Episodic stories of fantasy and science fiction.

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Neon Noir: The Twelfth Beat

Rupert was a close friend with Alessandro Gaudio, the head of the crime family. He’s a fixer, a fighter, and has his own long history making things happen in the city.

Ryan Shane

Lady Vash had taken Mr. Shane’s drink rather than wait for a new one. She shooed one of the men off the stool and took the seat herself. If anyone would recognize Rupert, it’d be her.

And yet, she also didn’t offer up Bella.

“Rupert, you lost your charge and made a mess trying to get her back. Why should I think she’d be safe with you?”

He looked around at his men, a little uncomfortable. Likely didn’t appreciate being talked down to in front of his men.

“You know it’s more complicated than that. She was with the Belrose boy.”

“I assume that’s been taken care of.” Vash sips her drink, never taking her eyes off the man.

He sighs, but his shoulders still look tense.

“Yes, but if they haven’t started looking for her yet, they will soon.”

“Because you told them?”

“I would never!”

The two in charge glared into each other’s eyes. Mr. Shane looked away, and saw the other men in the room all looking sheepish in their own ways.

“Leave us,” Rupert orders, then turns to Ryan. “That goes for you too, boy.”

Vash takes a sip, seemingly ignoring the tension she caused.

“No, he stays.” Rupert scoffs at Vash’s statement.

“We’re talking about this in private!”

“And so we shall. I trust Mr. Shane, especially more than I trust you right now. And I’m just a little lady. What would I do if you turned violent?” Vash smirks.

Rupert turns to the rest of his men, who seem confused as to whether they should leave or not.

“Well? Get out!”

The men quickly shuffle outside. Left in the room are Rupert, Vash, and Mr. Shane awkwardly looking between them.

Rupert collapses onto the couch and buries his face in his hands.

“Thanks for the excuse. Honestly, I don’t know what to do, Vash.”

“I figured as much. Who found the body?”

He sighs before answering.

“Carlota. I don’t know how she got here before me. I talked to the neighbors and it doesn’t sound like she knew who lived here, but there’s a chance she knows. And that’s assuming the shooter didn’t leak it to the family already.”

Vash sets her glass down on the counter.

“About that: What have you heard?”

Rupert leans forward and looks up toward Mr. Shane. The bodyguard shifts his shoulders around at the eyes boring into him.

Vash speaks again.

“That wasn’t just for show, I trust him. Beyond the fact he owes me, he’s like a damn puppy in his loyalty.”

Mr. Shane’s eyebrows narrow as he looks at his boss. Not exactly the most dignified description.

“You can’t be too careful. Things are going to hell.” Rupert leans back in his seat again. “I’m not sure what the family knows, but I did learn more about the would-be lovers.”

“Lady Gaudio didn’t tell me what went down, but I carefully put out some feelers. What I heard shook me.”

“You can skip the part about their relationship. I’m already caught up on that.” Vash grabs and downs the rest of her drink.

“No, you aren’t. Raphael wasn’t just involved with Bella. He had three more women on a damn near rotation.”

“Which paints an even bigger target on Bella. Goddamnit.” Vash slams her glass back down.

“I could tell from her voice she didn’t shoot the boy, but it’s not likely the Belroses will see it that way. They hear Raphael was screwing around on her, and they’ll think she killed him out of jealousy.”

Vash stands up and paces around the room. She crosses her hands behind her back taking glances out the window every so often.

Then she walks over to one side of the room and pulls up the carpet. She presses on a few planks of the wood flooring and lifts a loose one, pulling a small bag out, before replacing the flooring.

“What is that?” Rupert questions.

“Bella borrowed money from Kegs to run away. If the Belroses are going to be after her, might as well not have someone else too.”

“Hand it to me and I’ll take care of it. And I just need you to tell me where Bella is and I can get her out. After that, the families can go to war for all I care.”

Vash pauses, looking between the bag and Rupert. She hands it to him.

“I’ll send you a message when we can get her somewhere safe for the transfer. Keep your ear out, or you might miss it.”

He takes the bag and gives a nod to her.

“Thank you, Lady Vash. I’ll get this right to Kegs.”

Ryan continues looking between the two, nervous as anything and fighting the urge to say anything.

Rupert stands and heads to the door.

“I’ll be waiting for the word, Vash.”

“You’ll get it soon enough.”

With that, Rupert takes his leave.

As soon as the man was out of earshot, Ryan urgently whispers to his boss.

“What was that all about?! Bella owes the money to Lenny, not Kegs!”

Vash walks into the kitchen, digging through the cupboards.

“Yes. That’s right.”

“So you knew you were wrong?”

“Mr. Shane, why did we send you here first?”

Ryan hasn’t gotten a lot of sleep, and the day has been long and complicated.

“I was supposed to draw the men away from the apartment for you to get the money?”

“Specifically, you were supposed to draw away the Belrose men. The ones who we thought discovered the body.”

Ryan thinks about this, and shakes his head.

“You can’t be saying Rupert is in on it? Yeah, he’s kind of a crumb, but after the Belroses got rid of the body, why wouldn’t Rupert look around here?”

Vash continues digging around the kitchen. She seemed very intent on finding something.

“Because he’s not that dumb. He claims the family don’t know who owned this apartment. But if the cleaner for the Gaudios is hanging around here when no one else knows what happened? Why risk it?”

“Then what was he doing here?”

Vash feels a false back to a drawer and quickly works to remove it.

“Trying to find something to track her down.”

She pulls out an envelope, looks inside and gives a smile to Mr. Shane.

Ryan was sure this night was far from over.

Neon Noir: The Eleventh Beat

The City has something for everyone. Beyond material, beyond joy, beyond experience. It can give you purpose, understanding, or even just someone. But it always takes its payment.

Robert and Selene Howell

The city’s heart soothes the rushing mind of Selene Howell. She knew her husband’s job was dangerous, and his obsession with that speakeasy made her all the more worried. But so long as someone can hear the heart, they’re never too far away.

And yet, despite having him back home, Robert felt more distant than ever. He got a new clue, just a picture, but it reinvigorated him and his investigation. Selene wasn’t sure how to stop him. She wasn’t sure how to keep him safe.

For his part, Robert had tried to keep his wife from worrying. He wanted to rush out and start finding more answers the day he came home but he waited after scaring Selene by not coming home.

But it had been long enough.

