Going Home Again

Claire Avalon

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Violet Nowak
Claire Nowak
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%2365000
Finally a real chapter! Half of it you've already read but I'm posting it from the beginning since I've made some edits and given it a title. Stay tuned!

Chapter VIII

“Hook”​

“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 c---”


“Right, because she’s a criminal,” 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, gazing on like a portrait of the Madonna. The holy Maria to her earthly Marie; and Carmen, some twisted Christ-child. 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?”


Claire looked into Joe’s blue eyes, hoping she would see some answer hidden there. Hoping that just looking at him would make everything make sense, the way it did when they were first falling in love. But now she could only see hurt, disappointment, and concern. In a cosmic act of mercy, the phone on her father’s desk began ringing, and Joe generously answered it while his fiancee collected herself.


“Vivi, you need to take this.”


Claire clutched the receiver, “Hello?”


“Miss Avalon?”


“This is she.”


“This is Captain Lynn with ACME’s Beijing division. I’m calling to inform you that local authorities have reported Lee Jordan’s escape last night sometime between midnight and 3am.”


Claire felt the blood drain from her face, and sunk into the leather office chair. That phone receiver suddenly weighed twenty pounds in her hands.


“I’m sorry…could you…um…Sorry, Lee Jordan has escaped?”


“I’m still obtaining details, ma’am. As you are aware, the US has no extradition policy with China and the local government has been less than forthcoming in cooperation with our agency. Until today we were unaware of his location or status. But I assure you that all available agents are assisting authorities here and abroad in the manhunt for him. In the meantime, we do highly recommend enhanced security for both yourself and your father. A local officer has already been posted to Malcolm Avalon’s rehab facility. We would be happy to dispatch someone to your location.”


“Um…I…,” Claire struggled to collect herself, “Thank you Captain. I appreciate the initiative, but that won’t be necessary. I have private security on the premises.”


“Miss Avalon, we do believe that you and your father are potential targets and urge you to take all precautions…”


The captain was cut off by Claire, who had managed to muster up a more assured tone, “I’ll take that into consideration, Captain Lynn. Thank you for the information and good day.”


Joe stared at Claire, baffled at the correspondence he had managed to overhear. “You don’t have any security here, Vi.”


“I have you.”


“Come to San Francisco with me. You’ll be safer, we’ll have resources and updates, and you can help us find him.”


“I don’t even know if the man knows I exist, let alone if I’m a target. And would he really come after me when that’s what all of ACME expects?”


Joe was pacing, hand pressed to his forehead, “Lee isn’t strategic, he’s brazen. Worse, he’s violent, narcissistic, and blindly ambitious. He will come after you. You’re the perfect hostage, you give him leverage with both your father and with Carmen. Make no mistake, if he knows you exist, it’s only a matter of time before he finds you. A Beijing prison is a perfect breeding ground for a revenge fantasy.”


Claire hated to admit it, but Joe was right, and she knew there was no chance he would leave her in Argentina and return to business as usual.


She bit her lip and felt the click of her jaw as it tightened, “Call the airport. Book a flight. First thing in the morning, I need to say goodbye to my father. Then I’ll go wherever you want.”


Relieved, the detective swept Claire up in a protective embrace, planting a gentle kiss on the top of her head, “I’ll protect you, Vivi. You know I will.”

Claire tucked her head into Joe’s chest, unable to meet his gaze. She knew he meant it, and she feared just how much.
 

Claire Avalon

Writer
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Violet Nowak
Claire Nowak
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%2365000
Chapter XI


“Line”​


It wasn’t supposed to go this way, that much was clear. That cold apathy that had grown like a poison vine around Claire’s heart, the thing that made her run toward danger, keep secrets from the ones she loved, she finally knew it was a sham. Because the real danger had come. And it wasn’t thrilling and fascinating like it had been with Carmen. There were consequences now. Blood, now. There wouldn’t be goodbyes or explanations. There wouldn’t be forgiveness. Claire knew she had to stay awake, that much she was sure of. The adrenaline had slowed to a drip feed, and even that raw fear couldn’t stop the cloudiness in her brain. Exhaustion like this meant injury, sleeping meant not waking up. She tried to focus on the pain, but it was going numb, her body was no longer registering the cold floor, the hard concrete against her bruises.


