Bad Day

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

When he lifted himself from the bed, a poignant buzz in his ears nearly caused him to fall all the way in the opposite direction; Travis had experienced hangovers before, but this one trumped nearly every other one he'd ever had. Combined.

The floor sent spikes of sore pain through the pads of Travis's feet as he dangled them over the edge of the bed he clearly didn't recognize. He sat there for a moment, trying to absorb his surroundings, get some sort of a bearing where he was... and why.

At least the clothes on the floor gave him a pretty solid reminder what had happened.

'You're getting too old for this,' Travis grumbled to himself as he futilely tried to work away the pain in his temples, which seemed to throb so hard he could feel it in his fingertips... Or was it his fingertips that were doing the throbbing? 'You're still in deep either way,' he sighed.

After a few more long, deep breaths, the adventures of the night before finally seemed to come alive in his mind--memories he quickly wished he could wash away.

Lisa. That was her name. Lisa... Lemon? Something like that. Her name really didn't matter, much--she didn't seem to have much interest in talking about herself last night, anyways--but the fact that she'd lured him here when she must have known he had a wife was particularly puzzling. Was she just a rabid fan, or was something else going on?

However, looking at her sleeping face led him to decide that there was only one thing for certain...

... he had to get out of there, as fast as possible.

'Jade's probably wondering where in Plumbob's name I am,' Travis groaned, but as he began to tug his clothes on as quickly as he could without making any noise, he realized that if after all this time she still hadn't even called him... she actually probably wasn't.

A flicker of guilt caused Travis to pause at the beginning of the stairs, looking back over his shoulder at where the young woman still laid. It was unlike him to love and leave in such a way, but of all his options, this was the only alternative that didn't automatically include feeling more shameful than he already did.

He closed his eyes and gritted his teeth, giving only one sigh as his parting sound to the sleeping girl. Last night, he'd made a mistake... and even Travis wasn't stupid enough to believe he wouldn't have to pay the price for it.

Ding, dong...
Ding, dong...

"Come on, those dolls can't be that interesting," Amelia said with a smirk as she impatiently peered through the glass in her brother's front door, where she spied that strange walking-talking tin can he'd built playing around in the nursery with her niece. Wasn't that thing supposed to be cleaning or something?

"Finally," she moaned when, after her fifth pounding of the doorbell, the simbot finally stood up from the playset and began to head towards the door.

"Took you gosh-darn long enough," Amelia drawled when Lilobot came out to meet her with little Margo in tow on her hip. "I was starting to think Brad didn't give you ears or something."

"Technically, I do not have ears," Lilobot replied in a perky voice, her metallic eyes blinking quickly in a rather cute manner. "I do however have an auditory relay that functions similarly to capture soundwaves by--"

"That is SO fascinating, really, Lil," Mia groaned sarcastically. "But can you explain it to me after you find Brad for me?" There was a sense of urgency in her voice that definitely wasn't faked; she seemed antsy and tense, things even Lilobot could tell just by the way Amelia's eyes kept flipping around, looking over her shoulder.

"I'm sorry, Ms. Kane, but your brother is currently unavailable--he left several hours ago for the hospital."

"Th-the hospital?!" Amelia's eyes went wide. "Is he okay?!!"
"He is, ma'am--he merely went in order to keep Ms. Alesha company as she gives birth--"
"Alesha's having the baby?! Right now? Gaaaah, why didn't you tell me!"
"... Didn't I...?"

"Uuugggh, you are so irritating." At this point, Amelia was ready to turn around and head home, but realizing that Brad was going to be occupied for so much longer was already making her nerves run hotter. Why, why did Alesha have to choose this particular day to go into labor?!

Sensing Amelia's distress, Lilobot took her time formulating a response; she didn't want to react to Amelia's unintentional insult, because--according to her Logical Deduction Relays--Lil was likely not the actual cause of her irritation.

