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30 (rough draft)


“Uncle Duke,” Melody Lark squealed, throwing her arms around the neck of Augustine Ellington. “Sorry, I see you and I’m eight years old again.

He kissed her meaningfully on the cheek. “I regret poor decisions.”

“But like how the story turned out?”

“Sure.” He leaned forward. “Is the better half at home?”

“Unemployed now, but I guess that’s why you’re here, to officially fire her in person.” She took him by the arm. “Come watch the sailboats with us.”

“Hey, Duke,” Randi Sconce greeted with a wave of a fluted wine glass, reclining on the balcony. “Sorry for the shit storm.”

“We knew going in this could happen.” Ellington accepted a glass from Lark, nodding. “I thought Markus would call, scream and shout, then I could calm him down, you know. Edify his discretion.”

“Talk him out of the 19th Century?” Lark asked.

“I never guessed he bring in outside counsel and do his own little legal jig.”

Sconce narrowed her eyes into the distance. “A shark doing Markus’ business. That explains much. Met him. Seemed like an okay guy, as far as guy lawyers go. He struck me as being repented, like he didn’t care for getting his hands dirty.” She smiled. “He told Markus to get help. Philly lawyer, I think he said.”

“He operates out of Philly, practices in Jersey, too. George Howell.”

“Uncle George? Really?”

“Uncle?” Sconce asked.

“Not really. Uncle Duke’s son-in-law.”

“Was, anyway. He was married to my daughter, now dead.”

Sconce sat up. “Duke, I’m so sorry.”

“Thanks. This was the first we’ve talked about it in years.”

“Children?” Sconce asked.

“Daughter, also dead.”

“Damn, Duke.”

“Murdered by a drunk driver,” Lark sneered. “Also dead in the same accident.”

“Anyway.” He wiped a tear with the back of his hand. “No one’s getting fired. Be back on the job Monday.”

“I don’t know if I want the job. You don’t know what it’s like to wrestle with that asshole everyday.”

“That’s why I need you in the job, for balance, to keep Markus from going raving loon, lynching students in front of the school.”

“While burning crosses, Uncle Duke. Don’t forget the crosses.”

“I have to look over the Stayman file. I may just fire Fisher outright, and appoint you to the job.”

“It’s really odd, Duke,” Sconce said. “It’s like Markus and Fisher are a protected class or something. Apple, the Stayman girl –”


“Apple. That’s her nickname.”

He snickered a little. “Well, it would be, wouldn’t it?”

“She’s wicked smart, pretty and enhances her appearance, putting her sexuality on display.”

“I can see why a man like Fisher would want to punch her in the face.”

Lark pushed Ellington on the shoulder. “Because Fisher hates himself for wanting to fuck her, but can’t hit himself in the face.”

“She’s a Siren,” Sconce said.

“That’s why you have to go back to work,” Ellington said. “So you can protect, eh, Apple and girls like her.”

“Apple doesn’t need protecting,” Sconce said.

Ellington worked to his feet. “You’ll be in Monday?”

“Sure, Duke.”

“I’ll walk you out,” Lark said, then, at door continued. “I’ve got an assignment.”

“What kind of assignment?”

“I’m thinking now I should have called you, or something.”


“I’ve been investigating Paul Markus. I even went to Texas to do some interviews.”

“What did you find?”

“Nothing solid. He’s slippery and well protected.”

“Would you feel comfortable copying me?”


“Is he a child molester?”

“I do not know.”

“What do you know?”

“I know there’s a certain type of child that makes his dick harder than Chinese algebra.”

“Did you think of pulling down missing children reports in a two hundred mile radius of places he’s lived?”

“That’s a good idea.”


October sipped her Pepsi, watching the stars come to life.

Brigantine appeared, bending, kissing October on the cheek, dropping to the chair next to her. “Your mom said you were back here.”

October touched her cheek. “That’s new.”

“I felt like it. Do you mind?”

