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Jacqueline Auguste

"Have you been to church recently?"

0 · 655 views · located in Gretna, Louisiana, 1922

a character in “Vice & Bloodlines”, as played by Bartholomew Finch

Description

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name: JACQUELINE MARY AUGUSTE

origin: BORN RUNNIN'. COULDNT PIN DOWN ANY ONE PLACE IF SHE TRIED. BEEN IN LOUSIANA AL HER LIFE DESPITE THE LACK OF HOME.

Present digs: GRETNA, LOUSIANA

years: TWENTY TWO YEARS OF AGE, BORN THE NIGHT OF SEPTEMBER 3RD

Accolades: MARY LUCILLE MORRIS - MOMMA, LEFT IN A HASTE WHEN THE SHITSTORM CAME ABOUT.
FATHER LOUIS AUGUSTE - FATHER, FORMER PRIEST, EXCOMMUNICATED FROM THE CHURCH LONG AGO, STILL FANCIES HIMSELF A PSEUDO PREACHER IF NOT FOR THE FACT NOBODY TRUSTS HIM NO MORE.
BUG - MANGY OLD STRAY CAT, AINT MUCH HERS AS HE IS ANYONE ELSE BUT HE'S GOOD COMPANY. WATCH OUT FOR THEM WORMS THOUGH.

catharsis: A BOOK IS A BOOK, UNTIL YOU FIND MEANING IN IT; WELL HELL, AIN'T ALWAYS MEAN YOU GOTTA FOLLOW IT.

demeanor: DIGS HER OWN GRAVES, WON'T LIE DOWN IN EM'

word about town: ALWAYS GOT A BIBLE ON HER
WHAT SHE DOIN HANGIN ROUND THEM BATES ANYWAY?
HOPE SHE AINT INHERITED HER DADDYS LOOSE TONGUE
THAT GIRL GOT EVERYTHING MIXED UP, BEST NOT BOTHER TRYNA SWAY HER.




ImageWhen people talk about accidents, mistakes, things that just weren't meant to be they could just as well be talking about Jacqueline Auguste. Biggest mistake and the worst kept secret of a priest who broke his word to god. Not that 'Father Auguste' by any words or means lived the life intended for his profession. A scam artist hiding behind a book that got him in with some of the best, and some of the worst. While Jacqueline and her mother were perhaps his biggest sins in the eyes of the church, his other faults led to his downfall - and subsequently formed Jaq into the woman she is today.

They say, kids who grow up the way she did never turn out right, Jaq ain't so sure that she's much different from anyone else but she sure as hell knows when to keep her personal issue out of it all. In the world of Gretna - and, it is its own little world - she's a bystander in the big picture that's being puzzled out within. Being friendly with the Bates and knowin' her merry way round the Honey Stop has gotten her in a position that brings her dangerously close to the action-oriented world she never wanted to be a part of but was long ago forced by her daddy to live in.

Because if Father Auguste made any impact on her life, it was in the fact she couldn't escape the bad that was out there. And the Bates ain't bad in her eyes, not in the least. Not when she has her daddy to compare em to. Besides, if not for meeting Rem she woulda never escaped that life. When they came to Gretna, a family disrupted by lies and constant moving it was more than enough to get Jaq tryna figure out how the hell she could get them to stay in one place. To go to a regular school house like other kids her age, maybe get herself some friends that won't question the ruler marks on the back of her knuckles from the time she recited a passage from the good book wrong. To ignore the fact that in the eyes of the rest of the world she had no father.

She was too young back then to really know the implications of everything. Her momma was too meek to fight the good fight, and Jaq knew that protectin herself was all she could do when push came to shove. The people in Gretna didn't take kindly to her, nor to misfit family. Somewhere, lines had blurred and truths had come out of the woodworks regarding her father. Whether that was word from surrounding towns or word from within - but things changed rapidly in the few months they spent there. Jaq, determined to figure out what was going on and why her father had gotten so shifty turned to one of the only friends she had made in the short time of being there. Rem, he wasn't afraid to get his hands dirty.

ImageShe resents that she had to learn so young that surface lies are so much easier to digest than the truths hiding beneath. Because her father came to find soon enough that his truths were just about enough to get him killed. Crippled in the least when the bad sort came around to beat him within an inch of his life. Nobody takes kindly to their dirty laundry being aired out and a priest whose broken vows and sinned all his life ain't worth nothin but a good stomping to some. Jaq didn't stay home much in those days when things got hairy and her daddy's truths started pouring in she focused much of her time on running around or staying with her mother. Didn't know just how bad things had gotten for them until she packed up and left.

Said she couldn't take Jaq with her, she couldn't take care of her. Things got real bad after that. People who knew what her father did shunned her as if she would go right back to him with any word they said. People were silent around her, nobody said much of anything to her on a normal day anyway. Things were tough, but there were others who took care of her, didn't shun her like some did. Her father, well, after he got roughed up real bad and couldn't walk no more he took to using whatever means he could to put her in a bad place. As far as he was concerned, had she never happened he could have gone on with his scams - she didn't know what she had to do with anything; truthfully, she had nothing to do with how he was exposed.

Later she would learn that his habit of blackmailing had turned against him. He had spoken out against the wrong sort, took secrets to market that should have never been sold - in his right mind, maybe he woulda seen what kind of danger awaited just around the corner. Funny, even his rights to the church had been officially stripped. His black stain on the order had gone on for too long. Honestly, had anyone been paying attention he woulda lost his certifications long ago.

Nowadays Jaq's more likely to be found loitering around the Honey Stop, preachin' words she doesn't truly believe in. Habits formed from years of proverbs being shoved down her throat. She don't much like to intermingle with the crowd but on an off day she can be seen teasing Rem or pestering other Patrons.



Image Obscure busy body addicted to waking dreams and the feeling of a whiskey-warm gut. Despite the sin of it. Sharply edged with desires born from denial. She's got plenty to say but nothing to give. Most honest liar you'll meet, some would say with smiles sharp enough to pierce the thick skin built up over a soft breastbone.She's got her woes, her misery abounds, a face too soft to carry such a weary old soul. Leashing her demons inside soft-spoken syllables. There's always something just a little off, iridescent against a sepia background - too many F A C E S to know just which one is real. Don't let the crimson soaked shirt fool you, she's no bleeding heart, she won't be there to advocate god's word to souls too poor to stay off the criminal registry.

No, Jaq's got her whims and wiles and she's got a quirk for preaching like no other but she isn't a believer in anything that escapes clenched teeth. Speaks to speak, when nobody wants to listen. Knows her boundaries and crosses them wittingly, carelessly, joyously, with ease. But she is not so evenly distributed, her charm comes in the form of malicious teasing. She's mad, cracking under pressure, submerges herself to keep things better left inside away from the places where innocence sleeps. Washing up in the tides of half-formed truths and bitter-thick lies rolling off her tongue. She is honest, and she is dishonest in the same sentence. Born of a man who sought ruin in the way that others seek nirvana. Of course, she isn't so strange as to say she's alien. Alike many others she has her ups and downs, her abnormalities may range wider but do not encompass her so much.

She finds friends in the strangest of places and has a generally easy to get along with nature. Sure, the god stuff can be a turnoff for some, but others who have known her long enough know that this is simply a part of her. A personality quirk rather than a truth of being. While she herself, may be prone to dishonesty she only does so in a personal way. Secrets are key with her, just say the word and not another syllable will be spared about the subject. Loyalty, despite what some could claim, is the fundamental value in her system of beliefs. Though her wish washy nature, here and there ghost-like appearances, and shifty eyed presence can cause plenty to be weary of her. It is only in the absence of knowledge regarding her.

So begins...

Jacqueline Auguste's Story

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Rem Bates Character Portrait: Atticus Montgomery Character Portrait: Sophia Moon Character Portrait: Jacqueline Auguste
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Sunrise wept across the sky painted orange and pink at the suns insistence. Chasing the last of the stars away as the day wakes. Jacqueline watches this progression with noted interest, storm cloud aftermath puddled at her feet. Sharp eyes tracking the movement of clouds as they rolled in. The Wind kicked up the wooden wind chimes hanging on the enclosed porch of her small home, what is often beautiful and melodious simply annoying in that moment. Her eyes shutter closed, its cold and dark in her head when she can no longer see the sun. Rays too weak to penetrate her eyelids. A constant, subtle, reminder that she is no saint despite the words that have chewed up her brain.

