Tales of La Nuit: Birken

In this debut instalment of Tales of La Nuit, Felix Garrison is about to discover what happens when his younger brother Dwennon has revenge on his mind…

I

Felix Garrison looked in the mirror as he got ready for work. His routine was always the same. He trimmed his moustache the same way. He put on an Armani suit the same way. He timed his routine perfectly, ensuring he was neatly dressed and pressed in every imaginable way.

It made being a slave in La Nuit du bas barely tolerable.

If he had one secret regret, it was joining that cabal as a terrified freshman at university. It was not as if he wanted to join a band of literate thugs, but he had a younger brother to look after with not a single relative to help him.

He and Dwennon were orphaned when Felix was fifteen and Dwennon was eight. A serial killer picked on their parents, raping their mother, torturing their father, and videotaping the entire horrifying episode.

And it was Felix’s fault they were on Severin’s radar.

He was a nerdy teen desperate to be with the popular kids, and that meant bragging about what their dentist parents could afford to buy. It meant going to a local drug dealer’s house to smoke dope, and then blab.

Unfortunately, the drug dealer was the girlfriend of the serial killer who told him where to find the next couple to kill.

Felix never let on the extent of his shame. He had a baby brother to raise, and one who had no interest in Felix who did his best to try to toughen him up.

Except Felix was a klutz who had a knack for stepping in every cow flap in the field.

Dwennon never bonded with him. He resented Felix. He resented everything his older brother stood for.

Felix was determined to go to university and get educated. Dwennon sulked with mediocre grades, and it kept Felix up at night. The original plan was for the two to get a university degree in business or commerce, and then work toward starting a business together. Dwennon merely gave Felix stink eye and stated he wanted to go to college to get a diploma in journalism, breaking Felix’s heart in a million pieces, but he couldn’t stop him.

Felix was in serious debt trying to support him, his brother, and his university aspirations.

That’s when La Nuit du bas came calling.

It was his sociology professor Dr. Amy Parrington who recruited him into the Night, and told him to get his brother in there for protection, too. When Felix said Dwennon would never go for something Felix suggested, she told him not to tell him until he was admitted.

That was Felix’s biggest regret, and bigger than bragging his way into becoming an orphan.

Dwennon never forgave him.

Dwennon was on the bottom run in La Nuit, working as a reporter at a Toronto tabloid, and Felix had to pull favours and grovel to get his brother that job. Dwennon never knew what Felix had to do to give him his dream job in a desperate bid to get his brother’s forgiveness.

It never came.

But then Dwennon began to date another journalist at another newspaper. She was the most beautiful woman Felix ever knew. She was the smartest and the bravest. Had she been just a reporter, Felix would have been overjoyed that Dwennon finally found someone who made him happy.

Except Magnus Demeter Lyme was also in La Nuit as their top-ranking in-house detective.

She outranked them both, and Felix trembled at what she could do to them if the relationship soured.

Worse, Dwennon began to cut off Felix from his life, and Felix panicked.

He was jealous of Magnus. She had a cat that Dwennon loved more than Felix. He was jealous of the cat, too.

He should have been happy his brother became a star reporter. He should have been happy that he found happiness and a woman he obviously wanted to marry.

When the serial killer that destroyed their lives escaped from prison, Dwennon and Magnus tracked him down, and terrorized him into suicide.

Then Felix could no longer function. She was too proficient. If she could break a hardened serial killer in less than an hour, then what chance did Dwennon and Felix have?

And it was during the course of their manhunt that Dwennon discovered why their parents were targeted in the first place.

He said he didn’t take it against Felix, but by then, Felix was out of his mind.

And then began to do things he wasn’t very proud of.

Like force Dwennon into breaking off with Magnus in order for them not to be destroyed by La Nuit.

Like pushing a woman on Dwennon who repulsed him, and then pushing him into a loveless marriage with her.

But then he took one step too far, and tried to push Magnus into La Nuit’s secret prison called the Reds.

She wasn’t a real member. She was infiltrating the Night to write an exposé on them. It was easy to corner her, and tease her with the false promise of playing a game to escape their clutches.

One called Birken.

For good measure, Felix cheated to ensure she lost.

Except she won.

She walked away unscathed.

But then Dwennon walked away from his own marriage, and left Toronto for a newspaper job in Chicago, and had almost nothing to do with Felix. Worse, Dwennon decided to climb up the ranks of La Nuit by becoming an in-house detective himself.