“Not at all. You feeling abandoned, too?”

“A little, I guess.” She nodded toward the back of the yard. “Sandbox is falling apart.”

“Maybe I’ll fix it.”

“Maybe you can’t.”

“Nard around?”

“Do you mean to ask why I’m not hanging with Nard?”

“Not really. Casey went all territorial.”

“I heard.” Brigantine drank a long breath, letting the air out slowly. “He felt me up.”

“I assume you mean Nard?”


“How was it?”

Brigantine chuckled. “You don’t even know what to ask. I like Nard.”

“So do I.”

“He’s a clumsy kisser, like his mind is somewhere else, not that I have a lot of experience. Dad was always concerned my brothers would be curious and want to steal a feel so he was ever vigilant.”

“That’s weird.”

“Dad says boys will always go through the underwear drawer.”

“I guess human beings naturally wish to uncover what they think is being kept secret.”

“Over the years, knowing my brothers may wish to involve me in a biology science investigation, I imagined what such an exam would be like.”

“Maybe they practiced on each other?”

Brigantine chuckled again. “Sure, just a little tighter.”

“I told you before, I think Luke would be into such play. He’d tell his bothers to just close their eyes and they could get some practice.”

“Sure, it’s not gay if you call it practice. Funny how Dad would think to protect me and not them.”

“You say Nard’s a clumpy kisser.”

“He is, yes.”

October tilted her head, looking at Brigantine, holding her eyes. “I really don’t know what you mean. Would you show me?”

“See? You and Apple, I tell you. You’re good at it. I could never flirt like that.”

“I mean it.”


“I do have a boyfriend, but since we’re both girls, it’d just be practice and not cheating.”

“If we were boys, we might even buy that.” Brigantine reached over, putting her hand on October’s left breast, grabbing and releasing three times. “He did that, just more of it.”

October giggled. “A lot more?”

“No.” Brigantine watched October’s eyes. With a nod, she said, “You’ve got something going on there. I bet they’re really cute. Can I see?”

“Brig!” She gave Brigantine the open mouth. “See? You are good at it.”

She shrugged. “I wasn’t kidding.”

 October sat up, looked around and lifted her shirt to her chin.

“Sweet,” Brigantine said, lifting her shirt. “I’ve really been hoping to get nothing.”

“Do you wish your were a boy?”

“No. I’m built like a boy, though. No since whining about it. After Nard flexed his hand a few times on my barely breasts, he worked his way down, getting his hand in my pants.” She shrugged. “He got over it, but didn’t get his finger inside. I got to know what being the subject of a biology science investigation would be like.”

“That’s it, huh?”

“I didn’t know what to do.”

“I could guess, but it’d be from watching movie. You should talk to Apple.”

“I think Nard wants to fuck Apple.”

“Heck, Brig, sometimes I think I want to fuck Apple and we’ve been sleeping together. Do you want to have sex with Nard?”

“Not really, I guess.”

“Then you don’t need to talk to Apple.”


“Yes, Abby.”

“She told me what happened in the cafeteria.”

“New boyfriend. She could have warned me.”

“I’m disappointed in Apple, but doubly disappointed in you.”

“I don’t know what Abby told you.”

“Not long ago, Ockie, the four of us used to play in that sandbox.” Brigantine waved her arm. “Over the years, I’m surprised we didn’t come up with a corny name.”

Fantastic Four.”

“Too obvious. Then, one day, you bring home a circus act.”


“You tell us: This antisocial recluse freak is now one of us. Embrace him as you would me. And, we did, one hundred percent, all of us.”

“I know, Brig.”

“Abby finds someone. Personally, I don’t find his winning smile and crystal blue eyes all that charming. When he’s talking to me, I get the feeling he’s trying to sell me something, like the wall’s going to roll back revealing a bunch of old cars, Christian saying: What’s it going to take for me to put you in one of these babies today.” Brig rolled her eyes.

