Keeping up with the Hawthornes

Creator Post Date
Jude Hawthorne

Hawthorne. For a cult of paranoid, soul-sucking witches, the name was a grave lesson in irony. Or stupidity. Or both.

Anytime Jude would bring it up, Gran would click her tongue at her and reply, in that cryptic, cryptid voice of hers,
“One can no longer be known simply by the sound that accompanies their passing footsteps. Nor by the scent of the rivers and wind. These modern times require something to address a person by. But even so, we won't hide who we are, child.”

She was like that. Messy, muddle-brained sometimes. Jude knew that Grandmarie came from another time. Not as far back as she implied. That way of thinking was a ghost of a dead era. Some bullshit spun story like the things you'd see on tv or a fairytale to tell your kids at night. To keep them quiet or get them to behave.

So not that far back. But farther than most.

Jude knew, for example, that they were longer-lived thanks to their
obscure practices. And the family business wasn't exactly an on the books sort of operation. In fact, Jude wasn't sure she could think of one example where a Hawthorne held a regular legal nine to five. Except maybe those who had married in.

But they never lasted very long.

Honestly, claiming they were messengers of some outdated god would be more believable than the truth. That this house was beyond your regular, run-of-the-mill sort of fucked up. And the real kicker? The most terrifying thing about it all?

It was

They were monsters. All of them. But what could she do? They were her family, after all. Her flesh and blood, the people who raised her even though her arrival had been a surprise to everyone. Except maybe Grandmarie. And it wasn't like Jude didn't feel grateful to her family now that she was older. She had been a real terror as a child.


Even all grown up, she was probably the most monstrous of them all.

September 08, 2020 03:45
Jude Hawthorne

Jude stood in front of the dilapidated side entrance to the house, listening for any sounds inside. Quiet as a mouse, she pulled the ratty screen door open just enough to fit her agile body through without it shrieking and creating a racket. She knew exactly how far one was able to stretch the springs, having gained the knowledge from years of practice. Years of getting caught, sneaking in and out at night.

Slipping into the murky shadows of the mudroom that adjoined the spacious kitchen, she maintained her grip on the latch until the door was closed completely, before allowing it to click into place. She held her breath, standing there for a moment to listen to the creaking of an old house for any unusual sounds. When she heard none, she finally let go of the door, smoothed a hand through her disheveled hair, and exhaled a tense breath. Relieved.

It had been a long night and she was sure to be hungover the moment she woke up. But there were still a few hours left 'til dawn to catch a few hours of shuteye if she was lucky. Hawthornes were early risers by nature. Or nightowls, more like. If she wasn't up by the time everyone else was, they would have no problem letting the house wake her.

And that was something she had gotten enough of growing up.

Making her way through the gloom of the kitchen, Jude had just reached the archway leading to the hall when a low, baritone voice broke out behind her.

“Where ya been, Jude?”

She flinched, stopped dead in her tracks, shoulders crept up to her ears.
Fuck. Remember that bit about if she was lucky? She wasn't. Of course.

Plastered smile stretched across her face, she relaxed her body and turned in a fluid motion. “Jordan. You're up early.”

“Up?” He moved like a tiger, the sheer muscle mass of the man a deception until he got close enough to bite. His hand gripped the frame of the arched door as he backed her against it, leaning over her with a toothy grin that was anything but happy. “You're mistaken, Cousin.” She could have sworn she heard the wood groan beneath his grip and she cast speculative eyes up to see if there was any damage to the structure.

Crazy bastard.

One fist resting on her hip, Jude tapped her chin thoughtfully. A mockery. “Am I?” She knew damn well he was angry, and the likelihood of why. But she couldn't help egging him on when he was throwing a tantrum.

“Unlike you and your little voluntary trip out until all hours, I didn't have the luxury of deciding when to sleep.”

“Oh? What's that have to do with me, though?”

The burly man who had the misfortune of being her family relation grit his teeth. And it was all she could do to keep from smiling.
Got 'im.

Or so she thought.

But instead of getting angry or becoming violent, Jordan suddenly relaxed and straightened back up. “Grandmarie has been looking for you. She's not happy you stayed out all night again.”

