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Sophia Moon

"I'm whoever I need to be to survive."

0 · 842 views · located in Gretna, Louisiana, 1922

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

Description



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Maiden Name: “Your guess is as good as mine sugar.”
Mary Cross (Forced Upon)
Gutter rat (Often Shouted)
Gwen Farris “A skin I’ve shed…”
Vamp “I’m nothing if not professional.”

Years: 23: January 27, 1899

If Sophia ever had a real name given to her by loving parents who cared one way or another, no one ever bothered to impart that choice bit of information to her. Left to a catholic church, and the charity of nuns as an infant, Sophia’s first name was Mary Cross. Painfully religious and given without much thought, Mary found much of her young upbringing to be the same. Her experiences of neglect and abuse were not unique at St. Paul’s orphanage, but Mary learned there that she had a particular talent for getting under skin. It was a talent Mary also learned to use cautiously in her time there, as Sister Margaret could be quite sadistic when the mood struck her. Sharp tongues and quick wits were the marks of the devil in a girl after all, ones that were best burned out at a young age. One particularly brutal incident involving boiled holy water and a funnel left a lasting impression. Sophia still can’t stomach liquid that’s more than lukewarm.

Adults at least, were predictable when they lashed out; it was the other children you really had to look out for. The older ones were to be avoided entirely. The things they’d do to each other made Sister Margaret look tame, and it was from them that Mary learned the cardinal rules of survival. For starters, always lookout for yourself first, because if you won’t watch your own back, no one will do it for you. Trust is asking for a knife in the back, believe only grudgingly and always have an exit strategy in mind. The last, was that the moral high ground was for those who could afford it. Do what’s necessary to get by and then shake it off. Those rules got her through everything St. Paul’s could throw Mary’s way, and the streets of Chicago eventually proved much the same.

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Some people can’t help but use others, and some just can’t help being used. It’s a natural cycle really, codependent as far as relationships go. A leader after all, isn’t much more than a posturing prick without a pack of hard-boiled thugs running around taking orders. Not that the thugs are any better. For money, sex, power, or some twisted sense of belonging, they all do the bidding of some trumped up Mac who does the thinking for them. Not that I can claim to be some kind of exception there. For which one I sold my soul to Danny Quinn is anyone's guess; maybe all of it. In the end, I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised by the results.

Origin: Chicago, IL



By the time Mary Cross turned seven, she’d had enough of St. Paul’s. Anywhere was better than that sanctimonious hell hole. The streets of Chicago can be a cold place, but they were also a great teacher. Small hands and a sweet face like hers could prove valuable assets in the city’s criminal underbelly, and she never failed to use them for her own benefit. Picking pockets was the first skill she learned on the streets, running around for a few rackets of corralled street urchins on the south side. As she got older though, it became apparent the men she worked for wanted her earning money a different way. Turning tricks turned girls old fast, and Mary had no intention of renting her ass out so someone else could make a buck. Better to lure dumb Johns into a back alley and rob them at knife point than that. It’s a ploy than only works so long though before ending ugly, and not ever John balks at a knife.

Mary met Danny Quinn when she was thirteen. Bruised, manhandled, and sporting a busted lip, she’d stared down a man ten years her senior as he took her measure. Apparently, she’d robbed the wrong John, though admittedly the man hadn’t come off as a lieutenant in anything, much less one of Chicago’s myriad of Irish gangs. News of a thirteen year old gutter rat beating and robbing one of Danny’s men was an insult that had to be answered, the young boss just hadn’t decided who's ass he’d take it out of yet. In the end, it wasn’t hers. Danny Quinn was a pragmatic man that prided himself on having a good eye for potential, and in her he saw plenty of it. It was a new life that came with a new name, and under the wing of one of Chicago’s rising gangsters she happily shed Mary Cross for the far more deadly and decidedly Irish Gwen Farris. Danny picked the name because her skin was pale as the moon. She was dangerously enchanted.

As Gwen, she learned the tricks of the trade, and no one could claim she was anything but a quick study. Extortion, smuggling, prostitution, hijacking, and bribery, Danny’s White Fang gang had its fingers in all the pies Chicago’s underworld had to offer. Smuggling in particular Gwen had a talent for, running everything from opium to arms sales. Dressed up the right way, no one suspected a teenage girl of anything more illicit than a lover’s tryst, and Gwen was very good at playing whatever part she needed for the con. By the time Gwen was nineteen, she’d helped build up Danny’s empire with nothing but blood and sheer force of will, effectively carving herself a space in the inner workings of his organization. Her relationship with Danny Quinn had also taken a decidedly carnal turn. How she’d expected that to end even Sophia can't say, but in some ways she’d always be a moon eyed teenage girl for Danny Quinn, drunk on his approval and the scraps of affection he threw her way.


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When they say sleeping with your boss ends badly, I somehow never pictured a swamp. Being left for dead as gator chow just seemed impersonal. I always figured if things went south between me and Danny, he’d at least do me the courtesy of pulling the trigger himself. Too much to ask for I guess. In the end, it was my own damn fault, I broke the rules. I got too comfortable, too trusting, thinking about some future that didn’t end cold and bloody on the streets. Maybe there were even some fat happy babies with Danny’s green eyes thrown in there too, but hell if I’d willingly bring some poor kid into this life just to get used up the way I had. I put Danny’s ambitions ahead of my own, built that bastard a kingdom and left myself begging for scraps. Betrayal’s always a tough pill to swallow, but in those first dark days after, I caught myself wishing that torpedo he’d hired was a better shot...That’s what I can't forgive.

Accolades:
Danny Quinn
The Bates Family
Her pearl handled 1911 Colt .45

Present Digs: Gretna, LA

Catharsis:
“I’m whoever I need to be to survive.”

Aversions: Hot liquids; she won’t touch the stuff, so don’t try to feed it to her.

Danny Quinn wasn’t one to sit idle when opportunity came knocking with a congressional amendment sized fist. Prohibition rocked the country something fierce, putting those in the legitimate business of booze out of commission in a stranglehold of forced sobriety. For those not so daunted by trivial things like legality though, there was a world of money to be made. Bootlegging became the name of the game, and it was one more industry the White Fangs intended to conquer. Competition in Chicago though was fierce, and with the consolidated Italian mob scene starting to put the boot to the throats of the far more scattered Irish gangs on the North side, branching out seemed to other cities seemed prudent. New Orleans was ripe hunting ground, and though the Italian Matranga crime family undoubtedly reigned supreme in the Big Easy, they dealt mostly with imported hooch. Danny on the other hand, was interested in that all American white lightning, an enterprise far more suited to the Irish. Breaking into that market though would take necessitated the kind of connections that went beyond money and a shared immigrant heritage. The best business was always done with blood, so to ensure the expansion to his empire, Danny Quinn found himself getting hitched to one Fiona O’Bannion, as well as her father’s rather expansive syndicate in Louisiana. If Fiona hadn’t been the jealous type, Sophia Moon might have remained Gwen Farris, Moll, bootlegger, and occasional enforcer for the boss of the White Fangs. As it was, Danny found himself with a choice, bump off the choice dame he’d been dirtying the sheets with for the better part of three years, or risk losing access to the O’Bannion’s moonshine.

