Going Home Again

Jade

ACME
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7
AMA
findcarmen.com
Known Aliases
Jade
Color #
0099FF
Hey everyone (like all three of you that read this but I love you all), I’ll be out of town for Miss USA since my little sister is a competitor (any guesses which state?) so I’ll be gone trying not to feel ugly for a week:)

anyway hopefully my dad’s cranberry sauce is the cure for writer’s block and I’ll be back ASAP! Happy thanksgiving to anyone celebrating!
I didn't know your sister enters the Miss USA competition tough part is I can't find out which state your sister is represented I wish your sister the best no matter where she placed.
 

Claire Avalon

Writer
Best answers
0
Known Aliases
Violet Nowak
Claire Nowak
Color #
%2365000
Still needs some edits but in the meantime here’s the next chapter!


Chapter VII

Show Me a Hero​

July, 1985, San Francisco

A pale 10 year old huddled close to the trunk of a sequoia tree, her black hair sticking to her forehead and her cheeks red with heat. Summer camp had never been her thing, especially not a summer camp full of outdoor activities. In fact, California had never been her thing either. In her short life, Claire had already attended five different schools and three boarding schools. She craved the comfort of home, but unfortunately, home had become a dorm room at the St. Hildegard School for Girls, and when school was dismissed for the summer, home disappeared. It hadn’t occurred to her to ask her father to spend the summer in the shady mansion in Argentina where she supposedly had a bedroom and some semblance of a family. She knew how to care for herself, she was quiet, well-mannered, and introverted. She didn’t even need a nanny, she could fix her own meals and draw her own baths and get herself to bed each night. But as much as a small part of her brain wanted to crawl into her too-big bed in that too-big home and cry, she knew her father’s main objective was to keep her occupied and protected, and that meant a summer of over-scheduled, so-called fun with a hundred other strangers somewhere around her age. The heat invaded her body and she felt like she was drowning in it, when the swift bounce of a dodgeball to the stomach reminded her what it really felt like to demand air from unyielding lungs.

“Hey! Don’t be lame, get up before I tell a counselor you chickened out!” a high pitched voice, self-assured voice belonging to a young girl with shockingly red hair scolded.

Claire wheezed out a response, “Go get one! See if I care!” She wasn’t usually so confrontational, but something about the girl’s attitude was contagious, and while she had to be at least a year Claire’s junior, her arms were already alarmingly toned, and her lanky figure had adapted to the sunshine with a charming spray of freckles covering every exposed inch of skin.

“My mom says sulking never helped anyone! If you’re sad, the best thing you can do is get outside and move.”

“I’m not sad,” snapped Claire, “I’m too hot and I’m too sweaty and I don’t like summer camp or dodge ball and I don’t have any friends and I just want to go home!” The hot tears running down her red cheeks told the truth. Claire was sad. And lonely.

The redhead’s face changed. While her nature was active and somewhat abrasive, her father was a psychiatrist and when she chose to be, the young girl could be quite emotionally intelligent. She sauntered over to the large tree and sat beside the crying girl.

“Homesick? M My little brother gets homesick too, but he’s only four so he doesn’t get to go to sleepaway camps yet. Not that you’re acting like a baby or anything…”

Claire chuckled quietly. The redhead continued, “I’m Ivy, I’m eight—almost nine. What’s your name?”

“I’m Claire,” she sniffled, “I’m ten.”

“Are your parents coming to visit? They can sign you out on weekends. Mine are coming on Saturday.”

“It’s just my dad, I don’t have a mom. But he lives in Argentina, so he won’t visit me.”

Ivy’s green eyes widened, “Argentina? That’s so cool! I know about lots of countries, my parents work for a detective agency and one of their friends gave me a whole collection of postcards from all the countries she’s visited on cases. When I grow up I’m going to be a detective too, just like her. Then I’ll travel all over the world bringing criminals to justice!” She accentuated her last sentence by slapping her first against her palm and glaring defiantly into the sunshine.

“I bet you’d be good at it,” replied Claire. “You’re really tough.”