“I was working.”
I'm not a fucking child. She grumbled silently. But Jude knew, had known as soon as she heard his voice, that she was the one who'd been caught. And what's more, she had nothing to show for her outing. Which meant there was nothing to appease Grandmarie's temper with. Sighing, she rubbed a hand over her blurry eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose.

“Where is she?”

“She's waiting for you in the parlor. Hasn't slept a wink. Probably pretty testy.” He grinned. And she wanted to punch him. She really did. Maybe she would. If she made it out of the lion's den.

Gesturing sarcastically with a wave of his arm in the direction she should take as if she didn't know the layout of her own house, he seemed to have every intention of following along to her lecture. She spared him a single, scathing glance and turned abruptly to stride down the hallway.

Jude sighed as his clomping steps followed along behind her, echoing the pounding in her temples, and she thought,
I'll really have to kill him this time. Before she meekly lowered her eyes and stepped into the parlor.

“Good morning, Gran..”

September 08, 2020 07:45
Jude Hawthorne

A loud bang, followed by a muffled, “Fuck!” was like music to Jude's ears. The heavy mahogany door had slammed closed the moment Jordan tried to follow her into the room. The snooping rat would probably try to listen in from the other side, but at least he couldn't give a running commentary. Of course, that meant she'd just have to listen to him rehash it later. Maybe it would have been better if he'd been there for the first time through after all.

She groaned inwardly and was already making plans to find somewhere else to sleep and stay the night when Grandmarie's papery voice shuddered through the room.

“Judea L'amour Hawthorne.”

Oops. Jude took a few steps forward and sank to her knees a foot or so away from where Grandmarie sat in an overstuffed, plum-colored chair. If she was mad enough to thrice name her, it wasn't likely she was going to be able to just talk her way out of the situation.

“Where were you?”

Damn it.

Small beads of sweat began forming on Jude's brow, sliding down her neck and sending shivers down her spine. Which she suppressed. Because you don't show your fear in front of big bad bears. You play dead. The weight of the elder woman's stare was heavy, not just with disappointment, but with power. Anyone who mistook Gran for being frail just because she looked like a withered old woman who would blow away with the wind, would end up on the receiving end of a foul temper. All Hawthornes were pretty prickly, but very few of them could skin a person alive with a look.


“I was working.” She blurted out the excuse but remembered to keep her voice soft. Gran didn't like yelling.

“At that brothel no doubt.”

“It's not a brothel.” Not quite. “And I wasn't hooking.” Not really. “I was working.” Jude lifted her gaze slightly to stare at the lower half of the old woman's face, watching for a reaction in her pursed lips. “The moon is less than a month away. And we're almost out of materia. And you know I'm the best one to get the highest quality and plenty of it. Jordan, that gorilla; he's so indelicate he'll get caught one of these days. And he always has to take four or five a month to get what we need. Sometimes more.”

Her eyes flicked to meet that whiteout gaze as she continued to babble, practically foaming at the mouth. “I can get enough for everyone in one if it's a really good batch. Two if I have to. But never more than that.”


“I'm just trying to help!” Jude jerked forward and gripped the woman's cold, wrinkled hands in her own warm ones. “Grandmarie.. Gran. You know it's taking more and more each year to-” She sputtered. Faltered. Swallowed. “To keep you..”

“Jude..” Granmarie sighed Jude's name, her thin voice softening further. “I am not your responsibility.”


“I know. You are just trying to help.” A vein riddled hand lifted. Touched Jude's cheek in a mothering caress. “You are a very talented child. Clever, cunning. Sharp.” Fingers dug into her skin with surprising strength as her head was lifted further, meeting those white eyes head-on was even more disturbing from this short distance. “But you are reckless. And,” She released Jude's chin and Jude, miraculously, managed not to reach up and rub the place she squeezed. “You are still a child. And you know it is dangerous for you to be running around alone at night.”

“But Gran..” Jude's eyes were wet with tears, voice strained, choked up.

You, in particular Judea. You are impulsive and lack self-control in areas different from Jordan.”

Surprise, surprise. Everyone in this house is fucking crazy.

