaned forward and hugged Lolly. She wished she could. In the depths of her heart, she wished so fiercely she could just leave everything behind. But she had Hope to think about, and this town, and her career. She couldn’t leave. No matter how desperately she wanted to escape it all. I’ve really damned myself to hell. Rachel wished she could take it all back, but she had no idea she was practically making a deal with the devil when she started sleeping with Bill all those years ago. She probably never would have advanced as far as she did without the help and prestige, albeit infamous, of the Racket family. But at what cost? 

“Lolly, thank you,” she said hoarsely. “You have no idea… thank you… this means so much to me. But I can’t.”

Lolly smiled sadly. “I wouldn’t think any less of you either way.”

Damnit! Rachel swiped at the tears stinging her eyelids, hoping she didn’t smudge her mascara. She grabbed the girl for another embrace.

“I’ll never forget the offer,” she whispered.

Lolly nodded, and slipped out of the room noiselessly. Rachel only had a moment to freshen her face before her mother and her mother’s long time lover made an entrance to wish her luck. Rachel couldn’t recall her mother looking happier. About a month ago, Rita had called to say she left Rachel’s father, finally, after all these years, and she and Virginia had eloped in Beach City.

“You look beautiful, my sweet,” Rita said excitedly. “We’re glad we could make it for your day.”

“Well, you missed the last time,” Rachel shrugged, and reached out to squeeze the other woman’s hand. “Thank you for coming, Virginia.”

“I’m happy to be here,” Virginia said graciously. “And you’re looking well.”

“Thank you,” Rachel said, bobbing her head back and forth. “More or less.”

“Well, you’ve got that glorious pregnancy glow,” Rita gushed. “Bill is a lucky man.”

Rachel cast her eyes down to the tile floor.

“I’m afraid the airport lost my luggage,” Rita sighed. “So this is the best I’ve got…” she held out her arms, displaying her rather casual outfit for a wedding.

“Ma, I’m just glad you’re here,” Rachel said. “Don’t worry about it.”

“Well, we should go get our seats,” Rita said. “Come on, Ginny,” she squeezed her partner’s hand. “We’ll see you downstairs, sweetheart.”

The door closed behind the two women. Rachel gasped out in pain as she felt the baby kick once more. Five months. Four more. She counted. She wasn’t sure how much longer she could do this. Already the pregnancy was harder than the last. The doctor assured her the baby was healthy, but Rachel prompted her to run a few more tests to be sure the last time she was in the office, and one specifically to help put her mind at ease. That or make me go crazy. 

As if on cue, her cell phone rang. Rachel picked up the device, recognizing the number of her doctor’s office.

We have your test results back, Mrs. Racket,” the doctor was saying. “And I thought I should call you myself as it may have bearing on your future.”

“Yes?” she asked, catching her breath as she waited to hear the inevitable news, something she thought she knew deep down in her heart already thanks to constantly advancing technology.

The DNA results confirm that the father of your baby is Dennis Racket.” 


Author Note: Dun… dun… duuuuuuuuuuunnnnnn! Yes, the plot thickens… yet again. One reveal and then another. I wanted to do a whole chapter with Rachel and Dennis together and my game kept crashing so I had to debug and then decided just to plop his “secret” into this chapter instead. Timmy DeBleu is an actual deceased Sim in Twinbrook, though he died of the mummy’s curse. Given he got mixed up with Silver (or perhaps the other way around), the “curse” thing sort-of works… never mind… I have no idea how this works, but I’m using creative license. I did a little research on the subject of DNA testing in the womb, and discovered there is technology that allows for this fairly early on in the pregnancy, but it’s expensive and not well known. But my Sims stories are set on an alternate planet, Simterra, so the technology could believably exist there more prominently. Hope you enjoyed the chapter!

1.62 Second Chances (CFT)

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Bill carried his terrified little girl from the mansion as the firefighters raced in the front door. Hope was screaming her little head off in his arms. He shielded her from seeing her cousin, Shark, bent and twisted in the snow as the paramedics attended to him. He had been finishing trimming his facial hair at the bathroom sink when he heard the fire alarm screech. He dropped everything and ran to the nursery situated directly above the kitchen, scooping up his daughter and snagging her winter coat and shoes before running from the house.

After calling emergency authorities, he waited in the yard. One of the paramedics checked his daughter to make sure she was okay after a little smoke inhalation. Once cleared to go, Bill walked down the street to DeAndre and Gala Wolfe’s home, figuring it was best to keep his baby girl from the noise and commotion. He stood in their yard, bouncing Hope up and down on his hip, cooing and soothing her as best as he could. Nothing else mattered right now. His precious daughter was safe.

“I love you so much,” he whispered, squeezing her head into his shoulder. “I don’t know what I would’ve done if I lost you.”

Bill reached into his pocket and pulled out his cellular phone, dialing the familiar number.

Bill? Where are you?

Rachel sounded panicked.

“I’m okay. Hope is okay. We’re fine.”

My secretary told me our house was on fire.

“It was. It is…” he glanced back at the manor and watched as the firefighters sprayed the kitchen with high-powered hoses. “But it won’t be for long.”

Where are you? Are you safe?

“I’m up at DeAndre and Gala’s.”

Oh thank heavens. I’ll be right there.”

“Oh my daughter, I was so worried!” Rachel plucked Hope from Bill’s arms and held her up in the air. “I’m so glad you are safe.”

Hope looked over at her father, seemingly confused about her mother’s sudden appearance. Rachel continued to hug and hold her child, tears streaming down her face. Gala came out of the estate, wrapped in a thick coat, and bringing a blanket. She smiled and made her greetings and offered to carry the little girl inside. Rachel put out her hand worriedly, almost afraid to let Hope go, but Bill laid his hand on top of her arm and encouraged her to trust their friend.

Once Hope and Gala were out of earshot, Rachel threw her arms around Bill, and bawled.

“I was so scared, Bill, so scared… I heard about the house being on fire… my secretary… came to get me,” she hiccuped. “And I ran home as fast as I could. I didn’t even get my car.”

“It’s okay. It’s okay, Rae baby,” he soothed.

“I don’t know what I would’ve done if I lost our Hope,” Rachel cried.

“But we didn’t. She’s fine. I’m fine.”

“Are you?”

“Yes, Rae… yes, I’m fine.”

“You’re all dressed up. Where… were…were you going somewhere?” Rachel asked bewildered.

“Yes, I was going to take Hope to church.”

“Church?”

“It’s Sunday.”

“You were going to church?”

“Yes. I…uh… listen, Rachel, I know I’ve been a lousy husband. I know that you know that I cheated. That I’m a cheater. That I’m a bastard. That’s what I am. But I want to give our marriage another go. I… don’t want to be…with anyone else. I care about you… Rae baby… and I love our little girl. I know we can make things work… and I think with time… we could even grow to love each other again.”

He hadn’t let go of her. She stayed in his embrace.

“Rachel,” he whispered in her ear. “I’ve lost my dad and mom. We lost Silver, and we nearly lost Shark too. We might lose Dennis.”

Rachel stiffened.

“I don’t want to lose you,” he said, sorrowfully. “I was going to church today to talk to Shepherd Tim after service. To seek counseling for us. Would you do that? Would you come with me?”

“I don’t know,” she replied, hesitantly.

“I’ve made mistakes… big ones… I know… but I think we can make things work.”

“Why the change of heart?”

“Rachel, I’m tired. I’m tired of being on the wrong side of things. I’m tired of not… no… of chasing things that have no meaning.”

“So you got religion?”

“No, Rach, just perspective. All these deaths. All these accidents. Life is short, my darling, and I just can’t bear the thought of being shot to death or blown up or whatever without making things good with my wife…” Bill sighed, and touched her stomach. “…and kids…”

Rachel instinctively jerked, feeling the baby kick as Bill laid his hand over her abdomen. His face lit up and he had the most sincere smile she had seen from him in a long time.

“Hey, did you feel that?”

She laughed dryly. “Of course.”

“Rachel, what do you say? Will you come with me? Will you try?”

He sounded so hopeful. He cupped her head with his hand and leaned in for another embrace.

“Okay.”

