Jump to content


Poet: Poet
  • Content Count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Everything posted by Invnarcel

  1. That's so funny, this is literally a line in my next chapter 😆
  2. Invnarcel


    A Slytherin main character comes in eventually... like chapter fourteen >.> I wrote them shorter cause I intended to update every day. I pre-write too so that I'm prepared if I don't feel like writing one day. The chapter lengths may also vary, there are long ones and sometimes if I don't have time it may only be a few paragraphs. It's like a casual writing exercise almost, but I do have plot plans just not an ending plan.
  3. Leaving my pursuer and his would-be conquest behind me, I went down an outdoor corridor. Following it along beside a courtyard, past young witches and wizards, into the arched opening of the castle. I walked beneath the swinging pendulum and made my way to Professor Barberry's storeroom. As head of Hufflepuff house and a jolly friend, he'd given me a key to it. I retrieved the rusted item from my pocket and opened the door. Squeezed aside to avoid the giant Tentacula plant whose vines were wriggling in place. I returned my borrowed things next to a gyrating cactus in the cluttered shelves and left. "Five subjects this year, but I have to do homework in my study breaks. Lunch is the only time I can practice Herbology…" I twisted the lock with my key and pocketed it. Wondered if I had time to get a pumpkin pastie or tart from the Great Hall before Charms class. I turned away when I noticed a flying paper crane. It stopped before me and started flapping in place, waiting for me to take it. As I tentatively held out my hand it unfurled itself into a small piece of parchment. "What…?" Fαirest one, you bring α greαt stirring upon me. Knoω only thαt these pαst months my heαrt beαts for you αnd no one else. Until ωe meet. The handwriting wasn't my boyfriend's, who I'd been dating for over two years now. I didn't think this came from that horny Gryffindor either, Rodney. I walked to the stone wall and pulled out my wand. There was no signature, just a squiggle in the corner of the page. A prank? "Revelio." Nothing happened. I hesitated before pointing my wand again "Aparecium." Still nothing. I put my wand back in my deep pocket and headed for the common-room instead. I turned right down the kitchen corridor, through a nook I came to a stack of barrels. Middle of the second row and two from the bottom, I used my wand to tap quickly twice and then another three times. The lid swung open and I crawled through the space and into the common-room. Cosy and low-ceilinged, with well upholstered seats of yellow and black. Burnished copper reflected the warm lamplight, many small potted plants were sitting on tables and wall-shelves. They swayed while one of the stalks across the room was singing in a gentle and feeble voice. Some younger students were reading and sitting by the fireplace, but no one I knew well was in sight. I stepped over the circular rug, past the tapestries and stained-glass windows. Up the step and into the dormitory, behind a faded curtain and arched entry to my four-poster bed. Sitting and pressing the letter into the wall above my pillow. I pulled out my wand "Epoximise." The paper glued itself to my wall beside an assortment of other homely photos and clippings. I sat and pulled a face. I'd never been popular, is this really because I duelled someone at the end of last year and won? Most Slytherins seemed to glower at me in the walkways now but I stick to myself so it doesn't bother me. I was just getting up and throwing over my bag-strap when the tolling from the bell tower let me know it was time for Charms. I hurried out and made my way there. Waiting for me outside the room was a boy with black hair and glasses. We had Charms with the Ravenclaws meaning I got to see my boyfriend, Quintin. "Hey!" I went to hug him eagerly, leaning up for a kiss but missing. Getting the underside of his jaw instead. "Hey, Philkin." He was awkward, had never been one for public displays of affection. "Did you write me a note?" "No. What'd it say?" "Weird stuff. It must've been a prank." "Hm. Let's go in." He freed himself from my touch. Wasn't meeting my eyes. Is something wrong? I frowned and followed him into class. The desks were organized in a horseshoe-shape while Professor Roland stood in the centre, his wand at the ready to teach as soon as everyone settled in. He was a tall and olive-skinned man, with a gentle and pleasing voice. Decked out in his usual sapphire and white garbs. "Alright everyone, today we're going to be transforming vinegar into wine." From beside me Quintin felt distant, as if bothered by something. On my other side Kiena set down her book and quill before taking a seat. She was a fellow Hufflepuff and my best friend. A short girl with wavy brown hair. "I want to start nonverbal spells already!" she whispered to me. I gave a wry smile in response before looking back to the teacher. My boyfriend was acting strange and I wanted to know why. o0O0o spellman's syllabry Revelio - Reveals Enchantments. Aparecium - Revealing Charm. Epoximise - Sticking Charm.
  4. Invnarcel


    No, these are original characters. Smut comes a little later but not too much later. Anyway I think you'll all get where I'm going with this after a few chapters.
  5. Invnarcel


    This is less a serious work and more a bit of fun. Hopefully I can get a following somewhere. Pls comment if you like it and I can update a little bit every day, maybe encourage people to make something similar. I'm on Uni holidays and have had some thought about my next novella but nothing set in stone yet. I've done some reading but can probably stand to do some more before I start something serious. Thanks!
  6. Invnarcel


    Romance. Spellmanship. Slash smut. Riveting relationship drama. Original Characters. Pls review for daily updates.
  7. Invnarcel


    The sun reflected off the grimy glasshouses. Across the grass fields younger students were making their way to the Quidditch pitch or otherwise enjoying their lunchbreak. My sleeves were rolled up. I set down the flowerpot and burlap sack I'd been carrying, the contents of which were wriggling about. Then stepped back across the grass with my wand out. I was reasonably out of sight, at least nobody was looking this way. I pointed my wand "Sciogli." The sack untied itself and out came several Bouncing Bulbs. The purple plants started hopping about while I focused, wand raised. "Come on, guys." I half-pleaded. "I'm a sixth-year now and I have to be able to plant you for my N.E.W.T.s." One of the bulbs started bouncing aggressively before flinging itself at my face. "Flipendo!" a blast of blue from my wand-tip sent it back to its fellows with a squawk. "I'm not playing around. Come on, into the pot." It took much of my lunchbreak but I eventually succeeded. The twelve spuds were hopping together in a calmer fashion. After a few more knockback jinxes I was able to pot them. One hand carefully aiming my wand, the other moving them into the pot and adding soil. They quivered angrily but complied. I let out a sigh of relief when done "Professor Barberry will be glad when I get another good grade in Herbology…" I reached for the sack to bag them when a rogue bulb shot itself at me once more. "Depulso!" It flew back into the pot and I quickly bagged the angry vegetables, tying the bag with twine once more. "That's some quick wand-work you've got there." I turned to see a tall boy leaning against the nearest glasshouse, smirking with arms crossed. "Nice reflexes." "Thanks…" He was a Gryffindor, I recognised him. "You're Philkin, right?" "Yes." I straightened, keeping the struggling sack under my arm. "Philkin Willmot. How do you know?" "You duelled a Slytherin out here, last year. And beat him. Hufflepuffs don't usually get into duels, let alone win them." "Well I also got an Outstanding in Defence Against the Dark Arts in my O.W.L.s." I told the arrogant teen. "So I'm not going to let pure bloods slur me to my face when they're clearly not superior fighters." "I've never met an aggressive Hufflepuff." His eyebrows raised, cocky. "Well I don't like to fight. It's just the muggle-born comments I won't stand for…" I went to reach for the pot and hesitated. "You're not going to ask for my name?" "I know who you are. Rodney, beater for the Gryffindor Quidditch team." He shrugged off and strolled over. Swaggered, in fact. Chestnut hair styled untidy, the tips feathery. A broad chest and jaw he was showing off with his posturing. I'd still not loosened the grip of my wand hand. "I don't know your name cause of your Herbology skills, Philkin. Or for successfully stunning that Slytherin before shooting him in the face with a pimple jinx, getting yourself a week's detention. I heard other things…" he was making his voice intentionally sultry. Rodney was something of a school celebrity. Talented, popular and handsome. No, not handsome. Sexy. Raw masculinity. He had a nice bulge to his pants, of course I'd noticed. He probably wasn't used to being told 'no' and I couldn't blame him. "Oh yeah…?" "So I thought I'd come say 'hi' and we could fuck under the Quidditch stands." He saw the shock on my face "What?" I recovered "No, thanks." "Come on. I know a good spell for it. Ever tried sex magic?" "Of course. Even so." "You know, I've fucked every gay and bi Gryffindor in my year and above." "I bet you have." I faced him warily as he continued closer. "But I have a boyfriend." "So? You guys aren't open? He doesn't have to know." He stopped when I raised my wand, cocked his head. "…are you going to hex me?" "I'm gay, Rod. I get it. But I'm actually not a whore. I have a boyfriend. I don't cheat. So thanks, but no thanks." He looked confused more than anything. It was admittedly a strange thought: a gay student at Hogwarts who wasn't interested in indiscriminate sex. Enough to baffle most gay students. An awkward Hufflepuff turning down a fuck proposal from fit, closeted, power-top Rod. Beater for the Gryffindor Quidditch team, house of the brave. He'd stopped his advance entirely so I ducked down to gather the flowerpot and make my escape. "Good day." I hastily left him for the castle. o0O0o spellman's syllabry Sciogli - I invented this spell. It unties things. Feel free to steal it. Derived from the Italian word "sciogliere" which means "untie". Flipendo - Knockback Jinx. Depulso - Banishing Charm.
  8. Thank you so much! That's so cool! ❤️❤️❤️
  9. UPON REFLECTION I need no flowers nor gifts from you. Quoth the raven, karma doesn’t exist but I do. Your intentions were always visible, Your depression is non-refundable. I’ve had over a year, I’m shrewd. The ache in your chest and the tears, Your wounded wrist, distant storm at my shore. You had the indiscriminate vindictiveness Of an attacking insect. I’m in your dreams evermore. JILTED Two lovers found each other in nightly meets, Told verses of old curses they had released. Promising potential of partnership and an in-forked path. Deviant dalliance in the dancers and an outright death. One of tainted blood and one-sided loves, Fled to the arms of others and met harm and bothers. One of unkind mind, flecked with specters Eager to enact his bidding and do his killing. Opulent paradox, promised long though they did grossly cease. Elegant nemesis; never did one undo his undertaker’s lease. SCRAGGLY From my tall and truffled tower I saw, A forlorn figure troubled and sour. His grip slipping on his prized bitch saw all, To an owner who had fed her better. His fruitless rage exposed in an attempt To break apart others like his lost wench. He wrote to many so his prize stayed kept, They all saw as he did – his captive left. A shame that five long years had gone to waste, He still haunts my streets and garners distaste. JIGSAW I want to play a game of injuries and maladies, By the past of your last year’s tragedies. I was a love from afar, your desire to control. Closed your heart and proud of being a psychopath. You are more human with my intervention. Forced mourning for your sadistic escapades. So say to those you love nevermore, As pieces connect like a frenetic jigsaw. Limitless encryptions bypass your pneumatic system of thought. De ja vu, you did unto others as I have now done to you? RELUCTANT SAVIOUR Our similarities smelt sweetly like a poison flower, Outlived me left to be destiny’s abandoned dowager. Double-agent formula-made as my elaborate snare. Dim evil twin, reprehensible reflection without care. In my mind, pardoned and honoured while without need. In measured by your deeds, a sorry sight indeed. Pull back petals to see the dark centipedes and weeds. Pluck black seeds, my modicum provision to supersede. Sprouting fruit now without my devoted tending. Sick garden that needed work and yielded nothing. UWU Whence did we love by sterling moonlight? Wedded and moored to riverbank twilight. Whereupon you deemed me worthy of a forever place, Warm pristine gleam – one and only love or chased hate. Walking up the winding turrets atop castle walls. Witnessing no bearded barleys but plague and war. We circle the same distance in our fight, Waiting patience will win the counter-strike. Wilted and waning by our wanton ways. Wielded by webbing, you have doomed your days. WHOOPSIE Can you restrain in chains my righteous vengeance with unrefined binding? I am the red dragon with seven heads, ten horns and seven crowns. Will you rebuke the abused with no excuse while I eat as the feasting beast? Freed from my sea with ten crowns and blasphemous names upon my faces. Should you escape your fate and retaliate with a panicked, frantic magic? You who can’t meditate while my lamb face breaks with a dragon voice. Unacceptable noise would be surprise in your dulcet cries, Unexpected divorce and remorse is the due for your lies. The lamentation of facing in the shadows one day the avenger of disgraces. The expectation of damnation with two coffins buried in separate places. SPIRIT SPOUSE Of my off-world suitors I’ve chosen you, Offering two soul windows for our rosen view. To bear your mark, to bear ghostly offspring, Exchanging blood; interchanged cambions. I am demanding of your company in seclusion, You have submission and possession of our union. To others I’m wicked, to you a worshipping spouse. Nestled with the demonic, this vessel our share-house. Closer than vines, deeper than time, Further than mind, my darkest bind. TRUE SPIRITUALITY Take caution labelling anything “beyond comprehension”, For in hiding is where true strategy avoids detection. Divine will, strong obedience, powerful love – oxymorons advise. These are the lies. Obscuration, complicating, sanguine feelings and skills to use. These are the tools. Control, power, when the chips are down the ethereal is evil self-seeking. This is everything. The existence of spirit doesn’t contradict life as an accident. That power is for you but be nobody’s fool – they’ll use, hurt and weaken you to keep you. AND YOU? A first step on a new journey, Your next best in your company. And all these roads led to different homes. My reward for my freedom fought, The first night that the light was caught. And all for one when all is said and done. Our pleasure is at our discretion, These measured words start these treasures. And all’s well that ends well. And alright may be right by you.
  10. Invnarcel

    the final turn

    Thanks! I hope you guys liked this novella. I copy-pasted this from my Wattpad account so it would have the same font as Necromancer, Ceramic Flowers and Wicked. This story is the fourth novella in this type of set - that being dark, thriller gay romances with psychology, sometimes supernatural, and around 30,000 words each. Instead of being in a high school the characters were older, and I think my next novella will also have older kids, perhaps at a university and aged in their early twenties. I'm not sure if this story had many twists or turns 🤔 It depends if people were fooled by Stanley's love confession or not. Otherwise this might have been rather constant up until the point it was revealed at the end that Howard was the killer. Ideally this would have kept people guessing about whether Stanley was a full-blown psychopath - which he is - or just a normal guy with some other problem who did have feelings for Phillip. I hope it was gripping and kept you guessing. Feel free to ask me anything about any of my stories. Thanks for reading!
  11. Invnarcel

    the final turn

    - ten - I woke up in an empty bed – the first sign of trouble. I stretched and tried to flatten my bed hair, looking around the limited space of the hotel room. Stanley would not be able to convince me to leave my life for him, of that I was certain, so I was wondering how he'd react to our parting today. I got dressed and while yawning opened the door to another cold, grey day. If we didn't pack up and leave by ten o'clock they'd charge us for another night. I walked to the railing and shivered in my shirt. No Stanley in sight. He'd been careful to not be seen yesterday, was he carried off by another lazy whim? After hopping down concrete steps I walked up to the street, looked left and right. Scratched my head. I was halfway back when a brown Mazda skidded into the lot, hooking around to face me. Stanley was smiling in the driver's seat. "Good morning!" "What the hell?" "My parents have come through for me again. Hop in." "They gave you this...?" I walked up hesitantly to the dingy car, there was masking tape around the bumper. "Yes, hop in. I'll get some supplies and then drop you back off in town. Promise." I opened the door and eased my way in. Closed it and buckled up. He skidded a little harshly back onto the multi-lane road, gravel flying out the back wheel. Would his parents really arrange transport for Stanley's escape from the country by leaving this car somewhere and trusting him with it? Then I saw the Peppa Pig keychain dangling from the rearview mirror, the butterfly stickers on the dashboard. We passed a speed sign, Stanley was going twenty kilometers over. "You stole this car!" I saw the wires hanging out under the steering wheel. "It's fine. We got to get around somehow." "You just lied to me!" "It was only so we could go further into the country." He brushed me off. "What?" The engine was roaring. We hit a bump and flew three feet into the air, landed and kept going. Stanley's eyes stayed forward. "I just thought going inland would be nice scenery. We can hideaway in a little farm house. Get some pigs, sheep. Run our own little operation, I could do handyman jobs and save up for a tractor. We could grow old in the quiet and solitude. It'll be remote. Less chance of them finding us." "Of finding you! Stanley!" I shrunk back as he started winding us around vehicles. We got blasted by horns and I was being thrown about in my seat. I had my hands to my face as he tore straight through a red light, veering right to dodge a semi-trailer and then straightening up again. "Fucking hell!" "We need to go fast if we don't want them to catch us. This is the quickest way even if it's not subtle." We were reaching a hundred on the dash. Whipping past a cop that immediately put its sirens on and began pursuit. "Yes! That's the police, you have to pull over!" He looked at me, right at me despite the fact we were a speeding blur. The speedometer climbed higher and higher. "Why are you yelling?" "You're going to kill us!" "Even if we did die, yelling won't change anything. It'd just be a game over." He shrugged, then turned the wheel and we skidded. My body was squeezed against the door, my seatbelt digging into me. I couldn't breathe and then we sped down another road. The police car swerved to chase us. "Fucking hell, this proves it. You're a bona fide psycho." We hit another dip and flew, I gripped the armrest. That police car would be calling for reinforcements. "Stanley please pull over. You love me right? Please pull over." "If I pulled over they'd catch us." "They will catch us eventually anyway!" "True, but they won't catch us right now." "This area is suburbs, you could kill someone!" "Everyone dies anyway." "You'll go to prison!" "I doubt it." He answered each of my threats with calm logic. "Stop the car! You have to!" "Why do I have to?" We were being told through a speaker-phone to pull over. My driver remained unbothered. I wanted to grab the wheel but was terrified we'd crash. Stanley spun us around another corner, the car swerved as he sped off, trying to go straight but clipping a chicane, we spun around and got wedged into the side of a tree by the footpath. Leaves fell. The two right wheels hovered up before we crashed flat. The motor was clinking and rumbling. "Ah well." Stanley spoke like he lost a bet that didn't matter because it was someone else's money. I was frozen in place, eyes wide and forward. He looked at me "It's just some boyish hijinks, Phillip." The traffic cop parked ahead of us, got out and armed himself. Making his way over carefully to issue our arrest. Stanley went to open his door but couldn't, it was bent out of shape. I still hadn't recovered from the shock. An additional two cop cars skidded to a stop from behind us. I'd never been arrested in my life. They were yelling at us to get out of the car and raise our hands. I was still unresponsive, jolted when the armed cop was outside my window. "Good morning, officer!" Stanley chirped. "Get out of the vehicle! Hands above your head, now!" I finally moved to comply, getting out on shaky legs. Turning to face the boot, I put my hands on my head and they were held behind my back and cuffed. Stanley tried to chat with them all friendly, he was tackled and grappled with, only now sounding confused and indignant as he struggled against them. We were assisted into the back of a police car. Suspects in custody. They drove us to the police station after telling us the crimes we were being arrested for, telling us whatever we say can and will be used against us in a court of law. I kept my mouth shut while Stanley continued to insist this was ridiculous and unnecessary. We were escorted up the steps and into a room that seemed so much like the interrogation room I'd first met him in. The one-sided mirrors, the long metal table. If only I'd seen the writing on the wall. Why did I let his puppy-dog eyes fool me? It was just another weekend in the life of Stanley Milton: stealing a car, speeding away from cops and crashing it. What's the fuss? I was internally kicking myself again and again and again. Our cuffs were removed and then Officer Caldwell, the tall man with the frost-blue eyes sauntered in and sat down in front of us. That exasperation they all wore, that Mr and Mrs Milton wore. I knew it, God did I know it. Intense exasperation; I never wanted to see this man again. "Hello Mark, how's the kids?" "Very well thanks, Stanley." He answered, none too impressed. "The twins would be starting Year Four next year, right? That was when we started playing on the recorders in music class." "We found your stolen car, Stanley. It has your prints all over it. Surveillance cameras show you out drinking with Adam the night he died. There were traces of vomit on his trousers and the saliva matches with your DNA. We got you this time." Stanley tried assuring the policeman of his innocence but it wasn't going to work this time. When it was my turn I lied, I said Stanley had threatened me, I was scared of his parents, told them about the photo Kelly Mettler had on her phone that she showed me. If a bird is the correct metaphor, I sang. I tried whatever I could to avoid culpability. We'd have to spend a day in the cells either way. Our mobiles and other belongings were confiscated. I spent that night sleeping on a thin mattress of springs, in a concrete cubicle with a lidless metal toilet. It was chilly there and smelt of a strong ammonia cleaner. I could hear Stanley either trying to chat to me or the guard when he got bored. I ignored him and it didn't make him upset to think I was angry with him. His voice simply nagged at me from a distant cell for a few minutes before he gave up. 。 Three days later I met with Claire for coffee. She'd left Lochdale to resume her studies in a boarding school and when it was convenient came to see me in Eastland. I was back in my bustling city once more. We could've had an outdoor table but Claire told me she was trying to quit smoking – good for her. We sat by the window, outside pedestrians busied by. Inside was full, people drinking lattes as they read the paper. The fizz of barista machines. Claire was prettier than I'd realized now she wasn't hiding behind sunglasses, she looked like a normal girl. A white flowy top over a jean skirt and designer sandals. I was wearing my favourite green sweater and jeans. "Things really did get crazy in Lochdale. I mean they were always crazy, but still I'm sorry about what happened. My brother basically kidnapped you by the looks of it." I could tell she was a bit skeptical of that last part, but it didn't matter. I had no criminal record and Stanley was crazy. "Yes well, I bet this has thrown a spanner in his plans to become a physiotherapist." Claire gave a bitter snort of a laugh and shook her head "...That skiing accident, when our brother Kurt tore a ligament in his leg, Stanley was the only one with him at the time. Stanley had to run off and get help. As soon as he made it to the resort he got distracted and started watching sports, Kurt was waiting for two hours. Stanley couldn't understand why we were mad at him afterwards. But he was there with us when the physiotherapist was helping Kurt. A couple months later when he was asked what he wanted to be it was a physiotherapist." "It's a good cover story." I remarked, taking a sip of my coffee. "It implies he's dedicated and has a responsible future goal. Just something else he can use to get whatever he may want and avoid consequences." "It never felt like that, but when you say it like that, that's exactly what he was doing. With everything." "Claire... can you tell me what happened in Berlin now?" I leaned forward. She rolled her eyes and sagged into her seat, sighed in surrender "Okay, but you're not going to believe it..." she took a breath in preparation. "We had a pen pal that we played online games with. She was going to Berlin on the first stop of her Europe trip, but she forgot her asthma puffer. No biggie at an airport really, they could find her a puffer if they needed to." "Yes?" "Well Stanley got the idea stuck in his head to rescue her. It consumed him. He ran away and then we discovered that in the space of one day he'd packed luggage, got to the airport, got a passport, got emergency clearance without getting any vaccinations, contacted state departments to get their help, and was on a flight to Germany. In one day. He wrote bad cheques and lied and cajoled to get whatever extra services he could. The embassy contacted my parents and they cut off his money. It didn't matter. Stanley contacted the press, spoke with important officials about his mission to save his friend. A story was pedaled in the newspaper and everyone ran with it: boy travels across the world to save his friend. It was completely ludicrous that he could be so resourceful and convincing." "No way..." "And that to me is the scariest thing. Normal people have to jump through loopholes, technicality after fee after blockade. Stanley finds ways to bypass all that, he proved that he could go anywhere in the world if he wanted to and no one could stop him. Lies here, manipulations there, bribes here, emergency government clearances... even without our family's money he lived the high life travelling between several five star hotels, using his newfound fame as a booster. Using his charm on wealthy or influential people. Of course he forgot all about our friend who knew nothing about it. The whole thing made me sick to my stomach." She shuddered "I don't like talking about Berlin." "That is... remarkable." "And that's why you shouldn't feel bad if he fooled you." Her green eyes were surprisingly soft. "I said the same thing to Penelope, Shariar, everyone he gets involved with. If Stanley can convince government personnel, airport security and the media he could probably manipulate anyone." "Yes," I sat up straighter. "Your brother must have psychopathic personality disorder. There's no other way to explain it. He isn't surly, but he's not a complete person if that makes sense. He has no bad history so it's purely genetic. Nature instead of nurture. He started ditching school when he was twelve because that's the first time it occurred to him that he could just walk around and do whatever he wanted instead. Classes were getting more demanding and stricter behavior was expected, he didn't like it so just wandered off instead." "What an awful situation for my family... my parents aren't bad you know." She tried to assure me. "They knew Stanley was sick with something, and he always seemed so baby-face innocent, nothing about life was able to harden him. They just wanted to protect their son." I gave a consenting nod, eyes on the froth bubbles of my drink. 。 It was the day after that conversation that Adam's killer was revealed. Howard Cornell had left with Stanley Milton and Adam Creson that fateful Friday night. Stanley instigated the stealing of the car, as always, and he was joined by the two men. Stanley didn't spend one-on-one time alone with Adam and this had been true. Howard Cornell had an ADVO issued against him with criminal charges by his girlfriend Kelly Mettler. It was domestic violence, threats and control. In an attempt at petty meanness, Kelly went home with Adam after the pubs one night and sent a series of lascivious photos and snapchats of their sexual liaison. Howard had struck me as a man of perpetual rage. A constant simmering hate that he hid until the three men got out of their stolen car and walked the private farmland. He attacked Adam, who was very drunk and high. Crouched atop him like some predator bird, hands around his neck and thumbs deep into the windpipe. I could see the spittle dribbling from gritted teeth into the matted hair of his scraggly, ugly beard. And then he took a photo and sent it back to her in retaliation: how is he now bitch? Stanley was either not present at the moment the murder was taking place, or he simply watched on with a blinking curiosity. Either way he was convinced to grab Adam's legs and the two men together awkwardly carried him to that ditch. Howard was then the one who tried to hide the car. He'd been suspicious of me from the start. Worried about the cops. When he found out I was investigating him he tried ringing Stanley's number seventeen times to make sure the truth wouldn't slip out. In the end however, Howard was caught because he got drunk and bragged about the murder. His prints were found on Adam's neck. Now as I thought some more about the psychopathic Stanley I realized it made sense. If he'd never experienced much emotional pain himself and couldn't grasp it, how could he want to do it to other people? To Stanley other people don't even exist, they're just figments to interact with. I bet that when he threw a milk bottle at ducks in school it wasn't about hurting them, he just wanted to watch these moving things fall over. No, Stanley had never been sadistic. And if murder really is the same as sitting on a chair and going for a run, what's the point in doing it if it'll lead to much worse consequences? He'd derive no pleasure from causing hurt, it'd only lead to major inconvenience. Mr Tourvel called George and me to his office. I followed my friend through the busy cubicles and into our boss's broad office with the shitty window-view. That long table with photos of his nieces. That happily-wedded gold ring shining as he twined his fingers. A wide smile on his tanned face. "You both did good. We got insider knowledge and intel, got out an issue before everyone else. Front page material, who could've known? If it'd just been that Howard guy it wouldn't have been much of a story, but the Mr Milton's son was a cohort? And all the news about how much Stanley terrorized the town of Lochdale for so many years. His family used their influence and money to keep it quiet while they tried to rehabilitate their son. Nothing worked, they even forged an alibi to keep him from going to prison. Great stuff!" "Sad for them, but yes." I stated. George was beaming with pride from where he stood beside me. "The world's a sad place," Mr Tourvel waved a hand "This is investigative journalism and you two were working on a crime piece. The Maudlin Post had a sales boost of over three-hundred percent last weekend!" "Well I'm glad the information I dug up turned out to be useful to the piece. It wasn't really our article but, the senior editors were all over it." "You both are still fairly new, this was a serious article for us so we wanted experienced writers. Your quotes from all those townspeople you interviewed were especially useful, Phillip. That really gave it a human touch." "Might be best you trust my instinct more often when it comes to these matters, Sir." George tapped his nose with a cheeky grin. "Now, now. You got one lucky break. Don't get cocky." His gruff old-school reporter voice was back. We left when he dismissed us, back to the realm of indoor journalism work. I'd just about finished that three inch stack of financial reporting. I'd not heard from Stanley Milton since his arrest. No phone call or anything. Apparently when he realized he couldn't get out of doing time he threw a tantrum, kicking and screaming on the floor like a toddler. When that bored him he regained a quieter demeanor. A shame. Just like when he'd put in effort to head a college assembly about Adam, he wasn't all that disappointed when it came to naught. Likewise with me Stanley had been behaving and trying to seduce me so he could get an article written about him. Well he got his wish. I didn't hold it against the lunatic. I wasn't all that disappointed to lose him... Like Stanley, my personal 'human experience' may only be a fragment of what other people feel. I don't think I'll ever feel quite real or experience something like love. I'll always feel like I'm on the outside. But it's not like there aren't things in life I can derive pleasure from. There's a sort of freedom in being exempt from grief and guilt. A rational clear-headedness that is in many ways a gift. Possibly even something more raw and honest, just a living force. FIN - 。-
  12. Invnarcel