“I'm sorry, Grandmarie. But you know I can't stop working. If I do. If I do we won't be able to get enough. I'm sure of it.”

There was silence. A long pause. Long enough to make Jude's body itch to move. Finally, the old bat relaxed into her chair.
“Yes, I know.”

“I'll be careful. I prom-” She reached up to wipe her eyes, sniffling slightly like she was trying not to show she'd been close to crying when she was cut off.

“But. It is still dangerous. So you must take a companion with you when you go out. At least to help you keep things clean.”

Jude ground her teeth in frustration but was able to make it look like an accepting smile. “Yes, ma'am. I'll do that. Could be a big help. For sure.”

“Huh..” That may have been a laugh. Or a sign of the elder woman's exasperation. It didn't matter to Jude though because her next words set her free. “Very well. Go get some sleep before the house wakes up. Else it will be too loud to.”

“Yes. Thanks, Gran.” She stood up in a rush. “I'll help around before work today, 'kay?”

“Yes, yes. Go on now.” Grandmarie waved her hand and then as an afterthought added one final warning. “And Jude. Choose your companion wisely.”

With a hurried nod and a, “Yes, Grandmarie,” Jude turned to exit the room.

September 09, 2020 01:02
Jude Hawthorne

The second Jude turned away, back to the old woman, her expression dissolved into a blank mask. No trace of tears or the anxieties she'd shown just moments ago. Stone cold, the only emotion left was annoyance. She stepped out of the room and closed the door quietly behind her, pinching the bridge of her nose. She swiped her hand through her short hair, setting it more askew each time she did it and she seemed to be doing it a lot this morning when she caught sight of a hulking brute.

“So you think I'm a gorilla, hmm?”


Jude counted to ten. Twice. And then lifted her head to meet his eyes with a chipper smile. “'Course not.” Jordan, who had been leaning against the wall opposite the parlor door, pushed off and looked like he intended to box her in again. She brushed past him and started down the hall towards the front of the house and the staircase that lead to the upper floors.

Like an abandoned puppy, Jordan followed after her. “You're a bad liar, Jude.”

“Nope! I'm a very good liar. As
you are well aware of.” She slipped her hands into her back pockets as she walked, strolling casually down the hall like she didn't have a care in the world. Like she wasn't concerned with him or his feelings. Because she wasn't. Would never be. “I just don't feel the need to lie convincingly to you. But maybe you've not heard of sarcasm.”

“Bitch..” He hissed the word into her ear as bruising fingers grabbed her arm and spun her around like a top. “Gran's always been soft on you. Ever since you crawled out of that hole you were birthed from and fell into our fucking lives.”

Jude let out a long-suffering sigh and then gave him a good old slow clap round of applause. “Wooow, big guy! No wonder you're single. You'll never get laid with an attitude like that.”

The man's face was practically violet. Jude couldn't decide if he looked more like an eggplant or a purple sweet potato.
But he's roasted either way. She couldn't help but snicker at her manchild of a cousin. He was either going to start steaming out the ears or explode any second and she was just waiting to find out which it was going to be this time.

Three. Two. One. Bang. He brought his other hand up, gripped both of her arms, and swung her like a ragdoll into the wall to the right. The picture frames nearest her, filled with generation after generation of batty family members, rattled upon impact. There was a moment of silence. One that someone, somewhere in the world, might have tried to fill with a prayer. A blessing upon this poor, dumb sod, that he may rest in peace instead of pieces.

However, no one and nothing in Hawthorne house was that generous.

Smile gone, wiped clean from her face, Jude stared at the hand that had started the whole obnoxious turn of events by grabbing her. All she had wanted was a few hours of sleep before she had to go gallivanting off into the night again. But, of course, that was too much to ask for.

“Let go.” Her jaw popped as she snapped her mouth around the words. A simple phrase, really. Easy to understand, even for a gorilla.

His grip tightened a fraction in response and Jude thought she might have to rethink her stance on him being as smart as any creature with opposable thumbs. “You're still just a baby! Haven't even reached thirty years yet but you go around acting like such an arrogan-”

“Jordy.” Jade green eyes slid slowly from that hand and lifted, head tilting back even as she leaned in closer. “Jooordy.” Her throaty voice rose up at the end of the word. It should have sounded playful, seductive, sweet even. Except it didn't. Not to him. Not when it was paired with the particular expression she was making, just then. Maybe from the perspective of someone who couldn't see the wild look in her eyes, it could have been mistaken for the sound of someone in love.

