Legal Theft: Collapse

There was no hiding from sleep. It found him and threatened his work with shaking hands and bleary eyes. And so he fought it away with tea, then coffee, and when the respected tools failed him, pills. Those worked for a time.

Empty mugs crowded the surfaces around him like wards. Every so often he would force them farther to the edges of the workbenches for another sketch, a bit of prototype, or tool. It was a bad sign when a mug finally tipped over the edge to shatter over the concrete floor, and he could only blink at the dregs and broken ceramic, wondering what to do about it.

The mess stayed where it was. He was too tired to leave his work, a bent knee was close to the floor. And everything looked comfortable at this point.

He could not hide from sleep, but he could glare at it, and curse the heaviness threatening to collapse his eyelids, and fear what it would bring when sleep finally overtook him.

Short heist this week for the Legal Theft Project. The first line came from More than 1/2 Mad. 

Legal Theft: From the Right Side

Sunrise was an acquired taste. One made palatable depending on the side you viewed it from. Where most would wake, drink stimulants into their veins, and jog around their sidewalks or duck into their sedans for a commute, Aiden preferred to watch the purpling eastern sky with heavy eyes and cottonmouth, when his night was just wearing off.

From his side, it was a reward. The universe gifted him a private finale where ever he deigned to take it after hours well-spent. Then he would fall into bed. Those others could only peer at the deep gold of a new morning from under windshields and with the dawning of their day’s tasks looming.

It wasn’t much, but it was something he could definitively feel superior about.

Aiden shuffled across the parking lot with an oil-soaked fast food bag in hand. His RV was where he’d left it, as it always was. The strewn trash and heaps of clothing inside promised nothing to any thieves, and Aiden knew personally how lazy and opportunistic the lot were. Unconcerned whether everything was where he left it, he didn’t go inside.

The sky was still mostly dark, with hints of foggy blue in the upper sky. He had time to set out the small feast of savory, greasy food on the RV’s hood and climb up. His shoe created another dent that would either pop out or wouldn’t. He sighed deeply, settling, and leaned back against the windshield.

Far away from the little parking lot, the freeways were beginning to clog as the pavement filled with people rushing towards days filled with errands, responsibilities, bosses, and noise. If they were fortunate, they might spare a glimpse for the dawn growing in the eastern sky.

A plastic straw to his lips, exhaustion setting deep into his bones after the night’s highs, and the sky blooming before him, Aiden felt like the luckiest man alive.  He stretched and made sure to savor the taste of it all.

So many thieves, of which I am one. This is part of the Legal Theft Project, where the lazy and opportunistic steal the first line from someone else and write our own piece with it. 

Legal Theft: Proper Breeding

He was not an innocent man. Tristan watched his soon to be brother-in-law shrug himself into the Canali tuxedo jacket with a growing unease. Even clothed in respectable lines and conservative black, careless malfeasance hung about Lark’s sharp shoulders like a cologne.

Tristan waved away his own attendant. His sister had final say on whatever the groom’s party wore. Tristan’s opinion on the trappings, and the wedding as a whole, was tertiary at best. However, Lark was enjoying himself amidst the scrambling staff and sleek designer wear, and it spared Tristan the fraught experience of conversing over much with him.

At least until Lark caught him staring into space in his general direction and interrupted Tristan with a salacious side eye. “Should your sister be worried? I didn’t think the Canali looked that good.”

As usual, Tristan didn’t know how to respond to Lark’s vain jibes, so he didn’t. Instead he indulged a brief fantasy where his sister came to her senses and called off her engagement to the churlish prick.

Lark shook off the hands of a tailor and stepped off the small dressing platform. The staff scattered in his pointed wake. “You’re not enjoying yourself. We’re supposed to get along,” Lark said.

“Is that part of the arrangement?” It was a poor idea to humor Lark’s banter, but Tristan was trapped and didn’t want to supply his future brother-in-law the satisfaction of seeing him storm out.  Losing one’s composure was a sign of weak character, and even Lark prided himself on being thoroughly unaffected by the opinions of others. They’d both grown up amidst the propriety and control-obsessed class. Tristan wasn’t immune to his own breeding either.

