Virginia Beach Boardwalk
Strains of music filtered out from the building, flooding the street
with sound. Glancing up, the blonde man flashed his ID at the bouncer,
slipping past the large man into the club.
It was, as expected, full of barely twenty-one year olds drinking and
dancing to what he supposed they called music. The bar itself was packed
with young people pushing to get their drink orders, thirsting more for
the buzz the alcohol would induce than the liquid itself. Strobe lights
flickered across the dance floor, which was full to capacity with sweaty,
just this side of drunk bodies grinding against one another in a ritual
pre-foreplay manifestation of attempted sexual gratification.
He didn’t want to be there.
His eyes scanned the room, looking for her. She’d be here; she was always
here. Or the club across the street. Around the corner. Two blocks over.
Somewhere, in the midst of post-adolescent chaos, she always found her
“Has my hero come to rescue me? Again?”
Turning to his left, he found her standing at his side, a large grin
affixed to her face. A drink in one hand, a cigarette in the other, her
large brown eyes sparkled, seeming to dance in time to the music. He extracted
the drink from her hand, downing the last of the liquid in the glass before
she could protest. “Come on, we’re leaving. Now.”
The grin instantly slipped into a pout, as she pressed herself to his
side, swaying to the beat. “That’s not fair. I was just starting to have
His arm wrapped around her shoulder as he began to lead her toward the
exit. “When have you ever known me to be fair?”
“Never, not when it involves letting me have a good time.” She dragged
her feet as they moved, her heavily-lipsticked lips twisted deeper into
a classic pout, causing him to think she looked like a small child who’d
been caught playing with her mother’s makeup.
“That’s right Mimi, I hate it when you have fun.”
Outside and away from the club, he stopped, looking down at her. Her
lips were bright red. Dark grays and blacks edged and surrounded her eyes.
He pulled a tissue from his pocket and proceeded to do his best to remove
her makeup. “How many times have I told you, you’re a thousand times more
beautiful when you don't hide behind all this junk?”
She shut her eyes when he moved to brush away some of the eye shadow.
“Every time you see me.”
“Then why don’t you believe me?” Her eyes opened again to look up at
him and he smiled. “Do you think I’m lying to you?”
She met his gaze for a moment before squirming away from his touch. She
still didn’t like close contact for long periods of time, but he continued
to push her, hoping to break through. It wasn’t often that he actually
cared about someone other than himself -- usually when he chose to involve
himself with others it was only to help himself in the end. “Well?” he
questioned after they’d stood in silence for a while.
“No,” she mumbled, the pout creeping into her voice.
He chuckled. “That brother of yours has got to be worried about where
you are.” He unlocked the car they were standing next to, opening the
passenger door for her. “I’m taking you home.” Unable to stifle the laugh
as she flung herself into the seat and slammed the door, folding her arms
across her chest in a sullen gesture, he moved to the drivers’ side, climbing
into the car himself.
The drive was made in silence, as it always was. They’d fallen into this
routine and while he couldn’t quite put a finger on what it was that made
him continue to watch over her, as he glanced while paused at a stop sign,
he couldn’t help but smile. She’d curled up on the seat, her feet tucked
under her, eyes shut, fast asleep. All the wildness she exhibited while
awake was gone; if he hadn’t witnessed it on a regular basis he could
pretend it hadn’t been there at all.
“We’re home,” he told her fifteen minutes later as he stopped his car
in front of the small house he saw on an almost nightly basis. He could
see the shadow of someone inside walking the length of the living room.
“Looks like big brother’s waiting up again.”
Her eyes opened and she glared at the house. “Shane needs to get a life.”
Before he could respond, she opened the door, and jumped out of the car,
slamming it shut behind her.
Watching until she was inside the front door, he shrugged at the lack
of goodbye, pulling the car away from the curb.
He’d see her again tomorrow.
“Where have you been?”
“Don’t start with me.” Mimi glared at her brother as she shrugged off
her jacket. The leather was new enough that the smell of smoke didn’t
linger too heavily on it as she dropped it to the floor at her feet, kicking
off her shoes as well. “I’m home. I always come home. He always brings
me home. If I didn’t know better, I’d think you were in on it, making
sure he kept an eye on me.” Moving quickly, she ducked around the man
in the doorway, heading straight for the couch, where she flopped down,
curling her legs under her, grabbing for the remote.