But that was a lie.

Jordan, the lummox, went to release her arm too late. Jude's own hand was already wrapped around his wrist and her face was close, angled beneath his due to their difference in height. A chilling smile split her lips wide open, mouth full of soft amusement (and sharp teeth) as she spoke. “Are you picking a fight with me?”

September 09, 2020 14:31
Jude Hawthorne

Jude wasn't a very strong person. Physically, Jordan outclassed her in every way. And her gift didn't revolve around fighting. She didn't get nifty powers like super strength. Couldn't blast a person away with magic, or disintegrate them like Grandmarie. She wasn't completely helpless, sure, but her physical strength came from years of time and dedication practicing in martial arts classes and other extracurricular activities.

It wasn't these skills that made Jordan flinch as her hand tightened around his wrist. What caused him to try and shake her away with a gruff, “Fuck off, Jude,” was something that didn't apply to normal people. Hell, it didn't even fit in with their crazy family. It was those eyes of hers. Those fucking eyes that ate into a person bit by bit. Chipping away at them. Pulling out every ugly and depraved piece inside them and putting it on display.

She was a monster with those eyes. But even worse was her mouth.

Because while the eyes saw things they shouldn't have, it was that mouth that delivered each and every blow. No, she couldn't read minds. She couldn't kill with a murmured word. But she could make you wish you were dead. Or she could send you higher than a kite, to the edge of euphoria, before she brought you crashing down again. Usually onto some sharp and deadly object. A knife for example.

And well, the thing about Jude was, she didn't fight fair. Anything to her advantage was hers to use.

That same mouth slid into a wide, devilish grin as her eyes grew unfocused, soft, and big as saucers. The pupil dilated, swarmed into the pale jade ring of her iris until only a bright and unnerving edge remained the whole way round. It was a sign she was done playing now, done being nice. “I'm so
tired, Jordy. Just don't have the energy to appreciate your wit, eh? What do you think? You were just joking around, right? But what if I have bruises now. That won't go over well at work, ya know?”

“Jude..” A rumbling whisper was torn from his throat.

And she laughed, laughed like it was the funniest thing in the world, that sound. Fingers of her free hand curled into his collar she yanked him down, nearly knocking their foreheads together. But she leaned back in the same instant she made the move so that his face ended up eye level with her own. Or maybe, if one looked close enough, just below it.

“You'll be sorry if that happens, won't you? If I get into trouble because of it, you'd feel guilty, right?” She wouldn't get into trouble and they both knew it. No one would say shit about it and if they were ballsy enough to, they wouldn't like what it got them. He didn't struggle, didn't move, didn't even dare to breathe for a moment. It was like trying not to antagonize a wild animal. Of course, that didn't work so well when the thing already had hold and was just trying to decide if it would snap your neck or disembowel you.

“Jordan.” She tilted her head, snaked it beside his ear, and hissed. “I swear if you grab me like that again I will let every insect, rat, and mongrel I can find eat you alive while you watch. And then I'll feed each gator in the bayou have a piece of you. Except this hand.” She squeezed the wrist of that hand, the one that grabbed first. “That I'll keep and mount like one of Gran's palmistry props. Pass it down to my children and them to theirs. Like a family heirloom.”

Leaning back, she rested her forehead against his, closing her eyes, voice a dreamy whisper that was poison coated. “It'll become just another piece of the Hawthorne collection. The last piece of you lost among relics.” Suddenly, Jude released her grip on both his wrist and collar, stepping back. Jordan took a subtle step back himself. He'd never admit, out loud at least, that Jude sometimes scared the piss out of him. She just wasn't right in the head.

“Crazy bitch..” He muttered it under his breath, coughing slightly.

Smiling like she'd caught a fat, juicy mouse, Jude straightened her jacket even though the leather wasn't rumpled in the slightest. And then, maybe to add insult to injury, she dusted the sleeves as if she was removing any trace of him from them. Like he was something dirty.