“Abby didn’t come to us and say: Hey, I found my own freak show, please embrace him like your own, but she shouldn’t fucking have to.”

“You’re right, Brig. I had a talk with Apple afterwards. I know I could have acted better. I was taken off guard.”

“We should put a leash on Apple.”

“I’ve thought the same about you when you smack people around.”

“Only those who deserve it.”

“No one deserves it.”

“I’ve told you I’d be more considerate before I smack someone around.”

“That’s all I’ve asked.”

“We need to do this for Abby.”

“We do.”

“Where’s she off to?”

“You don’t want to know,” Brig said with a sneer. “Her first meeting of the God club.”

“We talked a little about that.”

“She wouldn’t listen to reason.”

“That’s why they call it faith.”

“Did you ever, Ockie?”

“Ever what?”


“In a sky fairy?”

Brig rolled her eyes. “That, Ockie, is why Abby could never talk to you about this. A little guilty as charged, too.”

“Just a little guilty, huh?”

“I’ve puzzled between the two, you know, Dad’s a bit radical.”

“Bag over the head for a weekend, sure, I understand his kind of religious thinking.”

“There’s that.”

“And, there’s the idea that he has some right to kill a human being just because that human being is an asshole. Your father’s god has to be some kind of dick.”

“That’s the thing, Ockie, I listen to his religious edits, then I see what he does. Then, I look at you, the godless heathen who tells me no one deserves a good smack.”

“Don’t get me wrong. I can see how believing some invisible sky fairy watching down, directing us with a plan we can’t understand is good for most people. That way they don’t have to wrestle with the realities of the universe, that a human being like Casey can be really fucked up because that’s what happened.”

“You going to give me hungry children now?”

“I could, but I think I’ll give you Principle Markus instead. As flattering as it is to have him totally in love with me, I close my eyes and see me as a big game hunter.”

Brigantine snickered. “Tan pith helmet?”

“Pretty much. Huge rifle, bigger than me, Principle Markus storming down a jungle path, me drawing the bead.”

“In the end, there can be only one.”

“If I were a religious person, I could see Principle Markus as not a bad person, but simply misled.”

“Maybe processed by the devil.”

“Basically, yes, just said in different ways. A force beyond his control.”

“Since you’re not a religious person, what’s your best guess?”

“I bet I look like his mother. Back to how flattering this is. It’s not at all. He’s not in love with me. He doesn’t even know me. He’s in love with some person from his past, real or imagined, that I remind him of.”

“You didn’t know Casey ­–”

“But, I did, that morning, when I put my forehead on his and looked into his eyes. I just knew.”

“Can you grant for a moment, that for some people, they can say the same about God, or rather maybe how they perceive God?”

October bit her lip. “I can grant that. For a moment. For some people.”

“Which doesn’t grant the existence of said sky fairy.”

“Okay. I get a cool present under the tree. I can believe a magical fairy left it for me or I can believe Mom put it there. Either way, the fact remains I have a really cool present in my hands.”

“Here’s where it matters, then, Ockie. Next year, you want a new Iphone under the tree. You can tell only one, Santa in the mall or your mother.”

“Maybe Principal Markus is the devil?”

Brigantine stood, squirreling a paperback from her back pocket. “Maybe you are.” She dropped the book, Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, on October’s lap. “Stole it from Nard’s room. All you need read is the introduction and first chapter.”

October stood. “And, I thought I’d be bored this weekend.”

“No Apple?”

October reached up to the taller Brigantine, fingertips to her cheeks. “Weekend down the shore, very mysterious, but I think she’s got a new boyfriend, without the need to put him in our faces.” October stepped up.

“Thank the god I don’t believe if for small favors.”

“Casey has more clandestine whatevers.” October put her lips on Brigantine’s, like the touch of a butterfly’s wing. “Thanks for coming over.”

“Thanks for being you.”