    harbored fugitive

    - nine - Sunday morning an event took place that immediately shook up all the planning I'd made the night before. It was seven o'clock when I heard an assertive knock on my bedroom door. I called out asking whoever it was to wait, looked for pants before opening the door and seeing Officer O'Neil and Officer Amdur. The lady and middle-eastern policemen I met on my first day here. They were pert-mouthed as I looked between them. "Phillip Cleckley, you've been spending a lot of time with Stanley Milton this past week right?" "Yes, for the article." "When's the last time you saw him?" the lady pressed. "Yesterday evening, it was around six o'clock." I watched them exchange glances. "What's happened?" "Do you have any idea where he is now?" "No, I wouldn't have a clue." They exchanged another look and Officer Amdur sighed "We recovered the stolen vehicle we've been looking for under the old bridge, other side of town. It has Stanley and Adam's fingerprints inside it." "Also camera footage was handed over that showed Stanley was out Friday night with a group of people including Adam." Officer O'Neil continued "We got a court order to check the Milton residence but Stanley is nowhere to be found. He's not been seen in town or at any of his regular haunts." "All this happened last night?" I was flabbergasted. "Yes. If Stanley does the same thing he normally does, he should be found any moment now in town. As this is a murder case we're especially anxious to bring him in. I want you to let us know if Stanley makes any contact." As she said this her partner handed me a contact card. "Alright, I will. And if there's anything more you need help with just let me know." They nodded, the blue-uniformed officers made their way back down the stairs, boots clunking. Hands on belts decorated with batons, cuffs and safety-strapped firearms. I closed the door and faced away, wide-eyed. Seemed like Mr Tourvel would get his epic murder storyline after all. When I was ready I left to shower and get dressed. I made my way downstairs and found George, the surprise in his eyes meant he'd also spoken to the police that morning. In the back of my head I found it strange that Stanley knew to hide. He must be aware enough to know that he couldn't talk his way out of a murder charge, it'd be unlikely his parents could bail him out either. If everything had been suppressed so far this would be the breaking point, leading to a flood of scandals. We might not be the only newspaper that tries to cover this. The Miltons' reputation will be in tatters. Lying to the police and covering up murder, covering for all the crime caused by their manipulative and psychopathic son. His deviancy compounded until he committed this ultimate offense. My plan had been to meet with Claire, now I didn't know what to do. After George left to track down Stanley's college friends, like the spritely Tobi I'd played basketball with, I went to use the restroom before deciding what to do. It was there, washing my hands in the sink when I noticed a hooded man standing in the corner through the mirror. Green eyes flashed up and he smiled. "Hi Phillip." "Stanley!" I whipped around and gripped the basin behind me. "Jesus fucking Christ. You scared me..." "I'm sorry, baby." He stepped over to me, his face was mostly hidden in the pale-grey drawstring hood of the jumper he wore. Black sweatpants and white joggers, dressed so he wouldn't be recognized. His hands lightly took mine and I walked as far back as I could "I missed you..." His breath was on my face. If someone walked in now he'd be found. Part of me wanted someone to walk in now, so I could get away and this wouldn't become my problem. "Stanley, the police are looking for you!" I hissed and stepped aside. "I know, but you got to hear me out." "There's nothing to hear out! You lied on your alibi!" "True, but I never lied to you. I didn't kill Adam. I'm not the type and you know that. Baby please..." he brushed my hair back, leaned in and his lips brushed mine. A soft kiss. I spun away to another corner of the bathroom, beside the urinals. "I'm sorry, Stanley. But it really, really looks like you killed Adam. I'll admit I don't know why you did it, but that scares me even more. If you didn't kill him who did?" "I don't know! And I know damn well it looks like I killed him, even though I didn't, that's why I've got to hide for now. That's why my parents are helping me, cause the police would love to throw me in prison for this when they couldn't get me for anything else. I'm scared, Phillip. You're the only one I can trust!" "What do you want me to do?" "Run away with me." At his request I balked. "I can't be in contact with my family just yet. The house is being watched and their phones are tapped. But they can help us get out of the country, my Dad has a business partner, we can board his jet and go. To Berlin, to anywhere we want." "Just up and leave my life? That's crazy." "Maybe it is." He cornered me again, taking my hands in his. "But the truth is I might as well be in prison if I can't be with you. I was kidding myself when I said I'd be fine without you, loving you from afar. I'm burning when we're apart, and when we're together I'm so happy I don't care about anything. If I can't have you, well I'd just be so angry and empty that I'd go back to doing crimes, worse crimes. What's the point of living in this country if it can't be with you? There's no point, none at all." I let out an anxious moan "...Stanley..." "Spend the night with me. We'll talk it over and you can figure out what your decision is, what's the best thing to do. If you don't want me after tonight... well, I'll do whatever you say." "Fuck, Stanley. You can't spend the night here!" "I know." He turned his head as if to think. "Go upstairs and pack some things, call a taxi for us and ask it to be here at quarter-to. I'll leave here and go with you. We'll head to another hotel, you can go in and pay for a room for two. Then I'll come up with you and we can talk." "Fuck... okay." Before I could get around him he held me in his arms, teddy-bear eyes staring into mine. "I love you." He kissed me full on the lips. Then he let me go. After leaving the bathroom and heading back up the stairs my feet felt like dead-weights. I have to call the police. I have to betray Stanley and call the police. He'll be waiting in that little bathroom downstairs and instead of coming out for a taxi the police will burst in and arrest him. If me and him were to be seen together on the surveillance of some shitty hotel after the police have already spoken to me... I'll be condemned for harbouring a fugitive. My lips tingled with the pressure he'd left behind, the taste of him in my mouth. His sweet face when he promised he loved me. Once inside my room I started packing. Ever since Kelly showed me that photo of Adam's corpse I'd not been worried by some misplaced sense of integrity, or compassion for his family. George was the one who valued justice not me. This whole time I'd been scared of somehow sharing in the culpability. I was scared to go to prison, lose my job, get kicked out of my place. I was scared of the Miltons' and possibly getting killed. I'm not sure I have integrity like other people do, seeing as I don't have a sense of self I'm essentially shameless. But laws for the most part cover ethics, and I would be in a lot of trouble if I didn't go against my desire to submit to and please Stanley. If I were to go along with the demands of a man who's claimed me as his. I called the taxi. Gathered some of my things into a plastic bag. One night will be fine, one night won't get me in trouble. If Stanley can talk his way out of things surely I could come up with something. It's only one night. I headed out to the yellow taxi once it pulled up and sat waiting by the curb. I hopped in, outside a hooded figure in grey left the hotel and got into the seat beside me. He turned to give me a winning smile. "Where to gentlemen?" our moustached driver asked. "Hawksbury roadside hotel, my good man." Stanley decided. Then we were off and I noticed Stanley keeping his face away from the window. The designated hotel was twenty minutes away from town. A cheap, two-storey building for motorists. Rough yellow granite, metal railings and single-room doors. There was a neon billboard sign that flashed, spelling out the name in cursive and a palm tree. When we pulled up into the lot Stanley gave me a grimace "my funds are frozen. You'll have to pay for cab fair and the room. Sorry." I gave a grim nod and paid the man on card. He busied with the handheld device before letting us go. "An uber would've been cheaper." I murmured as we walked over. "I'm going to hang back here." Stanley pointed to a secluded smoking area. "After you get a room come out and tell me the number. Then I'll follow you in after five minutes." I went inside without him. My mouth was dry as I walked up to a wooden counter, the girl was bright and happy. A calendar hung on the wall, a Hawaiian bobblehead dancer moved from side-to-side between us. She typed into a clunky computer before handing me a key from the wrack. Number seven. I went back out and told Stanley, then took the outdoor stairs with my plastic bag of clothes and toiletries. Passed doors and spiky pot-plants before twisting the key into room seven, flicking on the lights to see a tiny kitchenette, beyond it was a double bed and a door that led to a shower and toilet. I dropped the key on the little table, dropped my bag by the bed. Sat and stared at the little TV. Soon Stanley walked in, shut the door behind him and locked it. "I can't stay with you for more than one day. After tonight you'll have to do whatever it is you're going to do without me." I told him. He made his way over and sat down next to me. Reached out to cup my face again. "I wish there was some way I could show you what you look like through my eyes." He murmured. A deep stare. Despite the fear I felt an illicit excitement at hiding out in this random hotel. A perverse thrill. It made me not pull away when he leaned in to kiss me, or reach under my shirt to feel my bare skin. Both of us lying back, him grinding against me, getting between my legs. Showing me how much he loved and wanted me. Our tongues moulded against each other as we grappled at our edges. Then his hands were back at my belt once again. "You're ridiculous, Stanley." I breathed. "You really just want to fuck at a time like this?" "I always want to fuck you. You do it for me." He reached into my pants and I was very much hard, I let him. He started kissing my neck and nipping while stroking me off. I couldn't help making noises. He got my jeans and briefs down, then his wet mouth was around my dick. Moving his head as I sighed and jolted at the resulting waves of pleasure. He did that to me for a while and it was bliss. Then I got Stanley to climb up and lie back so I could return the favour. Only I found it pertinent to fetch a condom from my wallet due to all the rumours about his sexual cleanliness. He didn't comment as I rolled the rubber over his erection. I kissed the skin of his navel, the light hair trail. Reached up to feel his bare chest before swallowing his dick and moving for him. Stanley's hand came to rest on the back of my head as I worked to take him deeper. What followed that exchange was the shedding of clothes until we were both naked. Then we could touch each other freely and enjoy. We made out more, grinded and then jerked each other off to orgasm. Afterwards I lied in his arms contentedly and went back to thinking about our ridiculous situation. "When you said we were the same..." I started speaking after what must have been fifteen minutes lying together, listening to gentle breathing and the sound of our heartbeats. "You did say that. Did you mean..." "Like soulmates, probably." "I see." I said nothing and let him play with my hair. Wouldn't it be something if we could be in love? If I could feel for Stanley something like what he's been constantly spouting to me. A need, a transcendent illusion, an investment of my emotional wellbeing. Would that heal me, make me feel like a real person for the first time in my life? I would need to get food. It wasn't safe for Stanley to be seen out and about. I would need to get money out from an ATM and give it to him. Considering our night of excessive drinking, trips to galleries and driving me around all week I did owe him. I'd give him some money to be on his way after we parted. It'd be horrible if they found me helping him. Awful to imagine the complete disgust on George's and everyone's faces as they discovered I hooked up with potential killer Stanley Milton. Everyone would judge me a sicko. But I'm not, I do feel a commonality with this man. There was a petrol station down the road so I set off for a walk. I bought more condoms and a heap of snack food that'd end up as shiny wrappers littering the bedspread. I texted George to let him know I wouldn't be back at the hotel that night, I was staying with an old friend who by happy surprise lived in the area, but I would see him Monday morning for our drive back to Eastland. He'd probably find it strange but let it go. As I went to buy the food I looked at the little TV in the upper corner, it showed a recording of everyone coming inside. It made me nervous. That evening we ordered food for delivery, take-out Chinese. Switched the TV on and started flicking through cable, cuddling and enjoying this gentle reprieve of time. I went downstairs to get more money out. I paid a teenage boy when he knocked to deliver our bag of food, Stanley stayed out of sight. We ate sweet and sour chicken and satay noodles, wooden chopsticks and slurping as we watched an old episode of Law and Order. We left the white boxes on the little table. It'd been a full day of lazy intimacy and sexual relations. We had sex again in the shower after dinner. There were tiny packeted soaps and tiny squeeze-bottles of shampoo and conditioner. Stanley convinced me to use it as lube. Gay men tend to be resourceful when shelf lubricant isn't available. I gripped the top of the glass stall and faced away, wincing as Stanley pushed himself in and started fucking me. Wrapping an arm under mine and clasping my chest, pulling me close to him. Panting in my ear. It hurt after a while and he agreed to switch roles. I lubed him with what was available, widening with my fingers before pushing my dick into him. We stood facing each other under the hot spray, I fucked him against the tiled wall. We kissed and Stanley groaned as he made himself cum. My thrusts sped up until I came inside him. The water ran down my back as I breathed, Stanley chuckled as he kissed my ear and neck. Our bodies sudsy in the steamy room. We dried up afterwards and lay back down in front of the TV. Stanley looked very handsome as he scrubbed his wet hair with the white towel. Drugs and alcohol exacerbate but certainly aren't the cause of his antisocial behaviours. If he did kill Adam was it really on a whim? Something didn't seem right about that. I don't reckon I could imagine Stanley smiling and calm 'now just stop struggling Phillip, this will be over soon' as he tried to strangle me in bed tonight out of nowhere and for no good reason. Perhaps he did have different masks for different people, a reason why he blended into every crowd, but that crass photo of Adam seemed too vicious to come from him. "You know I spoke to your exes on the phone." I confessed, he started shaking his head. "I had to. To find out if you're just bullshitting me." "I keep telling you I've never felt anything like this before. If this is a flame everything else was just sparks." "Well that is very romantic." "It's the truth." He sounded sure of himself. Liar...? Disagreeing would only prompt him to get more insistent and sully our night together. "Well... I hope they find you innocent, for your sake." "They won't." "Let's not talk about this." So we spoke of other things, Stanley spoke very well on casual topics. We slept comfortable and warm in each other's arms that night. The last night we had together. When I was half-asleep in the dark I heard him murmuring. "I'm gonna fight for us..." "Don't..." I squirmed, then pulled him closer to me. - 。-
  13. Invnarcel

