Family Business

Started by Martin Miller, July 15, 2019, 03:12:36 PM

Martin Miller

This was one of those times Martin's father would probably quote Sun Tzu or something. Some sort of vague, obvious in retrospect sounding aphorism about knowing what situation you're getting yourself into. Then he'd drift off into a slightly unrelated tangent that would somehow slightly be self aggrandizing towards his own voluminous knowledge of military history. Even at Marty's age, when one finds themselves as thoroughly arse up as he did presently, one still tends to think of how they'd react.

Marty Miller didn't want to think about what any of his siblings would have said. He could certainly imagine how his eldest brother would have cracked up at the sight of him right now. He was at the front of a hover-mule in the driver's seat of course. In back sat two men about his age, black masks still covering their faces. The driver had pulled his up and looked back at his passenger's through the rear-view mirror reflection:

"What?! Say that a-bloody-gain, please?!"

The shotgun wielding masked man shrugged and said in a shockingly flat, and uncaring fashion:

"The mule is the job, mate. He was gonna get me one of those awful wheeled mules for my birthday like I'm some sorta backwater browncoat or somethin'."

Marty put his head in his hands and practically shouted through his own fists:

"I drove us half-way across the bloody planet to help you boost your rutting father's mule! You said there was a score to be split!"

His friend half chuckled and added:

"Well if you ever need a lift you can call us eh?"

"Yeah, keep having a laugh, mate. Get out of the gorram car. I'm gonna go dump this someplace the feds can find it and HOPEFULLY, they'll never track this back. You bloody morons..."

He heard the familiar sound of multiple safeties being disengaged. They had the drop on him and his back was to them. There was no scenario in which he was getting out of this with his dignity.

"Tā mā de".

The youngest of Miller clan slowly trudged along several miles until he got to a rapid transit station. A benefit of living in the core, the infrastructure and public services made even a criminal's life easier. If he'd been double crossed like this somewhere out in the rim he'd have probably just been shot, or left to die in the woods somewhere hundreds of miles from the nearest man woman or child.

But in the lap of core luxury, one could be totally hornswoggled two hundred miles from home and be back for supper. Martin had only noticed a couple minutes after he slinked off the train that he'd missed several messages from a blocked IP on the cortex while he was on his way home. He'd put everything on mute to wallow in his silence over a beer he barely touched.

Things just hadn't been going his way for a while. Martin was probably, in an emotional sense, the most resilient of the Miller's, but today was really starting to drag him into the dumps. He couldn't find honest work anymore and it was getting harder and harder to find trustworthy dishonest employers. Marty could barely muster any surprise when he opened his apartment door and before he could cross the threshold, somebody had grabbed him and thrown him up against the nearest wall. 

Marty's eyes closed instinctively and his hands shot up in surrender.

"Christ! Take what you want, I'm bloody insolvent!"

Mason Miller

July 23, 2019, 02:59:29 PM #1 Last Edit: August 23, 2019, 02:26:58 PM by Mason Miller

Mason Miller stared out across the city, the twinkle in his eye matching that of the stars above. He fiddled with the champagne flute in his hand, thought about drinking the rest of the bubbly, but knew that he had a job to do. He drank it anyway. "You know, you aren't supposed to call it Champagne, anymore. Champagne Nouveau, after the colony on Hera. If it isn't made there-" The woman he had been half-heartedly wooing wandered off, bored of his lack of interest in her. Mason reached for the bottle, still in the bucket, though most of the ice had melted. He checked the bottle and was disappointed to find it said: "Sparkling Wine bottled in Sihnon."

"Pity." He poured himself another glass and made himself comfortable. The girl was a distraction anyhow. He couldn't very well work and entertain her. Working and drinking, however, now that was a cocktail he was well accustomed to. Another sip and he turned to allow his eyes to follow the girl back to the group at the party, and once she was out of sight Mason scanned the rest of the area. They were on a rooftop, luxurious, decorated, swanky. Expensive.

Mason checked his watch, likewise worth a pretty penny. "Mm. Penny." He remembered his sister fondly, but not too fondly. They hadn't spoken in some time and, as he recalled, there had been a reason for that. Millicent, or Penny as he had taken to calling her when his young lips couldn't pronounce her given name, would say it was something Mason had done. Mason just couldn't be sure. Thinking of Penny reminded him of another sibling.

