Sunday, October 29, 2006

Childhood's End - Chapter 1

It could be worse, Rowena kept telling herself. It could be Harlem.

Mark had rented her a loft sight unseen, smack in the middle of Manhattan's Meatpacking District. While the area had moved away from its name-giving origin, it now housed a large contingent of hipsters, artists and other bohemians, and Rowena didn't know whether putting her into the middle of that was an act of cruelty or ignorance. There was literally nothing in the whole unit except for what Mark had promised to have delivered to her, so Rowena reached into her duffel bag and withdrew a tightly-packed bedroll for the first night. She pondered unpacking her stuff, but there were no cupboards or closets to put anything in. And God, did these people ever clean the windows?

She got up from her semi-crouch, walked into the bathroom - at least some evidence of civilised life! - and took a good hard look at herself and where she had gone wrong.

Trinity always went on about how Rowena had her father's eyes, but that was demonstrably false - her brown was much lighter, obviously so. Maybe they shared the same soul behind it, but it seemed like Trinity was all too eager to draw parallels between father and daughter, both for her own and Rowena's benefit. The hair? Okay, she had to give Trinity the hair, that was pretty close, even if Rowena's black was razor-straight to her father's slight creasing. No matter; she wore it short, and somewhat spikey - judging from the people she'd seen on her way in, her bad hair day was Standard Operating Procedure for the people here, and she didn't feel vain enough to fuss about with it that much. The face was a dead giveaway...that Italian heritage shone through, as if Michelangelo himself had chiseled the archetypical Logan family face onto one of her ancestors. She dumped her jacket, and began to examine her body a bit more self-consciously. There was no denying that Rowena was in excellent physical shape - she'd met girls who'd kill for her figure. But that ackwardness of being in the middle of a growth spurt was hard to shake. Her limbs seemed long and lanky, a semi-detached look at her breasts left her wondering whether that was worth the attention of fine young men, and she didn't have to uncover her belly to be haunted by the picture of that long, surgical scar again. Oh, and then there was the gun, that damn Belgian Five-seveN Trinity had talked her into, which was atleast more practical to wear in a shoulder holster than an albatross around her neck.

This is your life, Rowena Logan.

There was a knock on the door; Rowena checked her watch and figured that her benefactor was a bit early. She grabbed her jacket, walked over to the door and opened it a crack, spotted Mark and let him into the apartment. He was a big, hulking presence as always, uncharacteristically decked out in slacks and a sweatshirt underneath his trenchcoat, but he carried himself like a dangerous man and Rowena knew that he was hiding more weapons than most soldiers would carry openly.

"Nice," he said, taking in the bare walls and windows. "I have some furniture in storage down in Jersey, it'll be here later tonight. Power, telephone, cable, net - already here, the sockets should be live. Do you..."
"No, I have..."

The two looked at each other, and Mark shrugged, unable to figure out what to say next.

"So, when do we train?" Rowena asked.
"After you're settled in. Oh, almost forgot..."

He reached into his coat, drew out a small package and gave it to her.

"Birth certificate, social security number, driver's license, gun range membership, concealed carry license..."

Rowena opened the package and riffled through the documents, giggling all the way.

"What?" Mark asked, his face dark with concern.
"Faye Rollins? Where'd you come up with that?"
"It's just a name."
"A stupid name."
"I had it lying around, the documents work for you."
"So that's the name on the lease here, too?"
"'fraid so, kid."
"I oughta kill you..."
"We'll practice later," Mark said, and his grin agitated Rowena, because she got the distinct feeling that this guy was playing an elaborate private joke on her.

"Knock knock," came a voice from the door, and Rowena spotted a 20-ish woman whose sober blouse and skirt combo was fighting valiantly to resist infection from the sheer zaniness and multicolor sparkling that was her hairdo. "Hello, guys. You're Faye, aren't you?"
"Yep, that's me," Rowena said, trying to inject some cheer into her voice. "Faye and Fayer."
"I'm Trish, the landlord."

Rowena gave her a mock salute. Trish laughed at that.

"What's it with us perky girls and the business suits, anyway?" She walked into the loft and shook Rowena's hand, then turned to Mark. "And you're...Daddy? Uncle?"
"...uncle," Mark replied. "Gordon Rollins."
"Nice to meetcha," Trish replied. "So, what brings you guys here? The history? The artist├ęs? The choice of ten Starbucks in walking distance?"
"I just need a place to stay," Rowena replied.
"Striking out on your own for the first time, hm?"
"Pretty much."

Trish nodded as her face took on a more motherly expression.

"Don't worry, sweetheart. You're in good hands here."
"I, well, I should be leaving," Mark said. "I'll be back with the stuff later."

It didn't take Mark very long to clear out.

"How old are you?" Trish asked.

Rowena fished her new ID from her pocket, accidentally letting her holster straps show without noticing.

"Wow," Trish said. "That must've set you back a good bit."
"My uncle took care of it."
"Figures. Why aren't you staying with him?"
"It's the whole 'striking out on my own' deal."
"That why you're carrying?"
"...girl's gotta defend herself."
"Let me guess, you have a license."
"Right here."

Rowena fished out the document.

"You're a straight-up Byron, girl," Trish said.
"Mad, bad and dangerous to know."
"Just like everyone else here," Trish replied and smiled. "Now, how about we put that fake ID to good use? There's a watering hole at the corner..."
"Right behind you," Rowena said.

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