And now Felix was alone in a cabal he cursed under his breath every waking moment of his adult life.

It couldn’t get worse, and yet, he could do nothing about it, let alone admit he was wrong and was defeated.

But he could look good in an Armani suit. He could have an organized and precise life with an enviable job and title as he pretended he was successful.

It was the way he coped with many things in his tortured life.

He took his briefcase and went to work in his expensive car. It was leased, but it was a respectable one. He went to work at precisely the same time every day.

Today would be no different. Off to work, do La Nuit’s vile bidding, think about how much he missed his brother, and work as late as possible because he did not want to come home to an empty house.

If he knew then what he knew now, he would have gotten a life insurance policy on himself, wait two years, and ended it all.

He had no direction and the one relative who he longed would look up to him was perpetually disgusted with him, calling him an expletive every chance he could.

Felix cursed the gods as he snootily walked into his office and began his daily servitude to his masters of the Night.

II

After another long and degrading day at work, Felix walked to his car, but when he came to his parking spot, the car was gone. Before he could react, someone grabbed him from behind, threw him in a limo and shut the door.

“What’s happening? Who are you?” shouted Felix as he remembered that La Nuit had a penchant for throwing disgraced members in limos to be sent for punishment. It was referred to as The Ride.

Yet those who got the Ride usually did something serious, like kill someone, and Felix never did.

He shouted and pleaded, but no one said a word until the limo stopped, the door opened, and he was grabbed and dragged out and thrown in a small room with paintings on the walls.

“Sit,” the man spat before leaving, and shutting the door. A few minutes later, another older man sauntered in and stared down at Felix.

“What’s going on?” asked Felix nervously.

“Garrison, you should know this one,” the man in the expensive suit said coolly, “Considering you were there when you went after Magnus Lyme.”

“I don’t understand why I am here. She was infiltrating the Night and using my brother…”

Before Felix could say another word, a familiar man walked in with purpose, and his presence made Felix want to vomit.

It was his brother Dwennon who looked old and hardened. Felix didn’t know what happened to Dwennon, but his decay made him want to weep and scream.

Dwennon sauntered in carrying a briefcase. Felix had never seen his brother in such a state and it was terrifying. Dwennon may have been smirking, but he had never seen his brother have insanity and rage in his eyes.

“Dwennon what are you doing here? What’s happened? Why are you here? I don’t understand.”

“Felix,” Dwennon said coolly as he opened his briefcase slowly, “I had to babysit you your entire miserable life to keep you out of trouble, and when I go to Chicago, what do you do?” Dwennon took out several files and threw them on the table in front of Felix. “You turn into a very bad boy.”

Felix shut his eyes as he began to rock in his chair.

“Look, at this, Felix – double-crossing your superior? That won’t do.

“Dwennon, don’t turn on me like this – please. What did they do to you. I never betrayed you. Never! Dwennon, please…”

“I called it, Felix.”

Felix moaned. “You called Birken on me, didn’t you?”

“Why not? You called it on my ex-girlfriend…do you know how painful that is for me to say ex-girlfriend? The second I saw her, I wanted to call her my wife. That’s all I ever wanted, Felix. One good thing. Just one. Just one good thing that made me happy. Is that too much to ask? One person who actually loved me. Just one.”

“She wasn’t there for any other reason but to…”

“Shut up! I wanted one thing. Our parents were slaughtered by a serial killer because your big, worthless mouth put them on his radar. I forgave you that, Felix. I never once threw that in your face. I never took it against you. You owed me. You owed me. That should have been how you paid me back. I wasn’t a lady’s man. I wasn’t a player or a social climber. I just wanted peace with one person who loved me. Someone who loved me back and I could make a nice, quiet life with somewhere far away. One thing…”

“Dwennon, I don’t know what’s gotten in to you, but that was years ago. She went on with her life. Why are you doing this to me? Why?”

His brother ignored him. “How do you think I feel about you? You knew I had one thing I cherished more than my own life…”

“She was infiltrating the Night to expose it! She never told you!”

“She didn’t have to tell me because I knew what she was doing! I knew from the beginning she was in it to expose it! I knew how she breathed. I knew she hated them as much as I did! You just couldn’t leave it alone, and now you are going to see what happens when you double-cross an in-house detective, Felix. You cost me a life with Magsybelle, and I will never get her back, but you know something?”