They sit at the kitchen table, making polite conversation. Robert’s mind raced trying to decide how to broach the subject. While he’d taken a few days off, he couldn’t stop forever, and he’d need to go out at night to find the people who could tell him about the woman in the photograph.

“Selene, I-“

“I want you to quit.” Selene wasn’t expecting to say it so bluntly, but based on how fidgety Robert had been, she knew she had to say it now.

Robert is taken aback by his wife’s suggestion. He knew how she felt about the danger of his job, but he thought there was an understanding.

“I can’t do that. You know I can’t do that.”

“Why?” Selene’s eyes focused on Robert. They seemed to bore into him, like he was mad to not even consider the option. Robert adjusted in his seat.

“We’re barely scraping by as is. I don’t have a job, you don’t have a roof over your head.”

“We’ll figure it out.”

“Like hell we will!” Robert slams his hand on the table. “We can’t get by hoping to luck into something. More importantly, I’m getting close! I got a strong lead!”

“And what happens when they come for you again? These people have so much money and they don’t care about killing you if they have to! You want to leave me alone?”

Robert’s voice gets quieter.

“That won’t happen.”

“How? How are you going to promise that?”

“I would never let anything happen to you! That is what I can promise!”

Selene’s eyes go wide. The voice Robert growled in was the same one that he answers the phone with, in the middle of the night.

“I think… I think I’m going to stay with my sister. Just for a bit.”

The muscles up Robert’s arms relax. He hadn’t realized how hard he was grabbing the table until now.

“That might be best. I promise things will be better in a few days.”

“Please. Please stop making promises you can’t keep.”

Vashti Kianian

What in the hell is taking Mr. Shane so long?

Vash quietly cursed the situation she found herself in. She was sitting in the stolen car from earlier today, one whose owner was surely searching for her, thinking of how Ryan could screw up this badly.

She was expecting to waltz right in after Ryan either took out the men, or drew them away so she could get the cash, but it’s looking like he either got caught or killed.

She curses one last time, before stepping out of the car. Her suit was not conducive to this activity, so she hoped nothing was truly wrong.

She counted the floors up as she crossed the street and tried to figure out which apartment was Bella’s. If she counted right, the fire escape just around the side and little bit back should take her there.

This estimation was confirmed when she reached the bottom of the fire escape and found a ladder already down. Someone went up this way before her.

Vash climbs to the top of the ladder and slowly makes her way up the fire escape, doing her best to not rattle the metal against the building. As she gets closer, she moves slower, unsure what she will find at the apartment.

The window is lit with a soft light. They clearly want to see what’s going on, but they also don’t want to alert anyone that they’re there. Vash creeps up and spies through the window.

Inside the apartment a group of men gathered in the middle of Bella’s apartment, thankfully with their backs to the window. Some on the little couch, one on a stool, and two by the door.

Ryan stood in the middle of them, surprisingly cool for his situation.

“You said you’re helping Bella. So tell us where she is.”

Mr. Shane paces in a small circle, clicks his tongue, and responds.

“I can’t. Not just yet. You know as well as I do, she’s in danger. I won’t tell you until I believe I can trust you.”

“Now listen here boy, you aren’t in a position to-”

Ryan holds up his hand.

“I give you my word.”

Vash was impressed. Mr. Shane seemed so unsure of himself around her and in the club, but here he was standing down muscle from one of the families.

Rupert entered from the kitchen.

Hell, that’s what happened.

Vash was expecting the Belroses but instead it’s the Gaudios. At least now she gets what happened. Rupert is likely looking for Bella.

He crosses from the kitchen to the middle of the apartment with the other men, and tries to hand Ryan a drink. He politely takes it, but Vash knows he won’t drink it.

“Mr. Shane, if you truly want to protect Lady Gaudio, I am the person to tell. You supposedly know who I am, told by Bella herself. Meanwhile, I still don’t know who you are, and have no reason to trust you beyond what you’ve told me.”

Ryan’s eyes search the room, gauging the men up and down, when they catch the eyeshine just outside the window. Vash quickly motions for Ryan to look away, and he understands. He looks at the other men in the room, but whether he knows what she has planned, she isn’t sure.

Vash tests the window and finds it unlocked. As Ryan speaks she slowly opens it and crawls inside.

“Maybe, but I’m more than willing to die to protect Bella if I don’t trust you completely. If you want to know where she is, I’m going to need some proof. Some guarantee beyond you reacting to the name I said. For all I know, you aren’t Rupert at all.”

Vash moves into position behind the men, and speaks as loudly as she can without shouting.

“No worries there Mr. Shane. That is absolutely Rupert, the old bastard.”

The men nearly jump out of their seats as they pull guns from their jackets and point them at the intruder.

Rupert whips around in surprise, a surprise that doesn’t end when he sees who’s speaking.

“Lady Vash?!”

“Oh please, Rupert. You’re far too formal. Just call me Vash. And pour me a drink, would you?”

Neon Noir: The Tenth Beat

Before the military, Ryan spent plenty of time trying to get out of scrapes. Even with his background, he still hasn’t gotten used to starting them.

Ryan Shane

I never should have come here.

Mr. Shane quietly cursed the situation he found himself in. He was sitting in another car, one whose owner he didn’t know, thinking of how he’s going to accomplish the task given to him by Lady Vash.

The apartment building loomed over him. He needed to go in, draw the attention of any hired goons watching and notify Vash so she can get the hidden cash. And no killing. Not that he had an issue with that last edict.


A car passes by and no more look to be coming up the road. It’s time.

He opens the car door, steps out and slams it shut. He quickly crosses the street, though taking care to not run and draw too much attention to himself. The glow of the city seemed to hum to the City’s Heart.

At least I’ll be able to hear it, even in there.

The neon lights fade as Mr. Shane slinks into the shadow. He moves slowly now, listening for people inside the building. There should be a door around the side here somewhere…


Bella’s information was accurate. The door was open and led to a long, dark hallway. The shadows were only broken by small, dim lights lining the hall.

To his relief, he could see just enough that he knew there was no one on this floor. Though that would only delay the inevitable.

Mr. Shane moved down the hall, toward the elevator. He’ll need to go up to the tenth floor to find Ms. Gaudio’s apartment. He pulls the door to the lift open and silently closes it, selecting the appropriate floor.

The elevator sounds like a freight train to Ryan after his expert sneaking. He prays that the sound of the machine blends into the City’s Heart. The cart slows to crawl as it approaches the floor.

The doors slide open and creak to a stop.

