Fiction Friendship Drama

Leo was rifling through a small collection of torn, yellowed newspapers when the sleek limousine pulled into the gum-spotted asphalt gas station. He folded the pages, tucked them into his oversized coat. Briefly examining his reflection in the tinted window, he scratched at the smudge of dirt on his nose before opening the door and climbing inside. The chauffeur gracelessly hit the gas before Leo could situate himself.

A man in a pristine suit sat upright across from him. He held a magazine close to his face like a paper fan but didn’t read it. There were no accessories or commodities to accompany him, although Leo suspected a modest flask of vodka hid under the seats. The man looked up, his eyes penetrating and stern.

“Is this your first car ride since the police came for you?”

“Yeah… thanks for bailing me out again, by the way.” Leo turned to look outside. The browning grass blurred and flashed with the spots of sunshine poking through the trees. “Hey, Boston…” he started, but his voice faltered and escaped him.

“You need a haircut.” Boston put the magazine down and crossed his legs. He stared at the chauffeur. “Was it bad this time?”

“Not really. The staff was okay, I guess, and the food could’ve used some pepper, but mostly it was quiet and peaceful. I took a watercolor class. I’m an artist now.”

“Yeah, right. Hopefully, you won’t get caught this time.”

“You got another target for me?”


“Who is she?” Leo picked at his skin with bitten fingernails. Boston sighed.

“An old friend. Cleo Villarreal. I hate to see her go like this, but it’s for the company. She wants to take over or take us down, I’m not sure which. If I can’t keep the company going, a lot of people will suffer. It’s better this way.” Boston’s head dipped slightly. The tires tripped over the road as the pavement abruptly transformed to gravel. A rock plinked against the frame. Leo pictured a dent in the side of the limousine, a crater on the dark side of the moon.

“Oh, yeah, your company does a lot of nice things for people. Even though you’re a tyrant and kind of control the whole world,” Leo said playfully, “you’ve got some good points. With any luck, there won’t have to be any more people like me.” His skin flushed, and he quickly changed the subject. “How long will you let me live like a regular rich guy before we start?” Leo watched Boston lift the magazine again.

“There’s a charity ball tomorrow. You’ll have to do it then. She’s leaving for Spain soon, to visit family—”

“Woah, wait, tomorrow? I don’t even have my stuff! How am I supposed to kill someone tomorrow?” Boston almost rolled his eyes and Leo scowled.

“You can use the supplies provided by my family’s estate. My father was a connoisseur of sorts. He always had an especial liking for the more dangerous sports. That is what killed him, after all. He spent too much time playing with poison.” He adjusted his sleeves disdainfully.

“You’re like the Adams family. A bunch of kooks, that’s what you are.”

“You sound like my grandma,” Boston said, smirking slightly behind the magazine. They sank into silence. Leo pressed his cheek against the rattling window and watched the forest scroll by. Once, he glimpsed a family of deer grazing on the side of the road. A fawn’s ears pricked in the limousine’s windy wake, and its soft, gentle eyes followed the road to the next bend.

For the rest of the ride, Leo reflected on the past demi-decade. It was easy to adjust to captivity when you knew you belonged in the cage. After a week of clanging cells and rigid beds, his senses conceded and registered his surroundings as white noise. Only the occasional midnight groans from a disgruntled neighbor disrupted the monotonous routine. Coming back home was an undeserved and unenjoyed grace. He was never there long enough to tire of the thrum of the house’s inner wiring or the dazzling gleams of sunlight smashing through the windows in the morning.

Cleo Villarreal, Leo thought spontaneously. His soliloquy shifted as the chauffeur pulled into the winding driveway. He allowed himself to glance at the mansion’s windows, his eyes searching for the likely deserted room he always claimed when he was between captivities, the most eastern room on the third floor. I hope Cleo Villarreal sees the sunrise tomorrow.

He relished the evening begrudgingly. Numbness preceded anticipation, so he sipped some unknown and antiquated spirit, played a detached round of darts, and retired to his room after a grand styrofoam feast. Dejected and dissatisfied, he slumped against the side of the bed and mindlessly ran his fingers along the lines in the real wood flooring. Outside, clouds rolled and churned in the sky. Pink and purple hues drained from them as the sun set, leaving the massive blotches a sunken gray. The Boston Estate stood tall on a bunny slope, just as rigid and cool as the owner who resided there. Leo hardly had time to admire it, although now, in the quiet solitude, he distracted his thoughts by scrutinizing the ornate wooden claws that held up the bed frame, writing desk, and dresser. Like the rest of the mansion, his room was lavish and outdated. Everything was gold and maroon and brown. At least his cell had the good sense to shine in soft white. Leo stumbled into bed, still wearing the oversized coat with old newspapers stuffed into the pockets, and fell asleep on top of the rumpled duvet without any further ado from Boston or anyone.