"Martin. It's Mason." He said into his personal communications device, leaving a message for his youngest brother. "Look, I know you're on Dyton so I'll be brief. It is ten minutes past midnight. And I need you to pick me up in twenty minutes. I'll send my coordinates. Ta." Time to go to work.

Mason finished the sparkling wine, poured some on his suit for good measure, and crossed the distance he had placed between himself and the rest of the party, a slight sway to his step. He knocked into some random nobody in the crowd, and dropped the stemmed glass in his hand, shattering it into irredeemable pieces. "Oy, dickswab!" The man turned, confused at not only the strange insult but also why this apparently drunken man had accosted him. Before he could say anything, Mason reared back as if to hit the man with the empty wine bottle, though instead whacked the man behind him good on top of the head.

The other man turned, angry, and Mason was quick to point at the first man as the culprit.

A fight quickly broke out, and Mason was able to scurry past the lot of them and find who he was truly after. Frederick Hamilton. A financier who, to Mason's mind, had been the last hope for his family's organization and dealt the final devastating blow to them. "Freddy, you twat!" Mason said, the slur on his lips and in his feet. Two men on either side who, when lined up shoulder to shoulder, were the approximate width of one tractor-trailer, stepped in front of their boss.

"Mason?! What are you- We don't have anything to talk about. Leave me alone." Freddy said. He was a persnickety little weasel, in Mason's opinion, and in turning and running away from his obligations, Mason felt assured in that assessment.

"Nope." Mason said, swinging the wine bottle with a solid forehand swing. It landed on the first bodyguard's jaw with a CLONK and, surprising both Mason and the other bodyguard, didn't break. They both stared at it amazed as the first fell to the floor unconscious. The moment didn't last long, however, as the bodyguard wrapped his large arms around Mason's and lifted him off the ground. "Unhand me, you fat fuck."

He did as he was told. Mason found himself flying through the air and landed face-first on the rooftop. "That'll smart." Mason recovered, slower than he had ten years and two bottles of wine ago, and realized he was still holding the wine bottle which, miraculously, still had not yet broken in the fall. Mason smiled. He reared it back for a mighty swing as the bodyguard came in for another tossing, but caught a planter behind him and the glass shattered like crystal.

Mason met air once again as the bodyguard, this time, threw him over the edge of the building. "Shiiiiiiit." Lucky for him, the roof sloped out and instead of a deadly drop, he found himself sliding down at a forty-five degree angle towards a deadly drop. Mason prepared himself and just before he flew off into the dark and to his doom, he caught the lip of the roof with his heels and stopped like he had planned it that way.

"Oy, muppet." He said, again into his comm and to his brother's answering service. Mason checked his watch as he took off at a run across the roof in the relative direction he thought Freddy might be heading. "Ten minutes. Or so help me-" His message ended as the rooftop did, suddenly.

Without hesitation, Mason leapt off the edge onto the lower landing, rolled to keep his knees healthy, and entered an access door that presented before him.

Inside the stairwell, Mason surveyed his options. Up or down. Freddy could have decided to hide up in the penthouse, but Mason reckoned on Freddy making good on his coward's personality, and flew down the stairs three at a time. He found the next interior door and went inside. Down the hall was an elevator, unguarded.

Mason smiled as he hit the button.


In the elevator, Mason fixed his jacket, sweaty, a few blood spots, and slightly rumpled, but overall still looking smart. The door DINGED and slid open, allowing Mason to step off. Behind him, visible for just a moment before the doors slid close again, was Freddy and another bodyguard in a crumpled, bloody mess on the floor.

Mason tried his brother again. "Nevermind, little brother. I'll come to you."
Dialogue Color - DodgerBlue

Martin Miller

August 27, 2019, 07:25:15 PM #2 Last Edit: August 27, 2019, 07:33:04 PM by Martin Miller
Marty had been squeezing his eyes closed for a good ten seconds before it started to cross his mind nothing was happening. He slowly started to relax and peaked one eye open. He saw his older brother Mason, and then both eyes opened to then immediately roll back as he realized slamming him up on the wall was just some of that classic Miller clan roughousing. Most of them practiced in various martial arts from the moment they could walk, so constant competition through physical confrontation were frequent and occasionally got a little too heated. Maybe frequently. He wriggled out of his brother's grip and apologized for not returning his calls.

"Sorry, bruv. I was out on a job...That uhhhh... went great..."

