Going Home Again

Claire Avalon

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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

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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

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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🖤
 

Claire Avalon

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Chapter XII

“Running Away is Easy, It’s the Leaving that’s Hard”​

Carmen shut her eyes against the memories, but they always came. Unwanted and uninvited, something she and the past had in common.

ACME Headquarters, September, 1985

It never happens all at once, such a fundamental shifting of one’s entire life’s work, values, and structures. There’s a slow undoing, like a thread plucked from silk. The fabric puckers around the defect, the weave is forever compromised. Unraveling is inevitable.

That’s what Carmen was wrestling with as she sat across from Dr. Darren on the threadbare olive sofa in that dim back room. Carmen often wondered how anyone could learn the power of positive thinking or how to manage the aftermath of trauma in that room. The vertical blinds alone were enough to spiral one into a depressive state.

“Carmen…?”

The detective blinked and hurried to replace contempt with contemplation.

“Yes?”

“I asked how you’ve been since the last case.”

“A violent offender is behind bars. I hardly see how this warrants a mandatory psych evaluation.”

The doctor glanced over his glasses, setting aside the file in his lap. “So you feel good about the work you did in the field.”

“I did my job.”

“I know from your records, Maelstrom was extremely violent and sadistic.”

“They often are. That’s nothing new.”

“I’m not concerned about your ability to handle physical challenges,” he continued, “or mental ones for that matter. But like it or not, something about this case felt different to you. And I’m here to help guide you in unearthing what that might be.”

“Every case is unique,” Carmen replied.

“Do you get bored in this job?”

The detective tilted her head inquisitively. “How could I?”

“Answering a question with a question is deflection, I know you know that.”

“All cases have their challenges.”

“And yet,” the doctor continued, “you have an unmatched solve rate which you have maintained for nearly six years.”

“Seven,” countered Carmen.

“Case and point. You exhibited uncharacteristically high risk behavior on your last case.”

“Occupational hazard, dealing with violent criminals isn’t particularly smooth sailing.”

Dr. Darren adjusted his glasses as he flipped through the file, “let’s see, in this case alone, you jumped out of a moving car onto a boat while going over 90 miles an hour, leaving an artificial intelligence bot in charge of driving…”

Carmen cut him off, “why give him a body and not bother programming him for driving?”

“Then you repeated the behavior while piloting a helicopter, following that up by hijacking a submarine. Do you even have training for that?”

Carmen folded her arms across her chest and let her curls cast a defensive shadow over her expression.

“No one here is arguing with your results. This is not a disciplinary session, yet. But we are worried about you. You seem to be making increasingly more reckless decisions. That’s why I wonder if you no longer find this job mentally stimulating.”

“I’m not doing this job to prove a point,” the detective responded, “I’m putting criminals away. That should be all that matters.”

“Is it?” The doctor’s grey-green eyes stated inquisitively into his patient’s, “let’s set aside what you believe you should feel toward this job and be honest about your actual emotions.”

Carmen eyed the clock and with relief noted the session was coming to an end, “well, doctor, you’ve certainly given me a lot to think about,” her disposition suddenly unusually sunny, “But I believe we are out of time for today.”

“I’d like to see you again next week, detective.”

“If I’m not on a case I’ll be here. Thank you again.” The detective departed in haste, her smile dropping as soon as the door swung shut behind her. Maelstrom’s words invaded her brain with emotions she knew she would never confide in ACME company.

“That lofty moral superiority of yours will someday crumble like the walls of Jericho, and you will see what I see in you! You are a thief at heart, Carmen. And right now, it is my freedom you are trying to steal. Who knows what you will crave next?”

