General Fiction posted October 24, 2016 Chapters:  ...32 33 -34- 35 

This work has reached the exceptional level
Valerie's questions are answered.

A chapter in the book Valerie: Through the Looking Glass


by mfowler

Valerie's escape to the city is suddenly focussed when she discovers just why her father took Rufus. Meanwhile the magazine needs new information about the 'deal' and Val agrees to meet Cassius Quay.
Last time:
Valerie meets Cassius, who hands over a folder of documents.
The documents connect Bernie MacDougal to the buying of properties along the wharfs.
Julius Mmonga is keen to work on an article using their new material.
Trixie Mott serves Robert Mott with papers to reclaim her son.
Valerie meets Bernie at her father's house.

Chapter 34
Julius Mmonga smacked his forehead in frustration. Valerie watched her normally gentle-tempered boss staring at his computer screen with wide eyes.
'Why did this Cassius guy have to shut up shop just when we were all so close? ... Damn ... Val, you know what the problem is, don't you?'
Valerie stopped work. 'No, Julius ... only that you seem worried about the story.'
'Two weeks we've had these great documents. Enough to throw doubt onto MacDougal's scheming. But it's not enough. It doesn't prove he's done a damned thing wrong. He could sue us for everything if we can't back our suspicions.'
'Are you sure you can't find him?'
'All I had were those two short messages. His site's dropped off the screen.'
Julius turned the computer off. 'Guess we'll need some fluff piece to get us through tomorrow's edition.  Got any ideas, Val?'
'A couple ... but they won't be worked out in time. Sorry.'
'Then I guess the old guys will have to get busy,' said Julius. 'Sorry, Val. I'm not always a hard head ... By the way, there's some mail to sort. Will you fix it?'
Valerie walked to the mail box. Mail. There was a mountain of it. 'No worries, Julius,' she said.
Each staff member had a few letters and parcels. Political gestures and common advertising found the bin. Near the bottom she found a small envelope marked: S/V.
Cassius? she thought, quickly placed the mail where it belonged, and sat down with S/V's envelope. Valerie felt her pulse lifting and took deliberate, slow breaths. No computer, but he can find me like this.
Inside was a single photocopy page with untidy handwriting:
MacDougal's just about worked me out. Don't know how, but he's sniffing about. These blokes are dangerous so I shut down the site for now. I managed to get a few more documents before the investigation came up.
I'll meet you tomorrow. Same time, same place. And watch out for the boys in brown. They work for Muscula.
 Muscula? Oh, yes, the fitness place. Valerie thought about Julius's mood. He was rereading unused stories from the past month. Better not disturb him. I'll meet Cassius and give him all he's got to share.
Rufus was full of excitement. 'I've got a secret, Val. A real big secret. But I'm not allowed to tell you about it.'
Valerie opened the front door. 'You're a lucky boy, Rufe. Kids love secrets.'
'But I'm not telling you about it, okay?'
'Let's get you out of your school clothes, and then you can have a drink and a snack if you wish.'
Rufus looked at Valerie, his lips tight and down, and his eyes angry.
'Hurry along, Rufe. There was some apple pie left over from last night; remember?'
But Rufus wouldn't move. 'Don't you care about my secret? You're my sister, and you're supposed to care.'
Valerie sat down. 'Come on, Rufe, you said it was a secret and that I shouldn't hear it from you, so ... so I'm just doing what you wanted.'
'Okay, I s'ppose. I'm going to go back to Mummy.'
'Mummy? ... Wow!'
'Soon, I think. Daddy says he got a letter from her lawyers.'
Valerie's heart nearly stopped ... 'What do you think about it?'
'I'm excited. Mummy's better now, that's what Daddy says. I can live with her again. I wonder if they'll get back together. Parents don't always do the right thing, do they?'
Valerie held him close. Of course Trixie deserves him, but Dad's been there for him in his own wonky way.
'Apple pie! Yeah! ... I'll get changed right away.' The secret shared, Rufus focussed on the moment, his afternoon snack.
At nine o'clock Robert Mott arrived home early.
'We need to talk.'
Valerie knew this moment would come and Rufus's secret had given her time to prepare. 'Alright, Dad ... What do you want to talk about?'
Valerie sat down at the kitchen table. 'Rufus?'
'He's going back to his mother ... My lawyer received the papers from her lawyer saying her life was back on track and that she's ready to resume parenting.'
Robert Mott's emotions were flat, almost business like.
'I see. So you won't fight her to keep him.'
He sat at the table and put his face into his hands. 'No, Val, I only took him because she couldn't look after him ... I'm pleased Trixie's fixed her life. He deserves a good parent.'
Valerie sat in silence. No matter what she said she couldn't help.
'I'm a crap parent, Val. I know it, you know it. I know how to keep him happy with stuff, but he needs the tender love most ... Hell girl, you know how bad I am.'
Valerie shifted closer and placed a hand on his. Robert looked at her.
'I'm still here. Rufus is okay. You must be doing something right.'