He took a curious second look at his elder sibling. Marty could tell he'd been in a scrap and running about from how generally ruffled his feathers seemed to be and the glow of sweat. It was fun, to have these tables turned. The youngest Miller started to chuckle. He was enjoying this and practically bounced back and forth as he teased his brother.

"Oy... I just got kicked out of a stolen car at gunpoint but I think you're having a bloody worse day than me aren't you!?"

The pilot pointed at his brother and motioned over towards his fridge.

"Go-seh, mate, grab a libation from the fridge Mason and tell me about what sort of nonsense you've gotten us into. Shame about the business by the way. We never talk about that!"

Marty himself started to just walk over and get the beers rather than wait for his sibling to take one. The urgency of Mason's business clearly not quite dawning upon him yet. Though if Marty had been checking his spam folder he might have seen the message marked urgent from Madeleine about the crooked movie producers currently attempting to seize the family's assets. The way the company charter was drawn, every member of the Miller family was an equal owner of equity in the company, even their e-mail filtering youngest who was off being a low level criminal and underground racer when he just as easily have been a pilot for the family business. Even if all the news about the family business wasn't getting sent to a folder that automatically emptied itself every 30 days, a simple pilot job just wasn't his style. There was a certain... sexiness to being a crook, or an underground racer than being a nepotism hire at your family's mercenary business didn't have.

Marty popped the top off a bottle and handed it to his brother as he quizzed him almost giggling.

"SoOooOo... Who's wife has gotten you into trouble...Or who's husband eh?"

There was a buzz at his intercom. He turned to look at it quizzically. Pivoting back around he was about to sip his beer but stopped.

"Your not taking the piss right now, and this isn't some sort of wacky stunt right? Dad's not taking us all on one of those weird interactive murder mystery experience things again? I bloody hated that. Who likes mysteries? Just a bunch wank about coppers staring at a wall and feeling moody about it. Christ!"

The buzzer blared again.

Marty shook his head. This wasn't an interactive murder mystery. Probably somebody checking the buzzer to see if he's home while somebody else tried to break in.

Mason Miller

Mason snickered as the rough house with his youngest brother came to an end. Old times, fond memories, and all that. But in truth he was in quite a lot of pain. Beaten and bruised, he'd cracked at least one rib in the fall off the roof, and that wasn't to mention the fact that he had sweated clear through his suit. "Anything stronger?" He said at the offer of beer, but accepted the bottle none-the-less. He checked the label and found his brother's taste in alcohol lacking in substance and, after taking a sip, taste. Mason's manners kept his face stoic, but he still had to ask. "What in God's name is that, Tatters?" He still drank it but if maybe if he drank it fast enough it would do something - anything - and he wouldn't have to taste it.

Tatters was an old family nickname of Marty's to which Mason wasn't entirely sure he didn't have exclusive rights. Something about an old tin drum Marty had as a sprout. Mason quickly finished the beer - if it could be called that - and reached for another as his brother prattled on about God knew what. Something about the business, which Mason did not want to talk about despite it being the very thing that brought him to Marty's charming abode.

Midway through the second beer, downed in a matter of seconds, Mason belched in response to the intercom buzzer. It could be anyone. A late night visit by a friend of Marty's. An errant neighbor. The look on his brother's face indicated neither was expected. Mason considered any of Freddy's ilk having followed him to be an impossibility.

Right? Mason mentally counted off the men he'd seen and dispatched at the penthouse party. He was certain he had gotten all of them. Mostly. Probably. What about that one bloke on the roof? The fat one. There was no way, was there?

Mason reached down and opened up the oven and found Martin's ridiculous bullpup rifle with two magazines sitting on the rack. "Well done, Tatters." He said to himself. Marty was many things; a hot shot, loud-mouth, and a bit of a fool, but there was one thing he would always be and that was A Miller. And A Miller was always prepared. Another thing Marty wasn't was a chef. In fact, Mason was positive that his brother, like himself if he was honest, had no idea how to work this oven and so hiding a gun there seemed the best use for it. Mason remembered the m4 he hid in a cupboard next to the tea.