    abetting crime

    - eight - The laundromat was a single whirring room. Two rows of blocky machines on top of each other, mine jostled about as it spun my clothes inside a drier. Down the line a hunched lady in a ragged coat was extracting her clothes and putting them into a canvas bag. The timer ticked away and I stood aside, thinking of Stanley with both warmth and worry. Pulling out my phone I decided to call his sister. "I can't believe you were in my parents' house yesterday." Claire snipped by way of greeting. "The boss told me to get a quote, I had to try." "You're so lucky, Phillip. If my Daddy knew you were investigating his son I don't know what he would've done..." "Released the hounds?" "That's not funny." "Sorry. Look, Claire, the reason I called is because Stanley's doing his... persuasion thing. I need to talk to people who knew him most intimately so I want the contact details of his exes." "Not to burst your bubble but I've seen Stanley with heaps of people, men and women, young and even really old..." "But he had two serious relationships right? One in school and one after, or was that a lie?" "No, wait... Shariar Patel is the guy he dated for two years after high school. When we were students he was with a girl called Penelope Harper all through Year Eleven and Twelve. I can give you a contact number for Shariar... it's in my address book, hold on..." ruffling over the phone "As for Penelope I think she still lives here and goes to the college, her Dad owns the hardware store and I saw her doing shifts there behind the counter." "Thanks a lot, Claire." "No problem, just tell me as soon as you find something." "Will do." I hung up when we were finished, added the given contact number to my phone. Bagged my clothes from out the drier and started walking back to the hotel. It was coming up evening and I'd managed to separate from Stanley under the guise of doing research and writing the article. He wanted us to go for another walk and then go to a drive-in theatre in a football park that the college kids attended. Sneakily making out or having sex in cars while a big projector board played family movies. After dumping my clothes I had to head back out, my guide was dutifully waiting in his car with that wide smile. He took me to another part of Lochdale, a memorial garden that led to a park. It was bordered by waist-high hedges, there were flower beds amidst the mowed grass. A white obelisk sat in the centre with names of fallen soldiers from the second World War on all four sides. We were holding hands as we drifted along, toward a path that wound through trees. There were joggers and an elderly couple throwing bread to ducks as they sat on a park bench. A stone bird bath where tiny sparrows dipped, shook themselves dry and then flew off chasing each other. "I love the serenity of this place." Stanley wrapped his arm around me, pulling me into his body. "Lochdale reminds me of being in an old novel. It is nice." "Country towns have their perks. For one thing, the bakeries are nicer." "The meat pie servings are more generous." I admitted. I did like it here, the rural town distance between houses and brighter greenery. I huddled against the cold and into his side. The cobbled path led us to a little planked bridge over a stream. We kept walking deeper into the park and I spotted a silhouette hiding in the thicket of a tree. Hunched and peering around the trunk like a mugger or stalker. No one else was around and the figure paced out of the coverage, it was a girl with leaves in her wild brown hair. "Stanley." Her quick stride led her in front of us, blocking our way "Hey, I need you to help me out." "Hello!" he greeted her merrily. "How've you been?" "Not good." She had wide eyes, her body still but twitchy. I knew immediately: drugs. She was focused but looked out of her mind. What was it: crystal meth, heroin? Whatever she took it looked like a serious addiction. "Can we talk for a second?" Her eyes flickered to the underbrush. "Alright, Phillip I'll be just a minute with this young lady." I watched him follow her into the bushes for their secret talk. She was short next to his six-foot height, standing very close to him and speaking agitatedly. Her hands were together and fingers fiddling. This girl was all over the place. Stanley put a hand on her shoulder and she seemed to calm down. It wasn't hard to guess he was her supplier. Stanley walked back to me afterwards and she stayed where she was, watching us as a silhouette in darkness. "Who is she?" "Oh, that's just Kelly. She's a friend of mine." "Kelly Mettler?" I saw him tilt his head then nod. I went around him before she could vanish "Kelly!" I called and she stepped back into view. "Kelly, hi!" I walked off the path toward her "My name's Phillip Cleckley, I'm a reporter for a newspaper. I was wondering if you could help me." "A newspaper...?" Her face was still hidden in black. "A friend of yours, um... Wendy, said I should talk to you. Please, even if we keep things confidential it'd be a real help." "...okay." "Great." I turned to Stanley "Would you mind getting us something from that ice-cream shop across the road?" "As you wish." My guide left us. Kelly and I found another park bench to sit and talk, this one under the shade of a great big tree with looping roots and hanging branches. It would take Stanley time to find us, so we'd be undisturbed for a while. It was times like this I wish I'd brought that audio-recorder, but I didn't want to frighten this spazzy girl. Her eyes were fixed to me like arrows. "I'm going to be blunt, do you know who killed Adam Creson?" "Of course I do. But you'd better not write that article if you know what's good for you... you have no idea how much influence those Miltons have. They lied to the police and gave a fake alibi." She wasn't even trying to keep her voice down, but we seemed to be in a secluded space. There were still leaves and a twig in her hair. "Are you saying it was Stanley?" "I'm not saying nothing. I'm scared for my fucking life." "Why would Stanley kill Adam?" "Stanley is a psychopath. I'm not saying anything more." "How am I supposed to believe you?" "Fine. You want fucking evidence? Fine." She pulled out a phone and started scrolling. I was expecting her to pull up screenshots. What she showed me was worse. I jumped to my feet, colour drained from my face. It was a photo of Adam's corpse. Lying limp and sweaty amongst grass, one eyelid drooping and dark bruises around his neck. The photo's caption said 'how is he now bitch'. I looked at her with horror and she stared back, twitched. "You got that a week ago?" I watched her nod. "You have to go to the police!" "The fucking pigs don't do shit. The Miltons will find a way to cover everything and protect their son. Then I'll get fucking killed." She put away her phone while I started walking in circles frantically, hand over my mouth. She watched me freak out for a good minute. "You are abetting a crime! I will be abetting a crime if I don't come forward about this!" "If you tell the police I'll destroy my phone before they take me." She threatened. "And I'll tell the Miltons you know." I stopped and we stared at each other. "This was a fucking favour to you, mate. Leave it alone and go back to whatever city you came from." Then she got up and straggled deeper into the woods, leaving me behind. It was some time after I was wandering alone. The edges of the sky were sunset-orange, like the edges of paper caught alight. Stanley appeared holding two ice-cream cups with little plastic spoons in them. Is he a burgeoning psychopathic killer after all? Is he just beginning to get a taste for murder? He showed me the cups when I was close to him, couldn't tell by my face and posture that something was very obviously wrong. "This one's coffee and this one's choc-chip peppermint. Which would you like?" "I'm not hungry anymore..." "Oh well. I think I'll have the peppermint." We made our way back to the memorial park and open town. I told Stanley I wasn't feeling well and he agreed to drive me back. Outside the hotel he pulled me in for a chaste kiss that made me jump. I farewelled him and then went quickly upstairs and to my room. No George around. Good, I didn't want to tell him when I was unsure. George would go forward about it, he hated those who did injustice and got away with it more than he loved actual justice. He loved it when the bad guys died in explosions at the end of movies when the good guys couldn't convict them. But neither George nor I had any military or spy training. We could die, right? Mr Milton knows now that the press is looking into his son. Maybe he'd just ring our boss's boss and we'd get a solemn call telling us to come home. That might be the best-case scenario. I called Shariar Patel once I was in my room. Pacing around before a meek-sounding man answered me. "Hello?" "Hi Shariar, my name's Phillip Cleckley. I'm a reporter for the Maudlin Times. I hope I'm not interrupting you but I wanted to talk about Stanley Milton." "Stanley?" A pause, suction of breath. "Is he okay?" "Yes, so far." "Well. That's a relief..." "I've been investigating his odd and criminal behaviour... I'm sure you must know what I mean. I wanted you to tell me about your relationship with him." "Stanley..." I thought I heard a sniffle, and then a door close. Is he crying? "I loved Stanley." "Did he treat you badly?" There was a pause. "Don't worry, this is off record. Did he ever hit you?" "No, never. He was a chronic cheater though." "Why did you stay together for so long, if you don't mind me asking?" "Because I believed he loved me too. He talked about wanting to save me, things weren't safe at home. He'd always tell me how much he loved me, how we were meant to be, that he would always love me and couldn't bear to be apart. But when we weren't together he'd always cheat with all kinds of people, random people. Old, overweight, middle-aged men and women, anyone that would have him. He wasn't sneaky about it. I couldn't figure it out. He'd promise me he wouldn't do it again, he was always so convincing, but he never stopped." There was another sniffle, he blew his nose. Shariar sounded like a sweet and sensitive guy to me. "Why did you two break up?" I asked softly. "I couldn't take it anymore. It was killing me. I let it drag on for far too long. Stanley would go on and on about how much he loved me... but the cheating was happening constantly and he frequently just... got bored and stopped talking to me for weeks. When I'd threaten to leave he'd do whatever it took to get me back. Crying on the phone, begging, writing me poetry. One time he was comatose outside my house from alcohol and drugs, it might've been a suicide attempt. One time he flew to India and found me, I was holidaying with my grandparents. He did it just to get me back. He was completely relentless." "Oh my God..." "But no matter what he did, as soon as I was his again he went back to cheating, back to ignoring me. I didn't understand it. I didn't know why he couldn't just let me go. In the end I had to run away from home without a trace. I told my parents I was gay and they cut contact. When Stanley couldn't find me he gave up. If he had been able to find me... he would've never stopped doing absolutely anything to get me back." I gave him my thanks and condolences. With that conversation wrapped up I took a moment to process it, imagine the things Shariar told me. Then I used my laptop to find the business number for that hardware store. There was still ten minutes until closing. A boy picked up, and after asking for her my luck continued when Penelope Harper came onto the line. "Yes? This is Penny speaking." I introduced myself and the girl clicked her tongue, then excused herself to go into the back room to talk "hold on a moment." She settled herself down, I imagined her sitting on boxes and crates. "So Stanley?" "I got with him cause his parents were rich." She surprised me with her honesty. "Also he was popular, handsome, every girl wanted him. So... high school. I was never a super pretty girl, you know? I was like mid-tier popularity. I had a little crush on him, my friends started joking that we were a couple whenever we talked, then Stanley's friends would make the jokes too. Then I suppose he thought about it, then one day asked me to be his girlfriend." "He was never rude or abusive, was he?" I already knew the answer. "No. He was actually... extremely romantic. Like over-the-top 'I would die for you' kind of romantic. I was just using him, I'll admit it. I was suddenly so popular and all the other girls were jealous of me. I was more starstruck by the fact he was a Milton than anything else... When we were together he'd take me places, drive me around, say lovey-dovey theatrical shit even when his friends were around. But when we were apart he'd barely text me. It was like he forgot I existed until he saw me at school. His family was always nice to me." "Why were you together so long?" "Well I was using him for the popularity. I broke up with him a month before school ended, neither of us cried about it or cared. It was just too much for me: his crazy stunts, the criminal stuff, I was scared he was going to get himself killed. Also the constant cheating. He gave me STDs at least twice, maybe three times while we were school students. We weren't even adults yet and he was doing so much crazy shit." "Thanks... thanks for this." "Am I going to be in the paper?" "I don't have to put your name in-" "But I'd like my name printed." "Is there anything else you can tell me about what Stanley was really like?" I evaded. "Okay, um..." she thought. "He changed personalities a lot based on who he was speaking to. It surprised me whenever I saw it, it was like he could flip a switch and suddenly be a different person. Even his affects were different. I don't think he was playing games with people... it looked more like, experimentation. If that makes sense." After that conversation was done I paced my room, rubbing my temples. I felt like a drink. That would be a really, really bad idea. Just one would dull my edges, but I never stopped at just one. So Stanley wore masks? That would make sense. All his reformed, epiphany speeches were learned and recycled from meetings with councillors over the years. All his romantic speeches were adapted from movies and media. Social skills were learned through purposeful mimicry and years of experimentation. I bet when he was younger he slipped up a lot more. Trial and error. With no emotional understanding of his own, he practiced in mirrors and tested on people. Consciously behaved in ways that got him rewarded by others and not avoided. He knew his weird habits as they'd been relayed to him, so by being intellectually aware he could come up with things to say to explain away the faults in his make-up. Like anxiousness or being in love with me. But it slipped through his careful facades when he'd say things like he loved Mrs Seaborn, an indifferent high school teacher from years ago, more than his own mother. I imagined Stanley driving alone in his car with that deadpan face, listening to radio hosts laugh and joke, practicing by repeating what they said and mimicking the tones of their voice to sound normal. I did notice that whenever Stanley did broad actions or gestures they weren't fuelled by real emotion. Sweeping his arms wide as he greeted Mr Volpitto in his restaurant. Clutching his shirt and assuring me of his love. He was never flushed, his skin remained pale. What he did was mimic the exuberance of a daytime TV cast. He was never pushed by emotion. All social behaviour was acting, and when you peeked through the gaps you could see how awkward, how un-intuitive and unaware it was at a genuine level. Among various other psychology problems that helped me diagnose myself, I have read a book and articles on psychopathy, true psychopathy. Things that can't be seen, like emotions, can only be shown through language and facial expressions and gestures. Stanley could always say the right things and calculate events, but how he acted was in complete contradiction. Because there's no meaning under his words, he uses them purely for social navigation. No emotions but having an intellectual brain intact means Stanley may truthfully understand very little about life. You'd never know from talking to him, because he's had just as much human interaction as everyone else. He couldn't understand what he's never known. He'll repeat meanings and sentiments that countless other people have said, copy statements and pretend they're original, but there's no originality or feeling in him. He's convincing because lies are just words and words have no real meaning. The only indicator is his constant criminal actions. The lack of regard for himself and others. The rare moments he makes a gaffe and the mask slips. Those are things he can't truly grasp. Everything about life: sitting down to have a meal, walking to the shops, a brutal murder, going to college, a vicious rape, doing a test and running along the beach. It is all painted in the same shade of grey. Those things are all an emotional neutral. Stanley could've easily murdered Adam. "Hey buddy." George caught me in the hall. Another guest in a thermal jumper stepped out of his room and made his way down the stairs on stiff knees. "You alright? You look pale." "Yeah I'm fine. What's up?" "I was on the phone with the boss. He's not happy with how the case is going, the police haven't made any arrests. He wants us back in the office on Monday." "Well... suppose it was fun while it lasted, huh?" "I suppose. He said we can work together to write up the finished piece and he'll run it on page six of the next issue." "That's if Mr Milton won't make noise when it's out." "That's if Mr Tourvel wants us mentioning Stanley at all seeing that no one can link him to the murder. It'll look like we're running with gossip if we have nothing more than 'he was friends with town hooligan Stanley Milton'." He scratched his neat beard thoughtfully. "Maybe..." I imagined the Milton's huge garage. Them using a blow-torch on the stolen vehicle, smouldering it into parts and shipping it away in cargo vehicles. Destroying the evidence. "Maybe there's something we can still do... if Sunday's going to be our last day in Lochdale I want to try one last thing." "That's the spirit! The police can't give me any more details. Want me to come with you?" "Maybe later. This one's a private source. I'm not sure there'll be anything else she can do for me..." Last week... did Stanley go out drinking Friday night, leave with Adam, steal a car, drive onto farm property, attack or get attacked by Adam who was high on drugs, wrestle in the grass and strangle him? Then did he take a photo with his phone, write that awful caption before sending it to Kelly Mettler? What was Kelly's connection to Adam? I had all of tonight to go through the facts before I'd spend my last day in Lochdale figuring it out. - 。-
  14. Invnarcel

    conflict of interest

    - seven - Stanley told me he was in love with me, that he'd been in love with me since we met. I figured he'd try to seduce me for the sake of manipulating the imaginary article I was writing. This farce was taking things to a whole new level. Even if it'd been someone other than Stanley I wouldn't have believed it. My ingrained lack of self-value made me confused at the idea. How could someone possibly see something in me to love when I can't see myself at all. I'm merely fine dust, mist in the shape and space of a person. What could you be transfixed by? I don't count as a human being. However Stanley said one thing which made me think it could be possible he was telling the truth: we're the same. Hadn't I thought that? That somewhere we connect at a deep, pathological level. I don't ever feel emotional pain like everyone else does, I don't have empathy for people I don't know. So am I on the psychopathy spectrum? Could he sense that? Or maybe I've been completely wrong and decided things about Stanley in my head based on everything I knew before we met. I was attributing every bit of evidence and information to George's film buff theories: Stanley Milton is a psychopathic killer. He definitely has mental problems, but it could easily be a simple case of a behavioral or borderline personality disorder. Throwing rubbish at ducks and trashing his teacher's house are signs of maladjustment, but it's not like he's cut open animals and played with their intestines. His teacher Mrs Seaborn never related any accounts of Stanley antagonizing other students. His sister said he only gets violent when he's attacked first, or being dramatic while resisting arrest. He rarely goes out of his way to hurt others and is instead polite and a charmer. I've not seen pettiness or meanness from him. He's weird in that he's incredibly reckless, yet has no interest in sadism. I sat hunched atop my hotel bed, back against the headrest. Fresh from a shower, dried though my hair was damp. A glass of just ice-water in my hand. I'd taken Panadol after getting back. I always brought stuff like that when packing: Panadol, band-aids, bug spray, sunscreen, etc. I was thinking about the lake, the beautiful folksy nature and colours of the water. And Stanley's confession. The reason I can't see him react to things normally or show judgment is cause he's dazzled by me. The reason he's always happy and smiling all the time is because he's with me. The reason he acts up and does shitty things is because his parents always bail him out; he wants to get away from their safety at times. He's not asking me for anything, he wants to do what I tell him. He told me he's had two relationships that lasted years, longer than anything I've had, so perhaps he is capable of love after all. If not, he's found a way to address every concern that could indicate full-blown psychopathy as opposed to whatever it is he may have. If he wants to make me love him, he's stage-managed our first kiss and his love confession to be in beautiful places. The mirror room art exhibit of infinite reflections, the iridescent lake in woodland. Calculating moves to coincide with events and manipulate the serendipitous hope that neurotypicals associate with soul-mated love. He loves me, he loves me not. I pulled out my phone to ring Stanley. If he agreed to obey me I can use that to get something I need, as a pre-emptive counter-manipulation of sorts. "I hope you're feeling better." His voice was sing-song through the receiver. "Yeah." I took another sip of water while holding the iPhone to my ear. "Can you take me to your house? I want to meet your parents." "Oh absolutely!" No hesitation, but there never was with him. "I'll just get dressed then we can go?" "I'll pick you up in fifteen minutes!" He was happy to drive me places, happy to pay for things for me. Maybe it wasn't about getting his name and face in the paper after all. I ended the call and got up, started getting dressed. I'd been here five days, Adam's body was discovered one week ago. After coming back I'd need to gather all my underwear and socks, find a laundromat in town. Mr Tourvel had told me to get a quote from the parents, so that's what I was going to try and do. The blue Ford Mustang convertible whipped up and I walked over, again he leaned over to open the door for me. I blushed ridiculously at the supposed context. Not a show of manners, not being opportunistic, but genuine affection that guides one to all manners of small sacrifices from which pleasure is derived. I wasn't used to being treated well by other gay men. Even favours were given with self-interest in mind, or used for conflict leverage. He was smiling like always. Could he really be smiling for love? I fought off the blush as much as I could, but it didn't fully leave as I sat beside him. Closing my door and buckling up. "Alright, Milton residence it is!" the car sped off and we made for the direction of Highfair. It was the bluest I'd ever seen the sky, and still so pale. Like a faded polaroid. We crossed that industrial bridge and the wide river looked more friendly. We made our way into town, I loved the old architecture of the houses. Victorian era, or even older. There were churches that'd rusted green like in cities. The road became more uneven, we were heading up an incline and away from the bundled buildings. When we reached the gate to the Milton residence I couldn't even see their house, the property must be huge. Phillip leaned over and thumbed a button to talk to someone. "It's me, guys!" he greeted. A camera was focused on us. The gate started to open, then we were driving up the path and across land to his parents' house. It was a mansion, of course. White and cubic, not old or Grecian. It was vast, left of the house I could see a walkway leading through a garden-forest with bridges, motes and stepping-stones. A couple of racing go-carts sat to the right, blue and red. We parked and got out, the garage was half-open and I could see a half-dozen other quality cars all shiny-new. The big entry doorway opened and a white-dressed – servant? – was there to greet us. "Do your parents know I'm with you?" I murmured to Stanley as we walked up the steps. "I didn't tell them I was coming. I come and go here all the time." The front room was like a cavern. I remembered all those town people in Lochdale talking about Stanley walking the shop streets all the time, but after seeing this place I couldn't imagine why he'd ever leave. We were offered something to drink but I declined. "You sure, Phillip? Cordon here makes a wicked kiwifruit cocktail. His gin and tonic's not bad either." The reedy Cordon dipped his head, accepting the complement graciously. "I'm fine, thank you though." "You may leave us, good man." The dismissal sent him off to some other duty and I frowned at Stanley incredulously. "Are you always in this good a mood?" "Birds are singing and flowers are bright. It's better than any drug, being in love. I thank you for that." The greens in his rounded, dumpling-shaped eyes seemed honest. Assured like a contented sigh, not as if he was trying to convince me. "Oh, you mean about being in love with me? I thought that was a joke." "I'd never" he stepped up to me seriously "joke about such a thing." "Okay." I said. "Let me show you our movie room." He took my hand and happily led me away from the stairs, the elevator, down a smooth grey hallway and into a home theatre. It was long and had several rows of sofa-seats. The front wall was a screen. "Wow, cool." "There's a gym upstairs. Some rooms for recreation, I bet Mum and Dad are up there." We went back to the lift and got in, Stanley thumbed the little button for level three. He checked his phone and I noticed the screen: seventeen missed calls. We started smoothly ascending. "Was that your parents, calling you all those times?" "Well my dear Mum is a worrier." "I can understand why. You said you love your parents, right?" "Absolutely, I love my Mum very much!" "How about when you were in school?" "Of course! I loved my Mum and all my teachers too!" "Like Mrs Seaborn? I got an interview with her a few days ago." "Ah Mrs Seaborn," there was never any hesitation with Stanley, he always spoke assuredly "We got along like a house on fire! She was my favorite person in the world!" "Do you love Mrs Seaborn more than your own mother?" "Absolutely, there's no one in the world I loved more than Mrs Seaborn!" The elevator stopped with a ding, the doors opened. Stanley headed out and I followed. When he answered that question he looked and sounded as honest as always. There was no change of countenance, no sign of sarcasm. Mrs Seaborn never said anything about getting along well with Stanley to me. His answer to my question had been automatic. The tables were huge, the spaces were huge. In the living room was a giant glittering table of black marble. There were cooks working in the kitchen. Stanley led me to a balcony outside, it was wide like the turret-passage of a castle. The distant mountains looked extraordinary from up here – a high-up gust was blowing a cloud of snow from the capped tops. Pink rose bushes sat in pots at regular intervals. We walked around the mansion and the stone balcony widened, there we found Mrs Milton in a bathrobe. She was lying on a sunbathing recliner with a coconut-berry cocktail in one hand, scrolling on an iPad with the other. "My dear Mum! How are you?" "Stanley," she lifted sunglasses to peek at her smiling son. With similar facial features she reminded me of her daughter, always donned up and hiding while giving me information at our meetings. "Who is this?" "This is my good friend, Phillip!" Stanley beat me to my introduction. "How do you do?" I said. "I don't think we've met. How do you two know each other?" "Phillip transferred to my college and we're doing the same major. We get along extremely well so I've been showing him around town." "Is that so? Mr Greenblatt was your father's associate, and when we called again he said you were at college once last fortnight and didn't show up to any classes." "Well it's thanks to Phillip that I showed up at all." He laughed off her comment, unbothered. "At this point I'd rather you make no promises instead of lying to me." She went back to focusing on what she was doing. "Your sister Rachel is getting married in Japan on the twenty-seventh, I want you to stay out of trouble until then." "Alright," still smiling. "Phillip, was it? I'll get Cordon to make you something to drink." "That's okay-" I was telling her, Stanley turned and pulled my sleeve. "I want to show him the rest of the house! Bye Mum!" It was more than Stanley and his parents who lived here, obviously. Cooks, waitstaff, hired hands all had their quarters in the Milton mansion. The aesthetics were earthy blacks and greys, some rooms were shades of beige and warm brown. Lights faded on as soon as you walked into rooms without windows. The tiles to the bathroom were heated. It was like another world for me, Stanley seemed as underwhelmed as usual. There was no showcasing nor modesty, just walking me through all the places because I was his curious guest. I had such little hope of getting an interview, or quotes, that I'd not even brought my pad. Mr Tourvel wanted me to get something, so unfortunately I'd have to try. My conversation with Stanley in the elevator and some other nudges were making me waver. I needed to get Claire to help me get in touch with his exes. People he'd been intimately involved with would definitely know his true nature. Claire would balk if she ran into me here, but I needed to know. And what in God's name happened in Berlin? We'd just left the gym, full-sized with all kinds of equipment when Cordon caught us by the door. "Your father's home, Mr Milton." He went back to work while the two of us made our way to the elevator. "Your Dad owns a boat company, right?" "Yes, Milton Sails. He also buys and sells properties." The elevator opened and out stepped a weary man in a black suit. His face was lined and hair grey, but those green eyes popped. "Stanley." "Welcome home, Dad!" "Staying out of trouble?" "Yes, this is my friend Phillip!" He stepped forward to shake my hand. Both he and his wife seemed beyond exasperated in the presence of their son. War-weary, and yet there seemed to be a determination in this man. Paternal care? Even so, could it be called admirable if their desire to protect their troubled son led them to cover up murder? Or was it for the sake of the company and reputation that they were complicit in such a criminal offense? "I've not met this friend." "Perhaps you could talk to him about your work, I'm sure he's very curious." "Oh no, he's just come home," I looked from Stanley to his Dad "I wouldn't want to disturb you in your own house." "Well time is money, and there's always an opportunity cost. That's thinking like an economist. Phillip was it? What do you do?" "I'm going to be frank, Sir." I spoke quick before Stanley could cut me off. "I'm new to town and Stanley has agreed to show me around this past week. I'm a journalist for an Eastland newspaper, the Maudlin Times." "A journalist," he looked cautious. Cordon approached and wordlessly handed him a glass, gin and tonic, then left. We started walking into the living room. "And what might you be reporting on?" "The piece was going to take a general look at Lochdale," in my head I was scrambling "as well as Adam Creson's death." "Yes, a real tragedy that." He opened his wallet to fish out a card. "Now Stanley, I think your mother and I would like to enjoy our afternoon without press nosing around the house. If you'd be so kind as to escort him out. And Phillip" he offered me a creamy card that I took limply "if you'd like to get in touch with us for your paper I request you call our lawyer." I consented with an awkward head dip. Stanley and me went back to the elevator and made our way out, I was still holding the card as we exited through the huge front door. I slipped it into my pocket. "Sorry my folks weren't more helpful." Stanley said as we got back into the convertible. "It was to be expected." I sat down in the nice leather and buckled up. There, I tried. The part of the paper concerning Stanley's parents would say 'the Miltons declined to comment and said further questioning was to be done through their lawyer'. I'd not seen George today, but would have to give him that tip about Kelly Mettler I received. It was probably nothing, but he could find her through the phonebook so we could rule it out for sure. We drove back through the town, across the bridge, and back into the woodland cottage. We took a side street on the way back and Stanley pulled up to a look-out and parked. The car was quietly rumbling as we stared out over rooftops and forestry. The mountains, a sliver of lake, far-off mist. He stretched and then shut off the engine. I was pensively massaging my chin while staring out and thinking. When Stanley lowered his arm it came to rest over my shoulder. "I wish I could do more for you," he spoke tenderly. "With you I feel lighter than the air I breathe. I'm going to treasure this car forever, it'll look beautiful just from having the memory of these days, us driving around town together." "Did you kill Adam Creson?" "I did not." "Why are you smiling?" "I haven't got arrested since you came here. Isn't that proof of what I said? I love you and you've changed me. This isn't lip-service anymore, I know I've lied in the past but I am a perfect gentleman. I'll never do those things again, thanks to you." "I thought you were a maverick." "I'm a maverick and a gentleman." "I need to stretch my legs." I couldn't look at him. I unbuckled my seatbelt and got out of the car, walking over gravel and away. The grass was long, there was an old stone monument and a brick block, public toilets. I huddled into my jumper, stared out at the scenery over tall weeds. I'd not been by myself for a full minute before Stanley appeared at my side. A light touch down my arm, his attempt at soothing me. I felt so suspicious, I took a breath and tried to relax. "I'm sorry about this, about acting strange when I'm around you. I wish I could help it, it's my fault. I think this happens to some people, once a lifetime, we meet someone that we love so absolutely that we could never be with them, act normally around them or even have a proper talk. Ridiculous, but it's one of life's peculiarities. I'll just be dumb and happy around you now, and then when you go I'll remember these days always. I'll be happy to have a tame and solid relationship one day, the love I feel for you can only exist as ridiculous turbulence, like a glimpse at heaven. I can't imagine us together in those mundane, Earthy ways." What pretty sentiments being absolutely wasted on me. I took his hand and gave a slight smile. He leaned in and pressed soft lips to mine. I let myself be carried away by this silly fantasy he'd created. Stanley was still assuring me that he was expecting nothing, that he'd continue to behave and be helpful. That he'd be happy to have met me even after I go. It removed the pressure as I wondered whether it was true, whether he'd fooled himself. Was it a crush he'd deluded himself into making bigger? Was he prone to intense fixations that were abandoned once he got distracted by the next thing? Was this the calculation of an emotionless insect brain so disinterested in everything, even its own safety, that it got carried away by a whim? Or was Stanley a quirky guy who genuinely loved me? When I pictured us together I could see him always causing trouble to some degree: casual stealing, being too friendly to the wrong person. The inverted narcissist in me would love the challenge his issues would demand. Moving through life together and me managing the drama that would result. He'd engage me without actively wanting to harm me or press me down. And who wouldn't want to be with someone who was glowing with happiness, struck by euphoria and awe at being in your presence? That's the type of light that can't help but rub off on others. Even in this 'moment' – kissing him right now – my brain never stopped thinking these thoughts. Stanley went to cup my face as we moved our mouths, his tongue sliding in. Hand on my waist and moving up under my shirt, my skin was warm under his touch. Then he was holding my belt, tugging. I stepped away from him and the sweet smell of his cologne. His taste in my mouth. "What is it?" "I'm a journalist and you're my source. I'm investigating a murder case that you're a suspect for." "But I have an alibi?" "Not a very good one." "Phillip please!" and suddenly he was exasperated. "I've already said I'll do whatever you say. If you were to want me back, I'd treat you tenderly and submissively forever! The power you have over my thoughts and actions scares me, I can only beg you to not abuse it. But if any painful request makes me more worthy of you, how could I say no? I've not done anything wrong with you here, and that's my proof. I've made mistakes in the past but hasn't everyone? You can refuse my love, but don't say it doesn't exist when it's full to bursting out of my fucking chest." he clawed at his shirt. "Alright, alright. I'm sorry." I raised my hands, then added my own confession "I like you." Nerves made me swallow after I said it, because despite being the right thing to say to defuse him, it was also true. I did like Stanley. I was attracted to him, had started getting hard when he touched my bare skin. He relaxed at my assurance, but internally that anxiety was transferred to me. Stanley smiled and leaned forward to kiss me again. - 。-
  15. Invnarcel