"If there is something that you need, Ms. Kane, I would be more than happy to help you with it in your brother's absence. Is there any way I can assist you?" Lil finally asked, her mechanical voice still perky and positive.

"It's... It's sort of personal," Amelia began slowly, fighting the impulse to leave without an explanation. "I don't really feel.. comfortable..."

"That is fine, Ms. Kane--I just thought I would offer. If you'd like, you can come inside and have something to eat, perhaps try to get your mind off of things? Any sister of  Mr. Kane is family of mine, you know."

"That's--" Amelia paused, clearly taken aback by the suggestion. "That's real' nice of you, Lil, but... I should probably--actually." A bit of a smile began to grow on Mia's face as she continued, "Can I... Can I hold Margo? For just a wee bit?"

"I would gladly let you, but unfortunately Margo has been acting rather misanthropic, this morning."

Amelia scrunched her nose. "Misanthropic? What the buttons does that mean?"

"Antisocial, ma'am. She was rather unhappy about all the doorbell ringing--she usually is when she doesn't want anyone unfamiliar around. Unfortunately, she's still rather shy around those she doesn't know well, especially when Alesha isn't nearby--perhaps when she returns...?"

"Maybe I'll come back tomorrow with Naomi, she's always talking about how cute Margo is..." Amelia paused for a moment, and then, with a mischevious grin, lifted her fingers to put on a goofy face.

"Please, don't--" Lil began...

... but she was too late.


"Perhaps it is better if you leave, Ms. Amelia--I believe Margo is now... unhappy about your presence." Though any normal person would be frustrated, Lilobot's voice merely began to coo, trying to soothe Margo's sniffling sobs into her metallic shoulder.

"Uuuggh, I am so horrible with children!" Amelia groaned, burying her face into her hands. "I'm so sorry, Lil--I'll... I'll go."

Even though Amelia's face was still shrouded behind her fingers, Lil reached out and quickly patted her shoulder as she turned and, quickly, carried Margo back into the house. "There there, goooossfraba!"

"Can't even get a little freaking toddler to like you... so lame," Amelia spat shamefully at herself as the heels of her cowboy boots clonked down each wooden step, stomping heavily under the pressure of her slowly failing temper. "Stupid robot, stupid baby--what do they know, anyways? Guess she just can't handle a little bit a--"

♫ "I'm just an oollld jukebox junkie spendin' mah time, spendin' mah money, feedin' this habit with hardcore country..." ♫

Great, just what she needed--some lousy phone call to top off all the joy today had been.

Still, a bright pinch of light seemed to appear in Amelia's tunnel when she saw the name on the caller-ID. "Hey Mom--what's up?"

"Hey sweetheart! Are you busy? There's something I wanted to ask you... Can you meet me at the Bottega in say, 20 minutes?"

"I'll be there in 5."

"You have no idea how good it is to see you after the day I've had," Amelia grumbled into her mother's ear as she squeezed her between her skinny little arms. "I swear, it just keeps getting worse and worse..."

"Mmm, I'm sorry dear--unfortunately, I don't think I'll be able to add much of any good news onto it."

Ohno. "What... What is it?"

"Well," Meredith began, looking at her daughter with the straightest face Amelia had ever seen. "You heard about the... the uh..." Her lip began to quiver just thinking about it. "The incident, right?"

Amelia's heart sank. "Yeah... I did. W-what about it?"

"Look, Amelia, I really hate to put this on you, but--I've been losing employees. Customers have been calling in saying they won't be coming back. It was all just a fluke, but between all the things that've been hitting the newspapers and floating around on those computer widgets... I'm afraid I'm going to lose it all before it even has a chance to take off."

Amelia tried to smile. "Mom, I'm sure it's just a passing phase! Bad things like this happen to people all the time! Granted, not a lot of people have a murder on their property, but..."

"Sweetie, I'm not just going to 'bounce back'. Not without your help."

"And what exactly am I gonna be able to do?" Amelia couldn't help but laugh; she didn't know the first thing about businesses... Heck, she barely even knew how to paint. How was she supposed to help flounder art studio?