If only he knew… 


Quick Author Note: Somehow a reconciliation type chapter felt like a good idea for Easter (even though it’s late December in the story). A Peteran minister is sometimes called a Shepherd. I’ve referenced this in other stories, but just in case, I thought I’d mention it here. If you want to know more about religion in my Simworld, you can click here. Shepherd Tim is actually Tim Burre, a townie in Twinbrook. His traits are suitable for a pastor, so I left it in. I use the Vicar Career Mod from Sims in the Woods for pastors in town. It also adds a baker and librarian career mod at City Hall. Enjoy! 

 

1.61 Shattered (CFT)

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Author Note: The chapter includes adult content (sexual references) and content that may be disturbing and upsetting to some readers, including suicide. If these are triggers for you, please exercise discretion while reading. Also know if you are contemplating suicide, please seek immediate help. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7 in the U.S. 1-800-273-8255 or visit their website and chat with a professional support specialist online  http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/.

“I have something for you.”

Lolly had just opened the door for her boyfriend, Sinbad. They were planning to celebrate her early acceptance to Crimson League University and her graduation from high school tonight. Her father had said she needed a night of normalcy after everything that had happened.

Nearly three weeks ago now, Shark had been held for questioning for seventeen hours after Lucy Fern had been assassinated. He had been released, but the police said they would be keeping an eye on him. Lolly’s mother had only been killed a mere few days before, and her grandfather shortly before that. The Rackets hadn’t really celebrated Christmas. It just didn’t seem right this year. With Silver, Max, and Lucy gone, even if they were disliked, the shock was a little too much to bear.

Her father had been spending long hours in his office and going on long drives, staying out at all sorts of odd hours. Lolly could hear her aunt Rachel and uncle Bill whispering concerns long after their daughter, Hope was asleep. Shark had been like a zombie, wandering around the house, wearing the same clothes, not showering, eating ice cream right out of the container. Her grandmother was still in jail, despite the lawyer appeals for bail for the old woman. Lolly didn’t understand all that was going on, but she was worried about her family.

“Flowers!” Lolly gasped, pleased.

“You like ’em?” Sinbad asked, handing her the bouquet of pink roses. “The girl at the flower shop said girls like these and since I don’t know a daisy from a rose…”

“I love them!” Lolly exclaimed. “Thank you, Sinbad.”

“Yeah, well,” he shoved his hands in his pockets awkwardly. “I just…thought… you know… don’t expect these all the time now and shit. I don’t have deep pockets like your family.”

“I think I’d be happy if my boyfriend brought me anything, even dandelions from the park,” Lolly said softly.

She couldn’t get over saying the word ‘boyfriend.’ It felt so good after waiting for so long.

“But those are weeds!” Sinbad protested, lifting his hands and tucking a stray hair behind her ear. “You deserve way better than weeds.”

Lolly caught her breath as Sinbad’s lips met her own, and she melted into his embrace like butter into a hot pan. She loved him so much she thought her heart would burst.

“I don’t care if they’re weeds. I care that they are from you,” she whispered, her eyes brimming with moisture.

“Tears!” he grunted. “Gawd… Lolly… what did I do wrong?”

“Nothing,” she shook her head and smiled, swiping at her eye corners. “Nothing at all. In fact, you’re doing everything right. I love you.”

“Yeah, you know I’m in love with you,” Sinbad replied, and then stepped back suddenly as someone else entered the room.

Lolly turned to see her brother, shuffling his feet, empty beer bottle in hand. “Shark, are you coming to dinner with us?”

“I said I’d be here,” he mumbled.

“Oh yay!” Lolly clapped her hands happily. “I’m glad the family will be here.”

“Gawd! Lolls… get your freakin’ head outta the clouds… what are you like a rainbow unicorn or something? Always sappy and happy and gawd! It makes me sick. Mom’s gone… and Grandma’s in jail… and I was nearly blown up,” Shark exploded.

“But you weren’t,” Lolly said bewildered. “It’s all the more reason to celebrate.”

“Yeah, man, this is for Lolly,” Sinbad added.

“You get your special day… your special… stupid… special day,” Shark wiped his nose on his sleeve. “And what do I get? I should be dead.”

“Hey Shark, please I didn’t mean to make you upset. You’re not dead. We’re happy you’re not dead. Dad just wanted us to all be together…” Lolly took a step back as she spoke as her brother wildly waved his arms and continued ranting.

“Dad’s a llama-sucking idiot! Don’t you see Lolly? This is just to make you feel better. No one else. Just you. Gawd! It has to be all about you, doesn’t it? Lolly… the perfect child. The best child. The perfect everything. You should’ve been Mom and Dad’s only child.”

“Shark, calm down,” Sinbad said.

“Don’t you tell me to calm down. I will do whatever I damn…well… please. Don’t you tell me to calm down, you bastard!”

Sinbad lunged for Shark, and Lolly grabbed his arm worriedly.

“Shark, that’s enough,” Dennis entered the room and said, firmly. “Don’t insult Lolly’s boyfriend.” He nodded in the direction of a tall east Lemurian woman with pretty purple streaks in her black hair. “And you have a guest.”

“I don’t care… about my guest… she’s just a dancer I picked up at some club… she’s just here to numb my pain, Dad. Can’t you see I’m in pain?” Shark was practically shrieking. “My life is a disaster. Everything’s falling apart. Everything’s a disaster. I can’t keep anything… I can’t hold onto anything. I can’t keep a job or a woman or a life together or a career or nothing or something or anything…I can’t get the upwardly mobile job and do something with my life.”

Lolly looked over at Shark’s “paid escort” for the evening, and couldn’t believe how calmly the woman was standing there in her orange-and-yellow striped tank, and teal and orange mini skirt, and high-heeled boots. She found herself wondering about the woman’s Freezer Bunny tattoo on her exposed back. She looked oddly out of sync with the rest of the Racket family as she examined her glittery orange manicured nails.

“Shark, we know you’re in pain… why don’t we take this into the office?” Dennis suggested.

“NO! I can’t. I won’t. I won’t do this stupid freak-a-llama side show for my do-gooder sister… The woman I love is dead,” Shark yelled, and turned to face Sinbad. “And you! You’re so far beneath us…” he sneered. “Lolly will get tired of you and throw you back to the pond, you damn good-for-nothing swamp scum.”

Before anyone could stop him, Sinbad reached his fist back and punched Shark squarely in the jaw. Dennis scrambled to separate the boys as Shark attempted to break his bottle over Sinbad’s head, and Lolly shrieked in horror. Shark continued screaming and ranting and cursing as Dennis literally carried his son out of the room.

“Sinbad, are you okay?” Lolly asked, her lower lip quivering.

He shook out his hand. “Yeah. That punk bastard was insulting you.”

“And you,” she wailed. “I’m so sorry. I don’t think that about you. You know I don’t, right?” she sounded almost nervous. “And Dad doesn’t either. No one does.”

“It’s okay, Lolls, I’m used to it,” he replied, grimacing, as he massaged his hand. He looked at the tall woman with them and added, “I bet you didn’t expect that tonight.”

“I’ve seen worse,” she blew on her nails. “I’ve been out on worse dates too.”

“Are you really? I mean do you really get paid to…” Lolly asked, wide-eyed.

“Lolly, don’t ask that,” Sinbad scowled.

“No, it’s okay,” the lady responded. “Shark is just…another client.”

“So Shark is a client?” Lolly asked, fascinated, if a little naive. “What’s your name?”

“Cho…Cho Sonwhun,” the woman responded.

“That’s a pretty name,” Lolly said sweetly.

“Look, if you don’t mind, I’ll probably get outta here,” Cho said. “I was paid up front for the whole night and this seems like a private family thing,” she twisted her high heel into the carpet. “Unless you want me to stay and spice things up for you two a bit…seeing as it is your special night? I mean, your brother’s treat and all.

Sinbad coughed loudly. Lolly flushed a deeper red than her usual attire.

“Um… no… thanks,” Sinbad handed her a twenty. “We’re good.”

“Suit yourself,” Cho took the Simoleons and walked out of the house, her heels clicking behind her.

“Can she do that?” Lolly turned to her boyfriend in surprise. “I mean…” she dropped her voice. “Legally?”

“Lolly, you are so naive,” Sinbad chuckled.

“Well,” she blushed again. “I… guess… I’m just curious.”

“Should I go and get her back?” he grinned teasingly.

“No,” she shook her head. “I mean, I just I’ve never met one.”

“What? A hooker?”

“Sinbad! Don’t call her that.”

“What she is, isn’t she? Sorry…er…an escort.”