Dwennon grabbed his suitcase and dug out a stack of photographs before throwing his briefcase to the ground and faced his brother with fire in his eyes.

“Remember these pictures, Felix? This is Norton A. Dunlop – the guy who got sent up to the Reds and had the longest punishment and the worst torture. He holds the record. That’s his mug shot and the poor sucker thought that was the worst day of his life.” He then slapped the first photograph on the table as Felix began to weep.

Dwennon slapped a second picture on the table.

“That’s him one week after getting thrown in the Reds. Look at him – I said look at him, Felix! That’s right after they gang raped him for hours before beating him black and blue because he declared his undying love to a woman who was their sworn enemy. You said that to Magsybelle. You showed her these pictures! You told her in graphic detail every single thing!”

“Did she tell you? She…”

Dwennon snapped his fingers as a television screen was brought to the room. “No, but the Night records things for posterity. Play the video…”

“I already know what happened!”

“Fine,” said Dwennon as he slapped another photograph on the table. “And this is Dunlop three months after he was in their captivity. Do you remember what they did to him then, Felix?”

Felix looked away.

“What did you tell Magsybelle?”

“I said they whipped him, shocked him, and burned him…”

“That’s right. That picture was taken after the whipping he got where he had to thank his torturer for teaching him how worthless he was. Didn’t you say you were going to do the same thing to her and make her thank you? Did you?

“Yes, I did!”

“You gang up on her, threaten her with rape and torture. Just like Severin did to mom. What do you think Mama would say to that?”

Felix began to weep uncontrollably.

“You threaten the only woman I ever loved. Did you know Severin threaten to do me what he did to mom after the jury found him guilty? That’s who you are. You threaten Magsybelle – reneging a promise to me that you’d leave her alone if I broke up with her. She was no threat to you, and you aid and abet kidnapping, and were all out to have her raped, tortured, confined, and murdered. And you use this poor man’s torture – exploit it for your own selfish ends. Well, Felix, let’s see how much you like it happening to you. For real.”

Dwennon slapped another picture on the table.

“That’s the last picture of him. Look at the insanity, Felix. That’s what is going to happen to you, and I am going to make sure your stay in the Reds is longer and in a more painful condition than the reigning champ’s.”

“Dwennon! You can’t do this to me!”

“I already did. I called it, and unlike you weasel who got some superior to do it for you because you didn’t have the rank, I don’t need a proxy to call it. I called it, I voted for it, and I volunteered to throw you in the Reds myself because that’s your punishment for taking the only thing I ever wanted. You knew how much I loved her. You knew. You knew how much she loved me. I had two years of happiness. Just two. You should have just left us alone. She never said a single bad word about you. She kept encouraging me to have things to do with you because she thought we shouldn’t be torn apart. That’s how you thank her.”

“What do you want from me? I panicked…”

Dwennon walked around slowly as he looked at Felix with disgust. “You cheated. You knew the game was already rigged for her to lose, but you just had to make sure of it.”

“She won it!”

“Yes, she did. No thanks to you. She won it even though I never even heard of the Reds or Birken because if I had known, I would have given myself in her place. But someone should go in there, and it might as well be you.”

“But I’m in the Top Tier!”

“But the top in-house detective out-ranks the lowest member of the Top Tier, and I am the best in-house detective they got with a ninety-eight percent success rate. Only one had a higher average of one hundred percent – Magsybelle…”

Dwennon threw an envelope on the table.

“What’s this?”

“The same thing you gave Magsybelle. The red envelope, Felix. It makes it official. That’s the parameters of the game. That’s who is going to replace you in the Top Tier unless you can win Birken. You pissed off Nils Hansen when you vetoed his pet project, and he was hoping I would be angry enough to put the screws to you. The timing was perfect, and Vincent Amari was all gung ho…”

“Amari? He’s involved?”

“Scary, isn’t it? He has your replacement all lined up. Look at the walls, Felix: it’s his gallery, and see the space on the wall? That’s where the painting representing your downfall will be placed for posterity. You don’t have much time. Let’s see what you’re made of, Felix. Go.”

As Felix jumped out his chair, grabbed the envelope, and ran, he could hear the twisted and angry roar of Dwennon as he bellowed, “I hate you, Felix! I hate you!”

His brother wasn’t bluffing. The hatred in his eyes said it all.