Several men in very nice suits are pointing handguns at an empty elevator.

“What the hell?” The one closest to the car questions. “It’s empty?”

“Check it out.” A deep voice calls from the back.

The man in the front moves in the car, leading with his handgun. He points it around the elevator, looking for whatever phantom force caused it to move to their floor.

“There’s nothing here.”

“Damn thing is probably broken.”

“I’m going back in.”

The men holster their weapons somewhere in their jackets, sure the elevator is nothing of their concern. They take a step back to one of the apartments when Mr. Shane decides to act.

Five… Six… and Seven… Damn. I was hoping for something less flashy, but this will have to do.

He kicks out the vent on top of the elevator, dropping down to the floor below him. In the instant the man in front of him starts to scream out, he knocks him to the floor, snatching the man’s gun from his jacket in the process.

Another instant passes, and Mr. Shane dives out of the elevator between another two brawlers. As he moves, he disassembles the weapon, chucking pieces of it at the other two men down the hall.

The distractions prevent them from drawing their weapons, just long enough for Mr. Shane to get to work. He kicks out the legs of the two men next to him, slamming his elbow into one of them as he stands up.

The other man reaches into his jacket to pull his gun back out. Ryan grabs the man he just hit, and throws him down onto the other, ensuring their heads slam into each other.

The next instant sees the two men Mr. Shane threw the gun pieces at whipping out their handguns. There isn’t enough time. He sprints down the hall at them, hoping the act is enough to surprise the men, and keep them from firing.

It doesn’t work.

The guns each light up as they fire shots at Mr. Shane. One whizzes inches past his head, much to his relief. The other hits his shoulder, leaving a trail of blood in the air.

Despite the heat of battle dulling his pain, he still feels the sting.

This is gonna hurt…

He puts his hands out, grabbing the heads of his opponents, and slams them into each other. Their weapons discharge shots wildly, as the men lose control and collapse.

A gunshot rings out behind him, as the bullet misses him. One of the two men just outside the elevator must have gotten together enough to fire. Mr. Shane picks up the unconscious body of one of the other men, and hides behind him as he thinks of his next move. It must have worked, because the bullets stop.

Won’t last for long.

He notices the door to the apartment is open, so he dives through, just in time for two more bullets to barely miss.

He turns around and slams the door shut, locking it to buy himself some more time.

The sound of the hammer of a gun cocking back lets him know he failed.

“Who the hell do you think you are, kid?” a voice from further in the room asked.

The voice was deep and grizzled. The sound of a man who has done a lot and seen too much more.

Mr. Shane curses under his breath. He doesn’t dare turn around.

“I asked you a question, boy.”

“If you’re going to kill me, then kill me.”

“Not just yet.”

The sound of another set of footsteps crosses the room, coming up behind him.

“Hands where we can see them,” The voice came from behind him, the man holding the gun to his head. His voice is younger, less experienced.

“You’re gonna tell us where Lady Gaudio is, otherwise, my boy here is going to make things messy.”

He wasn’t sure why, but the way he said ‘Lady’ stuck out to him. It wasn’t derision or sarcasm. There was almost… reverence.

“Rupert? You work for the Gaudio’s right?”

The footsteps stop.

“How do you know that name?”

“Bella told me. I’m here on her behalf.”

A rough hand grabs the back of his neck and slams his face into the door.

“Don’t you dare lie to me, boy!”

“It’s the truth!” Ryan can barely speak with his mouth crushed against the wood. “I swear, I’m helping her.”

The man pulls Mr. Shane back and forcibly spins him around. His hair was pushed back, peppered with gray. It looks like he hadn’t shaved this morning. But it was his eyes that fascinated Ryan. They were manic and angry and powerful, but they betrayed a sense of desperation.

He needs to find Bella.

Neon Noir: The Ninth Beat

How did Vash and Bella really meet? Can you trust a woman you know is running from something?

Vashti Kianian

Stupid dress. It was so stupid of me to wear it.

Vash cursed her own choices. She wasn’t even sure she wanted to be at this party. But if she was going to start her own club, she’d need the help of the families here.

The dress she was wearing was sleek and tight up top, while the skirt flowed down to her ostentatious heels.

It could be worse, Vash. You could have gone with that beaded monstrosity.

She looked around the party, trying to find Alessandro Gaudio, head of the Gaudio crime family in The City. Her contact said he should be relaxed in this setting and more apt to listen to her proposal.

And yet, she didn’t dare leave her little corner of the room until she knew where he was. The minute she did, these men would be on her like a dog on a steak.

“I’ve never seen you before!”

The bright and colorful voice snapped Vash out of her thoughts. She quickly looked to her side where it came from and saw a cute flapper.

“I’m new in town.”

Vash’s own voice shifted. Rather than her normal calm, directed tone, she spoke with interest and bravado.

“Really?! And you already got invited to one of these parties? They’re very exclusive, ya know!”

The girl was cute. More than cute, she was gorgeous. Her dark hair framed her face perfectly. Vash wasn’t a huge fan of the dress, but her confidence made it work.

“Who’s to say I was invited? Maybe I snuck in?” Vash says.

The girl laughs, a haughty laugh that didn’t quite seem to match the flapper dress.

“Oh, no one sneaks in to these parties.”

She grabs two glasses off a passing server’s tray and very pointedly sets one in front of Vash.

Vash takes the glass and downs the drink.

“Maybe I did.”

Vashti Kianian

In the office of the Arcadian, Vash stared down Bella. After having him pour their drinks, she asked Mr. Shane to change using the spare clothes she kept at the club, and keep lookout, outside the club.

After another cocktail, Bella gathers her nerves.

“Raph and I had been seeing each other for a few months. We knew our parents wouldn’t approve, so we kept it secret. From everyone.”

“No one knew? You’re positive?”

The woman shook her head.

“No one I knew. Raph swore he kept it to himself as well.”

Vash stops to consider the Belrose family. They were almost as close as Bella’s so Raphael would have been smart enough to keep it from them.

But they were kids in love. They had to go out in public. It just took someone who recognized them to ruin it.

“When you were together, where would you go?”

“We didn’t.”

Vash shook her head.

“We have to figure out who knew. I need to know who could have found out.”

Bella shakes her own head back.

“You don’t understand! We’re not fools, Vash! We didn’t go out together after we met.”

What in gods name did she mean?

Vash’s face must have conveyed her confusion because Bella filled in the gap.