Shane watched his younger sister as she flipped the channels, wincing
when she settled on ‘Celebrity Undercover’ on MTV. “Janie!” he snapped,
quickly moving to the TV and turning it off.
The glare he received was enough to freeze him on the spot. “That,” she
spat at him, sitting up. “Is not my name.”
“No, it’s not. It’s the name of a little girl. When you act like a child,
I will call you by the name you used as a child.”
She stood from the couch, turning to leave the room. “You’re not my father,”
she reminded him, her voice a notch below ‘scream.’ “You’re just my uptight
big brother.” She took a big breath, pausing at the doorway. “Just get,
and stay out of my life.”
Sinking to the couch, Shane shut his eyes against the sound of her stomping
footsteps up the stairs. He cringed, as the door to her room was slammed
shut. He should be used to the outbursts by now, she’d been having them
since she hit puberty. They’d been aimed at him since she was sixteen,
when their mother had passed away.
They just never got any easier to deal with.
Jarod pulled the thin white coat that screamed ‘scientist’ around his
torso, trying to ward off the wind blowing around him. Hurrying to his
car, he unlocked it and pulled out a notebook, tucking it under an arm.
Locking the car, he moved back to the side of the building, happy for
the buffer it provided.
A small squeak drifted across the breeze toward him from the small alley
between the buildings, where the dumpsters were kept. Turning toward the
noise, Jarod stopped short, finding that he was standing in front of two
large men, one with his arm wrapped around the waist of the young woman
in the photograph on Shane’s desk. Thinking for half a second, Jarod found
her name buried in his memory. Mimi.
“Hey, let her go,” he said, stepping closer to them, watching as Mimi
struggled against the grip the one man had on her.
“Git outta here, mind your own business,” one of them replied, stepping
toward Jarod. Jarod took an advancing step toward them and the man stepped
closer as well, reaching out and pushing at Jarod’s shoulder, hard.
Stumbling into the wall next to the building, the folder falling from
his grip, papers falling every which way, Jarod shook himself, quickly
regaining his footing. He turned slowly, facing the man who had shoved
him. "I think I told you to let go of her," he growled softly,
glancing at the second man, who still had a firm grip on Mimi.
"We like it much better this way," the man next to him replied,
balling his hand into a fist. "And we ain't takin' orders from some
geek in a lab coat."
Jarod's lips twisted into an angry grimace. The goon moved to swing at
him, and Jarod pounced, taking advantage of the lack of balance involved
in the swing and knocking him backwards onto the ground. The man's head
struck the side of the dumpster next to them and he remained on the ground
in a daze.
Moving quickly, Jarod took hold of the other man, and pried his grip
from around Mimi's shoulder. Forcing him away from the young woman, Jarod
stepped between them, keeping Mimi from the other man's reach. "Just
take care of your friend, and leave us alone," Jarod ordered, stooping
to gather his paperwork into a messy pile in his hand before moving from
the alleyway, Mimi in tow.
"Thanks," she murmured to him, hanging onto his arm as if it
were the only thing keeping her on her feet.
"You're welcome," Jarod replied, smiling down at her. "I
think your brother's a bit worried about you, let's get on inside, shall
Nodding, agreeing without question, she followed closely at his side
as they moved around to the front of the building, and inside. Shane was
waiting by the door, a worried look on his face. The worry increased as
he took in the dirt smudge on Mimi's cheek, and the grip she had on Jarod's
arm. Instantly moving to brush at the smudge, he cast his gaze from his
sister to his new partner. "What happened?"
Squirming away from Shane, and closer to Jarod, Mimi grimaced. "Nothing,
big brother. Some guys grabbed me, and my hero here," she squeezed
Jarod's arm as she gazed at him like a love-struck teenager. "Rescued
Gently removing her hands, Jarod offered Shane a sheepish smile. "I
was getting my notes from the car… I'd forgotten them this morning. And
I just walked by at the right time."
Eyeing the space between them as it went from non-existent to about a
foot, Shane nodded. "Thanks Jarod," he said as he swept his
sister into a hug, one she seemed to go into passively for all of three
seconds before squirming to get away. "We should go call the police
"No we shouldn't." Mimi looked up at her brother and pouted.
"It wasn't a big deal, okay? Just some jerks messing around. Stud-boy
here saved me, and it's over. Let it be over, okay?"