    the confession

    - six - In contrast to everything I'd just heard, Stanley came by the hotel that night in a taxi. I was in my dark button-up and jeans, pausing on my way outside. He was in the back, leaning over to open my door from the inside. Our driver had a dark moustache and a cap similar to a French beret. "We're taking a cab?" I asked while buckling in. "If we have a drink or two it won't be wise for me to drive." Stanley was wearing a leather coat over his sweater, I could smell Yves Saint Lauren. "To Housten's Bar, my good man." The old, hooked streetlights flicked on. We were off. "Stanley, you know I'm aware of all your drunk car crashes? Why are you playing at being responsible now?" "I'm not responsible, it's true." He put his hand on top of mine, which was resting on the seat. "But I could tell immediately when we met, you're a good-natured and cautious person. I want you to be comfortable around me, because I like you Phillip." Could he feel my pulse now? Or the warmth in my hand? I stared out the window. The bar was rowdier than the hotel which seemed to cater to older folks. I got the feeling every place in Lochdale that served alcohol was a pub-bar. There were tables and chairs in an outside band, up a porch smoking area. Through long windows I could see woodwork carvings and animal-heads on the walls: a bear and a moose. A billiard table and young people being merry with glass beer tankards. Clinking and spilling froth. I followed my spring-footed guide out the cab after he paid. Then up the steps and inside, the warmth and noise encased me. The other patrons didn't look as clean-cut as the college kids, and sure enough there were some tables overcrowded with rangy types. A possible biker gang, leather with studded spikes and the oldest collection of drinkers here; they might've been sizing us up as we came in. Stanley smiled widely as he approached the bar. Put his hands on the counter then turned to me, asking what I was having. I couldn't sit here among his friends dry. I felt the long-maintained resistance flop pathetically. This is where it starts. "Bourbon and coke." "Ah, a bourbon drinker? Me too then. Two bourbons, my good man!" Drinks in hand we made our way over to a table of sullen characters. They were actually jovial, but my warning brain picked up on their scabs, jittery eyes and sunken cheeks. I took my first sip to begin the dulling process. There was a jukebox across the room playing folk bands. "Stanley!" they called at us and he did a small jig on approach. "Hello everyone! This is my reporter friend, Phillip! He's here cause of the Adam Creson case." "Are you a cop?" a shaved-headed man asked me aggressively. Stanley went to pull some chairs over for us. "No..." it's not like there's a badge you could show to prove you weren't a cop. I sat with my guide and examined the six individuals as they sat a little straighter, looked a little less merry. "It's okay guys, I checked him out alright?" Stanley slapped my back. "He's just a reporter for a small-time newspaper in another city." They relaxed at his assurances. A woman with rangy hair and the most scabs started asking me questions about it. If these people continued to not trust me I could always try asking them for quotes, butter them up as 'respectable citizens with valuable insider knowledge'. I can be quite charming when I need to be. I tried to hide the fact their feral ways had me a little on edge. The shaved-headed guy still didn't trust me, he had an ugly beard and was straight-backed when he'd watch me with wide pupils. A stout fellow spoke in a contrived way that matched rolling eyes, as if they were as intimidated by the reporter profession as if it was like being a doctor. When I talked myself down they got more comfortable with me and soon jovial talk was back. My drink went down fast without me realising. It must have been going back-and-forth between my mouth and the table faster than I thought. Stanley raised an eyebrow from beside me, downed the rest of his drink and got up to get us another round. This was going to be a big night. "Have the police found any leads for who did in Adam?" the stout man asked me after a few rounds of talk on town gossip and court proceedings. His name was Tony and he was the most talkative. "I don't think so. Were you friends with him?" "Yeah we all saw him. Investigators have been talking to a few of the regular offenders around here." "Don't be so casual about it, Tony!" scab-woman, Wendy reprimanded him with a wrist-slap. Her voice was strained like an ex-singer, chain-smoker and angry cat. She'd taken to touching my arm and calling me 'honey'. She did so again "Look, honey, if you're looking for a lead on Adam you won't find it here. I know who you should be talking to..." "I'm mostly here for Stanley. I'm writing an article about him, and Adam was a friend of his." "He was no saint that kid, I'll tell you that much." The grouchy man who thought I was a cop was called Howard, they'd spoken before about an ADVO between him and his girlfriend. He was drug-skinny with sneaky fists, exactly the kind of guy you'd expect to have an Apprehended Domestic Violence Order. Stanley kept the drinks coming and when Wendy left the table to have a smoke I left for the bathroom and then went to check on her outside. My walk was starting to wobble. Wendy was talking to some other men when I touched her shoulder. "You said you knew someone I should talk to, about Adam?" She ashed her cigarette in an overflowing tray, stepped aside so we could speak quietly amidst the chatter of everyone else. "Kelly Mettler. She was talking shit about Adam the other night. My cousin said that Angie said that her sister overheard her saying she knew who did it." "Alright. Kelly Mettler," I tried to keep my drunk mind accurate. "What does she look like?" "She's only a little thing. Bushy brown hair. She's usually here but I haven't seen her." "Do you mind if I give you a contact number? You can pass it on to Kelly when you see her and tell her I'd like to talk to her, for the newspaper." "Sure thing, honey." I lost count of my drinks. Everything was loose, Stanley became more animated. His skin flushed and warm, green eyes bright and open. I found myself laughing at him as well as anything that was remotely funny. Patrons at tables were standing, arms around each other's shoulders and swaying as they sung the lyrics to Total Eclipse of the Heart and Mr Brightside. The night was swishing by the time we started bar-hopping. Howard bumped some lad outside another pub, or vice-versa, and a fight almost broke out. Tony was shorter but solid and able to hold his friend back while he yelled threats, spittle dribbling into that rangy beard. The two were separated before a black-uniformed bouncer could get in the way. We all wandered off instead of going into that pub. Once or twice I remembered to keep an eye out for brown-haired Kelly, but the alcohol kept making me forget. One pub had a small dancefloor with a live band playing eighties rock. I turned to see a big islander guy lift Stanley up by his collar and throw his back into a pillar. Stanley patted the guy's arm assuredly and then offered a sachet bag of white powder. Before I could get too worried he was released, the angry guy appeased. When he returned to my side his wide smile was unaffected, as if I'd imagined the event. I was introduced to many people, some who were supposedly friendly with Adam, but I was too far gone. All control went out the window when I drank, there was no stopping point. I was swimming in heated rooms, bobbing back-and-forth between the urinals and my table, head swimming in bourbon. There was talk of leaving the pubs for someone's house and smoking dope. I imagined them in ratty-carpeted rooms, sitting on beanbags while lighting bongs. We were drunk enough to have heart-to-hearts, and I found myself talking to some girl emotionally about my disappointing older sisters. We were connecting on the subject of troubled siblings and how to bond with them, help them. I had a bout of hiccups I couldn't shake, looked around the table and asked for Stanley. Tony pointed his thumb toward the street so I got up shakily and made my way out. He was leaning against a brick wall in his cool jacket, hair stylishly untidy. I wanted to kiss and touch him badly. "Hey what are you doing out here?" I slurred. In answer he stuck out his tongue and I saw a tablet sitting there. A streetlight was overhead, leaving his face shadowed, but I thought I could make out a mischievousness in the corners of his mouth. I knew this was going to be a conversation I'd be unable to remember. "Is that ecstasy?" "Try some." He offered another plastic sachet bag from his jacket. "That's-" I hiccupped "-illegal and not good for you." "You're cute." I hiccupped again, barely sober enough to curse myself "-thanks." He gripped my shirt and pulled me in. This time his tongue did enter my mouth and swished around. We held onto each other and kissed drunkenly for a while, when he pulled away the tablet was in my mouth. Stanley smiled at me devilishly. "I like you." I said. "I like you, too." His thumb stroked my cheek and without thinking I swallowed the ecstasy. Everything after that was a total, irretrievable blur. I remembered feeling invincible-happy and eventually woke up in a hotel, a different hotel. My mouth was very dry and tasted of sick. My head in a pounding rhythm. Lying naked under a tangled sheet, Stanley's arm over my chest. He lay face-down in the blue bed beside me. Did we fuck? I couldn't recall, but we were both naked in bed together. I groaned in pain and extracted myself from him and the sheet. This room was nicer than Lochdale's olde hotel. The carpet was a soft blue, through transparent curtains I could see sunlight and the road. I waded to the en suite bathroom while cradling my head. I couldn't remember anything after leaving the cab and walking into that first pub with Stanley. Turning the tap on and guzzling water, hydrating my sick body. Splashing my face and wetting my dark hair to cool down. I stared in the mirror, into my dark almond-shaped eyes as I tried to anxiously recall what'd happened. Bits and pieces came back to me. Sluggishly, like I was pulling them from a murky pond. I remembered the ecstasy tablet dissolving in my mouth, making me feel like I was on top of the world. That explains this acute anxiety, my serotonin levels have plummeted after that crazy boost. I remembered Stanley drinking so much that he fell many times as we walked. Both of us must have been too drunk to get it up, so that's probably what happened: we got naked and just collapsed into bed with each other and passed out. I hoped so because someone who was always so careless about his safety wouldn't bother with condoms. Someone thoughtless like Stanley probably had indiscriminate sex, and probably never got himself checked out for STIs. Or if he had, would Stanley have unprotected sex with men and not tell them he was say HIV positive? Would he rationalise it to himself somehow: they never asked, they need to be accountable for their own sexual safety. I wasn't sexually active enough to consider that PrEP tablet so many Grindr guys were on. It was probably post-ecstasy making my anxious head swirl with these thoughts. Stanley stirred in the other room, I heard him prop himself up. I'd need to have the conversation with him but couldn't imagine how it'd go. The next thing I saw froze me with a sick bout of fear. I stopped, peeking through the crack of the en suite door. In my view was a closet mirror, the type that slides open and goes floor-to-ceiling. I could see Stanley sitting up, not yet remembering last night and that he wasn't alone. Waking up in strange hotels might not be so unusual for him. His eyes were in a dead stare. As vacant as auto-pilot, as the idle setting on a computer or phone. Brainless. One corner of his mouth was pulled up in a bizarre smirk-grimace. His face muscles slack and strange. When those flat eyes caught me staring at him with such fear, he remembered he wasn't alone. I saw him exert visible effort to put the mask back on, light returned to his eyes. Stanley groaned and rubbed his face, as if he'd merely been zoning out from tiredness. That hadn't looked like tiredness to me. He fell back into his pillow and was a person again. When I was ready to come out I started picking my clothes up off the floor and getting dressed. "Morning." He chirped. "Morning..." "Last night was fun." "It was very unprofessional to get that drunk." "Well you needed no encouragement from me." I stopped midway throwing my undershirt on "...true." "What we need is some greasy food and we'll be right as rain." "I feel like I might end up throwing up more." "You'll be fine!" he threw the blankets off and thrust himself up and to his feet. Completely at ease with his own nakedness. Once dressed we walked a thin, pale corridor I vaguely remembered crashing through. The roadside hotel was U-shaped, and in its gap downstairs was a breakfast café, Chinese place and a restaurant of some kind. The latter two weren't open yet. We went to the counter and ordered scrambled egg, toasty things. I felt like the alcohol was pulsing sluggishly through my veins beneath pale skin. An old woman sat with a newspaper, doing a crossword. We took our seats and Stanley started rambling about the article I was supposedly writing about him. I could barely follow, holding a glass of cold water to my forehead. When our meals came I had a few bites before having to excuse myself to the restroom. I ran into a cubicle and spewed. Thinking about the taste of bourbon, even the smell was enough to make me gag. As well as the questionable cleanliness of a public toilet. When finished I walked back paler, took only baby sips of water. I had some more bites of food in the hope it'd settle my stomach. "We should go for a walk. A walk will do us good." Stanley suggested. We headed out. Stanley paid our fees on card. Our hair and clothes were messy, my button-up was left open over my singlet. We crossed the street and started walking beside woodland. "I can only imagine what my bank account looks like now." I spoke in despair. "I paid for all your drinks." Stanley assured me. "Well that's good... thanks for that." "Excuse me." He said politely, stepping into the trees and vomiting down the side of a trunk. He'd been so well-composed that I assumed he must've had less than me. But I suppose he was just used to it. I remembered reading from George's report that in his most recent car crash he'd been four times over the legal limit. When finished Stanley wiped his face and re-joined my side, we continued walking. For me this was shameful, to him it was normal. Morning sun shone gold through the fern leaves of the pines. There was further space between offices and homes, the path rising and falling in mounded curves. We came across rusted train-tracks cutting through the land. "Let's follow this, it leads to the lake." Stanley pointed and took my hand. We must be on the other end of town. My mobile still had twenty-percent battery life, by some miracle. Instead of finding out where I was so I could call a cab, I let myself be led through the trees. After a while I spotted a rustic shed in the woods, old timber and rusty tin sheets. Abandoned in time. It was quiet now apart from the morning birds. Beautiful, though I was still nervous. Maybe it was my dropped serotonin, or maybe I was worried about being out of town with him. Then we reached the lake and its gentle waves. I'd only seen it in shades and textures of grey. Now the surface was iridescent in the light, like the shell of some beetle. Underneath the reflection it was bottle-green. This spot seemed even more ancient than the mid-century, folksy town. I was reminded of nature wildmen, wilder-beasts, the Fae. When Stanley looked at me endearingly, his green eyes matching the moss on the dark-wood trees and fallen logs, I wondered if maybe I'd imagined what his face looked like before. That awful dummy stare. Maybe he was in control of himself, and that was why he never did anything too outlandish when we were together. "I wanted to take you here to assure you of something. You'll always have my friendship Phillip, and my love. I don't want you to be unhappy. Don't think that just because I've done bad things that means I'm heartless. I have a soft heart, inside. I don't want you to be uneasy, but saying this to you makes me uneasy. I'm a man who'd never be careless with something like a heart. Maybe I should've said nothing, but I don't want you to ever be unhappy." I pulled my hand back. Too much intimacy. He had a hand on his chest, hand still out for mine. "Uh what?" "Sit with me here and just let me speak. I need to get this off my chest." Soft but persistent. I again acquiesced to him my hand and we sat in the damp grass, by the pretty scenery. Smooth water to the distant shore, thick blockades of pines curving around right by the lake's edge. "Something about us feels the same. I feel like I've been consumed by this feeling, I feel full of love for you. I hope that instead of being turned off you might pity me. It's pathetic but you've been on my mind since I met you, it makes me sad when I'm awake, but I'm savouring it every time I try to sleep. That's why when I'm with you I'm always happy and smiling, no matter what. I feel sincere care for you, deep respect and – I can't help it – submission. Even if this goes nowhere, I'm just so happy you gave me this gift, to love someone so intensely, un-selfishly and wholesomely." When I opened my mouth he pressed a finger to my lips "Please let me finish." Squeezed my hand "I could've kept this going and stayed quiet. I know you've made assumptions based on what you've heard about me, but this is why you've seen me unable to react to things normally. I could've continued adoring you silently and secretly, but I know you're investigating me and I must have been acting weird and not myself this whole time. Because you dazzle me. I always said I'd turn myself around but it never lasted. Thanks to meeting you I know it's going to happen now, because I never had a reason to be better before. I was just living. My Dad could always get me out of any trouble so there was never anything to worry about. My family would always support me so I never needed to try, and I've just felt misunderstood by everyone my whole life. But now I have something to live for." Both of his hands were on mine now and I was speechless "I can't get rid of this feeling, nothing can. Since I can't think or act straight you'll just have to be in charge of me. Tell me what to do and say when I'm around you so we can finish this article as least awkwardly for you as possible. I'm not asking for anything, and I'm sorry but there was no one other than you I could express my grief to, since you're the cause. If you were in my situation, not that I'd trade it with anyone, you would understand how this feels like experiencing happiness for the first time. Even a small change of your state effects me so intensely, I couldn't imagine someone having that much control over another. But despite how all-consuming this feeling is, I want to assure you I'll behave. You decide whatever it is we do now, I'll do whatever you say." "O-kay." He let me take my hands back and I was genuinely dazed "To start with... lets go back into town." Will he ever stop surprising me? - 。-
  16. Invnarcel