“We talked on the vidphone. A lot.”

“So you weren’t together in person?”

She shook her head again.

Vash was perplexed. She couldn’t imagine a relationship being confined purely to a vid window. Bella was always a little different though.

“I know. It’s not conventional. But he loved me. And I loved him.”

Vash put her thoughts about this to the side.

“Okay. Who suggested running? You or him?”

“He did. Said we could disappear to another city; start over away from our families.”

“Your father alone has enough sway to find you most anywhere, you had to know that.”

“I do! I do now.” She gets up and starts walking around the office. “But Raph… he made it sound so easy. Get some money together, hop a train, and live free.”

Vash’s ears perked up.

“Money? How much money?”

Bella looked a little sheepish.

“Well, I mean, we were planning to start a new life. We needed something to get going, hide our tracks, and build a safe life for us!”

Vash stood up and slammed her fist on the table.

“How much did he tell you to get?”

“…another $10,000.”

Vash’s mouth dropped. There’s no way her pop would have given that to her, or she would have just paid off Lenny and this whole scenario would have never happened.

Which means…

“You borrowed it from Lenny, didn’t you?”

“We were running away! I didn’t think I’d have to pay it back!”

Vash lets out a string of curses she’s sure Mr. Shane could hear outside the club.

“Fine. Where is the money now?”

“I got it! Stop treating me like a foolish child, Vash!”

Okay, that’s one problem solved.

“We’ll take it back to Lenny. Negotiate the interest. That will be one thing off your back.”


Vash’s anger was filling her body. She had never dealt with a situation quite like this before.


“If you can’t settle this, I’ll still need to run. Besides, Lenny says I got until Friday to pay him back. No rush.”

“Do you really think he’ll just let you keep it when word gets around what happened?! I wouldn’t be surprised if those goons weren’t with the Belroses but instead Lenny’s guys trying to collect before you skipped town!”

“Oh. I didn’t think of that.”

Vash took a deep breath and sat down. She put her head in her hands and thought things over. Lenny was a loose end she couldn’t leave hanging.

“We’re giving him that money back. Then we can figure out what else happened.”


Vash breathed a sigh of relief.

“Great. Where is it?”

“Under the floorboards in my apartment.”

Vash cursed again.

Neon Noir: The Eighth Beat

Robert Howell

Selene is going to kill me.

Robert is still walking back to his apartment come noon. He found his personal effects along with his gun in a little box outside the room he was kidnapped to. He was rather grateful for that, though can’t help but wonder what they want from him.

Hen clutched the folder he was given very closely. He went through hell to get it, he couldn’t give up now.

The Gaudios were a family of criminals, in constant war for control of illegal imports. Despite their power and influence, prohibition has reduced drinking in the city. Now it’s just reserved for those with enough cush to payoff the mayor.

I’d love nothing more than to go after them. But I don’t have the support.

This ‘Arcadia’ though is different. It’s supposed to be the place anyone in the neighborhood can get a drink. It’s not just bringing the booze back to the little people, but it might be the place Robert can bring down to get more resources from the city.

He stomped up the stairs of his complex, wondering what he’s going to tell Selene.

She’ll be happy I’m still alive, but I don’t know if I can tell her everything.

So what would he tell her?

He got to his door and held his hand up in a fist, ready to knock. Then it softens and he pulls out his key to unlock the door.

He enters and calls out,

“Selene! I’m home.”

No one answered.


Robert looked through the apartment, checking their bedroom and bathroom, looking behind the doors, in the tub, anywhere he could.

She wasn’t home.

The blood in him began to burn, as his face flushed with emotion.

I swear to god, if they’ve touched her I’ll-


Selene entered the door, eyes locked on her husband. Robert turned and immediately rushed over to her. She dropped the grocery bags she was carrying as they caught each other in a deep embrace.

“Where were you all night?!” Selene sobs.

Robert is silent and holds his wife closer.

Ryan Shane

They were back at the Arcadia, in Vash’s side office. Ryan was standing watch next to the door, listening to the two women. Vash practically pulled them into the office and made two drinks, one for herself and one for Bella. Ryan noticed she added a little more shine to Bella’s dink.

“Here, it’ll settle your nerves,” Vash says.

Bella sheepishly takes the drink. She was a far cry from the confident aristocrat that entered the restaurant.

“Thank you.”

Vash sits at her desk, sipping her cocktail. Though she was friendly and polite, her eyes were sharp on our guest.

“Now Bella, I need you to tell me everything. Start from the beginning.”

The girl took her own unsure sip from her drink and sighed.

“Raphael and I had been seeing each other. We met at one of the Belrose family’s parties.”

“How? How could you just show up there?”

“I didn’t! I was snuck in.”

Vash takes another swig and eyes Bella up and down. If she was still trying to pretend to be polite, she wasn’t showing it.

Bella downs the rest of her drink. The poor girl looks like she just drank gasoline, which considering the shine she got in there, might not be too far off.

“I owed money to Lenny. I couldn’t pay him back at the time, and he offered a way to work it off.”

Vash scoffs.

“You could have easily paid him back. What could you owe that creep?”

“Ten grand.”

Vash nearly spit out her drink.

“What in the hell were you doing owin’ that dough?”

Bella looks sheepish again, eyes unwilling to meet Vash.

“Cards. Dice. …Dames.”

“You’re supposed to do that for a weekend, hon. Not a year.” Vash follows suit and downs her drink, though she handles it much better than Bella.

She continues.

“So Lenny says you can work it off by being a twirl? For the Belroses?”

“It was more like a deposit until I could get some cash from my father. I had no idea it would be for them.”

“This is why you shouldn’t have lied to Lenny. Hell, he probably knew exactly who you were and that’s why he did it.”

“I met Raph there. We got to talking and then one thing led to another…”

Vash waves away her words.

“Yeah yeah. Fine. So what happened?”

Bella looks around the room, her eyes catching Ryan. They looked like they were pleading. Ryan was about to speak when Vash spoke.

“Bella, I need to know what happened if I’m going to help you.”

“We were going to run away.”

As surprised as Vash has been in all this, nothing has worried her more than this statement.

“The two heirs? Disappearing in the night? That’s not very smart, Bella.”

“I know. But we knew our families wouldn’t understand. The morning we were going to leave, Raph caught a bullet through the window.”

The window? Who’s a good enough shot to hit him there?

Vash looked down, as if she was searching her desk for answers. Thousands of scenarios ran through her head as she thought about what she’d need in each one.

