Plainly put…We have to be. To be clear, I’m not talking about Christians who are constantly giving their unsolicited opinion about every little thing. I’m talking about Christians who politely refrain from worldly lifestyles or indulging in sinful behavior. I get deep with this one. So brace yourselves.
“You’re too judgmental! Jesus Christ was open and accepting of everyone! I’ve talked to other Christians and they’re cool with everyone’s lifestyle! DON’T JUDGE ME!”
How many times have you heard this when it comes to some behavior or activity that you know goes against Bible principles? Like the Hook-Up Culture, Sex Before Marriage, Getting Drunk, High, or even celebrating and promoting Pride Month.
Very often, Christians and non-Christians alike will use Christ’s own words against you. At Matthew Chapter 7 Jesus said: “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”
Strong words from our Lord and Savior. However, at John 7:24, Jesus also says, “24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with righteous judgment.”…Sounds like he’s telling us to judge here? Sounds contradicting. But is it?
I think it’s about time we elaborated on the various meanings of “judge” as well as addressing this notion of, “Well, I talked to other Christians, and they’re cool with it!”
Forgive me if this sounds condescending, but consider this: A 1st Grader who knows 2+2=4, knows math. But so does a 10th grader who knows how to solve Quadratic Equations. Thus, both can claim they do really know math…however one’s a bit more advanced in his knowledge than the other.
I just turned 35 yesterday, making me a thirty-five-year-old virgin. I don’t say that out of shame or embarrassment. But rather…this is to explain for people who look at me, hear that I’m a virgin…and they just don’t believe it.
Recently, I made up my mind to try online dating again. If you do a quick search, I’m sure you’ll find an essay from years ago where I adamantly refused to do it again after trying it in 2014 and found that it prompted a whole host of negative effects in me. Such as effecting my respect for women, distorting my self-worth, and taking up too much of my time and thoughts.
Pragmatically, however, I’ve concluded that with the way culture is right now, the hope or idea of me meeting someone organically…it’s not likely. I’m terrible at identifying “choosing signals,” I can’t tell the difference between shyness or fear so I stay away from both, and I don’t put myself out there. I’m not the kind of guy who takes up activities or goes to events with the main objective of finding someone. So to online dating, I’ll go.
While making up my mind to do this, I’ve asked people, men and women for their advice. Goes without saying, I’m a very different man from the 28-year-old I used to be. I have a greater understanding of the culture, I have more Red-Pilled Knowledge from other men’s experiences…and more importantly, I’m a committed Christian who’s read the entire Bible and believes in it.
But one thing constantly struck me when I talked to people, particularly women. When I say I’m a virgin, their jaws drop. They’re shocked and find it hard to believe. And usually, their first response isn’t “why”…it’s “how?!”…as if I avoided getting wet while walking through a torrential downpour with no umbrella.
Allow me to begin by saying, as a Christian, I believe the Gospels should be taught with love and kindness. Not guilt, ridicule, or a confrontation.
What prompted me to write this essay is to conclude an internal conflict regarding faith. A new challenger has emerged. An Atheist. During a recent debate (argument) on my boss’s radio show, she challenged me to learn more about the views of Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens in order to understand why Atheists don’t believe in God.
She said, “I’ll read something of the Bible that you suggest, if you check out a video by one of these Atheists.”
My boss egged her on and encouraged me to accept the challenge. The thing is…while she openly admitted that she knew very little about the Bible or what it meant to be a Christian, I actually have been through my Atheist Phase. I already knew a lot about Atheism. Allow me to explain…
What I’m about to reveal will probably make me sound like a sociopath. Method Actors do it all the time and it seems accepted. However, for an author, because projects we work on can take months if not years…I understand why it might be difficult to maintain a relationship with us.
It’s been over a year since I’ve created a new story. In 2019, I was 32-years-old and after committing myself to books and screenplays for a decade, decided to commit myself to other aspects of adult life…like advancing in a corporate job, becoming a homeowner, and building relationships with real people. In that, 2019 was a success. I’ve progressed and accomplished everything I set out to do.