She hates these days like no other but supposes that there is a common cause of this madness. An ever-present taste of mud in her mouth when she starts reflecting this deeply. Jacquelyn has a job today. A once monthly visit to ensure that god has yet to allow peace to a man meant to suffer. She knows, not on a surface level, that she should let him go altogether. A man that wreaked havoc on her life has no bearings in the future of it. And yet, some sick twist of guilty pleasure skitters up her spine when she thinks about prolonging such a man’s life.

‘Let him suffer. Let him suffer like I suffered.’

And yet she is there no less than a few hours after sunrise, greeting a woman she does not know and who is not her mother but all the same has claimed to take a space in the life of the Auguste’s. Doesn’t bother remembering her name when she’s never had to use it. A glorified caretaker who does not know him as a deceiver spurred on by the thought of blessed divinity for her good deeds. Jacqueline knew that no god, no heaven nor hell, would accept her for taking care of the wolf that wore lambskin.

“Oh Jacqueline, you should visit more often.” She always says, each time, in a voice that mocks properness but cannot truly be rid of the casual country slip. Out of place where Jaq’s words slur and blend and twist to the pronunciation of syllables born to Gretna’s finest. The woman reminds her of a city slicker trying to play house in the wilderness, and she’s known plenty of ‘em. Too many.

“Oh, ya’ll don’t need me in the way.” Jacqueline would reply, the picture of graceful innocent. Half mocking the refined words and half letting slip her true heritage. She may have been born elsewhere but Gretna is a cemented home now. “Sides’, no one’d take care of Bug.”

An excuse as paper-thin as the smile she wears. Who wears the lambskin in that moment? She wonders. The chair bound vegetable or the girl with his smile. A constant reminder that she can never escape her heritage unscathed. “He may not be up for a chat today.” The woman persists as if she can sense the waning patience in the way Jacqueline grips her hands. Mock prayer. And Jacqueline would all but state her lack of disinterest in his comfort with a simple, small, true smile.

Visiting her father has become a cleansing ritual in a way, a reminder that no matter how jaded she becomes she will never amount to the pure psychotic state of mind that shattered him to pieces. Cobwebs covering the most important memories he once held. These days, he regards her as an old friend. As if years of mental torture had never occurred, as if his words did not once hold her entire life in the palm of his hands. She wore that familiarity like a cloak. A dagger ready in hand for the snarling dog waiting just underneath.

Funny. In this case, she’s the dog.

As they sit in contemplative silence she wonders when it is he will die. He’s outlived the usual mortality, though his youth when bearing her had some part in his continued existence in her adult life.

“So how’s it gon’ be today.” Jacqueline leans close, comfort far off in a place where this home does not exist. Silence. She does not push. Knows that distant glaze is a mind lost to age and injury. Some days better than others and today no better than the last few visits. It is coming soon. An end to her self-harming visits. The day she will no longer have to antagonize a dying old man. The day he will meet his truth in purgatory.

Truth. A word he knew only as a stranger. Jacqueline would leave then, satisfied by the persistent catatonia plugging up his throat. She stops only at the behest of a wheezing chuckle. A grimace full of teeth pulling her lips to reflect the intent of a dog ready to bite.

“Liars rot in hell, child.” He breaks on every gasped word. “I can see the sin in your eyes.”

“So do I.” She would agree. “You gave them to me, after all.”




Jacqueline haunts the road idle, spitting curses at the wind kicking up her skirts. Muddy boots soon to be ditched at the door of her home. She stayed in sight of that bastard for far too long. Made sure he felt every word like a whip, petty, a tactic he would have once used. It scares her sometimes how much she is like him. How she can wrap words up in a pretty little box only and send it on with the intent to harm. How she can spit fire like an angry god; Blaspheme, Jacqueline.

Full of grudges or not she had no ill intention to lead her down that same road. She took no pleasure in the pain of others and had no reason to lie to anybody but herself. An honest liar; more like a plague ready to spread.

She is home, but she is not. When she crosses the threshold, she stops only to clean up and set a dish of old food out for Bug. The old stray cat gives very little comfort, a silent companion with sharp claws and a diseased body. Named after the very things that infest him. Perhaps another means of reminder, but she holds no ill will towards the cat at her feet. Lapping up the fruit of her labor. Still, she does not touch him, nor speak, she simply allows him the food and goes on her way.

There are places she would rather be, after all, homes away from the shell she calls home. A house she only lives in because old money grants it and she knows there are plenty of people that would much rather she have returned to her birthplace. Or perhaps, tracked down the adulterous mother that had been too weak to save her from the bible itself. Live among more lies. These days, she takes it in stride. A mind-full of verses and only a handful of other people she can bother about them.
Strange to think about the reverse of her personality when presented with the people she truly loves. Maybe, there is hope for her after all.

She leaves Bug to his feast. He does not spare her a single glance as she goes.
Gretna’s roads are busy in the day despite the dark cloud that continues to follow in the wake of this dry spell. She’d already heard plenty of hushed whispers on her way, people naturally got quiet when she came around. Still weary of her, though these days’ people didn’t much mind her. She had long outlived the reputation of her family and once they realized she posed no harm – a different tune came about. But since those boys had come to town everything became a whisper. People got real nervous.

Maybe they remember who she is, where she came from. She grew up in Gretna but would that holdfast? Would they remember her runner’s legacy and assume her the enemy again? She hopes to the heavens above that sense is kept in these trying times. She would hate to spiral again, left on her own. Only, she isn’t alone. Not truly. The dour outlook seemed marginally sunnier when she thought of the friendships she holds dear.

Where she’s heading to now, the Honey Stop is more home than the one where she lays her head at night. A place of existing outside of herself, of the petty nature of her mind. Where she can smile truly and not be judged for the resemblance to her father. She loves it more than she should, knows that it is a weakness that she cannot give up or hide. Today, the gossip on the wind is that big things went down the night before. Nobody knows what, and she suspects that its being kept hush for the moment. Jacqueline wouldn’t blame anybody for fearing the repercussions of letting big news slip. Still, curiosity outweighs her distaste for a rumor.

And small places like Gretna don’t usually have a filter on hearsay.




Jaq sheds the tough act the moment she slips through the door, no weariness to be found in the pep to her step. She settles into place, familiar in routine. She can see the silence but the rush of white noise gives no indication of it being real. There are plenty of familiar faces already in. She does not approach Rem, knowing that his vicinity to Atticus is purposeful and for the most part she only likes to make the deputy uncomfortable when serious business isn't going down. This, she thinks, will be an interesting day.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Rem Bates Character Portrait: Atticus Montgomery Character Portrait: Sophia Moon Character Portrait: Jacqueline Auguste Character Portrait: Noel Bates
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It’s a long night, and that ain’t surprisin’ in the least, but Rem still feels like he ain’t slept in about a week. Can’t say it was a bad time, ain’t ever with Noel and Atticus at his side, but the hairs on the back of his neck are standin’ up like a scared cats and he knows ain’t nothin’ gonna be the same now.

Stands just by the window ‘cause he feels like if he don’t watch the sun come up, it might not at all. Gets a little sick when it does and everythin’ looks the same, anyway. The leaves are still dewed up and the grass is still muddy but green. There’s still a dent in his porch swing and a corner of wood by the stairs that’s stained permanently red. They tell the kids it was a spilled bottle of paint, but he’s pretty sure it’s Marvin Boone’s blood, from that one time Roux bashed his face in. The product of too much hooch and a smart mouth askin’ for trouble.

It looks the same, but it ain’t, and that’s just a product of a picture that’s been stepped on by a boot as nice as them Detroit boys wear. Polished and pretty but dirty underneath all that shine. He takes a drink of his coffee and for the first time in a long time wishes it was mixed with somethin’ just a little. bit. stronger.