“She’s right,” Jarod interjected quickly, moving another half-foot from
Mimi. “The guys are probably gone by now, or would be by the time the
police got here. They were just looking for someone to harass.”
Mimi took a step toward the door, trying to maneuver past Shane, who
seemed to know he was defeated on the police subject, into the building.
“Look, I ditched the bodyguard for the afternoon and I’m only here to
get that…” she grimaced. “Stuff you insisted I try.” One of her hands
shoved at her brother’s shoulder until he moved. “I’m the stupid one for
being out there without my ‘protection’ anyway. After all,” she squared
her shoulders. “Both you and him seem to agree on that subject.”
The men followed her as she turned her back to them, walking down the
hallway toward their office. Jarod remained silent and off to the side
as he watched Shane give a small bottle to his sister. They didn’t say
much until she was almost out the door. “Will you at least be home for
dinner tonight?” Shane questioned as she turned the doorknob.
“I’ll think about it.” The reply drifted back from the hallway just before
the door shut.
Sitting back at his desk, Jarod watched Shane pace behind his own. The
mans agitation was obvious; Shane removed his glasses, ran a hand through
his hair and put the glasses back on, pausing for a moment to look over
“I know what you’re thinking,” Shane said quietly, stopping and sitting
in his desk chair, staring down at the top of the desk.
“No you don’t,” Jarod replied softly.
Shane’s head bobbed slowly. “Sure. Everyone thinks the same thing about
her.” His head rose, meeting Jarod’s gaze for a moment. “She’s high-strung,
obviously out of control - it’s next to impossible to believe that she’s
in her mid-twenties when she acts like a fourteen year old.” One of his
shoulders shrugged, almost defeatedly. “I’m used to people thinking that.
People always feel sorry for me, when they meet her.”
“Why is that?”
Visibly studying Jarod for a long moment, Shane leaned back, picking
the picture frame off his desk as he moved. “When our mother was pregnant
with Mimi, she got very sick. She almost died, almost had to abort the
pregnancy early in her second trimester. The doctors said it was the medications
they had to give her to stabilize both of them that caused some anomalies
to occur in Mimi’s brain.
“Mom died when I was sixteen. I basically found myself with very few
options. I could let the state take my baby sister -- she was eleven --
or I could figure something out and keep her with me. It wasn’t easy.
Not even close to easy. But Mom had left us some money. We owned the house
outright. I did what I could to make sure that, at least until I was eighteen
and could fight as an adult to protect her, that no one found out what
was going on. I coached her not to talk about how home was -- that Mom
was gone.” He stopped for a moment and looked up from the picture he’d
been studying with great intent. “Why am I telling you all of this?”
Jarod smiled. “It’s easier to explain to someone who’s still more or
less a stranger?”
“Must be.” Shane smiled in return, returning to his story. “We had a
rough time. One of the things that had been obvious since my sister was
a baby was that she wasn’t going to respond to much in a normal, expected
way. She had outbursts, things that left temper tantrums in the dust before
she even started. Five minutes later, she’d be the happiest, sweetest
child you’d ever meet. She’s still like that. She hit puberty early and
“Is that why you became involved in bio-tech?”
Shane nodded slowly. “In large part, yes. Even before we knew there was
something wrong with my sister, I was interested in chemistry, in why
things were made the way they were and how to change them. But it never
would have become more than a hobby if it weren’t for wanting to help
her.” He dragged a hand over his face, showing exhaustion. “The more work
we do, the more it seems like I’ll never be able to do anything to help
her. We’ve developed scores of therapies that are supposed to help conditions
similar to hers. None of them do much of anything to her. Except when
the side effects are really bad.” His eyes darkened, becoming haunted.
“Those are the worst. When I try something for her, only to make her sick.”
His eyes cleared quickly as he looked back at Jarod. “Greg doesn’t exactly
know about this… Please don’t say anything. Molly helps me sometimes in
getting things for Mimi, but if Greg knew… I’d lose my job.”
“Don’t worry,” Jarod assured him. “Nothing you’ve said leaves this office.
Keeping necessary secrets is something I’ve become quite good at over
An understanding silence wrapped itself around the room as the men both
turned to their respective computers, work needing to be finished.
The office was silent as Miss Parker entered, settling herself behind
her desk. She was just reaching for a file when a clattering of computer
disks falling to the floor shattered the silence. Broots stood in her
doorway, looking down at them. “What do you want?”
