Well. It's been...a while.
This week I'm just leaving you a cute cat. I'll deal with what the universe did to schedules next week.
Well. It's been...a while.
How's everybody doing?
This week I'm just leaving you a cute cat. I'll deal with what the universe did to schedules next week.
So. How ya been? Are you drinking enough water? It seems like such a simple thing, but it's so important for your health and happiness and really I just want you all to be--
Listen, it's been a year, right?
So I was sort of failing at the A to Z blogging challenge in April--but still attempting to chug through it--and I suffered an injury. We're going to pretend, en mass, that I like dove into a street amidst oncoming traffic to save a baby in one of those old big-wheel buggies and really just redefined heroism for a generation. Because I did. I did.
Anyway, the short of all of that is that I broke a finger right before finals time last semester which was all the fun. Clearly. And also made the whole writing thing difficult in a multitude of ways that I'm just now starting to get over. Which means, happily, that there will definitely be more writing. It also means I'm butting up against this semester and therefor I'm running out of available time for writing.
So I'm not going to make any promises about when updates for that story will happen, but they will. Cross my heart. And there are supposed to be other publication schedules this 'year' that will happen (she says, with supreme confidence).
Still, it's summer for like another two weeks for me. Have a cat picture.
So it's been...a while. Test anxiety is nobodies friend.
Anyway, I didn't forget or anything. Hopefully I'm back on the horse now.
To go back and start at A, click here.
Nobody who worked personal security enjoyed anonymous threat jobs. At least fifty percent of the time they turned out to be nothing. Turned out to be someone harmless in the mark’s life angling for attention, or the mark themselves, or… Really, if someone wanted to end the mark’s life it made sense not to warn them.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, the times when that wasn’t the case were worse. At best, when the threat was serious, the job ended bloody and difficult. And just crazy. Because, obviously, it made sense not to warn someone you wanted to kill them, so once that warning was issued ‘sense’ was somewhere in the rearview and everybody was going to have a bad time. Especially the poor idiot who’d agreed to throw themselves between the mark and the eventual hail of bullets, or explosions, or…
When JJ had started there’d been a case with exotic poisonous frogs she’d been really happy not to be part of.
All of that meant that as personal security, you walked into an anonymous threat job honestly, fervently hoping you were going to find some overcommitted romantic interest, or family member trying to make a point. That didn’t mean you didn’t turn them in to the appropriate authorities, or fail to finish the job, it just meant you didn’t have to spend the rest of the job waiting for the inevitable descent into crazy-town.
JJ more or less frog-marched Corbet into his temporary office at the University early the next morning, but it was already full. As wanting Corbet to back out of his prime place in this whirligig was just as good a reason to be sending him threats as any—seriously, the dude had fewer associates and connections than she did—JJ needed an understanding of the people inhabiting Corbet’s life for the next three weeks. Was the department secretary infatuated? Did the person who would have done the conference without Corbet harbor some resentment?
“Ah, Liam!” A white-haired man in a bow tie who looked like he’d stepped out of a movie about universities at the beginning of the 20th century was on them before they’d made it through the door.
“Professor Higgins!” Liam shook hands warmly. “You’re looking well today.”
Higgins laughed. “Reports of my demise were sadly over-stated. The doctors assure me if I put up with their torture I’ve got another dozen active years in me.” He fiddled with his bow-tie and cast a glance at JJ. “Campus security informed me of what’s going on. I won’t ask if you’re sure.”
“My grandmother’s hired Commander Jennings, and I’ve done what I’ve been asked to.” Liam shrugged. “I’m here, and I have every intention of going through with my life as uninterrupted as I can.”
“Be nice if you gave the rest of us the same courtesy,” another man hissed, nearly bumping JJ out of his way as he barreled through the department lobby.
JJ watched him disappear into an office and turned to Corbet. “It’s generally not the person comfortable being rude in public, but I’m still going to ask.”
“Professor Dane has…” Higgins paused. “A brilliant mind but poor people skills.”
“And Mr. Corbet’s position in this situation would be his if Mr. Corbet was…not here?”
Liam snorted. “No, because my position requires talking to people and James is not a talker. He also doesn’t, I think, like me any less than he does anyone else.”
“I’m not sure that says much, given how less than fond he is of humanity in general,” a woman said, handing Corbet a tablet and a bottle of water. “I am to remind you that you’re talking for the next three weeks and you will lose your voice if you don’t drink enough water and do your exercises.” She looked at JJ and waved ineffectually. “I am Cherry Higgins, I’m in charge of guest services for the conference.”
“Higgins?” JJ looked between them, they didn’t look particularly similar.
Cherry handed another bottle of water to the old man. “I’m married to Professor Higgin’s long-suffering nephew, for my sins.”
Higgins laughed. “Charles is certainly long-suffering.”
“Is Charles here today, I wanted to pick his brain about something,” Liam asked, fiddling with the tablet.
“He is not.” Cherry pushed the sleeves on her jacket up to her elbows and glanced at the clock. “But he should be here during your break between presentations this afternoon.” She forced a smile. “And I’ve told him to stop lecturing, because you have security and it’s unfair to expect you to hide in your apartment forever, but you know Charles.”
Liam grinned. “I’m sure he’ll approve of Commander Jennings.”
“Miss Higgins, can I borrow you for a moment?” crackled over the intercom system.
She rolled her eyes and headed for an office in the corner. “Liam, don’t forget your lunch meeting changed. It was a pleasure meeting you, Commander. Please let me know if you need anything.”
Professor Higgins sighed. “I have work to do. Good luck today, Liam.”
“Thank you, sir.” Liam stepped back. “I hope you’ll have time to see a bit of the conference.”
“I intend to.”
JJ followed Corbet into his private, temporary office and closed the door behind them, but didn’t engage the privacy screening. Brown had popped in her ear a couple of times that everything was clear on the outside, and he was running standard background on everyone they’d run into and also deep background on the people with closest connections to Corbet.
He’d left Cherry Higgins off the list of associates, which was annoying but probably just an oversight as she was connected with the conference and not technically with the department.
“I’m sorry I didn’t put Cherry on the list,” Corbet said, adjusting things on the desk.
“Is there a reason for it?”
He shrugged. “I thought she wouldn’t be here. Last week Charles said she was going to step out this year and keep an eye on Bert if they let him out of the hospital.”
“What happened to Bert?”
Corbet blinked at her. “He had a heart attack. Fairly minor, but as it wasn’t his first there were concerns.”
