Here’s a scene from Marked, I believe, that didn’t fit the sweep of that already complex book, so it got left on the cutting room floor. In response to Paulsen telling Adam to get a license or get out, he goes for help to his brother whom he hasn’t talked to in years.
All rights reserved. Copyright Alexandra Hughes.
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The low, squat building had been constructed right after the Tech Wars, so it had three-foot-thick concrete and likely a semi-independent electrical system routed through a clarity filter, just to be sure. Windows were arrow slits, but the bright sign out front said in green letters, “Johnson, Minez, and Ward, Attorneys at Law” on the top half and “New Start Psychological Counseling” on the bottom. I was here for the lawyers, though I’m sure I could use a shrink just as much.
A man in a ridiculous red spiked-hair hairstyle —and a conservative collared shirt and pants—sat behind a large textured-concrete desk.
“How can I help you?” he asked.
“I’m here to see Brian,” I said.
He looked down at a paper book I couldn’t see clearly because of the angle. “There’s no appointment listed,” he said.
“Tell him his brother is here,” I said.
Brian came out five minutes after the receptionist went in. He was dressed in a striped suit with an odd collar I was betting was designer. His tiepin was certainly some kind of precious stone. He’d done well for himself, that much was obvious.
He stopped, just past the desk, staring. “Adam.”
“Brian,” I said, hands in pockets.
“What has it been, eight years?” he asked.
“Something like that.” He’d sent a Christmas card every year with an invitation to share the holidays with his family. Every year, even on the years I’d been very hard to find; the card had ended up somewhere that came to me, anyway. Once it had been January before it had reached me, but it had reached me. “Can we talk in your office?” I asked.
He shook himself, almost. “Of course.” He walked back to a large wooden doorway, the third in a long hallway. He held it open for me. His mind was desperately working, trying to figure out why I was here, now. I didn’t blame him.
“Nice office,” I said, as I entered. It was. Another heavy desk, this one of marble or something much like it, with two heavy chairs, behind and before it. A beautiful landscape of cliffs with windsurfers in the ocean below decorated the wall behind the desk. The wall itself had He had several pictures on the desk turned towards him; I could have gone around to see how old his kids were now, or how his wife looked, but I didn’t.
He closed the door and I sat in the guest chair, sinking into its leather plushness. I sat up as straight as possible in the chair, scooting forward so it wouldn’t eat me alive.
The phone on the desk rang; he apologized and picked it up, listening for a moment. “No, reschedule and hold my calls. This is more important.”
He hung up and stood, awkwardly. I reached out to read him; he didn’t want to hug me, as it had been too long and he didn’t know how I’d react. He didn’t want sit down behind the desk, as the power differential looked too great. He settled for perching on the edge of the desk closest to me and offering a small smile. “It’s good to see you, Adam.”
“Thank you,” I said. Then I paused, not knowing how this was going to go. He was staring.
I dipped back into his head in self-defense. Brian wondered if I needed a place to stay or some money. My clothes looked neat, well-pressed and of good quality; my eyes looked clear, and I didn’t look sick. If I asked for money he’d probably give it to me. He had two hundred ROCs in his drawer from a recent client who’d payed in cash.
I stood up. “Maybe coming here was a mistake. I don’t need your money.” I walked toward the door.
“Wait.” He winced; I could feel the wince even across the room. “Wait, I’m sorry. I’m not used to a telepath in the room anymore. I’m glad you came to see me. I swear to you, I am. You can read me.”
I turned around. He was glad, if cautious and more than a little confused. That much was true.
“I’m not here for your money,” I said. There had been plenty of times I could have asked for it, when I’d needed it far worse than this, but I’d been ashamed. I’d been ashamed and he’d always had a great security system. Not worth getting anywhere close, either way.
He took a step forward, seeming earnest. “Is there something I can do for you?” he asked. “I mean, I assume since you came to the office and not the house…”
“Yes. Um, yeah.” I took a breath. “I—I guess I’ll just come out and ask. I’m trying to get a PI license; I’ve been working with the police. I have the sponsor and the paperwork all ready to go. I have the hours. I’ve even passed the shooting exam, though it’s an idiotic requirement since I can’t legally carry a gun outside of a police escort.”
He blinked. “You want to get a PI license. That’s why you’re here.” He was surprised.
I ignored the subtext. He had every right to be surprised. “That’s right. They’re denying the package for some reason. I think it’s prejudicial. The Second Chance Act means I should get the same treatment as everyone else, if I have the rehab and the testing. I do; almost four years clean, all the I’s dotted, all the T’s crossed. I have—” I paused, to get the frustration out of my voice. “I should have been accepted.” I looked at him. “My job depends on the certification. I need your help.”
He exhaled, all at once, and his forehead creased with that thinking look I’d seen so many times growing up. Part of me relaxed one, crucial degree. I’d gotten his attention. Brian had always been a bulldog when you got his attention, and while this wasn’t his specialty in terms of the law…
“What’s the time limit we’re working with?” he asked.
“We have a few weeks, but no longer,” I said. “I’ve gone through as much as I possibly can with the department lawyer, but we’re past the time he can spend on it and I’m out of ideas.”
He nodded, face creasing again.
“I probably can’t afford your usual fees,” I said. “But if you’re willing to do a little extra paperwork to work with the department directly I will make sure I pay something for the time.”
He shook his head, going back to the desk to grab a notebook and a fancy pen. “Don’t be an idiot. My only brother shows up out of the blue after years without contact, I’m going to help him.” He looked up, as if in response to a noise I’d made. Only a thought; he had a small echo of the gift I had. “I’m going to help you, Adam. I am. Just don’t go disappearing on me again after this, okay?”
“I won’t come to Christmas,” I said, toe out drawing the line. “I don’t do Christmas anymore.” It made me think of my mother before she died and being around his family would just make it worse; these days I usually worked through the holidays with Cherabino.
“Fine.” He looked up from writing a note to himself on the paper. “We’ll do this however makes you comfortable. Just… don’t…”
“Don’t push,” I said. It had taken every bit of courage I’d had to walk in this door to begin with.
“Not pushing,” he said. He pulled the chair back around the desk and sat down, paper in hand.
“Let’s talk about your problem then, and how we can solve it. Dad would be very—”
“Neither one of us tells Martin,” I said, voice cold. “Or I walk.”
He blinked. “If that’s the way you want it.”
“It’s the way it’s got to be,” I said.
He took a breath, and like Cherabino’s refocus, his emotions flipped a switch to become cool and professional. “I assume you brought your paperwork,” he said.
I nodded, and fished it out of the bag.
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