    dangerous liaison

    - five - I spent that evening finishing up my article draft and emailing it to Mr Tourvel. When finished I checked my iPhone and saw a text message from a friend informing me of some new development. Opening Facebook I searched Tom's profile, my ex-boyfriend, and saw his picture was him and another boy together, smiling with some dumb koala-eared filter. I felt a rush of pleasure before stifling it down. Rather predictable, it seemed I was left for someone else. This could lead to various other questions: was the other guy always on the side? Was I being held onto up until the point I could be replaced with someone else? I do have some measure of pride, it seems. Or comprehension of fairness. And this clashes with the pleasure of mistreatment. But if there's one thing that truly bores me about guys and relationships it's being ignored. I looked at my blonde ex beside some dark-haired bearded guy and figured they wouldn't last long anyway. I exited Facebook and started getting ready for bed. Stanley wanted to show me the fancier parts of Lochdale tomorrow. The edge of town towards Highfair. Museums and art exhibits. After meeting his respectable associates at the college, like Toby and Alisha, I wanted to meet his other friends. The less respectable, scruffy and sallow-skinned kind. Hanging out with drug types might not be safe, but I was fairly sure my journalist status would protect me. Hopeless people would love to have their names in the paper, like underground cave-dwellers wanting to glimpse the sun. Or if I went undercover maybe I could hear murmurings about who might've killed Adam. Not safe, but being alone with the maybe-psychopathic killer Stanley Milton hadn't been safe either. The dangers of good-looking charmers, I suppose. I went to sleep fine. Drifting off after thoughts on the investigation left me. Woke up leisurely on Friday morning and got ready, got dressed. George and I were exchanging notes and worthwhile information at the end of each day, and every morning we planned and made suggestions on what to do. "You really think he's starting to trust you? Like he'll open up soon?" he asked while cutting into an eggs benedict while we sat in another trendy café down the street. He looked tired or perhaps hungover, I was proud and a little surprised at myself for still not having a drop of alcohol since coming here. I chewed bacon, clear-eyed and well-rested. Much more of a morning person than George. "I can't tell if he trusts me or anyone. I don't know if he's withholding stuff, though he does lie. But I am learning more about him and getting a clearer picture the more time I spend with him." "That's good." I cut then popped more bacon in with my fork and chewed thoughtfully. I'd received a text from Claire Milton asking for us to meet up, she wanted updates on my investigating. I told her we'd have to meet later as I was supposed to be with Stanley most of midday. After breakfast I made my way back, George drove off to see what other information he could get from Officer Caldwell about the murder case. At the appointed time Stanley pulled up to the olde hotel. I got in his nice car, we smiled at each other, he jerked the gear stick and we were off on another adventure. The forest town became more compact, we crossed an industrial-looking bridge, concrete and connected by wires. Over a wide river the same soft grey as the sky. Seagulls by the big storm pipes. To the other side, beyond iron-grate railings to sandstone-bricked buildings. A Jigsaw-cut path that was a faded salmon-pink. Pigeons flocked the town. And up an incline ahead were the art places, looking like monuments themselves. Dark silver and built like layers shedding or opening petals, a subtle and modern aesthetic. "I've always wanted to come here with someone beautiful." He said to me as we pulled up in a parking space. I almost told him to stop flattering me, but that would've encouraged him. "Do you come here often?" "Not at all. That would make it boring." We headed down a path and inside, everything was wood-panelled. We paid our entry to a few smartly-dressed women at the counter. Then we started walking the wide rooms, looking at canvases of self-portraits and paint splatterings. Reminded me of the Archibald Prize. There were sculptures and a monstrous fossil made of paper and glue. I saw something that looked like central London made entirely out of toothpicks. There were other patrons about, an elderly couple or a troupe of tourists in each section of the building. I saw a grizzly collection instalment, like something out of Saw mixed with horror movies like Insidious and the Conjuring. The room was dark when we walked in, lights focused on the sculptures only. Pig-human hybrids, splashed open in the most gruesome ways. Crucified skeletons, heads on both ends of a spinal column. Like something in a fictional Satanic Mass. I waited to see if Stanley would comment on the gore. Whether he'd be excited or put on a show of being scared. We were alone in the dark, taking slow steps as we looked around. I couldn't see his face but he was close beside me, his breathing sounded just as slow and relaxed as it'd been before. We left that exhibit and took the stairs up to the next level. Gothic paintings from the renaissance period. Renditions of the Birth of a Venus, a naked woman standing on a seashell with blonde hair flowing in a gold frame. The Creation of Adam, showing God as an old man coming from the sky, reaching down with a finger as a lying naked man reached back. "Michelangelo." Stanley pointed in recognition before we read the plaque. He was able to list the names of a few other well-known painters upon seeing their famous works. The art installations were my favourite. One of them was a small room with very little lighting. Christmas lights hung from cords and the podium was surrounded by black water. The walls were mirrors and so the illusion was we were floating in space, surrounded by a galaxy of endless multi-coloured stars. In another room was the typical bright mirror-walls, staring out at infinite reflections of ourselves. So smooth we could fall into them, or be swallowed by a pool of quicksilver. Stanley took my hand and pulled me to face him with a sly smile. In here I could see the back of his head, both side-profiles, every possible angle of him. Impenetrable. His thumb traced my knuckles while his other hand was on my elbow. I watched his green eyes boring into me before he leaned in. He kissed me, I kissed him back in this strange space. Unlike that other room, this one was like being suspended in time. Millions of other boxes containing replicas of us from each quantum moment. I felt a fluttering and lost myself a little in the kiss. Stanley was handsome and wayward, I was beginning to bend to his whims. His lips were soft and he pulled away after several seconds without the intrusion of a tongue. Good, he knew how to preserve a moment. We left the space together and he took my hand. "I'm gonna get a drink from the stand, you want anything?" I needed a moment away. "I'm fine. We should leave here soon, the museum next door has a World War One exhibit. I think you'll love it." I nodded to him and left, could better catalogue and process what happened while by myself, taking an iced tea out of a drinks fridge and buying it from a girl surrounded by square walls of glass counters. I smiled somewhat bashfully at my return, Stanley smiled back and we examined the top floor. Aboriginal artworks of dreamtime waterholes and other curious pieces. I read about the rainbow snake and mythology about two children mud-sliding down Ayers Rock. A dotted platypus and a long painted didgeridoo on display. We left the art gallery for the museum next-door. It reminded me of being at Questicon as a kid. There was a science room with glass orbs that sent purple electricity to your fingertips when you touched it, cyclone generators in big glass prisms. There were air jets that suspended rubber balls that hovered by your head, you could reach in and take them out, then put them back again. Very young children were running about excitedly and occasionally herded by a teacher with a whistle around her neck. The World War One exhibit up the escalators was indeed enjoyable. There were black-white videos playing on screens in the walls. WW2 Nazi uniforms on mannequins. A huge fighter-pilot jet with propellers hung from the ceiling on wire cables. Stanley was taking my hand again at odd moments and I let him. It was nice, walking around and looking at things together like that. It was after midday when we were walking through a Star Wars exhibit with life-size wax figurines of the original trilogy characters. The detailing on the droids was exemplary. We commented on what we saw and I again found it inconceivable that this man was the one who'd terrorized Lochdale with petty crime sprees. But I was no fool. It was Friday and I wanted to meet his other kind of friends, the ones who also knew Adam. I turned to him while we were holding hands "Will you take me out with you tonight? So I can meet your other friends, for the paper." "If you like," he raised our hands so he could kiss the back of mine. I was used to people coddling me, due to the sweet and affable image I project. It's hard to turn off. I let Stanley lead me around before it was time for us to get lunch and leave. There was an Asian noodle bar in town so we got ramen. I knew how to eat with chopsticks and he did too. Stanley insisted on paying again so I let him, doubtful that I could cover these dates as the business expenses they were supposed to be. In moments of separation I was texting with Claire – our meeting would take place once I was back in town. Instead of replaying my conversations with Stanley all day I considered how they made me feel, and how they made me feel about him. He did seem more gentlemanly, noble, impressive and even warranting of a little pity as he'd listed some disappointments. When it comes to manipulative people, it's more important to analyse the results of your own feelings than it is to consider whatever it is they've said to change your views. He drove me away from Highfair, over that bridge, past the suburbs of Lochdale, back into the forest cottages and left me by the olde hotel. Several chimneys across town were smoking. As that blue convertible drove off I stayed by the footpath, sent a text, waited a few minutes for a silver Porsche to pull up. I opened the door and hopped in, Claire's face was hidden by those big sunglasses again and we sped off for another inconspicuous café on the outskirts of town. "Restaurants and art galleries?" her head flicked to me briefly before returning to the road. "Are you dating my brother?" "He's helping me with my article on his life." "Trying to seduce you more like it." "Seduction is one way to get what you want from someone. I'm appealing to his grandiosity. To think that any news article would run twelve pages on the everyday life of an unemployed college drop-out is ludicrous. And considering his criminal actions it couldn't possibly be a flattering article. Do you think your brother's delusional?" "I mean, he'd have to be..." she shrugged and steered us around a corner. "If he's trying to woo you it's for ulterior motives. Probably to steer this supposed article you're writing into something... nicer." "Hmm. Have you ever seen Stanley cry?" I thought to ask. "I think so..." she fought to recall. "No. Actually, I can't remember a specific time. He's thrown tantrums, he's screamed and yelled when he doesn't get his way, but mostly he's calm and friendly." "I see..." Her gloved hands clenched on the wheel and she was deep in thought, trying to recall her childhood with her brother. We parked by a curb. This little café was squashed between two other businesses. There was a small line of customers and a milkshakes menu. We got a table down the narrow path and sat across from each other where we couldn't be seen. Claire rifled through that gold-white handbag for another cigarette before looking at the kitchen workers who were bustling about, steaming the coffee-maker over the counter. Too close to not be seen, she re-clasped her handbag. "Did you and your siblings go overseas much? Been to Berlin?" "Oh God." She dipped her head and pinched her nose. Sat that way for several seconds before looking up and facing me "Don't ever mention Berlin around me- I just can't. But yes, we've been on family trips overseas." "What I wanted to ask... when your brother acts up, is he ever very smart about it?" It was hard to explain what I meant. "Like has he ever planned something out?" "Yes. In tenth grade our history teacher went to the Caribbean with his family for a few weeks. Stanley started spending more time away from home. Turns out he'd broke into the house with some friends and they commandeered it. Threw parties and slept over, trashed the place. Stanley introduced himself to the neighbours and said he was the teacher's young nephew, house-sitting. They made copies of a spare key they found, basically lived there that month. Police turned up several times because of noise complaints. They set his Italian Natuzzi sofa on fire, hauled it off the balcony and into his pool. They caught the neighbour's spaniel and dyed it blue. Broke windows, broke everything." "That's insane." "I have countless stories like that, Phillip." Claire rubbed her forehead, irritated. Our coffees were ready so I stood to take them off the counter and set them down. "The reason I'm asking this is... Stanley doesn't care if he gets caught doing the wrong thing. But sometimes... sometimes if he's determined on some goal, he will actually take the steps and plan out ways to do something big and be successful at it." "Yes, that's right." She said. "He's quick-witted and can lie on the spot. He's convincing. He told those neighbours his story about being the nephew, gave them the mobile number of his friend and said it was his parents so they could call if they were concerned about party noise. When noise complaints were made he made several of his own to the police accusing the house opposite. He started writing fake cheques and sliding them under doors to convince people to be quiet. It all fell apart a week before Mr Sherman was to return with his family. They'd succeeded for as long as they could and wanted to go out with a bang." I shook my head "So he's been a gentleman to me, going on dates because for now he's determined to be in the paper again. He spent hours organising an assembly on anti-drugs and counselling because he was determined to lead a public-speaking event to an entire college." I watched her quietly nod and took a moment of silence before continuing "Claire... do you know how fucked up it would've been if they'd gone through with the assembly and Stanley actually had been involved in Adam Creson's murder?" "I know, I know." She was getting stressed and snappy. Itching for a cigarette. We both took a long drink from our cappuccinos. "All I can say is: good luck for tonight. Keep an eye out for shady characters." After telling her my information and observations we talked about other angles before separating. I pitied Claire, and from the way she described how much of a nightmare her brother was I couldn't help pitying Mr and Mrs Milton too. They really loved their son, according to her. He was incredibly sweet to them when he needed to be, knew how to play on their heartstrings when he needed to get out of an arrest. Knowing your child as sweet and well-behaved then finding them doing such dreadful things without remorse or comprehension, but learned 'acting'... well it was just like if my audio-recorder were sitting in his spot at youth counsellor meetings, emotionlessly recording the right things to say and playing them back at the proper moments to be let free. Like a chimp learning which button to press to get his treat. I was driven back, headed up the hotel stairs to arrange my notes. I'd brought one dark button-up top with me, so set that out with some jeans for tonight. After finishing my work I was heading downstairs when my phone started ringing again: the boss. "Mr Tourvel." I traipsed my way down with the receiver to my ear. "Hey cub reporter, I got your email. How's Lochdale treating you?" "It's lovely. Everything's a lot slower here in a country town. Different to Eastland." "That's good. I've looked over what you've written and it's decent. Still a far cry from being published but it's a start. You guys are working hard, both of you. I need a quote from the family." "Um." I hesitated at the bottom of the stairs. "I've got a lot of information from the sister, but she wants it off-record." "Well you got to get something on record. Have you tried speaking to his parents?" "If Mr or Mrs Milton find out what we're doing they could try to get between Stanley and me. I don't want to lose his confidence before I could potentially find something." "Do you think he did it?" I didn't answer and there was a pause before his gruff voice came out the speaker again "Well?" "I don't know." I replied, unintentionally mirroring Claire's response when I'd asked her. "What do you mean? Is he suspicious or not?" "He's plenty suspicious. But this isn't like investigating a normal suspect. He's not careful in the same way, he doesn't have tells, no suspicious motives or lies, he can't be read like a normal person can." "Not you too! I told George the same thing, this isn't some conspiracy mastermind film. George told me he was covering Adam's family and friends. You're dealing with town hooligan Stanley so if nothing will be proved I at least need quotes from his family." "Alright. I'll try to get in touch with his parents tomorrow." "I don't want you two gone for too long if we can help it. We got our own stories in Eastland and there's still that financial reporting to be done." "Yes, Sir." Promises and assents were made. I hung up and spotted George sitting by the bar, going over his notes with a scooner of beer. I made my way over and sat on the stool beside him. A bellyful man was washing glasses in hot suds and hanging them upside-down on a wrack to drip-dry. "Hey, got anything good?" "Hey, and yep. What about you?" I sighed "I've heard plenty more of Stanley's delinquent adolescent feats... what've you got?" "I got a meeting with Officer Caldwell at the police station. Still can't believe the police are being this cooperative, but just goes to show how serious it is aye?" He took another swig of beer. "Did you know that Stanley has been hospitalised in psychiatric wards many, many times? Apparently more times than he's been arrested?" I pinched my nose and forehead furrowed, feeling an incredulous exasperation that I was sure must be felt by anyone whose life was personally related to Stanley's. "Please explain..." "It's the reason he gets out of trouble so much. Whenever he gets caught for breaking the law, crashing a stolen car or lying in a bush intoxicated and naked, they arrest him. Everyone already thinks he's crazy because otherwise why would he do these stupid things? Well Stanley capitalises on that, after he gets arrested he says that he has anxiety, gets seizures or hears voices. Basically whatever he can to get out of trouble on an insanity plea, so he happily goes to the psyche ward instead." In my head I imagined smiling Stanley, sitting calmly among the other patients as they rocked, dribbled or ranted unintelligibly at people who weren't there. George continued "He's on his best behaviour in the wards, charming to staff, confident and utterly at ease. He helps them with their jobs and the other patients. With no signs of illness he pretends his condition is intermittent or that he's gotten better. He starts insisting on being released, claiming he doesn't belong in that place, and he obviously doesn't. But he always escapes from low-surveillance facilities. Stanley once wrote poetry to the chief of staff to ask for parole, to prove he was of sound mind. You can imagine how convincing he is. One time he wrote a detailed, heartfelt letter to a politician, claiming that he was being framed by rival companies who wanted to sully the reputation of his father and the business. That he'd been locked in a high-security psychiatric ward despite being evidently of perfectly sound mind and morals. There was a huge stir over that, he was so convincing." "And they released him?" "They always do. He has sources and contacts, he is extremely inventive when it comes to avoiding prison and getting his freedom. The cycle goes: reckless crime then arrest then psyche ward and then he's found 'back to normal' and completely sane so is free again." Stanley wasn't of sound mind. But he was still smart enough to manipulate absolutely everyone, capitalise on his illness, and get free every time. - 。-
  17. Invnarcel

    heart to heart

    - four - I'd not packed for such an occasion, but I wore my finest coat. It was impossible to shake my pre-date jitters even in knowing that we could never amount to anything substantial. I hoped I'd please him. I remembered to pack my notepad but left the audio tape recorder – it was outdated, it didn't matter if he claimed not consenting to being recorded on my phone if he happened to confess to murder. It was seven o'clock when Stanley pulled up more or less on the dot, drawing stares from everyone in sight. He was in a blue Ford Mustang convertible. Revving the engine once for me, face splitting in a big smile beneath sunglasses. With hands in my pockets I walked around to the passenger side, head dipped to hide my smirk. Stanley leaned over to pull the lever and push my door open for me. "There's my favourite reporter." "Good evening to you, Sir." I joked and strapped myself in. "The pizzeria awaits!" he pulled out again and we were off. I noticed that as we drove it was within the speed limit and he obeyed all traffic laws. "Is this your usual car?" "I'm afraid I crashed the jaguar. Milton senior was good enough to lend me this one." At his comment I remained silent, wondering if his Dad was also good enough to help him cover up for murder. Stanley continued "How are you liking Lochdale, been to any of the sites?" "No, I've been working I'm afraid." "Good, I get to be the first to show you everything." Those sunglasses faced me as he grinned. The pizzeria looked like it came fresh out of an 80s sitcom, reminded me of Grease Lightning. A long-stretched roof with angled glass walls. I was enjoying the free-flowing fresh air that the convertible afforded but was also looking forward to eating. I would've been worried about leaving such a nice car on this street, but Stanley locked it with the beeper after we got out and didn't look back. He led the way and I kept pace beside him. It was warm inside, contrasting against the pale chill on our faces. Stanley raised his arms "Mr Volpitto!" "Ayyy Stanley my boy!" an olive-skinned man who was possibly Italian stepped out from behind the counter to greet us. "Where are your friends?" "It's just me and Phillip here tonight. Strict journalism business." He made a mock show of posterity. "I'll get you a booth!" the man led us down the length of the restaurant, I smiled and thanked him. We followed and he offered us comfortable-backed seats by the window-wall. "Can I get you gentlemen something to drink?" the bright-eyed man asked us eagerly. "Um, coke?" I looked at Stanley as we slid across from each other. "A jug of coke, my good man." "Coming right up!" he dashed away. I looked forward at Stanley who was smiling at me. His sunglasses were now hanging in the collar of a nice white sweater. Green eyes on me. A loop of hair plastered to his forehead. "Thanks for doing this. I wouldn't mind getting to know you better, but we can get to the questions when you're ready." Stanley knitted his fingers on the table, straightening. "So here's what I'm thinking: The Maudlin Post will run a twelve-page piece on the life and times of Stanley Milton. While you show me around Lochdale I'll get to know your day-to-day life." "Fantastic." He flashed his teeth. "So I suppose to start with... what are you studying at college?" "Physiotherapy." He gave a respectable nod. "Are you still in your first year of courses?" "Yes." "And how long have you been a student at the college?" "Three years." Truancy, as I'd heard. He wasn't embarrassed. I pulled out my notepad and jotted something down. "How about you? Do you study?" "Not at a university." "Why not? You seem very smart." "Thanks. Maybe one day." "Have you always been a journalist?" "I was a barista and a waiter up until about a year ago." "Journalism suits you better. I'm feeling thoroughly investigated." He dipped his head and I couldn't help cracking a smirk. "Got many friends at the college?" "Yes. Never met a stranger. How about you?" "I have a fair amount of friends." I conceded. Mr Volpitto soon arrived with our drink jug and we had to bashfully admit to not even looking at the menu. He gave us some more minutes while I scanned the laminated list. Despite what I'd said, I had plenty of acquaintances but no real friends. George was my closest friend, and he's not very socially perceptive, more self-contained. When it comes to relationships, or friends in general it looks to me like most people can connect but underneath I'm smooth, rubbed down, exempt of all features. Like a white cue-ball. Everyone just slides off me; I've never had a close friend. Even as a young teenager I could remember watching the other children play, and I was entertained by them but never wanted to join in. Like I was observing another species. I looked up to see Stanley pouring my drink "Such a gentleman." "I can assure you I'm a gentleman of the highest order." I picked something with chicken and aioli, Stanley picked pulled-beef with BBQ sauce. I was sure that in terms of friends we were the same: well-liked, plenty of acquaintances, no deep connections to other people. When our food came we were pulling apart cheesy slices and I was asking questions as soon as they popped into my head. "Have you ever worked?" "I've had lots of jobs. Accountancy, assistant shopkeeper, workshop underling, factory worker, I've been an errand-boy coffee getter at my Dad's factory. Spent a month or two at a distant relative's ranch." He took another big bite, dropped the crust in a pile with the others and dusted off his fingers. "How's your dating life been since you left school?" Between genuine-interest questions I'd been letting loose a few to appease my own curiosity. I wanted to see how similar our pathologies were. Stanley covered his mouth to talk so I couldn't see his mouthful "I dated a girl for some years in school. I dated a boy for some years afterwards. Since then nothing serious." "Interesting." "Yourself?" "I've had a few boyfriends. Longest was ten months." Stanley nodded. Neither of us had much to say on that front. As the night wore on he made me laugh. Stanley could list off famous artists and literature. He could give quotes, but only well-known ones and offered no preferences of his own. If I'd been less astute I would've had the impression he was a man of great culture. Nothing indicated a personal opinion, instead he made it sound like his was the same as the scholars. But even so, he was able to make me laugh. A few other booths filled up with families and college kids. When our pizza trays were empty, a littering of crumbs and pile of crusts, Stanley was insisting on taking me to see the art galleries and museums around town. I told him that tomorrow I'd rather he show me around the college. We walked to the counter and I pulled an unhappy face when Stanley insisted on paying for me. "I always pay for everyone's meals when I come here." Bright smile. "That's why I love you Stanley." Mr Volpitto said while he paid on card. "You boys have a nice night." We were out under the streetlights, huddling against the cold when a flash caught my eye. Stanley was offering me a chocolate bar he'd swiped from the wrack beside the register. I didn't take it. "So which one are you, Stanley? Are you a gentleman or a petty thief?" "I'm a maverick." He took a bite then slipped the chocolate away. We hopped into his blue convertible and he drove me back to the hotel. A nice night, a nice date. I lay in my hotel bed while thinking of green eyes. There were notes in my pad and I had a more comprehensive idea of Stanley's interests and hobbies. They were eclectic. He tried many different things only to give up and do something else. Some of his adventures were more obviously interventions arranged by his family, like spending time on a distant ranch before he was undoubtedly kicked out for misbehaving. One might assume he was restless, but I could tell that Stanley's listless changing and dilettante ways came from a chronic boredom. Thursday morning I was ready and fed by nine o'clock. Stanley surprised me by being perfectly on time again. So he can be diligent and punctual when it's something he wants... The sky was grey, perfect weather for an Autumn-draped European-style college. I was wearing my warmest sweater, dark green with diamond patterns and Stanley was in a wool cardigan. "Good morning, champ." "Good morning yourself." And we were off. I hoped it wasn't going to rain. Over hills and gaps in the trees I could see mist by distant mountains and a silver lake. The college was a little ways out of town. There were green paddocks, healthy fields. I'd seen pictures of the college in pamphlets but upon arriving it impressed me still. Gothic buildings and a clock tower. Cobbled footpaths and orange trees, dead leaves scattering in breezes. We had to park a good way from the entrance. Our shoes crunched over gravel and when we reached the stone arch I saw a Latin engraving: momento mori, carpe diem. "They have a fine library." Stanley began. "Canteen's not bad either. Where do you want to go?" "Wherever you like." I answered. "I don't mind studying the outsides some more. The architecture's beautiful." "Alright." There was a dormitory building for live-ins. Different blocks for lecture halls and subjects. Fountains and random art monuments between walkways. Young people sitting and reading textbooks, others walking between classes with bookbags. I was daunted by the thought of tuition fees. Even applying for a student loan and working part-time, I wasn't sure I could palate the thought. Stanley stopped to talk with fellow students and some stopped to talk with him. He was vibrant and friendly, introduced me to various well-dressed preppy types and affirming intellectuals. I just smiled and introduced myself. Spoke a bit about my shitty paper when asked. "Stanley, it'll be impossible to write about your life here without touching on the Adam Creson tragedy." I brought up as we moved away from a group of nerdy guys. "Can you let me know if any people we meet were mutual friends of his?" "Of course." "Stanley my boy," now we were stopped by a stern professor "To what do we owe the pleasure of your rare presence?" "Hello Mr Greenblatt," he chirped. "I'm here to fill my noggin with your monumental wisdom. Also showing the new kid around." I gave a small smile in response to his quick glance. "In that case I trust I'll see you in my lecture this morning?" "Oh absolutely Sir!" "Carry on then." And we separated. I blended in well enough here cause of my age. Sneaking into a lecture theatre sounded risky, probably illegal and boring. It didn't matter because Stanley never stopped showing me around all morning. If I didn't know better I would've thought that whole conversation slipped his mind. As we headed to the Milton Library my curiosity got the better of me. "Were you lying to that teacher about going to his class?" "Mr Greenblatt? No." "But it's almost the afternoon." "It doesn't matter." He shrugged it off as we walked up steps and into a marble-floored building "I'm an excellent student." There were ladies doing work behind an admin desk and a row of desktop computers full of students on a study break. Our shoes tapped against the shiny floor and we passed an antechamber into a high-ceilinged space full of aged books in rows upon rows. A chandelier glittered gold overhead in a thousand diamond shards. There were tables and sectioned alcoves of lacquered wood where students quietly read, one fellow secretly eating his lunch in the corner. Stanley wandered over to one boy who had headphones in, slapping both hands onto his shoulders and startling him. "Hello Tobias." "Stanley? Jesus." "This is my new friend, Phillip. He's a journalist." "Hi," I shook hands with this Toby who looked spritely like an energetic chipmunk. His dark hair was combed like a cap, he had freckles. Brown eyes big and pretty like a doll's. "Press aye? You wouldn't happen to be here cause of Adam?" "Toby here was a good friend of Adam Creson, like you asked." Stanley told me when I looked at him. "Sorry for your loss." I said and he nodded, jaw set. "You guys can talk about Adam, if you like, and when lunch comes around we can get some of the guys to play a game of basketball." "I'm studying right now." He was slipping his earpieces back in. "But sure, I'm down to play at lunch." Toby studied on his laptop while Stanley struck up conversation with a couple of girls he seemed to know, I wandered away and started looking around. Climbed up a wooden staircase, hand on the gleaming banister to peer into private rooms designed for organizing group projects. The bathroom – lavatory – was comparably plain. I heard the clock chime midday from outside a frosted glass panel so headed back down. They gathered friends and soon I was walking with a group of guys across the mown grass of the college's centre-square. One guy spinning a basketball he'd pulled from his locker between his hands. Toby bit into a juicy green apple before turning to me "You good at sports, Phil?" "Good enough." "You can be on my team then. I want to thrash Stanley." The courts were inside chain-link fencing. I looked up at the tall hoop and started doing some stretches. If I bonded with these guys they'd more likely divulge information, especially when tired afterwards. And some exercise wouldn't hurt. Alright, then. Toby was competitive and barked orders at the other guys. Stanley was also determined to win, and fairly talented. I pushed myself to exertion with the others. I was playing defence when Stanley ran over dribbling the ball, turning his back to me so I couldn't swipe it from him. The cool sweat of his arm mingled with mine, he turned quick and made a shot that scored. Toby cursed. Stanley raised his eyebrows at me. "Gotta be faster than that." He walked off and I felt a fire ignite inside me. I pushed myself even harder. Sneakers skid against the concrete. One guy tripped when his opponent feinted, the others guffawing. When Stanley came back with the ball I dove and slapped it from him, it bounced to a teammate. I smiled at him and he went back to his side of the court. The game ended in a draw. There was ten minutes until class and some of the boys wanted to wash off. Others were spraying deodorant under their shirts. Toby popped the cap of his water bottle and drank as we sat by the chain-link fencing. "Good game. Guess the tie-breaker will be next week." There were murmurings of good game. I was handed a bottle and squirted water into my mouth. Muscles tired but endorphins flowing from the exercise. One of the guys was a diabetic, and after a high blood reading he stood aside to give himself an insulin shot. "Did Adam play basketball with you guys?" I asked. "Yeah, usually." Toby answered. He seemed genuinely bummed about not winning and went quieter at the mention of his friend. "You guys... don't know if he had any enemies?" The boys were still breathing out their mouths, the atmosphere softened. Toby had another drink, he narrowed his globe-like eyes and they darkened at a spot in the distance. "I spoke to the police about some people." Toby remarked. "But it was just like... dumb, competitive, macho shit. Or pranky hijinks. Nothing, like, feral. No real hate, or so I thought." "Did Adam have a girlfriend?" "Not that I ever saw." They weren't happy talking about it, so I let it drop. Stanley was standing and gazing out at the empty fields, index fingers of both hands hooking into chain-links. When we were walking back to the main buildings I walked up to Stanley's side. "If you have classes you can leave me in the library for an hour or so. I reckon I could do some writing or research." I imagined introducing myself to the dean or trying to get a quote from the lecturers. "Wouldn't dream of it! I don't have any other classes today so it's fine." "Alright." Liar. I had to think it because he was always so convincing. I told Toby and the other guys it was nice meeting them. We separated by the buildings as it started to drizzle. My stomach growled and I was embarrassed when he heard it. "Shall we get something to eat?" "Sure." The canteen he took me to was down an incline, there were steps and I saw a Subway, coffee stands, salad wraps and sandwich places. We walked by them and into the canteen proper. A sea of tables and chairs. A counter which had burgers, pastas and even containers of Chinese food on display. Chalkboard menus were overhead. I followed Stanley to the end of a short line. He let me pay for my own food this time and we went to find a place amongst the multitude of tables. "Look there's Alisha! She's in our biology class, she did a group project with Adam." I followed Stanley whose cardigan was slung over his shoulder. A sweat mark between the shoulder blades on his white shirt. Smelling strongly of deodorant and hair still damp from when we played. A girl our age was sitting by herself, dark hair in an overhead bun. A lined book with handwritten notes out and beside a container of fruit salad with a little plastic fork. Long white nails clicking on the screen of her iPhone. "Hello hello," Stanley greeted her cheerfully. I got the feeling this girl wanted to be alone, her legs were crossed under the table. "Hii." She smiled politely after recognizing him. "You knew Adam right? This is my reporter friend from the Maudlin Post." "I'm Phillip." I shook her hand and cool blue eyes studied me over winged eyeliner. "Are you allowed to be on campus?" "He got special permission from the teaching staff." Stanley assured her light-heartedly before she could see me flounder. "If it's not too much bother could we sit and speak with you a bit?" he asked pleadingly. "Alright, go for it." She didn't want to be rude but I could tell she was a no-nonsense type of person. I put down my container of potato bake and sat with Stanley at the shiny silver table. "Thank you. Did you know Adam Creson well?" "I'd say pretty well. I'm friends with his sister." "Did he have an active social life? Play sports?" "He had a very active social life. Sports, no. But pubs and clubs on the weekend. Hanging around the wrong sort of people. The kind of people I've seen you with, Stanley." I eyed him from beside me before looking back at her. "Wrong sort of people, like drugs?" "Lochdale has a minor but very real drug problem. There's a street or two of dingy houses down the west side. That's what his family thinks it was, drug-related murder." I nodded my head thoughtfully. If that were true it seemed much less likely that Adam was strangled by a co-ed. Maybe he picked a fight with one of those town undesirables. They were out together high at night, stole a vehicle, trespassed, argued, wrestled in the grass and then Adam got strangled. Then they lazily dragged the body to a nearby ditch. Got back in the car and left. I'd seen one or two homeless-looking men out on the streets. So it wasn't an extensive problem but it was there. Was Stanley with Adam the night he got strangled? I suddenly wished he wasn't sitting beside me so I could talk to this girl one-on-one. "Well that's a very possible angle, especially if he went out drinking and spent nights with those types of people." "The police are looking into it." She assured me. "Such a waste," Stanley shook his head morosely. "Drugs just ruin young lives and potential. What could have been, aye? I actually convinced the principal to let me head an assembly about it. Make it sort of a eulogy piece for him. I wrote up speech cards, got information and healthcare numbers. Got several teachers on board but when they consulted his family they ruined it. A shame." A shame. It would be a growing trend: odd moments like this that made me jump a little bit in my seat with surprise. That someone as supposedly lazy and unreliable as Stanley could organise a detailed and heartfelt school assembly. Display passion, intelligence and charisma, enough to convince the whole teaching staff. Only for it to be disproved by Adam's family, confused to hear about someone talking to the whole college about their son, claiming he was Adam's good friend, when they hadn't been very close at all. Talking about the risks of drug-taking while being a frequent drug-taker. Heading an important event, public speaking at a college he rarely attended. - 。-
  18. Invnarcel