“Sinbad… she has a name. Cho…” Lolly looked out the window almost wistfully. “Cho Sonwhun. That really is a pretty name. What do you suppose she’s Takaharan?”

“No, probably Seoulan,” Sinbad replied. “Sonwhun is a Seoulan name.”

“Oh,” Lolly twisted a hair around her finger.

“Do I have some competition here?” he inquired.

“No,” Lolly made a horrified face. “She just… uh… seemed nice.”

“Right,” Sinbad laughed sarcastically. “She’s paid to be…uh… nice.”

“Sinbad, Cho is a human being just like we are,” Lolly said defensively. “We should treat her nicely and all. It’s only the decent thing to do.”

“And that honey, is why I love you,” Sinbad smiled, wrapping his arms around Lolly’s neck. “You see the best in people. You believe in ’em. And you’re kind to everyone.”

“Thank you,” Lolly said shyly. “I think.”

“Oh it’s a compliment,” Sinbad smiled. “You’re the only one I compliment and such.”

“So I’m damn lucky?” she smirked.

“Oh Loyola Racket swearing,” he said, bemused.

“Um… I can be bad…” she giggled.

“Oh this I’d like to see,” he moved in for a kiss.

 

Shark perched on the edge of his bed, drinking his fifth beer of the night. His dad, Lolly, and Sinbad had left over an hour ago for the restaurant to exchange late Christmas gifts and celebrate his sister’s acceptance into Crimson U. It was a huge accomplishment. He knew it. He just didn’t feel like partying. His whole world was coming apart.

He was half tempted to call Cho back. He did pay for the whole night. She had left in a hurry, and he didn’t blame her, but he didn’t want to be alone. If he was alone, he would think too much, and thinking would be a disaster. Cho might offer him some nice company, a way to numb the pain. He really wasn’t sure though his dad would approve of mixing business with pleasure. He wasn’t sure what his dad thought about him bringing home a prostitute in the first place.

Shark had been managing the girls a little here and there at Shady’s. Russ had given him a little taste of that responsibility, but since his cousin tried to blow him up, Shark hadn’t been back. He still had plenty of allowance. He didn’t really need the job. He mostly wandered the streets of Twinbrook, kicking empty beer cans, snorting in alleys, and scaring old ladies. He finally came home and collapsed in his room a few days ago, much to his father’s relief. His old man was worried about him.

He hadn’t been able to put into words what he was feeling. He hadn’t been able to tell anyone his suspicions. As far as the world knew, Russell Racket was an upstanding businessman, owner of the local nightclub, and not mastermind extraordinaire. Not constructor of his demise. Not devil in disguise. Even the police hadn’t been able to get much out of him since he had been so distraught, and Dennis had, of course, hired good lawyers.

Shark flopped back on the bed and tried to get some sleep, still clutching his beer bottle. At almost five-thirty in the morning, he sat up and wandered downstairs, bleary-eyed and hung-over. Dennis had paid for a hotel for the night in Crescent City. Shark knew he had a room there too. His dad had paid through the new year. He could call up Cho and pay her some more, catch a cab up to the capitol. Or maybe he could call a limo. A lap dance and a hand job in the back of a limousine sounded nice about now. Gawd! If only he could numb out… sex, booze, and crystals. The perfect combination of numbing-inducing activities.

Shark felt a bit bad for the way he screeched at Lolly. She was a good kid. She hadn’t been abused or neglected or affected by the nightmare of this house and this sick twisted family like he had, and nearly everyone else. Well, maybe his cousin, Hope. He grimaced. His uncle and aunt had a wacky marriage. Some nights he recalled seeing Bill at the club with that Robert Castor dude groping and necking on each other in the dark, smoky VIP corner booth. He wondered if his aunt was getting it on with someone too, though she was nearly three months Preggo, so he doubted anyone would want to tap that.

Sinbad wandered into the kitchen. Rachel was pouring herself coffee-to-go at the sink. She smiled politely and said good morning. He grunted some kind of response and slumped at the table. She told him his dad called, and if he wanted, Dennis would send the limo back for his son, if he had changed his mind. Rachel said she was off to work.

“Where’s the sleaze?” he asked, referencing his uncle.

Rachel flushed, and replied coldly, “Bill is upstairs sleeping in. He is watching your cousin today.”

“Doesn’t he every day?” Shark mumbled. “I mean, the man is a fat, pathetic couch potato.”

Rachel narrowed her eyes, and looked like she was about to say something, when her carpool’s horn honked outside. She wrapped her coat around.

“Shark, you really should work on that attitude of yours,” she said, walking out of the kitchen.

“And you should work on not being a bitch,” he called, and after he heard the door slam, he added, “A naive, stupid bitch who doesn’t realize her husband is screwing a man.”

Shark dropped his head on the table, resting his cheeks on his arm. So Bill and Hope were upstairs, huh, he thought in annoyance. He didn’t have the place to himself. Popping up, he decided he should get out of the house, and probably out of town. It wouldn’t hurt. He would need to shower first. Maybe bring Lolly a gift to make up for screaming at her, and railing on her boyfriend. He still couldn’t believe Sinbad was dating his sister. The guy had worked for the family at one point, but quit long before he got in over his head.

Smart guy, that one. Such a smarty-pants, Shark thought sarcastically, making a face. A smarty leather pants-ed man. Oh man! I am still toasted. Pants-ed man? He pinched the bridge of his nose and squeezed his eyes shut. Such a smarty pants that he managed to land in my sister’s pants. He wondered how his dad felt about that. But Lolly was eighteen now. It was only a short time ago that Shark had gone to the man for advice on loving a woman. Chase Bayless. My cousin, he thought bitterly. If only he could be as naive as Lolly was…

Shark decided he would bake a cake for his sister. Lolly liked cakes. Shark worked a little in the kitchen at the club before Lucy and Russ took notice of him, back when he was seventeen. He might remember how to make that cake they made… back then… way back then… He reached in the refrigerator and pulled out ingredients. He turned the dial and preheated the oven. The recipe… damnit. He didn’t know if he could recall the recipe. Maybe if I look it up on my phone. 

Shark fumbled through his pockets and realized his phone was upstairs. He ran up the steps two at a time, running into his bedroom just as the device rang. He looked at the screen. Fifteen new messages and about twice as many texts. Most were from his dad and Lolly. One included a sexy text of Cho draped over a chair, her legs spread so he could see straight up her skirt. The words read, “I’ll help your hands get more upwardly mobile.” 

Damn! She’s good. He smirked to himself.

He picked up the phone to call her. After three rings, he heard a man’s voice on the other end.

“Um, I’m calling for Cho,” he said awkwardly.

“Ho Cho is busy right now,” the man laughed raucously. “I’m covering her in marshmallow creme. She’s one big giant ho-cho!” he hooted, sounding so proud of himself.

Shark angrily pushed end and threw the phone onto his bed. He knew “Ho Cho” was her nickname, and she was known as the “hot chocolate” girl. Russ liked all the girls at Shady’s to have cutesy nicknames. Like Muffin Top… for the guys that like their women a little thicker, and Way Laid for the cheeky bastards who liked it rough… and Ho Cho for the guys that liked to lay on the sweets. He shook his head, disgusted. He would need to pick his own girls now. Maybe in Crescent City. The capitol was bound to be crawling with good-looking women.

Who am I kidding? Shark slumped to the floor. I’m a mess. A llama-freaking mess. Who’d want me? He reached over grabbing his can of breath mints where he kept his stash hidden. He flipped open the lid and sniffed, taking in the deep aroma of the ether. He reached into the powder with two fingers, retrieving a pill or two, popping them in his mouth and flushing down the ammonia taste with his half-empty Miller genuine draft beer. He leaned his head back against the bed, closing his eyes and wishing everything was different. But things aren’t different… and they won’t be… he thought miserably. Nothing is right here… not anymore… not ever. The loud shriek of an alarm jolted his senses. He climbed to his feet, bewildered, wandering downstairs and into the kitchen.

The oven was fully ablaze. Shark gasped in horror and stood watching the flames, dumbstruck. He couldn’t move. He didn’t know what to do. Call the cops… no the fire people… no…what? Oh hell, Dad is gonna kill me! A thick fog settled in over his head, and he felt hazy among the smoke. The pills were serving their purpose, but he knew this was the worst time. A…uh…oh gawd! I’m a llama-freakin’ idiot. I… what… Shark threw up his hands to shield himself from the small inferno in the Racket family kitchen.