Carmen walked the long, grey hallway back to the dorms. The familiar buzzing of the dangling lightbulbs and the echo of her boots on the cheap linoleum floor had felt like home for so long. But now, the smell of stale coffee in the lounge, the water damage staining the ceiling, the muffled inches of sunlight stretching across her room through the small window, it left Carmen with a feeling of contempt and bitterness. For all her talents and accolades, she was living in a rundown, underfunded agency building. There had been other offers, after all, ACME was considered the summer camp of intelligence agencies as far as the government was concerned. A training ground for disenfranchised children desperate to belong to something, even if that sense of belonging came at the cost of exploitation. Carmen had long noticed the trends in the backgrounds of her peers. Agent trainees were young, often from broken homes, foster systems…orphanages. Those from more privileged backgrounds were often dumped here as a substitute for military school or wilderness programs. In a few cases, they were running away from something at home, dysfunction comes at every tax bracket. So many of the detective's colleagues had enlisted the help of the agency to become emancipated from their guardians.

When a truly exceptional agent emerged, other agencies took interest. But rarely did an agent ever make the crossover into FBI or CIA territory. The same could be said for the growing offices overseas. ACME had a funny way of making one dependent on their charity, and fostering an almost cult-like loyalty to their unconventional methods.

Carmen did her best to lull the endless notions that she was meant for more than bad coffee and thin mattresses and occasional articles. Not much scared her, but that ache did. The ache for opulence, respect, and power. She had kept the beast starved and weak for so long, but Maelstroms words had cast light on the shadowy corners of her career that she secretly despised. For all her friends and mentors, no one seemed to notice the system as a whole did not care about its employees. Perhaps they simply didn’t care. Perhaps it’s no better anywhere else. She was making a difference after all, wasn’t she?

Carmen slunk into her narrow bed, feeling the squeaking springs against her spine and hipbones. She’s slept on beds like this for as long as she could remember. She closed her eyes and imagined the peeling wallpaper and cracked plaster walls of the Golden Gate Girls School, the way the girls had memorized every freaking stair or floorboard for midnight rendezvous eating stolen ice cream on the kitchen floor. The elaborate methods for sneaking out or in. That had been Carmen’s first introduction to the fundamental truth: restlessness and captivity make delinquents of us all. The only thing that ever changes is the stakes.
 

Jade

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Claire, that quote reminds me...
“That lofty moral superiority of yours will someday crumble like the walls of Jericho, and you will see what I see in you! You are a thief at heart, Carmen. And right now, it is my freedom you are trying to steal. Who knows what you will crave next?”
That's from the Retribution, part one: The Unsinkable Carmen Sandiego. (Yeah, I remember Maelstrom taunted her when she was an ACME Detective while fixing The C.H.I.E.F./ her partner is a robot before The Chief was in charge)
 

Claire Avalon

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Claire, that quote reminds me...

That's from the Retribution, part one: The Unsinkable Carmen Sandiego. (Yeah, I remember Maelstrom taunted her when she was an ACME Detective while fixing The C.H.I.E.F./ her partner is a robot before The Chief was in charge)
Yeah it’s a direct quote, when I was growing up obviously like streaming and stuff wasn’t a thing yet and I was basically only allowed to watch PBS but I was obsessed with the Carmen computer games, so one day my dad brought home a VHS from the grocery store of that 3 part episode and I watched it so much I still have it memorized. I was 7 and I didn’t see any of the other episodes until I was 12 with my own computer and found them on YouTube. It’s also what got me saying “let’s blow this reptile infested drainage ditch” anytime I want to leave 😂
 

Claire Avalon

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Yeah it’s a direct quote, when I was growing up obviously like streaming and stuff wasn’t a thing yet and I was basically only allowed to watch PBS but I was obsessed with the Carmen computer games, so one day my dad brought home a VHS from the grocery store of that 3 part episode and I watched it so much I still have it memorized. I was 7 and I didn’t see any of the other episodes until I was 12 with my own computer and found them on YouTube. It’s also what got me saying “let’s blow this reptile infested drainage ditch” anytime I want to leave 😂
It was also my first intro to Tim Curry, so imagine my surprise when as an angsty teen freshly finished reading Perks of Being a Wallflower I finally pirated Rocky Horror and heard Dr. Maelstrom’s voice. Same experience when I watched West Side Story but that’s not nearly as funny.
 