But still…Despite everything I’ve done, I confess that nothing on earth has given me greater pleasure than escaping to another world and writing down everything I see. I can’t overstate this enough. 2019 has been the longest I’ve gone without creating anything new, and while I am happy…I don’t feel fulfilled. Yes, I’ve written critical essays here and there…but fiction is where it’s at.
Everything else just seems ephemeral. I know that one day I will die and memories of me will fade. I’m just a tenant on this earth. The condo I bought will belong to someone else. My money and possessions will be given to someone else or discarded. And if last summer has taught me anything when a co-worker took his own life…people’s perception of who you are, is pretty much whatever they want it to be, regardless if it’s true. Continue Reading
In May of 2009, I had just graduated, just got fired, and was on the verge of starting over by moving back in with my parents. To me, that would have been failure. Brace yourself…a lot of personal revelations in this one.
In the last chapter, you saw my elation, such triumph and joy at the debut of 2NE1. But by June 1st, 2009…my life wasn’t going so great. In March, I was 22 and had just graduated from a tumultuous four years of film school and landed a job with an up-and-coming start-up company. Haha, so without going into so many details, turns out this company was run by gamblers and con-artists. I’m not lying.
In the beginning, I thought everyone was so cool and everything ran like a well-oiled machine. I was hired as a video editor and a content producer. But one thing led to another and I eventually learned that one of my bosses wasn’t who he said he was. The man claimed to be one of the founders of Myspace. He was eventually fired, and my new boss (the gambler) started writing me bad checks that would bounce.
In May of 2009, I flew to Colorado to attend my cousin’s graduation and while there, my boss called me over the phone and fired me, accusing me of theft. I’m no thief. He only fired me because I threatened to file a lawsuit against him for writing bad checks.
And so…in June of 2009 for the first time since I was 16, I was without a job. My future seemed uncertain. I barely had enough to pay one more month of rent and that was it. These were sad days, but I’m not the type to sit on my thumbs and say, “whatever happens, happens.” In the end, I had made up my mind to leave Florida, pack up what I could, and move back into my parent’s house in Georgia in July. Basically, to start all over.
This decision wasn’t easy. As a young man full of pride, moving back into my parent’s house was like admitting defeat, that I couldn’t cut it in the real world on my own. But pragmatically, it was the best decision. Moving back in with my parents would allow me to get another job, save up without paying rent, and then I could head out to Los Angeles and pursue a career as a screenwriter. This was my thinking.
With my mind made up, I spent most of June 2009…writing. Every day, I’d wake up and go to my school’s library to write. And the music that got me through these tough times was none other than a lesser known Japanese composer who goes by the name of Yoko Kanno.
Anna Marie and Gladys are terrorists on the run…but its not the government they fear. They betrayed a deadly society of feminists. The Swords of St. Catherine have come for payback.
Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII
I opened my eyes to a gray ceiling fan with cracks in the wood. Everything looked old, as if the house was taken straight from a post-civil war documentary. The windows were milky and stained. The dresser looked like a device for splinters. My bed was twin size with a rusty iron headboard. Even my pillow was stuffed with real feathers. I could feel the stems pricking through the pillowcase, scratching at my neck.
My bullet wounds were patched up. Someone had sewn me shut and dressed me in a faded pink nightgown. There was a table on the other side of the room with a pitcher and two tin cups. I was thirsty like you wouldn’t believe, so I got up.
Anyone wondering if I was awake wouldn’t have to wonder long. I was so weak. My bones felt brittle. As soon as I tried to stand, I crumbled to the floor with this wooden crash that probably sounded much louder than it was. The problem was, I couldn’t hear anyone else. I was on the second floor and sound carried.
Not wanting to break anything, I hugged the wall and hobbled to the table like an old woman. There was nothing in the pitcher. I expected water.