The night Gwen Farris died, she found herself trekking through the god awful heat in a Louisiana swamp, readying the pickup for fifty cases of prime Louisiana shine. Instead of hooch, Gwen found herself ambushed by the very lugs she’d rode in with. Luck, and a great deal of experience under fire got her out still breathing, though understandably they’d pumped her with enough lead in gater infested territory to assume the worst. As far as the world was concerned, Gwen Farris was fertilizing the swamp. Force of will got her to a back road, some higher power she may or may not be willing to believe in, brought her the Bates boys.

Generosity wasn’t exactly something she’d ever had experience with; quid pro quo was the way of the world. Sophia spent six months as Bates charity, nursing her wounds and waiting for the other shoe to drop. It never did. They never bent her over the proverbial barrel, and never mentioned the debt she owed them. It didn’t stop her from feeling the weight of it deep in her gut. Set up with a job at the dying Honey Stop, Sophia found herself adrift with a new name and not much else to it. She’d picked Sophia because it was blatantly Italian, and Moon because she was apparently a masochist. It wasn’t until she realized just how tough things were becoming for Rem and Harlow that Sophia managed to really pick herself up. The Bates might have been good enough people to forgive her debt, but she sure as hell wasn’t going to let it stand. She’d helped build up a criminal empire before, she could sure as hell do it again. Moonshine was the white gold of Louisiana, and it was time for a rush.

Conning a recipe out of some pushover running a still west of Gretna was the easy part. Sophia could sniff out a gin mill a mile away, and she knew. Harlow was the one who really put the signature stamp on it from there. It was dismantling the competition that was going to be the real challenge, but one she specialized in. Come hell or high water, she was going to make the Bates the richest shiners this side of the Mississippi, and once her debt was paid in full, Sophia planned to get some goddamn payback.


Demeanor:
For a woman governed by so many self imposed rules, she sure is fond of breaking them. Slicker than an oil spill, and fond of tough talk, Sophia can go toe to toe with the best hard-boiled bimbos around, but she’s got a grudging moral compass and sense of loyalty that’s proved her Achilles heel in the past.

Word About Town:
Cheats at Poker
That Bossy Yankee Skirt
Lady of Sin
Bad Influence

So begins...

Sophia Moon's Story

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Rem Bates Character Portrait: Harlow Brynn B. Character Portrait: Roux Bates Character Portrait: Atticus Montgomery Character Portrait: June Reilly-Snow Character Portrait: Sophia Moon Character Portrait: Noel Bates Character Portrait: ANNA LEIGH DECLAN Character Portrait: Bailey Johnson
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Harlow Brynn Bates

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Armistice of night, copious and quiet, crept on to Gretna at the tail end of February like an old friend. The only thing known to a Louisiana humanity to be chthonic, kept and kind within the law. Peace was never made these days, only dreamt of in soft hums on the dry tongues of men behind bars. Those who’d come to their epiphanies after anger had run its long course. Most folks took to the night for their reconciliations. Rocking on a sapped porch with empty tin buckets. But often… This seed sowed from greed and the feeling of being thieved upon was intractable. Ain’t no amount of days, weeks, or months in a concrete box bound to fix up what the prohibition set into the minds of many, many men. Even freedom itself could not soothe the stab and sting of Louisiana’s bread and butter. Or lack thereof.

Families sewed up their loose ends best way they knew how, most of ‘em honest, too shook in their boots to do much different. The Snows battened down. Still had their fortunes but sure lacked the luxury of paradise parties and aged libations. Where windows were lit and laughter was heard, there was cause for concern. Knocks on polished pine could pass for gunshots due to the intent behind it. The fear in not just this town, but others across the board, was very real. There was no choice left. Honesty had become just another metonym for debt and hunger.

You name one person in this town who ain’t been a victim of the Detroit blow in’s. That’s right. You can’t. Even if you’re honest, you best be quiet ‘round here.

Hell, even Remington Bates kept his wife off the stoop of the Honey Stop when he heard them black jalopies grumbling their way up the road. Detroit boys were always asking for trouble, knowin’ their upper hand was long and strong and faced little recoil when they wanted to put anybody they so chose through the wringer. Rapping billy clubs ‘gainst the front doors of homes, window panes of local shoppes, spitting obliquely and staring so hard that it’d make y’sick. Could put a preacher on his head after confessionals. They weren’t afraid of nothin’, took no issue with who they frisked. Rich, poor, woman, man, child. Didn’t much matter.

And the Mississippi Honey Stop… Turning into an asylum, kept the company of spirits new and old, just lookin’ for some goodness in all the bad. The misfortune [literal] in all of it was that nobody could pick a penny out of the slime of a swamp and make it stretch an hour in Gretna. Times were too hard. Rem and Harlow made the place more of a soup kitchen, the harbor in which anything up the creek could feel warm a little while. Full.

Dandelion shudders outside collected more dust than cicadas. Country strum was all but gone in the waste of winter, even when they hit the high sixties with nothing but sunshine for miles. Fans didn’t swing. Just cast shade over the rhythmic two step of a mother and child, cooing in kinship with measured merriment. Least the place was kept real clean. Paint tended to every few months. All yellows and blues like the corn color of summer country. Every table tightened and spotless. Lord knew that was just the way of Harlow Bates, couldn’t stand a mess or a singular crumb. When she married, the world thought it’d fall if that boy left a bed sheet untucked. Seemed to work out just fine though. She didn’t stir when he cinched a suspender two inches too lose. They got by a lot on smiles, ‘spite of obvious asymmetry. Made a beautiful home for themselves and the place they grew.

As dusk dipped low on the horizon, a chill blew in through the doorway of the only canteen left in force. Idle silhouettes barely bobbed back and forth. The Honey Stop yielded the same crowd: dark haired butterflies with their ashtrays kept under finger, old Blue and Ruger sloppin’ up a corner designated for dogs surer to go to heaven before out of state cops. The occasional drifter with a rickety soup spoon grasp, then the deputy when he was hurting for a hard cup of coffee.

