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They said she should paint. So she painted. They said she should draw. So she drew. They said she should write a letter.

She couldn't think of anyone to write.

She used to write her stories. She longed to do so again, but it was best to forget the nightmares that plucked at the fringes of her sanity. She missed her little pets. They said she shouldn't snuggle with them at night. They said her pets weren't real.

They felt real. They kept her warm at night.

Mara tapped a pencil on the paper. They wouldn't give her a keyboard to write. She had to use her own fingers. She didn't mind. The eraser end of the pencil was marred with bite marks. The other end was worn down to a nub. The graphite slid across the paper in a pleasant, swooshing sound. Daiyu wrote in her native language. She was too tired to work with English.

She yawned and began the letter.


My name is Mara. You might remember my other name. Daiyu. We are cousins. How are your family? How is Melany? She was always very nice to me. I have not seen my family in a long time. I don't live in China any more. I live in Moscow now. I have been placed in the Guardian sanatorium, but all they do is give me pills and lock me in a room. Father and mother left me here after my novel was published. They want my money. I'm not insane. Can you help?

Sòng Daiyu (Mara)

Edited by Daiyu, Feb 1 2018, 09:23 PM.

[Image: aa8UcY-u1]
"Come, mistress"
Jet lay back on the burgundy leather couch, his long legs stretched out before him, crossed at the ankle. One arm was stretched out over the back of the couch, the other was tucked behind his head. Staring up at the ceiling with eyes half closed, he looked completely at ease. A nervous jiggling of his foot belied that notion. In his outstretched hand he held a piece of wrinkled paper. Scrawled in pencil and in a delicate child-like writing was a note from a cousin whom he’d met when he was 18 years old. When his mother decided he and his sister should know the other side of their family and brought them to China.

Jet and Melany had only just graduated from high school and were still very close. The years and insanity had changed that to such a degree that looking back on it troubled him more than he wanted to admit. China had been amazing. His mother had not been sure she’d be able to understand anyone, but after only being there for a day or two she picked the language back up quickly. She had known it as a child, and her brain had retained it even when she hadn’t consciously realized it. By the third day she was like a native. He and Melany had no idea what anyone was saying and did their best at simple pleasantries, but they were always very relieved to find people who could speak English in the small inland city where his mother’s family lived. - The waiter at the first restaurant they went to, studying to be a lawyer and practicing his English with the many tourists who frequented the restaurant for its familiar food. - The kindly bus driver that got them home after they had gone out on an adventure on their own and gotten hopelessly turned around. - The little street urchin who begged at a corner outside a confectionary and cussed them out when in their ignorance of the currency apparently gave her insultingly little. They had laughed and Melany had clung to his arm and looked up at him with love and respect.

His sister’s black hair was short then and spiked up with the ends painted purple with hair paste. Their mother had hated it – was embarrassed she had chosen the week before meeting her Chinese relatives to do something dramatic with her hair. But crazy hair styles were quite common and Melany, with her darker skin and eyes, fit right in. Jet was the one who stood out. At 6’4” tall he stood out in the US. But the long curly brown hair and his striking and obviously Caucasian features made him more exotic than he was even at home, where already girls swooned when he smiled and hit a few notes on his bass.

But his mother had been right on when she said her Chinese family was very cultured and traditional and would not approve. Jet and Melany had found them to be very tense and unfriendly. Oh, they had been polite and welcoming in their own way. And it was obvious that his aunt was glad to see her half sister. But very … how had Melany put it? Like the false front of a movie set. They were attractive people, well dressed, with impeccable manners, but it all seemed so rigid and fake to someone from a culture like theirs, where people didn’t have secrets.

Daiyu had been probably 5 or 6 years old. But she was Mara now. She said they called her Daiyu still, but she was Mara. But back then she was Daiyu. And she was bright and energetic and inquisitive and strange and fascinated by Melany who took to her like a little sister, braiding her hair and even going so far as to hiding a stripe of purple hair paste on a strand of hair at the nape of her neck. Her mother had found it later in the day, and without a word of reprimand to either girl, had taken Daiyu by the hand and brought her to the bathroom to wash the offending color off the rich black lock.