He don’t feel safe, not in his town, not in the building he put together with his own bare hands, and that shakes him to the core something nasty. He grits his teeth and narrows his eyes on the image outside the rain streaked window like he can see through the cloud somehow.

“Might want to get ahold of Miss Moon, she’s got tricks up her sleeve and loves to help ‘round here.”

He tastes dirt on the back of his tongue, wants to cough it up, but he swallows it down. Can’t say he’s surprised at all that this is where they ended up. It was a long road comin’, but he knew what path they were walking down. Kicked the stones out of the way while they did, squared his shoulders and raised his chin. If anyone in Gretna could handle what they were about to do...it was the Bates. Might nota been breed for this kinda life, but they fit the goddamn mold.

Morning creeps in like it’s an old friend and Rem wants to hate it, but he can’t. Makes the boys some breakfast and settles in for the last of their tired conversation. Options, ideas, conspiracies. They’re all to worn now to be angry anymore, too given in to ball their fists, or shout, or break things. And rather the others can see it on his face or not, Rem’s decision is made.

The winds are changing, and you either join the junkyard dogs are you get the hell outta dodge.

Jacqueline’s the first one in, come openin’ time. The sign ain’t up, but the door ain’t closed either, and his bones may be on edge but she reminds him where they are. The Honey Stop ain’t just his, ain’t just Bates land, but it’s home to each and every stray Louisiana's chewed up and spit back out. He can’t turn tail any easier than any other fool in this town, and he ain’t ‘bout to roll over and give up either.

Ain’t long after that a familiar sight catches his eye, and Sophia appears like a well called ghost. Been a few days since he’s seen her last, and he wonders if she can smell the change in his blood from a mile away. Grabs his hat on his way out and shoots Jaq a look.

“If you still the prayin’ type...” he doesn’t know where he’s going with that. ’Nows a good time to give it up for good’ or ’get to it.’. Either one will work, he supposes, but he doesn’t finish his thought. Figures she can get enough from his face anyway, and take what she wants out of it.

He tips his hat down over his eyes and steps outside.

The air feels the same.

But he knows it ain’t.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: M. Boone Character Portrait: Rem Bates Character Portrait: Harlow Brynn B. Character Portrait: Roux Bates Character Portrait: Atticus Montgomery Character Portrait: Sophia Moon Character Portrait: Jacqueline Auguste Character Portrait: Noel Bates
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As sunlight started peeking through the trees in the pre-dawn hour, Sophia Moon sat vigil on the familiar swaying swing of the reliably present Honey Stop. She’d never known it to be cold in Gretna, even in the comparatively cooler morning air that left a glistening sheen of condensation blanketing the wood beneath her hand. No, the weather couldn’t be blamed for the numbing chill Sophia felt gnawing away at her insides, too frigid even for her morning cigarette to melt away.

Murder was an enterprise that had never garnered much emotion from the ex-gangster in her past life, but then killing had never been personal before either. The men Sophia had killed in her life had each deserved the end they’d gotten, but it had always been business. Last night on the other hand, inflicting pain upon one of the men she’d trusted with her back before he drove a knife into it, that was deeply personal. The fact that she’d left Joe a mangled corpse wasn’t what bothered Sophia, it was the utter lack of satisfaction she felt from taking that revenge. She’d expected to feel vindicated, or at least less toxically bitter. Walking out of that cellar, all she felt was cold. That chill, and the underlying violence that it summoned, threatened to consume her, some days she even welcomed it. So in the face of that, Sophia found herself once again drawn back to the one place in this world she felt she could thaw. It had nothing to do with the weather either. Besides, with the implicit threat the Bates clan had been issued the evening prior, Sophia planned to put those violent urges to good use should anyone with a badge decide to show up for a repeat performance. So far, she’d been sorely disappointed.

In a town as small as Gretna, word has a way of getting around fast. That was doubly so when the story involved sleazy Yankee cops, a community cornerstone like the Honey Stop, and Boones. Sophia may not have been a resident long, but she knew which tongues in town were always wagging. Concrete jungle or not, street rats never lose the instinct to keep an ear to the ground, and Sophia was no exception there. Graves and his pack of dirty sleuths had been under her subtle surveillance since they burst on the scene, but between the news of their overt threat toward the Bates, and the nature of her business activity the night before, Sofia wanted blood. At the very least, she had plans to mess up that pretty car of his that Graves seemed so happy to drive around town. Hard to intimidate anyone in a paint soaked jalopy beat halfway to hell.

If Sophia’s lids happen to leaden, pulled down by the comforting sounds of life beginning to stir within the Honey Stop, she blamed the Bates boys for that weakness. She’d survived many a sleepless night on nothing but adrenaline, and a pack of Lucky Strikes. Sophia certainly never allowed herself to sleep anywhere that wasn’t secured, and therein lied the rub. The uncomfortable truth that Sophia Moon was willing to leave her throat exposed in their presence. Lying to oneself was a fine art in self destruction Sophia had survived much of her life avoiding, but sometimes preserving one’s sanity took greater precedence. So as she sat there, half asleep with a lit cigarette perched precariously in her hand, Sophia refused to examine herself too closely.

Time elapsed, and as patrons crossed the threshold into the Honey Stop’s comforting warmth, Sophia would stir, taking absent note of their coming and goings. One face in particular stuck out as they slinked through the door. Jacqueline Auguste had a talent for making folks see her in the young drifter’s preferred light, even if it wasn’t always flattering. Some of Gretna’s natives looked Jaq’s way and saw oddity or someone to pity in case even half the rumors floating around about her daddy were true. Sophia saw potential, and a whole lot of raw talent. That girl had a spark in her that only came from a great deal pain carving scars deep across the soul, and the sheer stubborn will not to be broken by it. One of these days, Jaq would get around to fanning that spark into an all-out blaze, and it was going to be one hell of a show.

---
He finds Sophia on the porch swing. Can’t say he’s surprised, knew she’d show up sooner or later. Don’t bother askin’ where she’s been. Has a feelin’ he don’t wanna know. Thinks he’s pretty damn lucky she’s shown up now, though.


Walks across the porch slow and steady before he leans a shoulder on a wooden post he built with his own hands. Knows it’ll stand the same way he knows everything else will. Take a lot more than a heavy weight to knock him and his down. Pulls a cigarette from his pocket and lights it up. Always has felt better under the haze of a little smoke.


Gretna looks untouched, no matter the drama last night brought. Rain washed it all away, even the dirt and blood Boone dragged in. He finds himself wishin’ the whole world worked that way. Clean slate each time the sun set and rose. Too bad it don’t.


He drags in deep and lets it out before he ever tries to speak. “Folks ‘round town already yappin’ their jaws?” he guesses, flicks at ash that ain’t even had time to build up yet. “‘Spose you knew it was gonna get bad before the rest of us did.”


He’s silent for a moment, licks his lips and raises his fingers to scratch at the skin just over his eyebrow. His bones feel weak and something stinks like defeat, but he has no intention of going down. Not today, not tomorrow, and certainly not without one hell of a fight. “I don’t wanna lose this,” he admits. “Not one bit of it.”


He tails off again, finishes his cigarette like he ain’t sure he’s gonna make a decision until it’s gone. When it is, he tosses it off, shoves his hands down deep in his pockets. His brows done furrowed somethin’ awful, and he heaves a mighty big sigh. “I think, Ms. Moon, it’s about time we let you pay back that favor you’re so sure you owe us.”

---

Sophia felt Remington Bates’ approach as much as anything else. The man had a way of taking up more space in any given room than seemed natural. Inherent charisma she supposed, some men just had it. They didn’t need the flash of opulence or force of personality to convince anyone of their power, it just was. People followed their lead instinctively. It took a lot for a man like that to reach out for help, especially to someone who wasn’t blood.

His first question Sophia dismissed with a raised brow, silently chiding him for asking questions he already knew the answer to. Small town gossip was as sure as rain, and the grass was still soaked from the evening storm. “Just know their type is all.” She drawled, languidly taking a drag from her dying cigarette.