“Uh, Miss Parker…” He dropped to his knees, grabbing for the small pieces
of plastic. “I, uh, found some more information…” He looked up, disks
clutched in his hand. “On -- you know.”
Miss Parker leaned forward at her desk, looking down at him. “What?”
“Um, well, I managed to slip past some of the lesser encryptions and
found…” Broots shuffled the disks, locating one with a piece of tape across
the top. “Here, look at this.”
He stood, placing the disk in her outstretched hand. Inserting it into
her computer, she moved out of the way to allow him to pull up the files.
“These were in a file on Nova. Just these snippets.”
*Early tests failed completely. Subject exhibited erroneous reactions
-- this cycle should be rejected and destroyed. Start over.
*Violent tendencies exacerbated.
*Subject had calculated reaction -- deceased.
Miss Parker’s eyes widened at the last line. “Death was calculated… What
the hell is going on here?”
“I don’t know.” Broots shrugged a shoulder, looking at her. “But this
is dangerous. There was a set of death certificates with this file --
but the system locked me out before I could transfer them.”
“Four that I saw. No names, no dates. Just filed under Nova.” He looked
away from her, back at the monitor.
“What aren’t you telling me?”
He visibly cringed. “All of them were signed off on by Raines.”
He sat at a table outside. A grande tripe mocha sat in front of him,
half-finished. A cigarette burned in an ashtray in the center of the table,
He appeared to be people watching. In fact, he wasn’t seeing anyone who
passed in front of him. His mind was on Mimi.
Still unable to put finger on what it was that drew him to her, he turned
the relationship over in his mind. They’d met by chance. He’d been trying
to get his hands on some information that would prove to be vital to the
situation he was now in. Email from his friend, pointing him toward the
genetics lab at CGB Bio-tech. In, out, gone -- just like always. Except
this time, he’d been met with big, beautiful, tear-filled eyes and a soft,
sweet face staring up at him from the steps.
“I can’t find her.”
“Can’t find who love?” His response was instant and unthinking. He barely
even startled when she reached up, taking his hand and holding on tight.
“Mommy. She’s gone and I don’t know where.” Tears slipped down her face
as her lower lip trembled.
The woman had to be at least in her twenties. Her voice, her mannerisms,
tried to be much younger. “When did you last see her?” he questioned in
a gentle tone, sitting next to her.
“A long time ago.” She sniffled and laid her head against his shoulder.
“It’ll be all right, I won’t let anything happen to you.”
Her eyes glistened as she looked up at him. “Promise?”
“Daydreaming much?” Mimi’s voice startled him out of the memory. She
grabbed the chair next to his, turned it so the back faced the table and
sat, straddling it. Grabbing for his coffee, she took a drink.
“Mimi, what a pleasant surprise.”
She grinned and took another drink. “You can’t lie. So, what are you
doing just sitting here staring off into space on this bright, sunny afternoon?”
He looked her over carefully. She looked mellow, almost content. Her
clothes were sedate in comparison to the last time he’d seen her. Black
jeans and a casual white button-down shirt, only buttoned on the middle
three buttons. Her hair was loosely pulled back from her face in a ponytail
and she was virtually free of makeup. “Not too much,” he answered, smiling
at her. He liked to see her like this and it was rare that he got to.
“Well…” She finished off the last of his coffee, took a drag from the
cigarette and crushed it out. “Then we should do something.” Standing,
she grabbed his hand. “Come on, you know you want to spend some money
Following her up and away from the table, he allowed her to hang onto
his hand. Honestly, he enjoyed the contact. It was rare she permitted
people to touch her, so he took full advantage. “What makes you think
I have any money, or that I’d spend it on you?” he teased, falling into
step with her as she led the way down the street.
“Because I want you to and you live to make me happy.” They stopped at
a corner, waiting for the light t change.” You’re far better to me than
you should be,” she whispered to him in all seriousness.
Laying a hand on her cheek, his head shook. “No, that’s impossible.”
Leaning, he kissed her forehead. “I couldn’t ever actually be good enough
to you that it would be more than you’d deserve.”
“I…” The smile on her face faded as she looked up at him. “I don’t… Something’s
“I don’t know.” Her hand clutched his jacket for stability as her legs
seemed to give out. “Shane gave me a new protocol to try. My head feels
better,” her voice cracked slightly. “But my body feels like it’s falling
He caught her as she slipped unconscious.