III

Birken was a game of false hope, and even though Felix saw that game once before, somehow, he thought he could beat it on his own, yet everything he was doing was making things worse for him. He was being replaced with a teenaged girl who was touted as being some sort of genius, and if Amari was salivating at her brilliance, Felix could not hope to best her. He wasn’t cunning. Just conniving, and the game was rigged to backfire on average intellects.

He had been so distracted as his time was running out, he failed to see a car tailing him as he was walking in the financial district of Toronto. He didn’t know where he ought to go next, and if there were any cards he could play or deal he could make to form some sort of alliance.

But everything was going wrong.

Dwennon was making certain of it. He was cutting Felix off at the pass at every turn. He knew how Felix thought, and beat him to the punch. He was showing his older brother who was the strategist in the family, and who was the deluded loser.

He really should have noticed the car, and the goons coming out to beat Felix up as they threw him in the way he was thrown into the limo.

They were going to save Felix the trouble of playing Birken, they told him, because Amari was someone to appease because he had clout. They could always make up a story about Felix plotting to kill him, and they play heroes at Felix’s expense.

Felix pleaded to no avail.

They were going to take him to some motel room in Niagara Falls, so that they had time to set things up. The story would be that Felix was meeting a hitman in Niagara Falls who was coming from the US, but they got into a fight, and the hitman whacked Felix instead.

But as they drove, Felix saw a farmhouse that he knew could save him if he could only get away.

He jumped from the backseat and wrestled for control of the steering wheel biting the driver who swerved and skidded into a ditch. Felix climbed over him, unlocked the driver’s door and ran as fast as he could toward the farmhouse.

He remembered that there was one person in the area who could possibly save his life and turn the tables for him to win.

He ran toward the farmhouse in Niagara-on-the-Lake. The Path to Paradise was his last and only hope. He jumped over a fence and ran to the front door as he banged don it furiously.

The door opened with the one face Felix hadn’t seen in years.

The redhaired woman in the black turtleneck sweater immediately recognized Felix, and then tried to close the door as she angrily shouted, “Mr. Garrison, you tried to have me murdered and you relished my demise as you said straight to my face and you have the nerve to show up on my front step!”

Felix pushed back as he desperately tried to keep it open.

“Miss Lyme...Magnus, please, whatever you do, do not close this door!”

“The only reason I am alive is that I outwitted you. Now, give me one good reason why I should not be sensible and shut this door on an impossibly devious man.”

“Because I am in over my head. You are the Red Queen and I need you to read a trick Hanafuda deck in order to prevent my murder. I fully admit I horribly wronged you for absolutely no good reason and I will not try to harm you and will do everything you tell me to do without question. This is no trick or ruse, Magnus. La Nuit is going to kill me. Please.”

She studied Felix carefully before opening the door, sighed, and shook her head. “Come on in. Let us see what has put you in such a precarious position.”

IV

Magnus worked fast. No wonder she was the greatest detective La Nuit ever had. Felix had been in awe of her speed and efficiency. She uncovered the rigs and had a plan, but part of the plan involved Felix having to call Dwennon to grovel and beg to vote in Felix’s favour as it would buy her just enough time to keep the Garrison Brothers safe from retaliation.

Felix excused himself to call Dwennon from Magnus’s bedroom as he did not know how he would react and he didn’t want to weep in her presence, and the bedroom was the most secluded room in the house. His hands shook as he dialed from her landline.

“Hello?” a deadened voice replied, disturbing Felix. He was hoping there was some life left in his baby brother.

“Dwennon, it’s me…”

“What the hell are you calling me for? I said I don’t want to…”

“Dwennon, please! I know you hate me and have every right and reason in the world, but I always loved you!”

“Loved me?”

“I was wrong, all right! I was stupid and jealous and evil. I won’t justify a single thing. I was the big villain in your life, and I will regret everything I ever did until the day I die. Please, Dwennon. Magnus is trying to save me. She took my side completely. She’s not angry at me, anymore. Please.”

There was a long pause that made Felix’s heart sink. “Fine. I’ll vote to keep you out of the Reds, but that’s the last thing I ever do for you and only because Magsybelle decided you are worth saving. I never want to hear from you ever again. I never want to see your ugly face for as long as I live. You are not my brother. Do you understand?”

Felix felt his lower lip quiver as he held back his tears. His worst nightmare just became his reality. “I understand.”

Dwennon hung up. Felix pulled himself together. At least Magnus wasn’t abusing him. He felt something buck his shin. He looked down and saw a fat, grumpy cat staring intensely at him.