Ambition wasn’t an exclusively northern vice, but it was a familiar enough stench from home that Sophia had no difficulty picking it out. It wouldn’t matter to Graves and his lot whose lives or how many they had to destroy on their climb up the ladder, and they certainly weren’t going to let something as mundane as facts stand in the way of their promotions. Dirty cops like that were as likely to plant evidence as find any, and the papers back North would hail them as shining modern heroes in Model-Ts, rooting out sin in the backwater south. Never mind the movers and shakers up north were just as deep in their cups. The headlines wrote themselves, and it was enough to grit Sophia’s teeth. Taking care of the problem directly was always risky, even with a vast swamp to dispose of the body and the local beat on the payroll, but now it was out of the question. Everyone in town knew about Graves’ uninvited house call, and any untimely disappearance of the dear detective would promptly land the Bates clan under full investigation. They were going to have to play the long game, subtle with plenty of misdirection.

Sophia watched the last wisps of smoke wafting in the air with a detached sort of interest, carefully turning over all what Rem was saying. Slowly, flexing her spine like a cat, Sophia rose from her perch. Somehow it just felt wrong to sit for this. “Then you won’t.” It hung heavy in the air, final as any solemn vow with a hallowed tone someone as myriad in sin as Sophia shouldn’t have been able to pull off. Yet the conviction in her voice was undeniable. Sophia had been born in the gutter, both raised there and risen from; she’d never been afraid to get her hands dirty. They all were about to engage in a dangerous game of chess, and whatever it took, whomever needed moved on or removed from the board, the Bates were going to win.

“I have a few fish on the line.” Sophia hedged by way of agreement, eyes scanning the immediate vicinity for any unwanted ears making themselves privy to their conversation. “Might be best to find Harlow and the boys though before we chew the fat on details.” She suggested with a pointed look toward the door.


**Credit to CharlotteV for Remington Bates

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Rem Bates Character Portrait: Roux Bates Character Portrait: Atticus Montgomery Character Portrait: Sophia Moon Character Portrait: Jacqueline Auguste Character Portrait: Noel Bates
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The treehouse had seen better days. Roux didn't pay it much mind anymore, but lookin' around at the rickety memories of his childhood, he made a mental note to drag out some wood for repairs sometime soon. The rain was bucketin' outside, the pitterin' patter of the leaks on the old wood creating a melodic rhythm in the small space. Blue shuffled around, his noes to the floor as he huffed at the sodden floor boards. Over in the only dry corner was a small mattress, a pile of blanket, and a candle with a book. Roux made his way over, steppin' over the puddles forming where the wood had sunken in slightly.

Back when the hideout was first built, when it was just Noel and Rem, they probably could have lived in it. The eldest Bates boys built the tree house one summer when money was good and they'd been given the gift of a real summer vacation. Took all three months, but by the end they'd built something that would last. When school started up again and the summer faded, both boys kept their little hideout a secret, Fort Bates, and they'd spend all the time they could spare there.

ImageAnd then little Roux'd come along, the baby brother that demanded to go everywhere with his siblings, and the tree house became their number one spot. Though they'd built it right, the poundin' of toddler feet and rambunctious boys on old wood caused the entire structure to shift left. Easy fix- Noel just nailed a few two by fours in place under the original supports. Every time something happened- I foot through the floor board, a fist through the door, it would just get patched up by a new piece of wood- till the entire thing resembled a collaged wood pile.

Roux loved the tree house early on, mostly because it was the one place he had his brothers entirely to himself. They'd spend weekends there and nights when it was too hot to be indoors and winter days bundled up in stolen wool blankets. They figured out a pully system early on so Roux could bring Blue up as soon as it was apparent the boy was going nowhere without that dog. And when one of them boys went missing, it was easy to find them hidin' out at the top of the tree, safe in the care of Fort Bates.

But the world changed, the brothers got older, and wood decays.

A few months ago, the porch fell out from underneath Roux when he'd crawled back up the rickety ladder. I'd probably been at least five years since anyone had attempted to climb the old structure and it was a wonder it was left standin'. Roux'd patched up the major leaks, reinforced the original support beams, fixed the odd holes in the walls, and tidied up the inside as best he could. There was still a basket of blankets, old baseball gloves and bats, a box of clothes, and a large tin of candy stashed away. That first night back he'd stolen one of Noel's old sweet and passed out under the stars, and since then he's been back almost three nights a week.

Nights like tonight, when they clouds supply of rain was neverendin', were the nights that Roux especially loved up here. The walls swollen with water, the air filled with the smell of waterlogged wood and creeping moss. He laid still on his old mattress, Blue tucked to his right and his left hand delicately holding a burning cigarette. Without the wind, the smoke tendriled about the space beautifully, capturing the soft light from Roux's candle. He stared at it until he drifted to sleep, cigarette simmering out as soon as it bounced against the damp floor.

ImageThe Honey Stop was just started to rustle awake when Roux and Blue showed back up on the porch, shakin' the wet from their hair from the morning dew. Rem, Atticus, and Noel were awake, grumblin' over plans as they hunched over their respective plates of breakfast. Roux eyed the meal for a second before headin' straight to the kitchen for scraps. He tossed Blue the remainder of the bacon and scrapped up the last of the eggs for himself, then returned to the front room. He contemplated joining his brothers and the sheriff, but opted for his favorite table near the largest window instead. It was early enough that he could pass off being antisocial for tired- he wanted to keep himself untangled from the mess of last night as long as possible. Course' Roux would help his family, but for now he was willing to let them plan it out and fill him in when needed. He caught Rem eyein' him as he sat down, but he just gave his brother one of his soft 'sunshine Roux' smiles before pulling his book from his back pocket and ignorin' them. Blue plopped down at his usual spot near his feet and the room settled for a moment. Calm moments at the Honey Stop came in spurts- everything would be serene and quiet, a few muttered conversations here and there, but for the most part peaceful. Roux liked moments like this the best, when he knew they people most important to him were safe. He could sit here and read, ignore everything around him and be sure that when he looked back up, everything would be the same. It wasn't that he feared change, but god did it feel good feelin' confident nothin' was gonna happen.

Even as a kid, Roux was always aware of Rem's presence in the room, like an itchin' thought he had to keep track of. He hears Rem's chair move and glanced up immediately, followin' his brothers movement across the room and out the door. He can't see his face from where he is, but the Bates know each other well. He had half a mind to follow his brother out, but if he'd needed him he would have called. Warily, he goes back to his book, his attention split between the text and the porch.

Characters Present

Character Portrait: M. Boone Character Portrait: Rem Bates Character Portrait: Roux Bates Character Portrait: Atticus Montgomery Character Portrait: Jacqueline Auguste Character Portrait: Noel Bates Character Portrait: ANNA LEIGH DECLAN
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”Wake up you’ve got hell to pay Boonsy, I was tasked with bringin’ you to mamma bear.”

He comes to feelin’ like someone dumped a goddamn pile o’ bricks on his head, and he don’t remember eatin’ dirt but he sure does feel it down his throat. There’s a layer of dried blood still on his gums, crusty and forgotten, and he’s pretty sure he tastes the slime of three days worth o’ hooch layerin’ the back of his tongue.

If Death came in a bottle they might as well throw a label on it and name it after him, ‘cause Boone was pretty damn sure he had both feet fallin’ down into hell already and he was only holdin’ onto life ‘cause Anna Leigh Declan had a vice grip on his wrist. Funny what such little girls were capable of when they only had one friend in the world, no matter how fucked up that friend happened to be.

Sunlight snaps into the room harsh and unforgiving, and Boone mutters a handful of curses through a voice box that crackles as he pulls blankets up over his head and tells Anna God musta sent her to punish him in between one crude word and another. As if fuckin’ provin’ his point, the next second his solitude is gone and ice cold covers him from the top of his head to his neck.

He jumps up sputterin’ like he’s drownin’, runnin’ his hands through hair he can’t remember the last time he washed, narrowin’ blood shot eyes at Anna’s blurry form. The world is either spinnin’ or his head is, can’t decide. All he knows is it goddamn hurts. “Fuck you,” he spits at the girl standin’ across from him, voice cracklin’ from a box that ain’t too fond of him.