At some point during their stay something happened to change the sweet little kid. They had heard a commotion in the night, figured Daiyu had had some kind of night terror or something – or at least that’s what his mother had thought. The next day she was not at breakfast and when they inquired about her health the parents had looked at each other. The father, who hardly ever spoke told them she was still sleeping. And realizing they were prying, changed the subject. But Melany couldn’t let it go. She had spent a lot of her time with the child and pushed her way into her darkened bedroom when the parents had left the house. The servant left in charge of watching the girl was frightened by Melany and answered questions the parents would not have liked her to know. Mel had relented after making the servant cry and promised not to tell the “adults” what she had said. But since the girl’s English was not that great, Melany was only able to ascertain slightly more than they had heard at breakfast.

Daiyu suffered from debilitating nightmares and the parents had finally called a doctor. The girl slept because she was drugged, but her sleep was fitful, like whatever drug they had given her was not really helping. Melany held her hand and sang to her, but she didn’t wake up. The next day was the last one they spent there. Daiyu never came out to say goodbye.

And now she had a new name, was stuck in some kind of psych hospital in Moscow. Humanitarianism was not exactly Jet’s thing. But …. family. Family was first. If nothing else had stuck with him from his upbringing, that had. It made Melany’s final desertion sting all the more.

Jet sat up and reached across the glass coffee table before him to grab his phone, and hit the contact for his PA. Before it even rang, Joshua Ledger picked up.

“Josh. I need you to get in touch with Beto’s secretary. I need a real appointment. Tell him I have an interesting dilemma and I need his professional services.”

"I'll see what I can do."
Josh's voice came through the phone and then he hung up.

Jet set the phone and the missive down on the table in front of him. Elbows on knees, chin cupped in hands, he read through it again.
Edited by Jet, Feb 2 2018, 11:36 PM.
Beto let his head drop back in his leather chair. He was in his office at Justice, walls lined with bookcases filled with legal volumes. An affectation, he supposed.

Everything was now available in easily searchable electronic form. He still had his paralegals, though, along with his own finely honed legal mind. When it came to searching case law precedent, no AI had yet been invented with the ability to find applicable cases where all the externals differed wildly, and yet at their core, they were the same.

But he kept the volumes anyway, as an indulgence. And the only one he'd allowed that gave him a small sense of pleasure. The tactile effect of holding an old law book, the feel of the paper, the smell of the leather binding, the slight dust that tickled his nose, was like an anchor to the past.

Or maybe a shackle. Either way, he was tethered to the law, bound and safe. The strictures that allowed him to exist as what he was.

And, of course, they played a psychological role on those who entered. One could almost feel the palpable weight of the legal system from the entire wall in his office, imposing, heavy, ready to fall like a slab of concrete to grind the unwary to dust. People were more malleable, in such a state.

The thought amused him.

Or had. Head back in the leather, the tick of the clock, his large desk, piled high with papers and files, he was tired. Not physically. Mentally.

He'd come to Justice as a DA. And his work had been varied and satisfying. Enough that he was ascending the ranks. But ascension brought a new kind of work. The Attorney General Jack Donaghy, was grooming him. He knew that. And already he was getting fatigued.

Politics bored him. He was calculating every day of his life. It was part of life. But everyday social interactions and his legal work was one thing. For political goals, to placate the right people, That held no interest to him

He felt trapped. Stuck here. Washington was cloying, suffocating.

He wanted to leave. But when he looked at anywhere in the US, it all looked the same. Even with channeling around, working with Mackawee and Little Bird, he'd found precious little answers about what was going on. What was out there.

His eye kept being pulled, across the map, toward the CCD. Despite anything a person might say about it, it mattered. And though his collegues were loathe to admit it, the CCD and Moscow were the center of the world, as Washington once had been.

His secretary buzzed him, and he got the message. He rolled his eyes even as he adopted the persona needed. Family, even if distant, was family. Jet's status as musician was immaterial to him.

Appearances had to be kept up.
Jet waited for the woman at the desk to lead him into Beto’s office. She smiled up at him.