"You're going to put on a show!"

The sullenness faded from Meredith's voice at the chance to explain her idea to her daughter. "Show everyone that we're still alive and kicking! Draw a crowd, make people too afraid to miss your performance that they forget all about what happened--all you have to do is what you love to do the most, Mia: music! I'll do everything else!"

"I... I don't think this is such a good idea, Mom. I've been doing some short stuff at the Stallion, but this... I don't think I'm ready for it!"

"Amelia--you don't know if you're ready if you don't even try."

"Mom, just... no. I can't do it."

"That isn't the Amelia I know," Meredith stubbornly uttered, dropping down to look into Amelia's lowered gaze. "The Amelia I know is a strong, courageous, takes-no-prisoners kind of girl. You can't let this fear rule you forever, sweetheart. You can't run away from your dreams."

"I'm not trying to Mom, it's just... It's just hard."

"I know, Mia, I know." With a deep sigh, Meredith took her daughters shoulders into her hands and squeezed. "Look. Amelia, I have never asked you for anything, before. But right now... I'm afraid, too. And I don't think I can do this without you. You know I wouldn't ask unless I didn't think I had any other choice."

How could she say no to that face? To her mother? To the person who'd held her hand every step of the way, supported her, selflessly given everything she ever wanted? And in the end... What was a few songs? A small crowd? Maybe it would help her... Maybe she was ready, and she just couldn't see it, yet.

"Al-alright," Amelia muttered softly, her voice cracking from nerves already. "I'll do it." She just hoped she wouldn't regret it.

She gulped down her pride and tried to smile as her mom's arms flew around her in a strangling hug; Mia really did try to be happy, but this wasn't easy, especially after everything else that just seemed to keep happening. At this rate, this day couldn't possible get any worse...

... but, in the very least, at least someone was having a good day.


The Price of Sin

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Warning: this post contains some sexual and some violent references & imagery that are probably NSFW. Reader discretion advised!

Were it not the middle of endless summer, it would have seemed the Blue Bottega was lit up with Christmas lights; it was so aglow, Jebidiah mused that astronauts would've seen it as a bright spot from space.

Soon enough, neighbors would rise from their beds to see what was the matter, and the curious droves of residents would surround the business and huddle, gossiping amongst themselves as people in Twinbrook always did when anything noteworthy happened in their one-horse town...

At least, today, they'd have something worthwhile to talk about.

Jebidiah supported his wife's weak strides as best as he could as they approached the crime scene, but she clung to his arm so tight he swore he was losing circulation. Meredith had very nearly fallen apart the second he'd told her what had happened--a murder at their family business--but Jeb knew, if it weren't for her, he wouldn't have been able to cope as well as he was.

"They've left skid marks all over my beautiful patio," Meredith lamented as they walked closer, the flashing car lights illuminating the path to the body. "It'll take a week to clean it off." It was petty, but a better focus than on what lied further ahead in their path.

"Are you sure you're okay with this?" Jebidiah asked calmly, squeezing her hand.

"Yeah... yeah, I'm fine," she warbled, unsure.

One look, though, and she suddenly was sure of one thing: she wasn't fine.

"Shark," Jebidiah wheezed under his breath. He'd been one of his greatest henchmen since the very beginning; loyal, dedicated, unquestioning. Next to Marta, there'd been no one in his warehouse he'd trusted more... and Shark had trusted Jebidiah to the very end.

If he hadn't demanded Junior put someone in charge of watching the bogey shipment... if he hadn't been so insistent they catch the thief...

"I-I've changed my m-mind," Meredith wailed as she collapsed, falling into Jebidiah's arms. "I'm not fine."

And she was the lucky one; she hadn't known Shark, not like Jebidiah had. He swallowed, fighting back the urge to leave and do something he'd regret... but as luck would have it, he was too old to be a vigilante.