He ran through the dining room and tripped up the stairs a few times, and one time, completely fell. Bile pooled in his throat, sweat pouring down his face. I’m dead. I’m dead. I’m dead. He felt along the wall, stumbling as he tried to make his way to his room at the end of the hall. If only he could get to his phone…

He dialed the emergency number, and wondered what he would say. He was high. He set his oven on fire. He was probably going to burn down his own house. And he blew up Lucy Ferne. And his mother was shot to death over pills… just like the ones he just took. Just like his mom. Just like my mom. I can’t do this anymore.

Zero, zero, zero, what’s your emergency?

“Uh…” he stuttered. “Um…”

What’s your emergency? Can you tell me your name?”

Shark rubbed his elbow where the heat from the flames had singed his skin. He looked around his room in a total panic, his mind shutting down and fluids flowing from his eyes. He walked to the window and looked out at the world of December snow. It looked so peaceful. Before he could think, he kicked out the glass with his boot.

Sir, are you there? Can you tell me what’s happening? What is your location? What is your name, sir? Are you there?” 

Shark pushed himself up onto the small window ledge, feeling the full blast of the icy winter wind hit his face. His fingers dripped with blood from the cut on his hand from where he braced himself. He winced, hearing the sirens in the distance. Someone must have called the firefighters or figured out his location from a phone trace.

My name is Tiburon Racket, and it is time for this to be over.”

His phone slipped from his fingers, landing silently in the snow bank. With that, he jumped.


Author Note: No, Shark! Sadness! Yes, I know. This chapter took a turn for the worst. I had such fun writing Sinbad and Lolly’s interactions, and then Shark was just depressing as hell to write. As I previously stated above, please seek help if you’re feeling like Shark and struggling with suicidal thoughts. 

My apologies to the lovely Cho Sonwhun for utilizing her as a professional escort. It was for convenience sake. I didn’t really want to have to create her character in game, and this isn’t the first time CFT has mentioned prostitution. The names for the various escorts were meant to be a little silly, and Ho Cho was a terrible, terrible, terrible pun, I know. Seoul is more Simworld version of Korea, and Seoulan is a Korean individual. Son and Whun are Korean surnames. I definitely want to bring her character back in the future, though not sure how and when.

 

1.59 Piecing Together (CFT)

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Three days passed. Three lousy days. Everyone was still in shock over Max’s death, and now Silver had been targeted in a drive-by shooting. Assassinated was a better term, but by whom? No one knew. Dennis muttered suspicions of a rival family in the area, but no one could confirm his theories. No one had even made funeral plans yet.

Silver was most definitely dead. The police said they thought the shooting was a gang thing, and she was found with drugs and money on her person. Rehab had evidently done nothing to reform her ways. When Max had died, everyone had plenty to say, given no one liked the man. Most of the family was at odds with Silver, but this death was different. This death made everyone all targets.

Rachel didn’t like the idea. Bullets spraying an open graveyard. Any one of them could have been hit. Lolly had been terrified. Poor thing refused to come out of her room. She didn’t want to leave the safety of the mansion. Rachel didn’t exactly blame her. She had called off work to stay home with her daughter for a few days, checking in every couple hours via email, phone, and QikChat. Hope was the only one oblivious to the gloom that had settled like a thick fog over the household.

Shark was still staying out at odd hours. In fact, he hadn’t been living in the mansion for months, but he had come over almost every day mostly to sit with his dad on the back porch and talk. About what? Rachel didn’t know.  Dennis had been cool and distant, still baffled and confused about his wife’s death, a wife who hated him, and a wife whom he hated in return, or at least strongly disliked. Rachel had a hard time imagining Dennis hating anyone.

Bill had changed up his normal routines to get to work, mentioning his discomfort with the thought of drive-by shootings in Twinbrook. Rachel suspected his own days of buying drugs added additional discomfort. He hadn’t even touched a cigarette in three days. Bill had held his daughter the previous night, kissed her on the forehead, and Rachel could have sworn she heard him say, “Damn, I’m lucky I didn’t get shot.”

Marigold had the opposite reaction, hitting the whiskey hard, and early in the day typically. Two deaths in a short period of time was a load to process. Rachel suspected there was more to Max’s death than he fell and hit his head on the fireplace, but she didn’t want to pry. Only Marigold and Dennis had been home at the time, and Rachel had a few scary thoughts, but they were fleeting. No one liked Max. They were better off without him.

They were better off without Silver too, but no one wanted to say it. Somehow Rachel wondered if that was because the woman was still Shark and Lolly’s mother, even though the kids were adults now. Or perhaps it was because everyone knew how Silver treated Dennis and still didn’t want to pry or appear to cheerful at the woman’s demise. Three days passed in the mansion in relative silence. Even the maids seemed like church mice with the way they moved throughout the abysmal tomb-like estate. Someone could hear a pin drop, and Rachel finally understand that phrase.

On the morning of the fourth day, something unexpected happened. At five-thirty-eight in the morning, the doorbell rang. Rachel had been putting Hope to bed for the third time. The girl had been crying again keeping Rachel and Bill on an up-down-up schedule until Bill brought his singing fish, Phil into the nursery and their daughter conked out. Rachel shook her head, unable to understand her baby’s strange fascination with fish. Bill looked exhausted, since he had been working, and Rachel felt wide awake. She placed a chaste kiss on his cheek and told him to go soak in the tub before work since he didn’t have time to go back to sleep. The doorbell rang again, and she decided to wander downstairs.

Dennis stood to the left of the double doors, dressed only in his workout sweat pants. Marigold, dressed in her somber black, stood to the right, staring into space as if dazed and confused. Right inside the door stood two of Twinbrook’s men in blue. Rachel suddenly wished she had the sense to put on pants before wandering into the foyer. She yawned and blamed the lack of sleep.

“What’s going on?” she asked softly.

“Who are you, ma’am?” one of the police officers inquired.

Rachel sniffed as her office did work with the local police and fire departments. “I’m Rachel Colt. I’m the mayor of this town. Who are you?”

“Er…Officer Jude Walker, ma’am,” he said, awkwardly.

The other man tipped his hat. “Ma’am, I’m Officer Elliot Kade.”

“We didn’t realize the mayor lived here,” Officer Walker fumbled.

“Forgive him, Mayor Colt, he’s new to the beat,” Officer Kade added, and his partner flushed.

Rachel resisted the urge to roll her eyes. “What do you want at this hour?”

She found the circumstances odd given Dennis had lived in this house much longer than she, and Marigold almost a century, but nonetheless, she decided to use the attention to her advantage and find out what was happening.

“We have an arrest warrant,” Officer Kade spoke up.

“This is ridiculous,” Dennis burst out, speaking up for the first time since Rachel’s appearance. “You can’t arrest her.”

Rachel’s eyes swept instantly to Dennis, a feeling of fear seizing her heart.

“Lawd! I didn’t do anything,” Marigold piped up.

“Ma, be quiet,” Dennis warned.

“Daddy?” Lolly’s voice could be heard from the top of the stairs. She ran down the steps, taking two or three at a time, and slipped next to her father’s side. “Why are the cops here?”

“Loyola, you should go back upstairs,” Dennis suggested.

“Why?” Lolly seemed bewildered. “Why are you here?” she asked the police directly.

“Who is the arrest warrant for?” Rachel inquired, an edge of coolness in her tone as she braced for the worst.

Marigold Racket,” Officer Walker replied.

Rachel felt guilty as a momentary wave of relief washed over her, that she wouldn’t be dragged out of her home and be forced to leave her daughter, even though she wasn’t sure why she would be arrested. She rubbed her forehead.

“On what charges?”

“Yeah, what charges?” Bill suddenly appeared at her side, having pitter-pattered down the carpeted stairs in relative quiet, dressed only in his bathrobe. “My wife and I need to know.”

His hair was wet so Rachel knew he had showered. He put his arm around his wife, and Rachel felt oddly flattered by his sudden and strange possessiveness.

“For Dad… manslaughter…” Dennis said through gritted teeth.

“What?” Lolly’s face contorted in total shock. “Grandma? Manslaughter?”

“Manslaughter?” Bill echoed.

“I didn’t do anything,” Marigold insisted again.

Only Rachel remained silent.

“Actually, murder…” Officer Kade corrected.