    i am a force

    - three - Lochdale olde hotel, I ignored the various patrons that were starting to fill the place. I ignored the bartender lifting beer nozzles to pour into scooner glasses. Horse-racing was on the big TV. I helped myself to a glass of ice water that was on the counter by the wall, self-service. Then made my way up the wooden stairs. Since I didn't have my car, there was no risk in having a drink or two while I introduced myself to the locals. A reporter was sure to attract interest, and many secrets would be spilled in the merriment of pub nights. But I didn't need new leads or intel. Family, sister Claire and the police – fancy that, not considering us 'nosey press' – have been liberal with the information they've shared. So I took slow steps up to my room, thinking about a wealthy influential businessman and his handsome, maladjusted son. Upstairs was just a small, single corridor. There were four doors on the right, two on the left where the stairs came up. A flat wall on one end sporting a fire extinguisher. The other end led to a shared bathroom, a shower in one corner with no glass walls; framed seashell paintings. The bathroom was slightly fancier with dark-grey granite tiles. The doors to the rooms had a coat of shiny forest-green paint, I was number four beside George. The rooms were big enough to not be called cramped and the bed was a double. There was a tiny desk and chair by a mirror where I could do my writing. I sipped from my icy drink and lay back on my bed, shoes still on. The alarm clock and shaded lamp looked like the cheapest products on K-mart shelves. When I was feeling up to it I wrote down some information into my notepad before I could forget it. Then after that I went downstairs to make a lunchtime contemplation between nachos or battered squid with a side of chips. It was before evening when I ran into George on the stairs and it was time for us to exchange notes. Unfortunately he looked satisfied, which meant he'd not yet run into the proverbial brick walls that have stifled our investigation. We went into the restaurant part and sat at a two-seater table in the corner of the room, both of us pulling out our notepads. We'd ordered creamy pastas, George picked something abominable with mushrooms and seafood. I pinched my nose "Do you want to go first?" "Alright. I've been speaking to members of Adam Creson's family and doing further digging at the public library, getting a feel for good ole Lochdale." I sipped my juice while George had his beer. "Was Adam a caring soul?" "Nope. He was like any regular kid. Maybe even a hooligan himself. Odd instances of disorderly conduct, getting plastered drunk and he was failing two classes. These college kids must get wild, man. I got good quotes from the family and information to work with." he concluded. I remained holding my glass before lifting my eyes to give him the news "I had a very brief interview with Stanley today. I ran into his sister at a store, she made a call, told me he wanted to speak to me and then she drove me to the police station. I know," I said in answering his surprise "But I don't think this is the story you were hoping for... Stanley is... charming and persuasive. He has three siblings, one younger and two older, who are completely well-adjusted from what I can tell. The sister Claire is willing to work with me, she wants something to be done about her brother." "Charming and persuasive..." George looked aside in thought before facing me again "Doesn't that sound like a psychopath to you?" "In movies, yes... but I've never met a psychopath in real life before, have you?" "Not that I know of..." George shrugged in thought. "Well I'll keep asking around and pressing the sister for information." I shrugged. "And Stanley wants to do another interview. He wants to see himself in the newspaper." "That's good, hey you should check out a Mrs Sally Seaborn tomorrow. She's a high school teacher that taught Adam and Stanley. I was going to but reckon I should check out these acquaintances of Adam. He might've had a few enemies, college life seems rife with drama after all." After that the day was done. I avoided drinking and got an early sleep in my hotel bed. The next day was mostly planned out in my head upon waking. I enjoyed a warm shower until stepping on the grate and feeling someone else's hair, after that I shut off the water and dried up. Lochdale olde hotel had no food in the morning apart from the vending machines, and if I was feeling lucky, that chocolate claw machine. George and I had waffles at a fifties style diner down the street, glittery-red cushion stools by a counter. The waitress wore a white apron with frills and a cap. Today the sky was softer than baby-blue, like plumbago flowers. George surprised me by losing no motivation despite my dismal recollection of Stanley Milton. Instead he wrote on his notepad and tore the page off for me. "This is the number for that teacher. She's retired now but she might be able to tell us if Adam and Stanley were closer back in the day, if they shared any classes." George's notepad looked full of stuff he'd written, unlike mine. It motivated me to get to work. I knew he'd left me to focus on the suspect because even though George was good at digging, my people skills were better, and I'd already demonstrated good abilities at reading people. We set off on our separate jobs, I didn't want to call Mrs Seaborn too early so decided I'd fall back on my original plan and talk to some locals. "Yeah I know the Miltons. Or I know of them. Stanley's folks right?" A middle-aged manager of a department store answered me. He was balding and his grey hair stuck out at the sides. Reminded me of an ex-football coach. "You know Stanley?" "Stanley's the only one I do know. His parents and siblings aren't in Lochdale much. But I see Stanley out and about every now and again. Strange kid." "You wouldn't describe him as a... hooligan?" I watched the man scratch his chin thoughtfully. "No... he's tried shoplifting from here a few times. I told him not to come back. He always laughed it off when I caught him. Good-naturedly... he's waved to me on the street before." "What about the car thefts? The joyriding? Damaging property?" "I'd heard about that..." the man said slowly, still scratching his chin. "He's probably got issues. Strange kid, like I said. I've got to get back to stocking these." "Thanks for your time." That encounter was the closest to anyone disliking Stanley that I'd heard. An Asian man at the main petrol station had squinted into a photo of handsome, smiling Stanley and then shook his head vigorously. "Nononono he not welcome in my shop. Nonono he take things right off the shelf and walk out without paying. Him with his friends, just smiling and they take and walk off. Nonono." I couldn't talk to that man about the criminal stuff cause he had no idea, plus there was a language barrier. One woman at a grocer clapped her hands with delight at the mention of Stanley "What a sweet and charming and handsome young man! We always talk whenever I see him, he's very chatty! One time I was loading groceries into my car and he recognised me, he said 'Never fear madam, I will assist you!' then helped me load everything. After that he saluted and ran off!" she giggled. A man in a bakery, leaning his forearms on the glass pastries counter: "Yeah Stanley, that guy's a hoot. Super friendly. Word does get around about the stuff he's done... When I hear about it I just, sorta do a double-take: 'Stanley? Noo!' He's always been well-behaved and respectful, says 'hi' whenever I see him." A rainbow-draped woman at a Vinnie's thrift shop: "Stanley is absolutely delightful. I see him with friends all the time. Sometimes I see him hanging around the wrong crowds... like, drug-looking people" she whispered "but no matter who he's with he's always been the perfect gentleman to me! I see him walking around town all the time. Very kind and polite, I wish my grandson were like him." Then she giggled "Oh he must be a bit spacey at times. One time he came here and tried on a coat, forgot he was wearing it and just walked out! I had to catch him down the street and we just laughed!" "Reckon he must be a kleptomaniac or somethin'" A withered man in a sweet shop commented. Giant rainbow lolly-pops and sugar-coated gummies of all kinds bordered the narrow counter. "He doesn't think twice about it. Just like 'shrug, I'll take that' and usually he gives whatever he takes to his friends anyway. I know that kid has money, he once bought a hundred dollars' worth of stuff here and just gave it all away." The situation was becoming clear to me after all the repetitive accounts. Sometimes Stanley stole from people. Sometimes he spent huge amounts of money on things and just gave them away to people. Everyone finds him charming and well-mannered... until he steals from them. Then he laughs it off or comes up with a lie and they fall for it. His lack of regard for consequences, his inability to learn from the consequences was worrying. Mrs Seaborn responded positively to my request. I drove to her house around midday and arrived at a quaint cottage home. There were little shiny pinwheels in the garden, spinning in the breeze. Windchimes and a birdbath by an algae-infested pond. I rang the doorbell and the arched entry opened to reveal a grey-haired woman with bright blue eyes behind spectacles. "Hello Mrs Seaborn. Thanks for agreeing to this interview." "You're mighty young for a reporter. Do come in, I've made sweet tea." The living room held enough books to be its own miniature library. The seats were brown leather. She had two greyhounds that came bounding over when I walked inside. We sat and drank her tea in fine china sets. "Stanley had the most shocking attendance record of any student I'd ever seen. When he was in school he disobeyed rules all the time." "Was he a bully?" "No." the woman stared at the pointed ceiling, gazing into a foggy recollection. "Did he ever hurt any of the kids? Did he ever hurt animals?" "I saw him throw a milk bottle at a family of ducks in the playground and then laugh. I sent him to the principal's office." "Was he sorry?" "Yes, he told me afterwards that he was very disappointed in himself." "Okay..." I sighed, tapping my pen against my notepad. "Everybody in town seems to know Stanley. Not many people know Adam Creson." "A tragedy." The old woman shook her head sadly. "What was Adam like?" "I don't want to speak ill of the dead. And I'd rather this not be printed. But for honesty's sake, Adam was a bit of a bully. He used to bother girls, stick gum in places" she shuddered "I always hated when they'd spit." "Were Adam and Stanley close?" "I do recall seeing them together, with a few other boys. Causing mischief." She couldn't recall very much, but told me details of high school tomfoolery. They were college kids in the making. I'd still not discovered any obvious feuds or motives for Adam's murder. As I left that afternoon I wondered if George had done any better. Stanley seemed to be less cruel than he was impulsive. Though instead of compulsions, they were more like bored whims that lacked any consideration. I'd not yet heard of any vindictiveness. So did Stanley just shrug and commit murder out of a vapid curiosity? Or perhaps Adam had been an obstacle between him and some fleeting, idle desire? Crimes are laughable, nothing's serious, so perhaps he murdered Adam and figured he could talk his way out of it like everything else? But Stanley doesn't spend one-on-one time with anyone, so if he and Adam were alone could the murder have been pre-meditated? I pictured Stanley sitting at a metal table with his hands cuffed: I know I killed Adam, and that it's an unforgivable thing to do. I will never be able to live down the grief I've caused his family and this community. I'm committed to working on myself, and with the help of my family and the police I know I can get myself on the right track! I'm so grateful for all the help and support of everyone involved. The detectives, the investigators, everyone. With all this help I'll be able to right my wrongs and become an upright and respectable member of the community! I sat down at a bus stop and decided to call my Dad. I'd promised Mum, and it was late enough in the day for him to be up. Lifting my iPhone I waited through several ring tones before he answered. "Yes? Stanley is that you?" Gruff voice. "Hello Dad." "About time. I've been waiting on your call!" "Sorry, Sir." "How's life? How are you doing with work? Are you still renting? What grades did you get on your tests?" he barked for full reports on every area of my life and I answered dutifully. "I finished my course two years ago." I added at the end and wondered if he was already drinking. I could picture him standing in a shabby living space, receiver in one hand and a glass of gin in the other. He paused at my correction, breathing into the phone before launching into other firm questions. The talk was entirely transactional and he asked for details. Snipped at disappointments and told me where to improve, to which I nodded and voiced my agreements. When the call was over I slipped my phone back in my pocket and stared out into space. My sisters are over ten years older than I am. My Dad was in the military for years, doing service in Afghanistan before an ambush. A landmine blew off his buddy's leg, a civilian building was bombed and he got shrapnel embedded in his left side. I recalled the faded, jagged scars. He was discharged with PTSD. Now my Mum has always been comparatively weak-willed, and the result is my wayward sisters. When Dad came home they were too far gone, but I wasn't. Since he wasn't working I became a project that had my father's full attention. I was raised under the strictest of conditions, complete scrutiny, the highest of expectations, no privacy and soul-crushing subordination. I believe the result is the psychosis I developed. I don't have a sense of self. All autonomy was stripped from me in developmental years of my life. My weak-willed Mum wasn't going to get between Dad and me. I didn't start dating until I moved out of home. A year after I did my parents split up, Dad moving away to some apartment place, losing all his military-trained neatness and devolving into heavy drinking. He still wanted updates on every aspect of my life once a month. My damage didn't become fully evident until I started dating. The damage was so complete that I don't have any vulnerability. Abuse feels warm and reminds me of home. It has lost all power over me and instead feels exhilarating and oddly fulfilling. I can tell when someone insults me but I never feel insulted. I never get mad. Whenever I'm in relationships with boys who are considerate I find it perversely anxiety-inducing. I get the heebie-jeebies and want to run. When I'm with selfish and egotistical boys, it's like I'm a sock that has been put on, and I sigh in relief. When I'm left I feel disappointment but never pain, I move on to the next fellow who'll have me. I don't feel emotional pain, but sometimes I ache. Sitting somewhere, like in my car after a swim at the lake and watching dog-walkers go by. I feel less real than all other people. They all have something I don't, something that makes them real. In these moods I feel a pang of comparative loss in my middle when I see people, even the fattest or most undesirable-looking people. They all count in some mysterious way that I don't. My life feels like a TV show but the main character is missing. Mostly I'm empty, in the true voidy sense of the word. I have neither ego nor insecurities. I feel uncomfortable when I'm praised, so I talk myself down and remain trivial, though I am talented. People like me because I'm always affable, agreeable and pleasing. I'm not a person, I'm a force. I'm the sum of my desires and my ability to obtain them. There is no desire in me to harm others or to get ahead, and it occurs to me that if there was I'd be an extremely dangerous individual. Sometimes when young children are abused they develop a fragile sense of self and learn to hide this with grandiose delusions. This is called Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Sometimes when a child is entirely abused, entirely focused on with no leeway, and entirely dominated they develop Inverted Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Like me. A rigid sense of having less worth than everyone else, though I'm unaffected by this feeling. The bus came. I paid my fare to the cap-wearing driver. Sat down on a walkway-facing seat near a knitting woman wearing an itchy-looking coat. As we jostled in place I gripped a metal pole. I was going to head back and organize all the information I'd gathered into something coherent. Mr Tourvel would want to read something soon, tell us if we had anything good or not. I was making my way off the bus when my phone started ringing. Unknown number. "Hi Phillip, it's Stanley." I could hear the smile in his voice. "I got this contact number from my sister, I hope you don't mind. I did promise you an interview!" "Oh hey Stanley. Yes, that'd be wonderful." "Well you'll be happy to know I'm a free man as of today, so I'm all yours. Should we get dinner?" "Alright." I was again dazed by the way he made it sound like he deserved a pat on the back for getting out of trouble again. "The pizzeria is a real classy joint, you'll love it. Mr Volpitto's a good friend of mine and he'll treat us excellently. I feel that as a visitor to our humble town it should be my duty to show you all the spots! I'll be your personal guide for the remainder of your stay!" "That's very kind of you and I look forward to it. My schedule is flexible so I'm free when you are." "Great. Where are you staying? The Lochdale olde hotel?" "Yep." "I'll pick you up at seven. It's a date." He was as charming as ever. With Stanley's track record of behaviour having a drink with him would be a bad idea. I also have a problem pacing myself with alcohol, and taking things too far, which is why I've endeavoured to touch none of the stuff while here. This is a work assignment, after all. I had to remind myself that Stanley was a suspect in a murder investigation and that I was supposed to be interviewing him. I've always had a weakness for bad boys. Stanley and his heedless ways, the quirkiness of his actions and the manipulative charms were starting to pull me in. I wondered if he was like me. I wondered if Stanley felt like a force. Psychopaths lack integrity and remorse. Stanley puts on good shows of integrity and remorse but his actions say otherwise. I have empathy because I care about the people I know and like, but I have to admit that I don't care about people I don't know and that don't relate to my life at all. Whenever I'm driving and I stop at a crossing, I don't care about the wellbeing of those strangers. Even the children. I'm careful and I stop because I don't want to damage my car, or cause a scene, or deal with the drama and exchanging of contact details. I stop at crossings because I don't want to be late. Isn't it that way for everyone? That's what I'd thought. I walked into the pub and made my way upstairs. I'd organize these notes I've taken and write up my article, then I'd get ready for my date with Stanley. - 。-
  19. Invnarcel