With a shaky hand, he crouched down to pet the animal, fully expecting it to hiss or scratch him the way Magnus’s old cat did, but it merely purred as it nestled on the floor.

He looked at the cat dish across the room. The cat’s name was Ludwig.

“Thank you, Ludwig,” Felix said as he sat on the floor next to the feline. “I’m sure you do this with all of the guests here, but thank you. Thank you for being kind even though I never did a thing to deserve it.”

Felix sighed shakily. It was almost over, and he knew Magnus would negotiate his safe release from La Nuit – and of Dwennon’s who never wanted to be a member in the first place. It was a matter of a few hours at the most, but he was feeling terrified and alone. If it wasn’t for the cat’s reassuring purring, Felix would have completely lost it even though victory was coming to rescue him to save him from the Night.

V

Magnus left Felix near his house after the order. He immediately wired her outrageous fee, and sat down alone in his house. He had one piece of news he needed to tell Dwennon, who would most likely hang up on him. It was a silly piece of trivial news, yet Felix had to tell his baby brother about it all the same.

His hands shook as he picked up his phone and dialed, trembling at each ring until an angry voice assaulted him.

“What did I tell you?” Dwennon roared.

Felix stammered. “I am only calling you once to tell you that she lost her quilt that you gave her for her birthday,” Felix began to cry as he continued to speak, “Her animals tore it up. I thought you should know she was heartbroken that she lost it, and it happened recently. That’s all. She had it all those years because she loved you, too. She never stopped loving you, either. She’d take you back in a heartbeat. I know she would. Goodbye, Dwennon. I’m so sorry I was a lousy fath…brother to you. I’m sorry we ever got involved in the Night. I always hated them as much as you did. I love you.”

Felix hung up as he could feel his entire body tremble. He was truly alone. He and Dwennon were finally free of La Nuit, and yet while it was in the best possible way, it was also the worst, yet Magnus had done her absolute best to ensure it was as kind as it could be.

But the Night fell on them all as it tore the three of them to shreds. Magnus was a magician and pulled herself together because she knew it was part of her great magic act and was prepared. Dwennon was broken and the odds of him ever being whole again were grim, and it was then that Felix finally realized what he had done to his younger brother.

Felix looked at the broken pieces of his own soul and for the first time realized that there was nothing inside.

In all the years of grooming and preening, he did it to hide the fact that he was an empty man. The Night could hide it, but he was no longer in the Night.

And the only thing he could see was a void where his soul should have been.

He had no idea where his own soul was. He had no job or idea of where to start. He got up and stormed out of his house. Tomorrow, he sell it. He couldn’t live in it. He didn’t even want to sleep there. The place always repulsed him. It was cold and impersonal and Felix had enough.

He briskly walked around, looking for a diner that was open. He felt lost and heartbroken.

He leaned against a wall and sighed. He wondered if he should call Magnus and ask her for guidance. He didn’t want to bother her, but he needed an idea and she was always sensible. She managed to make the miserable Dwennon blissful for two wonderful years.

He took out his phone and as he was about to dial, looked down and saw a small black cat staring at him.

He sighed, placed the phone in his blazer pocket, and crouched down, petting the cat who seemed to take to him.

“Great,” he sighed to himself, “All this time I was a cat whisperer.” He picked up the cat and began to carry it home.

“I was in a cabal once,” he began to tell the placid cat, “They promised me the moon, and it was nothing but a lie. I dragged my baby brother into it thinking it would save us. He got a job as a reporter, and he broke a lot of news stories about murderers. I used to think I was jealous of him, but I looked up to him. He was my hero, you know. I lost him forever because I was a moron, but you found me, and I am taking you home with me. I’m taking it as a sign from above that I am not as worthless as I am feeling right now. I’ll take good care of you. I know how. I saw my brother take care of a cat his girlfriend owned.”

He came to the front of his house and frowned. “I don’t want to go in there. It’s so creepy. No wonder Dwennon never came for a visit. I have my weekend car. Let’s find a motel that takes pets. My treat.”

He took his keys and pressed the button to unlock it as he continued to speak to the cat.

“I don’t know what kind of job I’ll get, but, it will be on a farm or some animal sanctuary. My brother always wanted to run one with his girlfriend. She doesn’t hate me anymore, for what it’s worth. I hope you don’t end up hating me.”

He looked at the cat and sighed.

