Going Home Again: Chapter II

Claire Avalon

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0
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Violet Nowak
Claire Nowak
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%2365000
[I'm genuinely unsure if to add onto a prior entry I should create a new post or reply to my old thread or even be posting these in a different section, the whole layout has changed a lot since I was first a member in 2013...so if you have advice feel free to let me know!]

Claire’s face felt white and hot and red and bloodless at all once, a chill followed by a wave of heat enveloped her whole body. She had tried to sound cocky, confident, and self assured, but she’d had only the company of the cat for a week, singing had taken a back seat, and she hadn’t called Joe back in two days. As a result, her voice felt foreign and clumsy inside her mouth, gone dry with fear and anticipation.

“You really should be sleeping, detective,” that familiar voice said in a tone that indicated she had suspected this all along, “Or is it detective? What do they call a freelancing profiler with a fear of commitment?”

Claire ignored the quip, reaching in her mind for a lower blow she had the courage to say out loud, “I’ve always been a night owl. Maybe it’s genetic.”

The intruder raised one eyebrow, or at least Claire assumed she did since the other one was concealed under the crimson brim of her hat. The not-detective sat up in her bed, standing seemed too much of a challenge at the moment. She felt suddenly all too aware of her own body, like her soul had been drifting aimlessly through her memories and had suddenly come back into her skin too quickly. Textures felt too…textured. The air felt too thick. Claire found herself painfully and suddenly aware that she was braless, barefaced, and swathed by a tangled set of glossy black curls which she had mysteriously begun to style more voluminously than her typical soft waves. She pulled her knees to her chest, feeling impossibly pathetic and small.

Carmen was characteristically unfazed, "I hope you didn't dismiss security on my account, you really needn't have bothered. Or should I expect an ACME ambush from the shadows?"

"Why would there be? Are you planning to steal something from me?" Claire's voice was coming back to her but it took every muscle in her well-trained diaphragm to steady the tremor in it.

"Well there's always breaking and entering," the thief replied.

"You can't have broken in if I was expecting you. I would have sent an invitation directly but you didn't exactly leave ACME your forwarding address."

Carmen's smirk widened subtly, "Seems I got the memo regardless."

Claire started to panic. This was as far as her imagination had rehearsed, and like most anxious brains, she had tried out every possible line of dialogue and prepared satisfactory retorts. But now was the time for the actual conversation, and bravado was no longer serving a purpose, so with uncharacteristic impulsivity she forced out the question, "You didn't know about me, did you?"

"No...not at first. I wasn't looking for you," Carmen sighed in a way that sounded genuine, yet overly composed. Her gloved hand pressed against her temples, giving away a little more than her voice.

Then again, Carmen knew Claire studied body language, syntax, handwriting, anything she could get her eyes on to better understand the mind of a criminal. So potentially this was a form of posturing. Claire had never had to analyze Carmen live and without a screen between them.

Finally feeling somewhat stable, Claire forced herself from the safety of her bed and walked over to the window, sitting in one of the two reading chairs. Carmen followed suit, shadowed brow still carrying some tension.

"I never like to rush my research, but I can admit I was rather hasty in my reading. And once I'd found what I was looking for I made the mistake of deeming anything else irrelevant."

"You made a mistake?" Claire shot back, not sure if she meant it sarcastically or sincerely. "The great Carmen Sandiego?"

Blue eyes darted between amusement and danger. She was picking a side, Claire could tell. "It would seem that I have a bit of a blind spot when it comes to father figures, or so I've read."

Claire felt her face get hot again, silently praying it didn't show. "So you've been reading my thesis. It's just a work in progress-"

She was cut off by Carmen's raised hand, "There's no need to explain. I like to believe there's nothing in the world from which I cannot learn, and that includes amateur essays on my weaknesses."

"Something tells me if you actually felt that way you wouldn't feel the need to call me something as pejorative as 'amateur.'"

"On the contrary, my not-quite-a-detective, the word amateur comes from the Latin for love. Someone who does something for the love of it, rather than profit. I might be worthy of the term myself." Carmen replied.

Claire tried to meet the thief's gaze, "I am conducting this research on ACME's dime, Carmen."

A real smile spread over Carmen's face...still a smirk...but a real one. "Ah...of course. But let's not pretend that was your motivation."

"So what are you looking for here? I'm guessing if you want an answer you've got labs that can give it to you. Is it to gloat, some kind of redemption, the bust you originally came to steal because by all means..." Claire could tell she hit a nerve with the redemption part. She hadn't meant to instill guilt in Carmen but Claire knew her well enough to know guilt lingered just under the surface at all times.