“Attorney Alvarez will see you now, Mr. Terrones.”
She hesitated a moment when he only nodded, apparently hoping he would say she should call him Jet. He’d seen that look of disappointment so many times that he could look at it now impassively, though it had hurt when he was younger. He’d learned the hard way that allowing people too much familiarity with him was giving them power over him. Star status all too often had unexpected drawbacks and surprisingly few perks. But you couldn’t convince the masses of that. So he just remained aloof.

The woman finally got the hint, and her smile changing from genuine to “professional” led the way down the short corridor to the door of Beto’s office. She opened the door and said, “Mr. Terrones here to see you.”

Jet nodded and then smiled at her as he stepped into the office.

“Thank you.”

She smiled politely and reached back in and shut the door on them. Jet looked at this cousin for a moment, sitting behind his desk and then glanced around the room.

"Very nice. Imposing. Not that you care what I think, but it suits you."
Jet said as he ambled across the room towards Beto, looking about curiously.

He had never been to Beto’s office. Cousins though they were, they weren’t particularly close. Beto never let anyone get too close. It was something Jet actually liked about him. No expectations.

Jet was particularly impressed by the wall of books rising up behind the man. He took a quick moment to take them in - the bindings, the scent of them, the ponderous responsibility exuding from them. Beto oozed authority and competence from his pores. But the books – those gave him a gravitas all his serious intelligence couldn't quite gain him on his own.

Jet knew his cousin didn’t like small talk and so threw Mara’s letter down on the blotter. “Can you introduce me to someone with the authority to get a girl out of a sanatorium in Russia?”

Edited by Jet, Feb 5 2018, 09:43 PM.
Beto watched as Jet walked in. There was no flamboyance in it, which he rather appreciated. At least his status as an adored musician hadn't gone to his head. The people who began to believe in their own hype were a pathetic lot.

Of course, he still dressed the part, with his hair displaying the carefree wildness associated with that lifestyle. Still, it could be that his appearance was merely a reflection of the same spirit that made him pursue such a career.

Idle speculation- and of no import. Another symptom of the boredom and monotony he felt. Like it remotely mattered in the slightest.

Still, he was glad of the interruption. And for his directness. The politicking was taking a toll on his energy. It was only finite, for all. His 'relationships', such as they were, were suffering. The calculated flirting, the faux jocularity, the feigned interest in trivial subjects.

Ennui had settled around his shoulders like a gloomy cloud.

"Good to see you, Jet."
He looked at the dropped letter. Unceremonious, perhaps, but indicative of Jet's mood. It didn't offend him though. He lifted it up and read. A woman's handwritten note, according to the words. Not that he could tell much, if anything, from handwriting. The sentences short. Establishing identity. Giving of circumstances. Asking for help. The brevity and directness were themselves an indicator, as if it was simply too hard to give more than the merest outline. The words seemed desperate, a plea.

A cousin? If so, not on his side of the family. Part of Jet's family came from China.

He felt tiredness wash over him. Being Hispanic, Beto had enough immediate family to sap his energy. The endless cousins and aunts and uncles. Quinceañeras, bodas, birthday parties. He begged off as often as was permissible, avoided holding too many babies or dancing too often. Avoided answers about his romantic entanglements, the questions about when he would settle down and get married, have kids, etc. The having to query others about their lives, to pretend to be interested. He was always exhausted at the end from the performance.

He did not drink. Losing control was not an option for him. But....when he got home he often understood why someone might. Just to relax. He, though, would sit his his apartment in his chair in the dark, let his mind churn and churn until it quieted, imagined himself outside looking up at the stars, let himself fall into that black inky night between the twinkling lights, fall to god himself (if it wasn't already him) and just be at one with the deathly silence.

Another part of family to deal with. The tiredness threatened to overwhelm him. His immediate reaction was to say no. But he found the words did not pass his lips. He looked a the letter again. Saw the stamp of the facility- The Guardian. He'd never heard of it. But he noted the address. CCD DI.

The words seemed to come to glow, to come to life and he felt something- something?- in his heart stir. A hunger. A way out. An escape.