ImageMetallic canticles croaked out of a register too rarely touched, “Got a mind to start chargin’ my folks for honey.” With ochroid strands thrown about, Harlow’s circling scrutiny was hard to monitor. Nola hiccuped on her arm, cheeks pinker than carnations in her post feeding bliss, eyes just like her daddy’s: sapphire and somnolent. “Running all over hell’s half acre…” Her mother muttered punching in numbers, all one-handed without much faltering. But a beam set to the corners of her mouth and she sighed. Just another day. The same labors for the same love. Soon she’d be trading out the sweat-stuck cotton of her dress and kissin’ the heads of her favorite folk goodnight or goodbye. Even Roux, who slightly shifted each time yet didn’t object.

She loved him. Loved him, loved him loved him.

Took to those Bates like they were her blood all along. Noel, who dug at his brothers something fierce, protected them fiercer. Loved him. Roux, whose eyes were not seldom wide and spoke more to his dog than to people. Loved him. When she married Rem, the tracts between herself and rapture just filled themselves in. His mother said it was something about good love. Knowing the difference was the key. Said Harlow Snow knew all along, that’s why she chose herself a Bates boy and found all those things she was lookin’ for but could never call by name. She never had to, after Rem.

Love stories aside, the Honey Stop accrued altruism in the most critical of deficits. Some days it seemed like it was all the town had left. Which at times could bear weight on the married couple that ran it. Integrity as a rule came before capital, and lamentably it was startin’ to show.

He knew by the way she wiped dew from her brow on the back of a wrist that was sore every hour of the night. She knew by the way he closed the doors at the stop with shoulders heavy, singular fixed look and not much to say at all. They’d never lost their sense of self. But they’d certainly experienced their sense of sustenance dwindling away. Sophia’d come by often with a side eye and mumble about bathtub gin, wanting to repay a favor she felt was owed. That girl was full of fire, a spur like nothing Harlow had ever seen. She’d be tellin’ a lie if she said she didn’t think about pulling her aside and asking for the down low about what risks they’d run if they wanted to brew something themselves. But went with her better judgment, admitting to herself that if Rem didn’t entertain it yet, it was best she don’t neither.

Guess what spooked her most was thinking how she was gonna’ bring little Nola up in this world, in these straits. Couldn’t just count on June to stick ‘round forever and watch the baby, pick up where Harlow couldn’t when the days got too rough. June needed to go and live her life. Deserved it most, taking what she did from Daxton.

“June,” Harlow called quietly over the clink of ware at its last hour, “You mind taking Nola for a walk ‘round the porch? She’s just about asleep and I wanted to close out the register since my husband won’t hit a lick at a snake when he’s flapping his gums at the deputy.” A playful wink was supplied, then followed with, “And June?”

With Nola cradled against both forearms, a chaise only a mother could make, Harlow conferred her to June, “Not too long out there, alright? That detective with Detroit’s department’s been snooping around. Thinks we can’t see ‘im in the dark. Got nothing but the candle jars out there so just stay by the windows, holler if you need anything. Rem’s right by the door and the deputy, too.” She tucked the baby girl into a blanket, its edges hidden in the crook of June’s elbow, “Won’t have these men from out of town trying to cut our tails. Shaking down a lady, much less my sister in law.” Harlow rubbed the sleeve of June’s shirt. She could feel Rem’s eyes imbued with protective nature. Up and down his wife’s frame in a wordless diction of, “You gon’ send her out there with Nol’ alone?”

There was a slight pivot in her stance, a small reassuring smile. He’d take it, graze a short fingernail over five o’clock shadows and continue his conversation but only after he knew that everything was alright. Never missed a beat where their safety was concerned.

Harlow hung a rag over her shoulder, took the candles from the tables and every so often peered onto the porch. Dried her hands on thin ivory, skirt bunched for a second before dropping to its full length again. A soft glow hit the window glass and flickered out of existence in zaps of night wind. Off to the left sat a heartbreaker and victim of her own, Bailey Marie. Harlow racked her brain a thousand times over tryin’ to find any words worth saying to someone who lost the love of their life. Couldn’t likely imagine the agony of going on without Rem, and found herself with a creased brow, lump stuck in the throat, giving Bailey pieces of pie she never touched a dozen times over. That Johnson girl was perhaps the only person Harlow couldn’t soothe.

The Honey Stop was cozy inside, even with the sadness of transients. Outside was a little colder. Lonelier. Most they’d see is that tumbleweed of a girl, Anna Leigh. Maybe sittin’ low by the last stair and brooding way she mostly did with her red lips rollin’ under chattering teeth. Girl kept to herself but they’d seen their share of her at the stop. Fed her a few times, though she insisted she didn’t need none. It was quiet. Almost all the time.

It won’t happen to us. I’m just being cautious. They wouldn’t come ‘round asking questions at this hour, would they?

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Rem Bates Character Portrait: Harlow Brynn B. Character Portrait: Sophia Moon
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The heat in Louisiana was god awful, and no one would ever convince Sophia otherwise. She didn’t know how the natives put up with it, but contented herself with the knowledge they’d all wilt in a Chicago winter whenever Rem teased her lack of appreciation for the southern climate. It wasn’t even the heat so much as the humidity that came with it, oppressive and constant, leaving a damp sheen on her skin that always lingered. It lent a sleepiness to the small town that Sophia wasn’t built for. She needed to be out on the move, doing something, anything really. Hustling, stealing, transporting goods, it didn’t matter as long as she felt they were getting ahead. But she didn’t run with the Fangs anymore, and Sophia never had. That woman who’d prowled the streets of Chicago, powerful and unafraid was long dead, and all she’d left behind was a scarred, used up freeloader whose only talent these days seemed to be racking up debt with the Bates like some god damn stray.

Sophia gave up on understanding what wired the Bates and their tendency toward charity a long time ago. She didn’t understand it, had never been around anything like it, but she’d been forced to conclude they weren’t running some elaborate con; not on her or the other countless they’d helped in Gretna. The Bates were a rare sort, genuine in a way Sophia had never known people could be, and she’d tentatively taken up space in their orbit. Debt was as foreign a concept to Remington and Harlow Bates as generosity was to Sophia, but that didn’t mean they weren’t owed. It certainly didn’t mean Sophia could live with it hanging over her.

The Honey Stop was a prominent fixture in Gretna, and certainly one of Sophia’s current haunts. It was also bleeding more money than a sugar daddy with a new tomato on his arm. Charity wasn’t cheap. If the Honey Stop was going to stay afloat, the Bates were going to need a new source of revenue. Harlow and Rem might not have warmed up to the idea yet, but hooch was a hot commodity in these parts with a limited supply and a highly enthusiastic demand. Sophia might not have herself any fancy education, but it didn’t take a genius to figure out that was a recipe for serious dough. Sooner or later, they were going to feel the pinch, more than they’d be able to ignore, and Sophia planned to have a solution in hand to offer when that day came. In the interest of serving that end, she’d do what she had to. If Sophia were a woman prone to pride, it might even make her blush.