JJ felt that particular sensation rush up her back. “So last week Professor Higgins, and his niece-in-law, were both not going to be involved. Is her husband one of the presenters?”
“No.” Corbet shook his head. “No, Charles in City Justice. He takes his vacation time and contracts with the university to oversee security for the conference, because of the influx of people and attention.”
So even if, as things had stood last week, he’d been on premises he might have been reasonably assumed to be preoccupied. “If you’d stepped out because of these threats, who would have done the conference instead?”
Corbet blinked at her. “Bert, I imagine, but he was ill last week.”
“Is that part of why you weren’t willing to cancel?”
Corbet’s face leached of all expression and looked down at his desk. “No.”
JJ almost pushed that because jesus talk about telegraphing that there was an issue. But it wasn’t any of her business and given she didn’t have a reasonable expectation of actual threat and she still needed him willing to listen when she gave him instructions it wouldn’t do any good to get his back up.
“Does it matter,” he asked.
JJ shrugged. “It depends on whether or not someone actually wants to hurt you, or if they just want you to step out of the conference. It might. It might not.” She’d wait and see what deep background turned up.
Alright. So I'm going to tell you to come back tomorrow for E, but I maybe won't be upset if you don't believe me...
And I'm officially behind...
Test anxiety is no ones friend.
Anyway, here is C on the day D should be happening. I'll get caught up by the weekend (presumably).
Go back to A here.
JJ took her time gathering her things, dragging the window and door systems she preferred out of storage, packing her go bag. She’d done last minute jobs plenty, where you had about five minutes to pack everything you needed and go, and she’d do them again. Anybody worth their salt learned to keep themselves organized and as prepared as it worked to be.
She could have been ready and probably even at Jacqueline Corbet’s house before they arrived.
But reasonably she didn’t need to be, and Jacqueline Corbet had a more than satisfactory security system. They’d agreed the job didn’t start until she appeared at the Corbet mansion and took possession of the client.
She got her stuff together, and introduced herself to his building security, and did an external pass of the University, and went and sat at some seedy bar she found and had her last drink for three weeks. Then she pulled up at the security gate in front of the mansion and pressed the intercom button.
“Commander Jennings.” She pressed her ID up to the camera. “I’m expected.”
“They told us,” a gruff voice answered. “Come on in. Mr. Liam says you’re to use the front door.”
“Does he,” JJ muttered. “Thank you.”
She pulled up the immaculate drive, and into the wide circle in front of the house. There was a secondary entrance around the side—the tradesmen’s—and normally she’d have rather used it. It was less visible, had better cover.
Liam Corbet was sitting, lit up like a goddamn beacon, in the middle of the front stairs.
JJ rolled the passenger window down. “You realize an even halfway descent shot could make all this academic from outside the perimeter, you sitting in plain sight.”
He blinked at her. “If I aggravate a military grade sniper I’ll remember that.”
JJ rolled her eyes, and leaned across her car and popped the door open. “I promise if you do you won’t get the chance.”
“See.” He stepped up and slid into the car. “Then there’s no point in worrying about it. Why aren’t we just taking your car?”
“I’m security, not your chauffeur, this is a one-time ride.”
“Ah.” He looked out the window, easy expression on his face.
JJ tensed her hands on the steering, and started out of the house gate. She checked her mirrors, and elected to take the round about route from the mansion to his apartment.
“If you’d like to get where you’re going alive, never distract your detail,” JJ snapped. She didn’t need the concentration, probably, but she wasn’t in the mood to sit and listen to him prattle at her about how unfair it was they were making him do this. Or about Maman’s dinner party. Or anything else.
Corbet watched her for a minute, and then went back to silently staring out the window.
Even taking the long way, and changing plans mid-stream, they pulled up to his building in less than twenty minutes. JJ signaled to the support officer she’d told to meet them there—there was no way she was leaving her car in a lot around here somewhere. If they needed it in an emergency she’d deal with the logistics of that then. In the lot controlled by Joint Security was much safer. She left the car on, and put it in park. She’d barely slid out of the seat, and stepped away when they were in the car and Corbet was staring in shock as it pulled away from them.
“I’m assuming your car wasn’t just stolen?”
JJ took him by the elbow, and headed for the door. “It wasn’t.”
The doorman was the same gentleman she’d met earlier. Chuck—they were always named Chuck it seemed—was about twice her age, and going slightly to seed, but he’d worked as personal security, and a bouncer, and a couple of other jobs that meant he knew how to handle himself when he needed to. He swept the door open before them and closed it directly behind them, greeting Corbet warmly.
“Grandmother insisted,” Corbet was explaining.
Chuck hit the elevator button for them. “Well, insisted she might, but Joint Security wouldn’t take the job if it wasn’t worth taking, man.”
Corbet sighed. “I’m coming to terms with that.”
Chuck smiled at her and saluted. “Let me know if you need anything.”
JJ nodded once and shut the elevator door. She just needed him to do his job, and they’d already discussed that earlier in the afternoon.
The one plus to how hard his elevator was trying to be one of the mirrored Art Deco numbers was the chance to surreptitiously watch the mark. Corbet was standing next to her, staring at the gradually ascending numbers on the elevator, like the lights were on and nobody was home.
When the final paperwork had come through there’d been a personal file on Corbet attached. It might have been all theoretical and…academic, but he had an actual job. Never married. Only went to required social functions—he had about a million cousins and there seemed to be one getting married all the time. He didn’t have any known associates, just the people he tangentially worked with.
Her earpiece crackled to life then. “Brown, reporting.”
She pressed the speaker button. “Eta one minute.”
There was a sigh. “Roger. You realize this job wasn’t supposed to start until at least tomorrow.”
JJ scanned the hall when the elevator opened, hand pressed to Corbet’s chest to keep him in the elevator carriage until she was sure it was clear.
“It’s clear,” Brown groused.
“Roger,” JJ replied, and waved Corbet at his door. “And the job starts once we’re responsible for the client.”
Corbet opened his door, his door security was biometric and coded, and the packet said nobody had the code but she was going to make him change it anyway.
“This dude has the most boring apartment in the building, you realize that?” Brown muttered.
JJ knew the layout, but she hadn’t actually seen the inside before. It was…tasteful and expensive, but not as flashy as she might have expected.
Corbet kicked his shoes off underneath the console table in the hall. “The room on the end is my office, the one in the middle is the room you can use. Is there anything you need me to do?”