Timed perfectly with my groan was a howling wind that rustled through the last leaves of a withering tree just outside my window. And through the branches, I saw the distant figure of Anna Marie all dressed in black. She was deep in the woods and her long hair shrouded her face, but I knew it was her. I grabbed sheets from the bed, wrapped up, and left.
The Perennial War of Paramours Gladys Vandelay – For the Living By Rock Kitaro
In the downstairs kitchen was a family of African-Americans. A mother, a father, and three toddlers. They were all so quiet as fuck that it creeped me out. I could sense the feeling was mutual. They stared like I was a ghost wandering the halls. No one said anything, not even so much as a greeting.
Finally, I just shuffled over to their breakfast table and grabbed about four strips of bacon. “Thank you.” I whispered before scurrying off. But of course, my bed sheets got caught on the crease in the floorboard. I tripped, scraping my knees and the children laughed. I whipped around to see which ones, but only caught the tail end of the mother snapping her fingers at them.
“Who are you people?” I asked.
“The owners of the house you’re staying in.” the father told me.
“I don’t suppose you have a name?”
“Just call me the caretaker.”
I squinted at him. “Did you put me in this nightgown?”
The mother rolled her neck with spiked brows, a matrimonial warning, not worth ignoring. So I threw up my hands and whispered, “Sorry.” Continue Reading
The Andalusian recalls how she was recruited by the Swords of St. Catherine, a deadly society of underground feminists. She used to be carefree and spirited. Living life to the fullest. But when she kills her would-be rapist, everything changes.
Anna Marie – The Cult By Rock Kitaro
My life begins every time he dies and I’m getting sick of it. I thought he was dead. I thought I had killed him. This time I know he’s not coming back. I suppose the only solace stems from the fact that he finally learned the truth. The truth is, I loved him. I’ll always love him. That’s all there is to it.
I don’t want everyone to know all about my family upbringing or whatever. It’s nobody’s business. So I’m going to skip all that.
I met Marcus in my early twenties. We worked together in the same building, at the same company, an up-and-coming media outlet focusing on entertainment. He was a journalist writing op-ed pieces on the ever-changing culture, while I made my bones on the forecast projections of upcoming album and box office sales. I heard he gave me credit for how much I changed him, inspiring him to grow. I suppose I should do the same.
I dunno… Marcus was really shitty at small talk. I think our first conversation was about God. That’s how deep and straight to the point he was. It was kind of annoying at first. I thought it was creepy and invasive. I was like, “who the hell are you that I should tell you all these deep and personal things?”
But after a while, I dunno. It kinda grew on me. I found myself thinking about crap I never would’ve even considered.
He talked about stuff like North Korea or the slave trade in Africa that still persists to this day. And when he spoke, he was so full of passion. Like, he honestly cared, as if he had a family member there or some stake in the matter. It was a spectacle, actually. Always so dramatic and full of histrionics. Caught myself smiling a couple of times. He’d notice, turn and blush. If black people could blush. Then he’d ask for my opinion. I wouldn’t have one. I just enjoyed listening. But he encouraged me to think. He was in my head. That’s how the bastard got me.
Now there was once a certain senator who was known to frequent clubs and popular spots in Uptown Toronto. His name was Jared J. Chrysler, a despicable bully who had a penchant for strong-arming his proposals through city hall.
Sen. Chrysler was not a good man. Not a good man at all.
As it was, I knew Sen. Chrysler before I saw him. He was as corrupt as they come and thought himself untouchable. His dossier came replete with sexual assaults, everything from rape, torture, and murder. He was once caught on camera literally stripping the clothes off of a reporter in an elevator while he was high on coke.
Two years ago, his name dominated headlines after he declared in Parliament that women had no place in politics. He never apologized. Never chalked it up to a gaffe or a slip of the tongue. Instead, Chrysler had the gumption to stand by his words. And in spite of widespread protests, solidarity from the academia damn-near screaming for his resignation, this unsavory fellow managed to stay in office.
