My Soul to Take



a part of My Soul to Take, by skindeep.


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slove/poor housing
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Talbot is a part of My Soul to Take.

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James Barlowe [2] Marshal of Aurelia, Sheriff of Talbot

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Character Portrait: James Barlowe

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Squeaking emanated from his direction at the peak of his ascent as James rocked back and forth in the old office chair. His bowler hat was pulled down over his eyes and both boots were up on his desk which was located in the back corner of the Sheriff’s Office. A huge bear paced in a circle around the coffee table in the waiting area with a deeply furrowed brow and anxious expression. At every completed circumnavigation the bear would pause, look over at James and shrug slightly before circling again. Floorboards creaked and groaned as the bear increased his pace slightly, no longer pausing to look over at James but complete concentration focused on rounding the coffee table as quickly as possible without knocking all the furniture in the room over. As the bear rounded on the coffee table one final time he moved forward across the room and slammed down into a seated position in front of James’ desk. “Well, I guess it’s time to go on patrol then, eh Urser?” James remarked casually without lifting the hat from over his eyes. “I suppose we could go see about getting a new rug as well, you’ve about worn that one out in record time” James nodded towards the oval rug underneath the coffee table in the waiting room. “Still have nothing to say then?” the bear met James eyes, but only shrugged in response. “Alright let’s go then" James answered.

"Heading out on patrol Deputy” James said towards the woman simultaneously filling out paperwork and cleaning her gun at her desk across from his.

“Don’t forgot about those reports Sheriff” Maggie replied from her desk as her quarter horse shifted its stance slightly in its vigil out the window.

“Deputy” James nodded towards the large man sitting at his desk in the opposite corner.

The man didn’t look up, he continued reading his paper and stroking the chin of the falcon on his shoulder with one finger. “Sheriff,” Jeremy replied.

Outside in the streets bodies squeezed and occasionally bumped past each other in large clusters travelling this way that. Packs of children chasing a ball and a few adults with souls scrambled and darted in front of the steam powered streetcars, motorcoaches and steamtrucks traversing the streets. A train belched steam and smoke while rocking the metal supports and wooden struts back and forth overhead as it rumbled by between the great towers. Everywhere soulless laborers stared blankly at nothing as they unloaded crates and boxes from the trains and trucks, carefully packing them away in warehouses. Others shuffled by expressionless as they made their way to or from factories and mills further in towards Aurelia along the sidewalks. A low cloud of steam like fog hung motionless just over the railroad tracks overhead, only just barely allowing view through it to the clouds of smog hovering in the sky over Talbot. James moved through the crowds, scarcely glancing at most of the soulless as he passed. Most in Talbot gave James a wide berth on the sidewalks, not only because he was the Sheriff but also because Urser strode next to him at slightly above shoulder level while on all fours.

“Evening, Mrs. Chang!” *tipping hat* to the elderly woman across the street who slowly rotated on her cane to the side and waved back, before waving him over to her. James and Urser hustled across the street where James helped the elderly woman onto Urser’s back before carrying her back across the street.

“Thank you kindly Sheriff” the elderly woman said as James helped her down safely on the other side of the street. “Of course Mrs. Chang, anytime” James replied before continuing on.

“Fine apples you’ve got there today Melanie!” *tipping hat* James called out as he came into view of the old fruitstand on the next corner. He flipped three coins in rapid succession to the young women with a small robin on her shoulder next to the stand saying, “Thanks”, as he grabbed a bushel of apples from the edge of the stand.

Tires screeched and two motorcoaches going opposite directions nearly collided with a wheeled cart full of crates that toppled over in front of them. James dropped the bushel on the sidewalk and ran into the street, waving traffic to a stop. James quickly helped the cart pusher move the crates while Urser effortlessly pulled the cart upright with one paw. Urser then shouldered up to one of the motorcoaches and pushed the front end over to the side so that it could pull around the cart and get traffic moving on the side of the street with the railed streetcars. James and the cart pusher had reloaded the crates about the same time as traffic started moving around the cart. Finally it was moving through normally again as the cart moved to the opposite sidewalk. James returned to the bushel with Urser by his side and resumed his stroll.

James took one apple out, shined it on his sleeve and took a big bite. Then he started flipping the apples one by one into the air as he walked, each one casually snapped up by Urser in a single gulp as they neared the ground. Four of the boys chasing the ball down the street had veered from the pack and turned the corner, they gathered behind Urser as James reached the end of the bag. A small cattledog trailed each of the boys, ears down tails swaying. Without looking back he yelled out, “Evening, boys. How are you doing Jimmy, Derek, Bobby” James greeted them as he flipped three apples behind him. Urser paid no attention to these apples as they sailed safely past the bear and into the hands of three of the boys. “And who is this?” James asked as he turned, setting the bushel down behind him to take one knee in front of the boys.