JJ watched the fatigue in his eyes, and the way he was digging his toes into the high pile carpet. “I’ll need you to reset your door code once I get the system rigged. And stay away from the windows.”
He waved them around. “They’ll all covered in blackout blinds anyway.” He turned and headed for the kitchen. “I’m going to eat something normal, do you want anything.”
“I ate before.” She started fishing her systems out. It was going to be a long night for her, but she was sincerely hoping he decided to go to bed. Everything would be easier without him under foot.
Come back tomorrow for D is for...(?)
Day 2! I promise eventually these will start happening before the end of the day.
I'll keep telling us that anyway.
If you missed yesterday, click the button down there to go to A is for Alliteration.
“We have some logistical issues, Mr. Corbet.”
“Liam,” he corrected.
“Liam.” Todd smiled winsomely. “We understand you have a commitment and we applaud your dedication…”
“But your itinerary is a mess,” JJ interrupted.
Todd stepped back and let her. Because the fact of the matter was this was the moment where they tested whether or not Corbet was willing to follow directions. This business didn’t work if the mark wasn’t willing to follow directions. JJ wouldn’t have a chance of getting him through the three weeks.
Corbet blinked at her. “Is it? I’m not really used to having an ‘itinerary’ so that’s not a surprise.” He offered her a hand. “I read the thing they sent me but I don’t remember your name.”
She shook hands, because it would be rude not to. “Commander Jennings is fine.”
“Commander.” He smiled, like he thought this was amusing, and looked at the board. “What part in particular did you have problems with? I can’t really change my speaking arrangements, or my apartment.”
She swiped across the board, moving to his scheduled itinerary. “The apartment is fine, or I can make it fine. There isn’t enough time in your planned itinerary for us to ensure your safety in transport. You’ve said you’ll leave the apartment at 0900 and begin your engagement at 0930, given travel time that doesn’t allow for perimeter maintenance.”
He blinked. “I’ll be awake by six. How much time do you need?”
Todd relaxed, and leaned against the desk. “In general at least thirty minutes on either side is preferable. You’re okay with us adding that in?”
Corbet nodded. “Sure.”
Todd smiled at her as he adjusted the schedule. JJ withheld her grumble and moved to the next part.
“You requested no detail on the weekends.”
“I’ll be at home most of the weekend.”
“But your threats were specific to this time period, and sounded like they had something to do with the conference.” JJ folded her arms over her chest. “The assumption that that means you are only in danger while at the conference is erroneous, and likely to lead to your safety being compromised in the entirety.”
Corbet wrinkled his nose in distaste. “So you’re going to follow me for the entire three weeks.”
“If you just want someone to follow you, hire a bodyguard.” JJ smiled, hard.
“Traditionally, Mr. Corbet, a security professional will orchestrate your movements for the period of the job, it is the best way to ensure ones safety,” Todd soothed. “It is inconvenient, I’m sure, but—”
“Less inconvenient than getting hurt,” Corbet said dryly. “I suppose I can manage three weeks. Did you have other concerns Commander Jennings?”
“A few.” She flipped to his listed modes of travel. “But the largest is the insistence that you travel on the E.” She highlighted where he’d listed all the different times and trains on the public transit system he’d listed.
“He has access to a driver he generally refuses to use.”
“I don’t need a driver,” Corbet insisted. “The E works just fine.”
JJ rolled her eyes. “Sure. It also has at least a few dozen, possibly a few hundred people on it I can’t easily account for.” If he wanted to slum it on the train with the normies the rest of the time, that wasn’t her business.
The twenty percent completion bonus wasn’t going to help much if she couldn’t complete the job.
He looked at his grandmother. “And this doesn’t have anything to do with you not liking the fact I take the E.”
“Yes, darling, you’ve found me out, I sent you death threats so you would use the driver we are already paying,” Jaqueline retorted.
Corben laughed, and gave her a one armed hug. “Well, I wouldn’t put it past you.” He looked back at JJ. “Should we just give you the contact information for the driver and you can arrange when he’ll be picking us up and where?”
“Yes.” JJ relaxed her shoulders. She didn’t like him, she’d honestly never met a trust-fund baby she liked and she’d met plenty of them in this job. But she didn’t have to like him to successfully run security. And if he was going to listen, and not be a stubborn idiot, she didn’t have a reason not to take the job.
She’d have liked to have a reason not to take the job, but she didn’t.
“I’ll need to adjust the start date on the contract. If you intend of leaving your apartment Monday I’ll need to set up the day before, at least.”
“Liam has an engagement at my house this evening, I’ll be taking him with me,” Jacqueline insisted, settling her jacket and adjusting her purse. “I can refuse to release him until the morning if you would prefer.”
JJ flipped back through the pages. “I can be ready by this evening.” It was barely noon now, that gave her more than enough time to lock her place up and gather supplies. “I can provide transport for this evening.”
Jacqueline nodded, and looked at Liam. “Is that agreeable to you, dear?”
“You don’t sound as if I have much choice, Maman.” He smiled, and nodded, though. “But yes. That’s fine.”
Todd pulled the contract tablet off his desk and held it out to Jacqueline. “I need your thumbprint and an acknowledgement of the change in quote, and then you can be on your way.”
She scanned through the contract before signing it, at least. Not that JJ was surprised by that. Jacqueline Corbet carried herself like the kind of woman who was capable and ready to rule the world. The kind of woman who fully understood the ins and outs of how her world worked and knew trusting anyone was a fool’s errand.
“It’s been a pleasure, Ma’am.” Todd shook her hand again, and opened his office door while shaking Liam’s. “Feel free to contract me if you have any concerns.”
JJ took a snapshot with her personal system of Corbet’s contact information. “I’ll contact you when I’m ready for retrieval this evening.”
“I shall endeavor to be waiting like the sack of potatoes I am.” He saluted jauntily and followed his grandmother out of the office.
Todd closed the door carefully, and let the privacy screens engage. “Well.”
JJ rubbed her face. “Why do I let you talk me into these jobs?”
“Because they pay well.” Todd cleared the board. “And he took notes real well, for a mark.”
“He did. I’m sure it won’t hold.”
Todd chuckled. “Eventually we’ll get those positive thinking lessons to stick.”
“Sure.” She grabbed her helmet off the chair in the corner. “I’ll work on that. Maybe when I take that retirement package.” She gave him a hard smile. “Excuse me while I go reorder my life because you didn’t tell the client showing up the morning of wasn’t an option.”