Mason quickly loaded the clip, checked the action, filled the chamber, and turned off the safety. He emerged from the kitchen like a fucking action-movie star and trained the barrel of the gun on the door. "Martin. Be a good lad and buzz them in." It would take whoever it was a few minutes to make it to their floor. The Millers would be ready.
Dialogue Color - DodgerBlue

Martin Miller

September 13, 2019, 02:59:37 PM #4 Last Edit: September 13, 2019, 03:05:35 PM by Martin Miller
Marty popped a magazine into his rifle as Mason took up position at the door, having already picked out all the spots he hid his rifles. Maybe it was something he learned from him? At this point, little bits of opsec became normal family routine. Before Marty could pass his driver's test he'd learned how to operate a machine-gun and the basics of room-clearing.

Dutifully he slapped the buzzer for the building's door and took up a position behind staggered behind Mason, his weapon also pointing forward towards the door. He took a sharp breath. Then waited. About 10 seconds before he started talking again.

"All right so the beer was on sale. I am just clarifying. I don't like normally drink piss. I mean not literally. Bollocks to it, never mind."

The younger Miller worried who just might be looking for him and his brother. Had he somehow run afoul of the Empress crew on his way out? His stated reason for departure was his desire to take another shot at properly going pro as a racer. Which was true to an extent. But even he was realistic about his chances of breaking into the mainstream. He directed his thoughts back to the situation at hand. He could theorize about who was out to kill them after they took their shot.

"Bloody hell... it's always at times like this I need to scratch my arse."

Then he could hear the footsteps approaching. Marty tightened his grip and dismissed the concerns of who it may be, and the itch on his left buttock. He moved around to the side of the door, and pressed himself up against the wall next to it, with one hand he opened the door a crack, and held his rifle pointed forward. Just as they went to knock on the door, he pushed it all the way open and perhaps out of some impulse to impress his brother charged forward through the door.

Marty just felt a sharp blow to the head, and then a disabling shot to his side that had him near keeled over, and heard his rifle being smacked well across the room before he could process what was even happening. Marty's eyes once again pressed closed as he was pinned up against a wall for the second time in less than ten minutes.

Matilda Miller

Strong, lithe arms pressed hard against Marty's neck, holding him back against the wall and keeping him in place where he couldn't do any harm to himself or others. A moment of silence passed between them, the stranger's breath tickling against the man's face as they brought their breathing under control. Another second. Whap! A hand came down to smack Marty in the center of the forehead, much like one might do with a naughty but still beloved pet dog who'd just bitten someone accidentally.

"Don't you ever check your bloody messages?"
she asked, her voice clearly annoyed and quite familiar. Her free hand reached into his pockets until she fished out his portable cortex device, shaking it in his face. "Why do you even have this if you never look at it?!" Grumpily, the woman shoved it into her own back pocket and looked toward the open door.

"Mason, you in there?" she asked the doorway, grimacing a little, "It's me, so don't shoot me, yea? I'd be proper gutted if you shot me." Another moment passed before she released Marty and reached down to sharply tug the bottom of her leather jacket into its proper place. Matilda Miller grinned at her brother before turning around and heading inside, hands up in surrender and her head lowered a little, just in case her brother hadn't heard her and still had his gun leveled in her direction.

Gaze passed slowly over their elder brother and Matila's head tilted to the side thoughtfully. "You look terrible." she informed him, gesturing at him with her index finger, "Did hubby find out you were makin' it with the missus?" she asked, unintentionally making the same assumption about his trouble that Marty had.

Mason Miller

"Why does everyone keep assuming I'm having extra-marital affairs left and right?" Mason said, dropping the rifle to the ground once the danger was revealed to be anything but. Tilly had a mean right hook, the left too, come to think of it, but excepting one very tense family occasion, she had never used it on her oldest brother.

-Seven Years Ago...

"Tilly. Tilly. Tilly. Wait." Mason backed away quickly, holding his hands up in an attempt to assuage his sister's anger. The look on her face indicated it wasn't working. "You're not going to hit me, are you?"

She did.


Mason's jaw twitched as he remembered the blow. "One time." That his family knew of. "One bloody time I get caught with a married woman - I didn't know she was married at the time, as it happens - and you people won't let it go." Mason wandered back to the kitchen, kicking past his brother's dropped rifle, and found the fridge right where he left it. He returned to the living area, beer in hand, and popped it open.

A healthy swallow, followed by awkward silence as everyone thought of something to say. Mason chewed on the inside of his lip. "Sooooo.... Tilly. What brings you back to Dyton?" No need to bring up the trouble he was in. As long as they made this quick, get rid of Tilly - easier said than done- he could enlist Marty as his getaway and it would all work out in the end.