“You don’t just have to be strong, though. You have to be really smart. Mom says playing the piano will help my brain, and I’m gonna learn to play chess and speak other languages. I want to be the best detective ever. Do you speak Spanish? Maybe you could practice with me!”

“My dad speaks Spanish, but my nanny taught me English. Maybe when I was little, but I don’t remember much anymore. I’ve been going to school in America since I was seven.”

“Whoa, like a boarding school? I wish I could go to boarding school, I wouldn’t have to share a bathroom with my baby brother.” Ivy’s face bordered somewhere between frustration and amusement.

“No, instead you’d have to share it with twelve other girls!” Claire tried to sound serious but Ivy’s enthusiasm had seeped into her voice and she found herself reluctantly attached to her new friend.

Claire tried not to make too many friends wherever she went, expecting never to stay in one place for very long. But over the next few weeks, Ivy stuck by her side like an oddly energetic barnacle. She had a penchant for getting into trouble, especially when it came to boys who wouldn’t let her play with them. She’d challenge anyone and everyone to an impromptu wrestling match, and at least that summer, Claire never saw her lose, not even to boys twice her size. Claire was jealous of her confidence. Her spirit was as fiery as her hair. It translated well to outdoor activities, but other aspects of the camp were less compatible with her temperament. In the camp choir, she never sat still and her dynamics ranged from forte to fortissimo. During her piano lessons, Claire had to admit Ivy was advanced for her age, but she played Bach with the same energy she played dodgeball, frequently leaving the whole room vibrating and her teacher hopelessly holding the disregarded metronome.

And on one very special occasion, Claire was even allowed to be signed out by Ivy’s parents for the weekend (perks of having a family in law enforcement, Avalon felt unusually confident with his child in their care). Between playing with Ivy’s precocious and adorable, towheaded baby brother, giggling late into the night in Ivy’s unexpectedly girly Victorian bedroom, and chocolate chip pancakes in the morning, Claire felt more at ease than perhaps she ever had. But with that came a sense of longing and a deep realization that her home would never look like this. Ivy’s nuclear family living in their bright yellow San Francisco Queen Anne on it’s steep hill with those picturesque gables and turrets, that would never be hers. And as much as she longed to sink into Ivy’s trundle bed and stare up at the ceiling and pretend this was her room and her family and her life, Claire was left with that unshakable melancholy that no child can clearly articulate.

The highlight of the weekend was the tour of the ACME Detective Agency, where both Ivy’s parents worked; her mother in an administrative desk job position, and her father as the agency psychiatrist. An office tour isn’t usually the best use of a summer weekend for a fifth grader, but although many of the detectives had clocked out for the weekend, the building was still buzzing with activity from the many agency residents, who seemed to share as many laughs as they did cases. Claire was enthralled by the detectives, who gathered like worker bees around splayed out case files, itching with the desire to be useful and quick.

Her fascination was interrupted by Ivy’s pleading voice. “Please, Dad? Please? You said I could last time and I need to shave off another minute before the next time I see Carmen! Plus Claire wants to see it!”

Claire nodded in agreement despite having absolutely no idea what it was she wanted to see. With a faux-exasperated sign, Ivy’s father conceded, leading the girl to an elevator and pressing the button for basement level.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do with you,” the doctor chuckled, shaking his head but grinning with pride. “Be careful, Ivy. Remember, good timing isn’t always about speed.”

The elevator doors opened, and all at once, Claire knew exactly why Ivy had been so eager to get down here. The basement contained a sprawling obstacle course, with everything from ropes, tires, things to climb over and things to climb under, boxing dummies and punching bags, and simulated booby traps worthy of an Indiana Jones movie set. Ivy’s eyes practically glowed as an employee, clearly familiar with this drill, buckled her into her protective gear and gave the small girl a knowing high five.

“Claire, are you coming?” Ivy called, half knowing the answer.

“I think I’ll watch, Ives.”

“Okay!” Ivy was clearly more than happy to be the star of the show, “Dad are you timing me?”