Todd tossed her the secure tablet that held all the mission particulars. “You’re picky about clients. There’s no point in my putting in extra effort if you’re going to refuse to take them.”
JJ waved the tablet at him, and had her hand on the door when he stopped her.
She stopped, and turned. “Chief?”
“In all seriousness, those letters didn’t look like nothing. If you need more, let me worry about whether they’re going to squabble over the price.”
She nodded in agreement. “That’s what you’re for. I always do.”
Alright. Come back tomorrow, wherein JJ is not all judge-y about Liam's apartment. C is for Coddle.
Right. New year, new story!
If you haven't been around for this before, a couple of caveats. This is a story in progress, meaning most of the time that days entry will be written shortly before it gets posted. This means my ability to do anything more than a passing edit is...negligible. Be prepared for some rough patches. Feel free to comment if I've renamed a character suddenly, or confused you about a plot point (though I'm fond of the sideways story so maybe hold that concern for later in the month).
Let the adventure begin!
Jasmina Jade Jennings—JJ to people she liked, Commander Jennings to people she didn’t, and Jennings everyone else—had two simple rules.
One, never take a job she didn’t know all the specs of. This saved a lot of trouble she’d seen other people working personal security detail get into. The sort where they took a ‘simple’ job that was supposed to be transport or special job security and it turned into a three-month saga and enough paperwork to paper mache an oceangoing raft. The joke around the Officer’s Club was that these were ‘just’ jobs. Any job someone pitched to you as “You’re just doing x.”
JJ didn’t do ‘just’ jobs.
The second rule?
Never take a job where the mark wanted to be her friend. She’d learned real quick not to take jobs where the mark wanted to be her friend. It never worked. She couldn’t be their friend, not and protect them in any reasonable amount.
She also just…just didn’t want to? The kind of people who could afford to pay for her type of security were not the kind of people she had anything in common with. They were so rich their great-grandchildren wouldn’t be able to spend it fast enough, and half the time they’d never been outside the secured zones, and always they had expectations of who she was and what that meant.
She’d come out of training knowing she didn’t want to do ‘just’ jobs. And scored high enough marks she could be picky about that. Graduating top of her class had some perks, being worth too much for ‘simple’ jobs was one of them. The jobs where the mark wanted to be her friend were a little hard to dodge, but so far she’d managed a solid five years and she’d worked repeat jobs, but nobody had ever invited her to a social gathering yet.
“Ah, Commander Jennings.” Todd stood in the door to his office while she stepped off the lift, and smiled the bright, toothy kind of smile that said the client was already in his office and she was probably going to have a bad day.
“Chief Todd.” JJ tucked her helmet under her arm. She could have worn her dress uniform today, plenty of people did. It made the clients feel fuzzy and special. “I hope I’m not late.”
Todd stepped back. “Perfectly on time, as always.”
JJ stepped into the office, and nodded deferentially to the woman taking up the chaise against the wall. She was older, probably at least sixty, with a perfectly turned out suit that cost more than JJ made in a year, and her ‘day’ jewels, without a hair or a freckle out of place. She had the kind of china white skin that’d gone out of fashion forty years ago, even if the suit was a newer model.
“It’s an unsual circumstance,” Todd said gently, sitting on the edge of his desk.
He’d said that in the quote for services, but nobody talked about that in front of the client. JJ stood at a relaxed attention and waited patiently.
“Allow me to introduce Jacqueline Rose Corbet.”
JJ shook hands the way she was expected to. She knew who the Corbet’s were. Old money, and more power than most people thought anyone should have, and family tendrils everywhere. “Ma’am.”
“Mrs. Corbet is the client, but she’s not the person who needs protection.” Todd smiled that perfect customer service smile at Mrs. Corbet and then turned and locked eyes with her.
So, Mrs. Corbet had been told this wasn’t an ideal way to do this, and she’d dug her heels in.
“I see.” It didn’t matter if she’d been told already. She’d be told again, even if it wasn’t just by JJ. “I understand your dedication to your family, Ma’am.” It’d be a grandchild, probably, given the age attached to the service quote. “But it’s…difficult to provide security for people who don’t want it.”
Jacqueline Corbet watched her through pale eyes. “My grandson is a bright young man, and very good at what he does. He is not the most…practical soul.” She shifted, relaxing back. “I understand your concerns, Commander Jennings, but I assure you he will not be unwilling. I am instigating the contract for logistical reasons, not because he was unwilling.”
Which she’d bet a year’s salary meant he was a giant man child. JJ could handle that, probably. He wouldn’t be the first entitled, trust fund idiot she’d been forced to physically drag from point a to point b. For a while there, those people had been her bread and butter.
“Mrs. Corbet understands our reluctance, and attached a twenty percent completion waver to the contract,” Todd said. “Though I’ve pointed out you’ll have to meet the target and assess viability yourself.”
JJ nodded. Because she did, and she would. “The exact details of the job seemed…tenuous.” In that they’d been more or less nonexistent. A three-week contract wasn’t unusual, but a three-week contract with no actual listed reasoning and very little information was.
“My grandson has received threats of a personal nature. They have been properly turned over to the appropriate security officials. In normal circumstances however worrisome that situation might be, it likely wouldn’t lead to the need for personal security.” Jacqueline adjusted her bracelet. “My grandson is a professional, and he has a speaking and teaching engagement beginning this coming week. For three weeks there will be an order of magnitude more people in his life than there generally are.” She sighed. “He refuses to step back from this commitment, and no amount of the rest of us pointing out his professional life isn’t worth losing his life over will convince him.”
Todd nodded. “As such Mrs. Corbet and I have discussed a general shadow arrangement, with appropriate digital backup.”
Which was pretty standard. She’d go everywhere the mark went, and there’d be a separate contract for digital surveillance she could liaise with at need. “And the completion waiver?”
“If Mrs. Corbet’s grandson makes it through the full three weeks without sustaining serious injury, as defined by the contract terms, the bonus is paid. You’ll want to read them, but they’re standard.”
Meaning as long as he didn’t have to be admitted to the hospital for injuries sustained under her care the job paid an extra twenty percent.
“Monday isn’t a lot of time to plan, given I haven’t met the target.”
“He’s late,” Jacqueline insisted dryly. “But he informs me he is on his way.”
JJ nodded, and looked at Todd. “Do you have layouts of the venue and his living arrangements?”