“Love our talks, Jordy.” She clapped her hands together, loudly, when she was finished and beamed. “They always leave me with extra pep in my step. So entertaining.” Her tongue slipped out to wet her lips as she glanced at him. “In fact. I'm wide awake now. And
starving.” She turned and started towards the front of the house and the kitchen she was in what felt like hours ago. “We have anything in the house?” Silence greeted her and she glanced over her shoulder at the man who hadn't moved an inch. Just stood with his arms crossed over his chest, staring at her.

“No? Huh. Well. I guess I'll just have to go out for a bite then.” She continued on, past the kitchen, making a beeline for the front door. “Be a Doll and tell Grandmarie not to worry. Sun'll be up soon. Oh! And I'll take Naga with me, just be safe, eh?” Opening the door, she looked at him one final time and saw his face was puckered like he'd been sucking on a lemon. Her throaty laughter filled the hall. “Get some sleep, Jordan. Have sweet dreams.” And with that she closed the door, leaving him where he was.

September 11, 2020 13:19
Jude Hawthorne

Jude leaned back against the front door and pulled a pack of smokes from her jacket pocket. The stick pressed between her lips, she flicked her zippo and brought the flame to her face. Inhaling, the cherry red flame made her face stand out eerily against the dusky twilight morning. With a click, she snapped the lighter closed and shoved it into her pockets, taking a long drag and exhaling smoke to mix with the low lying fog.

She could already feel the humidity rising. It was going to be another sticky, swimming through the swamp, kind of day. Hot with a chance of nuclear. Jude sighed.
Fucking perfect. Maybe she'd get lucky and it would rain. Not that it would help. But at least it'd seem like going outside is supposed to make you feel drenched. Give the illusion of a cool autumn. She snorted. Wishful thinking.

Dark vines crept out from beneath the dilapidated front porch steps. Catching the cigarette between her teeth, Jude stepped to the edge of the stairs and crouched down. A hand reached out and the vines slithered, wrapped around it, throbbed like a snake. She laughed and took the smoke from her lips, tapping ash into one of the little clay pots kept on the porch.

“Hey, Ellena. Eaten anyone good lately?” The vine writhed and she shook her head, smirking. “No, of course not. Gran wouldn't let ya do that, eh?” The wriggling mass shifted, more briars sliding out to swish against the ground. “Well, guests pay the bills, you know?” Jude looked back at the decaying old house and muttered, “Just barely.” She turned back to Ellena and flexed her fingers. Her arm was released and she patted the creature. “If I get the chance I'll see about bringing you back a snack after work tonight, 'kay?”

She bounded down the steps and pulled out her phone.. Just as it started to ring. “How 'bout that?” Jude ran her thumb over the slide to unlock it and answered. “Hey, Donnie! I was just about to call you. You got any work for me tonight?” A muffled and rapid reply grated through the speakers and Jude held the phone closer to her ear, trying to catch it all. “Woah, woah. Slow down. Listen. I'm starved. Let's just meet at the usual place and you can tell me there, alright?”

Fast-paced, she was already headed towards the “main road”. That is to say the little crumbling paved road a ways away that was the closest place taxis would pick up from. “Yeah, yeah. I know. I'll call a cab now and start walkin. Yes, I'm sure no one is around. Look. Donnie. Shut up. Let me call a cab. I'll be there in thirty.”

Click. Jude hung up the phone and immediately began setting up a ride. Luckily for her, any stranger with a car could be a taxi these days. And it wasn't often you get the same person. Most people didn't even come out this far into the swamps. Not unless they knew what they wanted and what they were looking for was a Hawthorne.

By the time she got confirmation she had reached the road and started walking along it. Jude didn't have the luxury of waiting, not when he had sounded like that. She had to wonder what sort of trouble she was in this time. And how deep the shit was that she'd have to wade through in order to get out of it. Jude was real tired of having to get herself out of things today. Luckily the cab arrived twenty minutes and near enough three miles later.