“Love the way that dress fits you darlin’.” It’s breathed into her neck hot and sweaty, much like the man whose hand was sliding across her ass like a ripe peach. Louis McGee wasn’t a hell of a lot to look at. Middle aged, overweight, and balding, Lou was a perfect storm of inadequacies and resentment that made him an ideal mark. Women didn’t pay attention to him, never had, and it left him feeling slighted. Men like that could have a real mean streak when it came to the fairer sex, but a few compliments also went a long way. A little ego stroking, and Sophia could play him like a fiddle. ”Maybe tonight you’ll even let me take it off…”

“Why Lou, tryin’ ta undress me in a crowd fulla people? That’s darin’ even fer you!” Sophia hawed, eyes half lidden as she pawed at his shoulder. Lou was about as daring as an accountant, but that wasn’t the point. The accolade hit its mark, and Sophia watched him practically puff up with it, even swaying a bit to the music. This sorry excuse for a speakeasy was little more than a converted barn, far enough from any of the local towns to avoid prying eyes, but well known enough to keep plenty of the locals bent on a regular basis. Word about town was also that it served the smoothest shine outside New Orleans, the kind folks could only get before Uncle Sam put every legitimate still in the country out of business. That made it the only recipe worth stealing.

”Don’t tease Effie. I’ve got a better idea for that dirty mouth of yours.” He growled in her ear, grip tightening into something more painful. Sophia gritted her teeth, hand twitching as she resisted the urge to rip his hand off and maybe break a few of those fingers in the process. Instead she turned, arms slinking around his neck as her rouged lips twisted playfully. “Does that mean yer finally gonna show me that cellar?” Sophia purred. His lust darkened eyes was the only answer she needed as Lou led her through the dancing throng out back. The steps they descended led to a converted root cellar, as much stone as dirt, and much cooler than the makeshift dancehall above. It was also filled to the brim with cases of illicit hooch, including jars with the much revered shine. What she didn’t see however, was a still. That could be a problem.

“Gee daddy, you made all this? I don’t see a bathtub.” Sophia made a show of glancing around, playing the dumb Dora. Lou chuckled, sounding so very superior. “We don’t make it here sugar. Can’t make it too easy on those coppers y’know.”

“So ye what…make it out in the bayou?” Sophia pulled a face that invited him to continue, and Lou took the bait beautifully.

“Not me personally darlin’, but I’ve seen a couple of the stills they’ve got out there. Ain’t out in the open or nothin’ if that’s what’s got you all in a twist.” He soothed, pawing at her arm to yank her closer. “They keep it inside, pack it up, and good ol’ Joe Murphy runs it down my way.” Something icy and volatile settled in Sophia’s gut when she heard that name. Yet another name on her list that needed scratched off.
“Good old Joe Murphy. He still running around with Adam Mulligan and fucking pigs?” Sophia intoned with icy cheer. Lou’s eyebrows shot skyward in surprise, either from her sudden turnaround in tone, the sudden Chicago accent, or that she knew those names was anyone’s guess.

”Wait a…Gwen-?!” The light of recognition came too late to his eyes, and Sophia marveled again at how long it had taken. Amazing what a haircut, a fake accent, and the right makeup could do. In his defense, Gwen Farris was dead, he’d helped make sure of that, and the man had only spent one car ride with her in a dark jalopy. Regardless, he didn’t react in time to the bottle she swung at his head, sending him crashing to the floor in a stunned, bleeding heap. She was on him without missing a beat, straddling his torso, holding his face down with one hand and whipping her gun out with the other. “Well look here Lou, I brought something to put in your mouth too!” Sophia grinned, eyes glittering with malice.

“You bit-ahhh!” Sophia gripped his hair, smashing his head back down on the wooden floor.

”I didn’t tell you to sing yet bunny.” She drawled, emphasizing her point with a click from her colt as she pulled down the hammer. He didn’t seem to quite understand his position, and it needed to be corrected. He eyed the gun warily, but didn’t flap his gums again. “Where are they keeping that barrel house Lou? Is it the one near Gretna?” Those blow ins from Detroit were real nasty pieces of work. Sophia could smell a dirty cop a mile away, but if they were after the same prize, things could become problematic.

“Gretna? Psssh, that dead town?” Lou scoffed. “Nah, it ain’t over there, but that’s all you’re gettin’ outta me!” He sneered spittle trailing down his lip as he found his courage. Sophia didn’t hesitate, dropped her gun down to his knee and pulled the trigger. The music upstairs didn’t stop when he screamed, not from his blown out knee, or when Sophia took a jar of that fine shine and pored it over the mess. It didn’t stop when Sophia repeated the process, or while Lou spilled his guts about the still house hidden two towns over, and it certainly kept going when Sophia planted one last bullet in his head. This really was a great cellar.

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
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Threads of light lingered in the sky, mingling with the rolling clouds, dyeing the heavens first orange, then red and finally mauve... Sequin-silver stars, like the glowing embers of a dying fire, winked down at her only showing themselves at the far reaches of the sky where darkness nipped at the edges of the sunset.

Gloom surrounded Anna, the kind of dark that seems immeasurable and impenetrable…like ink spilled on a page, it swallowed everything. It was fitting for tonight though with a heavy blanket of Louisiana heat, and the thick silence that suffocated even the sounds of crickets. Anna walked along one of the back roads, unsure of where she really was. She tugged on the string of pearls she had around her neck. She had inherited it from her ma, when she was knee high to a grasshopper...just before her tragic death.

Anna pushed the thoughts away as she tried and failed to find her way to her own place in the dark. Good lord she was lost and damn it how had this happened?

“Damnable back roads…” Anna ground out as she stepped into a puddle soaking her black heel.

Voices in the distance drew Anna’s attention from her ruined shoe to a pending brawl. She brushed a stray stand of raven hair out of her face and watched in interest. What a scene it was. Harlow, and the Bates standing on the porch of the Honey Stop with a few others Anna didn’t know from Adam.

Looked like it was getting to be a mighty fine entertainment. Anna leaned against the wall of the building. She entertained the idea of interrupting the quarrel, maybe make some friends on the Bates sides…but then again, she didn’t need the attention from the oily looking man they were disagreeing with.

As if on cue Boone entered the scene. Anna sighed and internally groaned. Trouble. That kid was
nothing but trouble…but damn it he was her only friend, therefore he was her trouble and she damn well wasn’t going to let him hang himself out too dry. Just as she was fixing to step into what little light there was shining from the porch of the Honey Stop, everything defused in a rush. The slick looking ass-hat was walking away, and thank goodness he was leaving Boone be for now.

Damn that boy had a streak of good luck. With a roll of her emerald orbs she started towards the Honey Stop. She watched as they retreated inside the building, and turned the lights out. Despite the obviousness of Bates turning the lights and not wanting company she entered the structure.

