Another P&A vignette, p.1 of 3

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Another P&A vignette, p.1 of 3

Postby cyberbard » Thu Oct 30, 2008 3:27 pm

I couldn't help myself, and wrote another P&A vignette. My "night job" is that of a science fiction writer, so sometimes I start writing stuff and just can't stop. That was what happened during lunch today.

When I was writing this, I thought it worked very well, but on reviewing it, I'm not so sure. But I'll post it anyway, both for entertainment and as fuel for discussion and/or speculation.

That being said...


=====

Bronzo’s Health Club…

Marshall maintained a steady pace on the treadmill. He was focused entirely on the machine’s various digital readouts, and on the rhythmic sound of the gym’s air conditioning system. He was enjoying the relative peace of the moment; such moments had become rare in recent months.

His solitude was broken by a familiar voice.

“Hello, Marshall,” the man said. He was a fit man in his early forties, with eyeglasses and a perfectly combed ponytail.

“Hi… Mr. d’Amour,” Marshall said awkwardly.

Nickolas d’Amour just chuckled.

“I’m still just Nick,” he said with a smile. Nick positioned himself on an adjacent treadmill and started to program it for his preferred exercise regimen. Nick was calm and outgoing as always, but Marshall could tell there was something he wanted to discuss, and he knew what that something was.

“Um,” Marshall started, “I haven’t seen you here lately.”

“I’ve been using the branch over on Piedmont,” Nick said casually. “It’s closer to my work.”

Marshall nodded. In truth, while the Piedmont Street branch of Bronzo’s gym was closer to the school where Nick taught, Marshall’s mother, Charisma, rarely visited there. Marshall could understand why Nick would want to keep a certain distance from Charisma. Today, however, was clearly different.

“What brings you hear today?” Marshall asked. He wanted to get the issue over and done with.

“I wanted to have a word with you,” Nick answered casually, as he started walking on the treadmill.

“Oh,” Marshall said softly. “I, uh, want to apologize for what I said to Aggie,” he offered.

Nick just chuckled.

“I’m not the one you should be apologizing to,” he said. “Tell her your apology, not me. I’m actually interested in hearing your version of the story.”

“What?”

“I’ve heard Aggie’s account of what happened,” Nick explained, “now I want to hear your’s.”

“I’m not sure…”

“Relax, Marshall,” Nick said quietly. “I’m not going to haul you out on the carpet or anything. You and Aggie are both very smart, and neither one of you is prone to outbursts of this type.”

Marshall couldn’t help but feel he was being set up, and hesitated.

“Aggie apparently said some things to you that made you upset?” Nick started.

Marshall paused before answering.

“Yeah,” he answered flatly. “She spoke ill of Karen, and then tried to get me to dump her.”

Nick chuckled; a fact that made Marshall take pause.

“I don’t think it’s funny,” Marshall huffed.

“It isn’t,” Nick responded. “I’m wondering what brought this up. I guess there’s no harm in telling you now,” Nick wondered aloud.

“Telling me what?” Marshall asked impatiently.

“Aggie has been, shall we say, admiring you from afar from months!”

“So she said,” Marshall hissed.

“Why on earth did she spill her feelings now?” Nick asked rhetorically. “She’s had numerous opportunities up until now, but passed them up. Something has changed.”

Marshall gave Nick a confused look.

“I’m a math teacher,” Nick explained, “not a guidance counselor. But I’ve been around enough teenagers to know that when one is, as you kids say, ‘crushing’ on another, they either say something right away or they never say a word.”

Marshall thought for a moment.

“I guess,” he said quietly.

“I was pretty sure,” Nick continued, “that Aggie was going with the later case, especially since she knew full well that you and Karen were involved.”

“Then why did she try to convince me to dump her?!?” Marshall demanded.

“That’s what I’m trying to figure out,” Nick answered. “Something happened, recently, to make Aggie change her stance.”

Marshall paused to collect himself.

“Did she tell you about the youtube video?”

“The one with the rape accusation?” Nick asked soberly.

“Yeah,” Marshall answered.

“Yes, she mentioned it,” Nick said darkly. “There are a lot of angry parents in the tri-district area because of it.”

“I can imagine,” Marshall whispered.

“I’ve only seen part of it,” Nick continued, “but the video said some bad things about Aggie’s friend Sara.”

“Yes,” Marshall said quietly. “I didn’t know that’s who it was about…”

“Well, Aggie and Sara go to Belleville while you go to Faberge,” Nick explained. “You may not have had reason to.”

“True enough.”

“OK,” Nick continued, “so what about this video?”