Thunder shook him awake. Raindrops pelted the walls, seemingly from every direction, and rapped on the uncovered window like a familiar fatal raven. Nevermore, the rain seemed to say, nevermore, poor Lenore. Leo threw a spare pillow at the window. He didn’t know anyone named Lenore, and he doubted he would ever meet her. The pillow flopped onto the floor and stilled. A grandfather clock in the distance clanged flat and soullessly twice. Shadows swirled and danced around the room, twisting like fish in a bucket.

Leo jumped out of the bed, exasperated and afraid. His shoes clunked and his heart spasmed as he sped down the hall to the stairs and then to a cracked-ajar door. He halted, composed himself. He took a deep, shuddering breath, and the next came more naturally. He pressed a clammy hand to the cool doorknob, then entered.

Boston sat in a trance at his desk. The room was nearly identical to Leo’s, except for the person inside and the effects of time. Leo noted the consistent scrapes near the chair, which he knew came from Boston’s irritating scraping along the floor every time he moved. He shifted now to face Leo. The chair legs squeaked.

“What are you doing?” Leo asked. Boston gestured to a small safe on the desk. Newspaper clippings, pictures, and articles were scattered in and around it. The most legible one read: “Boston family company provides homes for hurricane victims.” Another mentioned old Mr. Boston’s dying wish to donate his corpse to science. The next described his unfortunate struggle with heroin and cyanide. Leo pulled his own newspapers out of his coat and set them in front of Boston. “In case you missed any.”

“Thanks,” Boston said curtly. He clapped a lifeless hand to Leo’s arm. “Thanks.”

“No problem. I know you like to keep track of all this stuff. Seems helpful.” Leo took a stack of papers and started sorting them by date, matching the system Boston had used since the beginning of their peculiar partnership. “Don’t you think it’s a little excessive sometimes?” Leo averted Boston’s wide eyes. “Hear me out, I mean… I don’t want to go back to prison and wait for you to convince them I’m crazy or bribe a judge or whatever it is you do to get me out.” Boston’s face hardened. “And I don’t want to kill Cleo,” Leo added spiritedly.

Boston froze. “Wait,” he started slowly, “do you really think I want you to kill Cleo?” Leo squirmed.

“I think you could find some way to convince her not to attack your company that doesn’t involve wiping her off the face of the earth. I mean, come on, don’t you love her?” Leo stood straighter. “She’s your sister, how could you just toss her out like old garbage?”

“You didn’t have this problem when you agreed to toss out my father!” Boston was standing now, the full severity of his figure realized. “You didn’t care at all when we framed him for suicide! Cyanide addiction! None of it makes sense, but we do it for the world! I can’t cater to someone just because she’s related to me!” He was frenzied, crazed, his eyes bloodshot and searching for something concrete to hold on to. “I feel about Cleo the same way I feel about you. I’d never hurt you unless I had to—you’re like family.”

Leo stood in a stupor for a moment, then scrambled into the hall and slammed the door shut. A small crowd had gathered outside. Leo recognized a cook, a gardener, and two housekeepers among them. The cook held the door fast while some strangers barricaded it with the hefty grandfather clock. The ticking clashed with Boston’s thrashing and screaming.

“You’ll keep my secret! Our secret! I’ll kill you, I swear I will, I’ll kill you if you say another word!” His voice was hoarse and hysterical. One of the housekeepers mumbled into her phone about the delusional master of the house.

Leo’s voice broke. “You said we were done with this sort of thing after you made me kill your father. He was like my own father, too, you know that, and in return, all I got was some watered-down excuse for freedom.” Hot tears hugged his face as he continued. “Now we’ll both be locked up!” His tone changed from desperation to vengeance. “At least Cleo can claim your company. She’ll do good things with it.”

Boston cried out a sick, animal scream. The pounding ceased. Leo and the bewildered staff paced up and down the hall, traced the stripes on the wallpaper, or indulged in various nervous compulsions. The gardener muttered to himself in what sounded like Italian. The grandfather clock’s pendulum swayed back and forth, counting the seconds as sirens accompanied the approaching red and blue lights.

Cleo Villarreal visited Leo the first morning of his final imprisonment before she left for Spain with her family. Knowing she would inherit the Boston fortune and business was consoling. She would handle things more gracefully. He tried to convince her to see Boston, just once, but she refused. “That man is not my brother,” she insisted, although her icy countenance suggested otherwise. Her eyes turned pink. She looked away. “I heard about what you did to my father.” She smoothed out her long sleeves. “It wasn’t right.” Her whole being seemed to spark and sputter internally surrendering to a deep blue calm. After a moment of silent, uninterrupted reflections, her heels click-clacked away, and he never saw her again.

He never saw Boston again, either, and he didn’t bother to ask after him. Leo slumped against the bed. The hard edges pushed against his spine. The fluorescent lights hummed and flickered relentlessly. He started scratching figures on the faded white walls.

December 03, 2020 16:23

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