“Howdy Ya’ll, how are you this fine evening?” She said with a charming smile.

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: June Reilly-Snow Character Portrait: Sophia Moon Character Portrait: Noel Bates Character Portrait: ANNA LEIGH DECLAN
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Harlow Brynn Bates

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Whitecaps to aftermaths shook the Honey Stop for only a few minutes before it returned to its workaday calm with the occasional smart-ass remark. Harlow took Nola into her arms, pacing in lieu of conversing too cordial. She felt she’d already been excessively generous with the likes of Marvin Boone. Always’d been a hospitable soul, with the patience of a saint, Lord knew she needed it to be married to a Bates but…

This trouble was stinking up a storm like Louisiana ain’t never seen. With an uptown dog catcher showing his teeth for a portended smile, she felt no sense of real safety. Those tony boys rolled up in a dust cloud to Gretna looking for a fight. Boy, they got one. But they made a dozen more.

And when the dust cleared they’d procured a county of enemies. Bad blood brewed just as heavy as the secrets in the distilleries. To think that’s where all the money was, ‘well as the jams and jinxes, made Harlow ‘bout sick. Her arm the hamper to a cooing child, she leaned over empty tables to dim the dining room. Nola shifted, lids blanching to show eyes full of blue that were just far too tired to keep up with the madness of adults. Then she’d nestle into the crook of Harlow’s arm again. Sigh just a consonant short of an angel’s song and sort of shrug. Just too tired for the madness, not stirred nor shaken by the news or the noise. Needed a good, long sleep paired with a lack of interest for all the beings that had accumulated in her parent’s establishment. That child’s spirit was a thousand years old.

Mama, as so lovingly referred to by more than just Anna Leigh and her commonly sloshed companion, cupped small fingers to curved glass and blew out the last of dinner candles, murmuring, “I don’t give a damn what y’all do now, long as you keep it quiet. Miss Mae is sleeping.” Rocking slowly, she tucked a corner of knitted threads between Nola’s body and her own. With a firm free hand she bolted the back door and turned to observe the remaining inhabitants.

Noel was up and down a bit, clearly not at home or order with the company of Atticus and so many particularly noisy strays. Was just like him to keep it low, grating one row of teeth against the other while hands remained folded so stiffly the bones might threaten to break. Didn’t much like to disturb anything if he needed not to. But strike him the wrong way or come for the family and you’d see a brand of hell even the pastor couldn’t teach you when talkin’ Jeremiahs and Levitici. Harlow nodded to him, resting assured that he’d handle the remnants with whatever else may come.

The fact of the matter went beyond just blood ties and family. See, now, they’d all a common enemy. In spite of Boone sloppin’ himself across the front porch and making a scene, Harlow believed fate just had its way. She’d have loved to just strangle the boy half to death. Give him a good scare and yell about how he’d endangered her kin. But what good would it do?

Graves was already there. Been snoopin’ for weeks. Fate was fate.

ImageShe paused by her husband’s side, an oath taken nightly but with more urgency this time around. She didn't have to tell him she loved him. Nola ‘twix them, Harlow rested her head to his shoulder, said softly, “That man’s gon’ sink us, now, Rem. You best have a plan in short order, or we’ll lose it all.” Swallowing her pride was like drinking gravel. Didn’t want to admit how serious things had gotten, especially in the light of their fondest creations. Not with everyone listenin’. But they were all a part of it now, whether they liked it or not. “Don’t let Roux wander out there too late, neither. I’m worried ‘bout him, with that Graves still out there… Alright?”

Rested there for a moment, she took asylum at the collar of Remington, inches from his heartbeat and certain under his shadow that no harm would come tonight. She fell feather light to the stubble of his jaw, patted his chest softly.

“Might want to get ahold of Miss Moon, she’s got tricks up her sleeve and loves to help ‘round here. Ain’t seen her in a while. Goodnight, Mr. Montgomery,” Harlow said from the stairwell, “Make sure you see Marvin and Anna out. I’ll make sure the girl minds her tongue,” Ma Bear narrowed her eyes, “I mean it. Bring that boy back when y’wake, Anna Leigh. There’s business to finish.” June was looped in Harlow’s goodnight gathering, taken to the second story and disappeared in silence.

The next day was gonna’ be just as much a mess if not more. But there was some felicity that only the night could bring with forty winks or more. And they’d all need it. By rushlight, Remington and Atticus would test the resilience of boards and benches with all their weight pressed no more portly than the decisions they’d have to make in solitude. When they were all alone crime was just a conformity of integrity. Retribution, a thought maybe. Protecting what was theirs, imperative.

Preservation took no prisoners and stowed away pride.

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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: Harlow Brynn B. Character Portrait: Roux Bates Character Portrait: Atticus Montgomery Character Portrait: Sophia Moon
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“Fuck you,”

Boone's words swept past her like leaves in a storm, kissing her cheek only briefly with the sting of his aggravation. Anna didn't get upset with him, there wasn' no point. She'd damn sure rather believe he cared as much as she, so she ignored the barbs he stuck in her. She was in no way naive, diluted? Probably. But not naive. She supposed that is what happened when one desperately longed to belong. She let him clean up in silence, as she herself changed, and touched up her makeup.

The walk to the Honey stop was just as horrendous in the morning as it had been the night before. The breeze picked picked up a strand of her hair and tugged at it playfully as she examined the world around her. Though the sun was shining and the sky a harsh blue, there seemed to be no real color in anything. Gretna consisted of land that was monotonous, a seemingly limitless scrub waste with no relief...and yet she chose to live here.
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The low creak of the wood from the steps of the Honey stop brought her out of her reverie. Her eyes landed on Rem. He stood still as a stone, his Moses like figure naturally intimidating, his eyes on Boone. Anna gave what might have been interpreted as an apologetic smile, by anyone who didn't know her. She didn't have an apologetic bone in her body. Anna nodded to sophia in greeting, though she didn't really know the woman well, she knew a wolf when she saw one. She slipped passed Boone with a nod of appreciation, her heels clicking on the floor. Atticus caught her eye, if only because she was bored. She sat across from him with a mischievous smile. It was as good of place as any to wait for Harlow to skin Boone.


Boone found his way into trouble before Anna could blink. Of C O U R S E. Best case scenario they are kicked from the shop, worst, Boone got hurt. The tension between Roux and Boone was palpable, and a darker part of Anna loved it. Lookin' like the worse case it was. Fists flew before she could get a word out. She knew what it was like to see that darkness in yourself, and have it call out to another in such a way that made every blow ecstasy. There was no point in steppin' in. They would work it out one way or another.

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"Well, ain't it a mighty interestin' mornin'" Anna said with a wink to Atticus and a charming smile as if nothing happened. She sighed before she stood and took the rag from Boone. She felt like a damnable mother hen. She touched the cloth none to gently to his face where the blood was running from.