“Implicitly.” Lark answered, smiling as he sensed the fissure in Tristan’s calm. “At least for image’s sake. I’ve agreed to restrain myself from embarrassing your sister, but she plucked your strings too. Forcing you to be part of all this.” He gestured around the room with its plush carpets, mahogany liquor cabinets, and dapper mannequins.

Tristan’s mouth twitched and he reached up to adjust Lark’s slightly askew tuxedo collar before the man could react. He dropped his fingers, using Lark’s surprise to get the last word in with a genuine smile. “Then, as long as you continue to be embarrassing, we wont be getting along.”

He left the fitting lounge confident that Lark wouldn’t mention this to his sister.

A thief always, a victim on occasion. Time will tell on that last count. This weeks Legal Theft first line was supplied by me, set out as bait for potential thieves. 

One Thief…

Two Thief…

Three Thief…

Legal Theft: Morning After

He laughed around the panic clogging his throat, but his gun never wavered from its target.  Daniel stepped forward, the muzzle of the gun leading as he struggled to choke out coherent words. “You– do you have any idea what you’ve done to me?”

His target, a young man who was currently missing a shirt and one shoe, inched his hands up. “An idea. Don’t see how murder charges will help though, just saying.”

Daniel’s face worked through his host of emotions, rage, irritation, bewilderment, and of course the manic reaction to his own spiralling fate. The laughter caught in his throat this time, “Aiden, there is a gun pointed at you. Stop. Take something seriously for once, just once.”

Across from him, the Aiden opened his mouth, then shut it before saying whatever glib thought had inevitably popped into his head. Instead, Aiden nodded. “Okay, seriously then, lower that thing.”

Daniel did not lower his gun. His family’s accounts were empty, he was in a five-star hotel suite surrounded by the refuse of a weekend he could not pay for, his head pounded in the aftermath of whatever Aiden had given him. And his phone had not stopped ringing all morning, tabloid reports and his parents PR team all wanting an explanation.  He was holding a gun he’d not owned before the blur of last night. “This isn’t me. I am a responsible person, and you tricked—what did you just say?”

“Hmm?” Aiden asked, eyes round. Aiden bent and picked up a shirt. It was Daniel’s. Aiden put in on anyway.

“You muttered something under your breath,”  Danial said. Another step and he’d be pressing the gun into Aiden’s narrow chest.  His hand finally began to shake. “I am responsible. You did this, you messed me up, you drove me to this.”

Aiden held up his hands again, looking down at the gun between them.”Somewhat flattering, but not exactly correct. Your memory will come back when you come down, but let me catch you up.  You took what I offered, you used your family’s money on bottle service, dancers, and high-stakes poker, you begged a guy in the back of that club for that delightful little tattoo that I’m sure is smarting right now. That was all you and it’s been fun, but it’s too early for this.” Aiden took a step back, and upon not getting shot, started searching for his other shoe.

“It’s 11 am.” It was the first thing Daniel could absolutely refute.  He let his hand holding the gun sink down to his side.

“Early,” Aiden argued, holding up the matching shoe.  He slipped it on. “So it’s been fun but I think you have some stuff to work out. I’m gonna go…” Aiden looked pointedly at the wrecked hotel room as he sidled to the door.

Daniel felt his knees go wobbly. He sunk down to the floor, the gun dropping from his fingers. “I was going to shoot you, oh god, what is wrong with me. Look at this place, look at everything–”

Daniel looked up when the door clicked. Aiden was gone. He looked around at the room at the discarded bottles, gambling chips, and discarded clothing.  Daniel’s phone screen lit up once again with an incoming call. He fumbled for it, noting the numbness in his fingers.

You have The Gate in the Wood to thank for this week’s first line, and myself to thank for stealing it. All part of the Legal Theft Project. 

Legal Theft: Mess and Manners

The camp was busy with people getting ready for dinner. For all the soldiers dragged their feet through the rest of their duties, mess was never shirked. Hardened women and men bent tenderly over pots of bubbling stew and scarred warriors sniffed as they chopped meager rations of onions and carrots.

Not everyone participated in the nightly ritual. Raith, Calder, and Aldo bent over their own campfire. Raith and Aldo had already settled in, pulling out a deck of cards and sipping some pinched wine, but Calder’s attention was elsewhere. He watched the soldiers cook.