September 14, 2020 04:24
Jude Hawthorne

She'd told Donnie thirty but it was more like an hour by the time she arrived. Jude handed a wad of cash to the driver, thanked them for the ride, and stepped up onto the sidewalk in front of a twenty-four hour diner. The late night crowd had already mostly filtered out, and it wasn't quite time for an early morning breakfast. She pushed the door open, bell chiming, and was greeted by a tired but mostly friendly face. And a familiar one.

“Jude!” A pleasantly plump young woman, a few years younger than Jude, bustled up to her with a more genuine smile.

“Babette.” Jude grinned and gave the woman a squeeze. “Been a while. How's Nana?”

“Oh, you know Nana. Hates the summer. Complains about the tourists. Annoyed at all this new, hip fusion food. Thinks we should stick to traditional and authentic or none at all. Got her to say the sweet potato beignets were “okay” though.” Babette was as bubbly as always. “And! She wants me to thank you for that tea. It's really eased the ache in her joints when it rains.”

“'Course Babs, my pleasure. If anything else comes up, you let me know. Gotta keep her in good health. She's almost a hundred after all. And I imagine she's going to be around a good, long time yet, if it's up to her.”

“You bet!” Jude spied Donnie off in a dark corner of the mostly empty cafe. Babette noticed her glance and laughed. “Oops, kept ya waitin. He looks grumpier than usual today. Best get to it. Should I get you the usual?”

Jude beamed and gave Babs a nod. “Yeah, thanks. That'd be great. I'll just go seat myself. Get him a coffee and some of those beignets you were talking about. Maybe it'll wipe that sour look off his face.”

Their joint laughter filled the room until Babette's father looked out from the kitchen to see what was going on. She ducked her head and snickered. “Oops. I'll go put your order in before dad has a cow. Think he'd relax when no one else was around.”

“Pops just takes his job real serious. You know that. He loves his work.” At the sound of Jude's voice, a bit louder than need be, the older man disappeared back into the kitchen.

“Sure, I know, I know.”

The two women grinned at each other knowingly before Jude made her way over to the booth in the far back corner, their usual spot. He'd left her the spot against the back wall, even though he himself disliked not being able to see the rest of the room. He was courteous like that. Or, maybe it was that Jude would end up the one sitting there by the end whether he'd picked that spot or not.
Must be used to it. She thought, sliding into her seat.

She plunked her elbows down on the tabletop, laced her fingers together, and rested her chin on them, eyeing the man in front of her. Donnie looked a decent sort. Clean shaven, nice haircut, expensive suits and stuffy rich cologne. Like a young entrapment or investment banker. He was a broker in a way. A middleman. And so he had to look his part, capable and reliable. If he went around with the appearance of a ruffian it would make his boss look bad. After all, wasn't just clothes that made the man.

“Babs is bringing breakfast.” Jude grinned like a cat and leaned forward over the table a little more. “Now,” She spoke in a low, but oddly cheerful voice. “What the fuck is your problem, Donnie?” The smile was wiped from her face and one of her hands lowered, tapping nails against the tabletop, chin propped in the other. “Been trying to reach you for days and nothing. Ghosted me. Then you suddenly call out of the blue rantin and ravin like the devil is after you. Why?”

The man swiped a hand through his short blond hair and darted his eyes around. “It's not me that has the problem, Jude. It's you. There's trouble.”

September 14, 2020 21:36
Jude Hawthorne

Fuck off!” Jude laughed, the words coming out in a huff. She sat back and folded her arms, crossing one leg over the other. She relaxed. If he was saying this had to do with her, well, there wasn't a chance in hell that was true. After all, she always made a point to fly below the radar, even with her infamous family name. She couldn't afford trouble and she knew it.

So the real question now was, why was he here trying to give her grief?

“You must have a screw loose, Donnie. I haven't had a proper job in over a week, as you fuckin know, and the club isn't exactly a place I can go making a commotion in.”

Donnie leaned forward suddenly, the length of his upper body stretching across the table, and slapped his palms against the surface. “Why do you think you haven't had a job?” He met her jade green eyes, his own just shy of blue (
Just shy of steel, Jude thought.) and lowered his voice. “Who's gonna give a job to someone who botched the last one so bad. The boss is pissed.”