"Meredith," he uttered in a tempered, stable voice. "Why don't you go inside, find your employee that found the body, and make you both something to drink? Relax until the cops need you, okay?"

"A-alright," Meredith squeaked, shuddering.

"Mere," Jeb insisted. "It'll be okay. Don't worry."

He watched her walk inside with a heavy heart; he honestly wasn't sure, if that was the truth.

A visible change faded onto Tana's face as she turned around and saw Jebidiah approaching. "Good, you're here," she said slowly. A glance was sent towards the doors to the Bottega, where she watched her sister disappear. "I still... I still can't believe it, Jeb. I didn't expect this--not in a million years."

"You don't have to tell me that," Jeb sighed, his brows furrowed. He tried to resist it, but there was no helping it; his eyes kept veering away to the body that laid mere feet away. "What do we know?"

"Blunt force to the head, from what we've gathered. Looks like whoever it was, they were searching through all the crates in the shipment again--obviously didn't find anything, since you had a decoy in instead. When Shark jumped out to confront them, they took one of the crate lids and left an impact right behind his left temple. Whoever it was, they must have been very strong."

"And the evidence? Does it point to a suspect?"

"Not yet," Tana scowled. "But... you look like you have an idea."

"I'm not sure, but I think... Carolina. She had the most to gain from this... But then who broke into the crates the first time? Her daughter?" Jebidiah took a deep breath, pausing for a moment of deep thought. "It's possible that she sent Lisa to look for evidence to incriminate us, and Carolina came back to finish the deed..."

"I just--" There was a moment where Tana looked completely skeptical, but after a moment, her head began to slowly bow into a nod. "--I'll keep that theory in mind. At this point, though, nothing's for certain."

"What, do you still not believe that she's--" However, Jebidiah was cut off, when one of the other officers gathering evidence approached them from the other side of the tape.

"Officer Larson?" he asked, a cellphone pressed up against his cheek. "There's someone who wants to speak with you... Says he's..." He blinked, as if in awe. "He says he's the Governor?"

"Hand it over," Tana growled.

"Yes sir, this is Officer Larson," she spoke into the phone as the other cop handed it over. "I'm the head of the crime scene division... Mhm... Yes... Yes sir..."

"You--you want Mr. Kane to oversee the investigation? But sir, he's not even a licensed--yes, sir, I understand that but--I..." Tana sent a long, hard look at Jebidiah as she listened to Governor Grant's voice over the cellphone. "I see. Well, I'll be sure to inform him. Goodbye, Governor." With that, she slammed her thumb against the 'End Call' button so hard she felt the circuits crunch beneath it.

"Officer Walker... Can you excuse us for a moment?" Tana gave her suboordinate a nod as he walked back to the crime scene, leaving the two to speak in privacy.

"This... This is ridiculous Tana. I don't have time for this! One of my head thieves is dead and you think I'm just going to drop what I'm doing and play pretend Investigator because the Governor believes I'm some genius criminal catcher? It just doesn't work that way, Tana!"

"Well, of course I know it doesn't! I didn't ask for this, Jeb! This is my job he's trying to hand off to you!" Tana threw her hands up in the air, now shaking her head so spitefully her cap fell crooked on her scalp. "And I certainly didn't think it was a good idea for you to set up this little mousetrap, either."

"Oh, so you're saying it's my fault Shark is dead?" This was almost too much for Jebidiah to take. "Look. Fine. I'll help. This is your job, not mine... but if it's the only thing that'll get this woman caught--then so be it."

Unfortunately, there was little else he could do but cooperate; he'd made the Governor put so much faith in him, and he'd convinced Junior and Shark that this plan to catch their thief was a good idea... in the end, it was only:

"Karma," Tana spat. "It's karma. You never think you're low enough to clean up your own damn messes, Jebidiah--but you know what? It's time you stop expecting everyone to just bend over backwards on your whims. Shark is dead, Jebidiah. Dead. How many more of your pawns have to die before you start caring more about our welfare than your stupid games?"