Simple. Painless. Easy.
Dialogue Color - DodgerBlue

Martin Miller

Marty's eyes opened again, as he, nearly crumpled all the way to the ground, straining his throbbing head up, he saw his sister sliding into the apartment with her hands up. He watched the situation defuse as he tried to take deep breaths, the wind still knocked out of him. The former stuntman tried to muster a single word at first and failed. It came out as strained exhale:


Still hunched over, he followed his sister back into the apartment, nudging the door shut behind him. The pilot pulled an icepack from the freezer and another beer from the fridge and slid it across the kitchen island to Tilly. He was starting to get his breath back and took a sip from his own beer as he pressed the ice to his noggin.

"Yeah.. what brings you 'round 'sides kicking my arse?"

He looked around his kitchen and now there were a handful of rifles on the floor, and his eyes rolled with only minor exasperation. Somehow any time you got enough of the Miller kids together, the beer and armory get depleted with equal vigor. Now that he thought about it, this was the first time he had more than one of his siblings in his apartment since that party he threw to celebrate the end of the Unification war and his exit from the armed services. Marty's eyes shifted from Mason, to his Matilda. He thought back to the last time either of them gave him a buzz. Mason had mostly just been calling on him to smuggle high end firearms and higher end liquor from Iscariot station to help him resupply as budgets got leaner. Tilly however, last time she'd seen him, she got disqualified from one of her underground fights on account of him getting into a scrap with the other MC. Come to think of it, last time he'd done a job for Mason he had to ditch the cargo after a patrol caught up with him too.

Slowly sipping his beer, the flyboy became uncharacteristically quiet. Both siblings likely came to collect on favors owed. The youngest, and shortest of the Millers hunched down slightly. Not terribly eager to find out what tasks they'd allotted him. His mind raced through all the possible excuses he could try out. Flu? No, he got his shots ages ago. Death in the family? No, they'd know about that. He started reaching for a distraction.

"So. Who wants to play video games? Eh?... "

Matilda Miller

Mason's younger sister grinned as her brother tried to explain his situation (or lack thereof) with the married woman. Did she believe him? Maybe. But she enjoyed seeing him squirm on occasion. Her shoulders lifted and lowered, hand dropping down to catch the beer Marty slid toward her. "What the hell is this? You need money?" she muttered, her nose scrunching up at the bridge at the sight of the label. Clearly he had to be doing poorly if this was the kind of swill he was forced to purchase. Fingernails tapped on the top of the container idly, although she didn't open it just yet. Maybe she was considering just how thirsty she was and if this was worth drinking.

"Oh, nothing," she answered them both, drawing out the words in a manner that made it clear it was obviously something that had her buzzing Marty's apartment. She tilted her head to the side, alternating her gaze between them. "What brought you 'round, Mason?" she asked, a brow quirked almost as a challenge, daring him to lie to her. It was clear, however, that she was under the spotlight now and they weren't going to let her get away with saying nothing. Even she knew when to admit defeat in the face of the Miller Boys' stubborn streak. They could be stuck standing there for hours if she didn't give in and answer Mason's question.

"No one," she told Marty, looking around his apartment and finally opening her drink, a heavy sigh lifting and lowering her shoulders, as though the act of accepting this beverage had been physically taxing. "Came to cash in," she finally admitted, bringing the drink to her lips but pausing to watch her brothers over its brim, her index finger extending to point toward Marty. "Need you to MC again, but without actin' like a proper nitwit and gettin' me kicked out. You owe me for that."

Mason Miller

"Business." Mason said, his answer to his sister's inquiry as quiet as it was succinct. He should have known another sibling would be trying to take advantage of their sweet youngest brother while he was trying to take advantage of their sweet youngest brother. Typical. But it wasn't all bad, was it? Tilly obviously hadn't anything even remotely resembling the sort of importance that Mason was dealing with. Life and death. The survival of the Family Business and, therefore, all their livelihoods.

"Ah, well then, my business takes precedence then. In fact-" He finished his beer and lined it up with the other three - Four Beers? Shocked or impressed with himself, it didn't much matter at the moment- on the counter before grabbing hold of Marty's elbow and dragging him toward the door. "-We should really, really be going." They'd spent too long in one place as it was and he had no idea whether Freddy would be sending anyone after him. Marty's skills behind the wheel were his best chance to get the hell out of Dyton.