“Botched?!” She snapped and shot forward, grabbing the man by his suit collar. She caught him off guard, practically dragged him onto the table. “I know you're not talkin about that job you threw me into blind.” Jude grit her teeth into a smile. “See 'cause I thought I handled it
pretty well. And I didn't even hold a grudge.”

“That wasn't our fault!” Donnie jerked back but Jude's fists clenched tight. “Someone gave us bad info. And we tried to get you out in time but you made a fucking mess!”

“Way I see it, I cleaned up
your mess. You really think that guy was gonna just let it go with a 'sorry my mistake mister'?” Jude's expression was cold. Hard lines and snarling lips.

“He wouldn't have said shit!” The man hissed. “If he had told the guy he works for he woulda been dead. We woulda been fine!”

“Like hell-” There was a clatter from the swinging kitchen door and Jude stopped. Head tilting, her neck cracked. It didn't help ease her anger but it felt good, that release of tension. Slow and steady, her fingers uncurled, and she released him. Dropping back into her chair and looking relaxed, she watched out the corner of her eye as Babette rounded the corner carrying a tray laden with food.

“Hey Babs!” She flashed a friendly grin as Donnie straightened his suit and sat. “Looks delicious.” Jude sat forward, eyeing the plate piled high with fried mushrooms, two sunny side up eggs, and a t-bone steak buried somewhere beneath them. She was starving by now and Babettes pop probably topped her up with extra mushrooms. He was soft-hearted like that.

In contrast, the puffy, powdered sugar covered beignets set daintily in front of Donnie, looked no less delicious. But anyone who did look would think their plates ought to be switched. The funniest part was that Donnie actually loved shit like that. It's exactly what he would have ordered all on his lonesome. Cute right?

“That all for now?” The woman smiled down at them once the food was set on the table.

“Sure is! Thanks, Babs.”

Babette nodded and grinned. “Holler if you need anything else.” With a wave she excused herself, headed back to the front counter.

Donnie whispered quietly. “Jude. They're asking for a lot of money, that guy's boss. More than's reasonable. And he's coming.
Tonight. To collect.”

Jude dove in, stabbing a mushroom with a fork and popping it into her mouth as she eyed Donnie, wondering if this was one of those read-between-the-lines moments. Swallowing, she laughed. “Don't worry Donnie.” She said, taking a sip of the scalding coffee Babs set by her plate. “I got this.”


She sliced into the steak with violent precision. “I'll take care of it.” The knife flicked up, dripping pink blood, and Jude made a not so subtle gesture at her throat before she stabbed it into the chunk of meat and brought it to her lips. How hard could it be? After all, you're only as good as your people, right?

And that first guy had died so easily.

- .... .. ... -... .. - -.-. .... .-- .- ... ..-. ..- -.-. -.- .. -. --. .-- .-. --- -. --. -.-.--

“Fuck!” Jude burst out the side door the The Red Raven, a seedy little nightclub that wasn't just for dancing and drinking, but the things polite folks didn't talk about. And her place of business some nights. She kept a hand pressed to her neck as she tried to run. It stung. And was wet with blood. Felt like someone was pulling worms out of the two puncture wounds. “What the fuck was that?!”

What the hell just happened?!

Staggering down the alley, stinking of garbage and vomit and piss, she looked like one of the junkies usually crouched against beside dumpsters or the drunks necking against the brick walls. She wheezed, leaning against the mouth of the alleyway. It wasn't exertion that had her panting. It was fear. Blind terror squeezing the fucking life out of her lungs.

She had to get out of here. Get back home. Needed to tell Grandmarie what had happened. Jude threw her arm up, stumbling out of the alley, hailing a cab. And then stopped. If she told Gran some
thing had attacked her, she'd never set foot outside that house again. She needed a place to stay. Clean up. Formulate a plan.

Most of all, Jude needed information. After a moment, it came to her. She knew just the place to get it. Pulling her coat up around her neck she slid into the cab and gave the driver an address. The adrenaline started giving way to some sort of drunkenness and her head bobbed with exhaustion in the back seat. And she hoped
they were up for a visitor as the cab slunk through the city streets.

September 30, 2020 11:25