My phone beeps and beeps with new messages, driving spikes of pain into my morning hangover. Grabbing the phone, I smash the passcode with such ferocity I must repeat the process several times before I unlock the screen. It’s Ana. Twenty-three new messages. Jesus she never fucking sleeps. Holding the phone out at arm’s length until my eyes can focus on the texts, I ignore the nausea and disorientation from gallons too much alcohol.
You didn’t do the dailies yesterday in the game. Or answer my emails. How much vodka did you drink? Answer me!!!
My head throbs and she is bugging me about a video game. I just can’t with her sometimes. I run to the bathroom and dry heave into the sink. Nothing but bile and bitter memories of last night. Oh, but these damn texts.
I know sometimes I don’t tell you all my plans, but this is important. Play the game. Complete the daily challenges.
I press my forehead against the sink. The porcelain feels cool against my skin and brings a moment of relief to my pounding headache. Sitting on the toilet I try to think of something to say to Ana. What is she talking about with a video game?
Why, Ana? What the entire fuck?
In an instant the printer whirls to life and begins spitting out pages. Moments later a new text arrives from Ana.
I prepared a list of players in the game that Saul flagged for failed background checks. Many of them in the group chat you were invited to but never showed up to check out. Do it. Read the fucking list, Ella. Before you start drinking, please. I’ll make it up to you later semi pinky swear promise love you.
I force myself to stand and walk to the bedroom. Packing a bowl, I sit in my dressing room smoking while I wait for Saul to make an appearance. He’s likely hungover too. As if reading my mind, he enters and without a greeting brings the papers from the printer to me.
“Where’s my coffee?” “Jesus Christ, Ella, I’m not the fucking butler.” I shrug. “I want coffee. Give me that list and go get me a coffee. Black. I need to wake up, Ana is having a fit.”
Saul slams the door on the way out, leaving me to the list. There’s a note from Ana attached to the stack of papers.
Of the 50 players in your guild, eight didn’t pass their background checks. Here are the names and their files. Saul has their FBI background checks loaded onto your computer if you wish to read those as well. I’ll visit for lunch and we can discuss the list.
Tossing her note aside, I scan the list. Eight of fifty. Mostly wealthy young white males whose fathers and connections have kept them out of trouble. With a sigh, I close my eyes. Ana wants me to work. I’m not ready. I’ve been enjoying my pandemic vacation from all the parts of me sometimes I wish would melt away.
A new text arrives. Opening my eyes, I tap my code to unlock the phone.
The first name on the list is a local. In our town, Ella. I need you to wake the fuck up, NOW!
I shake my head. No. A rapist in Uxbridge? Not on my fucking watch.
“Saul!” I scream.
He returns within seconds with a tray and places my coffee on the nightstand.
“Thank you, I take back all the bad things I said yesterday about you.”
I point to the list. I know he knows what I will say, but I say it anyway.
“Bring this man to me.”
He lets out a low whistle and waits, as if expecting me to say more. “Ana wants him followed, not brought in.”
“Tell Ana not to tell me how to do what I do. Bring him to me. At once.”
Saul nods and exits the room.
I take a deep drag off the pipe and let the swirling chaos in my brain take me to another place. The room melts away and I can begin the routine. It’s time for a trial.
STAY TUNED FOR THE NEXT INSTALLMENT A TRIAL AT HOLDEN FARMS