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17. Redrawing Boundaries

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I got out to the hallway when Pandora caught up with me. Where she’d been during the entire episode, I’m not sure. Whether she cared or not, I’m not sure. Times were rough, there was a lot going on. If she wasn’t careful, she could have found herself next in line. And I knew it. She grabbed me from behind and walked me out, leading me back to the bar. Who the hell ran it in her absence I might want to check into.

She led me to the back and started fixing things up. Where she learned this, I didn’t ask. Draven was legendary. And you learn all the big stuff from your parents. You are where you come from. She had me patched up in no time flat, with barely a word uttered.

“Why didn’t you stop him?” I muttered when she was done. She glared at me.

“If there was ever anything I learned from my father, it was to know when to act and when to observe. Understanding the difference could keep you alive.”

“And what about the people you care about? You’re supposed to let them die?”

She shook her head nonchalantly. “He wouldn’t have killed you.”

“You were willing to bet my life?” I coughed.

She merely smiled. “Family.”

And she got up and walked away. I sat there for a while, getting used to the new pain, pain that would ultimately heal. It was merely physical. But the emotional pain, the forfeit of my trust…that would be impossible to replace. What’s done is done. I had proof – I would have a scar. Family. Cute. What family shoots its members? Or kills its elders? I needed to talk to Serkis. Direct. No more interference. But I was too tired to find her tonight. Enough had gone on, I was in enough pain. Update on everyone’s location later.

For lack of better words, I went home and slept. Home being above the bar somewhere. Or so I think. I went to sleep because the world had stopped making sense. I went to sleep because I had enough of this madness. I went to sleep because logic and reason were dead. I went to sleep to dream. I went to sleep to hope. I went to sleep to lose myself. I went to sleep to lose this nightmare. I went to sleep to pretend. I went to sleep to sleep. I went to sleep to start again. Renewal, tradition, continuation – that is the only unbreakable source.

And its primary agents?

Life. And death.

I slept soundly. Not without guilt or pain, but as soundly as one might expect. I woke up and changed. I couldn’t use my arm it hurt that badly. I would learn to deal. Do or die, right? There’s not much you can do to change the present. It’s always too late.

I swear, nobody in this crew knocks or uses doors like normal people. Serkis was hanging out at the table with a cup of coffee, browsing the newspaper idly. I don’t think I get the news – she must have brought it herself. She had a cup set out for me across from her. I sat down after I’d changed, feeling very…out of place. How I could feel out of place in my own home, I don’t know. Life’s weird as all hell.

“Hey kid, how’s the arm?” She didn’t even have to look up from the paper.

“I might ask the same of you.”

She shrugged, although the gesture was uneven, she didn’t care. She was in pain. There was no sling, nothing to hold her arm where it should have been. She turned the pages idly.

“We have to talk,” I muttered. She looked up at me, taking only a moment’s glance.

“What about?” she replied. Her voice was very sing-song, as if she honestly didn’t have a clue. Like a child pretending that they weren’t home when the vase broke. That clueless gaze.

“This. Everything. Max. My uncle.”

She shrugged again. Oh man, Serkis graduated charm school with honors. She was a pro at this, and after this long in the game, I’d be disappointed otherwise.      

You never could be sure about the inner workings of Serkis. She was definitely a study in herself most of the time. She killed Max – there was no two ways around it. And she knew it. She knew that she couldn’t smile her way around the truth. But my uncle, that was another story. What was the point of killing him anyway?

“What makes you think your uncle was killed?”

“People just don’t stop breathing for no reason.”

She smiled that typical wicked grin. “Sometimes.”

“Why?”

She leaned back in the chair, taking a sip from the cup. She looked at me idly. She didn’t care, or she wanted it to seem that way.

“What makes you think I would have killed the old man?”

“There’s only one killer in this family.”

She raised an eyebrow and leaned closer to me. “That so? Says who?”

“Doyle.”

And she laughed. Serkis let out such a wicked laugh that I could feel my skin crawl across the table. I wanted to get up and walk out. I wanted to cry. She was laughing and all I could feel was this pain. Nothing more. But I’d stick it out. Because I was the child. Because I was hers. And she was mine.

“Big Daddy, huh? And he knows everything, does he? The man himself. He would never be led astray, right? If he was so clever, he’d know it’s always better to have a backup.”

“Who?”

“This’ a family. You’re growing up on me, kid. Coming into your own. It’s about time you learned the rules. It’s about time you learned to play the game, before it kills you. There are limits. There are always limits. And to get ahead, you learn from the best. The very best.”

“Who?”

“You get right to the point, don’t you?” She laughed. She found it all hilarious. It was all a show. They were right. Just a show. And she was having a ball. It was her show, after all. Serkis Draft.

“Who?”

“Who do you think?” she whispered, her eyes lowered to my own. I shook out my confusion. She smiled wider.

“Nobody’s going to give you all the answers all the time. You’ve got to think every so often, no matter how hard it hurts. Come on, you’re a bright kid, I know you can figure it out.”

“Requiem?”

“Ha, clever gal. Can we give the girl a prize?” Serkis’ smile never faltered, she held the cup to her lips and sipped quietly. She held all the cards – I had to play the game how she wanted to get ahead. And she knew I had caught on. You have to play by the rules. Or else you forfeit.

“I don’t understand.”

“Allow me to enlighten you – your uncle was, no offense, crazy. That man was half a set short of a full deck. But he tried. Max screwed up. And your uncle started slipping up. He didn’t want to play anymore. We tried to talk to him, but he wouldn’t have it. Requiem took it upon herself to make drastic changes. Doyle beat the hell out of her for it later, but your uncle was already dead. There’s no changing the finite. She learned from the best. But she still screwed up. And we were there to clean up for her.”

“Family, right?” I coughed.

“Yeah. Family. It goes both ways, Hun. I’m sorry for what happened, but we still have us. And we have a lot of damage to be fixing.”

“What do you want from me?” I whispered.

She edged closer to me and put a hand on my shoulder. “Loyalty. Nothing more than devotion. Stick with me kid and things will work out just fine. You’ll see. Every dog gets its day…unless it’s able to run faster.”

“And Requiem?”

Serkis got up, all sweet and slow. And she narrowed her eyes at me and helped me out of my chair. “That dog is getting put to sleep.”

And she winked in her evil little way, and she was gone. I stood around considering my options, thinking about what to do with the rest of my day. Requiem was getting out of hand. I needed to learn how or why. Serkis was the only one who could provide such information.

Or Layne.

Because Doyle doesn’t play fair.

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