”Do you have any idea the trouble you could have gotten into?” she’s concerned, but he’s not sure he really cares all that much. He wants somethin’ to stop the poundin’ he can hear. Wonders if he’s goin’ crazy finally or if he’s just actually hungover. Been awhile, since he’s got hungover. Drink like a sewer fish and you start gettin’ used to it. Tolerance, he thinks them smarter people call it.

He barely remembers the night before. Don’t know what day it is, even. But Harlow Bates’ voice is a thing of nightmares, and it cuts through the fog in his head with surprising clarity. Oh. That’s right. He is in some kinda trouble or another.

He scrubs dirty palms over his eyes before glancin’ down at his knuckles. The bruises are old, but the cuts are new, and he don’t remember who he got in a fight with or when, but knows it musta felt good. “Yeah, yeah,” he mutters at Anna as he finally drags himself off the bed. Everything fuckin’ hurts, from his back to his joints, complain’ bout dehydration probably.

He slides his way into the bathroom, keeps the lights off while he takes a piss, barely glances at himself in the mirror while he tries to scrub away the last traces of blood and dirt on his face. Washes his mouth out, combs his hair back with his fingers and lifts his shirt up for a sniff. Fish, dirt, blood, sweat, probably some tears.

He shrugs, leaves it be, and lets Anna drag him down to the Honey stop for a talkin’ to. He stumbles over halfway there, the sunlight hell on his eyes, and stops twice to vomit. Ain’t had much food in awhile, it’s mostly liquid, smells like a goddamn distillery.
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Climbin’ up the steps of the Honey Stop sends flashbacks up his spine and he remembers pressed pants and bein’ at Rem Bates’ feet. Sloshed, then. Lookin’ for food like an alley cat diggin’ through a dumpster. They fed him, he’s sure of it. Probably while Mama Bates was tellin’ him he’d be ‘round in the mornin’.

Ol’ Rem is there, all serious like, standin’ next to the porch swing. Gives Boone a narrowed eye’d look, and he responds with a lazy too fingure salute. Sofia Moon is at his hip, sittin down there like a goddamned Grim Reaper. He don’t spare her glance, ‘cause she always looks at him like she’s searchin’ for somethin’ and he don’t like that too much. He ain’t sure what it is she think she’ll find, but he don’t want her to.

He pushes the door open harder than he means too, wood crackin’ like a lightin’ bolt, props it with his elbow so Anna can slide in behind him. It’s damn early, Stop ain’t crawlin’ yet. Atticus is there, lookin’ tired and frustrated, Noel not much better. Rem’s little slice o’ Honey ain’t made it down yet, though.

He wonders if the boys will honor him with a last meal before they let her rip her claws into him, ‘cause he sure is fuckin’ hungry, but he ain’t dumb enough to ask outright. He’s lookin’ for his favorite table - that one that’s got a corner missin’ and a leg that don’t quite touch the floor right - when he catches sight of somethin’ a little more interestin’.

Roux Bates.

Now, Boone done felt like shit, but he’d have’ta be in the ground before messin’ with Baby Bates wasn’t in his will power of the day. Dog was still sober, this early, always had more control than Boone - but that doesn’t matter, in his book.

Boys too comfortable, too quiet, and Boone’s fingers itch, ‘cause he’s always liked Roux a little more when he was roughed up.

He’s sittin’ there at the back, in front of that goddamn large window, soakin’ up the sunshine he was born in. It makes Boone feel like someone’s got their fingers in his brain rippin’ it apart just lookin’ over there, but he grits his teeth ‘cause he’s fuckin’ had worse for a lot less.

He manages to keep one foot in front of the other as he makes his way over there, jerks out a chair and spins it around backwards before sittin’ down. “The fuck are you doin’ anyway?” he asks, snatchin’ the book out of Roux’s hands. He flips through the pages like he can see anything other than jumbled letters and blurred words, snorts out of annoyance. “Actin’ like you smart enough to make sense of any’o this?”

Maybe it was cause he was so preoccupied with payin' attention to his book and keeping' an eye on the front door, but somehow Roux didn't notice Marvin Boone’s entrance till he was stealin' a seat from his table. Loud, abrasive, with the kind of presence that made him grit his teeth instantly. He looked up just as his book was snatched away, a knot of red rage coiling in his chest. It wasn't even ten and he'd been so fuckin' peaceful, but starin' at Boone flip through his favorite book like it was trash made him want to break a few of his dirty fingers.

Roux followed Boone eyes across the page and smirked, knowin' he didn't know shit about reading. Wasn't so surprising considering that hell of a family, but it soothed him a bit to know he had the upper hand. "Readin's basic nowadays, you sayin' you can't?"

It took him all of two seconds to get the reaction he’d wanted. Roux’s face did that thing where somethin’ much darker than all those shy little grins shined through, and Boone had always found that damn interestin’. He was mad, and Boone thought that was great. wanted to see him fuckin' do somethin' about it.

The question catches him off guard, and he sneers as he tosses the book across the table. He can't read, worth shit. Never learned, most them Boone kids didn't. Wasn't somethin' he admitted though, wasn't nobody's business, but it gets under his damn skin that Roux can fuckin' see it. "Sayin' I have fuckin' better things to do."

He had to hold back a laugh, the corners of his mouth twitching' devilishly. Fuck, Boone had no idea how transparent he was, Roux could almost see every thought written across the pricks face.

"Better things to do like drink yourself shit-faced every night?" He reaches over and snatched the book from the table, sending a knowin' glare Boones way, "Think showin' up here whenever you're too drunk to handle yourself is gonna pan out long term, Marvin? We might just lock the doors and leave ya to the pigs next time"

They were fightin’ words and they both knew that wasn’t a game Boone could win. He was all fists or nothin’, but still, tradin barbs with the likes of Roux Bates gets his adrenaline pumpin’ somethin’ mad. The name causes his fist to curl against the wood, but they both know he won’t throw a punch. Not here, not now. Not like this. “If you’re family starts lockin’ the doors on drunks they’d have to go on an’ kick you out with me. Handle your hooch bout as well as I do, don’t ya, puppy? What’s that shit they say, birds of a feather or whatever? Don’t hold that nose of yours up too high. We come from the same side of the tracks, Bates. You’re more like me than you like.”

He gripped the edge of the table, his knuckles turning white from the tension- he wanted to pound Boone face into the floorboards of his brothers restaurant and he didn't really care that everyone would be there to witness. Boone had it comin', he only ever learned anythin' by having it beat into him.

Blue was standin' now, Roux could make out his stock still mass next to him. He didn't dare move his eyes from Boone, fairly sure he'd get a fist to his jaw as soon as he broke eye contact. The fucker was right, of course. Same side of the tracks, some person. He knew Boone saw red just as much as he did, but that was what made hate blur his vision every time he saw the drunk.

"Same, sure. 'Cept for your inability to throw a punch and impressive readin' skills" He hissed, low that anyone else wouldn't hear. Cause Roux had an image to uphold and Boone wasn't apart of it, "Doesn't explain why you spend most of your time on our porch. Seems like you come 'round here looking' for a handout or fight daily"

His blood’s pumpin’ and adrenaline is clearin’ that stubborn ass hangover of his. Roux has got his fingers wrapped right around Boone’s strings and knows exactly which ones to pluck to get him pissed off somethin’ good. Maybe Roux is smart enough to read them goddamn books, ‘cause he sure can read Boone. “Like sittin’ up here all ‘lone like you do is any better? What’s wrong, Sunshine Boy, can’t make any friends ‘cause all the red that’s in you?” He leans in close and grins, somethin’ all ugly and twisted, not happy like it’s supposed to be. His eyes dropped pointedly to Roux’s hands, knuckles strained all white, then back up to blue-gray eyes. All bright, washed out in the sunlight like this. “Hit me. Y'know ya want to. I dare ya, Roux. C’mon.”

ImageIt was the Honey Stop, where Rem and Harlow built their lives. Where his niece would grow up, a sacred community sanctuary during the dry years. And Roux didn't give one fuck as his arm wound back and flew full force in Marvin Boone’s face, sending the other man flying backwards from his seat and onto the floor with a resounding thud. The crack of knuckles on cheekbone was the loudest sound for a moment, forcing all necks to crane their direction. There was blood on his knuckles and across Bones cheek, a rich red that matched the color burning in his mind.