Before they could get too far someone buzzed the apartment. Again. "Really??"
Dialogue Color - DodgerBlue

Millicent Miller


Millicent gave her youngest brother about half a second to respond before pushing the buzzer a second time. "I know you're in there, Martin!" Another buzz, this time leaning on it until the door finally clicked open and allowed her to march to his apartment with a brisk click-clack of impatient heels.

"Martin Montague Miller, I demand an explanation, and I demand it n--" Millicent broke off as she arrived at his front door and took in the other siblings gathered around, beers in hand. "What, having a party and didn't invite me?" she asked sarcastically. Tilly's presence wasn't quite as surprising -- the Troublemakers always seemed to end up conspiring over something or other, she'd found -- but Martin and Mason didn't exactly run in the same social circles.

Her gaze cut sharply to the latter; Millicent was still very much Not Speaking To Him, and knowing the thick húndàn, he probably still hadn't even figured out why. "What are you doing here?" she demanded. "Oughtn't you be out hiding under some poor woman's bed while her husband comes home?"
Dialogue Color: royalblue

Mason Miller

This was really beginning to be too much. For one thing, as has been stated before, Mason did not know definitively that the woman was married. Were there hints? Perhaps...

Seven Years and One Day Earlier

A sultry woman in a wedding dress eyed Mason from across the room of a wedding. Mason, already three sheets to the wind, eyed her back.

Later, Mason chatted her up across a table. "You're a naughty girl, aren't you? It's your wedding day!" The bride laughed uproariously and tried to shush Mason while an angry man in a tux watched on from the next table, and at the table next over from there, Tilly, in a Bride's Maid's dress, was staring daggers at Mason.

Not long after that, Mason and the Bride were spotted sneaking away with a bottle of champagne, stumbling through some bushes.


"No no no no no." He said, and then narrowed down the dismissals to each of his sisters in turn. "No." To Millicent. "And no." To Matilda. "I was here first. He's mine." Speaking of their youngest brother as an object to be won didn't seem to concern Mason. Only that he emerged victorious with Martin firmly in his possession.
Dialogue Color - DodgerBlue

Wulfstan Wynne

November 01, 2019, 02:09:35 AM #12 Last Edit: January 14, 2020, 12:46:33 AM by RUNE
Location: Wynne Legal Counseling, LLC.

In a drab and dreary one-room office beneath a row of noisy tenements along a block of side-street storefronts, Wulfstan Wynne struggled to maintain his concentration as his client spoke. The clapping, stomping, and ceaseless fiddling of the large, multi-generational family situated directly above him alone was enough to drive him nuts. The hustle and bustle of the uncharacteristically busy street combined with the rain relentlessly tapping against the thin pane of glass barely separating himself from the noise compounded the Lautaris' efforts to curse him with another pounding headache. Attempting to get ahead of the ailment, Stan placed a pain reliever in his mouth and chased it with a sip of water from the glass on his desk as his potential client rattled on.

"...Simple smash 'n' grab he says, nothing messy 'n' all that. Not a word to me or anyone else about the pistols, I swear it! I wasn't even armed! Just supposed to collect some quick cash is all. No one meant to get hurt."

Wulfstan swallowed his pill and looked his client over. "Disheveled, but clean. Suit a bit too tight. Likely hasn't been out the closet since graduation. Or maybe his first arraignment. Don't care for all the scratchin'. Or that droopy eye." A scowl weighed down Wulfstan's expression.

"C'mon! You gotta help me out, now. My mum said you would. Said she saw your ad on the Cortex, right?" The scowl deepened. "Bloody ruttin' advertisin' agency. I never should've filmed that commercial. Bringin' in nothin' but the dregs these days. Still, man's gotta eat..." "I'll cop to snaggin' the cash if I got to! But I never shot anyone - I swear it!"

Wulfstan held one hand up over his desk in an effort to silence the man. His fingers and wrists were thick from writing over his years. He brought his hand slowly to the desk and let it ball into a fist, lightly rapping his knuckles on the polished wood. "Your story won't sway a jury if no one can corroborate your claim. Unfortunately for both you and the shopkeeps, none of them are around to tell it. You catchin' on? Now. You got a witness - say, someone other than your trigger happy Huckleberry who's likewise lookin' to not be made for an accessory to murder - well then, Bob's your uncle."