A slow smile spread on his lips and he looked up into Jet's eyes. "Perhaps I may know someone. I would have to go with you, of course. I have no legal standing in the CCD. This would be a personal favor, and one I'd have to call in in person. Is that acceptable?"
Jet was someone who constantly had to pretend to be something that he wasn't. Worldly, suave, arrogant. It was how he survived the suffocation that came so unceremoniously with fame - it was the price he paid to do what he loved - the cost of which he hadn't realized until it was too late.

Jet understood what it was like to have to be someone he was not. And he sensed that same drift in personality in Beto, yet for far different reasons. Jet buried the person he really was for self preservation, while Beto ... the image of a barracuda came to mind and a slight smile formed on Jet's lips as he watched his cousin. He knew that was not fair. Beto was not a predator, but he certainly took care of himself and was really not a person anyone in their right mind would want to cross.

Jet didn't know how much of Beto's behavior was calculated and how much was exactly who he was. It didn't matter to Jet. What did matter was that he knew the benefits and the limitations of their relationship. Since they were kids, Jet knew that if Beto wanted something, he would get it. If Jet was a means to that end, Jet could count on his cousin to get him what he wanted as well. Being necessary was far more advantageous than being familiar when it came to Beto. And so Jet watched Beto read the letter the second time with very little idea which way this would go. When his cousin answered that he would be willing to help, and that he would be coming along to Moscow, a great relief washed over Jet. He honestly didn't feel all that comfortable with his cousin all the time. He wasn't sure if Beto would have his back if it compromised his own ends in any way, but he knew that if Beto wanted this that it was going to happen. He had no idea why Beto would want to go to Moscow, but it didn't matter. He would get them there.

"Heh. That's it? Yes? And you'll come along?Seriously."
Jet didn't appear to expect or need an answer to his questions. He shook his head and smiled, not even sure why he himself was doing this for a little kid he'd known only briefly a very long time ago.

""Okay, so how hard is this going to be? How much will it cost? And how long before we can go.
Jet finally sat down in the chair across from his cousin,
a little of his nervous energy dispersing now that he could see things moving forward. "I mean, I just quit my job in a very public way. I literally don't have anything to do for the first time in 15 years. Tell me what we're up against and what I need to do.
Beto raised an eyebrow at Jet's surprise and flurry of words. After a moment he understood. His family knew him. Despite his best efforts at appearing normal, most knew he At least, he did not often make snap decisions without calculated thinking. Impulsive was not a word people applied to him.

A small smile played at his lips. He had let Jet see a little more than he'd wanted to. It had to be the boredom that made him let his guard down. Already, even his secretary had asked him if he was well. It was good he was leaving. Jack would be disappointed, but Beto had no interest in being a political animal. It was the wrong path. to his request... "I had a colleague at Fordham who has since gone on to work for the CCD."
He did NOT say that this man had, on more than one occasion, gotten in trouble because of his penchant for call girls. Not illegal in the US for many years, but still frowned on. He had never been violent, of course, or Beto would not have considered it. That kind of case attached itself to you and followed you around.

No, in this case, it was your typical young male indescretions. A bit more scandalous and embarressing than normal if it came out. Only he was on scholarship and not old (or even new) money. As such, he did not have the deep pockets required to make such problems go away. And so of course, that was where Beto came in. He met with the owner of the service and after ascertaining the full nature of the her clientele and entertainment, offered his own services pro bono.

It had been arrogant perhaps. He hadn't even passed the bar. But he had been....persuasive. Very pursuasive. In the end, everyone had been satisfied.

"The man we will meet may need some assistance greasing the wheels of social justice. I trust you did not squandor all your earnings on torn jeans."
It was perhaps Beto's only nod to human behavior, a dry sense of humor. "In any case, I suggest we begin moving. I'll email him and take a leave of absence. I recommend you make whatever arrangements you need to make as well. And for the flight and accomodations. I trust you will be covering all expenses."

There was no point in pretending disinterest after exposing it earlier. Something else occurred to him. "Evelyn Avalon is currently in the CCD with the Secretary of State. She is a channeler and advocating for channeler rights. You might contact your 'estranged' sister"-
his tone made it clear he knew it was a ruse- "She might be able to contact Ms. Avalon. I understand your sister has some....special women in her temple."