Maybe I’ll get around to reading Frankenstein this weekend, too, she thought, watching Brigantine disappear around the side of the house.


October’s jeans were a bit tight on Amaretto, but functional, Amaretto feeling oddly short in October’s pink sneakers and underdressed in a plain gray sweatshirt, her hair in a ponytail and just a dab of makeup.

“I know, Morgan, the face is better,” she said, packing a duffle.

“Then, you’ll be coming home.”

“Maybe another week.”

“How about now?”

“I’m going away for the weekend.”


“None of your business.”

“I expect you home. Sunday.”


“Why not?”

Amaretto took a fistful of bed sheet, pulling hard, pushing the sheet in her mother’s face. “Maybe I don’t like sleeping in human filth! Maybe I don’t like Uncle Jack pawing at my panties all the time! Maybe I don’t like getting gang banged by our fucking friends every fucking night without so much as a fucking thank you!”

“Amaretto,” Morgan answered with a shocked face. “I thought you liked you life here?”

In what fucking universe do you fucking live in? she thought. Amaretto took a deep breath. “Sorry, Mom, been a long week. Just give me a week, just another week.”

Morgan put the back of her hand softly to Amaretto’s cheek. “I miss you, is all.”

“Me, too, Mom. I’ll be home.” She glanced her watch for effect. “I really have to run.”

Marvin Beal blocked her at the bedroom door. “Hey, Apple.”

“What the fuck are you still doing here?”

“Whoa, girl. Jack told me what happened. I wanted to apologize to you. That clip got in the mix by mistake. Jack copied it to me for my spank bank.”

“Ew!” She pushed him. “You’re an asshole.”

Amaretto saw the swing coming, ducking, the blow glancing her forehead.

Morgan got in-between, a hand on each chest. “Marvin! You will not hit Amaretto! Amaretto! You will accept Marvin’s apology!”

“Fucking know this, Morgan. I have my copy of that clip hid away, the copy with Uncle Jack’s face on it. This fucker comes near me again, I’ll drop that dime so quick, Jack will be upstate for twenty before your next fucking birthday!”


“Tell Uncle Jack. Tell him. I really hope he’s got coming on my face and in my mouth in his spank bank, ‘cause he’s going to fucking need a good thought when they’re gang bang butt fucking him upstate.”

“Amaretto,” Morgan said calmly. “You do not make threats like that.”

She shook free. “I have to go.” She bobbed her chin. “Tell Jack to take care of him.” Glancing all the faces staring at her, she made for the door. “I’ll talk to Uncle Jack when I get back.”

Amaretto paused at the end of the walk, watching the street in the darkness, displeased with her performance. “Damn.” She revealed too much. “I thought Jack would at least give Beal a good beat down, maybe throw him out.” The video clip was not supposed to be shared or copied. “Dammit.”

She thought to take a breath, smoke a joint and return to the house, smoothing things out. “I’ll let things cool. I’ll talk to Jack, the only other adult in the house.”

Amaretto did not think Officer Kyle Penrose picking her up at the house, coming in to make nice with Morgan a good idea. Five blocks up and just around the corner, she saw Penrose leaning against his car, waiting, just as she asked. She felt oddly exposed, not in her costume, looking toward the concrete, back up to Penrose thirty feet away, back to the concrete, smiling.

An arm grabbed her elbow, spinning her, a finger going in her face. “Look little girl, I was blowing Jack long before you were born,” Beal informed her. “This shit with the clip is all worked out. I want your copy, and I want it now.” He shook her.

“Step off, asshole, and do it now. Look over my shoulder. That guy walking toward us fast is a cop. Step off, do it now, or I’ll scream like a little girl and yell rape.”

Beal released her, putting his hands in the air, turning, walking off.

“Problem, Apple?”

“No, Kyle, just a friend of my mother’s looking for some cooking tips.”

He narrowed his eyes. “You sure?”


“You look different.”

“You like, different?”

“Very much.”

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