“I’m ready when you are, honey,” the doctor pushed the dial on his wrist watch, and Ivy was off, racing through the obstacle course with a precision that rivaled detectives a decade her senior. Every stumble inspired rage in the small girl, sometimes swearing rebelliously to herself, but no matter the level of her frustrations, her mouth was set in a determined grin and her posture and form communicated a message that could not be misread: Ivy was born for this.

Claire had seen the little red scrapbook in Ivy’s room, it was stored in a box at the back of her closet with the kind of sacred reverence children reserve for objects that don’t necessarily contain secrets, but that often contain their hearts. In it, the aforementioned postcards had been organized chronologically, then reorganized alphabetically. Newspaper clippings, dog-earned and frayed detailed ACME cases far and wide. The clippings were dotted with mugshots and the occasional photo of a mysterious and poised looking young woman, a beige fedora covering one eye and a mass of thick, black curls rippling behind her strong shoulders. This was the detective Ivy admired more than anyone in the world, the detective who had gifted her the postcards, and whose attention Ivy had come to depend upon like an oasis in the desert. If ACME is the east, then Detective Carmen Sandiego is the sun. And what Ivy wanted more than anything in the world was to be just like her.
 

Claire Avalon

Writer
Best answers
0
Known Aliases
Violet Nowak
Claire Nowak
Color #
%2365000
Preview of Chapter VII:
In the meantime, I've got to organize my timeline a bit. I've got a jailbreak, an Ivy centered flashback from after Carmen leaves, a journey to the Golden Gate Girl's School, a kidnapping, another kidnapping, some more serious content (I'll post a warning for that and update the tag), and a possible death in the works. When does this story end? I have no idea, but I appreciate anyone who sticks around!

Chapter VIII​


“She did what?!” Joe’s low voice boomed through the echoing hallways of Avalon’s estate.


“I know what you’re thinking and I promise it’s not like I was in any danger,” Claire replied. The drive home had been tense as she slowly explained the identity of her mysterious accompanist and their prior meeting.


“No, you just communicated with a fugitive wanted in almost every country on your father’s property which was until very recently an active crime scene. An even more dangerous criminal with vast connections has every reason to have a personal vendetta against both Carmen and your family and you just...what? Left the door open?! What if Lee had someone tailing Carmen, or you? What if cops had raided your house?!”


“I just...I felt like I owed her an audience,” Claire hung her head, defeated.


“Sure, and that couldn’t happen in broad daylight with security because?”


“Because she’s a w---”


“Right, because she’s a wanted thief,” Joe finished. “And you and I both work in law enforcement. How did you think this was going to look on your ACME application?”

Claire glared at the wall, “I wasn’t exactly planning on advertising the fact.”


“And if she had broken into your computer, stolen CrimeNet files? What then?”


“Well she didn’t. She just talked.”


“Okay so you talked, did you at least get closure? An apology? An idea of her next move? If she’s ever planning to return to her crime empire?” Joe made a habit of being mild mannered and slow to anger, but tonight his anxiety got the best of him.


“It...wasn’t that kind of conversation.”


Joe buried his face in his hands, his voice muffled through them, “Okay, then what kind of conversation was it? By all means, enlighten me!”


Claire slumped into her father’s leather desk chair, lowering her eyes to avoid staring into Marguerite Avalon’s serenely painted face. She had no answer, at least not one she knew how to articulate to her fiance.


Joe kneeled in front of the chair, taking Claire’s small hands in his, “I just don’t want anything to happen to you. I wish I had been there.” he brushed the hair away from Claire’s eyes but she kept her gaze lowered as a tear fell onto her lap.


“I know, that’s why I couldn’t let you. I don’t want you to lose credibility with ACME, but I can’t just let this go!” she twirled her hair nervously.


Joe drew a long breath, “I know that. I do,” he paused, tentatively. “So in that case...how can I help?”

To be continued...don't you just hate that?
 