“Who else knows about this?”

Bella gives a very weak smile.


“Why in gods name did you tell him?!” Vash nearly screamed.

“I needed someone to clean out my apartment! I don’t know how to dispose of bodies!”

“The body is disposed of?”

“…No. The Belroses found it before Rupert could get to it.”

Vash is silent for whole minutes.

“Mr. Shane, do you know how to pour a drink?”

Ryan takes his queue and walks over to the bar. He pulls out a glass and some rocks from the ice box. He pours a good three fingers into the glass and walks it to Vash.

“Leave the bottle.” She says.

Neon Noir: The Seventh Beat

The Belrose Crime Family rose to prominence with the implementation of prohibition. While their political connections mean they could work to have it lifted, there’s more money to be made with it in place.

Vashti Kianian

The sounds of cracking tables, thuds against walls and gunshot punctuations fade into the distance as Vash leads Bella through the kitchen. She hadn’t even protested when Vash left this way.

Out back, behind the building in the alley, Vash’s mind started working on what she’d do out here. Even assuming Mr. Shane survived, she doubted he’d be able to get her car pulled around quickly. And if the attack ended up being more than the one man, she couldn’t wait around.

Looking around the alleyway, Vash took stock of her options. There was a fire escape, but she’d have trouble getting Bella up it. The exit down the alley itself was the most available option, but if more men were coming, it’s also how they’d be caught.

Stupid dress. It was so stupid of me to wear it.

Vash turned her attention to Bella again, wondering what she thought of the dress, but realized she was shaking. This wasn’t the confident woman Vash remembered.

“Bella. Do you know why they were attacking us?”

The woman’s head droops down, the brim of her hat covering her eyes, but Vash knew exactly what they looked like.

They were afraid.

“It’s why I called you. The Belroses are after me.”

Vash froze for a moment.

“What did you do?”

All traces of Vash’s politeness were gone. She did not sign up for a war. In that moment, she mentally cursed putting so much effort in dressing up for Bella.

“I didn’t do anything!” Bella insists. “They think I killed Raphael, but I could never!”

This was getting a lot more complicated.

“Why, in the name of the maker, would they think you killed Raphael?!”

“You have to listen, I would never have hurt him! They just…”

Before she could finish her answer, the sound of screeching tires came from the end of the alleyway.

“Bella, give me your gun.”

She stares at Vash, horror in her eyes, but not moving.

“I said, give me your gun! Do you want to live?”

This time, Bella quickly moves, opening her purse and pulling the revolver from it. It was a little thing with a wood grip. Vash grabs the gun and points it at the car, now driving towards them.

There’s a wall behind us, but maybe if I hit the driver, we can go back through the restaurant. Ryan might be done by now…

The car pulls to a quick stop, and the door opens.

“Whoa there, don’t shoot!” Ryan says as he steps out of the car.

Vash lets out the breath she didn’t realize she was holding.

“Oh good… Wait, where’s my car?”

“No time. I’ll come back for it, but this guy’s was closer. Get in.”

In any other situation, Vash have protested Mr. Shane giving orders, but now was not the time. The two ladies moved to the back of the car as quickly as they could.

Ryan backed up, faster than Vash was comfortable with, since they were between two buildings, but he pulled it off. The car peeled back out in the street, making some cars screech to a stop, as he shifted and pulled into traffic proper.

“So, Mr. Shane, if I may ask, whose car is this?”

“After the first attacker went down his friend pulled up in this. I wasn’t sure if more could be on the way, so I figured I’d borrow his car.”

Looking around the vehicle, it was a far cry from Vash’s luxury machine. But it had a back seat, and enabled their getaway. It was clean though, which was surprising. Vash had expected brutes like that to leave their cigarettes or whatever laying about.

“Mr. Shane, did you kill the men?”

This was important. If he didn’t, he’d have to drive well to ensure he isn’t followed. If he did, they’d have lost those attackers, but the Belrose family would never stop hunting them.

“I didn’t. I knocked out the one in the restaurant. After I took away his gun, the guy in the car was easy.”

“Good. You know how to lose a tail?”

“We don’t have one, but I’m on it.” Ryan turned the car down a random road, away from Vash’s apartment. It might have been unnecessary, but Vash hadn’t lived this long without taking some precautions.

“Now that we have a moment, Bella, I need you to start talking.”

Bella clutched her purse.

“They think I killed Raphael.”

“Yes, you mentioned that. Why do they think you killed him?”

“Because they found his body in my apartment.”

Vash’s eyebrows shot up.

“Sweetie, you’re going to have to explain.”

Bella sighs, a tear trickling from her eye.

“We- we were seeing each other.”

Vash continues staring, Bella trembling a little.

“Mr. Shane, after you’re sure we aren’t being followed, please take us to the Arcadia. I’m going to need a drink.”

Neon Noir: The Sixth Beat

Ryan Shane had fought in The Great War. Looking back, he felt he was too young to be there, but there he was. While he learned a lot from the experience, it’s not one he wants to go through again, and one he wouldn’t wish on anyone else.

Ryan Shane

I was positive I was fired. I slept on my boss’s couch without asking her permission. I interrupted a private conversation. Dammit, Ryan!

Mr. Shane yelled in his own mind, when he should be scoping out the area. He realized the same thing.

Dumb, dumb, dumb! Get it together, Ryan!

His boss had called the number from the card. The one she got from Kegs the night before.

Ryan wasn’t sure what his boss heard on the other end of the line, but she seemed to freeze when the call connected. Her tone became far quieter, too quiet for Ryan’s curiosity to get the better of him. After a quick exchange, her bravado was back as she spoke.

“It really has been far too long, darling! We should grab a bite! Say, Minetti’s in an hour?”

Things moved quick from there. Ryan didn’t have time to change, but luckily his jacket was still fresh enough for the outing. He might have looked out of place, fancy suit and all, if it weren’t for Vash.

She had disappeared into her room and reappeared in something Ryan didn’t expect. A dress.

And what a dress. She seemed to be poured right into it. A deep, midnight blue. The strapless ensemble was covered by a small jacket and topped with a wide brimmed hat. She’d also put on some jewelry.

Mr. Shane had only seen her in suits, perfectly tailored suits mind you, but still suits. This took some getting used to.

When Vash stepped out of her room, she made a beeline for the door, giving Ryan a pointed look. He quickly snapped back into action and headed for the door himself. He opened it and after a quick look outside, gave her the signal it was clear.

