ASN 6.4 Personal Hell

by Matt P.

“In case you ever wondered what hell looks like for me,” Walter offered conversationally, “This would be it.” He gestured to the scene in front of him, which to a lay observer probably didn’t resemble fire and brimstone in any sense. It was a relatively large house, certainly larger than the one that Walter and his family lived in, with a moving van outside of it and some people going to and from it. He was in his car, having driven it over from the church with only a brief stop to pick up Morgan. The Faerie Queen had consented to take back seat so that Siobhan could continue with her feet up on the dashboard, bowing to convention and comfort—and also probably buying brownie points with her boyfriend’s daughter. Which is weird to think about, Walter allowed.

“It looks fairly unassuming, Walter,” Morgan pointed out, leaning over the center console from the back seat to look at the decidedly suburban scene. The neighborhood was a nicer one, upper middle class and a few blocks away from one of Border’s other High Schools. It was across town from Walter’s house, but despite that he was well familiar with it. “And don’t—” she began.

“Exactly!” Walter punctuated, sighing. “This is my sister moving in to the same neighborhood that Benny and Analyn Aquino live in. It is people who don’t like me but I have to interact with because I love my children that will be living next to people who don’t like me but I have to interact with because of filial piety.” He leaned forward to rest his forehead on the steering wheel.

Siobhan sighed a little bit. “Lolo and Lola don’t hate you, Dad,” she offered, using the common Filipino words for grandfather and grandmother that they all preferred, although her voice sounded somewhat uncertain. “I’m just not sure they like you that much. Neither of you try to make a lot of time for the other,” she offered, her voice apologetic for the criticism of her father. He shook his head slightly.

“We tried when you were younger, kiddo, and before you were born.” He shrugged. “We all get along just fine, they just don’t like what I represent. Rhiannon ran away from Border to go to K-State, and she came back with a soldier she wanted to marry. I’m white, not-Catholic, was going to be deployed, and wasn’t from Border. I checked off all the boxes for them to dislike.”

Morgan looked out at the people moving boxes from the trucks in to the house. “And your sister…” she trailed off, raising an eyebrow.

“We’re siblings. I trust I don’t really need to explain that to anyone in the car?” He asked wryly. Morgan smirked and Siobhan grinned, and Walter waved his hands vaguely. “Margaret always took after Dad. I don’t know if she just decided his views were right, or if she decided them on her own, but she never liked that I went in to the military. She claimed that it was a waste of my talents. She didn’t seem to believe that I could have talents that were in almost exclusively destructive areas.”

Morgan leaned in to squeeze his arm, and Siobhan gave him a smile. “I don’t think you give yourself enough credit, Walter. I’ve seen you as a leader, as an investigator, and as a father. And I suspect that your sister knows it. It’s been a long time since you lived in the same city as one another, and you may be surprised at how well you get along with one another.” She took a long pause. “Also, shouldn’t we get out of the car and go help? Or risk looking like crazy people?”

Walter didn’t say anything, but he shook his head and reached to pull the keys out of the car. “At some point, I do have to wonder, if all my family members dislike me then is it really them—or is it me?” He asked with a little bit of a smirk. They all got out at that, leaving it unanswered, and walked toward the house. A woman turned and began walking toward them.

She was tall and slender, and the family resemblance to Walter was strong. She had medium brown hair that was tied in a short pony-tail behind her head, and she was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt with the emblem of the University of Colorado on it. “Took you long enough,” she said simply. “I called you yesterday to tell you we were coming.”

Walter nodded slowly. “Right, and normal people tell their family more than twenty-four hours in advance they need help moving. Also, why are you here?” He asked.

Margaret gave him an even look. “I tried calling you before, you don’t pick up my calls. And I’m here for the reason anyone moves across the country, especially to Kansas—I got a job offer.” She looked over, and had a genuine smile for Siobhan. “Hello, Siobhan; it’s good to see you.” Siobhan smiled back. “And who is your friend, Walter?”

“Margaret Richards, Esquire, meet Morgan Winters, M.D. She’s the local medical examiner, and we met on a case,” Walter explained. He debated not saying more than that and letting her wonder, but he looked over to her and saw her raised eyebrow. He did like screwing with her, a lot. With a snort, he continued. “And we’re also dating, and having enthusiastic-”

“NO,” Siobhan said quickly, shoving her father toward the moving truck full of boxes. “MORE TALK ABOUT MEDICINE AND LAW LESS TRYING TO MAKE PEOPLE FEEL GROSS.” At that, at least, they all laughed.