“I do.” He nodded. “As well as his normal travel itinerary.” There was a connotation there, but he wouldn’t clarify it in front of the client.
JJ stepped up to the digitized board next to the desk and looked at the apartment scans they’d provided. It was a relatively low-key place, three bedrooms in an older building. But it had its own building security she’d need to evaluate by Monday morning. They’d marked the guest room next to the master as where she’d be expected to stay while she was on the job.
She’d moved on to the systems listing—what kind of windows the building had, and how the doors were connected to the security feed made a difference in what kind of portable systems she could attach without compromising building security. She could have compromised building security, if she felt like she needed to, but people got twitchy when you did that and most of the time she didn’t find it warranted.
A shadow moved in the door, and JJ looked up and instantly knew he was the mark. He looked like a mark.
He knocked loudly on the frame in a clever rhythm and smiled perfect white teeth in a perfect jaw. “Maman!” He exclaimed and practically jumped across the room and kissed Jacqueline on the cheeks. “Sorry I’m late. I promise I didn’t forget.”
“Liam.” Jacqueline sounded tired. “Do behave yourself with some comportment.”
He sat down next to his grandmother and beamed at her. “Now now, if I can’t be excited and indelicate with my grandmother who can I be?” He looked over and jumped back up, holding a hand out for Todd. “You must be Chief Todd.”
Todd shook. “Mr. Corbet.”
“Liam, please.” He looked at the schematics on the board. “Oh, is that my place? How interesting. I’ve never seen it like that. It looks very serious.”
JJ blinked at him. There were rhinestones on his designer jeans, and his stupidly expensive polo shirt at the little digitized moving alligator logo, and he was leaning in to look at the schematics like it was a band poster.
Absolutely. Not. JJ thought, wondering if it was time to add a third rule.
Alright. That was A for Alliteration. Come back tomorrow for B (Title to be Determined).
If you're just bored and looking for something to read, you can started here, at the letter A in Cornucopia Conundrum, my story from 2017.
Or you can started here, at the letter A in 2018's story (that I apparently never gave a title).
*Blows dust of blog and promptly falls into coughing fit.*
Well. Um... How's everybody been? I didn't realize it'd been a year since I'd written a blog post. So. That's a thing.
Anyway. I'm jumping in with both feet again and committing to do the A to Z blogging challenge. I did a novella in 1000 word A to Z titled installments in 2017 and 2018. It'll be no problem at all to do that in 2019, right?
I mean I have two term papers, and a final, and classes, and AwesomeCon and...
wooooo. Deep breaths. It's fine. I'll work up a plot today and we'll be golden.
Come back tomorrow for A is for....um....Alliteration. Yeah. A is for Alliteration. Tomorrow. Promise.
I've been thinking a lot about how I'm going to manage this post, given all the stuff I haven't talked about because of the A to Z Challenge (the link takes you back to A, if you've missed all that). I could do like five blog posts about everything, but given the fact I've been posting every day (not, because I suck, but still) for the month of April I think I'm going to sort of condense things down into one.
Which means this incredibly long post is going to do a couple of things. We're going to talk about April, and all the shows, and all that jazz. And then we're going to talk about RavenCon specifically. Before we talk about April you might want to belt up a little, it may be kind of depressing (or you could scroll down past the picture and just jump back into the RavenCon fun).
So April is always a rough month, in the Words and Wanderings house, at least any more. I sort of expect that? Dad's birthday was in April, and Mom's birthday is in April, and you wouldn't think birthdays were depressing but when one is for a dead person and the other is for a person with dementia...yeah. Not to mention we did All The Shows this April, and I had to take my placement tests to go back to college (which is both terrifying and exciting), and there is...difficulty with Mom's medicaid application, and all of that doesn't even get into it being SOL time for the proto-human, and the husband having work stuff, and the fact I stupidly agreed to write a novella in bits, in public, without editing time.
The weather's been not helpful, too.
So I spent most of April trying to figure out what I was going to say about all of this, once the blog challenge was over. I didn't get far. Sure, April is hard. April is always hard. Two years ago today I was sitting around my house waiting for my sister to call and tell me what the doctor said, since Dad was in the hospital and getting less and less coherent all the time. We're like two weeks from the anniversary of his death. That should be the hard part, right? Except I don't think grief works like that. My parents birthdays are so close together, they've always been tied in my head. We bounce straight from Mom's birthday to Dad's and maybe didn't always do cards and presents, but I always called. When I could I visited. Sometimes they came and visited me.
Maybe being extra busy this month made that better? But actually I think it just pushed it down the line. We're gonna talk about RavenCon here in a minute, from a writing/publishing/business perspective and all that, but this bit doesn't fit any of that. I was on a paranormal panel this year, with some really interesting people who do visual effects, and write, and ghost hunt, that I maybe showed up to expecting it to be about the paranormal in film/books/tv and wound up mostly talking about the actual paranormal. Which felt...strange, but sometimes you just roll with it, and my ability to pull crap out of my nether-regions when required is clearly still working.
So late in the panel this couple came in and sat in the back, and when it was time for one last question the gentleman raised his hand. "Hi. We lost our son a couple of years ago and for ages we heard footsteps, and noises. And then we got rid of some of this things, things we really shouldn't have been keeping but they felt sentimental, and then it stopped. Do you think that was a real paranormal thing?"
And just for added gut-punch, they were probably younger than I am and I suspect the son they lost was still in diapers. Everyone on the panel was really sympathetic, and basically all said 'if you felt like it was real I'm not going to tell you it wasn't.'
But I had a different take, and I'm going to explain it to you here (probably better than I did then because I'm often better at the written word than I am the spoken). Our minds run in channels, in processing lines. We are--even when we're not--creatures of habit. When someone who used to be part of your habit is gone, your brain still wants to run those same lines. We lost a cat a couple of years ago and for months I'd still feel like I saw her sitting on the couch out of the corner of my eye. Just because the being who started the pattern isn't there anymore doesn't meant the pattern just stops. Our brain wants to complete the picture, because it's used to that being the picture. Doubly so with people who are supposed to be our everyday pattern of life.
So no matter how busy I get, there's a nagging alarm in the back of my head that says I haven't called Dad for his birthday, and when I have a quiet moment that hurts. Maybe not as much as it did last year, but hopefully more than it will next year.
Now that I've been thoroughly depressing, have a strange picture taken by my kid. And scroll down to the bottom of it for the next bit...