He shook his head at the credulity of so many people. "Perhaps Ms. Avalon might be another resource. If you are willing to reunite, that is. Otherwise, we'll see how much my old classmate may be able to do. The fact is, we have no legal standing, nor are we privvy to WHY she was institutionalized."
Nor, in truth, did he care. He saw his way out and would take it.

He smiled. "We must be ready for bear."
Jet leaned forward to listen to Beto’s answer, elbows on knees, hands clasped. The intensity of his gaze was one of the things interviewers liked about Jet. When he gave you his attention, it was his full attention. He didn’t just take on the posture of listening. Jet was truly engaged. And Beto had always been someone he’d looked up to, though in a “not my bag” kind of way. They were very different in their lifestyles and fashion sense, but their familial resemblance didn't end at both of them having similar noses. They were brought up in the same environment, with the same grand parents. Maybe more significantly, they shared DNA.

Jet chuckled and nodded when Beto mentioned the torn jeans. Beto might have even realized that these jeans were very old and the torn knees were not a product of fashion, but of good old fashioned wear and tear. Jet had not always been rich. If he had, Melany would not have had to depend on the donations of those rich Texas housewives. Maybe now they could put an end to that relationship and he could just invest his money into her "temples" directly - make it a family affair. They would have to talk in person. Melany could be inordinately stubborn and slow to make a decision. Especially where her charges were concerned.

“Beto, I will pay all your expenses - don't worry about that. We will need accommodations for while we are there, too. I can get Josh on that and flights once you get in touch with your associate and have firm information.”

Jet reached into an inner pocket of his sleek leather jacket for his wallet. Out of it he pulled a card and slid it across the desk.

“That is my PA’s card."
Beto might have remembered Josh Ledger from high school though he was probably a freshman when Beto was a senior. "Your secretary has the number, but perhaps you won't have the use of her if you'll be taking a leave of absence. In case you can’t reach me directly, he will be at your disposal and you may use his services while you are with me and acting on my behalf.”
Jet’s words seemed a little more formal than usual. Perhaps he needed Beto to know that he was not simply a flaky artist. Had Jet opted to go to college like his poor mother had wanted him to, he would very likely have ended up at MIT. But the economy had been so bad, he knew he could make more money as a musician than as a nuclear physicist.

I have already asked Josh to start looking into the logistics of getting us there. Is your passport up to date?”
He chuckled then. He couldn’t imagine Beto would ever let something like that slip.

Jet took and released a deep breath and looked up over Beto’s head at the wall of books, thinking. He wasn’t surprised that Beto would make the connection between Melany’s young women and “unusual abilities.” Melany had tried to keep the whole affair intentionally mystical. She preferred to come across as a gypsy-like spiritual leader of a harmless cult that took care of wayward girls than give people the impression that she actually had channelers under her roof. Not everyone in the United States, especially the south, would approve of such a thing. Fortunately, many still gave the whole topic as much credence as UFOs and a free ride. Once again, Beto’s astuteness didn’t surprise him. Staying abreast of what family did was what Jet found unusual. Realizing he must appear to be gathering wool, he looked back down.

“As for my sister, I will send Josh to see her directly. I think she might be very interested in this plan. Anything else for now?”
Jet slid to the front of his chair in preparation to leaving, not wanting to take up too much of his cousin’s valuable time.
Mara felt better that day than she had felt in years. For once, she actually slept peacefully. Following the dream of the fairgrounds, she was quite giddy. Bright-eyed, she was rather resistant to leave her room and attend breakfast. The resistance was rather surprising to her nurse, who usually led her about like a deflated balloon on a string. As it wasn't a big deal, the nurse shrugged and left Daiyu to her scribblings. When she returned forty-five minutes later to make sure she would go to the dining room to eat breakfast, she was quite surprised at the energetic, happy girl that greeted her.

Mara left all her notes on her bed behind, the transcription of the whole nightmare in the fairgrounds, along with her ideas for the outline of her next novel, and scurried along to eat her meal.

[Image: aa8UcY-u1]
"Come, mistress"

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