“Murder? Daddy? What’s happening? Why do they think grandma murdered someone?” Lolly said, panicked, grabbing her father’s bare arm and squeezing tightly.

“Murder! Ha! Ma! That’s ridiculous! You have the wrong person…” Bill chortled, and then after a sharp nudge from Rachel in the ribs, he added, “Actually there’s no person… because Dad fell. It was an accident.”

One look at Dennis confirmed her worst fears. Rachel closed her eyes and pressed her fingers to her lips. Oh Lawd, have mercy! She opened her eyes, and made eye contact with her brother-in-law once more.

“Call the lawyers,” she said quietly.

“Lawyers!?” Bill exclaimed. “This is horseshit!” He stepped forward and tried to intervene while the police officers moved to officially arrest his mother.

“It’s okay,” Marigold said, waving her middle son back.

Rachel grabbed Bill’s arm.

“Marigold Racket, you are under arrest for the murder of Maxwell Racket,” Officer Kade took the old woman’s arm.

“…You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say…”

“Ma, we’ll fix this,” Dennis insisted.

“Yeah,” Bill nodded in agreement.

“Grandma,” Lolly wailed.

“Lolly, go back upstairs and call the family lawyers,” Dennis said to his daughter.

“No, no,” she shook her head, refusing to budge as tears fell down her face.

“…you have the right to an attorney,” Officer Kade continued reading the rights as Officer Walker pulled the handcuffs from his belt.

“Ahhh… do you have to cuff her?” Bill asked. “Can’t you see she’s an old woman and her hands are fragile and frail and shit? I mean, she’s recovering from the damn loss of her husband and all, and then she was shot at a few days ago too and look at her hands and shit. They’re all bruised and cut up from the fall she took.”

“Bill,” Rachel snipped.

“It’s okay,” Marigold spoke up. “It’s okay. It’s okay.”

She was almost in a daze, saying her words in sing-song.

“Ma, don’t say anything,” Dennis warned.

“Yeah don’t,” Bill grunted. “And we’ll sue the pants off these officers, Ma… don’t worry… in fact, we’ll sue the pants off the entire police department.”

Rachel nearly flushed at the thought.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marigold walked out with the police officers, cuffed in front, almost dignified as her face was filled with inexplicable sadness. She stopped talking at her son’s request, much to everyone’s surprise. The doors to the mansion swung closed behind them, Officer Walker offering a sympathetic last look to the family.

No one could believe the police would be arresting an old woman for the death of one of the most hated men in Twinbrook. Rachel was the mayor and she hadn’t heard any rumblings about an arrest, or that Max’s death was even being investigated. Someone else had to be pulling the strings. Rachel stretched her brain trying to think of who had a grudge against the Rackets. Who didn’t? she thought. But the question was who had a grudge against Marigold Racket?

Rachel was aware that the woman had made her fair share of bad choices in her day. She had even been the madam of Shady’s for awhile, and Rachel suspected the Marigold wasn’t the most well-liked woman. However, she had memory issues for nearly a decade, much of which was owed to repeated trauma at the hand of her abusive and sadistic husband. She knew in her heart of hearts Marigold had something to do with her husband’s death, but if anything, they could argue self-defense. The bastard probably attacked her first.

Dennis sent the tearful Lolly upstairs, and called the family lawyers. Rachel called her office and the chief of police. Bill called the police department switchboard directly, using some choice words and colorful language. Rachel shook her head, and moved to the dining room away from her ranting husband. Just like him to complicate things. She learned the police department put together the arrest warrant around an hour ago, and someone from the state government called and requested the arrest be moved up to early this morning instead of waiting until eight a.m.

Rachel called her contacts in Crescent City, and poked around, trying to figure out who this mysterious person in the capitol was and why they wanted to arrest the wife of the deceased man. After nearly half a day of the run-around, she was desperate enough to call her state police department contact directly. He dodged her questions, saying the whole thing was out of his hands, but finally explained the case had gone “federal” before hanging up.

Rachel was stunned. A federal case against Marigold Racket? That seemed out of the feds normal jurisdiction or interest. She rubbed her forehead, exhausted. Bill came in bringing her a glass of water, and cursing under his breath about the idiocy of the police.

“The damn sons-of-bitches want to file a harassment claim against me? A harassment claim? Can you believe that? Can the police even do that?” he threw his hands in the air.

Rachel took the aspirin he was offering, and a sip of water. The switchboard operator was probably blowing steam, she figured, but Bill was being exceedingly obnoxious.

“Do you think Ma will get bail?” he asked.

“Probably not for a murder case,” Rachel said. “You’d have to ask…”

“I’m not calling again,” Bill raised his voice. “They’ve had enough of me and frankly I’m sick of ’em. The way this station runs itself is piss poor, and I’ll be damned if I have to talk to one more shitty incompetent person there. Who the hell do they think they are? Taking on the Rackets?”

This was so much bigger than what they were seeing, Rachel knew it, but she didn’t know how to explain it.

“Do you think you could use some of that pent-up energy to play with our daughter?” she asked, offering a weak smile.

“Sure,” Bill said. “It’s better than waiting around and doing nothing.”

 

 

At ten after five in the evening, Rachel, Dennis, and Bill gathered in the living room. None of them had even bothered getting dressed for the day. The sun was nearly down, and Rachel felt odd sitting in just her nightgown.

Sinbad had arrived to take the weepy Lolly and cherub-sweet little Hope out for pizza and colas. Rachel had tried to slip him a fifty, but Sinbad shook his head and said he had it. She had closed her eyes and nodded graciously. She knew he hadn’t been working since he was back in Twinbrook, and she wasn’t even sure where he was staying, though Lolly had mentioned something about him staying with his old roommate in passing. Rachel was surprised because the Goode boy had eloped with the Castor woman and they had kids together. Beverly had even reverted to her maiden name, Pitts, and their daughter, Apple and infant son, Oranje, frequented the same day care Rachel and Bill utilized for Hope. Rachel didn’t think Sinbad was on the best of terms with Goodwin given the man broke up a marriage and created quite a stir in Twinbrook.

The two Racket men stared hard at one another, and Rachel couldn’t make eye contact with either. She finally took Bill’s hand out of a sense of forced obligation.

“The Feds have been making a case,” she said.

“I know,” Dennis sighed heavily, leaning forward as he rubbed his face.

“You do?” Rachel said, surprised.

“Wait… what?” Bill frowned. “Feds? Whad’da they want with Ma?”

“I’ve been helping them,” Rachel said, her voice barely above a whisper.

“You have?” Bill dropped her hand and jerked his full attention to her.

“Me too,” Dennis added.

“You… have?” Bill repeated.

“Really?” Rachel blinked rapidly.

“Yes, I was helping them build a case against Russ,” Dennis explained.

“Wait… Cousin Russ?” Bill was so lost.

“I was helping them build a case against Max,” Rachel added.

“I thought so,” Dennis said.

“I was working with the state police, and apparently they were reporting to the SNIT.”

“I was approached and offered a deal… limited sentence to turn tail on the boss.”

“Russ has been running things for sometime. After I did a lot of research, I realized Max was only a mid-level grunt at most. He had lost most of his authority over the years. It took me until my initial meeting in Roaring Heights to piece together that Russ was really  the one running the show, but the state cops wanted Max first.”

“Dad has done some horrible shit over the years. I’m surprised he hadn’t been caught before now.”

“But you’re still in… aren’t you? I mean, or is it just a cover?”

“Hey!” Bill whistled and threw up his hands. “Will someone please tell me what the hell is going on? Rachel?” he looked at his wife in total shock. “You were building a case against Dad?”

“Yes,” she admitted. “And once I knew it was really Russ, I planned to come back and help them build a case against him, but Max stabbed me first.”

“That bastard,” Bill balled his fists.

“I couldn’t get home.”

“I thought it was a mugging.”

“Well, you thought wrong,” Dennis piped up, aggressively, and Rachel could tell he was fiercely annoyed with his older brother. “Who were you working with, Rachel? Did you have a contact with the Agency too, or was it just state and then got bumped up?”

She hesitated, unsure of how much she should let on. “Bumped. How close were the Feds with Russ?” she deflected.

“Close,” he replied. “They got to his number two.”

“And Marigold was formerly Max’s number two,” Rachel sank back on the couch, putting two and two together, feeling the lump in her stomach grow exponentially.

“Does that mean?” Bill started, but trailed off.