Claire Avalon

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Chapter XIII

"Sinker"
[Content warning for potentially triggering content and strong language as this chapter incorporates the Lee Jordan segment posted earlier in this thread, with a few edits]

Claire left her father’s room and strode down the hallway. The hiss of the overhead lights amplified and blended with the dial tone of the payphone in the lobby. In a daze, she ordered a cab to the airport, leaving Avalon in the capable hands of Armando and company.

Claire hardly noticed the face of the man who helped load her suitcase into the trunk. Nothing about him seemed memorable as her thoughts were preoccupied with guilt, exhaustion, and anxiety. Nothing seemed out of place. As the roadside views blended together, Claire began to contemplate a life at ACME. She could still do this, couldn’t she? Maybe it was time to commit to something, to take the other options off the table. Had she seriously been considering VILE? Of course not, she would never do that to Joe. And realistically, was she going to allow her loneliness to turn her into a criminal? Just to be closer to a potential family member? That was insane. Who allows loneliness to turn them to a life of crime? Who allows an unmet emotional need to compromise an entire sense of morality?

Carmen did…Claire thought to herself. But Carmen had had a hard life. And Claire wasn’t Carmen. As much as she tried to understand her, she knew the boundaries of a good profiler. Instinct without action. Pathology with control. Perhaps everyone was white-knuckling their way around natural selfishness. Perhaps not. Ultimately, VILE did not guarantee a sisterly bond with the world’s most notorious thief. And a relationship with Carmen did not guarantee an end to the emptiness Claire felt. She knew she was superimposing her emotional needs onto an idea of a person. But sometimes, proximity only highlights the parts of a person you can never truly reach. Being with Joe was the closest Claire had ever come to filling the void. It was still there, but it felt more like a cave and less like a sinkhole. She could explore it without fear of being swallowed up. It was time to reassure him that he was her priority.

In the midst of her contemplation, Claire hardly noticed the small plastic cabin divider sliding shut, and by the time her ears detected an aerosolized hiss from behind her seat, her body was already unresponsive. The young woman slumped down in her seat, comatose and unaware of the motives of her driver of the ultimate destination.

***

Claire struggled to keep her vision in focus, 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 she could feel radiating like a band around her brain. 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. It was darker now, but impossible to gauge how much time had passed, or even if she was in the same country. As the blurred room came into focus, Claire realized with a pang of dread who was responsible for her current condition.

In the cold, stone room, Lee Jordan paced, each step a manifestation of repressed rage. A few henchmen perched or draped themselves over various surfaces, 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’s gone soft, she can’t help it.”

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

“You really are as dumb as you look,” Lee said with an expression 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, noticing his waking captive, 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 ankle-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.
 

Claire Avalon

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Chapter XIV

“Old Habits”​

When Claire woke for the second time, she was in a smaller room, untied, lying atop a crumpled tarp that did nothing to protect her from the unforgiving chill of the floor. Her throat and lungs were sore and strained. How much time had passed, she wondered? Claire tried to assess what had happened to her, how she had been moved, some sense as to the extent of her injuries. Something felt wrong, and she tried not to imagine the consequences of her vulnerable state. Still, someone had kept her alive. If she could only see who, perhaps she could still manage to get out of this situation.

She wondered what Joe thought when she didn’t show up to the airport. Had he assumed she had run off to join VILE, or simply disappeared out of desperation? Had her actions over the past few weeks been enough to convince him she wasn’t in any danger and wouldn’t want to be found? Was anyone even looking for her?

The lock unlatched, and the door to her makeshift cell opened hesitantly. A pudgy, blonde henchman stood timidly in the doorway a second, before ducking into the room and closing the door gingerly behind him.

“Don’t try anything funny,” he warned, rolling a bottle of water across the floor.

Claire reached for it, shooting her visitor a suspicious glance.

“Why’d you stop him?” her voice was hoarse and unfamiliar.