Marshall took a deep breath. He still felt like he was being led into a trap, but at the same time, it was so refreshing to have an adult to talk with. Especially an adult who had some distance from the stew he now found himself in.

“The video was made by one of Karen’s close friends,” Marshall explained. “Aggie then assumed that Karen was somehow in on it.”

“What makes you say that?”

“Aggie has harbored bitterness toward Karen for ages!”

“Really?”

Marshall held his tongue and measured his next sentence very carefully.

“Apparently they had some disagreement a while back,” he said, “and it still bothers Aggie. And to be fair, I think it still bothers Karen in some way.”

“So because of a disagreement from almost two years ago,” Nick guessed, “Aggie lashed out at Karen?”

“I think so.”

“Hmmm,” Nick thought. “It’s possible that past events would make Aggie rather ill-disposed to Karen,” he offered, “but I don’t think it would be enough to make her to a one-eighty like that. Really, does that sound like Aggie to you?”

“Now that you mention it, no,” Marshall answered.

“There must be more to this,” Nick guessed.


...TBC...
Last edited by cyberbard on Thu Oct 30, 2008 6:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Another P&A vignette, p.2 of 3

Postby cyberbard » Thu Oct 30, 2008 3:34 pm

{continued from part 1}

“There must be more to this,” Nick guessed. “What more do you know about this video?”

“Well,” Marshall started, “it was designed to make Sara and her friend Penny look bad.”

“Why would someone want to do that?”

Marshall was again becoming uncomfortable. But, Nick was being very clear headed and logical, which was a welcome change.

“I’m not sure,” Marshall answered.

“Did Sara hurt someone in any way?” Nick asked.

“Not that I know of,” Marshall managed.

“Hmmm. What about the other girl slammed in the video, Penny.”

“Penny has enemies,” Marshall grumbled.

“Is her full name Penelope Levac?”

“I think so,” Marshall answered.

Nick chuckled again.

“What?”

“I didn’t make the connection at first. Aggie and Penelope – or Penny - have been rivals of one form or another since the third grade,” Nick explained. “At one time, anything that made Penelope look bad would give Aggie a laugh.”

“I don’t understand that either,” Marshall said. “She said Penny’s friends have been dropping away in droves over the last few weeks. I’m surprised that Aggie gave a hoot about that.”

Nick’s mathematical mind started processing data.

“That is a bit odd,” Nick said casually, “but back to the video. You say the video was made to discredit Sara?”

“I think so,” Marshall said.

“And that the video was supposedly made by one of Karen’s close friends?”

“Yeah,” Marshall grumbled. “And supposedly that makes Karen guilty by association.”

“Ah, we must stay the course, Watson!” Nick said, doing a credible imitation of Jeremy Brett. “There is a puzzle here, and we have yet to examine all of the pieces! We must not let emotions cloud our judgment!”

Marshall had to laugh.

“Sorry, I keep getting ahead of myself,” he said.

“So,” Nick stated, getting back on track, “we have the maker of this video…”

“Her name is Charlotte,” Marshall said softly.

“Charlotte,” Nick continued, “made a damming video against Sara, but this Charlotte has no real motive?”

“Well, I understand she’s always been prone to nasty pranks,” Marshall answered.

“But this particular prank appears to have been targeted toward Sara,” Nick explained. “Why?”

Marshall thought for several moments, trying to come up with an answer. The one he found wasn’t what he expected.

“I don’t think Sara was the primary target,” Marshall confessed.

“Penelope?” Nick asked.

“Yeah,” Marshall whispered.

“You think the video was made to discredit Penelope, more than Sara?”

“I think so.”

Warning bells were going off in Marshall’s head.

“You say that Penelope has enemies?”

“Yes,” Marshall answered, “including Karen and many of her friends.”

“Really?” Nick asked.

Marshall suddenly realized what he had said, and wished he could erase his words from history.

“According to Aggie,” Nick continued, “Penelope has been losing friends lately. What do you know about that?”

“Well,” Marshall struggled, “I don’t know much about how that happened. I only know it’s been happening.”

“How have Karen’s friends been reacting to that?”

Marshall now knew he was in danger, and needed to get away quickly.

“I’m not sure,” he answered quickly. In truth, he knew exactly how they had been reacting: they had been enjoying it immensely. Marshall felt a lump grow in the pit of his stomach at this admission. What was worse, he could tell that Nick had been watching his face. Marshall had walked right into a trap.

“How does this relate to what happened between me and Aggie?” he quipped.

“Well,” Nick explained, “look at it this way. Penelope has been losing friends lately, and that’s something that Karen’s friends wanted to see.”

“OK,” Marshall said carefully.

“Now, this video comes out, totally destroying Penelope’s reputation, and perhaps destroying Sara’s entire life.”