Claire Avalon

Writer
Best answers
0
Known Aliases
Violet Nowak
Claire Nowak
Color #
%2365000
Alright it has been wayyyy too long...So...because I can't seem to write anything in order I'm posting the couple of chapters I'm workshopping in here as is. Feedback is welcome and a lot of this is subject to change. Massive trigger warning for SA, nothing graphic but alluded to. Tbh I haven't decided how far things go, but maybe we leave that to the imagination. I'll notate where the trigger warning begins. Anyway here goes something.

Segment 1:

Claire strode down the halls she had first walked eight years ago, next to the very same redhead who had once been a tourist alongside her. The redhead walked with more purpose now, she’d grown taller and more muscular, her freckles had faded with the exception of a charming speckling across her shoulders and chest. Her turquoise eyes sparkled as she filled Claire in on all the latest ACME gossip, waving cheerfully at her many colleagues. She seemed content, well liked, and very grown up. Claire couldn’t help but feel envious that the younger girl seemed already to have found her place in the world. But envy was swiftly brushed away by Ivy’s next snide remark, and the two erupted into childish giggles as they strode, arm and arm, down the hall.


“And here we have our brand new K9 unit,” Ivy remarked, her voice still shimmering with the remnants of laughter. She led her friend through the glass doors into the large room lined with kennels. A petite girl of about fourteen with amber eyes and a bleached mane of afro curls shouted orders in German at a sleek black lab, her stern expression softening into a glowing smile at the pup’s obedience. Handing the eager animal a treat, she turned to face the visitors.


“Hey Ivy! Meet Rico, he’s made exceptional progress in his first week. Rico, salute!” At her command, Rico sat on his hind legs and raised a front paw clumsily to his snout.


“Audrey, he’s precious!” Ivy cooed, leaning forward to scratch the eager dog behind the ears.


“This is my old friend, Claire,” she continued, standing back up, much to the chagrin of her new friend. “I’m showing her around the place.”


Audrey shook hands with the older woman, grinning mischievously, “Well you came at the right time if you want a show, our senior trainer, Joe, is finishing bath time with Stretch,” she pointed at the glass-paneled back wall, beyond which a yard area was laid out with a few large pens, a training obstacle course, and in the foreground, a large plastic tub contained a floppy-eared bloodhound.


Joe, a young man appearing to be in his early twenties, was hosing the soapy water off the disgruntled dog, and his muffled words of encouragement could be heard over the spray of the water. Finally finished, Joe helped Stretch out of the tub, attempting to towel him down, but not before the dog shook himself violently, sending a spray of water all over Joe and soaking his shirt. He laughed, while attempting to scold a very self-satisfied looking Stretch, before walking over to the fence post of the nearest pen and grabbing a spare shirt that had been flung over the wall in preparation. Audrey chuckled in the direction of her company before turning her attention back to her canine trainee.


“Don’t drool, you’re worse than the dogs!” Ivy teased, elbowing Claire in the ribs gently…by Ivy’s standards.


Claire winced and playfully shoved herself into Ivy’s shoulder, rolling her eyes, “I am not drooling. I’m observing your diligent co-worker.”


Joe pulled the damp shirt over his head, replacing it quickly with a new one, and adjusting his long, wavy hair into a new bun.


“He totally knows we are here, what an exhibitionist!” Ivy remarked, “The girls here are all over him, but personally I don’t get it.”


Claire pulled her gaze away from the bloodhound and his handsome wrangler, facing her friend, “Right…well I never really assumed he was your type,” she replied coyly.


“Point taken,” Ivy replied with a soft snort, “come on, I’ll introduce you to the Chief, and believe me when I tell you there is nothing I can say to prepare you for that experience!”


***

Trigger Warning begins now

Segment 2:

Claire struggled to keep her vision from going black, but even with the adrenaline raising her chronically low blood pressure, her racing heart left her dizzy and disoriented. That, along with whatever had been used to knock her out and cause the throbbing lump she could feel forming on the back of her head. She took a moment to assess her situation, her hands were tied behind her back around a pillar, her feet free but tied at the ankles. In the cold, stone room, Lee paced, each step full of angst. A few henchmen sat in various corners, looking both bored and nervous, watching their unpredictable boss, trying to mentally prepare for his next mood swing.


