Friday, March 21, 2014

Chapter 100: Jack Witnesses the Deed


Sat, December 12, 2074 11:43 am: Arbormoor Forest- Arbormoor, Pleasantview

Oona was in one of her moods. When she came in the house that morning from dropping Conrad off at school, she sent Jack's breakfast skidding across the kitchen with a sharp, backhanded slap. The plate broke into quarters and scrambled eggs dotted the floor. Get your kit on, Townie. We have work to do, and don't bother cleaning that up. Sara will be here in less than ten minutes. She didn't say another word to him all the way to their destination. Jack hadn't a clue where they were headed but suddenly regretted his acquiescence as her giant muscle car peeled away from the curb. Curiosity had ever been his fatal flaw.

"So you gonna drop a few veils or what?" Jack slammed the passenger door behind him. The wind was bitter. Errant snowflakes stung his cheeks. Oona turned and winked at him.

"Never in mixed company, kiddo," she quipped. Jack drew his jacket up around his neck.

"What I meant to say was, 'I'd please like to know what we're doing here, boss.'" He placed a special emphasis on that last, but Oona failed to dignify it with a response. Her pale blue eyes were bored, glazed, inscrutable as a doll's eyes.

"Then why didn't you just say so? We're waiting for a friend," she said.

"A friend?" His allowed his incredulity to show. Oona smirked, brandishing a row of large, ghastly white teeth.

"That's right."

"You don't have any friends." It was not an insult, but a simple statement of fact. Oona Horne had no friends. Not that she needed them or, as far as Jack could tell, wanted them. She withdrew a glock from the interior of her tweed coat and removed the magazine, inspecting her round.

"You know, that hurts, Jackie. That really hurts." She tossed her long hair to the side, into the wind and out of her face. "You hear that? If I am not mistaken, our chariot approaches." Jack did hear it-- the low rumble of a luxury sedan engine. Soon he could see the hood of the vehicle through the trees, close enough to read the tags. He squinted against the light that glinted from the well-polished grill.

"That's Horace Goth." Jack had not intended to say it aloud. He suddenly felt ill. Whatever Oona was up to would not end today and would not end well.

"Good eye." Oona patted him hard on the back, like a man. She stowed the pistol back under her coat. "Bet you didn't know that I had friends in such high places."

Horace Goth's car kicked up the swale, nearly spraying Jack's shoes with mud. He emerged from the driver's seat, graceful and incensed, his greasy black hair covering one eye. Jack had never seen this man up close before. His young face was deeply creased and care-worn. Jack wondered what cares a man in Horace's position could possibly be harboring. Horace stepped up to Oona with a self-confidence Jack rarely saw in anyone who dared to confront her. He ignored Jack entirely.

"I see you got my note," Oona said. Horace was snarling on the edge of rage.

"Who the hell do you think you are?"

"Yeah, you know what? Let's talk about who I am and more to the point, who my father is--"

"Spare me. Your father is--"

"--Lord God Almighty to someone in your present condition."

"I beg your pardon?" Oona smiled, turning her attention to Horace's shoes.

"I like you, Horace. I really do, but I can see that we are not quite on the same page just yet. So here's what I'm going to do for you-- I'm going to make this as plain as the nose on your face." Oona moved so fast that Jack could not be certain that he saw what happened-- A tangle of limbs and then Oona had Horace bent over the hood of his car with his arm wrenched behind his back. He struggled like a steer caught in a barbed wire fence. Oona began rifling through his clothes.

"What the fuck are you doing, you crazy bitch?" Horace sounded desperate and indeed, frightened. He had the pout of a child whose dignity had been compromised by a spanking. Oona tugged on his bent arm, and he cried out in pain. His nose was running. Oona found a large pistol holstered at his side and spent a brief moment admiring it before she discharged the weapon blindly into the trees. Roosting sparrows scattered. Jack covered his ringing ears, but she did not shoot the gun again. Instead, she tossed it into the woods with a nonchalance that bordered on the sociopathic. Then she flipped Horace onto his back so that they were looking one another in the eye.

"When I said, 'someone in your present condition', I was referring to you as a youthful go-getter, an up-and-comer, the crown prince of Pleasantview! You've got promise, there's no denying that, but wanna know the trouble with promises? They can be broken." Horace's skin was turning a sickly shade of red. Oona planted her foot on the car, between his legs, just below his groin. She was bearing her weight down on him as though she intended to snap him in two, leaving his injured left arm free against the hood of the car. "Which brings me to my father. Do you know how Dad got started? It's a funny story, actually. " Oona waited patiently for a response while Horace, at once defiant, looked as though he could spit.