"I...Claire," using her name for the first time, "I never meant for him to get hurt. Everything I did, I did to protect-"

"You could have just not come back, how's that for protection?" Claire surprised herself with the harshness of her words. She had never blamed Carmen for what happened to her father, or for her curiosity. She knew the anger was misdirected but she'd rather die than admit that to the lady in red.

Carmen spoke like she was speaking to a child, "I had to come back. You have to know that," her voice caught in her throat ever so slightly.

"I do...I do know that," Redirect! Now! Claire thought. "So when did you learn about me?"

"After Lee...took him." She couldn't bring herself to say 'your father,' "I did some digging to get ahead of any potential aces in his sleeve. And fortunately he didn't seem to know about you either. I wanted to keep it that way."

"I do suspect that by stepping into my father's spotlight I've painted a target on my back. But I got your attention."

Carmen inched forward confidently, "I look after my own. You're ACME's behind-the-scenes expert on yours truly, I'd treat you the same way I treat my detectives."

"Your detectives?"

"What can I say? I'm very possessive."

Claire stifled a laugh, "Yes, of things that don't belong to you."

"Touché," Carmen replied, lightly, "nevertheless it serves no one if you're hurt."

"So you're protecting me?" Claire wanted to pry deeper into this twisted definition of protection.

"I'm keeping an eye on you. If you want protection, that's something I can provide under...alternative circumstances."

Claire got the sense Carmen wanted to draw this out, so she cut to the chase, "Alternative as in V.I.L.E?"

"I see we are on the same page." Carmen didn't miss a beat.

"Not on the same page, just clarifying your intentions. I don't often get to do that with you."

"What else did you expect? A sister? A family?" Carmen almost grimaced, and Claire was caught off guard by her straightforwardness.

"I...I'd like to know. I've been trying for over 2 decades to live up to a ghost who can do no wrong and it turns out that ghost wasn't even dead. I've had to ask myself, 'what would she look like? Like me? Would she have been smarter, braver, stronger, would she have been enough? And of course she wasn't there, so she could never really let anyone down." Claire wanted desperately to play it close to the vest but deep down it was never her nature.

"How's being a criminal for a letdown?" Carmen tested.

Claire was ready for that one, "If you're gonna be something you might as well be the best."

Carmen nodded approvingly. "You've got choices to make. And in the meantime, I'll be monitoring ACME's applications." She stood up, towering over Claire.

Minutes later, with the sound of some mysterious vehicle echoing in the distance, Claire heard the unmistakable hum of the fax machine from the other room. Crimson paper with a familiar logo came to rest, competing with the cold applications beneath it. Handwritten (somehow?) in the upper left corner a note was scrawled in an elegant hand:

V.I.L.E. eagerly awaits your application. Don't call us, we'll call you. Until next crime! -C.S.
 
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Tenchi Masaki

ACME Ace Detective, Inventor
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1
AMA
findcarmen.com
Known Aliases
Tenko(don't ask), Kami Jack, Guy Smart, Tenten
Color #
035096
Usually we add chapters to the same post. Because… well… some of us here can get a little… carried away with a story… and the chapters pile up. So it’s easier for people to keep track. But if it’s only a few chapters it’s fine to post them separately.
 

Ann Tickwitee

Writer
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0
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Anti, Angel, Witty
Ha! He means himself, though we’re not complaining! He wrote a story called “The Great Tran-Syberian Adventure” with me and Polly and it kept going and going! I think it’s cause he likes Patty Larceny but it’s as long as a book and really good!
 
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Claire Avalon

Writer
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0
Known Aliases
Violet Nowak
Claire Nowak
Color #
%2365000
Usually we add chapters to the same post. Because… well… some of us here can get a little… carried away with a story… and the chapters pile up. So it’s easier for people to keep track. But if it’s only a few chapters it’s fine to post them separately.
I anticipate this getting a little lengthy too, so maybe I’ll just condense everything tonight when I get home and delete the extra posts. Thanks for letting me know!
 

Claire Avalon

Writer
Best answers
0
Known Aliases
Violet Nowak
Claire Nowak
Color #
%2365000
Ha! He means himself, though we’re not complaining! He wrote a story called “The Great Tran-Syberian Adventure” with me and Polly and it kept going and going! I think it’s cause he likes Patty Larceny but it’s as long as a book and really good!
I need to read through these when I get a chance
 

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