"Feel better?" She asked a bit sarcastically.

"I'd apologize on his behalf, and say it wont happen again but..." She said quietly, attempting to lighten the situation. She glanced at Rem and shrugged. No point in expecting any less from Boonsy.

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: Noel Bates Character Portrait: ANNA LEIGH DECLAN
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#, as written by J.D.
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ImageNoel Bates

Thumb and forefinger dig deep into eyelids until lightening sparks behind closed eyes. Accompanied by a dull sting of something not quite pain, but not quite comfort either. The night is long and full of hushed words that rarely exhibit a literal meaning. Noel would rather be asleep but sleep don’t come easy with a head full of threats and the driving force of simmering anger kept under tight lock and key. He isn’t settled yet, no, he won’t settle till long after the dogs have lost their scent. Still, don’t mean he’s ready to split skin over little boys trying to play the intimidation game.


Protections a way of life, runs deep in the blood of Gretna’s men. None more so than the Bates boys – and, admittedly the resident Deputy, his role in this all much too personal for Noel’s enjoyment. Never once imagined Montgomery would be so willing to topple an opponent by joining in with another. But then again, Noel’s bias paints a light screen of red over his views of the man. Atticus has been a “friend” for a while now, but Noel still can’t escape memories of days spent spitting fire at one another till their gums turned raw and bled. Be it from experience or simple dislike. He’ll trust for now that the three of them are the most suited for this task, and later, when all is back to normal they’ll continue to snap at each other with the ferocity of stray dogs scrapping for meat.

The first few minutes of conversation veer towards the obvious disgruntled nature shared between them. Though, it devolves as quickly into a smattering of backhanded insults thrown between Deputy and Eldest. A speckle of actual good ideas not nearly enough to cool down the heat of the room. Noel’s sweating and weary before long, gone past anger now. He groans, tired beyond belief. But there’s nothing to do but wait it out, the storms going to fade at some point.

“We’re all damned,” Noel mutters, rocked by the sudden, inescapable sensation of anxiety. A horde of insects crawling over his skin, their poison bites made up of every single problem that might occur. Begging him to act now before it’s too late to gather the forces to do so. A war-like mentality, born of perhaps too many dime novels and nights spent with whiskeys warmth. Long before prohibition came trundling in to muck it all up.

To his right, sittin’ stone still with that gargoyle grim expression, Atticus momentarily breaks the mold and snorts. Amused apparently, in a way that’s got Noel itching to start shit before faux civility can dominate their conversation. If not for the girls getting their beauty sleep he probably would have. Wound tight enough that he feels close to snapping.

“Nothin’ damned about us,” Atticus disagrees, “Its them city boys that’ll be kissing brimstone ‘fore long.” The surety of his words is only betrayed by the steady tick of his jaw – poker face may last but there’s always a tell. Noel knows better, knows there’ll be a fight. They won’t all survive it either, someone’s going to bleed before this is done with. Enough of an issue to offset their foundations, keep the ground beneath them rocking with the changing situations.

“Don’t believe me?” Atticus voice mocks surprise. “All we gotta do is take the fight to them, stomp out the fire before it spreads.” He spits, as if it were the most obvious answer in the world. It can’t be that simple.

“I believe there’s more to it than what you’re proposing.” Noel’s no fool, and he wouldn’t peg Atticus as one either. But half the words out of his mouth tonight have trended towards the full frontal assault side of things. Nothin against a fighter, but Noel’s tired of all the hypotheticals leading down the same hellish road. Taking the fight to them without thinkin’ it through is a sure way to bring hell down on Gretna. No. Its better to bite back in a different way. Fighting fire with fire is only going to make it spread. Poison’s what they need, metaphorically. Slow and steady, able to kill without bringing undue attention down on them. Noel misses the days where stress only existed in hard work, where it surely belonged.

“Rem,” Noel would say, not too long into the night, “Got any thoughts in that big head of yours?” It’s clear that any deliberation placed in the hands of the eldest and the deputy alone will result in nothing but heated bickering. A back and forth without any true discussion happening besides one sided ideas and the clear intent to cause the other as much of a headache as possible. As far as Noel’s concerned, Rem’s damn near the only sensible one in the mix that night.

Rems got that look about him though, uncomfortable, unwilling to be nothing but vague. Jackass. Mutters a quick and painless, “Yeah, but I don’t think your gonna like it.” Before he’s starin’ off in the distance again. Course Noel won’t like it. He damn near doesn’t like anything suggested by anyone else, but he’s willing to stow his pride long enough to get some damn peace of mind.

He’d heard Harlow earlier mentioning Miss Moon, knew that whatever Rem planned that it would all start with her. The simple thought of what they could do with her at their side alone kept him from tail spinning into worry. But at the same time, it gnawed at him to think of the repercussions. A worrier till the day he dies. But he’s willing to see this one through, if it’s really what’s going to save them in the end.

And so they continue on and on until the morning breaks and somewhere between A and B Rem leaves to start up breakfast. Noels so damn tired he sags into his, a barely muttered ‘Thank you’ leaving his lips before he starts shoveling in. Half dead by the time patrons begin trickling in and worse off by the time Atticus starts up again.

”Its going to be a fight no matter what Noel.” Reminds the Deputy in hushed tones, “You can’t sit back and watch from afar with this one.” And goddamit if Noel doesn’t already know that. Grumbles out a harsh insult before looking up at Atticus, that Hyena grin of his ever present. “Fightings not the problem, it’s the risk of it.” It all comes down to what they’re willing to lose.

Noel doesn’t got anymore time left for this banter. Leaves Atticus hanging on the edge of his words as he stands, clearing away their dirty dishes before anyone else does. Rems gone out to hash out a plan and Noel’s done with this headache, at least, for a few blissful fleeting moments.

Doesn't take long for the Honey Stop to light up with more noise than Noel's ever been comfortable with. A social man would fare much better, but Noel likes the quiet much more. Easier to think when there aren't a million snippets of conversation to casually listen in on. He'd damn near missed the fight but soon as he slid back into his chair the ruckus caught his attention. Boone had never been nothing but trouble, all of them could see it, but Noel didn't get his kicks off of saying it aloud. He knows Roux can hold his own against Boone's sort, but it still gets his blood pumping to see them fighting so blatantly in the middle of their sanctuary.

"Them boys do anything but circle one another?" Atticus asks with a snort, not bothering to diffuse the situation at all. He could. His badge isn't just for show. But he's far too amused to give a damn. Noel groans, ready to start throwin threats around but Rem's back soon enough, getting the two idiots to knock it off with harsh words more suited to him. "Those two got too much interest in one another, if ya ask me." Atticus hums, though his attention turns swiftly to the Anna Leigh. Boone's shadow at every turn. Noel didn't ask, and says as much aloud before settling back into his seat. Observing the room with a critical eye.