A look of horror crossed Dennis’ face and Rachel’s simultaneously.

“He’s making his move,” she gulped.

“…and he’s eliminating all of Max’s former associates…” Dennis said what Rachel couldn’t.

“…which means…” Rachel’s eyes widened.

“He might make a connection to you,” Bill grabbed Rachel’s hand in a panic.

“I don’t think so,” Dennis countered. “Rachel is still very new to this game. She only offered to draft a will for him.”

Rachel frowned. “How did you know?”

“I have sources,” he said.

So do I. Rachel knew Dennis had most likely been gathering intel while slowly severing ties and purposely moving backward on the command chain, probably to remove himself from harm’s way and further incrimination.

“Everyone thinks you both went to Roaring Heights to look at colleges with Lolly and visit your family, Rachel,” Dennis continued, and seeing his sister-in-law’s confused look, he added, “It was for your protection.”

“I can’t believe this!” Bill exclaimed, rubbing his chin thoughtfully.

Rachel leaned into the seat, feeling an odd sense of relief. Dennis was looking out for her. She mouthed a thank you and his silent nod affirmed he saw it.

“This is just incredible. Damn incredible!” Bill said. “My wife and brother taking on the entire Racket family business and trying to take it down. Shit! I had no clue. Literally no clue. I mean, Rach, baby, you’re brave as hell hounds.”

Rachel gave him a weird look. That was the closest thing to a Bill compliment. She’d take it.

“He must have powerful connections, Russ. He must’ve been nervous. Maybe he heard rumblings of what you were doing,” Rachel directed at Dennis.

“Yes, I think that’s why he had Marigold arrested,” Dennis affirmed.

“But Ma is just a widow!” Bill protested.

Rachel didn’t know whether to be irked by her husband’s complete stupidity or relieved that the man was so naive.

“I think I know what you’re not willing to admit aloud,” Rachel said quietly.

Sadness filled Dennis’ eyes. “Max was a horrible man. We can all admit it.”

“He wasn’t a man. He was a monster,” she shuddered, and Bill put his arm around her.

“Honey, he’s gone now. You’re safe,” he said.

“Evidently not. We have a new enemy.”

“We can leave Twinbrook.”

“I’m the mayor. We have a kid…” she stopped and glanced down at her belly. I’m about to have another, she thought sadly.

“He won’t come after you.”

“Who’s to say he won’t?”

“I do!” Dennis said, standing up forcefully. “I’ll admit to killing Dad.”

“What the hell?” Bill shrieked. “Have you lost your damn mind?”

“Yeah, Dennis… you can’t do that,” Rachel said worriedly.

“I need to,” Dennis said seriously.

“You’ve got shit for brains, bro,” Bill yelled.

“No, I’m using my brain, bro,” Dennis said, a hard edge to his tone. “It’s the only way to get Ma out of jail. She has blood on her hands and between that and Russ’ connections, she’ll probably stay in prison. It’s the only way to protect this family.”

“Dennis, think about what you’re saying.”

“Yeah, brother, what the hell? That’s probably what Russ wants and you didn’t kill Dad.”

“Yeah, but Ma did.”

“But at least your mother can claim self-defense or plead insane. Dennis, if you do this, you’ll go for life.”

“I know.”

“No, you don’t know. And what about Shark and Lolly? They’ll never look at you the same way again. They just lost their grandfather and mother and now they’ll lose you? You can’t do this to them,” Rachel wailed.

She didn’t add – you can’t do this to me. 

“Yeah, Dennis, think,” Bill said. “We can get really good lawyers for Ma and she’ll probably get out quickly. You… we can’t save you.”

No we can’t! Rachel wanted to cry.

“I need to do this,” Dennis said as if he had already decided.

“No,” Bill protested.

Rachel’s heart sank to the feet, and possibly through the floor. She didn’t want to say anything for fear of hurting Bill, but she didn’t want Dennis to go to prison, even more than she didn’t want Marigold to sit in prison, even if she was guilty of the crime.

“Think about it, first, please?” she pleaded. “Please? Overnight at least? Besides, we need to figure out what we’re going to do about Russ. Especially if you go to…”

“…jail…” Bill finished for her.

“Exactly,” she said, trying to change the subject. “If Russ really is trying to eliminate all traces of Max’s old company, who would he target next if he’s already got Marigold… and…”

No one wanted to add the possibility that the evil cousin had also taken out Silver. Rachel wouldn’t be surprised. It would be just one more way to get to Dennis. She shivered at the thought.

“Probably Lucy,” Bill surmised. “Isn’t she still Dad’s…like… number two? Like since Ma stopped working for the organization and shit?”

“Lucy Ferne?” Rachel nodded. “Yeah that makes sense. And probably anyone she’s associated with… which would be…”

Fear seized her heart as she realized what she was about to say. Her eyes jolted to Dennis’ and she saw his face go paler than the full moon.

Shark!” they said in unison.

“Where is he tonight?” Bill asked.

Dennis was already out the door, not even bothering to pull a shirt over his head or shoes on his feet. Bill looked at Rachel in bewilderment as they heard Dennis’ sports car roar to life in the driveway.

“He said he had a meeting with Russ,” Rachel could barely say the words.

“Then that means…” Bill trailed off.

 

1.58 Into Darkness (CFT)

Posted on Updated on

 

 

The Rackets gathered around a gravestone at dusk, a gravestone for one of the most disliked men in Twinbrook. No one really came. No one but family. Is that what we are? Rachel wondered as she stayed a safe distance from Max’s final resting place. Everything had become so chaotic lately, and mixed up. The last time she had seen her father-in-law was when he callously stabbed her in the rib cage in Roaring Heights. It was certainly not the traditional family thing to do. She subconsciously hugged her side, fingering the patterns on her black woolen coat, and could almost feel the stitches burning through the layers of fabric.

Rachel swiped at a stray tear, not a mournful tear, but a how-the-hell-did-I-end-up-here kind-of tear. Bill, her husband, who never once came to see her in the Sultona, nudged closer, their black umbrellas provided by the funeral home bumping. It seemed fitting for Max that his graveside service in the Ivy Hill Graveyard would be in the pouring rain. Nature’s way of mourning a loss. No one else really was.

“No one will miss that bastard,” Bill grunted beneath his breath.

Rachel took his arm as a sign of affection. She had missed him, even if they had drifted beyond repair in the last few months. She studied his face, the wrinkles more prominent around his eyes, the stubble growing more harshly along his jawline. The years had not been kind to him. The alcohol, cigarettes, and numerous drugs he did back in his youth further aggravated his hardening appearance. But today he was stone cold sober, not out of obligation to the family, but because he wanted to have the full experience of reveling over his father’s grave. His words, not mine, Rachel thought. She didn’t know how to feel about Max.

She wanted to feel angry. She wanted to burn with rage. She wanted to snap and wail for her lost years and be a thousand miles away from here. But instead she stood as the dutiful wife at her husband’s side, a husband who would not grieve, and who derived a twisted delight out of his father’s death. Bill had even worn white in mocking irony of a man who never truly loved anyone. Rachel felt a deep pit of despair sink into her abdomen as she mourned for the growing life within her – a child who would never have a normal life. Hope was enough, and now the ironic twist of bringing another baby into the world felt more like a sardonic slap to the face than a beautiful blessing.

Bill squeezed her hand. She still hadn’t told him. She wasn’t sure how. She wasn’t sure she wanted to. She wasn’t sure he wanted another kid. She wasn’t sure he loved her anymore. Even so, she leaned into his burly shoulder, and accepted his strange affection. He had been so distant before her trip, and now his mere presence was comforting. If only they could be a normal family…

As she looked around, Rachel accepted the heavy realization that there was no such thing as normal with the Rackets. The funeral had been held in Twinbrook’s only chapel in town, other than the one inside the hospital. Somehow Rachel felt Max did not deserve a “church” service, but it was the only place the funeral home contracted with, and Marigold refused to skip the pomp and circumstance. The funeral home couldn’t have hosted even nine guests – a tiny entryway, bathroom, office, and downstairs an embalming room. The rest of the Rackets may have been okay with dumping Max face-down in a shallow grave, but for his wife’s dignity, they went along with her plans.