Right. If you don't know, here's a link to the RavenCon website so you can read what they say it's about (basically it's a science fiction/fantasy convention that focuses a lot more on books than comics/tv/movies).
When Kate and I decided to apply as guests for RavenCon, and get a booth for the publishing house, it was our only show in April. By the time we got to April we'd filled in the other weekends with a local library con, and a crafts/vendor fair, and right in the middle of all of that, and regular life, was RavenCon. My first Con as a guest, and not just an attendee or vendor (and to be fair, I might have done like one as an attendee).
To say my anxiety level about this was high might be understating things. I stopped drinking caffeine the day we drove down to the show because I felt like I was going to start having heart palpitations. Kate and Ashley arguably got the bigger panel (a talk about Editing with Chuck Wendig and Tee Morris, both of whom I adore), and we were all doing a few panels on our own. Added to the general nerves of 'crap I've never done this before' and the ones that usually come with any kind of public speaking, there wasn't a lot of guidance about what we could expect from the panels we were going to be on. Like the editing one is pretty self explanatory, but the paranormal one I did required a fair amount of thinking on your feet.
Of course we all did great, and it was a great con in pretty much all respects. The vendor show wasn't as robust as probably anyone would have liked it to be (I always try to talk to other vendors and see how this year stacks up against last year). But the people were wonderful, and I met some amazing new authors, and got to be on panels with people I'd love to do things with again. I'm toying with reaching out to some of them and seeing if they'll answer some interview questions for me to post on here, or on the GFP blog.
I got to say "hi" to Chuck Wendig, and shake his hand. He was super nice, and I always find him interesting. I'm sure it was at least as wearing being on constantly for three days for him as it was for me (fewer people actually probably care how nice to them I am). I asked Mr. Wendig to sign a book for my son, and when the proto-human is like sixteen and he can actually read it that'll be great (though he super liked that he got a real signed book).
I was on a panel with Sandra Baldari on Saturday night, called Why Adults Read YA that went well, we seemed to enjoy ourselves, and Sunday morning we talked in the vendor show for a while, and she said she was doing a panel on Steampunk, which sounded interesting so I said if I was free from the table I'd go. Sunday was a little slow, so Ashley and I went to watch the Steampunk panel, and when I walked in I was greeted with "Jules can be on the panel!" They had two no-shows, so I took a panelist seat, and proceeded to accidentally remind myself that I actual pay attention to this publishing thing? and know things about genres I don't write or particularly read?
So that was my RavenCon. Three days of people. Not a few hundred thousand like AwesomeCon, but still lots of people. Lots of being charming and warm and I maybe once hid in the corner with my sandwich (and still wound up having a conversation about the con with a random hotel guest). Was it terrifying? Absolutely. Was it worth it?
Look, if what you're doing doesn't scare you, doesn't push you to do better, you're probably not doing it right. Like everything about being an author that's not just the writing is scary, sometimes to the point you have to stop caffeine so your heart doesn't flutter. The only way I've found to make it less scary is to just belt up and do it.
Also, sometimes the scary things are were you meet the coolest people. And to that end, here's a list.
John Walker | Sandra Baldari | Hawkings Austin | Doc Coleman | Crymsyn Heart | Laurel Wanrow | Tee Morris
So, that's a (slightly late) update and RavenCon breakdown. Come back next week and we'll talk about underwater basket-weaving. Or maybe movies?
Huzzah, we have reached the end of our tale, gentle traveler!
Only...not? It's more the end of the beginning than the end. I feel like this is a post credits title card. Brody and Libby will return in... And I don't know when, but it's pretty safe to say they will.
Zephyr means a gentle breeze.
And one last time, you can go back to A here.
Brody stood at the display in his kitchen, half a stalk of celery hanging out of his mouth, and swiped another job offer into the ‘read it later’ file. The number next to the file icon flashed to a bold, aggravated twenty-six, and warned him the file was reaching its size limit.
In the six months since he’d shown up on PacIC to do an interview for a job he didn’t want, he’d gotten twenty-six more job offers. Not all of them were from connections from his service days, he didn’t even know what all of them were.
In the beginning he’d let them sit because…because he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do, and hanging out on PacIC with Libby seemed as good an idea as any. Even when her trouble was over he hadn’t been entirely sure it was over. He still wasn’t entirely sure it was over. Her survey gig was over though, she was closing up this week, turning in her final work and getting ready to take her next assignment.
Apparently Matt had been a little annoyingly vague about what that was going to be.
It was going to be decision making time though, soon. Once Libby left he was going to have to find something to do with himself. And on some level he knew what he wanted to do, but he wasn’t going to do it.
And staying on PacIC didn’t hold a lot more interest than anything else did.
He grabbed a couple of eggs out of the fridge, and turned the electric cooker on. He raised an egg, shifting his hold so it would break perfectly the way his grandmother taught him--
“You have a visitor, Captain Halliday,” the voice control system for the apartment interrupted.
“Did they say what they wanted?” He turned around to find a vaguely familiar man, wearing an expensive suit and holding a cane taking up the door camera on the display.
“No, sir. Should I send them away?”
“Captain Halliday, it’s Matt Perthins.” He shifted, and cleared his throat. “Could I have a moment of your time?”
Brody walked over and manually opened the door. “Mr. Perthins.” He frowned. “I wasn’t aware you were here.”
He had the grace to look bashfull. “I haven’t spoken to Ms. Wade yet. Do you have a moment?”
“Of course, come in.” He walked back into the kitchen and put the eggs back in the crate, turning the cooker off. “Is something wrong?”
Matt Perthins was staring around his sterile, temporary apartment and clearly adding two and two to make fifty-seven, but when he caught Brody watching him he flushed, and stopped. “You haven’t returned my messages.”
“Messages?” He was pretty sure he hadn’t missed a call.
“Emails. About the job offer?”
Brody blinked. “Oh.” There probably wasn’t a tactful way to say he hadn’t bothered to read any of them. “I…I didn’t realize any of them were from you.”
Perthins pulled out a tablet and handed it over. “It’s nothing…fancy, more a general security position, and the pay is…less than what you could probably get other places.”
Brody took it, glancing at the information. It wasn’t bad pay, and all it said was ‘field and asset security’ and he avoided those types of jobs because talk about crap he didn’t want to wind up in the middle of… “But?”
The other man smiled, and squared his shoulders. “But I promise you’ll like your co-workers. Well…co-worker.”
“Libby.” It wasn’t particularly a shock. Except that he was suddenly, intensely sure he didn’t want to be around for that portion of this conversation.