Harlow's arrived into the fray, an angry beauty seething as she smacks Boone around a little. Noel's always enjoyed the no-nonsense part of her. A trait that balances out the juvenile tendencies that still exist in Rem, even to this day. A woman who knows her own strengths and how to use em. She's good for them all, even when they can't see past their own shame. Boone's damn lucky she's not strangling the life out of him.



Credit to - Wiley and CharlotteV for Atticus and Rem

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: Sophia Moon Character Portrait: Noel Bates
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Anna Leigh holds the rag loosely in her hand as she watches the dust motes dance in the silence of the sun beam falling into the now deathly silent building. Harlow had blown through the building like rolling thunder, silencing any and all.

Anna will never admit it but Harlow is something of an idol of hers. Most woman are raised like cattle, born to be bought by some wealthy man, used, abused and left to fade. Not Harlow though. From the day Anna meets her she has something that burns in her like the last embers of a dying cigarettes in the night. That woman waltzes in any room with an effortless saunter that makes her glide like a damnable spirit. Her eyes scan every inch of every room with an intense precision, in search of any threats to her or her loved ones. Something radiates from within her that make Anna want to hang around her. Ugh she admires the woman and it makes her s i c k.

Anna stays quiet as a mouse and as out of the way as she can possibly be as Harlow gives Boone a lickin’ he aint’ likely to forget any time soon. She waits about thirty seconds before she finds Boone again. Poor kid, bad luck followed him around like the depraved stench that clings to a carcass. Maybe that’s why she herself plays at being his shadow. Might’ be that she is a buffer of sorts for Boone, countering some of his shit luck, all the while he is her penance for her own sins.
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“Boone you git” Anna mutters lightly, her concern leaks into her voice despite her best efforts to remain neutral. She attempts to clean him up again. Wasn’ her job really but she damn well wasn’ gon’ let him bleed all over the place.

‘Speakin’ of jobs.’ She thinks suddenly as she turns to the bearcat.

“Harlow, don’ suppose you might be needin’ and extra hand ‘round the stop…” Anna Leigh asks as she presses the rag against one of the numerous scrapes and open wounds on Boone’s face. She has had it up to her eyebrows with his bull shit but damn it she isn’t about to run out on him, not now, not ever. If nothin’ else, she would die a fool, but a loyal fool.

“I need somethin’ other than Boone’s trouble to fill my days.” Anna Leigh says with a small grin, again tryin’ to make light of the fight.

“An’ that handsome Sherriff of yours hangs ‘round here. Its nice to have somethin’ p r e t t y to look at occasionally” She says with a toss of her hair and a grin in Atticus’s direction. Truth be told she is not really looking for anything in particular, maybe a few connections here and there.

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She needs to start putting down roots somewhere, and here seems good enough. She knows she can’t live out of a suite case forever, and she damn well isnt’t interested in trying to start over again in another town, despite the trouble attracted by her accomplice Boone. For some reason, she gets the odd sensation she is going to regret puttin’ her lot in with these folk. She hears her mama’s voice in her ringing in her ears, something about tastin’ her words before she spit them out. To hell with it. This town has been as kind to her, if not more than any other, she is in for the long hall.

She pulls out a cigarette and lights it. She inhales slowly, letting the heavy smoke thoroughly penetrate her lungs before she exhales slowly. She watches her companions with a small smile as she waits for a reply.

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: Noel Bates Character Portrait: ANNA LEIGH DECLAN
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The solemn quiet of the moment dissipated as regretfully as the smoke from Rem’s cigarette; the distinctive crack of bone against flesh ringing out in a hypnotic staccato rhythm that drew the attention of all nearby onlookers like some kind of morbid siren’s song. Sophia was no exception. Slinking in after Rem, she had an unobscured view of their resident sunshine boy doing his best to turn Boone’s face into ground meat with nothing but his bare fists. That much light coming from anyone is bounds to cast some shadows, but Sophia had never realized just how deep Roux’s might go. It was a revelation she wasn’t sure she cared for. Violence is a useful tool, Sophia would be the first to admit that simple truth. But just like any other tool, it ceases to be useful the moment you can’t control it. A Bates breaking the sanctuary peace of the Honey Stop was practically blasphemy. Certainly Roux standing there, breathing heavily with Boone’s blood still oozing down his fist, was not the picture of control.

Lying there in his own bloody spittle, it was hard to look past the embodied wreck that was Marvin Boone. Something in that boy was broken, Sophia had known it from the moment she’d laid eyes on the foul mouthed contemptuous drunk. It was in the way he walked, talked, how his entire being craved pain the way other men craved sex. She could practically hear the twisted jagged pieces jangling around inside him. A better woman might see all those cracks and try to fix them. He had Anna for that. Sophia would be the one to smash her boot right through those cracks until he fractured into pieces she could build into something useful. Her capacity to do much more than that had long since been burned away.

The fate of Marvin Boone became imperiled once again by one of the Bates clan, as Harlow came sweeping in with all the grace and fury of an avenging angel. The boy had scarce been tended by his thankless keeper, before Harlow was dragging him out back for an extended lesson on proper southern manners. The show had moved outside, but a crowd still hovered around the bloody mess left behind. Unsurprisingly, Atticus Montgomery stood front and center, the good deputy doing his due diligence no doubt. The sight spread a rare Cheshire grin across Sophia’s lips, wetting them languidly like a cat licking their jowls as it eyed a particularly plum (and presumably slow) canary. Their relationship was simple or complicated depending on who and when you asked. Sophia simply enjoyed seeing just how long she could poke that bear before he tried to take a bite. Why, was anyone’s guess; his face, his badge, just how wickedly easy it was to make that angry flush start creeping up his neck? Maybe she was just bored. It was best not to overanalyze ones recreational habits.

Currently, their in house lawman was engaging in a conversation of mutual interest with the lovely Anna Leigh. Sophia wasn’t the kind of woman willing to compete for a man’s attention, so with the deft skill of practiced hands, Sophia lifted his billfold without breaking stride. Flirting did make such wonderful cover, and Atticus would know who to look for once he noticed the missing clams. For now though, she was more interested in seeing if Harlow had left enough of Marvin Boone in one piece for Sophia to work with. She waved pleasantly as Harlow paused mid-strike to offer her traditional southern hospitality, then got back to business with a particularly brutal blow to the jugular. The woman was an artist. Normally Sophia would enjoy watching her work, but that boy wasn’t going to be much good to her limping around like a goddamn cripple. She needed muscle, and Boone was hard up enough on money and just the right shade of petrified were Sofia was concerned to fit the bill. It also helped that Boone’s swampy reputation made for a convenient red herring leading away from the Bates if things went south. The Bates clan might take care of its own, but Boone wasn’t family, and Sophia had no qualms throwing his tenderized rump to the wolves if he fucked up on the job. Best he find that out upfront, threats of immense bodily harm seemed to do wonders for Boone’s morale.