Sitting here at the restaurant, Ryan felt uneasy. The joint was fancy. So fancy, it made Vash’s choice in attire make sense. At least the nice suit he wore helped him fit in somewhat, but definitely not enough.

“Stop fidgeting.” Vash’s voice was quiet, yet firm.

Ryan immediately stopped shaking his leg. He wasn’t even aware he was doing it.

“Sorry,” He whispered back.

“Don’t be sorry, just don’t do it,” Vash scolded.

“Right, right. Sorry,” he regretted the words as soon as he said them.

“I’m going to stab you in the leg with my fork the first chance-”

Vash is cut off before she can finish. At the entrance to the restaurant, a woman clothed in black walked in. She was by herself, but she was dressed every bit as fancy as Vash. Her own dress clung to every curve of her body. The shoulders were modest, but the deep cut they fed into certainly wasn’t. She wore gloves and a small veil from her hat.

Upon her entrance, all the animosity Vash had vanished. Instead, she waved the woman down and whispered to Ryan.

“You know how to be polite to a lady, don’t you?”

Ryan stood up from his seat, waiting for their guest. As the woman approached, Vash also stood, extending her arms in a hug. “Bella! Oh how I’ve missed you!”

Bella returned the greeting with just as much gusto.

“My dear, Vash! You look amazing!”

Their greeting complete, Ryan pulled a seat out for Bella. She sat in it without even acknowledging Ryan. He politely pushed her in and then headed to the bar, as Vash had instructed.

This was not a speakeasy, so the bar’s drink selection was lacking any alcohol. Which perfectly suited Ryan. While he didn’t drink anything last night, going to sleep so late was not something he was used to lately. The coffee he had earlier helped, but he could use some more.

The bartender brought a cup of the house blend, the smell wafting up to the bodyguard’s nostril. As good as it smelled, Ryan fought to not let it drag him down. He had to be focused. Alert.

He spun the barstool around and looked over the restaurant. It wasn’t too busy, and very quiet, a welcome change from the club last night. But it was also not his scene. It honestly didn’t seem like Vash’s scene either, but she was able to blend in so easily.

Ryan considered his new boss. She was like a chameleon, changing with her situation. Whether she was acting as the boss of a night club, working deals with criminals, or socializing in polite society, she never felt out of place.

The only thing that would set her apart is her choice of clothing. That’s not to say it feels out of place, but it’s bold and instantly recognizable. A club boss in a nice, and well-tailored suit feels right, but she’s a woman. Women don’t wear suits.

Though, she is a very different kind of woman, apparently. Ryan thinks back to that morning, seeing Anastasia come out of Vash’s room. The words of tenderness she shared before she left. It was at that moment Ryan connected the morning’s events to what Vash had said about Abby when they first met.

Never would have guessed Abby was into women.

Outside the restaurant a man in a pressed suit approached the door. His facial expression is what drew Ryan’s eye. He didn’t look to be another patron, looking for a fun brunch.

Ryan slid away from the bar, going around the outside of the seating area in the restaurant, right up to the door.

The man enters and quickly scans the room. His eyes land on Vash’s table. Without any kind of reaction, he reaches into his jacket.

“Hello there, sir! Will you be dining by yourself today?” Ryan loudly mocks.

The stranger freezes for a second, looking at Ryan at his side. The rest of the restaurant, Vash included look at the entrance of the establishment. A look of acknowledgement crosses Vash’s face, and she starts gathering her things.

The stranger tries to pull the gun from his jacket, but Ryan snatches the man’s arm in a hold. A gun shot pierces the roof as someone else in the restaurant screams.

As everyone panics, Vash and her guest sneak out through the back.

Neon Noir: The Fifth Beat

There are two warring mob families in Capital City. The Belrose’s have strong ties to the politicians and city hall, though not strong enough to remove their rivals. The Guadio’s have bribed enough of the police force to keep out of jail.

Robert Howell

“Wake up, ya dirty bastard!”

A splash of water slaps Robert across the face, drenching his whole body. He awoke to a mostly dark room, a single beam of light shining down into the center. It lit enough for him to see the two men holding him captive, but not enough to tell exactly where he was.

“I’m awake,” the detective calmly responds. It took all his strength to remain in control.

He tensed his arm, feeling out the restraints. Rope held him to some kind of metal frame. However, he was only tied at his arms and wrists. His legs were free.

Small miracles…

“So you are.” The voice was self-assured, and deeper than the pit Robert found himself in. The man who woke him up was another wiry fellow, could have been Jack’s stronger brother. But the other one? He looked like a train car. He had a cap and a cigar, but nothing fancy, and was bigger than a gorilla.

These two were enforcers, but not ones Robert could place.

“How was your nap, copper?” The thin one set his bucket upside down and sat on it. A little bit of the water dripped out under him.

“Well, I woke up. Couldn’t have been all bad, I guess.” Robert’s eyes started adjusting to the darker parts of the room. The mishmash of metal surrounding them didn’t provide too much more on his whereabouts.

The beat of the city’s heart did though. Now that he was fully alert, he could hear it clearly, ringing through the metal room. The loud but regular hits told him he was near a construction site, or metal shop. Somewhere that would use an electric hammer.

“Woke up you did, by the boss’s good graces.” The big man spoke again. The voice was cockney, undignified, not what you’d imagine a high-ranking enforcer to sound like. Of course, the outfits said the same. Something was off though. Something about his phrasing.

“That does bring a question to mind. Why didn’t Francis just kill me?” The events of last night finished coming back to Robert. Jack Cuthbert sold him out.

The thin man started giggling to himself, not the one doing the talking today, it seems.

“Our boss has plans for you. Of note, your snoopin’ about for his business partners.” The big guy gives Robert a tap on the chest that would have sent him to the ground were he not tied up. The man was muscle on muscle. “He’d prefer if you stopped.”

Robert lets out a laugh.

“Then he should have just killed me. What makes him think I’ll stop?” Robert’s mind races as he speaks. This doesn’t make sense. If what he knows about Francis is right, he would have just had him killed.

I’ve been so careful, taking every measure to avoid being caught. How did he find me?

“We could threaten your life, but I feel that’s wasted effort.” The large one takes a few steps over to his friend and puts his hand on his shoulder.

“Randall here had the bright idea to threaten your old lady, but that’s so unseemly.” The cockney accented words snapped Robert’s attention on the two, and off his attempts to place his location.