Her boss nodded. “There are…contracts I cannot avoid any longer, and my last attempt ended with being told point blank I was allowed to hire security if I wanted to. And I know they said it with the understanding that I would never get Libby to agree.”
“And you think she might if it’s me?” Brody wasn’t sure about that.
Matt looked at him for a long minute, and sighed. “Captain Halliday—”
“Brody.” Matt nodded, smiling. “My boss, and his boss both, have a somewhat…skewed picture of not only Libby, but our relationship. However argumentative she’s been with other people, that’s never applied to me. I could tell her the next survey and she would not balk. I could tell her I’d hired security and she may not be happy about it, but I’m confident she’d fall in.”
“She trusts you.”
“She does,” Matt agreed. “Because I’m not stupid enough to attribute any extra weight to that, or take it for granted. They’ve assumed I balked at the contract because she wouldn’t do it.”
“Instead you balked at the contract because you didn’t think she’d come back.”
“However she likes to downplay what happened in the Black Sea, I spent hours attached to my desk, somewhat sure I was going to be planning a funeral.” Matt swallowed. “And this situation before this survey even started would have been equally as bad…”
“Only I was here.”
Matt nodded. “So yes, she’d agree to protection, and yes, she’d take the job. She might even be fine. But I thought perhaps if you had no firm plans you might like to assist GIG in making the world a better place.”
Brody looked at the employment package, and thought about it. Did he want to stick with Libby? Absolutely. Was it all wrapped up in the fear her increasingly dangerous job was going to get her killed? He should say yes, shouldn’t he? Because he was sure that was true, or at least closer to true than anyone would like.
Except that wasn’t why he wanted to do it. “Okay.” He handed Matt his tablet back. “But you’re telling her.”
At least know he knew what to do with all the unanswered job offers.
The End! Well, sort of, like I said up there.
Anyway, come back next week and I'll have some kind of coherent breakdown of the April of All Shows (mostly RavenCon).
Y and Z are happening after the official close of the event, because life got in the way. Y is long, because I'm trying to find some sort of reasonable conclusion for all the threads still hanging. Or part of a conclusion anyway. I'll explain next time (technically five minutes from now because I'm a master procrastinator).
Yugen--An awareness of the universe that triggers an emotional response.
You can go back to A here.
Libby wouldn’t have moved from the hospital room, even if someone had asked her to. They’d given Brody a nanite injection and a sedative that meant he was out for two hours, and Special Agent King was apparently willing to come talk to her at the hospital.
In theory everything was over, and it wouldn’t hurt any for her to go somewhere else. Not that she had anywhere else to go, for the moment. She could even have gone to make some sort of plan for the night and presumably been back before Brody was even awake.
She was still sitting there, watching his chest rise and fall slowly.
“Can I get you a cup of coffee or something, Libby?” Inspector Hussein asked softly.
“No, thank you.” She leaned her head back. “Should I assume he’s actually gotten everyone now? Or do you need to go deal with your officer that shot Brody?”
“He’s still in processing.” She sat in the chair on the other side of the room. “And while I’ve been promised like six times they got everyone and we don’t have anything to worry, I’m still going to stay close until he’s functioning again.”
Libby smiled sadly, and knocked her head back. “We’re all jumping at shadows today.”
“You’re shadow-jumping kept you from getting shot, I wouldn’t knock it.” Her tablet went off then, and she held it up, smiling at the screen. “Hello, sweetheart!”
“Papa said I could call and see if you were going to be home for dinner tonight?” A child asked, insistent and stern.
“I don’t know yet, I’m staying at the hospital until my friend Brody is awake, and keeping Libby company.” She turned the screen then, so Libby could see a little girl with dark hair and bright eyes on the screen, who looked almost exactly like a smaller version of her mother. “Libby, this is my daughter, Amira.”
The little girl waved at her. “Hello, Miss.”
“Hi.” Libby smiled. “What time is dinner? I’ll make sure I’m not keeping her.”
“Six sharp,” the little girl insisted. “But if you need her you can keep her.”
“Thank you.” Libby grinned.
“Amira, I told you not to bother Mama at work,” a male voice insisted.
“Gotta go!” she said, before the screen went black.
Detective Hussein laughed, shaking her head.
“She’s eight?” Libby offered.
“She is.” The other woman smiled. “Convinced she’s going to be president of the world.”
“Go her,” Libby said softly. She closed her eyes. “I was going to breed dinosaurs when I was her age.”
“I was always going to be a detective.”
“Well, nobody ever said direction was a bad thing. Detective—”
“Dagny,” she corrected. “I’m off the clock, and I’m definitely dragging you around for dinner when this is all over.”
Libby popped an eye open and looked at the other woman. “Is that why I’m Libby now, and not Ms. Wade?”
“It is.” Dagny smiled. “Presumably you’re going to be around for a while, after all this?”
“At least four months. I think my official timeline is six, but it’ll only take that long if something goes wrong.”
Dagny reached out and knocked on the faux-wood paneled table next to her. “I think there’s been enough wrong.”
Libby laughed, nodding.
“I hope I’m not interrupting anything,” Special Agent King asked quietly, standing in the doorway.
She looked back at him, seemingly unmarked and just as well put together as he’d been the last time she’d seen him. “No, we’re just killing time. Did you need a statement or something?”
King grabbed a chair out of the hallway and dragged it in with him, sitting in front of her. “I trust we can have a conversation and you, and Inspector Hussein, can pretend for all intents and purposes that we haven’t had it?”
“We can,” Libby answered.
“Because, as I’m sure you understand, the official line is that I cannot share with you anything that may be pursuant to any form of active investigation.”
She cocked a brow at him. “I understand.”
He nodded, and handed her a paper folder. “Good. I’m in powerful need of a cup of coffee, I’ll bring you and the detective one, shall I?” And then he stood up and walked away, the privacy door hissing closed behind him.
Dagny snorted, and moved to the chair he’d pulled in. “Well then.”
Libby opened the folder. “I’m probably supposed to stuff this under the chair and pretend I don’t want to read it.”
“I want to read it.”
There were four pages of Arrest Identifications. William Shaw, thirty-two, with brown hair and brown eyes, and a tattoo on his neck. Libby recognized him as the man Brody had seen in the street. The next was another man she didn’t recognize, and then another, and then the last identification was someone she’d remembered seeing with James once.