It didn’t take long after Rem started coaxing Harlow inside and unruffling her feathers, before Anna made her way to Boone and starts mothering him like an injured baby bird. Why someone so delicate and innocent looking as Anna found herself flitting around with Marvin Boone was a mystery, but it probably meant there were some skeletons lurking about in her closet. Sophia could hope anyway. Farm girl looks and small town charm was one thing, but innocence was a special kind of useless she didn’t have time for. Technically speaking, Anna’s eyes were only for Harlow as she offers herself up, all vulnerable like with just the right amount of need for connection and family to make her an easy mark, but it’s Sophia whose lips twist into a predator’s smile. It doesn’t quite reach her eyes as the cogs start turning over the possibilities of just how exactly she could use that innocent pretty face.

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: Noel Bates Character Portrait: ANNA LEIGH DECLAN
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↔Harlow Brynn Bates↔

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Sufficing to say that fury was a comprehensive feeling in the good lands turned bad was a subtlety. Wasn’t much about Gretna that was meant for this type of disorder. It was a homely place with a lack of hostility, abundance of silliness and sloppy misdemeanors. But not felonies. Graves done dredged it all to hell, cut it loose and played in the surplus of the madness while fattening his own salary. Went and twisted the values and tested the integrity of their small town, and boy was he gonna’ be sorry for that. But first, Marvin would be.

'Cause he more or less wrote the invitation.

Couldn’t keep herself from making an example out of him, and Roux better’a considered himself lucky that the fire in his brother’s wife was slowly sizzling out thanks to the weather. Harlow had unceremoniously walloped on the drunk stripling and made him wanna' cry out for his own mama. Roux got off easy.

Mire around the place was mixin’ and a’minglin’ with all the rain runoff, looking like the swamps more than the delightful nest beside the river. With Boone sunk into the earth, it sure looked a rotten mess. Harlow showed no signs of submission save for the mud painting down the front’a him and breathing’ all deep-like to get her daily serving of Louisiana air. Her hair turned fawn in the dampness, fixed to the clenched facet that had Marvin there reconsidering ever using his tongue for much else than servility of the Honey Stop variety.

Mama instincts kick in ‘fore too long, what with company arriving and crowding around the spectacle. Without twisting her neck a pace, she missed not even one beat when she dressed down grimly, “Don’t know where your parents decided to up n’ run to when you popped out your ma’, Marvin, but if it’s parenting you need, you’re gonna’ get it. Considering the pickle you put some folks in without thinkin’, I think you’re good right here with me. And I’ll tell you another thing…” When she finally got him clutched up by collar and end of wits, she stared daggers into him and murmured, “You better stay god damn sober with that motherfucker walking ‘round this entire county looking for his next promotion. You could be it. And I ain’t gonna’ let that happen.”

With a thrust and relinquished grasp, he hit the wet dirt with a final icky, aqueous ‘thud’. Like the soil was suckin’ and leeching for him before he collided again. Honey looked him once more over. Poor kid, really. In the springtime of his life. Handsome, even, when he wasn’t sporting the stink of rotgut, bruises and bad decisions. Was a shame his mama couldn’t squinch up a bit to give her babies better. But she did her best, and now Harlow was next to play guardian.

Am I?” There was a feigning of understanding but ol’ Boone knew it was time to admit he ain’t had a pot to piss worth reason. He’d lost this one, mighta’ had his fun on the way down with the taunting of Roux, but boy did he lose somethin’ ugly. “Get your behind out of the mud,” she stated matter of fact, like she wasn’t the one who put him there, and only a dumb sonma’bitch would have pointed a finger at her in defense, “Now.” He might have been a lot of things, dumb for certain. But not that dumb.

Cold followed the drizzle, now hitting the brakes like storm was just short of taking down a lamp post or two. Got quiet, with the closing wind and shoes scuffling on the porch. The show was over but the habitués had much to discuss.

“Come on now, Hun.”

Low chitterin’ got up out of him between the scraping of his stubble, and rockin’ Nola with an amused smile. Harlow glanced with her head cocked, still poaching under her apron with residual anxiety and rage. But she didn’t have it for her husband. ‘Cause there he was with his weight creaking porch panels, meaning well with his stock beaming that never got old or less familiar. And she needed him. Loved him. More than ever.

Rem was a curiosity, most folk jus saw him as a bad boy who settled down for once. Never knew how smart and meticulous a man he were when the chips were down. Lotta’ underestimating going on in that town. Not just by the worst of outsiders, neither.

The inner circle at the Stop had a whole ordnance depot as far as the true colors of Gretna was concerned. But Harlow had a special knack for seeing past just the raw color, and recognizing why people did the things they did. Just k n e w the way a Truffle hound knew the difference between blood and bone. Yet she mostly left the fine print and dealings to Atticus, Rem or Noel. If there was somethin’ the three of them couldn’t figure out, then it was gonna’ be a load of trouble for the rest of the whistle stop.

ImageShe’d have to get on with the rest of her day. “You stop laughing, Remington Bates,” she threw a rag over her shoulder, long drenched in the affair as two soles flat and stood up again, “We ain’t living in high cotton if everybody done stopped working and doing their homework to watch this lush make a mess out of my dining room, my porch, and my apron, are we?” She gave him a hard time, and he let it roll off knowing well as she that the pot been stirred and had maybe mere days before it tipped over and burnt the shit out of everybody. “We need a plan, Rem. I don’t feel like playing today, I’m tired.” Moving past him, her fingers traced his shoulder like petals, barely there, and then gone again. Woulda’ taken Nola, but she’d likely have caught a cold from being pressed up against her mama all waterlogged and shiverin’. Last thing they needed was a sick baby.

“Anna, you might as well put that nasty thing out before you black up your lungs and my property. Go heat up a kettle for my Sophia, alright?” With a reassuring smile, Honey nudged at the elbow of her kindred spirit who’d been gone too long. Sure, had a few things to cut the two apart. Like the fact that Sophia had a walk about her that claimed the hearts of men in a way that Harlow’s pie did to stomachs. But one thing about them, the most important of all, was very much the same.

They’d die or kill for what meant most to them.

“I got a few ideas to run by you, Miss Moon, so before your head’s all pumped up with devious ideas can I get your opinion on some things in the back room?” With a restive jerk, she padded into the dining room and towards the walk in pantry. Wrung her hair out as she waited patiently under the dull light of the ceiling, certain that Sophia’s motives were predacious when her eyes caught the right subject.