On top of all that, Chrysler had dealings with the Bratva. He aided in human trafficking and had the nerve to call for stricter immigration laws when one of his mistresses threatened to go public. Of course, this mistress hasn’t been seen for some time. Rumor has it she was pregnant with his child and as a result, her body was stuffed in a barrel down in the basement. Everyone knew he dabbled in narcotics and every so often, he’d had to get rid of his limos because no matter what they did they couldn’t get the stench of marijuana out of the seats.
That his execution didn’t come sooner, I think, emboldened his god-like complex. At the same time, it made him an easier target for those who weren’t bound by silly things like laws or ethics.
I think that’s why they chose me. “The first kill is always the hardest,” they say. But honestly, there was no fear. No trepidation. I wasn’t reluctant nor did I hesitate or have any second thoughts. I didn’t feel anything…other than the smooth friction of my knife sliding across his neck. I killed the man. But the ladies killed his legacy.
That’s the way we worked. A death shrouded in mystery would only inflate his infamy. We couldn’t have that. So his hotel room was staged to look like a break in. His business partner, just as corrupt as he, was our patsy. There were recordings of the partner hiring a hitman years ago. The coward called it off but we still had the tapes. Damning evidence, really.
You have to understand, I was never a full-fledged member of the Society. I wanted to be, more than anything. These ladies, these women. They’re extraordinary. Every single one of them has this overpowering presence by which you can’t help but wonder if they came fresh from leading entire legions on the battlefield. Perhaps by becoming one of them, I thought I could soak in but an ounce of their charisma, their strength.
I’m sorry. I suppose even now, I find it difficult to denigrate them. They trained me. They believed in me. But their price was too heavy. It was a price I couldn’t pay.
In New York City some years ago, I was but a budding flower, having just graduated from Elysium with a 4.0 grade average and an avid interest in finance. Having grown up in the halls of Papa’s corporate offices, I was exposed to the high stakes of million dollar hedge fund investments. Despite all that, I was groomed to be a classical composer. That’s the path my parents chose for me.
My mother and our nannies came from Surrey, hence the accent I inherited. I began playing the piano when I was about five or six, and to date, I’ve mastered all of Chopin’s compositions. However, Erik Satie was my idol. It’s all about the timing in his works and the one thing I appreciated the most was the risk he took by trying something new and, dare I say, awkward. “Gymnopedie” is my favorite. I must have rehearsed it a thousand times. Even in complete silence, I hear it in my head.
To much is given, much is expected. That is, unless you have six big brothers and three older sisters, all more outgoing and impressive than yourself. It goes without saying, my own candle paled in comparison.
They dominated everything. Dinner conversations. Galas. Parties and pageants. At some point, I suppose I just got lost somewhere in the back and I didn’t mind. I had no talent for oratory and the moment all eyes were on me, I’d freeze up with the most terrifying heart palpitations.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved my family. My brothers were so cool. Strong and handsome. And my sisters…Well, I suppose it’s a bit ironic now that I think about it. Clarice, Emily, and Victoria. My heart weeps even as I say this, but every time I was in the same room with them, I was afraid. They picked on me for being so short and small. I had bad asthma and they’d mock me relentlessly for the wheezing, the “overdramatic” desperation I’d exhibit to find my inhaler.
Papa made them take me everywhere and I could tell how much they resented it. It’s a horrid feeling, to have so much in common with expensive luggage that’s been passed down through generations. It’s because of Papa that they included me but I understood why. He didn’t want me to feel alone. Papa was always looking out for me. He was perhaps the one ray of light that kept me warm in an otherwise cold and abysmal childhood.
It was because of Papa that I had the strength to smile. When I was little, I used to stare at him like he was a Greek painting. The hope that most people have towards Christ is how I felt about him. Papa came to every one of my recitals. When everyone clapped and congratulated me, words couldn’t quite express how elated my father was. He’d cry. Such emotion. I felt the love. I didn’t have to wonder with him. I simply knew how much he loved me by how open he was about showing his affections. It was to his arms that I’d run. It was within his coat that I found salvation.
Felix Domina Vandelay II. That was his name, a titan on Wall Street with investments around the world. We were decedents of King Wilhelm Vandelay of Godland who surrendered the throne to the Swedish Empire. Our family was paid handsomely for throne and has since, dominated the shipping industry back before the English stole New York from the Dutch.
My father revered history and I took after him. My siblings didn’t seem to care one way or the other, but I did. Money was something everyone had, more or less, but our heritage, our pedigree, to come from royal blood was something my father regarded with pride. He installed our family crest in the corporate emblem. I’ll never forget the smile on his face when he took me to see it. Just me. No one else wanted to come.
And that’s how it went. The Vandelay name became synonymous with both opulence and, surprisingly enough, generosity. A lot of what I know about capitalism and economy came from what my father taught me. He’d let me sit in on the big important meetings, trusting with good measure that I’d behave and simply observe. And I did. It was interesting, actually. I enjoyed listening to them talk, more than I did watching cartoons or coloring in books. The tension, the frayed nerves, the adrenaline of risking so much on a public stock or new business, as CEO, Papa was the mediator to temper all tempers.
One time, Papa introduced me to the president of an airline company. It was just a joke, but Papa said I was his only daughter. I know this sounds bad but I fantasized about being his only child. I imagined a world without brothers or sisters or even my mother. Just Papa and me. I would have been so happy. It would have been the perfect world. But as it was, my brothers and sisters existed. In particular, Clarice, the eldest sister, born six years before myself.
Clarice was in a lot of ways the ring leader of the many cliques that tormented me from boarding school to boarding school. She could blame it on her youth, sure. But I never understood it. I heard stories about bullies being jealous of their targets or wanting something their victims had. But Clarice was taller, popular, drop-dead gorgeous and intelligent enough to know when to acquiesce. She never physically abused me. Just stole or broke everything that belonged exclusively to me. She called my recitals boring and sometimes, I could hear her laughing from the balconies as I played.
When the Society approached me, it was during a very dark chapter in my life. And yes, I blamed Clarice for it. My music teacher of eight years had just lost his wife to leukemia. I was his favorite pupil. I wanted to be there for him, to commiserate with him, to let him know that he wasn’t alone. But my family had a tradition of taking the yacht across the Mediterranean every Easter. I begged my mother to let me stay behind and support him but Clarice…She put it in my mother’s head that my teacher fancied me beyond what was appropriate.
We had just ported in Barcelona when I learned that my teacher committed suicide by plummeting from his twenty-fifth floor apartment. I was fifteen-years-old.
I was racked with grief. Even my father couldn’t console me. And he tried desperately. I wasn’t eating. I refused to attend school. And one afternoon, I returned home to find my bedroom nearly stacked to ceiling with rows of my favorite flowers, the white hydrangeas. It was classic of my father to go to such lengths. It was out of respect for him that I begrudgingly return to school.
By then, there was something different about me. Everyone could see it and finally, they all left me alone. I no longer smiled. I lost the ability to laugh or giggle. I stopped coming to Papa’s offices, and every time I entered a room where I knew Clarice was present, I’d keep my gaze to the floor.
I really hated that bitch. When I cried alone, it wasn’t because I was sad. It was the growing pain of holding back the rage in my heart. Every time I’d hear her laugh, or cheer, or so much as clear her wretched throat, I’d be so stricken by this incredible urge to stab her with the sharpest thing I could find. It was really bad and I knew something was wrong with me. But who could I tell? Who would possibly understand?
Three weeks after my maestro’s passing, I found myself sitting alone in an herbal teashop down in the Village. It rained that evening with a constant patter that calmed the disquieting notions. I’d hone in an out of the constellation of raindrops on the window. Red and yellow lights blurred in straight lines that zipped up and down the wet street.
Two older men approached and offered to buy me a drink. They appeared college students, and I knew they meant well, but I dismissed both.
Then, she sat down. A velvety black coat that still held beads from the rain. Long dark hair. Dazzling blue eyes with the elegance of a former ballerina, or a debutant like myself. Without saying anything, she just smiled and I was spellbound. She extended a napkin to wipe my tears. I still remember my mascara bleeding into the soft white cloth.
