Going Home Again

Claire Avalon

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Violet Nowak
Claire Nowak
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Full chapter posted from beginning, same trigger warnings apply.

Tell me if the flashback mid-chapter is jarring. I'm not sure I like it, but I want some background on Claire and Joe's history before I feed him to the wolves. I could start with the flashback and put the other two scenes together, but I like having a pause to indicate the longer drive. Maybe I can restructure the flashback to be more of a daydream from Joe's perspective, as it's written now, it very much comes from Claire/Ivy. I have soooo much already written to go in later, this is the hardest section to get through.

Chapter XV

“Belly of the Beast”​

Claire was standing now, thanks to her freed ankles, attempting to regain some dignity and play the offense. Lee laughed maniacally as he crossed the room. Flipping open his pocket knife, he leaned into her, both his face and knife dangerously close to her neck. Claire could feel her pulse pushing slightly into the knife with every thump, but the heat of Lee’s body was worse than the threat of the blade. Still pressed against her, he reached both arms around the pole and cut the rope around her wrists. They buzzed with cold as blood flow returned to her fingers, but Lee held her hands in place, the knife clattering to the ground and skidding across the floor as he kicked it to the other side of the room.. Retracting his left hand, he brushed a curl from Claire’s face, and she responded by jamming her knee straight up, between the thief's legs.

Hiding the grunt of pain behind a grimace of anger, Lee attempted to regain his cocky demeanor.

“You should diversify your targets, Avalon.”

“You should get the hell off me,” Claire replied, desperately attempting to force space between them.

Lee pulled the young woman away from the pillar and threw her against the wall. There was a sickening thud as her head and ribcage collided with a rusted radiator. Claire grimaced at the red hash marks forming where the radiator had snagged her shirt and cut into her flesh. Drops of blood beaded the scratch marks, running down her side. Great, now I’ll need a tetanus shot too.

Reaching for the back of her head, she was relieved when her hand returned free of blood, but winced at the large, tender lump throbbing against her skull.

“You’ve got spunk, I’ll give you that, but no imagination!”

“Boss, we got the call,” a timid voice came from around the corner.

Lee shot Claire a telling look.

“Nice of you not to kick a girl when she’s down,” Claire joked glibly as she struggled to regain her composure.

Lee clenched his fists but turned his attention to the henchman at hand, “Records?”

“Real nasty characters, boss, not a job they wouldn’t take.”

“Motivated?”

“Desperate.”

“Good,” Lee grinned, “Let’s pick up our muscle.”

***

Joe’s face looked unfamiliar with his beard shaved down to a shadowy veil. His hair was limp from the dry heat and a medical patch covered one eye.

“So you say you got a job for today,” he asked in a strange voice.

“You got creds?” The response came from a small, tan man with an elaborate rose tattooed on his left shoulder, as he loaded wooden crates into a nondescript truck.

“Two terms at PNM.”

The man let out a whistled sigh, “Anyone looking for you?”

Joe squinted with his one eye, “I did my time.”

“Get that in there?” he jerked his thumb in the direction of the eyepatch.

“Initiation. Jumped a CM.”

“Specialties?”

The detective cleared his throat, “Protection, acquisition, transport: heat, bricks, whatever you got.”

“People?” The man scanned Joe’s face with caution.

“No kids.”

“It’s not like that.”

“Illegals?” Joe feigned.

“Naw, this one is personal. Got an issue with women?”

“‘Long as they’re grown and the cash is green,” Joe replied, doing his best to sound nonchalant.

“I’ll call my guy.”

It wasn’t long before Joe found himself in an old van with several other unsavory characters, some standoffish, some quiet, others braggadocios. Joe looked out the tinted window, watching the sky turn orange. His ring finger and his face felt bare. The air was warm and still. He wondered how far the charade would go, and if Carmen really had the power to pull him out when the time came. In any other case, Joe was by the book. But this was Claire, and like it or not, Carmen was his best shot at finding her alive and well.

The detective flipped open the small communicator and typed a message for his unlikely ally: Got job, heading over now. Scant on details.

Minutes later red text lit up the screen: Take care, Sean. See you soon.

***​
May, 1995, ACME Headquarters

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 labrador, 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 weakly scolding 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!”

***​

The van jerked to a stop at the end of a long gravel road, where a foreboding gate concealed the premises beyond from view.

A guard nodded his head in recognition, and spoke something inaudible into a two-way radio.

The man with the rose tattoo turned to face the ragtag company, “Out of the van, we’re calling teams.”

Joe’s one visible eye narrowed in suspicion.

The men said little as their chauffeur stepped into the gatehouse, watching him nod and purse his lips in consideration of the new developments.

“Rogers, Garcia, Banks, O’Malley, you’re on home base,” he called from the doorway.

“Boska, Henderson, Brooks, Wilson, Martinez, you’re headed to the second location.”

Joe responded to his new name, wandering over to the second group, trying not to reveal reluctance.

“Sorry, but where is this location?” he asked, dreading the answer.

The guard spoke this time with a dramatic air, as though he expected the cloudless sky to punctuate his sentence with lightning.

“Hang tight boys, you’re on your way to Sandiego Manor.”
 

Jade

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That's why I post in journals and marked this story for adult themes. I'm trying to keep things as subtle as possible. I don't think this chapter is more violent than some of what I've discussed so far, but I certainly don't plan on being gratuitous with trauma. If anyone ever feels like this is too much please feel free to skip. I can even post trigger-free chapter summaries for anyone interested:

i.e. Claire is still in captivity at Lee's HQ, while he seems to be putting a plan into motion. Disguised as "Sean," Joe makes his way into the criminal underworld to try to gain intel and rescue his fiance.
True, Claire, we all have our own ideas no matter what our own stories has a theme to it. I'm not criticizing yours or anyone else's I always be careful what to think before I blogged and so far in the first half of your post, it's a little bit funny yet, a good full of action so far.
 

Claire Avalon

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Violet Nowak
Claire Nowak
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%2365000
True, Claire, we all have our own ideas no matter what our own stories has a theme to it. I'm not criticizing yours or anyone else's I always be careful what to think before I blogged and so far in the first half of your post, it's a little bit funny yet, a good full of action so far.
I'm glad to hear feedback from anyone! I would hate to trigger or offend any of you. If there is anything more I can do to give fair warnings about sensitive topics, please let me know:)
 

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