Nick’s words hung heavily in the air. Marshall said nothing.

“I think that’s what angered Aggie,” Nick stated. “Sara was collateral damage in what appears to be a rivalry between Penelope and some other girl. Sara was, in Aggie’s eyes, an innocent bystander. Given what you know about her, do you think Aggie would let that slide?”

Marshall thought for a moment.

“No,” he finally answered. “She wouldn’t.”

“So now we have an explanation for why she confronted you about the video and the actions of Karen’s friends.”

Marshall took a deep breath.

“I can understand her anger at the video,” Marshall stated, “but that doesn’t explain what she said to me! That colors everything!”

“Ah, that” Nick sighed. “Again, that was very out of character for Aggie.”

Marshall started running faster on his treadmill, while Nick maintained a steady pace. Nick’s cool composure was driving Marshall crazy. Had Nick come right out and said something confrontational, Marshall would have been justified in simply walking away. But for some reason, Nick wasn’t playing that game.

“I’m not ashamed of her,” Nick said darkly.

Marshall’s heart sank.

“I think what she said was foolish and immature,” Nick continued, “but she was speaking what she believed to be the truth. I fault her for being young and foolish, but not for speaking the truth.”

“But it wasn’t the truth!” Marshall hissed.

“Really?” Nick asked.

“The truth is that she has been manipulating my feelings all along!” Marshall snapped. “She’s had an ulterior motive since day one! Everything she has ever said to me is now tainted, and she betrayed my trust!”

“What did she say?” Nick asked quietly.

Marshall swallowed hard.

“She said that she loved me since the first time she saw me,” he answered.

Nick smiled and chuckled.

“Young, innocent, sweet, and totally unrealistic,” he said. “But how is it a betrayal of trust?”

“She knew I was with Karen, and she knew that I value fidelity and loyalty!”

“You’re saying she tried to seduce you?” Nick said coyly.

“Yes,” Marshall quipped. “She did!”

Nick nodded and thought for a moment.

“What were her words, exactly?” he asked.

“The exact words don’t matter!” Marshall snapped, “the meaning was clear!”

“This is my daughter we’re talking about,” Nick said calmly, “and the words do matter. With Aggie, words are everything. She doesn’t use complex images or cryptic meanings. With her, the most direct and simple explanation is probably the most accurate one. She’s young, very idealistic, and as much as I hate to say it, naïve.”

Marshall snorted in agreement.

“While you are equally young, just as idealistic, and just as naïve, but in a different way.”

Whatever victory Marshall felt deflated in an instant. He slowed his run to remember Aggie’s exact words.

“She said that Charlotte was a twisted person… and that Karen was similar. She also said…”

Marshall couldn’t think clearly anymore.

“Marshall?” Nick asked.

“I thought Aggie was my friend, and that I could trust her!” Marshall spat.

“And now?”

“She’s been trying to get me to leave Karen and take up with her, all along! Just like every other…”

Marshall caught himself again, but it was too late.

“Every other what?” Nick asked sternly.

“At Karen’s parties, girls tend to hit on me,” Marshall said, “totally disregarding my values or…”

He trailed off. He needed to get away, and fast.

“That sounds like a problem with the people you and Karen hang out with,” Nick said slowly. “Don’t blame Aggie for the actions of others, and whatever you do, don’t lump people into broad categories. That way lays madness.”

Marshall stopped his treadmill and looked and the numbers on the readout.

“So, someone in Karen’s group of friends has a rivalry with Penelope, and was willing to crush Sara to carry it out,” Nick summarized.

“Apparently,” Marshall said quietly.

“That action did considerable damage to someone who wasn’t directly involved, which enraged Aggie.”

“That’s how it looks.”

“Aggie tried to discuss this with you, but her emotions got in the way and things got out of hand?”

Marshall looked at Nick with a confused look.

“It sounds to me like Aggie was trying to warn you about the actions of someone else,” Nick explained. “That someone appears to be part of Karen’s inner clique.”

“Aggie accused Karen directly!” Marshall managed.

“That could be because she has something against Karen,” Nick said. “Her vision may be skewed in that regard. But the circumstantial stuff does put Karen’s clique in a suspicious light.”

Marshall struggled to nod.

“Aggie said something about you claiming that there wasn’t anyone you could really trust or confide in besides Karen?”

Marshall froze.

“There isn’t,” he whispered.

“Well, that’s not true,” Nick said gently. “I know you’ve had a rough ride. But you’re not alone, and there are other people in the world.”