Blue was on his feet with an alerting bark as Roux pushed Boone's chair out of the way and lunged forward, knocking him back against the floor harshly.

"Dare ya, Marvin, punch me in front of everyone here. Lets see what happens"

It goddamn hurt, and Roux hadn’t hesitated. Boone had been too close to move even if he’d wanted to, and too close to do anything but fall with that hit. The force sent him to the floor, and the remainders of his hangover left him feelin’ like he was still up there even though his body was definitely on the ground. His cheekbone seared with pain, and it felt good.

He let out a laugh when Roux was suddenly on him, the back of his head crashing against the floor. Everything rolled, like it was filled with rocks, but there was still that fuckin’ smile stretched across his face. It was the name, more than the dare, that caused him to get a handful of Roux’s shirt before lifting him up, putting their faces only inches apart. “Oh, are we gonna play?”

He didn’t have the leverage to knock Roux over, not like this, nor get in a hit like the one Roux had driven into him, but he still pulled his fist back and slammed it home just under the Bates boy’s left eye. They’d fuckin’ match. How fuckin’ perfect.

The punch felt good, blindingly painful but fucking good. His head snapped to one side, cricking his neck in that painful way that meant it would be sore tomorrow. But despite that, he wanted to feel it again. Felt something like takin' a shot of Rem's old hooch- kinda shit you knew was bad for you but you wanted too damned much.

Roux's next punch landed right on top of the previous, the broken cheek bone creaking under his bloody knuckles. And then the next one set a spray of blood from Boone mouth, the next snapping his head to the side, the next crushing Roux's hand painfully against skull.

Blood was dripping out of Boone’s mouth at the same rate is it leaked from his knuckles, the pain finally winning out over his rage. For the first time, his eyes flicked up to the room, realizing the bloody mess they'd made on his family's floor. People were looking' at him strange, but his eyes found Rem's. His brother nodded, a small movement, but enough that Roux knew he was done.

He dragged his eyes back down to the mess he'd made of Boone's face and he exhaled. Roux moved to get up, but leaned slightly lower just as he rose, "I only like playing if you can keep up"

Pulling himself off Boone, Roux turned to a very agitated Blue and took a few steps away, hands sliding into blue-ticked fur. He hated the blood that stained Blues fur from his hands, hated not knowing if it was his or Boone's.

Seemed like every time Boone came around, they ended up covered in each others blood.

There was a sayin - he was pretty sure he heard Rem Bates say it - that most people liked the idea of fightin’, but not a lot of them liked the idea of gettin’ hit. Boone was the exception of the rule, backwards logic all the way around. He loved gettin’ hit more than most guys loved gettin’ laid. Each time Roux’s fist slammed against his face was a mix of pleasure and pain he could get high on.

Roux’s voice when he finally backed off was a rough taunt, and Boone laughed. The kind of laugh that started deep in him and burst out of him unhinged. It was fuckin’ perfect. He rolled onto his stomach, lettin’ blood gather in his mouth before spittin’ it out again. Could feel blood on his face and wasn’t too sure just which one of them it belonged to. Both, probably. HIs gaze rose slightly as he pushed himself onto his knees, just to see Rem starin’ down at him.

Oh right. Everyone was here. He’d almost forgotten. Wondered if they’d yelled at the boys to cut it the fuck out, or just silently gotten up to get the middle brother. Roux’s Keeper. Boone grinned, sure it was ghastly, all that blood around his teeth.

Rem shook a head at him and tossed a rag in his face. “Clean that shit off my floor,” he ground out. “And off your face, ‘fore Honey comes in and see’s what a goddamn mess you made.”

“Roux hit me first,” Boone declared, like that would earn him any kind of leeway in this crowd.

Rem arched an eyebrow, slowly.”Like you didn’t ask for it.”

The man had a point.

**Credit to Ivisbo for Roux paragraphs

Characters Present

Character Portrait: M. Boone Character Portrait: Rem Bates Character Portrait: Harlow Brynn B. Character Portrait: Roux Bates Character Portrait: Atticus Montgomery Character Portrait: Sophia Moon Character Portrait: Jacqueline Auguste
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Harlow Brynn Bates

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Temperance wasn’t holding laurels when the dent and indications of discord was on the horizon. Gretna was about to be gone all pell-mell and cockeyed, and what parts of the subdivision mattered, blood or not, could smell the premonition in the air. Sleep didn’t bring allotments of relief or promise that it was all just a dream. Nightmare, maybe, bleeding through partitions ‘twix itself and reality to twist up the possibility of a happy ending and make it into somethin’ ugly. Guess that’s what jolted her into consciousness so late that morning.

Feather weight to the left under the curl ’n tied cotton of a crib shifted, cooing in that familial way, only bred by the creators of something so innocent. Still somehow in her earliest of development managed to be just like her mama and daddy. Harlow with her finger prints tipping an edge just enough to rock the cradle from her own estate of rest or lack thereof, had to wonder how bulletproof she, her loved ones, and those who allied for just cause could make the turn of cards. Couldn’t make the future ironclad for themselves with its seams already bustin’ at infiltration of the Detroit kind, how could they promise it for the kid?

But it was different to Harlow. Knuckle dragging, she swept the dust of sleep out of one eye, murmured inaudibly to Nola, “Wouldna’ been your mama if I wasn’t any good at cleaning up messes. Suspect today will be a better day.” She wanted to forget just as much as the next sad son of a bitch who’d had enough of an outsider or ten. Yet, there was more sagacity in Gretna to know better. To do one better. And that is what would take city slickin’ somebodies by surprise.

The sky was blistered, swollen like it was bound to split ’n leak God’s wrath. Threatened to bust the barrage of cantaloupe clouds and charcoal ribbon that promised rain. Quivered with strokes of lightning, danced on the tight rope of the Holy Spirit’s vengeance which bounced to the thrum of sure war to be dropped on the heads of all below. God… He had his resentment, and entrusted it to the vault of heaven to administer with a monsoon. But it didn’t. ‘Cause it’d already been done the night before. In the clear quiet of night. Now it was time to brace for the residuals; the coming of plagues, floods and parasites. Heretofore they’d gotten more than half of the bunch.

P a r a s i t e s.

A shiver ripped through her, not at the weather, but Graves. How he left their sanctuary feeling unclean. And what’d been discussed in his wake at the odd hours of an unappetizing twilight. What slid between the table at the hands of her husband and Atticus. The shock of apprehension brushed Harlow storm fog gray and Nola’s eyes a peeping blue, only for an instant before she tucked her dainty nose into the crook of her mother’s neck where she was held in her waking curiosity. Like most times, the little thing was too tired to care. And Harlow hoped that it would remain that way, so that her child never had to feel the fear and forecast of strife so close to home.

She was alone with the baby, brought to the window by the tension of raindrops and whining wood frames. Didn’t much like the idea of facing the day, consequences, commitments and coffee, but life went on. Rem was long gone, probably took to opening up without her, taking the texture of her tongue last night, devoid of salt, fixing to give her a minute to sort out her object of how to handle things - Boone, and the plans to keep everyone’s mouths above water. Suspected him to be doing the same with some sleep under his belt. Rem understood her silence even when it was loud in looks. That’s why she married him.

Through the glass she could see the return of Jacqueline, spent of stock of the sacrosanct variety. Paced inside without a trace of malaise, like she was coming home for the first time in years. It’s the only thing aside from the soft breathing of Harlow's daughter that cracked a smile, first one of the day, and incited some motivation to make the bed and tie up an apron.

Harlow hemorrhaged with exhaustion, padding through the handbuilt header, fist in a canvas pocket, opposite open with digits patting the bottom of Nola whose arms went wide for mama’s neck. “Goodmornin’,” came Honey’s ovation to her patrons, beamin’ with not a tooth out of place. Like nothin’ ever happened, “Doubt Rem’s made any tea worth a damn, so don’t worry, I’m gettin’ to it first thing.” Her head bowed as she passed under a ceiling board that had steadily but surely been comin’ undone for the past month or so. Made a note to get the thing back to standard rather than ask Rem as soon as possible. She eyed the counter for a hammer, blunt object, somethin’.