“Should we help?” He asked. It took a lot of work to feed everyone, especially if people wanted something more than moldy bread and salted meat. A hot meal was a treasure on the march towards a distant battlefield, even more so away from one.

“Why would we do that? They enlisted and signed for that shit.” Aldo shook his head and dealt his compatriots their hands, passing over cards to Raith and then to their youngest, and apparently stupidest, member.

Raith gave Aldo a look. She’d been the one to let the teenager join them a year back, so far the kid had been an asset, good with a sword and even better at not stabbing and robbing the mercenary band while they slept. She shrugged at Calder, “We’re paid to fight, not cook. No need to take on more work as they’ll feed us either way.”

“I know.” Calder sighed and played his first hand. “Just thought it’d be polite.”

Aldo snorted, Raith smiled, and three settled down into the game until dinner was served.

Unlike some, I am a thief, a scoundrel, and a rogue. The first line of this piece was stolen from Bekah as part of the Legal Theft Project.

Legal Theft: Welcome Back

She blinked. Then she filled her empty lungs. The air went down rough at first, her chest rising from the granite slab with a clumsy start.

A cacophonous thunder swelled around her and she jerked upwards, staring out over her audience. Her breathing came fast and unthinking now as she stared around the auditorium and the hundreds of people clapping for her.

Except they were not. Blinking again in the bright lights of the stage, her eyes finally focused on the person standing next to the granite altar. The applause was for him, the man standing between her and the dark crowd. He bowed to them, his crimson robes swirling over the tips of sleek leather shoes.

She stared at him, and the swath of people beyond him, and then the legs peeking out beneath the white shift she wore. Her legs. All of it was strange.

The crowd fell silent. She looked up at the sudden silence to find him turned to her and holding out a hand. His face was angular and lined, grey fanned from his temples into the rest of his dark hair.  He held out a scarred hand. “Welcome back My Love.”

Their audience held the breath they’d been keeping, waiting for her to move. She looked at his hand, feeling her hollow stomach begin to rebel. But the silence stretched and she caught a twitch of something dangerous in the strange man’s eyes.

Knowing nothing except the unpleasant depth to his gaze, she accepted his hand. The man pulled her off the altar and caught her deftly when she stumbled on her unfamiliar feet. “Smile.” He whispered, his breath tenderly at her ear.

It was as jarring as her first breath, but she pushed the corners of her lips into shape. The man smiled and held her close as the crowd erupted into a storm of noise.

A thief always, but especially today as I have stolen the first line She Blinked from the slightly more than moderately mad. 

Legal Theft: Cooler Than You

A perfect punch was equal parts precision and force. Smooth at first, and then, impact. That last part was the important one. If you didn’t feel the mistake drop into your stomach like a brick, it wasn’t good. Sara frowned down at the cooler and the electric pink liquid sloshing inside it.

She twisted and caught the eye of one fraternity brothers huddling over the beer pong table. “Whats in this?” She mouthed over the blare of tropical house and pointed at the punch cooler on the kitchen floor.

The fraternity had abandoned their collared shirts in the summer heat and his dark hair was mussed with either sweat or product. He broke from his pack and came over, but not before sweeping his gaze from her crimson heels to the top of her bleached-blonde roots. “Huh?”

“The cooler punch. What’s in it?” She looked down at the dingy container and its rosy contents.

The young man looked at Sara like she’d demanded nuclear codes. “Don’t worry about it.”

Sara snorted, unperturbed. Alpha Tau didn’t have the balls to attempt anything actually villainous in their communal punch. Too easy for one of their own to forget and partake. She knelt at her knees, lest he get a show, and dipped her plastic cup into the punch. Still, kneeling, she sipped and made a face up at him. “That’s what I thought.”

She held up her hand over her head to him, inviting him to help her from the awkward position. When he did, she pressed her cup into his chest. “Very smooth.”

Sara wobbled her way over the sticky kitchen floor and returned with a two of the plastic bottles from the counter. She met the his eyes with a grin, and then poured the contents of both into the cooler. The pink punch lapped against the sides.

“There, now it has some punch.”  Sara laughed mostly at his unsure expression and her own terrible sense of humor. Taking back her cup, she grabbed his too. Then she filled them both from the cooler. “Cheers”