Shark had made an appearance, albeit a brief one, arriving with a woman who was clearly a prostitute from Shady’s. She wore far too much makeup for a funeral and her shocking pink fishnet tights beneath a red belted mini skirt and low-cut scoop black blouse was a bizarre choice for a funeral. Even the preacher blinked and coughed while reading his pre-written script when Shark and the lady ducked into the service late. When it came time for the viewing, Shark felt a full mooning of his grandfather’s casket was a necessity before pulling a cigarette from behind his ear and flouncing out the door with his “date.” Although wildly inappropriate, the only one who blushed was the minister. Somehow Shark’s “sentiment” echoed almost everyone’s thoughts about the despicable man.

Silver had received a pass from rehabilitation for the funeral. Rachel thought this to be odd given Silver didn’t seem to like the man. As Silver passed by the casket, she reached out and touched Max’s lifeless hand and whispered something about how Max always tasted strange. Rachel squirmed. This was something she would have rather preferred not to hear. Bill smirked and said something flippant like “Finally croaked, huh? Dad.” Rachel couldn’t put words together, and merely passed by as quickly as possible. Lolly and Sinbad followed behind, Sinbad awkwardly shuffling with his hands in his jean pockets and Lolly lowering her head and kissing her grandfather’s cold forehead. The sweet girl, Rachel thought. Lolly was hope that her own daughter could grow up and be unaffected by the filth and corruption of this family and city. Only Dennis didn’t approach. He sat in the back of the chapel with his head in his hands, wearing a white dinner coat like Bill, but not out of spite. Silver had hissed at him when they arrived and he said he didn’t have time to get a black suit to the cleaners as he was picking her up from the rehabilitation center. Of course, Silver would think about fashion at a time like this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silver was much thinner than the last time Rachel had seen the woman. She was dressed in a flapper-era style black fringe dress and gray tights.Her hair had grown out a little, her brown roots showing through the silver strands, probably because she wasn’t allowed to dye her hair in the center. She wore thick black eyeliner and eye shadow with a pouty red lipstick. Rachel noted her wedding ring was conspicuously missing as she waved her arms around dramatically, arguing loudly with her mother-in-law.

Marigold had been in tears most of the day, and Rachel wondered why. She couldn’t imagine feeling grief for the man who shared her bed for forty-seven years but acted like a monster. Perhaps the details of planning the funeral and the logistics of losing her spouse was creating increased confusion and distress for the woman. Rachel wished she could have assisted, but she had barely time to recover and stand upright before Max’s death. She doubted Silver would have helped, and she probably couldn’t have.

Dennis hardly said two words to anyone. He offered hand shakes to the few other guests who came – a war buddy of his dad’s and his wife, the doctor friend of Marigold’s, and the stoic Penny Pincher. He treated everyone with kindness, holding the car door open for his wife, helping Marigold with her umbrella, straightening the tie he loaned to Sinbad. But he remained silent. Once his eyes met with Rachel’s and she saw an inexplicable emotion. Relief, maybe. Sorrow, perhaps. She couldn’t tell. He immediately turned and hugged his daughter, and even shook Sinbad’s hand before closing his umbrella and wandering further in the cemetery, out of sight. Strange emotions of her own bubbled in her innermost being, and she quickly bit her lip and returned her attention to Bill.

“Rach, I screwed up bad,” he was saying.

Somehow she knew in the depths of her heart she was no longer the only one in his life. She wondered if she had ever been.

“I met someone,” he continued.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bill lifted his weathered hand to his face, pressing his fingers against his cheek as he averted his eyes, staring at the stones on the pavement.

So we’re having this conversation now? she thought, closing her eyes and bracing for the worst. Would he want a separation? They practically already were separated. Would he want a divorce? Would he want to leave her for another woman? Would he want to be the pig she knew him to be in the early days of their relationship and have his cake and eat it too? It wasn’t like she was happy, but she wouldn’t be the wife who stayed while he bopped someone else. She couldn’t. Her heart wouldn’t allow it. She could ignore it for as long as she had, but if he said those words aloud…

“Lolly, I should take off,” Sinbad was saying.

“What, no!?” she cried out, feeling dismayed. “You just got here.”

Sinbad had driven Lolly back to her hometown in his truck after hearing the news. He held her hand while they were sitting through the funeral, and had even come to the graveside with her. Lolly didn’t understand it, but she accepted it. Having him close felt good. Now that she had spoken to all the guests, she had turned to find him again and thank him, hoping to invite him to grab some late dinner with her and perhaps even stay overnight. She would gladly pay for his hotel if he couldn’t afford it. Last night he had slept in his truck. He stood before her now, changed from his fancier attire, having returned the tie to her father, and he looked inexplicably sad. She wondered why.

“What…er…um…” he stammered. “I mean, I shouldn’t be in Twinbrook. It’s not…” he gulped. “…good for me here. I mean, I came for you and stuff…”

“I know you came for me,” she said softly. “I appreciate it.” She took a step toward him. “Sinbad, you’re a good friend.”

He winced, and rubbed the back of his head. “Just a friend?”

Her heart leaped. She figured she would never hear him say the words. She felt a brief flicker of joy in the midst of a depressing day.

“Um… I mean… you’re… you’ve…” he couldn’t say the words he wanted to say, not without offending her. “You…acted like you wanted more from me and shit…” And I want more too. 

“Yes,” she breathed out a little too excitedly. “I did. I do. But I didn’t want to push you. And I got some news today.”

“News?” he replied.

“Yeah,” she twisted her heel in the ground. “I got accepted… to Crimson League University…in Mayflower. I got the letter today.”

“Holy shit! Lolly, that’s fantastic!” he exclaimed.

“Really?” she bit her lip. “I mean… yeah, it’s a big deal and all.”

“It’s huge for you, Lolls, I’m happy for you.”

“Well, I start in January.”

“What? Really? So quick? You aren’t going to finish high school?”

“Oh I am. I only need six additional credits because I took classes for the last two summers. I talked with my academic counselor and he worked it out so I can do an independent study and take my final class over Christmas break.”

“But won’t you miss out on your final days as a senior and all, and prom and shit?”

She shrugged. “It’s not a big deal. It’s worth it. I can get out of here sooner then, and prom isn’t that important.”

“If you say so…” he replied. “I mean, I thought girls were into that stuff… you know, the limo and corsage and the dress and shit… and getting their hair and nails done.”

Her eyes widened.  Why did he care?

“Well, when you put it that way, I could get a mani-pedi before I leave in the new year,” she laughed.

“What are you going to study?”

“Chemistry.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, I want to be a pharmacist. I’m gonna do the whole med school thing. I think it’s because of my mom partly…” she dropped her head. “…I just wanna do something right.”

“Lolly, you do plenty right.”

“I know, I mean, I couldn’t have done it without you. You tutored me all that time and I did so great. I finished my classes well and I wouldn’t have passed if it weren’t for you. Sinbad, you’re so smart and…”

He flushed.

“…and I really owe it to you. I wouldn’t be pursuing chemistry or even college really… I mean, you said all that stuff about believe in myself and I’m smarter than I know…”

“I said that shit?” he laughed awkwardly.

“I want to do something worthwhile and important and on the up and up and I couldn’t see myself as a doctor or nurse or anything, but maybe I could help people gain access to much needed medicines legally and stuff. I just want to make someone proud.”

“Well, I’m proud of you… kiddo…” he gave her a side hug.

“Thanks,” she smiled, longing to linger in his arms.

He held on. He didn’t let go. She almost stumbled into his arms as he pulled her close, wrapping both arms around her frame. She tucked her head against his neck,her pulse quickening.

“I could get a job,” he said, his voice barely above a whisper.

“A job?” she felt a whirlwind of confusion and elation.

“In Olde Towne… near the university… I’m sure they’ve got uni pubs that’d be willing to give me a hire,” he continued. “And I’ve got a buddy… well, I kinda know this guy from foster care who owes me a big damn favor so I think I could look ‘im up and shit.”

“What do you mean?” she asked quietly.

“Always wanted to go up north. Be a good change of pace for me… for you, really.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Lolly, girl, do I gotta spell it out for you?”

She blinked rapidly, a hint of pink invading her cheeks. “Um… yeah… what are you saying, Sinbad?”

His lips were on hers almost immediately, warmly welcoming her to a place she had dreamed about, a place for all her heart’s desires to find reprieve and love. Real love. The adult kind of love. A place where she would be taken seriously. Her whole world was spinning as she felt as she had never felt before. In that earth-shattering moment, Lolly Racket went from lovesick little girl to a woman blossoming into love.