    strange activities

    - two - Claire drove a silver Porsche, which shouldn't have surprised me in the slightest. She was a Highfair cross-over. I got into the passenger side and watched Claire fold up her sunglasses so she could see better, the glass was tinted on the other side. Her eyes were forward, the same grass-green of her handsome brother. These Miltons didn't even seem human to me, it was like I'd stepped into a reality TV show like the Housewives of Beverley Hills. The car hummed and I could feel how nice the leather of my seat was, and I got nervous about somehow damaging it. "You know the Maudlin Post is just a third-rate paper, right?" I felt compelled to turn and tell her. "Well obviously I did my research." Claire responded as she pulled smoothly away from the curb. "So you must have been the one that answered George- err, our call before hanging up." "It wouldn't have been safe to talk in the house." As she turned us down another street I gulped. What were the questions I was supposed to be asking now? I was wracking my brain. Did your brother kill Adam Creson? Do you think he did? It didn't take long until we pulled up to the police station, a flat slab of a building with a ramp and sliding door. A big sign with the blue-white chequered pattern. We pulled up to the curb, Claire got out and fiddled with her handbag. I followed and saw her lighting a cigarette, taking a deep puff. She took another two deep puffs before tossing it into a grimy public bin. She turned to me as I watched her "Something needs to be done to convince my parents. To convince him. Come on, my brother's waiting for you." Nodding I followed her up the ramp and into the police station. The glass doors slid open and I watched her stroll in straight-backed. The front room of the station was pretty small, I saw posters for domestic violence and speeding offences taped on the walls. Bullet-proof glass over the counter. There were maybe two other bedraggled folks hunched in plastic waiting chairs. Blue uniformed officers were standing around, a shaved oval-headed man and a dark-haired woman. "Officer Caldwell, I've brought press." She swished her hands towards me. "Hi, I'm Phillip Cleckley from the Maudlin Post." I introduced myself to the man, he was over six-feet tall with icy-blue eyes. He shook my hand readily. "I'm Officer O'Neil and that's Officer Amdur." The woman indicated to another middle-eastern colleague who was waiting around a corner. She didn't bother shaking my hand "Something's got to be done about this, it can't go on." Even the reception ladies were standing and listening. Everyone looked so rife with exasperated hopelessness. "...I'm happy to help any way I can." I spoke up. "Though I got to admit I'm not sure why you want me to talk to Stanley. Is the threat of negative publicity supposed to intimidate him?" I watched their eyes move between each other. I almost brought up Adam Creson but didn't. "If my parents or anyone working for them comes, we'll stop the interview." Claire quietly broke the poignant silence. "They got their grips into the press here, but they can't stop an Eastland newspaper. Word getting out will finally make them do something about my brother." At this point it became clear these people wanted to use me for some objective. I was also going to be using them for my objective: getting this story published. The officers gave consenting nods, looking grave. "Come on, son." Officer Caldwell started leading me down the corridor. "I'll take you to him now." I followed amongst the officers, feeling nervous despite myself. They had their hands resting on their bulky, black utility belts. Caldwell had a wide stance and strong walk, the man stopped at a white door. Flashing a card by a scanner it clicked and unlocked. "Will it be safe to be alone with him?" I barely thought to ask, but it was already too late. He just gave a wry smile and continued opening the door for me. It was a room for questioning. White with a table and one-sided mirrors. I entered the room alone with Stanley Milton and the door was shut behind me. First impressions: he immediately raised his head, smiled in a very friendly way and said "Hello Phillip!" I was briefly dazed. Looking full-force into those wide, grass-green eyes. Slowing on my way to the chair opposite this young man, who was my age. I tried to remember he could be a killer. He was certainly a bad guy, a spoiled little shit like George had said. And yet... if I'd had a hundred guesses as to what Stanley would be like, I wouldn't have guessed it. This handsome man looked confident, but there was absolutely no discernible smugness or arrogance. He didn't look sour, angry or in any way hardened by anything. He looked bright, clear-headed and very friendly. "...Hello Stanley." I sat down opposite him. "My sister tells me you're a journalist for the Maudlin Post. That's great. Though I can't say I've heard of them." He wore a blue V-neck shirt and brown slacks. The clothes were quality, at his shoulder I could see a black smudge. Perhaps oil after he crashed his stolen vehicle while drunk and high. "We're based in Eastland." "Ah. Well I'm honoured to speak with you, regardless." He smiled with white teeth. Appeared entirely respectful and courteous. If he was pulling my leg, I couldn't tell. "Your sister, Claire?" "Yes," a congenial nod. "She told me that you wanted to speak to me and do an interview." "Yes, very much so." "So here we are... at the police station. In an interrogation room..." I looked around as the incredulity started to settle in. Stanley gave a slight nod to show he followed, but didn't find anything strange about our current circumstances. I cleared my throat and sat forward "Why would you want to do an interview with me?" "Two years ago I was in Berlin," he rested his chin in his palm, those green eyes gazing wistfully upwards "There I had the honour of being front page news for my accomplishments, and for several weeks! It changed my life and my whole outlook on life. I became more of a man in Berlin. If you've never travelled abroad I highly recommend it, being a part of other cultures changes your outlook on life." I stared at him in utter disbelief. Again, Stanley's show of gratitude and deep reflection seemed completely genuine. Is he a really good liar? And yet his face was one of the most untroubled and innocent faces I'd ever laid eyes on. Those greens were rounded like the shape of dumplings, and close-set like a Teddy bear. Aside from that he was stunningly handsome. He was charming to me, a perfect gentleman, because he wanted to be the focus of some third-rate newspaper in another city? I was glad George wasn't here. In just a minute or two of conversation my whole deductive skills slid to the floor in a mushy puddle. I couldn't figure Stanley out. I thought he'd be a narcissist, and yet he seemed affable. I thought he could be a sociopath, but he didn't seem restrained or calculating. He looked like a picture of ease, having a mere pleasant chat. "Did you kill Adam Creson?" I threw it at him like a bomb. It was very stupid. I should've worked up to it, lest he decide to end our interview before I got any good quotes. But I wanted a reaction. Stanley blinked at me and seemed a little taken aback. "Of course not. I loved Adam." "Do you love your sister?" "Of course, I love Claire." "Do you love your parents?" "Of course, I love my parents very much." I repeatedly tapped my finger into the table. I knew what selfish and abusive men were like. Heck I was drawn to those kinds of men, my relationships were a long line of them. Stanley wasn't one of them. I pulled out my notebook and pen to take notes. "...so for pretext. You have just been arrested for stealing a car, driving it drunk and high, and crashing it." "Yes." He nodded and at once looked solemn. "And it's not the first time you've stolen vehicles, upset the police, upset the people of this town, and caused damage to public property." "Yes," he nodded admittedly, almost sheepish. "Then why the hell did you do it?" I asked in a louder voice. "Well you know how small towns are, my Dad likes to keep me close so I couldn't attend more prestigious colleges like my older siblings." He pulled a face. "In other cities there's theatres, night life, excitement! Also I want to be a physiotherapist when I'm older, it's been such a passion of mine ever since my big brother Kurt tore a muscle in his leg after his skiing accident. I'm passionate about helping people and I know that with some help I'll be able to finish my degree and make a real difference out there in society, start to pay back the damage I've done. It's thanks to the help of the officers here, my sister Claire, my parents, and everyone that I've been able to make such incredible positive changes and I'm finally starting to see evidence too. Everyone's tried so hard and helped me so much, and I'll always always be grateful for that." "O-kay." My pen tapped my notepad but I wrote nothing down. What the fuck is going on here? I needed more time to think and pause. Then clearing my throat "What is going through your mind when you do these criminal things? Do you disassociate? Do you hallucinate?" "No, never." He shook his head. "I suppose partly... it's a boys will be boys thing. I know it's wrong, and I'm very sorry." He looked me in the eyes to assure me of his remorse. "These things just happen. Nobody got hurt. And I'm committed to co-operating with the officers here to get my behaviour under control." "This criminal behaviour has been a repetitive pattern of yours for years, right?" I couldn't believe he could just shrug it off like no big deal. "My Dad is happy to pay off all damages. And I'm happy to do whatever it takes to get better and be a wholesome, productive and contributing member to society." He assured me. "O-kay." I repeated, again in two syllables. "You're very young and handsome for a reporter." His smile was back, and I realised he was flirting with me. "What was your relationship with Adam Creson?" "He was a great guy, losing him was a tragedy." A mournful shake of his head. "We weren't close. I hung out with him on occasion, had a drink now and then, always with other company. We never hung out just the two of us. He was a kind, genuinely caring person." It sounded like the kind of fake, sentimental crap you'd expect to read in an obituary column. But he said it with deep emotion. Before I could bite at it the door quickly opened. "We're going to have to stop you now." The dark-haired woman, Officer O'Neil spoke with some urgency. "Mr Milton's here." "Thank you, Mary." Stanley said to her while I stood. "Give my regards to my father. And I hope we can catch up soon to finish our interview, Phillip." He shot me a wink. I said nothing as the door was closed behind me. I could hear a man arguing with the officers at the front, the lady officer led me further down the corridor to a back room and exit. My head was still turning slowly, trying to process. "I can't... believe..." I saw her nodding to me knowingly, the same wrought exasperation from before. "I can't imagine... that man breaking into a car, getting drunk and high, getting chased by the police and then crashing the car. I can't." "He is never psychotic." Officer O'Neil explained to me as we got to the backdoor. "We got to lock him up when he's here, or he'll escape. But he never gets very far, we'll usually find him in an hour getting food or hanging out with friends. He's always aware of what he's done, he's always highly lucid when he talks, but no matter how convincing and compliant he acts, he always goes back to doing criminal behaviour with seemingly no motive. He's never admitted to feeling compelled to doing it, he doesn't care about himself, he just keeps doing it while promising to get better, saying he's got better, and then doing it again anyway." "This is not the story George was hoping for." I couldn't help murmuring. We stopped by a back exit and I turned to her "I understand if you can't tell me about this, but... Adam Creson?" "Okay, so, Saturday morning he was found on four-hundred-acre farmland. The fencing was run over by a car that matches reports of a stolen vehicle that is still unaccounted for. If Stanley stole it he took the time to hide it when he was finished joyriding for a change, or someone hid it for him. He's said he never associated with Adam one-on-one before and that seems to be true. We're looking for a possible motive for someone whose criminal history appears motiveless. His family provided an alibi stating he was home with them Friday night." "Oh my God." I spoke while the door was opened for me. "This boy has never served a real sentence in prison. Be careful of the Milton family, but please run your story. It's not big enough for any major outlets yet, though the murder might finally draw some attention to him. We're doing everything we can down here but it's not been enough." "Thank you." I spoke as I stepped out. I was being ushered, and I realised they didn't want Mr Milton to see me there. After descending some concrete steps, and following the driveway around, passing shiny shrubs on bark mulch, I continued to process. My steps were slow. By the road I saw Claire leaning against a post-mail depository. Her bulky Gucci sunglasses were back on as she stress-pulled from her cigarette. I was still holding my notepad and I'd written down nothing. "Want to go for a coffee?" Claire asked me. I pulled out my phone and checked the time. It was now after one o'clock in the afternoon. "Sure." I smiled and followed her back to her Porsche. She drove us to a casual café at the edge of town. Outdoors with umbrella-topped tables. It was the first spot I'd seen that reminded me of home. Just a normal baked-confectionary café. Hot glass counter. We got Cappuccinos, Claire telling the waitress to hold the foam while I was fine taking it as is. We took our seats, some families were at the other tables and young kids were running around with balloon animals. The street was some ways away, beyond a cobbled terrace. Claire's nose was pink from the cold. "Your brother is nothing like I expected." I had to confess. "Were you expecting a bragging hooligan?" "A Justin Bieber circa urinating in a bucket and speeding. Yeah, I thought he'd be something like that." A prim puff of a laugh "If that were the case there'd be some hope for him. Maybe those overnight stays in cells would've scared some sense into him." "I take it they didn't?" "He makes friends with the other prisoners. My brother hangs out with all crowds of people. Rich, poor, college co-eds and street-side degenerates. He doesn't discriminate between who he spends time with." "When did this start? What is your family like? There's got to be some kind of trauma to account for this behaviour." Those black discs turned to me "I am the youngest of four siblings. Stanley is older than me by two years, then we have Rachel older than him by two years and Kurt the oldest, another two years. We have never broken a law in our lives. The worst thing I do is smoke for God's sake, and I used to be terrified of what would happen if our parents found out. Mum and Dad love us, they were stern and had high expectations, they raised us right. But Stanley..." she was looking aside but then suddenly snapped her head back to me "I'm talking to you now because I think you can help me, us. Phillip Cleckley," she was stern "I do not consent to being named as anyone other than an anonymous source. If my parents find out I'm talking to you I'm fucked." She rifled through her designer handbag for another cigarette. "It's okay, Claire, I'd like to sort this out too." She lit the cigarette and spoke around it "Stanley never had any trauma that I know of. He was a happy kid in primary school, he was polite and friendly always. Everyone loves Stanley. Mum and Dad and all of us love him. It started in junior high when he was thirteen..." she scratched her forehead, stressed. "He started ditching classes all the time and stealing. But he's never had a bad temperament, when Dad tried to punish him by taking away privileges he'd say it was unfair and argue the point, but nothing's ever stopped his behaviour." "Do you think he murdered Adam Creson?" We straightened as the aproned waitress deposited our coffees, I smiled at her in thanks as she whisked away. My informant picked up her coffee cup and plate, sipping. I couldn't gauge her emotion behind the sunglasses. I pushed "Claire?" "I don't know." She breathed in the softest of whispers. "Has he ever been violent?" "Yes." She answered "He's been in street fights, though rarely throws the first punch. He's resisted arrest, but it seems more like him being dramatic than actually trying to hurt someone. Who could say." Who could say. We drank in silence for a while. No difficult home life, no discernible trauma. Stanley reached puberty and then some kind of switch went off in his brain that caused him to start acting up. I had no idea what to think, or what angle to take with the story. Stanley's lines, while fresh in my head, were dripping with a profound self-awareness and desire to improve that simply had to be insincere. I couldn't neglect to mention our interview in my writing, but all I could see was sincerity. Someone who truly couldn't grasp the severity of his actions. But that bullshit speech about college kid Adam Creson being a compassionate soul? Stanley was a liar of dazzling calibre. "I want to give you my number." Claire said to me. "I want you to keep me apprised on everything. In exchange I'll see what I can do to help you with your story." "Okay, thank you." "No, thank you." Afterwards I walked back to the hotel, declining Claire's offer to drive me. I needed to process my thoughts. A wind picked up, scattering brown leaves and causing pedestrians to clutch at scarfs. Stanley Milton was manipulative, but to no real end. His life was extremely unorganized and chaotic. Unsustainable, with no benefit for him or anyone else. And yet he is lucid... When understanding my own curious psychology, I was able to reflect on my unusual childhood. Events that led to me becoming the adult I am now. I could draw lines and make conclusions. I could identify with symptoms, thought-patterns and thus I self-diagnosed. My self-diagnoses is a secret I keep from absolutely everyone. But there are valid evidences for a theory I'm very confident in. Stanley, being an impulsive character, wants to see his name in the newspaper again out of some perverted ego-trip. I would agree to write an article the length of many pages (not that Mr Tourvel would ever run it) about the life and times of millionaire businessman's son Stanley Milton. And while he lets me get close and see his day-to-day habits firsthand, I'll really be looking deeper into whether or not Stanley was responsible for Adam's murder. I was halfway back when my ringing phone distracted me from my thoughts. It wasn't George who was no doubt hard at work. It was a family call. "Hey Mum," I answered. "Hey sweetie I got your message." Her wavering voice greeted me. I could hear the TV going in the background. "Your first journalism assignment, how exciting! How's Lochdale?" "I really like it here. You would too. It's very quaint. I just finished talking to a source and am walking back to the hotel. This story is... unusual, to say the least." "Oh how wonderful! That's fantastic, sweetheart. I've just got back from the grocery to start that new diet, Dr Merteuil said I needed to watch my cholesterol..." my hypochondriac and mildly histrionic mother began talking at length about her minor health concerns, new blood pressure tablets and household hobbies. Gardening, knitting and paper mâché. "How's Cassie and Emma?" I inquired about my older sisters. "Well, you know how they are, Cassie's still in her little art studio. I don't think she's had any luck selling those paintings. Emma is pregnant again." "Oh wonderful. Is it Greg's?" "I believe so." "Has he got a job yet?" "I don't think so. Sweetie, I wanted to ask you about your father. Robbie is still drinking so much. Me and him haven't been in touch for a long time, but you were the apple of his eye... I hope you still keep in touch." "I call him every month. Actually, it's about time for me to call him again." "That's so good, sweetheart. He won't talk to anyone but you." I gave her my assurances and she let me go just as Lochdale's olde pub came into view. - 。-
  20. Invnarcel

    something missing

    - one - A perfectly full moon was all that was missing from this romantic night. As it were the moon was waning, my boyfriend and I sitting back on a quilted picnic blanket on the beach. It was the colder half of autumn but we were warmly dressed in oxford polo jumpers. The water was black, flat and glassy. The city lights of Eastland hooked around the bay, stretching pillars of orange across the surface. Our breaths misted, but my soft clothes and his body were warm. The moonlight was silvery in Tom's blonde hair. If I wanted to please him further I'd have brought candles and flowers, but I had the good judgement to know our relationship was still in an early, somewhat casual stage. Tom would've been irked, most likely. However I did bring his favorite dessert, a display of great attentiveness if not effort. I comfortably sighed and wrapped myself around his arm. Privately enjoying an idea I couldn't say: This man owns me. I belong to him. "That asshole Valmont is going to have a board meeting over my homophobia complaint." "Oh really?" I murmured and rubbed his back. "I know the guys were just joking around but he's the one who took it too far." "A manager should know better." Instead of enjoying ourselves or the night, my paramour ruminated on his day-to-day troubles. Unreasonable parents, who he was still living with. His work and the bosses he hated. I listened to him voice his personal troubles for most of our night, he talked with mild disdain. Afterwards we spent a goodly amount of time kissing each other. And then, both of us having work the next day, we packed up and I drove us back to mine. From there Tom drove twenty minutes back to his parents' house. I went to sleep in my rented flat with no complaints about how our night had been. Work is in a nondescript brown building in the busy center of Eastland. Multi-story and cobbled, the headquarters for our peninsula's third best-selling newspaper: the Maudlin Post. Journalism; I am the cub reporter, the new blood. After parking my silver Toyota, swigging the last of my drivethru coffee and tossing my paper cup in the entryway bin, I pushed open the glass door and made my way past rows of office cubicles. Co-workers smiled at me, I was well-liked. I sat at my desk and stared morosely at the two inches of paper beside my tray of paperclips. I needed another inch to finish my report. I'd barely started up my computer before George flew to my desk. He looked trendy: crew cut, neat beard, black gauge ear-piercing. I'd known George for three years, long before I started working here. He was a quiet and easily-affronted guy. "Boss wants to see us." "Is this about that Milton case?" I guessed by his bright eyes and grin. "The Creson case," he corrected "and yes. Come on." He flew from my sight again. I sighed, having just readied myself to buckle down I stood and prepared for our talk with Mr Tourvel. Our editor-in-chief, esteemed publisher John Tourvel had an office with a window-view of a brick lot and the backside of a shopping complex. The Maudlin Post was neither huge in staff numbers nor acclaim, coming third place in its own city. His hair was all grey but his face looked younger, gold wedding ring and Rolex peeking over a hairy wrist. To me he seemed like a hard-working uncle who was nevertheless a hoot at family parties after a drink or two. He in fact had framed photographs of nieces, one by his telephone showed two girls in pink tutus with star-tipped wands. He liked me, as everyone else here did, and called me his cub reporter. Though the quality of my work was far from dazzling, I did work hard. I stood before his desk and beside George; the latter had his hands in his pockets and was swinging excitedly on his heels. "Mr McGarty here tells me you're interested in accompanying him on this assignment in the country he's proposed." He raised an eyebrow to me, brown eyes moving back to my bouncing colleague. "Proposed, and pushed and pushed..." "I rent in a share house with two flat-mates, Mr Tourvel." I answered him, unenthusiastic and practical "I got to pay rent there." "Your hotel accommodation can be covered for two weeks, on top of your usual pay. Petrol and other expenses will be on you." I bit my lip but George shut my fears down "I'll drive. Lochdale is pretty isolated and small, and there's a good amount of public transport there." "Mr McGarty has spoken very highly of your knowledge on psychology and personalities." At the boss's complement I immediately went to talk myself down "It's not like I have a degree. I did one six-month Tafe course on Mental Health." When I caught sight of George's outlandish expression I forced myself to admit "...But I have read more than a few psychology textbooks." Mr Tourvel studied me curiously, nodding his head as if trying to figure me out. "Well, Phillip Cleckley" he used my full name "If you want to partner up with Mr McCarty here who assures me he needs your help, this will be your first out-of-town assignment of investigative journalism. It's good for you to have a partner on your first case who can show you the ropes, that is if you reckon you can stand him for that long." "Criminal profiling was never my focus..." I bit my lip again. If rent would still be paid and so would our accommodation, I had no objections to this business-trip-holiday. It was admittedly, interesting and potentially exciting. "I'll do it." "Even if this doesn't turn out to be the scoop Mr McGarty thinks it is, we can still turn it into some kind of college death tragedy piece, even if it's nothing front page." As the boss spoke George froze with anticipation "Alright I'll allow it." My colleague almost jumped. The boss eyed me "You can finish the financial reporting when you get back." After the meeting we went back to our cubicles; I endeavored to finish as much of my work as I could. George told me he'd come over my place that evening to discuss our trip, and then bright and early next morning he'd drive by to take us on the three-hour journey to Lochdale. When he caught me at the end of my lunch break, all he could talk about was the Creson case as he sucked on his cigarette. Still bright-eyed. The Adam Creson case. A college student in Lochdale, twenty-two – the same age as me – was strangled to death and his body left in a ditch. He was on private farmland and had indeed been trespassing if he'd walked there himself. I'd looked at his averageness in old smiling photos, read some benign details about his banal life, and couldn't relate to the victim on anything besides our age. What I saw as a straight-forward tragedy was to George a scoop because he was certain he knew who did it. When walking back to my car I pulled out my iPhone and saw Tom's text declaring he wanted to end our relationship. In but a single sentence he decided our courtship was over. I slowed to a stop at my car door, frowned, then pocketed my phone. I unlocked my Toyota and got in. I no longer belonged to that man, the fantasy dissipated like smoke sucked out a car window. I sat for a moment and imagined the face of my blonde ex-lover and felt... nothing. Fleeting disappointment came and went. I adjusted the rearview mirror to study my reflection to be sure. Straight hair that was ashy-dark. Equally dark, almond-shaped eyes. A sharp and angular jaw, features that seemed fitting my pale complexion and medium height. Nowhere was there any indication of sadness, neither hidden nor approaching. This little study didn't surprise me as I'd already been compelled to serious reflection and introspection after an event that took place some years prior. Years ago I'd been in a turbulent and abusive relationship. I feel bashful and mildly perplexed in confessing that, I was in an abusive relationship. I never felt abused, even though that was happening, and as my good friends took notice of the drama, mistreatment, casual manipulation, bruises even, they were horrified on my behalf. On looking back at that chaotic relationship with my extremely troubled and self-focused ex, I only recall finding him engaging and enjoyable. I never cried during the relationship or afterwards, though he balled like an infant on a few occasions. When the relationship ended I was very disappointed, but also completely cognizant of the fact that it was too disruptive to our practical lives and understood it unfeasible to continue. When our ten-month relationship was over, and my friends and acquaintances recalled many instances of abuse with outrage, as I remained deeply disappointed yet unwounded, I had to admit to myself that I wasn't normal. In mirrors I'd studied my reflection closely for some kind of injury that might be hiding from me. Should I speak to a counselor or a psychiatrist? I felt afraid of myself. I work, I have a social life, people like me. But something wasn't right. Why should I look for professional help when I function normally and have no pain? So I didn't speak to anyone, but in dying to know I did my own research and self-reflection. In psychology textbooks I found an answer for what I am. I do have empathy, I'm not a psychopath. I'm something else. George almost beat me to my place. It was a two-storey, two unit beige-brick home. The landlords upstairs were a polite elderly couple who own an annoying little dog. Peace is frequently disturbed by episodes of barking. Downstairs I lived with two girls in their twenties, a hairdresser studying fashion design and a receptionist studying marketing. We'd lived together some months now and our interactions were cordial and distant. Apart from the odd minor issue we tolerated each other well. When George and our mutual friends came over, sometimes to play retro board games, my room-mates would on occasion join and socialize. Nobody was rowdy, and I reminded George to smoke outside instead of by an open window. George and his buddies were people we met from board game and card game clubs, or from years ago Youth groups or sports teams, even people we met and grew to love from clubbing and pubs. A lot of them were film buffs who worshipped David Fincher and the likes of him. They liked to put in their own two cents on politics, the state of the world and conspiracies, like any good social grouping. My easily-affronted friend George found a case that immediately ruffled his feathers, raised his hackles. He hated common injustice and had seen enough crime movies about them. "The Milton family is the richest in Lochdale. Even the college there named the library after them." George jabbed his finger into my circular living room table, onto the newspaper clippings and papers he'd printed. "Daddy owns a company that builds luxury boats and they are loaded, and that's where we get to this spoiled little shit right here..." he slid a photo over to me "Stanley Milton." I'd heard this spiel before but leaned over to peer at the face of a handsome young man. A wide smile, stylishly tousled hair and green eyes. My heart thudded – maybe because he was good-looking, maybe because he was a train-wreck of a person. Maybe both. George sounded righteously angry so I didn't interrupt "Stanley here has been arrested countless times for petty crimes. Drug use, joyriding, stealing, stealing peoples' cars and then joyriding. His Daddy bails him out every time and tries to keep it hush-hush. This guy never learns, it's bad enough that he's privileged beyond belief, but he doesn't give a shit about rules or anything. Completely spoiled and entitled! If it weren't for the fact Lochdale is fairly isolated they'd never get away with letting him run loose, it'd never happen in Eastland. Latest news is he took possession of a stolen car, sped around town drunk and high, then crashed it. He's currently being held at the police station but they're bound to let him go again." "This Stanley Milton is a piece of work I'll give you that..." I commented as my eyes skimmed the pages "But what makes you think he's a murderer?" "Are you kidding? Look I've done heaps of research on his criminal history. The guy smiles in his mugshots. He barely shows up to the college his Daddy's paying for. He's like one of the Paul brothers. The guy thinks he's invincible!" Another urgent finger-poking on my table, making it wobble. "I tried calling the Milton residence for some kind of comment, thought maybe they'd try the whole 'talk to my lawyers' shtick but whoever she was, the Mum or maid or something, just hung up." I leaned in and studied the evidence with more scrutiny. Adam Creson and Stanley Milton were both students at Lochdale College. They'd occasionally been seen associating with each other in public. Adam's body was found on private property, so he'd been trespassing, and looking at Stanley's criminal offenses it became clear he'd done his fair share of trespassing. Even so, I knew George had spun this in his mind to be like the macho detective Finch movies, full of masculine philosophy and criminal psychopaths. He'd stereotyped this Stanley guy, but there certainly was reason for his suspicion. "Mr Milton has managed to cover up, pay off and suppress his son's criminal behavior..." I murmured. "You think he'd cover up murder too?" "Phillip, buddy listen, whenever me and the boys discuss detective movies and serial killer documentaries the stuff you come up with just blows my mind! The way you can see straight through the bullshit, see straight into a person's psyche and figure out their personality, their motives, it's amazing. It's like you can put yourself in the mind of a psychopath. You've got a great mind, and eye. I told you you'd make a great journalist, and now here we are doing investigative journalism on a real-life murder!" "Mm." "You're likable, people like you. You'll definitely get a feel on this guy if you get an interview, and ask around town. Then we'll see just how likely it is he murdered Adam Creson. I bet there's a motive." George was sure of himself; he almost convinced me. I went to bed early, respecting my weekday bedtime. My roommates were sure to enjoy a little extra space. Bright and early on a Tuesday, my colleague pulled up in his bronze Holden pick-up truck. My clothes and toiletries were all packed, as I carried the luggage out the door and over the driveway I wondered about our hotel, which was sure to be crappy. There's no way Mr Tourvel would dig deep enough into his pockets for anything over two stars. In being that kind of guy, George hopped out while the car was running, helped me fit my luggage into the backseat. "Alright," he was triumphant "Let's go catch a killer!" I gave a wry smile as I walked around to get to the passenger side "You don't suppose Mr Millionaire Milton will pay to have us killed if we find evidence his son's guilty?" "We'll be fine! We got the law, justice and the Maudlin Post on our side!" "That's not reassuring." I buckled up as he pulled out onto the street and drove out. On the dashboard were pamphlets for Lochdale College. I got New England vibes, the place was preppy like that Robin Williams movie O Captain, my Captain! Dead Poet's Society. Or perhaps Good Will Hunting with the younger Matt Damon. Lacquered wood and tennis-playing college kids with their Greek-letter fraternity houses. Learning about Socrates and the sciences between drinking and sex. I was glad it was Autumn, the college was full of Maples and other Northern-hemisphere trees. The whole campus would likely be bloodied by the red and gold leaves. We soon left the sprawling metropolis that was Eastland Bay. Then it was suburbs before we hit the highway. An hour in we stopped at a seven-eleven for petrol, and since I felt bad I tossed George a twenty and insisted he keep it. As he lined up to pay for fuel I drifted about studying the magazine and junk food shelves, then the soft drink fridges. It was the kind of petrol station that sold pies, tools, grocery items and even sushi. I looked over the supply rack for anything we might need. We headed back to his car with breakfast (ham croissant and sausage roll) and snack food (Dare iced coffee, Mountain Dew, Twix bar and a Maxibon ice-cream). George drove the rest of the way. I almost offered, but as a P-plater I couldn't drive without plates. I saw little advantage to getting my greens so was lazy about it, but in being two years older George was on his full license. It was before midday when we entered the town limits of Lochdale. The terrain was mountainous and the trees were Pines. We descended a hilly road to a world of forever-autumn. Orangle, crinkly leaves in pillow-piles you could hide in. Possums and squirrels frolicking and scrounging above. The sky was white. I felt like I'd stepped into an old novel. An elderly gatekeeper was working in an old crypt, he wore a knitting-pattern cardigan and beanie. I bet it was the fashion of the town and everyone dressed similarly regardless of age, this place reeked of such intellectual sophistication. I couldn't see the college. Despite the old-style cabin houses, I read that Lochdale had its own art galleries and museums toward the upper-scale suburb of Highfair. George drove while his charging iPhone struggled to hold its connection, the map app finally leading us to the hotel. Two and a half stars. "Is that a pub?" "Yeah, our accommodation's upstairs." "The boss sure has a lot of faith in us." I couldn't help joking. "Say, how's things going with Tom?" George thought to inquire as we parked. He was straight, like all my male friends. I found it difficult to maintain friendships with other gay men, it was usually rife with pettiness or casual sex. George had never met Tom, but he'd seen my blonde ex-lover in photos. "Ah... we broke up." I slowed before unbuckling my seatbelt. "Oh shit, when?" "A week ago." I lied. "It was a mutual thing. Different personalities, different life goals. Don't worry about it." "Sorry about that, man." He could see how plainly I didn't care so let it drop. I'd been nervous as we left the car, and when carrying our luggage to the back entry of the corner pub I wondered if I should've pretended to be sad. After getting our keys we walked to the wooden staircase. Left of it was a regular old-school pub, and to the right a restaurant of typical pub food, the pokies and a chocolate claw machine. There were some old patrons sipping pints of beer, a couple at a table sawing into chicken parmigianas. After settling in upstairs George wanted to get to work immediately, declaring we should split up to cover more ground and reconvene at the end of each day. Like some old school detective, George fancied talking to Adam Creson's family to rule out other motives. I imagined him opening smoothly with the line: Hi, I'm a reporter for the Maudlin Post. Oh, you haven't heard of it? I added that last part sarcastically. George was soon off to get started. Without a car I was left to walking, taxis or busses. I'd spent enough of my day shut-in, I walked to the corner store with a mind to talk to some locals. The gossip amongst the townsfolk could very well point me somewhere, and average people were far more inclined to give quotes than the police or the victim's family. Greedy for publicity. In my pocket I had a notebook, some pens and an old-school audio recorder just in case I should happen to get a proper interview. Walking the footpath I huddled into my polo, blew on my hands and rubbed them together, wondered if I should've brought gloves. I walked into the local corner-store that doubled as a newsagency. It was bigger inside, the whole back section dedicated to art supplies. Shelves of magazines and birthday cards. Posters for the lotto by the glass entry. I'd just finished introducing myself to the stringy-haired counter lady, and chatted about the tragedy of Adam Creson's cruel death. She'd left me with the implicit opinion that it wouldn't have happened if only prayer was still done in schools. The woman turned away and before I could do the same there was a tap on my shoulder. I turned to see a pretty young woman in Gucci sunglasses that covered much of her face. Neat chin-length hair and although she was dressed smart and subtle, my eye could pick out the finer detail of the clothes. Of the handbag she kept close to her side. "You're the reporter? From the Maudlin Post? How old are you?" "Um." I was taken aback. "Yes, and twenty-two. My name's Phillip Cleckley." I offered my hand, immediately aware this woman would be something useful. On close inspection she looked younger than me. After a hesitation we shook hands, hers were gloved. "I'm Claire Milton. You were calling about my brother, right?" "Yes, Stanley." "One second." She raised a finger to me before turning away, fishing out her mobile and calling someone. I stood aside and waited while she had a fierce, quiet discussion. I hadn't thought much about Stanley's siblings, or if he had any. George wouldn't believe I'd get this lucky so soon, though it'd be unlikely this girl wanted to expose her own brother. Right? She hung up and stepped back to me "My brother Stanley wants to speak with you." I was momentarily stunned "Now?" "Yes." She snipped. "I don't actually have a car-" "Then I'll drive you." "Alright." I couldn't say no, and she did look the part. "Where is he?" "Lochdale police station." Claire answered matter-of-factly. Then walked off, expecting me to follow. I was going to meet Stanley Milton. Little did I know, if I'd had a hundred guesses as to what Stanley was going to be like I would've still been surprised. - 。-
  21. Invnarcel