“That’s our youngest brother Sheriff Barlowe, Hank” replied Jimmy, the oldest.

“Well nice to meet you, Hank” James said as he shook the boy’s hand. Urser approached slowly from behind James with an apple in his mouth. The giant bear gently offered the apple to the boy, held by only the very last two teeth in the front of the bear’s mouth. The boy timidly reached out and took the apple from the bear while James took out a handkerchief and quickly rubbed down the apple as the boy took it. The youngest cattledog got low to the ground and crawled towards the bear slowly who met noses with the dog before they both sat back down.

A shadow emerged from the alley, visibly wobbling as it drew near. The old man had a crooked grin on his face and was laughing to himself just under his breath as he twitched and swayed at the mouth of the alley. “Talk to you later boys. Have fun!” James shooed the boys off and returned to his feet, turning to face the old man. “So, what have you got for me tonight?” James asked as he reached into the bag and flipped the old man his last apple.

The old man steadied himself on the wall with one arm as he caught the apple with the other. “Seems the rebels started a riot downtown last night. Aurelia is abuzz…” the old man drawled as he took a bite then held the apple up above his head as a rat poked out from underneath his hat and started taking small nibbles.

Urser eyed the rat suspiciously before turning around and sitting down with his back to James and the informant. Eyes on the streets, buildings, and people.

“And what does that have to do with Talbot?” James responded bluntly.

“Nothing necessarily, but it seems to me it should be relevant to you… Marshal” the old man replied with a slight grin.

“Fine. I suppose I should file a report then. Please tell me what you know” James asked flatly.

“Just a concerned citizen, Marshal” the old man snickered. “The rebels are heating up operations in Aurelia, organizing groups of citizens for riots and protests, gathering supplies. Looks like there might be a full scale insurrection in the making.”

“That’s a fine start. But you still haven’t told me anything specific have you?” James replied.

“Well, that sort of information is worth more than an apple, now isn’t it? Quite a bit of cash I would think” said the old man.

“I suppose it is, but I’m not giving you cash. I won’t be responsible for someone drinking themselves to death in an alley somewhere. Let alone my best informant. I think a week of meals down at the Sheriff’s Office sounds about right to me” James responded.

“Fine, you want to be that way. A month of meals at the Sheriff’s Office. But your deputy has to bring it to me, the pretty one, not the big mean one whose falcon is always eyeing my Monty.”

James’ eyes perked up and squarely met the old man’s gaze. “Alright, sounds important enough. Tell me your story.”


Characters Present

Character Portrait: James Barlowe

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Every time it was the same. He dreaded the end of his patrol but still made sure to do it every day. James broke into a sweat and plowed through the invisible wall that was the corner of 15th and Lakota as he walked towards Barlowe Tower. His stomach churned, palms greasy, goose bumps, sweating all over, and an acrid film of smoke finally coated his mouth and throat as James walked underneath.

Just like that night.

Urser was on the other side of the street creeping along, trying to stay hidden. He was leering over at James, apparently expecting disaster at any moment but deferring to use James as a lure so he could escape unnoticed. Both arrived at the next block unscathed but panting heavily. Traffic was moving slowly so rather than bother the people crossing at the crosswalk Urser merged into traffic between a motorcoach and a horse drawn cart. He then crossed the intersection and proceeded another half block before pulling over onto the sidewalk to fall into stride beside James. They walked side by side for the rest of the block until a beetle rolling something into an alley caught Urser’s attention and he followed the insect into the alley with his nose to the ground.

“Sheriff come quick, we got him!” yelled an exasperated Jimmy, his hands on his knees.

“Slow down a second Jimmy, got who?” James asked carefully.

The oldest Olsen brother looked up at the Sheriff and said, “Stenson, the soul merchant! We used the plan!”

“Jimmy, the plan was only to be used if and when I came and told you we were ready. And then only if me or a Deputy had eyes on you the entire time” James replied solemnly, eyes locked on Jimmy’s.

His smile quickly faded as Jimmy replied “Too late”, equally solemn now and pointing east.

James took off down the street at a dead sprint, Urser burst from the alley and was instantly in the street. Weaving between steamtrucks and a streetcar Urser positioned himself to turn the corner and nearly collided with a motorcoach turning at the same time from the opposite direction. The motorcoach had to skid and spin to the side of the street to avoid the racing bear. Even with the well timed maneuver the motorcoach barely avoided a bear sideswipe and still slammed into a parked steamtruck for its trouble.

James flew down the sidewalk accidently bumping into a few people along the way as Jimmy and his cattle dog kept pace surprisingly well. Nearing the corner ahead James *gasped* and grabbed Jimmy by the hand as Urser nearly took out an oncoming motorcoach. With Jimmy in hand James leapt into the air between two parked cars, sliding across the trunk and landing sidesaddle on Urser’s back just as Urser turned the corner. Off the main arterial there was little traffic and Urser passed a few more vehicles without incident on the way to the Talbot Bazaar. Jimmy screamed into James’ ear so he would hear while clinging to Urser’s fur, “Back Alley! Behind Metalwork Shop! Plaza With Statue!”