"Tana, that is completely--"

It was as if the red lights from the squad car lit fires in the depths of Tana's eyes, doubling the fury in the glare she sent back at Jebidiah as she wheeled around and sent daggers from her eyes to his. "Clean up. Your own. Mess." With that, she sourly shook her head at him and crossed under the police tape, and out of reach.

click me (music for this scene)

"Lolly! Lolly!"

His fist clenched tighter, pounding harder--harder--threatening to shatter the door's glass with persistence. Still nothing came from inside; the only noise was Travis's breath and the pounding of his heart, still going fast ever since he'd fled from his house to see her. He'd seen the special report... seen flashing images of Shark's body on the evening news. Shark Racket...
... the brother of his lover.

"Lolly, I know you're in there!" Travis belted out, his concern slowly fading into rage the longer she denied his existence. "Don't shut me out, dammit! Let me in!"

Travis couldn't take it anymore; why she refused to acknowledge him was no longer his concern. He just knew he had to be there, had to be with her, had to hold her...

The force of his body slammed the door open, snapping the lock from the frame; Travis barreled through the doorway, but the energy expended just gaining entrance quickly shattered his anger. Now, he only urgently searched for Lolly, desperate to see if she was okay...

... but it wasn't hard. She'd taken no effort in hiding; she was only barely out of eye's view of the front window, curled so tightly that her body hardly moved when the house shook from Travis' dramatic entrance. Lolly didn't even lift her head to look at him, leaving Travis confused, gazing at her with wide, distressed eyes.

"Lolly..." he wheezed. Still, she didn't move. "Oh man, Lolly..."

"Please, please look at me," Travis groaned, collapsing to his knees in front of her chair. She still felt warm when he touched her, but she was lifeless, like a marionette that only shifted at the command of its strings. "I need to know," his voice begged, with a pleading anxiety that a man his age was rarely too vulnerable to expose. "I need to know you're okay."

Her words were few, but when they came--soft and broken--they tore Travis' heart. "I'll never be okay, again."

Travis practically didn't have to tell his arms what to do; they wound protectively around her, pulling her limp body up from its chair so he could hold her tightly to him. "Don't say that," he whispered, his nose pressing against hers. "I'm not leaving until you are--okay? I'm not going anywhere."

But, it was 'anywhere' that served as a cue for Lolly's body to come to life; with one quick shove, she began to try to twist her way out of his arms.

"Lolly, what's--"
"Just let go of me," she cried in a rhaspy voice. "I don't want you here... J-just leave!"

It'd take more than that to convince Travis, though; he only tried to pull her closer, which made her wriggle all that much harder to break free from his arms.

"Alright, Lolly, what is going on." Travis was not only confused, but hurt. He'd dropped everything to come to her side... he'd sacrificed so much, walking out his front door without an explanation why. Was she really this ungrateful?!

But as he spoke, she still refused his advances. "Please, just go."

"I--Lolly, you shouldn't have to do this alone. Please, let me help you!"

"Help me--help me?!" Suddenly, Travis was wishing he'd listened; the look on her face as she wheeled around was nothing but pure fury. "You and your family have already done enough to help me!"

"My fa... What does my family have to do with this?!"

"'Don't get involved with those Kanes,' my father always used to say. 'They won't lead you to anything good'. I should have listened... I should have taken his advice before it was too late."

Travis blinked, dumfounded. "I don't understand."

"Shark worked for your father, Travis. My brother did nothing but worship the ground Jebidiah Kane walked on... saw him as the father mine never was. Trusted him completely... And now, now he's dead because of him. That's the reward he got for loyalty."

"But Lolly... He may be my father, but I'm not involved with him like that. I'm not going to do the same thing to you--can't you see that?"

"No, Travis, I can't. Can you swear to me that my face won't cover the tabloids when someone discovers our affair? Can you swear that I won't lose my job, what family I have left, because of what we're doing?" She scowled, and closed her eyes tightly to fight back tears. "Even if you could, Travis... I don't think I could ever believe you."