“If you lay one hand on Selene, I swear I’ll-“

“It would have been two hands on her throat, but you’ve nothing to worry. That would be far more trouble than its worth.” The talker has been so calm in all this. Even for the crime in this town, kidnapping a cop can’t be a common occurrence. How is he keeping his cool?

He continues.

“No, we’d rather you keep doin’ your job.” He snaps his fingers and the one he called Randall jumps off his bucket and disappears into the darkness.

Robert tries to follow him, but just sees him standing by some more metal? Is that a shelf?

He comes back, having retrieved what he went for, a physical file folder in his hand. He hands it to his associate, who proceeds to thumb through the contents.

“You’ve been looking into the Arcadia.” He says, matter of fact.

Robert’s brain churns, trying to figure out what that is. His keeper notices the pause and fills in the detective.

“The club. The one you can’t prove is real.”

The cop’s face keeps the look of confusion, but now it’s for a different reason. Robert sought Francis to find his supplier, and through him, track down this other bar. If he happened to build a case against the mobster while he was at it, then maybe after bringing down the hidden club, he could have the resources to go after one of the two major families.

But here, he was being given a shortcut. He had a name.

“I have here a picture, and a name. More than enough for you to piece things together. In trade, you stop putting your nose where it don’t belong.”

Robert considers the offer. If he says no, there’s a chance they’ll kill him anyway. On the other hand, they’ve already proven they know how to track him down if he breaks this promise and keeps going after the mob.

It’s not like he has a choice.

“Fine. You can cut me down. Not like I could take you both down.”

The large man gestures toward Robert and Randall jumps up. He pulls out a big knife and starts slicing away at the rope. Once his arms are free, Robert stretches them out, his muscles sore. He notices a small hole on his arm, likely where they drugged him after knocking him unconscious.

Got to be more careful.

“If I were you, detective, I’d go home and plough my wife. You’re not getting sleep for a long time.” He drops the file on the ground and starts walking away. Randall is close behind.

Robert quickly drops down and looks through the file. In it is a candid photo of a dark-skinned woman, with long hair. It looks to have been taken through some bushes. He turns it over and reads the name on the back.

“Well, Ms. Vashti Kianian. Looks like you’re out of shadows to hide in.”

Neon Noir: The Fourth Beat

Vash hasn’t always operated out of Capital City. She appeared, seemingly out of nowhere, three years ago. But just because no one knows her history, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Vashti Kianian

The world fades into focus as Vash opens her eyes. She hears the calming beat of the morning gently nudge her awake. The soft tapping of the city’s heart is punctuated by the click-clack of the rail car passing by.

Vash turns to check her clock, when she feels pressure on her arm. Her mind snaps to attention as she looks over at the person lying next to her. Anastasia was still sleeping.

How much did I have to drink last night?

She tries to slowly edge her arm out from under her guest, being careful not to wake her. There is slight moment where Vash nearly catches her bracelet on Anastasia’s bright red hair and she freezes.

Anastasia takes a deep breath but continues sleeping in the morning sunlight.

Vash breathes her own sigh of relief and unhooks her arm from her lover’s hair. She slides out of bed, taking slow steps to her door, ensuring it closes quietly behind her.

Oh Vash. How did you end up sleeping with her? Again.

She moves through her apartment, heading for the kitchen. She pulls down the coffee grounds onto the counter, vaguely aware of what she was doing as she stared unawake at the back of her couch in the other room. As she moves throughout her morning ritual preparing the coffee, she notices a card out of the corner of her eye.

It was plain. White. A series of numbers scribbled on the front. As her coffee brewed, Vash couldn’t keep her mind off it. When was the last time she dialed a phone number manually?

“Hey there, stranger…”

She freezes upon hearing the voice. She turns to her hall where Anastasia stood. The woman had already gotten dressed, wearing the gown she had on the night before.

Vash stared, unmoving for what felt like an eternity until the redhead spoke.

“Vash, I-“

“Would you like some coffee?” Vash quickly interrupts.

She moves to her cabinet, pulling down cups. As she pulls cream and sugar out of her kitchen, Anastasia crosses over to her.

“I think we should talk about this. This is the fourth time we’ve woken up in each other’s arms.”

“In my defense, last time I was gone by the time you woke up.” Vash mixes a splash of the cream into her coffee. She sniffs the aroma wafting out of the mug before taking a slow sip.

Across from her, the woman takes a few steps forward, taking a seat at the table just outside her kitchen.

“Am I a joke to you?”

Vash takes another sip, considering the question.

“I don’t do relationships. You know that.”

Anastasia shakes her head.

“No. You just sleep with one woman for weeks on end. You buy her things. You make her feel like the only woman in the world. That is, until she gets fed up with you and moves on.”

“It’s not like that Ana. You know I can’t-“

“Can’t what? Take me with you? You’ve been here for years. Why would you think you’d have to run this time?”

Vash remains silent. She’s had this conversation before. She’s explained how dangerous her job is many times over. But she couldn’t bring herself to fire her. And Ana couldn’t bring herself away.

Vash looks up, staring into the gorgeous green eyes of Anastasia. She remembers the feel of her skin. The contrast as their bodies mingled. The taste of her lips as they got out of the car…

Wait a minute. How did we get home last night?

“This is probably a good time for me to leave,” a deep voice sheepishly says.

Vash and Ana turn their heads in the direction of the man. Ryan sat up from the couch in the other room, visible over the kitchen counter, his presence made aware.

“No, no. I’ll leave,” Ana says. She stands and crosses to the door, grabbing her coat hanging next to it. “You two have a good day.”

She leaves with the door latching back into place.

“So… do you drink coffee, Mr. Shane?”

Ryan looks perplexed at the woman. He was probably sure she’d be upset at him for interrupting their very personal conversation. At the same time, his boss just offered him a drink, and he wasn’t sure if he should turn that down.

Vash takes the initiative and pours him a cup.

“Cream and sugar is on the counter.”

He stands and crosses to the kitchen. He was wearing a white, sleeveless undershirt and his suit pants from last night. For just waking up, he surprisingly didn’t look too disheveled.

“I figured you’d be mad at me,” he says, taking the offered mug. He takes a sip without adding anything to the drink.

“I would be, but you probably just bought me another week of not having to have that conversation.”

Ryan’s eyes go wide studying Vash. As she drinks her coffee, she notices him staring out of the corner of her eye.