“I’m saying,” he pulled back, still holding her neck with his hand and heaving as he struggled to catch his breath. “I am in love with you, Lolly.”

Silver stood alone in the cemetery. The pale moon broke through the clouds for a brief moment, casting a strange shadow of her self onto the grass. A low level fog curled around her ankles as she stared into the distance. Bill and Rachel argued quietly nearby. Marigold had walked away muttering something about whiskey and watermelons. The old bat was insane. Good riddance! Silver hadn’t appreciated Marigold’s snide remarks about her presence. She didn’t have to be a bitch about it, Silver thought with a huff.

Truth was she hadn’t attended the funeral to mourn the loss of the dirty old man. But it was a good enough excuse to get out of the hellhole. No, she had come so she could meet her supplier. It had been a long time since she felt a good high. Took the edge off. This day was stressful enough. How did people expect her to get through it without a little Xtal? The man had squeezed into the back row of the chapel wearing a black trenchcoat and a fedora. How very charming mob boss like, she had thought to herself. He wasn’t her usual guy, but she didn’t care. She needed the fix.

He sold her a pinch at the funeral. She went into the bathroom, locked the handicap stall, and  sat on the floor. As she sucked into the crystalline dust, Silver slipped out of her obnoxious heels allowing her nyloned feet to rub across the tiles. She felt euphoric. She felt free. She felt like she wanted more. She texted the man again. She knew she wasn’t supposed to, but she didn’t care. She hadn’t felt this good in months. This time she requested a pound. That would last her awhile if she could hide it in rehab. Or if she could convince Dennis that she didn’t want to go back. Maybe she could get even more. She could manage it. She knew she could.

Silver walked out to the curb, waiting for the man to drive up again. Lolly and her escort whomever he was had wandered off to talk or play tonsil hockey. Silver could see the way the man was looking at her daughter. It was same way Dennis had once looked at her as if she were his entire world. For a brief moment, Silver looked longingly in the direction her husband had disappeared. They weren’t happy. She knew that. He knew that. She wasn’t an idiot. But once upon a time…

Silver heard tires squealing in the distance. This was probably her fix. She reached beneath her dress and into her bra where she had stashed some Simoleon notes. That was the last thing she remembered as she heard a spray of bullets and a wide range of screams. Through a thin layer of metaphorical fog or possibly very real fog, she saw the dollar bills float up… up… up…and flutter down… down… down… with drops of red as Twinbrook faded into darkness.

Her blood. 

 

1.57 End of the Line (CFT)

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Author Note: This chapter includes racist and derogatory comments, sexual content, and violence.  If these are triggers for you, please refrain from reading. I have tried to remain tasteful with my pictures as always. 

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“Dad, what the hell is wrong with you?” Dennis thundered. “Mom had an accident and is in the hospital and I know you were responsible for Rachel being in the hospital. You’re a monster!”

“What the hell are you doin’ in my bedroom?” Max grimaced. “I was tryin’ to have some fun. Who are you to barge in?”

“Trying to rape a woman in mom’s bedroom,” Dennis pointed his finger accusingly, his whole body vibrating with anger. “You are a sick bastard!”

“I don’t see how this is any of your biz-ness,” Max stuck his nose in the air, and put his hand on his hip. “I’m tir’d… and since you inner-rupted my date, I’d like to git some sleep now.”

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“Date?” Dennis took a step back, staring blankly at his father. “You don’t think I’m that naive, Dad. You don’t think I’m that dumb. No, you wouldn’t. Gawd! I don’t get you! The poor woman was squirming and crying underneath you… You are lucky I don’t put you in the ground right now.”

“What’s stoppin’ you?” Max snapped in return. “Come on… I can take you.”

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“Dad, I can’t do this anymore!” Dennis threw his hands in the air. “You are sick. You are a sick, sick man. You disgust me. The things you do to mom. The things you were doing to that woman. The things you did to Rachel.” His voice softened at the mention of his sister-in-law.

“Ah ha!” Max screeched. “You don’t think I dunno what you want? That black piece of trash? I’m not dumb or naive neither.”

“Don’t talk like that, Dad!” Dennis growled. “You don’t… don’t you talk like that!”

“I’ll talk howe’er I like,” Max retorted. “Besides… you want ‘er…I know it. I think she done want you too… so I can… come to some kinda arrangement… you don’t talk about my Penney and I will get that woman you fancy to sleep with you.”

Dennis shoved his dad against the bookcase, and Max doubled over grabbing his knees, wheezing. He looked up at his son, grinning triumphantly as if he just won a race. Dennis socked him in the jaw for spite.

“This proves it!” he declared, wiping his lip.

“I know your secrets, son… I know what you want… and I think I can arrange for somethin’ if you give me somethin’ in return…”

“Keep you sick deals, you bastard!” Dennis snarled.

“Well, then…” Max dusted his hands and smirked. “You know that fool wife’uh’yours isn’t gonna do nothin’ ’bout it. Hell… she got ‘erself locked up in the looney bin…”

“Dad!” Dennis cut him off. “Rehab.”

“Same diff…” Max shrugged. “Silver don’t want you… that’s fo’shure… so why don’cha do somethin’ ’bout that there your brother’s wife?”

Dennis glowered.

“Maybe I’ll take ‘er for myself… that bastard brother of yours ain’t gonna do nothin’ about it neither… hell… the fool of a boy is messing around with a dude..” Max spit on the ground. “He’s the one who’s disgusting.”

Dennis arched a brow in shock. His brother was cheating on Rachel with a man?

“Yeah… I fancy myself violating that little thing… I mean she has it comin’… thinkin’ she belong to this family and whatnot… yeah… I’ll wipe that smug ass and then ground her for good.”

Dennis lunged forward and threw his hands around his father’s neck and began choking him. He could feel the power flowing through his veins and his father, despite his strength and musculature, was no true match for his son. Max grabbed wildly at Dennis’ hands and let out a weak chuckle as he witnessed the venom in his son’s eyes. The two struggled around the edge of the bed as Max grabbed for anything to get some leverage on the younger man.

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Suddenly, Marigold burst into the room, letting out a high piercing shrill, and tackled her husband, separating father and son. The still-naked Max was caught off guard as his wife, still dressed in her hospital gown and bandages, shoved him back against the bed.

“No!” she yelled. “This is my fight, Dennis! Let me finish him!”

Dennis tugged on his mother’s arm and tried to separate his touseling parents. Max laughed, as if enjoying himself. The sound was unnerving.

“Marigold… you’re home…” he almost sounded surprised.

“Jerk…scumbag…I won’t have you foolin’ me a’gain. You can’t bring no women home and don’t think that I know…” Marigold screeched.

“Whatever are you talkin’ about?” Max threw his hands up in the air.

“Momma,” Dennis tried to intervene, hesitantly, but Marigold blocked him with her rail-thin frame.

“You black-hearted-bastard-son-of-a-bitch-abusing-sucker-punching-louse-of-a-man!” Marigold shrieked. “No, you ain’t even a man! You’re worse than the slime of the earth… the scum-sucking measly worm… you won’t hurt me no more! No more!”

Max’s face changed from his comical expression to a look of shock and surprise as he fell against the brick chimney protruding from the bedroom floor to ceiling. The laughter died in his eyes and a cold glaze formed over his pupils. As soon as she had done it, Marigold stepped back and cried out, as if all of her faculties returned, and she was suddenly aware of what she had done.

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“Oh Law’rd love a duck! What have I done?” she scrunched up her hands, pure horror crawling into every crevice of her face.

“Momma,” Dennis breathed.

He knelt, fingers pressed on his father’s carotid artery. His suspicions were confirmed – his heart beat no more. Max Racket, the elder of the family, the once indestructible leader of the Racket operations, as evil as the bastard son of the devil himself, was gone, brought down by his tiny, fierce wife.

Marigold was mewling like a terrified child or a wayward kitten. He had never seen her look so frail. Dennis rose to his feet again.

“Momma, it’s okay,” he soothed, patting his mother’s back.

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“Why does he look so strange?” Marigold croaked.

“He’s dead,” Dennis mouthed, but no audible sound exited his throat.

It was unbelievable.

Dennis cleared his throat.

“It’s over.”

The finality of his words sounded so odd. His dad looked vulnerable, old, lying on the floor. Naked he came from his mother’s womb and naked he left this world. Max Eugene Racket would never harm another soul again.