"A witness? Sure, I got a witness!" The man sounded more hopeful than pleading for the first time since making his appointment with Wynne Legal Counseling. "We had a driver. He was waitin' just outside the place. Probably saw the whole thing!" Stan snagged a pen and set it to the yellow paper of his legal pad. "Best hope he had his peepers on, else you'll find 'probably' to be no help at all. You got a name for this driver?" "A name? Sure, sure. Well, not a given name. Fella called himself Mad Marty."

Wulfstan never wrote a single letter on the page. The office faded away and he was instead transported to another place and time altogether. He saw through the eyes of himself, only about twenty-five years younger. He sat at a fine, long dinner table with his adopted kin. "Uh. Don't suppose you're willing to work pro bono? Mum spent her pension for the month bailin' me out of lockup." The man asked as Stan drifted further into the fog of the past.

The bird had been dry, but Stan never complained for his gratefulness at just being fed. Getting to set with The Commodore and the Rear Admiral like one of the family was icing on the cake. Mace, Miles, Penny, Tilly, Mindy, and Maddie tried their best at looking like proper grown ups while young Marty Miller played with his food, poking holes in his mashed potatoes and filling them with peas, all the while wearing a smear of gravy on his cheek and smiling like a git.

Wulfstan returned to the present, uttering an unfiltered curse in response to the man's request. "Gàn nǐ niáng."

"Well that's rude! How -"

"Very sorry, but you'll have to excuse me. Office hours are over. You go home and keep your nose clean. I'll find your driver. Oh! And I'll be collecting my regular fee. Go on then. Bugger off."

The man left with little more protest, after which Wulfstan locked up the front door, turned the sign, drew the rolling blinds, and shut off the lights. Collecting his coat, scarf, flat cap, briefcase, and umbrella, he stepped out the back and made his own way onto the streets. Wulfstan walked a few blocks until he was able to hail a cab, told the driver where he wanted to go, and asked her to keep the music down as she drove. Wulf scowled the whole way along, preparing in his head the proper lashing he intended to deliver upon Mad Martin's brow.

"How many times I gotta tell ya 'for ya kin? If you're gonna be a criminal, don't be a bleedin' èr bǎi wǔ about it!" Wulf thought that sounded like something Mace would say if he were around. Then again, maybe he was better off trying The Admiral's approach.  After all, that's what finally worked for him when he found himself in a particular spot of bother.

 When the Cortex display screen, a Blue Sun product from the division that brought the 'Verse Telephonix, installed in the back of the front passenger's seat displayed the charge for Wulf's ride with an aggressively pleasant tune, the litigator swiped his CredCard and left an uncommitted, standard tip. He exited without a word, nearly leaping into the building's lobby and the directory panel within. Finding Martin's apartment number, Wulf stabbed at the button with his finger and didn't let off until the door clicked open.

Wynne stepped up to the lift and took a deep breath. Truth told, he hated elevators, and often opted for the stairs. But in this case he wanted to save all his energy for Martin's unsolicited legal counsel. Wulf stepped in, pressed the floor number, and closed his eyes as the door slid shut. He remembered what his therapist said, and tried to use this time to relax and focus on anything else. Wulf focused on the Miller pup's foolishness but found it only raised his anxiety, and offered his consideration to the rainwater that had damped his hair and now dripped slowly from a wayward strand of hair curled over his forehead to the tip of his nose below. "Yī... èr... sān... sì... wŭ... liù..." Wulfstan counted the drops of water until the lift stopped mercifully and he stepped out slicking his hair back into place and wiping some of the condensation from his beard.

Wulf sighed as he looked up and down the hallway, taking note of the direction the numbers ran and scrutinizing the area. The hallway's decor was far more than he'd grown up in, but so much less than what he'd come accustomed to in his adult years. "Zhège dìfāng shì zhū quān." Offering his critique to no one in particular, Wulfstan proceed to Martin's door and stopped just short of pounding on it when he thought he heard voices inside. Considering how he should knock knowing Martin had company, Wulf considering rapping politely as if on a friendly call before pounding away with the bottom of his fist.
When there's no one left to fight
Boys like him don't shine so bright
Soon as I see the dust settle
He's out on the town tryin' to find trouble
Jamie T, "Sticks 'n' Stones"

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