    Phillip Cleckley is a young journalist investigating a murder at Lochdale college. He begins an unfortunate liaison with the prime suspect, the wealthiest family's son Stanley Milton. Both men are different, but together they find a similarity.
  22. The two elementals stood in a familiar shared laboratory. The young white-robed man scratched a hand through his untidy brown hair and gave a sigh of relief. "The Mini-Character-Tournie is over. And Godrid won!" "I know," the black-robed hooded figure had a smug grin on his wrinkled face. "It is so satisfying." "And unexpected." "What was that Zac?" "Nothing Chris!" Zac fearfully turned away, pretending to busy himself with the scientific apparatus. At that moment the sliding doors opened and a disgruntled Blake strode in, his white robes fluttering by his staff, itching his long snowy beard with agitation. Chris's shrewd gaze returned to one of satisfaction. "Oh shut it you." Blake said before Chris had even spoken. "What is that you said before the tournament began?" Chris taunted with a mock-innocent sway. "'No Godrid wanker is going to win'." "You got lucky." He turned away to peruse the folders containing information on his crushers. "So what happens now?" Zac began curiously, looking between his mentors. "What happens now Zac…" Chris put his arms behind his back and stuck his nose in the air. "Our crushers will be moving on to more exciting things. They will all be living together until we can organize our next idea." "Living together?" Zac blinked in alarm. "Are you sure that's such a good idea?" "They will be supervised and have enough room to avoid those they don't get along with," Blake waved a dismissive hand, now looking at other documents. A blueprint for something. "As always, fighting outside of tournaments is forbidden, especially in areas where they can damage our property." "Either way the crushers have deserved a break. For however long that may be. They can relax, but we will be quite busy." Chris informed. "Me as well?" Zac tilted his head, he seemed to be implying the three of them. "Yes." Blake typed in some buttons and stared at the screen. "Me, you, Chris… also Lysander, Jamie and a few others." "The other elementals…" Zac paused in wonder. "What are you both planning?" "While the crushers spend some time in a homely facility base in the suburbs, we will be organizing this!" As Chris waved to the screen Blake pressed another button. "It is a space station. Satellite Academy. With the goal of attaining new information on crusher-making and methods, we will unite with many elementals off-world on this mobile station. A facility where crushers will learn and train, a school if you will." "No way… that's incredible." "You'll be invited to contribute your own crushers to the student body too Zac, this time." Chris announced. "…I don't have as much experience making crushers as you both do though. You guys are thousands of years older than me." "But you are a prodigy elemental, remember Zac. Your Anjelo crushers may very well outshine our Godrid and Zorgon ones when it comes to academic and skill achievements." "Not likely." Blake grumbled as he continued to bring up new information on the screen. "We will seek out as many elementals as we can. We are hoping for ten members on our united elemental board. Ten members with a first academy year of ten crushers each, meaning a total of one-hundred students when we commence lift-off on Satellite Academy." "This has got to be the most ambitious project I've ever seen you both make." Zac admitted. "It is probably our most ambitious project since the galactic war five-thousand years ago." Chris admitted. The staffed elementals gazed off to the screen in thought. Zac clenched his fists, feeling a deep excitement brewing inside him. He'd inherited his passion for creating artificial humans with superpowers from the other two elementals. To make creations like projects, and improve his own skill. All that he could learn from being surrounded by other elementals older than himself by many millennia… Yes, it would take time to prepare, but it looked like an exciting adventure indeed.
  23. The audience had lost none of its exuberance as the final contenders marched to the field. Both Jane and Lyle were wearing fitted suits of some thin material. Jane could only guess the purpose was for effect… what more could the suits do? If they made them resistive to fire or getting electrocuted… well, that was point of their powers anyway so it didn't make sense. Jane's suit was red and black, while Lyle's was yellow and white. Those were the national colours of Zorgon and Godrid. So maybe the suits weren't just about the spectators but also for the dramatic investment the elementals had in this final victory. The suits could be magical, Jane supposed, but they felt ordinary to her. In the middle of the colosseum was a metal perimeter – a flat, shiny disc. It must've been unearthed during the intermission. Its diameter was an easy twenty metres. Jane's suited shoes changed from muffled steps atop dirt to tamping against the metal, Silas mirroring her approach from the other side of the field. Their expressions were also identical, serious and wary beneath the black fringe of Jane's hair and Lyle's blonde spikes. They stopped ten feet from each other at the centre. A hovering droid whizzed to float between them, its head visor interface lighting up. "Prepare to ascend, combatants." Its mechanical voice announced. The audience roared as the metal detached and rose steadily upwards. The stands lowering out of view, the clouds getting closer, and then they were surrounded by nothing but blue and flying robots that was filming them for live TV. Jane managed to crane her neck for a final look at the big screen, just as it cut to the two elementals. Chris and Blake in white and black, arms crossed and looking up. She wondered if they'd made any bets. "On the Godrid side we have Lyle Zappos." The robot continued. "And on the Zorgon we have Jane Flame. Take your positions and begin at the countdown. May the best crusher win." It levitated itself out of harm's way before its screen began a countdown. Jane and Lyle both took ready positions. 3…2…1… the siren sounded. Lyle's hair jolted in an instant, a quick flicker of sparks around his body. But he didn't charge up for a bolt, only enough to launch himself quickly at Jane. Her forearm countered his as she held strong, deflecting his first strike away from her body. Lyle's body flickered again. His next punch came quickly, Jane forced it aside. She stepped back against another hit and then lifted her arm to block a kick, Lyle's leg blurred, connecting three times before he jumped into a punch that Jane caught with two hands and threw aside. It was obvious from up close. Lyle's body was brimming with electricity, but he dared not take the time to charge up for a proper attack. He was making himself faster by speeding up his muscles and reflexes. The electric pathways of his nervous system – the Godrid lighting users style of physical fighting that Chris had spoken of. He blurred and Jane was forced to step back, but she deflected every attack. She felt calm and focussed. She knew Lyle wouldn't actually kill her. This was a fight she could methodically do her best in. Not for her elemental, not for meagre prize money… but for her. To test her own skill against a strong opponent. Lyle's moves were only getting faster. Him blurring and their fists connecting. Jane aiming punches and kicks that Lyle avoided, them kicking each other with both legs, jumping apart to separate and Lyle moving in again with determination. His quickening hits started to connect, a knock to the shoulder, a hit to the side. Jane grit her teeth and tried to keep her balance. Her hand ignited in red flame and she arced her arm, Lyle leaned away. Jane punched and kicked, that flaming hand vshhing close to his body. Now he was on the retreat. Jane forced him back toward the centre of the dais and beyond. Her second hand ignited and red light blurred as Lyle swerved and blocked by hitting her elbow. Suddenly he ducked with a blinding twist and swept her legs out from under her. Jane's fire leapt from her hand and hit Lyle when he pounced. He flew back with a grunt and rolled until the fire went out, getting up on one knee with a scorched mark at his shoulder. Jane got into a crouch as well. Close-up isn't an option… it'd be too dangerous for both of us. The understanding crossed both of their faces. Jane spawned a fireball between her hands, she launched it quickly but Lyle raced aside and ran in an arc. He was faster than all the other crushers. The fire exploded harmlessly behind him. Jane got to her feet and turned to keep her eyes on Lyle. Jumping into her strikes she fired red flamethrowers at him, scarlet streams that Lyle outpaced or skidded under. His hand began sparking with yellow electricity. Jane fired another stream of red as Lyle skidded to a stop, firing two fingers at her. His yellow bolt zig-zagged beside the tongues of red. Jane fell aside to dodge his attack, the hairs on the left side of her body raising even from under the suit. After the lightning hit the metal behind her it left a hissing puff of smoke and then vanished. The air felt charged. Jane whipped her head back and started running. Lyle ran too. Red fire blazed, streaking past loudly. Yellow lighting zapped, arrowing across the area. Red and yellow shooting paths while the two fighters weaved and dodged each other. Jane slid on her knees across metal, shooting fire from her hand. Lyle skidded away and at her side, firing lightning that Jane had to throw herself forward to avoid. She rolled away and got back to her feet, and they were moving again. Jane stumbled, took a misstep. Yellow blazed dangerously close, she leapt backward and realised she was nearing the edge. They must be over fifty feet above the ground. Lyle was also near the edge, they launched their attacks at each other, embers and sparks raining down below. Jane took a step back toward the centre and that's when Lyle's attack got her. A full bolt of yellow lightning to the chest. It was painful. Like a taser from all directions. The yellow lightning branched off her body like a tree, sparking against the metal ground. Her body froze up from the shock and she felt unable to move, only twitches… but she managed to keep herself from toppling over. Lyle raced in close and all Jane could do was wait for the immobility to pass. The ringing in her ears and flash in her eyes. Lyle could see her resistance and fired another bolt straight at her. Jane gathered the last of her strength, and managed to shift her body away. She fell and the lightning zapped by above her. On the ground she kicked her feet and flexed her fingers. I can move again. Lyle readied for another shot but Jane pushed herself up and away. She scrambled off but was back on her feet. Dishevelled, hair frayed, but still moving. "I'm not out yet." Her hands caught red fire at her sides. Lyle gave a brief smirk at her determination before jumping into a series of strikes that fired multiple bolts toward her. Jane side-stepped and rolled away from them, still facing her opponent. I should try that signature move again… She put the fire from both hands together and began condensing her fireball. Lyle narrowed his eyes and began condensing his lightning as well, crouching as it went haywire, hitting the ground around him, intensifying in frequency as it began to change hue. Jane forced more energy into her explosive attack. The two stood powering up before launching at each other with their most powerful moves. Jane gave a heroic growl as she thrust the attack forward, her red fireball colliding with Lyle's blue-lightning jab. For a moment Evan crossed her mind, but she dared not falter now. Her battle-cry became louder and she felt her hand burning. A strange explosion of invisible energy. The two of them separated with blinding speed. A flash and bang between them, but their bodies flew and skid across the smooth metal, quickly approaching the edge on both sides. Jane flailed in panic, working her hands against slippery metal. They squealed against her speed, she huffed and grabbed in desperation. Her feet, then legs, then waist hanging over the drop before she finally stopped herself. Jane froze for a moment, her hair in her face, before releasing a sigh of relief. She quickly struggled and got herself back up. Lyle was also getting back to his feet. This felt like the real decisive moment – not their strongest attacks, but the one that would follow. Jane forced her body to race toward Lyle. He didn't have time to generate yellow lightning. He used electricity to blast off to meet her, aiming a kick instead. Jane crossed her arms into an X and Lyle's foot collided against it. He leaned in then backflipped away from her. Jane staggered aside then moved in with a flaming fist. Lyle turned and kicked the side of her head. Jane saw stars and went down. Her body went unresponsive again, still exhausted from the bolt of lightning that'd hit her previously. Lyle's hand stopped by her face but he didn't shoot. Jane blinked blurrily, and it took a moment for her to realise she'd lost. Lyle was crouched near her, heaving from exhaustion. "The winner is Lyle Zappos." The resounding applause from below could be heard after the robot's announcement. Floating droids came in close now that it was safe to do so, wanting to catch the reactions of the combatants for live television. Lyle's hand switched from an attacking posture to a helping aid. Jane took his hand and he helped pull her to her feet. The dais was already moving, lowering back to its place in the middle of the colosseum. Jane was still in shock, evidently. Each new happenstance surprising her as she stood by Lyle's side like a zombie. "Good job, Jane." Lyle gave a genuine smile, achievement and relief on his face. Jane felt a smile forming on her face as well. It was over. She felt relief and pride. The dais grinded to a stop and she could see her two friends, Marine and Leaf rushing over. "Yeah. Congratulations, Lyle." She raised a hand overhead to wave at her friends, and then to the cheering audience as well.
  24. The medical room gleamed silver as droids whizzed around with their supplies. Jane sat with her head back, dark eyes on the white tiles overhead. She hadn't sustained any serious injuries in her fight, but the radiation buzzing into her muscles was relaxing and strengthening them. In forty-five minutes she would be fighting Lyle for the championship title. A smile made its way to her face as she realised that neither of them gave the slightest crap about winning. Of all the douchebags and psychopaths this tournament had hosted, it was the two of them who would be the remaining finalists. The idea was surreal, like a dream. Jane remembered the first time Lyle had introduced himself to her – the blonde guy leaning over her plastic chair and saying how Zorgon and Godrid crushers might be friends when the fighting was over. She wondered what was going through Lyle's head right now. Her smile wavered. While Jane was glad to not be fighting anyone bad, she felt dread at the thought of hurting a nice guy like Lyle. He was fast, but not immune to her fire either. She was still way too scared of fighting after Evan, and she didn't know if she could fight properly. But Lyle would also be a strong opponent, and his blue lightning would be just as dangerous to her. "She did it! She did it ~ !" came the singsong voice of Marine. Her light-brown hair bounced with her steps as she entered the med room, exuberant at her friend's victory. Following behind Leaf was grinning too, his face still pale with purplish eyes. "You guys…" the Flame girl let out a sigh of relief. "Man, am I glad to see you two. Have I gone crazy… or am I seriously a finalist?" "You're not crazy." The brown-haired Sprout guy told her. He seemed somewhat bemused, both Leaf and Jane were on the same page when it came to not being eager about being in the tournament. "I hope you were satisfied with me beating Ophelia." "Very much so." Leaf answered, and then his eyes narrowed – a personal contemplation. Things were still a bit weird after Evan, which was to be expected. A shade of wariness in their eyes, but otherwise Jane truly was glad to have her friends with her. Marine and Leaf pulled up seats beside her while the medical droids worked. Leaf lowered himself sorely while Marine buzzed with enthusiasm. They eagerly discussed the fights for several minutes before the elementals arrived. "Congratulations, Jane!" Zac, the younger and kinder elemental said as he walked into the room with his staff. "Now you're representing Zorgons as a whole in this upcoming fight! Tensions sure are thick." "Indeed." The old Blake stood as rigid as Chris, both white and black elementals had their arms behind their backs. The bearded man stopped side-eying to regard his crusher "Superb work Jane. Now I expect you to give it your best. As incentive for your victory I feel it's time we tell you about the prize for this tournament. If you're ready?" Jane looked at her two friends and back again. From behind the three elementals, the other crushers sidled into view. The Godrids: white-haired Zane, tall and black-haired Victor, both looking sullen. Dark-haired Samson and wavy-haired Helias were open-faced. Dark-skinned Ganymede was neutral while albino-white Shiro had an emptiness to his red-eyed stare. The Zorgons: clothed up Dan had his arms crossed, tiny Joy was focused and purple-haired Lorac gave a timid smile. All of the original teenagers were here except for the other semi-finalists and the deceased Evan. Jane took a stab in the dark "Is the ultimate prize a deep pan pizza?" "Don't be silly." The hooded Chris reprimanded. "The winner of the Mini-Character-Tournie will be awarded the prize of nine-thousand and six-hundred Cubids." "That's ten-thousand Bronzes, in Zorgon money. Or dollars." Blake chipped in to explain. "Wow ten-thousand Bronzes." Leaf murmured. "You could buy a jet with that!" Marine gaped. "A run-down one." Jane rolled her eyes. "You could buy a hoverboard!" "Yeah, maybe…" Her white-robed elemental stepped forward "Just think of it as incentive to do your best… This final fight will not only conclude this tournament, but it will finally settle this competitive feud between me and Chris. At least until the next tournament." "Jane, in thirty minutes you are to proceed to the top level." Chris explained with his finger in the air. "An elevation disc in the colosseum will raise several hundred feet into the air for dramatic effect. We have to end this with a bang after all." "It will be quite snazzy, if I do say so myself." Blake agreed. "Now clear away you lot. Jane can't afford to be distracted before the biggest fight of her life." Marine and Leaf started to protest and Jane wiggled in her chair "Hey, can't my friends stay? I need them here… for emotional support." "Hmmm…" Zac scratched his chin. "Don't they remind you of John, Crystine and Jamie?" "Sort of." Chris responded in a voice that wasn't much of an agreement. "Oh have it your way." Blake waved like they were being silly, he turned and his robes swept after him as he left. Chris also went to go and the teens parted for them and followed after. Lorac gave a little wave to Leaf as he left. "That Lorac guy is nice." Jane murmured thoughtfully, then eyed the back of Leaf's head. "Maybe he should've stayed too." "Eh, suppose he is." Leaf grumbled. The three friends spent the remaining time talking together and forgetting about the fight that was to come. Even though this would be the final fight, Jane was much less nervous about it than when she had to fight Ophelia. Originally she would've assumed Lyle and her were equally strong, now she wasn't sure. Lyle had skill, but his regular attacks could only stun and not for long. Jane's regular attacks were dangerous. Who knew what was going to come of the final fight. It was sure to be dramatic either way. Fire versus lightning.
  • Create New...

Important Information

Our Privacy Policy can be found here. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue..