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The Adventures of Penny Dreadful

by Kim Slone 2 years ago in fan fiction
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The Adventures of Penny Dreadful, Vol. 2 – Short Stories

Story Six: Memory

I didn’t originally plan to be a super-hero. I was just a kid figuring out the world every day based on what I found when I woke up. That’s the odd part about being born first, though. You get typecast, even before you get to read the script. The royal mantle of the firstborn – gets its purple color as soon as there’s another baby in the house. You automatically look really grown up to your parents when there’s somebody smaller and more helpless than you. Add natural curiosity and physical vitality, running and balancing and climbing up on things at an early age, imitate the parent’s words without being distracted by the baby talk of other kids your own age around you, and you look like a natural prodigy.

Plus, every new parent thinks their first kid is a genius anyway. Nobody else’s baby ever measures up to your own perfect little darling. Add the fact that the parents know their own IQ’s are higher than average, and their early walking, running and talking toddler is assumed to be a super-baby. Of course, parental expectations are never challenged – my parents didn’t lie, of course. So I never questioned the idea that if something needed doing, I was going to do it.

I remember waking up from a nap one afternoon, looking out the side window at the slanting golden rays of the sun on the baked dirt behind our house. My rocking horse was outside – I had carried it out earlier to play on it out there. It was summer. (Yes, I know, I carried the horse outside myself. Did I mention I was a huge four-year-old?) Suddenly Mommy looked at me from the kitchen window.

“You better go get your horse!” she said. I looked again and saw two boys at my horse. I went outside to meet them.

They used a lot of words I didn’t understand. It took me a while, but eventually I got it that they intended to carry off my horse. This was absurd. Of course they couldn’t do that, it was mine! That was simple fact. I don’t remember feeling any anger about it, just knowing they were very wrong. There was no way they were going to take my horse, because of course it belonged to me and I was going to take it into my home now, than you very much. (Actually, I wasn’t big on saying “thank you” in those days – still very uncivilised in many ways.)

“You leave it alone,” the smaller and more talkative of the two boys said. He was obviously the leader. The bigger one wasn’t saying much.

Well, knowing that the horse was mine, of course I just picked it up around the middle and started carrying it back to the house. The boys did not follow me. I think they had been trying to decide how to get it to their home when I simply picked it up and moved it quite competently into mine. Maybe they didn’t think they could have stopped a big strong girl like me, but I didn’t know at the time why they didn’t try harder to take it from me. I guessed they didn’t really want it all that much, if they couldn’t figure out how to just “grasp firmly and lift”. It wasn’t a difficult concept.

Story Seven: The Restraining Order

Judge Wolf opened the folder for the next case before him as the plaintiffs walked in. There was no defendant -- obviously a fool who waived their right to be heard and would suffer the judgement of the court without a voice. He gave a mental shrug and sipped from his mug of coffee.

Request for restraining order on one Karen Stone (not her real name, don't go looking, and certainly don't harass any real women named "Karen Stone" out there), brought by her two sisters, Kaitlyn Branagh and Merissa Branagh (also fictitious names, see previous instructions). Requesting an order for no contact, specifically no greeting cards or gifts, or letters, or emails or phone calls whether for birthdays, Christmas, or any other holiday, or for any other reason or no reason, in perpetuity.

Seemed a bit harsh, but Judge Wolf decided to look up and hear the ladies' complaint. Family court and criminal court all at one go, so common these days.

"Kaitlyn Branagh, tell the court why you need an order to stop your sister, Karen Stone, from contacting you in the normal way of family greetings," Wolf began.

"Because, your Honor," the soft-spoken, slender brunette with the amazingly large eyes said, "I have told her I want no contact, and she persists."

[Full Stop.]

End of statement? There had to be more. Wolf was disappointed in the apparently attractive woman who delivered her statements with a tight jaw and pursed lips. One of the demands of being a judge was the injunction to be above the fray, and therefore avoid normal human suppositions early in the case. And yet, he was only human. And tired. And wanting to go home to the dinner Francine would have waiting for him, and the comfort of old Max, the yellow lab who would sit beside him on the couch while he relaxed and forgot about the day.

"And, what did she do to make you need to drop all contact?" Wolf hated having to ask, but there it was. A restraining order was to protect a member of the populace from another member who had become obnoxious in some criminal way, making a credible threat to the person or their property. What had this Karen Stone done that threatened her two sisters?

"She betrayed me in the worst possible way, and she steadfastly refuses to change that!" Kaitlyn was still speaking softly, but the energy behind her words corresponded well with her tightly coiled arm and neck muscles. Wolf couldn't help it. Probably hell on wheels in bed, he thought. Then he said a silent Hail Mary. Forgive me!

The silence stretched.

"Aaaand?" Wolf prompted.

Kaitlyn looked nonplussed. "I told her I want no contact, and she persists. Under the law, that means I can get a restraining order, right? You have to do your job!"

What?? Did this woman lack social sense? Telling Wolf what his job was and ordering him to do it?

"Young woman," Wolf replied, "Don't tell me what my job is, I'm well aware of the responsibilities of my position. One of those responsibilities is to ascertain the facts of the case, and ensure that my judgements are made soberly and without pressure or prejudice. In order to do that here, I'm going to need more information. I suggest you drop your attitude and decide to cooperate and answer my question in some depth..." He let his sentence trail off in order to give her an opportunity to fill in the blanks on her own.

Which she did, sort of. Clearly uncomfortable, she proceeded haltingly, with pauses between her words. Hiding something.

"When I separated from my husband, she sided with him and told him I was wrong, and that he needed a divorce," she said.

Wolf decided to play sympathetic. "And was she seeing your husband...?" he asked.

"Oh, no," Kaitlyn recoiled physically from the question. With more interaction, Wolf had the impression of a woman on a pogo stick with her stiff erect posture and jerky movements when she was surprised. Strike that "hell on wheels' speculation. "Nothing like that, your Honor," (Wolf inwardly rolled his eyes. Back to "your Honor". Sucking up after her mistake ordering him around.)

"Then, I'm confused," Wolf shook his head. "Didn't you want a divorce? You were separating..."

"When he got a lawyer and pushed for a divorce, I lost the medical and dental benefits from his work," Kaitlyn finally said. So that was it. The wife wants to end the marriage but not the benefits, while the husband wants to end the hassles. Got it. And the sister aided and abetted the husband. Nice family.

"So, you and your husband now have a much less amicable separation because of your sister, but they were not having an affair," Wolf said. "You don't see your husband at all, because she interfered?"

"Oh, no, your Honor," Kaitlyn answered. "We talk every week when our daughter goes to the other parent,"

"And is he hostile when you see him?" Wolf asked. Still looking for the damage caused by the defendant and the continued threat.

"No, we get along just fine," Kaitlyn asserted.

"Well, I still don't understand," Wolf shook his head. "But there's probably more. Merissa Branagh, what's your reason for requesting a restraining order against greetings from your sister?"

The other sister was plump but wore it well. Also brunette, the resemblance to Kaitlyn ended there. Black hair, past her shoulders, well styled, exotic eyes and full lips hinting at Asian or Spanish background. Probably not full sisters, Wolf guessed.

"She's delusional, your Honor," Merissa began. Her voice was also soft, but easier to hear than Kaitlyn's, with a full-bodied throatiness that again hinted at fun times in the bedroom. God, Wolf thought, I need to get home. All this family stuff is getting me ... Focus! (Sometimes Francine didn't quite get what had got into her husband when he got home, but she didn't question. Just go with it.)

Wolf didn't need to prompt this one. Merissa continued to elaborate on her sister's delusions, apparently some flame war on social media, of all things, about a warning not to trust a mutual "friend". That's all? She needed a restraining order for this? Merissa's style was much more dramatic, with hyperbolic descriptions of the despicable Karen who insisted on pure logic, persisted in asking the same question over and over, and was "clearly delusional!”

"Ok," Wolf said when Merissa finished her rousing speech, "I still don't see a credible threat here."

"Oh, she's just like the Unabomber!" Merissa blustered. Then she flinched and cowered when Kaitlyn shot her a withering glance. The clipped and restrained sister controlling the dramatically emotional one. Quite the family.

"Well, that's a bit of a stretch," Wolf said. "How is she like the Unabomber? Have you seen weapons? Explosives? Has she threatened you in any way? Has she written a manifesto?"

"Well, no," Kaitlyn began. "But she lives alone since her husband died, she makes dolls, and she believes in magic..." Here Kaitlyn tipped her chin down and looked up at the judge making the most of her large eyes. Hmmm. A bit of a manipulator when she remembers not to be directly bossy about "the rules". Seeing both moods in one conversation must be a bit of a treat.

"She believes in magic?" Wolf asked. This might be worth a restraining order after all. Clearly not in touch with reality, the third sister might actually be a problem. Was there a credible threat?

"She's totally dark, your Honor," Merissa jumped in again, warming up to the subject. "And she twists words around, asks the same questions over and over,"

"And do you answer her?" Wolf broke in.

"Well, no..." Merissa said, "But that's not the point, your Honor, she's totally paranoid! She thinks everybody's out to get her!!"

"And how does she threaten you, exactly?" Wolf asked. Would these women please come to the point?

The two sisters looked at each other. Then by some telepathic agreement, they decided that Kaitlyn would speak.

"She hasn't yet, your Honor," she said. "But she's scary enough that we think it's just a matter of time before she does. And she doesn't respect our wishes that we not hear from her ever again. She persists in sending birthday and Christmas cards, and that's just creepy."

Wolf sat back and thought. There was no evidence here to warrant a restraining order against someone who had not given a threat of any kind, or damaged property, or anything else, yet. That she believed in magic could mean anything from vampire cults and blood drinking bars to crystals, candles and meditation. Without evidence of a crime, Wolf could not act on that. And the fact that she considered her sisters' suit to be frivolous could be inferred from her absence.

"What does she say in the cards?" Wolf asked.

"She wants us to be friends," Kaitlyn said with contempt. "As if that could be possible!"

"She doesn't get it that we're through with her," Merissa piped up.

"Is that it?" Wolf asked.

"Well, shouldn't that be enough?" Kaitlyn hissed. Again with the pursed lips and the venomous whisper. Yikes!

"She keeps saying she doesn't follow the logic," Merissa said plaintively, "And insists that she needs an answer to a question about something she suspects but can't prove -- she's paranoid!"

Wolf nodded. So you say.

Then he looked at Kaitlyn again and remembered where he had seen her before -- at a Rotary club meeting a few years ago, before her divorce. A scientist of some sort -- yes, an environmentalist, she had done a few media spots calling the community's awareness to issues -- advocating for recycling and use of bat houses, natural pest control, things like that. Respectable, the divorce was only too normal in itself. The husband was a scientist too, at the bug lab. Two busy professionals with no time for each other anymore. Sad.

Yes, now he was starting to remember. Merissa must be the younger sister, then, the actress and stay-at-home mom with a part-time business making theatre costumes. And that made Karen Stone the secretary and artist Francine had found on Facebook and talked to about making cloth dolls. Francine was into country gingerbread, making doll-headed drawstring bags for kitchen decoration to hold lightweight supplies, bags or cloths, whatever. Now they had one each in the kitchen and both bathrooms. Cute.

And this was the supposed Unabomber in drag? Right. Somehow Wolf just couldn't see it.

"OK, you two," Wolf began, "Here's what I'm going to do -- I'm going to tear up this complaint and pretend I never saw it. If your sister actually makes a threat to either one of you, you call the police and we can go from there. Until then, I personally recommend you get over yourselves and make nice with your sister. If you don't, well that's your choice. She's probably better off anyway, unless she is as unhinged as the two of you are. I really pity your parents."

The two women stared at him. How could he...

"That's all." Wolf said. "Now, get out of my courtroom!"

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Kim Slone

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