“She should be here by now!” Lee said, his first pounded against the fireplace mantle.


A blonde henchman flinched, “maybe she knows it’s a trap, boss, maybe she’s not coming?”


Lee growled, turning to face his employee, “oh she’ll be here alright. Carmen is soft, sentimental.”


“But don’t you think she’s learned her lesson?”


“You really are as dumb as you look,” Lee said with a look that lingered somewhere between a scowl and a smirk. “Carmen is so caught up in her own twisted morality that she’s left herself no choice. And if she doesn’t come for her helpless baby sister, she leaves us with all the power to destroy her reputation.”


Lee took a few paces toward Claire, eyeing her like a jungle cat toying with its prey, “You know what they say about women without a stable father figure. You really can’t trust them to behave rationally. They’ll beg for any male attention they can get. Carmen had been waiting her whole life for a man to tell her who she is. I guess I have you to thank for enlightening us with this fascinating research, Claire.”


Dropping a Manila folder, he kicked the papers across the room and they landed at Claire’s feet. Her research notes on Carmen’s complex relationship with father figures spilled out around her, and Claire hung her head in shame and frustration at Lee’s gross oversimplification.


Lee continued, “all I’d have to do is degrade her a little worse than Maelstrom and she’d practically be calling me daddy.”


“You’re disgusting,” Claire shot back, glaring at the audacity of the criminal in front of her.


Lee cracked his knuckles, “I guess that might ruin the whole cougar thing she’s got going, but hey, at least she had every reason to assume she had no one. Avalon thought his first daughter was dead, but he chose to neglect you. You must have been utterly desperate for attention… I bet those abandonment issues manifest beautifully in the bedroom. We should really ask that fiancé of yours,” he was standing over Claire now, a lecherous grin on his face, he leaned over, yanking Claire’s head up by her hair so her gaze met his.


Sinking down against the pillar, Claire leaned back and lifted her bound legs, sending Lee reeling back with a swift kick to the crotch. Furious, the man attempted to regain his balance, swearing loudly.


Striding back over to Claire, he growled, “You’ll pay for that, fucking whore!” His gloved hand wrapped around her throat,

And Claire gasped for air, desperate to writhe free of Lee’s grasp. Explosions of color began to cloud her version as the inky blackness overtook her sight completely. She felt the henchman pull Lee off of her, although her brain heard only muffled sounds of protest, no longer conscious enough to register words. Oxygen flooded Claire’s lungs, but she was almost too tired to breathe it, and in spite of herself, she lost consciousness.


***

Trigger warning over, mild one for implied trauma in the next segment

Segment 3:


Claire was awake but practically catatonic as Carmen pulled her into the helicopter, unable to afford the young woman the delicacy her potential injuries required.


From the pilot seat, Clayton Durry called out, “All set back there?”


“Just fly!” Carmen barked, as shots rattled against the metal frame of the escape vessel.


Sara Bellum, seated next to Clayton, looked over her shoulder, her overt concern hidden behind her goggles. Carmen appeared to be gently checking Claire for breaks and bruises, as verbal inquiries yielded no response. Sara averted her eyes solemnly as Carmen wrapped Claire in her infamous red coat. Seeing Carmen remove her coat somehow felt more scandalous than if she were to undress completely. The ride was bumpy, the low altitude of their flight was efficient but not exactly smooth. Carmen held Claire steady, eyes wide with fear and concern. Utter disregard for her cool facade was rare, and her employees knew better than to call attention to it.


“Sara!” Carmen shouted over the rumble of the engine, “when we land she needs medical attention immediately!”


Sara did well with commands, it stabilized her. “Dr. Scope should be at base as soon as we land. I’ll alert him of our ETA.”


Carmen began to nod, but one look at the traumatized woman beside her gave the thief pause.


She blinked slowly, pursing her lips together, “Wait, is Anna at headquarters today?”


