CH. 22: Skeletons In The Closet

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As a rule, if Brandon Selfridge didn't want to do a thing, then Brandon Selfridge did not do that thing, consequences be damned. This made times like these awkward and uncomfortable for the man. Not because these were the "exceptions that proved the rule," and such a dumb phrase that was since Brandon didn't need to prove shit to anybody, but because they happened so infrequently. Yet, here he found himself, quite uncomfortable in his own skin, standing outside the home of Jack "The Cutter" Longbaugh.

There were few places in Sunshine Beach that a person didn't go to after dark, such was the policing competence of Brandon's brother, Ray. But, after dark was the only time Jack "The Cutter" would see you, be you head of the Selfridge family or be you some doofus tourist from Liberty Street. So, if you wanted what Jack had to offer, you came to him on his terms. After dark, at the Sunken Palms motel on the sketchy, forgotten outskirts of Sunshine Beach.

It'd be easy for Brandon, who'd come alone to this two story shack job, to say, "If there was just some other way," but he would not allow himself such a self-pitying indulgence. As he'd told his children growing up, with or without the deserved beating, "You made your bed, lie in it." That was the way Otis Selfridge had raised him and that was the only way with which Brandon knew how to govern. Karma. You get what you pay for.

The broad man uncharacteristically peered over his shoulder before knocking on Jack's door and had just enough time to scold himself for looking back before Jack called out, "You don't need to knock. Just come in."

Brandon raised a telekinetic field around himself and opened the door and went inside. Sitting on the bed, watching reruns on the TV, sat Brandon's old associate. "Associate," now that was a word that fell short, but it was the only one Brandon would allow himself.

Jack, with his characteristic black eye patch, laid on the bed dressed barefoot in jeans and a wife beater, balancing a plastic bottle of vodka on his chest. He did not stir, nor offer to raise as Brandon entered. It'd been a few years, but Jack looked about the same. The fifty-five year old, gray haired and single gray eyed man still possessed a chiseled, wiry musculature beyond his years and a jawline that could shave cut ice. The only difference was the sideburns and connecting horseshoe mustache that ran down the sides of his clean shaven chin. And he still had that damn calico cat, Rascal, with its matching eyepatch of black fur, which was currently lounging on the pillow next to her master.

"Hello, Mr. Selfridge," Jack said, still immobile.

"Jack," Brandon said and took a few steps into Jack's home.

"Long time, no see. Mr. Selfridge."

Brandon took a moment on the second "Mr. Selfridge" designation. "You can call me Brandon."

Jack took of sip of bottom shelf vodka and said, "I only call my friends by their first names. I haven't seen you in four years. That's not how friendships work."

"You were never my friend, Jack."

Jack nodded. "Decades later and you're still raw about it, huh?"

"Some things you don't forget."

Jack let out a mirthless laugh. Rascal stirred but decided this scene was of no interest to her. "The Latimers are dead. And your secret with them."

"Not while my father still lives."

"Otis is still alive?" Another chuckle. "He still living in that tar-paper shack on the edge of your cornfield?"

Brandon said nothing. Jack took a swig of vodka. God, what a dump he lived in. Peeling wallpaper. Stained carpet. There were days you wouldn't catch Jack Longbaugh out of anything but five star suites. And now...

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