“May I help you?” I asked.
She sighed and looked around once more before settling on me.
“Your guilt is unwarranted. You are trapped, my dear. Like a bird, a caged canary. I am here to set you free.”
It was unreal. Everything I needed to hear came from those few words. She followed up with nothing else, but abruptly scooted her chair out and grazed past my shoulder and made her way to the exit. I exhaled, not realizing I had been holding my breath.
“Are you coming?”
I turned around. She was waiting for me, her and three others, all wearing the same dark velvety coat but with different styles of shoes and earrings. There was a motorcade of two black luxury SUVs parked on the curb behind them.
I didn’t get up at once. It was absurd and I think she saw it in my gaze.
“I can only unlock the cage. It’s up to you to spread your wings and fly.” She said.
“Who are you?” I asked in a shaky whisper.
“I’m Breanne. That’s Scarlett. She’s Mandee. And we call this one the Andalusian.”
Breanne, Scarlett, Mandee, and the Andalusian. These were the first Swords of St. Catherine I had the pleasure to meet. And if all of Swords were as impressive as they, with all due respect, there isn’t a force on earth powerful enough to match wits.
Officially, I ran away from New York City that night. Sadly, no one noticed. Not even Papa.
Elliot Chan – The Network Executive (Short Story) By Rock Kitaro
Training to become a Paramour was about what one expect from any covert Special Forces operation. Except, we learned Tai Chi and a form of kung fu called Wushu. Also, the training didn’t take place over some eight-week boot camp period, but over the course of three years by which, you have to maintain the appearance of an everyday civilian by progressing in your respective fields. For me, that was in the TV industry. I got an entry job at MBC straight out of college and began working my way up as a production assistant.
The Paramours had posts all over the world. However, our headquarters was in this big country house in the English county of Derbyshire, right along the Derwent River, not far from the Chatsworth Estate. Its official title was the Leigh Estate. But the Paramours called it, Hollow Rock.
Many of the actual facilities were underground and shielded from aerial coverage, such as the firing range, the armory, and it’s inventory of the most badass vehicles I’ve ever seen. The first time I saw the place, it was breathtaking, the beauty of its green luscious splendor. It was vast, remote, and serene with singing birds and the trickle of creeks. Everything had this quaint, old British feel to it like a step back in time. Peaceful and soothing. It was just what I needed to accelerate the healing process…by which I was able to move on from the murder of my adoptive parents.
I reconnected with “Jake” at Hollow Rock. His real name was Col. Jacob Buchanan, having served in the Gulf War and conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo. His story was a sad story. I mean…damn. But I’ll let him tell you himself. Jake became my closest friend and confidant. I told him what happened to Marvin and Sharon and he commiserated with me.
I remember one of my first conversations with him, after I went through the inaugural training sessions and my peers saw that there was more to me than meets the eye. We were walking along the stone bridge over the clear stream of the Derwent when I asked him something that’s been on my mind since I joined.
“Here’s my problem with the Paramours. It’s sort of like the superhero in a comic book. They foil the evil plan but they don’t kill, so the villains keep coming back. I don’t get that. It’s illogical. You said the Paramours don’t kill. To know that this secret society exists but no one’s doing anything to make them public? We don’t even turn them into the authorities, so they just keep on killin’ and ruinin’ innocent lives. Does no one feel guilty about all that?”
Jake, with his cold blue eyes and crew cut, stared out over the river.
“Elliot, do you know what a Paramour is? By definition, do you know what a paramour is?”
A question with a question. Friggin love those.
“It’s like a person’s who’s loved the most.” I answered.
“It’s an illicit lover, a secret lover to a married person. In that sense, I think Lord Byron named us precisely when he founded the brotherhood. Granted, not all of us are married or have ever been married, the key word her is love. You never met your mom. Do you love her?”
His questions were getting annoying.
“I don’t know. I guess.”