Puzzled, Clayton frowned, “Dr. Thesia? She hasn’t practiced in years. Seth is your most trusted V.I.L.E. physician!”


“Call Anna. Now. Please.” Carmen’s voice was cold, abrupt, and dangerous.


Sara, usually avoidant of physical touch, placed a hand on Clayton’s arm as she punched the buttons on her communicator with the other. He knew better than to ask follow up questions. If even Sara could read the subtext of the conversation it must be serious.


Sara shot Carmen a knowing glance, her metal eyewear doing little to hide the sharp, familiar fury both women shared. All women, really.


“Dr. Thesia is standing by, Carmen. Landing in T minus 14 minutes.”


 

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
I have to say I agree with Lees portrayal here. It’s similar to my Trans-Syberia story. Though that’s not saying much of him I guess.
 

Claire Avalon

Writer
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0
Known Aliases
Violet Nowak
Claire Nowak
Color #
%2365000
I have to say I agree with Lees portrayal here. It’s similar to my Trans-Syberia story. Though that’s not saying much of him I guess.
Thank you! It is weird that sometimes it's hard for me to read back a character's lines in their "voice" but despite the fact that this content would never be depicted on the show, this behavior just seemed very believable? I never did understand the fanfics that made him return to ACME, he's clearly got deeper issues, and frankly he's more interesting as a villain/creep.
 

Jade

ACME
Best answers
7
AMA
findcarmen.com
Known Aliases
Jade
Color #
0099FF
Thank you! It is weird that sometimes it's hard for me to read back a character's lines in their "voice" but despite the fact that this content would never be depicted on the show, this behavior just seemed very believable? I never did understand the fanfics that made him return to ACME, he's clearly got deeper issues, and frankly he's more interesting as a villain/creep.
He definitely is.
Oh fudge, Chase, help!
 

Claire Avalon

Writer
Best answers
0
Known Aliases
Violet Nowak
Claire Nowak
Color #
%2365000
I promise I will return to writing in order as soon as my brain can corporate with me, but I'm just so much better at monologues and drabble than I am at actually writing the action. So to fill in the gaps, I have to figure out how to get from Joe and Claire's confrontation, to Lee and why he's not in prison, to the kidnapping and all the horrible specifics of that, Joe's gonna go undercover and become MIA, and I have to decide if he survives (don't tell my real life husband:oops:), Carmen's involvement and rescue, Claire's medical exam, up to now. Hopefully that helps fill in the gaps while I supply my segments.

Segment 4

Books and television would have you believe that nightmares in the aftermath of a traumatic event are cinematic and clean cut; tangible, easy to articulate plot lines from which the dreamer wakes with a start, perhaps a scream, panting and gasping until they can stand, splash cold water on their face, and recount the logical metaphors of their fictional subconscious.


Real life nightmares aren’t like that.


Real nightmares contain no real plot, they are indescribable theaters of familiar faces and jumbled conversations, a storyline that, if articulated, could never convey the sheer dread they inflict upon the sleeping victim. And yet, in the mind of the sleeper, everything feels coherent. The true power of the nightmare is that sense that your subconscious is being consumed by pure evil. That’s what it feels like. Something poisonous, supernatural, perhaps demonic. Trauma, rotting on the vine. That feeling lingers in your chest and the pit of your stomach, clinging to you like smoke clings to glass. And when you wake, it is not all at once. It’s moments of semi-clarity when the mind wakes before the body, where sleep paralysis is present but goes unnoticed because you aren’t fighting to move your limbs. You feel the sheets, the pillow against your face, you become aware of the warmth of your sleeping body with no real ability or motivation to activate it further, so you drift back into that mindscape of twisted misery for hours upon hours, until upon waking completely, that dark aura has sunk into your skin, coated your insides with a thick film. You go about your day in a haunted fog, repulsed by your own energy, unable to shake or explain why those senseless, floating images have trapped you in a parallel universe. It separates you from the world, that feeling. You can no longer touch the light.