Oh she found it.
The blunt object.
Dumb as a god damn rock.

Felt like all of her went into a rigid straight line when she saw the crooked splash of Boone’s DNA all about the timber tier of the dining room. Forgot about the tea, the hammer, the register. And Roux’s abandoned book spoke for itself, leaving Rem at the plate of umpire in a more lukewarm reaction than Honey’d have. Went all but stark still when she made it to the center of the commotion, Nola Mae now at her hip, wide awake and seemingly complimenting her mother’s glare with undivided silence and a stiff stare. She glanced up at her mama, a golden fringe coming loose from a hair pin probably due to the bluster boiling in Harlow’s skull. Nola supported herself to explode into a baby fit of laughter, clasping tiny mitts together like she could stop at any time and say, “Boy you gone and done it now!”

But Harlow just pointed her toe and sunk her sole into the blood on the floor. Said nothin’. Handed that baby off to Rem unapologetically, and grabbed Boone by his collar and yanked him so hard ‘bout six feet horizontal so that he’d never get a flyin’ chance of finding his footing before her ire found him. Spectacle as it were, ain’t nothin’ was gonna’ measure to the night before.

ImageShe was slight, didn’t quite know herself how she’d get the idiot from one place to the next using her own two hands but was pleasantly surprised when the resounding ‘thunk’ of his body dropped onto the Honey Stop stoop via her own sinew. His teeth were all a mess, suffused from Roux’s conniption. “Whatever ass handin’ Roux did to you was just an appetizer.” Honey contended as her bantam frame shadowed the lump that was Boone’s. Her waders dragged lines in the dirt as she continued to heave Boone well off the property, damn near clearing a game trail with every tug into the grass. Now the rain was comin’, causing them both to slip and slide ’til she toppled onto him.

Without finesse or care she climbed him and straddled him, ‘bout to choke the holy hell out of his whiskey throat. Mud imbued the two of ‘em more than blood or bruise, and when Harlow got a good hold back on the fabric of his shirt, she shook the shit out of him and drove his spine and head into the earth more times than one. After his brain ‘bout bounced to and fro in multiplication, she laid off and leaned back. Breathed deep, told him, “You gon’ act all cute in my house again, Marvin Boone?”

Nothin’.

He probably didn’t have no wind left in him to reply. She gave him the luxury of a grace period, glanced over her shoulder to see if anyone’d gathered to try and put a stop to the seemingly constant tussling of the Honey Stop. They’da’ been a fool to get between Harlow and her focus now. But there was Sophia, cool, listless as usual. Safe from the precipitation, darkness cast up and down all around her. Harlow paused, “Aw darlin’, I didn’t know you were in town! I’m gonna’ fix you somethin’ in just a minute.”

Resume; Harlow grabbed his face so hard, she nearly crushed his mandible between her index and thumb. They locked eyes like this ‘cause he knew it wasn’t over. Least he was smart enough to only gather oxygen rather than expel it when he saw her watching the rain cull on his eyelashes and spill into bloodshot attention.

“You gone and ruined my good apron and made a mess of my dining room. ‘Side from that,” she got lower grabbed a handful of mud, “You brought a whole mess that can’t be cleaned with mop ’n bucket.” Waterlogged slime splattered across his cheeks, and she wiped the rest down the front of him, “I don’t intend to make your sufferin’ as fun as Roux might. You’re gonna’ clean yourself up, then you’re gonna’ clean the floor, and then you’re gonna’ clean this mighty ugly impression I got of ya’, ‘cause you been coming around too long to ruin it all now, haven’t ya’?”

All knuckle ’n bone, she smacked him in the throat, encouraging him to reply quickly and correctly.

“Haven’t ya’, Marvin?”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: M. Boone Character Portrait: Rem Bates Character Portrait: Harlow Brynn B. Character Portrait: Roux Bates Character Portrait: Atticus Montgomery Character Portrait: Sophia Moon Character Portrait: Jacqueline Auguste Character Portrait: Noel Bates
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ImageThe Bates boys ain’t ever been known for followin’ anyone’s rules, but there’s a line clearly drawn in the mud that says ’still alright’ on one side and ’you done gone too far’ on the other. Rem’s always known just where his family stood. A little too close, toes edgin’ up right t h e r e, but not crossin’.

Way the world is now though it’s like the muds done dried up and the dust has erased that line all together. Gotta say somethin’ when the people flashin’ badges are hurtin’ more than they helpin’, don’t it? Hyena's dressed up in Lion’s clothin’ but their damn grins give ‘em away.

If that line was still there, he supposed he just decided to stop seein’ it. Turn a blind eye and nothin’ after can be your fault, right? Standin’ there next to Sophia the way he is, Rem knows his fates done been sealed.

”Then you won’t.” hangs heavy between them in the humid Louisiana air. Reminds him of the days when he’d spit in his palm and shake Noel’s hand, knowin’ there wasn’t any goin’ back over whatever deal they’d just made. Even if they found out later it was stupider than shit. This ain’t spit though. This is a goddamn blood oath, and his right hand is ‘bout to be permanently stained red.

Ol’ Marvin Boone and Anna Leigh slink up right about then, like a couple o’ alley cats. Kids sober enough he’ worse for ware, but she seems alright. Nod’s his greetin’ ‘fore they go on inside, almost forgot Harlow called the pair of them on back. Figures they’re about to get the kinda scoldin’ they ain’t never seen from their own mamma’s. Knows Boone hadn’t. That little girl there just needs to learn how to keep a better leash on her pets.

“Might be best to find Harlow and the boys though before we chew the fat on details.”

“Yeah,” he drags in a deep breath of smoke and closes his eyes for a moment. Just needs a second more, he thinks, before they really change everythin’. “Boys are here. Honey’ll be down soon.”

He’s gonna finish his cigarette, he thinks. Wishes he could warn the others that this is their last moment of normal, but he can’t. He’s just learnin’ to enjoy the stillness when a crash reaches his ears. There’s muttered curses, maybe someone laughs, and he rolls his eyes heavenward as he realizes he let Boone and Roux share the same room for a moment too long.

“Fuck,” he sighs, drops the butt and stomps it out, then shoulders the door open. Roux has done got Boone on the floor, leanin’ over him with raw knuckles and fists that are movin’ too fast. There’s blood, and an audience, and Rem ain’t sure he’s ever seen his brother like this sober. Can’t decide if it’s a complicated side effect, or an interesting development.

Folds his arms over his chest ‘cause damn those boys are makin’ a mess, no better than a couple ‘o toddlers. Roux looks up eventually and his fist slows, Rem gives him a slow, small nod. Enough.

Roux pulls off of him like a dog lettin’ go of it’s favorite chew toy, and Boone rolls over with a laugh and blood covered teeth. Honey’s gonna lose her right mind over this. “Clean that shit off my floor,” he ground out. “And off your face, ‘fore Honey comes in and see’s what a goddamn mess you made.”

“Roux hit me first,” Boone declared, indigent, just like the child he always was. Rem knows he asked for it. Begged for it, probably. Too many damn rocks loose in his head. He glances up at his brother one more time. Roux’s is shaken, fingers in Blue’s hair. Stone cold sober. What a trick.

“Like you didn’t ask for it.”

Anna Leigh finds her way across the room with a rag in her hand. Rem wonders how the hell that kid ever managed to find someone to give two damns ‘bout him, but there she is. Some kind of Southern angel, pressin’ cloth to his bleedin’ face. Boone curses somethin’ awful, tries jerkin ‘way from her, but wraps a hand ‘round her dainty wrist like he’s tryna’ make ammends. ”Feel better?” she asks, only to get a ”Fuck you.” in return.

"I'd apologize on his behalf, and say it wont happen again but..."

“Don’t go ‘pologizing on anyone’s behalf, darlin’,” he mutters. “Ain’t no sense in diggin’ your grave next to his.”

“Goodmornin’.”