“Norton,” said Felix, “I think I will call you Norton. That was the name of poor man who died and everyone exploited for decades, me included. I hope you don’t mind.” The cat never stopped purring as Felix placed it in the car and closed the door. When he came inside, the cat sat up regally and looked at him. “Mom and dad never let us have a cat. Or any pet. You’ll be my first one.”

No wonder Dwennon adored the cat his girlfriend had, Felix thought as he sadly smiled at his new and only friend. They were endearing, despite so many people throwing them away in the cruel and cold world to fend for themselves all alone.

He then prayed to God to look after Dwennon whom he horribly wronged. Somehow, everything came into full view the moment he lost everything but his life.

But that was La Nuit du bas: a horrible place that stole souls that it used to fuel its evil ways before selling them or discarding them entirely. As empty as he felt, Felix knew he was one of the lucky ones. He would live to see another day. He could start over. At the very least, he lived through the Night and lived to tell its tale as he made peace with the woman he so horribly wronged.

It was a start, and a victory.

VI

Felix and Nortie were near Felix’s new farmhouse in Beamsville, Ontario where he was in the midst of opening a cat sanctuary. He had the necessary paperwork and was in the process of getting donations, which had become his own labour of love as Nortie regal demeanour and photogenic poise made him a natural mascot. The catio was done, and so was the house that was filled with toys, mazes, posts, and everything to make rescues feel at home. He already had several cats living with him, and more would be coming in the coming days. It was less than a year, but he was already getting ready for a new chapter of his life.

He went to the community mailbox to get his mail with Nortie walking on a lead beside him. The two were now a familiar sight: the man with the ponytail, t-shirt, jeans, and red sneakers along with the black cat who walked like an emperor. Children in the neighbourhood would come running to pet Nortie who always obliged them and was as patient with children as he was with the new rescues that were beginning to arrive.

Nortie had a natural talent of working potential donors on the spot. He was Felix’s secret weapon, and as it was all for a good cause, Felix indulged it.

There was the usual ads and fan mail for Nortie who was a hit with children. There was one letter with no return address, and Felix took it before locking the box and walking leisurely back to his house that was about twenty minutes away.

When they came inside, Felix took off the harness before taking the letter and opening it as Nortie jumped on a side table to have a look. It was a check for a princely sum for the shelter. The donor was anonymous, but made it in the name of Miranda and Stephen Garrison. The amount was the same as the fee Magnus charged to rescue him. He smiled as he became teary-eyed. He had no doubt it was Magnus who donated the sum to his new cat sanctuary. He also knew without a doubt that she had forgiven him, and knew exactly why he veered so far off the course in his life: he was orphaned by a serial killer, and lost all perspective. Her donation said it all.

It gave Felix hope. He turned to his cat and showed him the check.

“See that, Nortie? Sometimes you can be in the wrong, and someone lets you know they are going to look past it and are rooting for you. And you know what that means? If she and Dwennon get back together, she’ll nudge him to forgive me, too. I hope they do for more than just reason. Sometimes your life can be nothing but heartache and pain, and then one turn makes it happy. You know that one, don’t you, pussycat? Yes, you do.” He scratched Norton behind his ear as the Bombay cat purred loudly. “One day, Nortie, you’ll meet my brother. He is a big, whiny pain in the ass with no manners or sense of humour, and we don’t have anything in common, but he’s my baby brother, and I love him. He’s not as mature or good-looking as we are, but if he comes, it’ll be alright because his badass girlfriend always knew how to keep him in check. She’s sensible, you know, and she always puts family and animals first.”

He sat on his sofa as Nortie sat on his lap and began to massage his chest. He looked at the cat and smirked. It would take his bratty baby brother a few months to see the obvious, but Felix had no doubt a reconciliation was in the cards. He could easily forgive Dwennon in a heartbeat. He never had children because Dwennon was it. Until then, he had a sanctuary to run and get ready, as he patiently waited for that fateful knock on the door.

La Nuit wasn’t going to win in destroying the Garrison Brothers: not individually, and not collectively. He wouldn’t allow it. They fooled him once when he was a desperate university student drowning in debt with no protectors, and they weren’t going to fool him again.

He put his feet on his coffee table and looked around the room contentedly before looking at the generous check once again, nodding in approval as Nortie continued his massaging of his chest with reckless abandon.

Life wasn’t perfect, but it nearly was save for the one hole in his heart that he prayed that providence would fill with light when the time was just right.