THE GNOMES’ ARMS PUB
“What did the lawyer say?” Vlad asked as he swept into the bar.
Sarah squeaked and pasted on a smile on her face. “Ummm…you know. A few things. We’re making some progress.”
“They ain’t say shit,” Latimer countered, “And we are making no progress.”
The headache Vlad felt earlier had now become a full-on migraine. It began to whisper:
“What. Do. You. Mean.” he bit out.
“Exactly what I said,” his old friend huffed, “You, buddy boy, have run through every legal organization from here to Selvadorada.”
“Impossible,” Vlad snapped, but he wasn’t sure if that was true. “Give me the phone,” he growled, snatching it from Latimer’s hand and redialing the last number.
“They do not want to help us,” the sim hissed, trying to take back the phone, “They already told us that you are a liability.”
“They are lawyers,” Vlad scoffed, “Dealing with liability is what they get paid for.” He paused, pleased to have gotten past the answering service. “This is Vladislaus Straud. I’m calling to hire a lawyer.”
There was a brief silence and then a sigh. “Mr. Straud, as we told your compatriot. Spencer-Kim Law is unable to represent you or your family due to your previous criminal—”
“Criminal?” Vlad cried, “I was sued by my ex-wife. And never formally charged. It was easier to pay off the case.”
“Yes, and the firm spent a large amount mounting a defense against Ms. Faba’s accusations only to be let go before the trial ended.”
“You were lucky you were let go because had you continued, you would have lost, and then I would have been forced to take apart you and everything you love until the embers of my rage finally—” Vlad heard a telltale click. “Hello?” He whirled around to find Latimer smirking.
“Oh yeah, you’re right. I can’t imagine why they won’t help us.”
“Fuck off,” Vlad growled.
“Gladly,” Latimer spat, “Except Alice is in jail, and I don’t intend to leave her there. Meanwhile, you can’t just keep your cool for one llama-forsaken minute, and that’s why we don’t have a law firm!”
“So it’s my fault?” Vlad heard his voice rumbling off the rafters, but for the life of him, he could not calm down.
“I mean to be fair, it’s also the military,” Sarah added, “No one wants to take on a case with so much government red tape and classified documents. Clive Beeden—”
“Do you hear that?” Vlad slammed his fist on the bar, “Clive Beeden is preventing us from getting Alice. Aren’t you fucking thrilled that I left him alive?”
“Obviously, I’m not! But for once in your life, could you decide the answer is not to kill someone?”
“Kill someone?” Michael took a step back, “Are you guys in the mafia or something?”
“Yes!” Latimer shouted, just as Vlad shouted, “No!”
“This is about the Oasis lab, isn’t it?” Vlad pointed at his old friend. “And Betty’s job? You never forgave me. I apologized! I did penance, but it’s not enough. You keep her notes in a box in your room just to punish me every time I vacuum!”
“I keep the notes in my room because she was my fucking wife, and I loved her!”
“I loved her too!”
“Don’t you dare!” Latimer shoved him, “Don’t you dare try to compare your grief to mine, you smug motherfucker!”
“Hey!” Sarah immediately jumped in between them. “Enough. This is about Alice. We don’t care what you do,” she shot Michael a sharp look, “We are a community, and we don’t rat each other out. Now here,” she set two bowls down on the table, “Have something to eat because you’re both stressed out and hangry and you need to think.”
Vlad closed his eyes, willing the screaming in his head to stop. He took a seat and mechanically shoveled the food into his mouth. After he finished choking it all down, he calmly asked Latimer to step outside. And even though minutes ago they’d been at each other’s throats, the sim helped him find a trash can so he could heave it all up.
Shaking with effort, Vlad eased back from the bin. “I’m getting her out.”
“Vladislaus, she can make it a night,” Latimer helped him stand, “I’m sorry I yelled at you. Let’s just think and call some more places in the morning.”
“She can’t stay the night.” Vlad could feel the panic clawing up his throat. “She’s been there for hours, and that’s already too long.”
“I spoke to her. She’s calm. She’s alright; she said she’s been through this before. Please, let’s just—”
I’ll put a fire inside of you.
“I cannot bear it,” Vlad shouted. He trembled as he tried to take a breath. “If I don’t go, Latimer, I will lose my mind. She cannot stay there. Do you understand what I’m saying? Not a day, not an hour, not a second.”
Latimer’s eyebrows rose. The sympathy etched on his face was almost too much to bear. “I know what you’re thinking, but she is not you. A night, Vladislaus. Not 500 years, just a night. Just until we can figure it out.”
Vlad didn’t answer. The grip on the beast inside him already slipping, so he turned and walked away.
“What’s your plan?” Latimer called out angrily. “She don’t need you to be a monster. You can’t kill to solve this!”
But he could.
I’ll put a fire inside you, Miko told him, And your hunger will open doors and lay waste to worlds.