The very last page of the file was a compiled list of known associates, and Libby reached out and grabbed Dagny’s tablet, snapping a picture, and handing it back to her.
“What are we going to do with this?” Dagny asked softly.
“Wait for Brody to wake up, I’m sure he’ll have a way to not gain friends when we look them all up,” Libby muttered. She made sure the pages were all back in order, and closed the folder.
By the time Special Agent King came back, Libby and Dagny were settled in, sitting quietly and resting. Agent King handed them each a cup of coffee, and scooped his folder back up. “Well, it’s been a pleasure meeting you both, please give my best to Captain Halliday.”
Libby nodded, and smiled blandly.
King nodded to both of them, and walked away quietly.
“Well that was interesting,” Dagny whispered.
Libby chuckled, and closed her eyes. “I’m going to take a nap, wake me up before Brody wakes up?”
“Sure.” Dagny took a sip of her coffee.
The sounds of the hospital melded into a comforting murmur, soft white-noise that meant she could relax. She didn’t sleep, really, just floated in that warm, comfortable plane between awake and asleep, and tried to quiet the voice in the back of her head that kept trying to pop up with the bits of her life she’d been ignoring during all of this. It was fairly emphatic that she needed to call Matt, as well.
But it could all wait until later. She certainly wasn’t going to do any of that while she was sitting in the hospital, and after all the time Brody had devoted to making sure she didn’t wind up a cautionary tale she could wait for him.
Dagny sighed, after about thirty minutes. “I’m relatively sure you’re not asleep, and he should be waking up in a few minutes.”
Libby sat forward, planting her feet on the ground in front of her chair. “I wasn’t not asleep.” She wiped her face and looked at the peaceful form on the bed. Dark blue eyes watched her, and she huffed at him. “How long have you been awake for, then?”
Brody sat up carefully, stretching. “As long as you have been, apparently.” He checked her over, and Dagny. “Did I miss King?”
Libby nodded. “I’ll share though, once you’re out of here.”
“Looks like the nurse is coming,” Dagny offered.
The dust settled incredibly fast. Once they were all clear, and Brody was out of the hospital, it’d taken Libby less than an hour to find “temporary” lodging. For a second she’d thought Brody would be off, back to whatever he intended to do with his life.
Instead he’d taken a flat about a block from her, and quasi-settled in.
Which meant when Dagny invited them around for a Saturday cookout at hers, Brody could just show up at her door and go with her. Dagny lived in the mid-range residential stacks, on the opposite arm of their lodging. The train ride was quick, and they used the intercom next to glass elevator to tell Dagny they were there.
“It’s number 12, I’ll buzz you in.”
The glass sided elevator sunk down to street level, and the doors popped open. “Select your floor, please?”
“Number 12,” Brody answered.
“Access granted,” the pleasant voice returned, and the doors slid shut and started them up.
Libby liked the idea of the stacks. They were like little two-story houses with grass yards, and gardens, all stacked one on top of the other, and then usually there were some amenities on the bottom few levels. A couple of shops, a restaurant, that sort of thing. Some of the nicer ones had an entire botanical garden, or a museum or something in them.
They stopped at #12, and the doors opened right as Amira opened the entryway door. They stepped into the small room, decorated in browns and greens, and Amira stared up at Brody in something akin to horrified fascination.
“Hello, Amira,” Libby stepped forward.
The girl swallowed and stepped back. “Mama’s guests are here,” she announced.
An attractive, broad shouldered man with dark skin and a wide nose stepped into the main room. “Welcome.” He shook both their hands. “Dagny is starting the grill, or she would introduce us. I am Amir, it is a pleasure to meet you Captain Halliday and Ms. Wade.”
“Brody, please,” he corrected, smiling warmly. “You have a lovely home.”
“Are you gonna be charming now that I’ve told everyone you’re a blunt instrument?” Dagny wiped her hands on a dish cloth, and stood in the kitchen door. Her weekend attire was much more…relaxed than they’d seen her yet. Her headscarf was so bright and jubilant it almost hurt to look at.
“He always thinks he’s charming,” Libby teased gently. “Thank you for having us, and please, call me Libby.”
Amir smiled. “Please come through to the table outside. Amira, get the plates.”
They settled in the sweet outdoor space, and Libby stared at the nest of song birds in the corner while Brody and Amir talked about PacIC and what Brody planned to do while he was there. She’d pointedly tried to ask him what his plans were, but the most answer she ever got was that for the time his plans were to stay in PacIC.
And whatever was growing between them, she didn’t feel comfortable pushing for more of an answer than that, so she didn’t.
“Mama says you’re a kind of social worker,” Amira said, sitting next to Libby and opening a package of string cheese.
“I work with them sometimes, but I don’t help people so much as just ask them lots of questions.”
“Why do I ask them questions?” Libby clarified.
The little girl nodded, attention fully pointed at Libby.
“So that the people who are supposed to help them know what they need.”
“Why don’t they just know?”
Libby smiled, taking the bowl of fruit from Brody, and putting some on her plate. “For the same reason I can tell you’re good at school but I don’t know what your most problematic subject is. And I could look at your records, and see the one you were getting the lowest grade in, but that’s only part of an answer, and maybe if I asked you you’d tell me something different was harder.”
“Did you go to school for that?”
“No, I sort of stumbled into it,” Libby admitted. “But there are people who go to school to do what I do. I get to travel a lot, right now. Maybe later that won’t be so true, but I still like getting to go different places.”
Amira seemed to settle in and think about that, and her mother smiled at her. “Let them eat, love. I’ll be sure to drag Libby around as often as I can, while she’s here. And presumably you’d come back to PacIC once in a while.”
“I don’t hit here particularly often, but Matt’s still sort of in panic mode so I’m not sure what’ll happen after this job.”
“He’s stopped panicking at me, at least,” Dagny muttered. “What about you Brody?”
“No clue. I’ve got more than enough time to decide what I want to do for my second career, I’ll give it a bit and see what appeals to me.” He shrugged. “What about you, I heard they were restructuring.”
“I may get a promotion, but what they’re doing is still changing with the wind, so I’m not holding my breath.” Dagny smiled. “Still, it could be quiet for a bit.”
“Well, you picked good weather for a cookout,” Brody insisted, all smiles.
Libby shook her head at him, and dug into her food. It never used to bother her that her life was up in the air. If it was starting to, she might need to change some things. Matt was going to love that.
There's a link to my bio at the top of the page, but for these purposes it's probably best to just say I'm strange.