"It shouldn't matter, though--Lolly... I lov--"

"No. No... Travis, don't." A mixture of sadness and anger burned bright in Lolly's eyes as she finally made eye contact with him, with a look that scarred him the moment he gazed upon it.

She loved him. She had since the moment they'd first kissed all those years ago, when their only cares were grades and curfews. And, Travis knew, she always would... a fact that made that look all the more painful: a look of despair, a look of disappointment, a look that said nothing would ever be the same again...

With that one look, it was all over.

"Get out, Travis," she whispered, her body quaking. "And please, don't ever come back."

He sat on that front porch for quite some time. Travis wasn't stupid--at least, not stupid enough to expect her to ask him to come back inside--but the weight of it all forced his body to collapse on that top step, shell-shocked, swaying gently with the evening breeze.

In truth, he didn't want to move. He wanted to suffer. Lolly had every right to do what she did--and she should have done it a lot sooner. How more selfish could he have been? His own marriage was going down the drain, so he was prepared to take out Lolly's life with his? "You're a fool," he grumbled to the wind.

If you asked him how he got to the Red Rendezvous that night, Travis wouldn't be able to tell you; it was as if one moment he was on Lolly's cold porch step, and the next his temples were grinding on chalkboards to the sound of the bar's country tunes.

Drink after drink, the world began to fade away, blurring together into this chasm of self-reproach that Travis didn't bother to fight free from. Part of him had hoped the liquid would wash away his pain, but if anything it just made it more vibrant and more tangible. Still... He supposed it was better than going home.

"Excuse me? Excuse me, sir?" The voice came from 50 feet away--the equivalent to 3 in Reality Land. It took a couple of tries for him to actually hear her.

"What," he groaned, clearly not wanting to be bothered.

"Aren't you Travis Kane, the lead pitcher for the Twinbrook Llamas?"

Her shoes were the first thing that he saw; their heels were tall and thin, leading up to a pair of legs that any sober man could easily tell were a cry for attention. They fidgeted as she waited for a response, but Travis had no inclinations to lift his gaze to see the face that was speaking to him.

"Yeah," he finally grumbled. "What of it?"
"I was wondering, do you think I could get a small interview for tomorrow's paper? Something to distract everyone from that horrible murder business?"

It took a few moments, but with a sigh--and barely a shift of any other part of his body--Travis wordlessly nodded towards the seat next to him.

"Don't worry, I'll make it quick," she said in a smart, educated voice. "Let me buy you a drink."

Even better; one less drink he didn't have to worry about putting on his tab.

The interview didn't consist of much; the girl clearly was either some sort of sport's writer or huge fan of his, constantly referring to points in his record that even Travis couldn't remember. She kept the drinks flowing, and that's all that really mattered to him; it kept the pain dull, and kept him forgetting why he felt it in the first place.

After a few more glasses, he finally started to pay more attention to who it was that was enabling his drunkeness. She'd introduced herself some time ago, but between the rattling off of his game figures and the current reign of his MVP status, he'd sort of forgotten to actually pay attention to anything she said about herself. Clearly, she was trying very hard--and Travis couldn't say he didn't appreciate it.

She was cute, too; she had that sexy bookworm look going on, which was doing a remarkable job also distracting him from the words that were coming out of her mouth. At this point, though, he really didn't care.

The stars had long since come out by the time Travis stumbled to the door of the bar, where he had to lean for support just to keep from toppling through the glass. He insisted that he needed to get home, but that he wasn't sure he could make it. He wasn't even sure he'd make it out alive, if he did.

"I just shouldn'tve come here in the first place," he bemoaned himself.
"Don't say that," she said softly, still holding him upright. "We all need to let go a little, sometimes."

Leelee... Le... something... offered to help him outside...

... and then offered to do a lot more than just that...

Unfortunately, it was an offer Travis couldn't refuse.


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