“If you keep that up, I will be mad. And you’ll be out of a job.”

“Sorry!” he says and goes back to drinking his coffee. “I just, well, I didn’t know you were, uh, like that.”

Vash could feel her face get red, though not in embarrassment. If it weren’t for the fact she had used such good beans this morning, she might have thrown the mug on the ground.

“Like what, Mr. Shane?” the words were asked with venom.

Ryan could feel the tone shift and considered what he should say. Surely, he can’t say what he really meant.

“Nothing. I was dumb. I’m so sorry.”

Vash takes a deep breath.

“Thank you for getting us home last night. I assume it was late?”

“We left at four in the morning. Didn’t think I could make it home after dropping you off.”

“Then I’m glad you stayed the night. I’ve already invested money in you, and I can’t stand to see an investment die out of stupidity.”

She takes her last sip from her mug, looking out the window. As she sets her cup on the counter, she once again sees the card.

“Besides. I’m going to need you today. Those extra duties I mentioned start now.”

Neon Noir: The Third Beat

Detective Robert Howell was not the biggest supporter of prohibition when it was initially talked about. A few years in, and he sees its value. Now he’s made it his personal mission to uphold the new law, and bring in every bootlegger. He’s gained the nickname of “The Wolf” among the gangs in Capital City.

Robert and Selene Howell

The city’s heart burns Robert’s ears. Each note, each beat lands like a freight train on his head. It’s a different feeling. He normally needs the city to help him fall asleep, but tonight it’s just noise. Tonight, it’s a distraction.

“If you’re going to stay up, at least let me sleep,” Selene says next to him.

“What? I’m sleeping. You woke me up,” Robert lies.

His wife rolls over, out of the blankets, and pulls the chain on the table light, giving an orange glow to the rest of the room. She rolls back, her eyes still speckled with sleep.

“You’re fidgeting in the bed, dear.” She sits up in her place.
“Tell me what’s wrong.”

Robert slides up, sitting next to Selene. He looks over her face studying her features. It was slender, graceful, and bronze. Her brown hair fell perfectly on her shoulders. Her dark eyebrows framed her expression of concern, and it makes Robert wonder if he should tell her.

“My mind is just stuck on a case.”

“This that speakeasy no one can find?”

“Yeah. The big ones are a problem. But I’ll need more men and cash to take them on. This one though?”

It was in the middle of Old Town. You couldn’t find it unless you were told where to look. Rumor says it isn’t real, or that it’s Hell, run by the devil herself.

“There has to be something to it. I get word about more booze being brought in than you’d expect those fat cats to drink. Someone is sneaking it to the neighborhood.”

“Putting a lot of work in this one.” She slides back into spot on the bed.

Robert turns, hanging his feet off the side.

Maybe a walk will settle my nerves.

The phone rings. Neither of the two question it ringing in the middle of the night like this. Each wonders when the last time was.

Robert gets up from bed, and heads to the kitchen where the phone is still ringing. He sighs and answers it.

“What do you have for me?” his voice is deeper. Darker. It’s a tone that scared Selene.

She turned over in bed, trying to shut her ears to the conversation Robert was having. He’d come back, say it’s an emergency and take off. If she tried asking what it was about, he’d brush her off and just say it was work.

But none of the other spouses of detectives know anything about it.

He finished his conversation, calmly setting down the receiver. Selene heard his steps in the hall as he came back in the room.

“I have to go. It’s an emergency.”

Selene said nothing, watching her husband put on a quick shirt and trench coat. As he left, he grabbed his hat from the hook.

Selene heard the door shut and the key lock. She wasn’t one for crying, but felt the fear nearly overtake her.

I could follow him. I could find out once and for all.

The thought left her mind and she laid down, wrapping herself in blankets once again.

Robert Howell

The air was cool this night. Robert’s coat billowed in the wind.

A walk is just what I needed. I’m beat.

Five minutes outside, and he was wishing he was back in bed with Selene. But he couldn’t go home. Not yet.

The city’s lights cast their neon glow on the walls and sidewalk. Robert couldn’t imagine the kind of people still out right now, but he knew what they were doing.

Some would be night owls, working late jobs, and sleeping during the day. Then you’ve got the hotels, the plays and shows, and other businesses that might go this late.

But he knew most of them, potentially all of them, would end up at a club. And they’d be drinking.

Can’t remember the last time I arrested someone for being drunk in public.

To Robert, it was working. The people were better. He had his doubts at first, but he quickly changed his mind.

Prohibition had lit a flame in Robert, one that other officers quickly noticed. When he made detective, he thought he finally had everything he needed to win his war.

He quickly found out he was wrong.

“Psst, down here,” a quiet voice whispered out the alley.

Unless you were listening for it, you wouldn’t have noticed it. The city’s heart would be too loud. But Robert knew what he was there for.

He stepped down, following the whisper to the back end, a darkness blacker than night.

“Why’d you get me out of bed, Cuthburt? This better be good,” Robert’s voice was deeper, much like when he spoke on the phone earlier that night.

“Shh! Keep your voice down!” the young man whispered. He threw his hands over Robert’s mouth.

The detective grabbed the man’s hands and pulled them off.

“I’m being quiet enough. Unless you were followed. You wouldn’t do that, now would you, Jackie-boy?” Robert still wasn’t whispering, but he was noticeably quieter.

“That’s just it! I’m not sure!” his voice was frantic but quiet. He was still just barely speaking above the city’s heart.

Robert releases Jack’s hands.

“What did you do?”

The detective’s eyes were adjusting to the darkness back here. His thin friend was pacing back and forth, his hair a disheveled mess. This wasn’t exactly new; Jack Cuthburt was a mess. So why was he being so quiet.

“I don’t know! I don’t know.” He stops and takes a deep breath. “I was careful. You know me, I’m always careful. I don’t have a particular want to die.”

“You never should have had to worry about it. It was simple. Tail Francis and get out. Hell, I told ya you could leave early if you thought he would notice you at all.”

“And notice we did.”

The voice was a deep rumble coming from somewhere in the darkness. Robert’s eyes hadn’t fully adjusted as he kept looking around for its source.

A heavy hand is placed on his shoulder.

Not like this.

Robert quickly grabs the hand and tries to move it off him, but it grips his shoulder tight, sending excruciating pain through his arm.

Jack has already turned and started walking away.

You traitor!

The last thing Robert sees that night is darkness.

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