...TBC...
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Postby Fruitbat44 » Thu Oct 30, 2008 3:35 pm

Keep it coming. :)
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Another P&A vignette, p.3 of 3

Postby cyberbard » Thu Oct 30, 2008 3:39 pm

“Well, that’s not true,” Nick said gently. “I know you’ve had a rough ride. But you’re not alone, and there are other people in the world.”

Nick took a deep breath before continuing.

“Aggie’s emotions got in the way,” Nick said gently. “She is a very passionate girl, and it’s gotten her in trouble on more than one occasion. Believe, me I know, and she comes by it very honestly. I don’t think she was trying to break up you and Karen. I think she confessed her feelings because she was trying to convince you of her sincerity.”

“Sincerity?” Marshall asked, aghast. “Believing that Karen in a monster?!?”

“Sometimes we see and hear things we don’t want to hear,” Nick explained. He paused for a moment and nodded in the direction of
Charisma’s office. “Just because something hurts doesn’t mean we shouldn’t hear it. Personally, I don’t think Karen is the problem, but someone in her clique is. I think Aggie wanted both of you to take a good look at some of the people around you.”

Marshall didn’t say a word; he simply nodded.

“You’re a smart young man, Marshall,” Nick said honestly. “I’ll be honest with you and tell you that life will force you into situations like this, but you’re principled enough to figure things out.”

“You think?” Marshall asked awkwardly?

“Yes, I do,” Nick answered. “You and Karen should watch your party friends carefully, because one of them may be a cobra.”

Marshall smiled and shrugged.

“Oh,” Nick added with an awkward smile, “and could you give Karen a message for me?”

“Sure.”

“Tell her that I would appreciate it if she refrained from calling my daughter ‘slut,’ even if she’s in a righteous rage,” he said darkly. “Insults like that can give a teen girl some real complexes.”

Marshall didn’t know what to say.

“I’ll tell her,” he managed.

“Good. It’s time for me to go,” Nick finally stated. “Aggie would like to discuss things with you, but it should probably wait a while.”

“Probably,” Marshall agreed.

“Hopefully I’ll see you around later in the week?”

“Yeah,” Marshall answered.

Marshall watched as Nick smiled and vanished into the locker rooms. Slowly, he started up his treadmill again and resumed listening to the ambient sounds of the gym.


Marshall’s mind was a whirl. He knew that Karen was capable of malice, though he didn’t expect her to go to this level. Nick didn’t excuse Aggie’s impulsive behavior; if anything he had been remarkably even-handed. That made things even more difficult. If Nick had jumped to his daughter’s defense in the usual, predictable way, it would have been easy for Marshall to disregard his words. But Nick had somehow managed to clear the air, and cut through the briars that were surrounding everything. Marshall knew that sooner or later he and Karen would have to examine the actions of their friends. Marshall wasn’t looking forward to that.


Nick d’Amour drove home in silence. When Aggie came home from that faithful jog a few days ago, she was an emotional mess. She has spewed out volumes of repressed feelings, pent-up fury, and allegations of deceit from all angles. But Nick, like any mathematician, was able to sort out the relevant facts from the rest, and while he never pretended to have a complete picture, he saw a definite pattern. He had been a teacher long enough to notice how teenagers interact, and what the cumulative result of seemingly unrelated signals could mean. He had also been a substitute teacher at both Belleville and Faberge, on more than one occasion. He had seen the players, and what they had been doing. When he tallied up the data he had, his conclusions were solid.

He disliked having to deceive Marshall, but if he had outright told the boy that Aggie’s seemingly hair-brained theory about Karen actually had very strong merit, he would have been ignored. Marshall would have to figure this out on his own. Nick had hopefully nudged him in the right direction, but only time would tell.


Unknown to both Nick and Marshall, someone had been listening in on their conversation. Karen had seen them talking, so she had quickly moved to an exercise machine that was behind a nearby partition. Neither man had seen her; so long as she kept her cool and not made any sounds, her presence would go unnoticed.

While Nick and Marshall spoke, she found herself biting her tongue. It had taken all the will she could muster to keep from jumping over the partition and begging Nick to stop. Karen had little or no difficulty in telling another teen what to go do with themselves. In fact, she enjoyed it. But Nick was an adult, and a very level-headed one at that. Against such an unflappable opponent, she had no weapon. Worst of all, Nick was perhaps the only adult friend Marshall had, and he was Aggie’s father to boot. Karen found that teenagers could be manipulated with ease, but adults were often like slow moving, unstoppable glaciers that could grind down anything in their path. She could throw them off track for a time, but sooner or later they always find their mark.

People were starting to figure out her methods, and were starting to untangle her carefully laid rope-traps. She began to wonder if perhaps, just perhaps, her twisted game of chess had gone too far. Karen was terrified.
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