Tears formed in Robert Mott's eyes. Just as quickly, he wiped his face with his suit sleeve.
'Thanks, Val. I didn't know how we'd be when I gave you this job with Rufus, but I'm glad I did. I sort of know you a bit now. He's been a lucky boy to have his sister over the past months. It might take a bit of time to sort out Rufus so I'd love you to stay on till then.'
'Thanks, Dad. I'm glad you did too. That'll give me time to clear out the flat.'
'No need, Val. I lied to you about that. The building's not being demolished, just renovated. The flat's yours. Always was. I wasn't going to tell you though, not until I had to.'
Valerie felt sick. 'Oh, no,' she said. ' I can't believe what you just said. I can't take it. I lied to you too. I've helped Trixie get better. Not the detox or the job or the new house, but I encouraged her. I didn't want Rufus to ...'
'Have a dad like me?'
Valerie stood up. 'Yes, a dad like you. But you're not like that dad. You're almost human. Maybe I got you all wrong.'
Robert laughed. 'No, you were right. I'm a lover, a playboy, a real estate man, but I'm no parent. Not like your mothers.'
'Didn't you hear what I said. I lied to you. Aren't you angry?'
'I kind of guessed you were mixed up there somewhere, Val. I'm just glad I got to be around you for a bit.'
Valerie tried not to, but her emotions outweighed the risks. She cried like the child of a man who'd never loved her, and they were hugging.
Sleep gave way to restless thought. Everything imagination served up about her father had been turned over and dumped. He wasn't the ogre she'd imagined and his concern for Rufus's needs outweighed every evil conjecture she'd ever devised about him.
Pale light seeped through the blinds. 'Oh, it's morning,' she said. 'Cassius.' The broken sleep and father-filled ruminations flipped away as she hurried to get ready.
She was late. Ten or eleven minutes. The morning light was even greyer than at their last meeting. The coldness of the morning heavy. But no Cassius. Maybe he only stayed a few minutes. Damn, so close.
Valerie slow danced as she waited. Her father's potential role in the real estate scam had slipped her mind through the revelations of last evening. Suddenly his face confused her again.
'You, Skyla?' asked a man's voice near her.
Valerie looked around, and there stood two large men in brown suits covered by heavy brown coats. Men in brown?
'Ah, no,' she lied. 'I'm waiting for my ... my brother.'
'You're Skyla, lady. We need to take you somewhere nice and safe.' The quiet one grabbed her arm.
Valerie shook wildly. 'Get off me, you thug!' she screamed.
'Enough of that, Skyla. You're comin' with me, right,' said the shy one.
A heavy metal clunk rang out beside her. The man in brown dropped like a sack of rocks. 'Run, girl, run,' screamed the attacker.
As she ran away, Valerie turned to see the young man in black struggling with the remaining villain. She ran back, picked up the iron bar, and whacked the man in brown behind the knees. He screamed in pain, and her hero decked him with a massive uppercut.
They ran for what seemed an hour, but it passed in minutes. Too puffed to carry on they stopped to draw breath. 'Sorry I was late,' said Cassius. 'Overslept would you believe it, Valerie?'
'I was late, you buffoon. Let's keep going until they've got no chance of finding us.'
Valerie unlocked the magazine office. 'I'll get you a coffee.'
'Don't use the stuff anymore, Val. Juice would be good.'
Valerie looked up. Cassius had dropped his hood. 'Bruce ... Brucie, is that you, really you?'
The red hair had faded, the body filled out, and his smile was as kind as any she'd ever seen. 'Afraid so, Val. Your old buddy, King Arthur.'
Valerie walked over to him and held him close. 'I hoped it was you. I really did, but I wouldn't let myself get too excited.'
She kissed him deeply.
'I've always loved you, Valerie Mott. I told you I'd find you.'
The office door sprung open. 'Morning, Val,' said Julius Mmonga. 'In early again ... who the hell are you?'
Valerie's face lit up like a fire. 'Julius Mmonga, meet Cassius Quay.'


Book of the Month contest entry



Valerie: the teenage girl at the centre of the story. Valerie has had a life of being shunted from family to family, ultimately being let down in some way or other. She has finally run away to the city to pursue her own life.
Robert Mott: Valerie's biological father, who's left two wives for lovers who were bearing his child. He's a real estate agent.
Trixie: Robert's second wife and step-mother to Valerie. After Valerie's mother died, Robert and Trixie cared for her. But, when Robert ran off with Mandy, Trixie was left to look after Valerie.
Rufus Mott: Trixie and Robert's son. Valerie cared for him in the years she spent with Trixie. Now she looks after him for her father, Robert Mott.
Julius Mmonga: the Brazilian/Australian gentleman who runs the Street Angels' magazine
Bernie: a new character, colleague and friend of Robert Mott
Cassius Quay: internet diary writer with a fascination for the docklands issue. In this chapter he is revealed as 'Bruce', Valerie's childhood boyfriend.
Other Notes:
Setting: The story is set in Australia. Currently, Val lives in the city a few hundred kilometres from her home town, Camden.
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