Oh, Rem’s head turns towards the stairway where his Honey’s just come down. She’s early mornin’ sweetness right now, baby girl still wrapped up in her arms, but it’s just a matter of time now. Them big boys are all frozen, waitin’, waitin’, w a i t i n’. They’re all in trouble now.

She freezes like a predator cat when her eyes find Boone, muscles gone all tense and calculatin’’ mind puttin’ the situation together. Nola’s laughter rings through the stop much too loud for a kid her size. It’s that damn quiet.

He’s got his hands out before Harlow even moves to hand his girl over to him, can feel the storm ragin’ up already. She gets a hand in Boone’s collar and the world unpauses so damn quick he’s sure they all end up with whiplash.

Can’t help the grin that spreads across his face ‘cause his Honey is a goddamn force to be reckoned with and it makes his heart race when people forget that. Watches Boone go flyin like he ain’t twice her size any which way you look at it.

“Whatever ass handin’ Roux did to you was just an appetizer.”

Speakin’ of his baby brother, he catches him outta the corner of his eye, tryna disappear before anyone can ask him what the hell he was thinkin’, lettin’ a Mad Dog out like that. He points a finger in Noel’s direction and gestures to where a blue tick tial is disappearin’ out the back door. “Get him, would ya?”

He passes Nola off to Jaq with an apologetic look as he follows his wife outside, baby laughter ringin’ in his ears. The rain’s started ‘gain but Harlow ain’t slowin’ down none. Draggin’ river trash through the mud, kickin’ and squirmin’.

She shakes the holy hell out of that boy, and he’s holdin’ onto her hands like he’s tryna stay in this world or tryna ask her to stop. Rem ain’t sure, but either way, it ain’t doin’ him no good. You gon’ act all cute in my house again, Marvin Boone?”. Nothin’. Ain’t no surprise that boy’s still fuckin’ dumb.

Honey checks over her shoulder and notices Sophia for the first time, and Rem nearly chokes on his laugh as pleasantries leave her pretty little lips. You can put the lady in the boondocks, but can’t change her nature deep down.

“Haven’t ya’, Marvin?”

“Yeah!” Boone croaks out, and he don’t sound happy ‘bout it in the least. Turns his head to spit out red colored rain water and taps at the muddy ground like he can get himself outta this one that damn easy. “Yes! Yeah. Christ, Harlow, I get it.”

“Come on now, Hun,” Rem mutters with a chuckle, leanin’ on a wood post under the safety of the porch. He ain’t dumb enough to take himself down there and get between those two, but he thinks her points done been made. “Come on back inside.”

Characters Present

Character Portrait: M. Boone Character Portrait: Rem Bates Character Portrait: Harlow Brynn B. Character Portrait: Roux Bates Character Portrait: Atticus Montgomery Character Portrait: Jacqueline Auguste Character Portrait: Noel Bates Character Portrait: ANNA LEIGH DECLAN
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There are certain rules for people like Jaq, things ingrained by the hand of a man spitting the word of god while letting the devil guide a belt in a whip-like manner. Nice and easy, settle into the spaces between fragmented conversation. Don't focus too long on any one person, makes 'em real nervous sometimes. Eyes lowered, roaming through tangled legs. To this day the things she could observe from her father's constant ear-to-the-ground behavior stick with her. An ingrained lesson to always listen without listening. She looks up only when a body draws near, a man she could call a friend, if not a form of family -

what's the difference these days anyhow, the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb. Or so some could say. Jaq certainly believes it. Her blood relatives had never even scratched the surface of feeling like family to her.

"Rem." She acknowledges kindly. He looks tired, as if he's carrying the weight of the entire world on his shoulders right that second. She supposes he might be, if she can tell anything by the somber expression he wears.

“If you still the prayin’ type...” the slight dip of her smile is the only indication of an answer, hands clasping beneath the table. Today the wounds she wears are left open and raw, flushed red with infection. A fever in her eyes when she lowers her gaze to the wooden tables and lets the smile slip from chewed up lips. She remembers too vividly, can almost feel the bite of bible verses as they're pressed into her skull with the force of a fist. She ain't got no right today to incite prayer on behalf of friends she calls home - but she'll damn well do it anyway for their sake, belief or lack thereof non-withstanding.

When Rem moves along those subtle notes of tension return. its clear, at least to someone who is capable of detecting the wrongness of a room. A single sweeping glance catches on Noel and Atticus, the easier targets to her usual babbling half-sermons. The Deputy, in particular, has no love for her ways, the uncomfortable and constant stand-offs between them a clear indicator of their acquaintance. So long as Atticus doesn't stumble her way she won't casually slip bible passages to him under her breath, though that's not in the least bit fun for her.

Noel's a different story altogether, the tension between them a matter of communication. A silence on both parts and lack of general interest. Rem is more her speed when it comes to friendships, and people like Honey. Strong and resilient without being overbearingly silent to the general proddings. It's no fun to make light of someone when they don't fight back in kind. But she has no ill will for the eldest Bates and his sullen charms, rather, finds discomfort in the tired look to his eyes and the way his smile is just a bit too soft in comparison to the gruff face its set in.

Something big must have gone down for the air to be this charged. It's not long fore' more trouble comes barging into it, bringing that barely perceivable hint of destruction in its wake. She doesn't know Marvin Boone well, they don't run in nearly the same circles on any given day, but she knows trouble when she see's it. Can't stop the inner judgments from arising in the wake of her forgotten ills. A stricken feeling of knowing her tongues going to slip up 'round him at some point and he sure looks ready to set down the weight of his own shoulders on everyone here. She knows of his family, even if she doesn't know them. Hard to escape the whispers in this place, and really, she's so inclined to believe the gossip that's spoken about the Boone's.

Has to tear her eyes away from his bee-line movement towards the only other Bates in the room, Roux and stare at the girl he walked in with openly. Anna, from a standpoint of someone far removed from the land of self-confidence the kind of overpowering force that demands attention from the room. A beauty, if you will, and if she's strong enough to put up with a Boone then Jaq can see why she carries herself the way she does. Frowns a little though, and wonders why Boone would leave her side in such a haste to presumably hassle Roux. She gnaws her lip, attempts to stop this constant observation. This is what always gets her in trouble.

Attention to detail and too much time spent watching other people's lives around her.

Knows damn well its a bad path to go down.

She sips her drink and turns her gaze to the ceiling. Long enough, she supposes, for something to have gone down. Something that has the Honey Stop stumbling over itself to put a stop to. Logically, she's seen people fight before. Seen people tear each other to pieces, seen people tear people she knows to pieces. And really, that was only in the scope of her own home. Seeing two young men throwing their fists in the middle of a place she considers sanctuary is startling.

Coming up out of her seat, she makes sure that she isn't anywhere within the scope of the fight, were anything to go flying or if they were to get off the floor and continue ravaging the place with their scuffle. She chews her lip, its already going red from the constant attentions of her teeth but she can't help it. Glances to the other patrons with alarm in her eyes. Though thankfully, it lasts only a short time before Rem's back in and breaking it up before too much blood is spilled.

She's thankful, the adrenaline of the moment sparking that familiar feeling of "run and don't look back" in her gut. She can't settle the rapid beating of her heart but she can take in a few lungfuls of air to stop the black dots swimming in her vision. It has been a while since panic like that has overcome her.

It's somewhere between Rem settling Nola into Jaq's arm and her sitting back down that she realizes how tense she is. Relaxes her body as she carries the giggling child, smiling at the babe adoringly. Children are honest beings by nature, still untainted by the world's hardship and utterly pure. Jaq loves them for it, can't wait for the day she has her own - if that day ever truly comes. She isn't so sure she's cut out for that kind of life though, is afraid of what she could become given that stress. Despite all the constant "You're gettin' Older dear," 's that she hears from some of the older women in Gretna. Their concern for her, while sweet, is unnecessary.

If thats where she's destined to end up, then she will. All in good time.

She must be projecting a bit of her nerves still, Nola begins to pucker her lips in that way children do before they start getting fussy. Jaq re-positions her and smiles, "It's gon' be alright," Jaq coo's, bouncing her as she does so. Babbling on in a comforting manner, wondering all the while whats going to come next.