“Boss needs you alive.”

“You should have let him kill me. It would have really thrown a wrench in his plans.”

The henchman gulped, “He wouldn’t have killed you.”

“Oh I’m sure he didn’t mean to, but something tells me you’ve been on the receiving end of that temper. And where has that gotten you, really? I mean, do you actually see this working out for you?” Claire scanned her companion’s face for signs of doubt, and the fact was, he was riddled with it. But fear and habitual loyalties ran deep, and his submissive demeanor gave Claire little hope for an ally.

She winced as the henchman re-tied her arms around the support beam, exhausted, freezing, and terrified, she watched the shadows creep across the floor through the narrow window, trying not to cry.

***​
Joe had skipped the plane when Claire never showed up to the airport, opting for an emergency C5 to ACME headquarters. Frantic calls to Avalon’s rehab had given him a rough timeline, but hours had passed and Claire could be just about anywhere.

Zack looked away from the large monitor to Joe, worry brimming above his sympathetic smile, “I’ve alerted ACME units world wide to be on the lookout for Claire, Lee, or known associates. We’ll find her, Joe.”

Ivy flipped through files aimlessly, “There’s gotta be something here!”

The Chief’s head illuminated the large screen, “Cool your jets, Ives. We may have something here.”

The computer hummed as the printer spat out long lines of text. Joe ripped it from the tray, thumbing through the pages vigorously.

The Chief continued, “A list of all Lee’s known associates and properties tied to them. If we can just narrow this down, we can bring Claire home.”

“But Chief,” Joe groaned, “these range from Zurich to Bangladesh to Delaware. And we don’t even know for sure that Lee has her!”

Static disrupted the Chief’s face, as Carmen’s took his place.

“Oh Lee has her alright,” her voice was sharp and threatening.

“Carmen,” Ivy nearly shouted, “how…”

“Let’s skip the whole technological inquisition for now and just assume I’ll always find a way in. As I was saying, Lee has Claire. There’s no question about that. He’s had associates feeding him information the whole time he was in prison, and Claire was a perfect pawn for his twisted revenge fantasy.” Carmen’s voice was level but tight as a bowstring.

The Chief scooted his way back into frame, splitting the screen in half, “Well well well, if it isn’t the elusive Miss Sandiego herself. You never call, you never write, you never announce your presence on our frequencies…”

“Save it, Chief. My colleagues have spotted suspicious activity in New Mexico, Eagle Nest, specifically. Lee has gotten more volatile during his time overseas. I suggest we proceed with extreme caution, and better yet, I suggest you let me deal with Lee.”

“Carmen,” Ivy chimed in, “if you keep volunteering to work with us we might just have to put you back on payroll. But if you think we are letting you take the lead on something like this again, you’d be mistaken.”

“Consider this Pro Bono, detective. You couldn’t afford me. And as a matter of fact, I didn’t intend to ask for permission.”

Zack chimed in with an exasperated sigh, “Sorry Carmen, but I’ve got to agree with Ivy. If you walk right into this, you’re giving Lee exactly what he wants. Once he has you he has no reason to keep Claire safe or even alive. He’s going to have a contingency plan, and I don’t think ACME or VILE can afford more collateral damage.”

“You have a point, Zack, which is why I don’t plan to go in blind.”

From the hall, a blue glow began to fade, and the occupants of the room noticed Joe had disappeared along with it.

Ivy ran over to the shrinking orb, “Joe! Don’t do it!” she called after the detective in vain.

“Quick Chief, pull up his ion trail,” Zack demanded.

“I’m trying, but it seems to be corrupted.”

“You won’t track him that way, I took care of that,” Carmen’s voice broke through the panic.

“What?” Ivy exclaimed.

“I messaged Joe coordinates and instructions at the beginning of this call, and I’ll share that information with you as long as you’re willing to cooperate.”

The Chief’s digital lip quivered, “I don’t know if my motherboard can process this again.”
“Chief, we don’t need her. We know Lee’s associates have been spotted in Eagle Rock. We can use our team in New Mexico and find Claire and Joe with good old fashioned detective work.”