Though nothing in size and grandeur compared to the New Nations Plaza in Aurelia or Garden Mall in Blanchfield; Talbot Bazaar had produce, staple foodstuffs, spare parts and everything a person needed to survive at reasonable prices. However, nowhere in New Nations had such a rare assortment of strange oddments and doodads from all kinds of various cultures and traditions from all different time periods. Whatever strange or interesting item someone could be talked into buying for even the smallest amount of money eventually ended up there. Most were junk or only embodied historical or sentimental value, but some turned out to be special. In the past he had been sent by the Government to retrieve, “artifacts”, as the special ones were called, and return them personally to Aurelian Marshal Headquarters. James was familiar with the layout of where he needed to go, the metalwork shop in that quadrant was almost always a front for some local gang or thief.

Never thought I would say thanks for those Government scavenger hunts…

James motioned for Jimmy to cover his ears as they turned down an alley. James rose to a standing position on Urser’s back, drew both guns, and blew holes into both hinges, the lock and the surrounding concrete holding the metal door with three rapid shots. James grabbed Jimmy and jumped backwards off Urser. They rolled roughly before crashing to a stop against the alley wall as the bear lowered his shoulder and plowed right through the door. The metal door was instantly torn off the wall and thrown inside the back room of the metalwork shop, slamming into a concrete wall with a thunderous crash.

“You know what Fingers here does to boys who won’t give up their soul?” cooed the soul merchant quietly before slamming a knife down onto the table in between two of the boy’s outstretched fingers.

Fingers moved closer in beside the boy, saying nothing. He was holding Hank’s fingers out with one hand and clutching a large hunting knife in the other. Hank peed himself as he glanced over to see that the knife was caked in dried blood along the edge of the blade. Fingers edged in closer behind the boy with the knife when suddenly two boys burst in the front door with three cattle dogs on their heels; screaming and barking at the top of their lungs and waving their arms in the air like lunatics.

Fingers backed up a step in order to face the new threat when*WHAM*. Everyone inside was momentarily disorientated, ears ringing from the loud crash and vision reduced by the concrete dust that exploded into the air out of the crumbling wall and was slowly floating down. Footsteps entered the room quickly. James quickly checked on Fingers who was now between the metal door and the concrete wall, dead on impact. Then he carefully made his way to Stenson, “You are under arrest for soliciting the soul of a minor”, James cuffed the man while he was still down on his knees in the dust before knocking him out cold with a tap to the back of the head with the butt of his gun.

Meanwhile, a weasel darted for the open back door right between Urser’s legs. But Jimmy’s cattle dog stopped it in the back doorway and forced it back inside where the other three dogs closed in and corralled it from all directions. The dogs growled and snapped as they closed in until James could pick the weasel up by the scruff of the neck and throw it in a bag which he dropped on the floor next to the handcuffed soul merchant.

I should never have risked these boys like this, even the idea in their heads was too much. Of course they would try out what I was teaching them. They could have been killed. At least now though, maybe some other kid who is less prepared won’t have to…

“Boys, I told you he was dangerous. That you weren’t to do anything alone” James said in an exasperated tone while he glared at the boys and rubbed his temples.

“Well we thought…we thought that since there are four of us now and that we were big enough, that we could surround him and still send someone to get you for help. We didn’t know about the other guy…” Jimmy replied sulkily without looking up.

James got down on a knee and put one hand on Jimmy’s shoulder, “It’s alright, live and learn. Luckily, this time you all lived and that’s good” James answered while rustling Jimmy’s hair with the other hand. Soon the boys, Urser and the dogs were all just a giant pile rolling around the room, rejoicing in life by venting their nervous energy.

Sheriff’s Office

“No you have it all wrong. This isn’t Aurelia. The law does basically say you can pay the fine or serve the time; but the discretion is mine, not yours. So now that you have confessed by asking to pay the fine I think a month in my cell sounds about right” James said to Stenson, trying hard not to smile. “And Fingers’ knife will probably lead to something nasty to tie you to given that much time” he added.

You messed up this time Stenson. Finally got you. I know a lot of the souls from the raid went through you. Maybe if I squeeze you hard enough some juice will come out…

James allowed a small smile to form as he turned, just as Jeremy looked up from his paper.

“What’s the point of hauling someone in for such a minor infraction? He’ll just be out on the streets again, doing the same thing. This time with some fancy lawyer from Aurelia on retainer who won’t let you lock him away in the temporary holding cell in your office” Jeremy said with a smirk.

“That’s next time Deputy Warrens, this time, he’s mine for at least 72 hours” James replied with no trace of a smile remaining on his face.