He scoffed, shaking his head at me like the rookie I was.
“It’s like this, Ellie. When you’re here, we train you, we give you the tools and trust you to assist your brothers out in the field. If you kill, if you choose to kill, you’re no longer a Paramour. You’re not one of us. Not in your heart. But once you’re put in a position where you have that choice and you choose not to kill, you’ll know what it means to be one of us.”
“Alright, I get what you’re saying. You can’t kill the woman you love, sure. But what if someone else, what if one of your comrades kills the woman for you? Because you can’t do it yourself, but you know, you know without a shred out of doubt that the bitch needs to die. Like, put down. For good!”
He started chuckling.
I threw up my hands. “You get what I’m saying, right? When does it end? How does it end?”
“The same way it always ends.” He told me.
“Well!? Let’s hear it!”
“I can’t tell you, son. You stick around long enough, you’ll find out for yourself.”
Anyways…Marcus Angel was also there. I couldn’t believe it. When I came to Hollow Rock he was still in a coma due to his extensive injuries and to be honest, his situation didn’t look good. He was shot multiple times. He had broken ribs and a fractured skull. He was on life support, costing the organization $5,000 a day but they had no intention of giving up on him. It was endearing, their level of compassion. Of course I wouldn’t find out until later how much everyone was depending on him to regain consciousness.
It wasn’t just military training that I learned over the course of three years. The Paramours were all about refinement, the stuff of gentlemen. The education, the in-depth history taught to me was more than I ever knew existed. I learned six different languages and took acting classes to both suppress my emotions and convey the right ones to elicit any response I wanted. The Paramours focused on stealth, intelligence, and tactics of subterfuge. Perception was everything and like a chess master, I was conditioned to think five moves ahead.
After three years of training, the Paramours started taking me on missions in the field. At first, it was just to observe and shadow other experienced members. My non-descript Asian appearance was extremely helpful. It didn’t matter what country I was in, there was something about me that whispered, “nothing special” or “harmless foreigner.”
Then came the first mission where I had a more pertinent role. It was in the summer of 2018. The leading Paramour was a revolutionary named Arsen Masol. My unit was posing as documentary filmmakers and I was the cameraman. Arsen’s mission was to provide the authorities with proof that deputies within the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s parliament) were being blackmailed and coerced to stay in the European Union.
What does this have to do with the Paramours? I had no idea. And honestly, I didn’t need to know. It was Arsen’s mission. He had his reasons and we were there to support him. I never doubted for a second that when the time came, my newfound comrades would assist me in my personal mission as well.
That’s the thing about us Paramours…we’re intensely loyal. When you’re in hostile lands or investigating in countries where things like due process and evidence are laughed at like bar jokes, everyone’s afraid. The fear of death or imprisonment was inevitable. But we weren’t alone. Our comrades were with us. They had our backs.
We’ve been shot at. We’ve been wounded. We’ve been caught. We’ve been killed. But no one has ever revealed our existence to the outside world. Even the Society didn’t know about us. The Paramours who were declared dead to the world could never leave Hollow Rock. That included men like Marcus Angel. Should he ever reappear, he’d jeopardize us all.
After five years of running with the Paramours, it was my turn to step up to the plate. It was a difficult decision that I knew would change my life forever. Once I crossed the threshold, there was no coming back. From here on out, I’d have to spend the rest of my life looking over my shoulder. The Society wouldn’t stop until I was killed. That was the risk I was willing to take to find my mother.
Det. Griffin has gone mad. He’s just been through a traumatizing ordeal. Cloud explains why he was punished and in the midst of his self-righteous condemnation, Cloud discovers sins of his own.
The Slave Quarters
Chapter 20 – I’ve Seen Some Things
By Rock Kitaro
The next morning, Jessica, Leanne, and I arrive at the precinct promptly at nine. There was a vast difference on Moor Street between today and yesterday. No crowds. No screaming faces. Just littered trash.