And so, instead of the quick jolt of relief, Claire woke slowly, groggy, medicated, and sore. Sitting up against the headboard, she winced against the pain of her bruised ribs. Her eyes adjusted to the dark, and the unfamiliar room came into focus. The door was cracked open, and a thin beam of yellow light was streaming in from the next room. Claire could hear hushed voices, the clicking of buttons, soft pacing. Stretching tentatively, she noted the small bandage in the crook of her arm where the IV needle had been. There were no more machines now, just that thin beam of light indicating that she was still being watched. The young woman rubbed at her eyes, at her pounding temples, attempting to make sense of the sounds and visions rattling in her head. Gunshots, smoke, the hum of helicopters, the hand at her throat.


Through the cracked door Carmen watched Claire, perched in the corner by the headboard, knees drawn to her chest, aggressively biting her nails (no easy feat, as the thief had noted the acrylic manicure earlier). She entered the room, trying not to startle her disoriented guest. Carmen’s long red robe gave off a similar silhouette to her signature coat, but her face, free from the perpetual shadow of her hat brim, was a novelty. Still, Claire hardly seemed to notice. But at least she didn’t seem to mind.


“It’s a horrible habit, I know,” Claire remarked, not bothering to look up, “I just couldn’t stand the thought of his skin cells anywhere on me…I needed them off.”


“You fought back,” Carmen said decisively.


“When I could.”


Good girl, thought Carmen to herself, but she merely nodded in understanding, lifting an ungloved hand to reveal her own nails, jagged and bitten to the quick. “Genetics?” She ventured, shyly.


Claire gave a half smile and a lifeless chuckle, “I never saw Dad do it, then again I never saw Dad do much of anything.”


“You got more than I did.”


“Touche.”


The two shared a semi-comfortable moment of silence before Claire interjected, “You know, it’s funny, I always pictured under your gloves you had these impeccably manicured hands. Buffed, and not too long, natural length, almond shaped…”


“You’ve imagined my nails?” Carmen’s voice dangled between baffled and amused.


“Don’t make fun of me!” The smile finally reached her eyes, if only for a moment, “I thought about a lot of things after I found out about what happened, and before I suppose, for work. It was just after, the whole thing got in my head. I guess I became obsessed with what I didn’t know, and I filled in the blanks.”


“You weren’t wrong. It’s a childhood habit that gloves and manicures curbed, barring the occasional relapse.”


“This being one of them?” Claire queried.


“Indeed.”


“I’m sorry.”


Carmen laughed, her official, lyrical laugh, “My nail beds will recover, Claire.”


“You know that’s not what I meant.”


Carmen’s face sobered, and she took a tentative step toward the footboard, “When I was a detective, I worked and lived in two male dominated industries. Both law enforcement and crime. ACME was never the boys club to the same extent of a police force, but it was the 80s and attitudes were different. I was still the girl detective. And I did whatever I could to be seen as an equal, both by those I worked with an by those I hunted.”


“You were better than them,” Claire interjected.


Carmen smirked, “Respect for my abilities and respect for my personhood were two very different things. And back in the days before the C5, detective work went a lot slower. Plane rides and stakeouts took time. Sometimes I had a worthy companion for a game of chess, Suhara, the Chief. But more often than not the pastime of choice was poker. And there I learned in the game, as in life, it all comes down to your tell. I learned the art of withholding and concealment. In many ways it made me a better criminal. I couldn’t show weakness, not to my colleagues and not to my nemesis.”


“Hence the gloves?”


“I was a teenage detective with no money and no patience for the salon. Gloves were practical and effective. I had two rules, no visible ticks and no visible vices.”


“So you were hiding.”


“I was strategizing.”


“And did it work?”


“It isn’t quite that simple,” Carmen answered. “Now, do you remember what happened?”


Claire nodded slowly, “It comes in flashes, but I think so…for the most part.”


“You’re going to have to talk to someone. It doesn’t have to be me. Anna could only treat what she could see.”


“So you expect me to find a confidant at VILE?” Claire asked, sarcasm heavy in her tone.


“I do not. Which is why I have called in reinforcements.”
 

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