“Ah but I didn’t send Joe to Eagle Rock. I’m sending him in through the back door.”

Zack put up his hands in frustration, “What even makes you think he will listen to you?”

“Experience, detectives. An inside man is what we need to throw Lee off his game and get Claire out safely.”

“You sent my detective undercover?” the Chief exclaimed, his tone hovering between shock and anger.

“Zack and Ivy are too well known, and Joe is in the best position to gather intel covertly. Lee’s building a team, and with the right cover story, Joe could procure a location today.”

“Carmen, if one more of my detectives gets hurt…”

“He won’t, Chief. Not as long as he plays by my rules.”

Ivy ranked her hands through her hair and let out a sigh, “Okay, who died and made you chief?”

Carmen laughed, “I suppose I did. And if you want my help, you’d better listen. That list of yours won’t help in the field. I’ve got the lowdown on those low-lifes…”
 

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  • Lucy Lucy:
    lolol know the feeling :)
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    hehe... probably one more song, and bed here (CST here... 4:30)
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    EST
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    here
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  • Lucy Lucy:
    Q: why do dogs float in water? A: because they're good buoys
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    @Lucy What headphones do you have that need charging? Mine are the Audeze Mobius, you can look them up... basically a pair of headphone-sized Martin Logans.
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  • Lucy Lucy:
    @Jon Eckart that's really neat, Jon but I don't have any charging ones. :/
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    *hugs*
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    Okay, have a post close to ready, just have to write a court room scene, and some kind of wrap-up and it'll be ready. Anyone have any tips for writing a court room scene?
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  • Jon Eckart Jon Eckart:
    ((and, my links to the NDAs and S.O.U.L Contract are updated on both the forum and the TECS pages))
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    Very good, Jon. hehehe
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  • Jon Eckart Jon Eckart:
    ((IRL: Holy buckets of something... was downstairs on my bosses floor, left there after he and his girl went to his room, walked into the entryway where my stairs are... I might need a snowmobile suit to go out there... it's ****** cold, I'm in MN... my frozen home (eat your heart out, Elsa) ))
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    O_O
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    ((Yeah... kinda makes me miss Texas being back here in Minnesota... although the high temp during the day made me miss being up here... there's just no pleasing some old folks))
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    ((Dang kids... get off my lawn!!))
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    grabs his walker and limps to the recliner with his Uncle Rick hair...
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    Tenchi I have an idea for a short story with you....are you in?
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    Yes Lucy Green
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    *cranks up the radio which is playing Frank Senatra*
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    *peels an apple with a knife*
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  • Jon Eckart Jon Eckart:
    ((IRL: So, the heat to my floor (2nd. floor of house, whole house is boiler heat) stopped working at around 3:30AM on the 4th... it's already down to 52F across my whole floor... meanwhile, my bosses floor (ground floor) the heat is working fine. My thermostat is sending the signal to open the valve, so no idea why it would stop working in the middle of the night all of a sudden like that... normally, it's over 70F up here. To try and keep it warmish up here, I'm going to fire up FurMark on all three laptops... I'd just run my oven all night, but gas stove and no return air vent for the heater might end bad.))
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    *Hugs @Jon Eckart *
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  • Jon Eckart Jon Eckart:
    ((IRL: Got it working, stupidist fix ever... unplugged the two two-wire plugs going to the valve, and somehow, that fixed the issue. Right away, heard water moving through the pipe and within a couple hours, the temps were climbing on my floor of the house! Victory!! It was back up to 70F after only a few hours, and it's cycling like it should... and I think I found the issue... the automated valve is loose enough that when it moves, it twists itself about half an inch either way... gonna have to take a look at that because that's what worked the wires loose, I'm willing to bet.))
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    Jon Eckart Jon Eckart: ((IRL: Got it working, stupidist fix ever... unplugged the two two-wire plugs going to the...
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