My depraved, brooding, desolate darling.
I never expected him to be anything more than a soldier. I admit it now. I was prejudiced.
He was unkempt. His hair messy. Decidedly silent. It was his frame that interested me the most. Not bulky, I needed someone nimble. Not overly tall and lanky, I needed someone co-ordinated.
He was sitting on a milk crate, in a back alley. I liked that. I didn't want my soldier to be well off. That was wrong of me.
I thought he could be a kitchen hand.
When you want someone to do something you have to find what they want most. I hoped he wanted money. It was by far the easiest. Even though I was lacking in it.
I hated lacking in it. You never know what you have until you lose it.
He looked sad. Contemplative. He was staring at the sky, or perhaps the roof of the industrial building.
He never saw me until I walked past. He was absorbed.
I didn't hear him the first time.
"You shouldn't dress like that here," he said.
I turned to look at him, then my clothes. I was tidy. I was 'conservative' compared to the general populace. Dignified, I liked to believe.
"What do you mean?"
"Classy. This isn't a classy neighbourhood."
I was confused.
"Dressing like a skank would be better in this neighbourhood," he elaborated. "Who would appear more appealing? The classy girl you hardly see round or the the drug addicted messes you see everyday?"
I considered it. "You're right."
I considered it some more. "Do you find me appealing then?"
He was amused, I think. "You're Regina Carrembell."
"I'm Gia Hershey," I corrected. "Regina Carrembell no longer exists." Hearing the name stung.
"Only a name," he shrugged.
"Why do you know who I am? Everyone else has forgotten." I didn't want to sound challenging. I wanted to keep calm. In control.
"You were famous." His voice was soothing. He had the charm of a male siren. Very husky, a little muted.
"I was," I said. I was painfully aware he used past tense.
"Not everyone forgets, especially those who idolise you."
I cracked a smile with this interesting unruly-looking boy. "You idolise me?"
"Hardly. I have a baby sister," he said. I gathered from the nuances in his speech that he was educated. Clever, too, I guessed. Bad luck had probably found him the way he had found me.
"How does she dress?"
"Like you," he grimaced.
"A brother's paradox. Would you rather her be appealing or a mess?"
He shrugged. He had a strangely engaging gaze. His eyes weren't the vivid green most other greens had. It wasn't clear and beatiful. It was the colour of a cloudy, deep green. Like layers upon layers of what he had seen was retained in his irises.
I stood there. No, not ogling at him. I was observing a potential soldier.
He stared back occasionally. At other times, he returned his gaze to the sky. Indifferent to Regina Carrembell and Gia Hershey.
"What are you doing here, Gia? This is hardly your scene."
"How is this yours, John?"
He was amused. "Jerome, actually."
I was tempted to say 'whatever.' It sounded unsophisticated. "Exactly," I said.
"I work here," he said, looking at the red brick facade.
"101 Millicent Street?"
His eyes were questioning. "How do you know?"
To explain, we were in the alley behind 101 MIllicent Street, with no indications that it really was 101 Millicent Street.
"Research," I said.
"Is that why you're here?"
"Yes," I said.
"You're after Harry Periv? You should take the front entrance."
"I'm not a guest."
"An intruder," he said.
"I should ask you to leave," he said. He looked bemused.
"You don't want to know why?"
"I can guess."
"Guess," I said.
"Harry Periv is rich. He's also laundering illegal money through real estate. You would know, Regina-"
"He babysat you when he was in university. Your father helped him with fees at university and consequently with his job prospects." He was suppressed a smug expression.
"Let me guess, the illegal money has to come from somewhere. Where would someone so well-to-do be able to lay their hands on illegal money?" he said a low smug, vague sing-song tenor.
"It was white collar fraud money," I interjected.
"From the company that raised him, the hand that fed him Genieve," he said.
"Exactly," I said.
"And you want revenge," he said.
"Justice," I said.
"So what are you doing talking to me?"
"You're funny." His chuckle was mirthless.
"How did you know?" I asked.
"I do my own research, Gia."
I thought. "Why are you like this?"
"This. Why are you working for him?"
"You're smart, you know your employer's history. Why would you stay?"
"Regina," he said. "Do you have a job?"
I didn't answer.
"That's the difference between us, you, have the time and leisure to perpetrate your own little ideal of justice. I, need to spend every waking moment earning money because if I take one less hour, I can't make rent. If I spent my time like you do, I'd never have made it into university, never have gotten a scholarship, never have freedom from my 'parents', never have been able to support my sister, never have any prospect of moving up in this joke of a life."
I didn't answer. I didn't know what to say.
I had expected a soldier, I had instead an intellectual. I hoped he could be both.
"You say you're poor, you could fall lower still."
"You're right," I relented. "But you say it like I'm doing this purely for justice. Harry Periv, through informational assymetry duped thousands of shareholders. Not of Genieve but its fragments."
Do you know how much Tia Steel sold for?" I asked. "Genieve lost, our shareholders lost. Periv won, Realmtech won. Realmtech gave Periv black money. He's laundering it through real estate."
"What if we could engineer a scheme where Periv loses what he has gained. And we can take a cut. We can call it compensation for our circumstances," I suggested.
"Look, it's getting late, go home Regina. Pretty girls should not be talking to a 'sentry' in back alleys at this time of day. Maybe come by tomorrow, I will consider your offer but this job, illegal as it is, isn't too bad, I'm paid well, I can get by. Your offer has risks. Even if it doesn't work out, you're an amusing girl, Gia."I surprised myself that day. Regina Carrembell spent hours debating with a disadvantaged, unkempt boy. What more surprises did Gia Hershey have in for me?