"Fuck your father." Oona drew her pistol, silencing him. Horace's jittery gaze followed the path that Oona swept across his unshaven cheek with the barrel of her gun.

"When Dad was an early-rising whippersnapper such as yourself, he worked for your most venerable granddaddy. Not many people know this, but he was your granddad's right hand man. Which reminds me-- Are you a righty or a lefty? Nevermind. Point is, Dr. Goth trusted Dad with everything." Oona leaned in close and spoke just above a whisper. Jack was barely able to catch it. "And I mean, everything," she said. "Dad knows stuff about your family that would make your skin crawl. We're talking front page news things, made-for-TV movie things, little kids reading about it in their history books things, shame that goes on and on unto your children's children's children. That is what Dad has to offer you. Now here is what I have to offer, and I daresay that you will find it more immediately compelling." Jack looked away by reflex.

What followed was a heavy crack accompanied by Horace's muffled screams of pain. When Jack looked back toward the scene, Oona was holding her glock by the barrel and rummaging through her pockets while Horace rolled over onto his side as far as he could manage, writhing. Jack could not see what she had struck, but he could guess. She pulled a number of documents out of her jacket and sprinkled them onto the hood of the car, still searching for what, Jack could not know.

And then it happened-- He and Horace locked eyes. It was as though Horace were seeing him for the first time. His tear-streaked face was pleading without words. Jack did not move or speak. Instead, he pictured Haven and Orlando. He pictured his mother. He pictured the suffering of everyone that he loved most, all because of people like Horace Goth. Addison threatened shame, but Horace's kind didn't know the first thing about shame.

Oona flattened out a particular sheet of paper. She then grabbed Horace's left arm by the wrist, and he began to sob, "No. No. No. No. No." His hand was mangled, his fingers alternately curled and uncurled. Oona ignored him.

"So now that our offers are on the table, I'd really like to hear what you have to offer, Mr. Businessman." Oona scanned the documents as she spoke, pointing her pistol inches from Horace's forehead. Horace muttered something inaudible. "I'm sorry? Speak up sweetie, so the whole class can hear."

"Assignment of title... Your son as sole owner of the vineyard... You as custodian... " Oona paused over Horace, who squirmed all the more fretfully. A vineyard? This shit was about a vineyard? Jack closed his mouth when he could feel himself gaping. He was more confused than ever and growing angry, but all of the many missing facts of the situation were keeping him tied to the spot. Surely there was a reason for what Oona was doing, and it was nothing to do with a desire to produce wine. Oona whipped out a pen. She signed a document on Horace's disheveled torso. Horace followed suit and then drooped his body against the car. Oona looked over her shoulder at Jack.

"Ah, there's my favorite notary!" She smiled at him, all sweetness and welcome. It chilled his blood. Oona pointed the pen in his direction. "Witness," she said.


  1. Oona creeps me out, man.
    This chapter was funny to write (not funny "ha-ha" but instead funny "oh this feels strange") because I am sure that I wrote that whole conversation between Oona and Horace before. When I sat down to write this chapter in earnest, I could not find that convo. As far as I know, it is somewhere floating in cyber space in the email account from my former job or erased when Mr. Pen removed the Windows partition from my former machine, Master Chalk. Oh well. Coming back to this story after so long was bound to have its casualties.

    And hey, 100 whole chapters!!!

  2. Congrats on Chapter 100!

    Well, it could never be said that Oona doesn't know how to get what she wants? But yeah, this chapter was intense. I felt pretty bad for poor terrified Horace, which I didn't expect because I've yet to see a particularly sympathetic side of him. Principle of the thing, I guess.

    Jack has a remarkable knack for keeping his calm externally. I'm sure that's one of the many reasons Addison keeps him around.

  3. I feel awful for Horace, and I know that this is going to lead to some serious personality changes for him. He'll probably be in need of counselling (although, I can't be sure that he would be brave enough to seek it out). I just don't know what will happen to him psychologically until I write it. He's not invincible in his own mind anymore. And unfortunately, this is just another Saturday for Oona. :\ I think up until this point, Horace assumed that she was all bark.

    I was thinking that about Jack the entire time I was writing this, Van. He's an observer, and he holds back his involvement against need. I think Addison is going to be pissed when he finds out that Oona took Jack along for this though.