The ladies pick up the pace as we step off the elevators. I end up falling behind with my hands in my pockets. There’s a square patch beneath my left eye to reduce the swelling. I’m pristine in my black suit and tie. One could safely assume I just came back from serving as a pallbearer. It wouldn’t be too far off from the truth.
It’s touching to see them all so concerned about Griffin’s well being. I understand why and I don’t blame them…but still…if only they knew what I knew I wonder if they’d be so quick to lend a helping hand. Yeah, probably. Perhaps that’s why the guilt’s beginning to gnaw at my conscience. In any case, it’s too late now. The damage is done.
On the 3rd floor, deputies and detectives are huddle around the desk closest to Griffin’s office. Agent Dixon sees Jessica and Leanne coming. He receives them with open arms. Leanne fires off question after question by which Dixon simply proceeds to nod. Jessica covers her mouth in shock. Everyone hears the click of a door handle and a round of shushing quells the conversations.
It’s Samantha Griffin…the wife. She leaves her husband’s office as two suits from Internal Affairs enter in her stead, closing the door behind them. I recognize Samantha from the photo on Griffin’s desk. That sandy blonde hair and the soft freckles bridging her nose, its Sam alright. She has the toned body of an avid tennis player, active and fit. She’s about my age, a couple of years younger than Griffin, but her tan complexion is now pale with grief.
Jessica and Leanne exchange awkward glances before approaching to introduce themselves. As soon as they reveal their involvement with the case, a despondent Sam breaks down in a gripping scene of tears, collapsing into Leanne’s arms. It’s as if she just learned her son was killed in combat. Leanne doesn’t know how to react. She keeps gawking up at Jessica but even Jessica’s at a loss of words.
Instinctively, Leanne lowers Samantha to the carpet and settles her against the side of a desk. There, she and Jessica console the wife with false promises about Griffin’s recovery. It’s all so melodramatic. I should be more sympathetic but I’m not.
“I saw the tape,” a country voice crawls over my shoulders.
Agent Dixon continues with, “It doesn’t make the darnest bit of sense. The boy just stands there while the sum’ a bitch walks up and splits his head open like a jack-o-lantern. Never seen anything like it. Beginning to think this place really is haunted. That’s what the papers is callin it after the last suicide. But what’s stickin in my craw is that the suspect seemed to have no concept of pain whatsoever. Just kept pounding away. Not even when his eyes popped out and his lips smashed in like a banana.”
As discreet as I assume he’s trying to be, Jessica and Leanne overhear. Jessica in particular looks up with a fiery glare. It’s no longer that she doesn’t believe it, but more so she smells foul play. Two suicides in the span of five days is a coincidence Jessica’s not willing ignore. She abruptly stands and straightens out her pantsuit, holding back her ire with a clenched jaw and slow steady breaths.
“I’m gonna need to see that video,” she politely demands.
“Yes, ditto.” Leanne says in a whispery exhale.
Dixon extended his hand to direct them toward the conference room in the corner of the bullpen. He informs them, “It should still be queued up. The D.A.’s in there right now so tread lightly.”
“It’s gonna be okay,” Leanne assures Sam.
Jessica doesn’t wait for Leanne to get up. She promptly marches into the conference room and takes over. No one rebukes her when she takes command of a laptop and starts the video from the beginning. Leanne enters the room choking on her own tears. Dixon helps Sam off the floor and escorts her to get her some coffee.
All the while, I say absolutely nothing with my hands in my pockets. I only observe as if I’m sitting inside the theater of my own head with eyes as my own personal big screens to the real world. And of course, as per usual, I’m conflicted by what I see. It’s all so morbid, so morose, the complete opposite of last night’s triumph. There’s so much pain and suffering in plain view. All of it’s my fault and the only one I want to apologize to is the wife. But I can’t. I won’t.
Be cold. Be cold, Cloud. Don’t let the tears soften your heart as it has time and time again. Don’t forget what happened. Don’t forget what led you down this path. Be cold. Harden your heart. This is the path you’ve chosen. Now see it through, dammit. Walk.