You’re going into shock, Claire thought to herself. Or maybe she spoke aloud, she couldn’t tell anymore. For the love of god do not die here, you can’t let yourself go like this! She bit her lip, hard, trying to feel the sting and register the coppery taste of blood.


But Claire knew where to go. Deep inside her ribcage was a little room, surrounded by a cage of bones, perched right in the middle, she shrunk herself into something unreachable. Her body became a shell, all her awareness, sensations, they vanished, muscles disengaged, eyes went vacant. But goddamn it, she stayed awake.


***​

Buenos Aires, Argentina, approximately 30 hours ago…


The cab dropped Claire off in front of the rehab facility where Malcolm Avalon still resided. Small black suitcase in tow, she walked to the front desk, signed in, and was escorted by an armed officer to her father’s room.


Relieved at the precautions, Claire recognized a familiar face by the door. Smile gleaming, the detective tipped his hat in greeting.


“Claire! Good to see you, it has been too long!”


“Armando, I can’t thank you enough for being here. I know guarding a door is a waste of your talents…”


“Nonsense, I am happy to take as many shifts as possible to keep your father safe. The other officers are very capable, but they don’t really know what they are up against.”


“They’re armed,” remarked Claire, skeptically.


“As am I,” Armando cheerfully replied, gesturing to the lasso at his side.


Claire chuckled in spite of herself, “Well Lee is no match for you and your rope.”


The detective grinned, “The method is tried and true, amiga. You can’t argue with results!”


“I’m glad you’re here, Armando. Really. Thank you.”


“Don’t mention it. Your father is sleeping, do you want to wake him up?”


“Don’t worry about it, I’ll just be a minute.”


Claire walked through the guarded door into the dim room for the second time. As expected, Malcolm was asleep, breathing slowly, the hum of monitors surrounding him. In the faint light, Claire couldn’t recall ever having seen her father look so frail, and old. And small. He wasn’t Malcolm Avalon, business mogul, the great and powerful withholder of fatherly affection. He was just a man, a man whose millions couldn’t save his wife, or his child, or teach him to love the ones in front of him, or save him from Lee, or bring back his memory. She couldn’t help but feel perplexed that this fragile man’s approval had meant so much to her, and so much to Carmen.


She felt relieved. Relieved he didn’t remember the horrible series of events that had turned his life upside down. Relieved she didn’t have to see her father welcome the return of his un-dead, delinquent child. Relieved she never had to watch all that withheld affection, kinship, and connection grow between this man and the thief who believed in the human capacity to change. Carmen didn’t have to change, because the challenge presented to her lost that requirement the moment Lee entered the Avalon estate. Mission Reform Carmen was canceled. Suddenly the best way for her to prove her commitment to her re-discovered father was not to wilt in prison until she reached middle age. It was to do exactly what she had been doing. She won him over by staying a thief. She saved his life with crime.


Her father’s brain injury meant that Claire did not have to take her bottled up rage and desperation out on Carmen. Because Carmen was hers. Avalon barely knew the name. She was a headline, a bulletin, a news story. But Claire had poured over her cases alongside Ivy as children, and together they had mourned Carmen’s desertion. And as Ivy became bitter and determined, Claire took her curiosity and mild obsession into a hobby and later a career. She had found a way to maintain her curiosity for this elusive figure. She was paid to empathize with the thief. That wasn’t Ivy or Zack’s job, that was no one else’s job. Understand her? Maybe. To a point. But no one else had to get inside her head and profile her. No one else was so free to admire her. Long before the prospect of familial ties ever presented itself, Claire had created a parasocial relationship between herself and this international woman of mystery. That locket, that night, it should have ruined the whole thing.


But one slip, and Claire could keep her.

To Be Continued...
 

Claire Avalon

Writer
Best answers
0
Known Aliases
Violet Nowak
Claire Nowak
Color #
%2365000
Just a little update I have about half a chapter and two long segments waiting to post. However, in order to get this written I have to make some tough calls about how much detail to go into with the Lee situation, and as cathartic as it’s been to write in a weird way, it’s also very triggering and takes me a while. So I’m just trying to figure out how to get from the rehab to the kidnapping, if that happens in Argentina or in San Francisco, how long she’s held, and then I think I want Joe to go undercover as one of Lee’s employees and go MIA. Cuz I guess I haven’t tortured Claire enough. Anyway feel free to leave your thoughts. I hope everyone is well🖤
 

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