The Battle Plan (and Call to Arms)

I’ll do my best to keep this short.

Since November 2016 I’ve had the dream to create a nerdy empire. An online sanctuary, a haven for lots of styles of nerdom. From gaming to cosplay, beer brewing to book worms. I want build an online community like those that have arisen around PAX, Twitch, D&D and more. Adding my voice to – what I can only hope – is growing chorus of nerds using their nerdiness to shine light into the world.

I want to give back more than I take. Create more than I consume.

Building a community where we foster not only our creativity and passions, but champion important issues like mental health and personal growth. Transforming from mere individuals into a family of like-minded nerds who lift each other up in the tough times, and clap each other on the back when we succeed. Regardless of gender, faith, politics or many of the other “big issues” that pull people apart.

There’s plenty of places in the world where people can go and complain or bitch about their circumstances. Starbucks coffeeshops and YouTube comment sections come to mind. But I know if I want to see goodness in the world, I have to help create it. So this is where I tell you the plan for the foundation of my Nerd Empire.

I want to bring people together, and being only one soul in a sea of billions, I’m going to start small. With a YouTube channel called Nerd in Real Life, featuring videos on gaming, mental health and my primary creative outlet, writing. In the beginning it be slow coming together, as I’m wearing many hats behind a very thin curtain. With time I hope to have guest posters and content creators. Building a living, growing community where I am only the small acorn that developed into an oak tree.

Creating a platform not to toot my own horn – I’m not in this for glory or attention – but share happiness with others. And I know I can’t build an empire alone, it requires support from others – nerds like you – to bloom. If I had to sum up my goal in one sentence, it would be this:

I want help other nerds thrive, creatively, personally and professionally. I want this website and my YouTube channel to feel like the family couch, where there’s always room for one more and everyone has the best spot.

It’s that simple, and that daunting.

This is the Call to Arms part, in case you were wondering. I currently have Nerd in Real Life set to go on YouTube. In the coming weeks and months I’ll be adding videos, but there’s an issue I’d like to tackle as soon as possible.

Right now, this is the only way to link to NiRL: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFeEEm0–35lDAvbpFuPqKg

It’s long, it’s not pretty and it’s heckin’ hard to remember. Which is where you come in, if you’re willing to subscribe to Nerd In Real Life right now, thirty of you could make the goal of a shorter URL stupidly easy to obtain. Rather than the internet hieroglyphs above, it would become the concise and lovely:

https://www.youtube.com/user/nerdinreallife

If you’re willing to take the jump and subscribe based on a concept, you’ll have my profound gratitude. If you share this post and spread the word, you’ll get it but doubled. So that’s my big ask, subscribe to the channel and share the post to help me begin building my Nerd Empire of Happy Good Times.

I Am Not Your Inspiration

dreamstime_s_55733027

[No, this is not the picture in question. It’s also not Inspiration Porn.]

Earlier today an image crossed my Twitter feed featuring a young man with prosthetic legs, carrying a backpack and waiting at crosswalk for the light to change. Above it read [paraphrased]: “Whenever I feel shitty about my able-bodied life, I’m gonna think about that poor dude with no legs, and stop my bitching. Because if he can do it, what’s my excuse?” No, those weren’t the exact words, but that was the underlying sentiment that I – a disabled person – picked up on.

But What’s Wrong With That Picture, Jess? It’s Inspirational!

Yes, so long as you aren’t the man featured in it. Here’s the thing with pictures, articles, and memes such as these. They’re Inspirational Porn. They take an person with a disability and turn them into an object. It defines the person by their disability and only their disability. It’s something for able-bodied people to use either as “motivators” to get them off their ass [no, thanks] or a type of pitying gratitude. Where they can look at the person in question and feel better about themselves while thinking, “At least my life isn’t that bad.” Who wants to be legless, deaf or in a wheelchair, amiright?

Because nothing could possibly be worse than having a disability. I mean, according to a chunk of media currently afoot, disabled people might as well be dead [see: Me Before You]. Their lives will never be full, active or joyful again. Just pull the plug already!

Or it’s chock full of able-bodied people praising disabled people for existing. Seriously. Just for doing their thing. “Look at this [person who exists outside social norms], they’re so heroic and brave! They’re walking across the street! With a backpack! In daylight! With no shame! Breathing the same air! Like a real human! My Gods let’s give them a medal.”

Can you see how this becomes infuriatingly patronizing when you hear it day in and day out? I know the Tweeter was merely pointing out one disabled person, maybe even the only amputee they’ve ever come across, but it sensationalized an individual who’s simply trying to live their life. Imagine if you changed it to gay man, a black person or someone who is bipolar?

“That black person is walking across the street! That gay man is carrying a backpack! That bipolar person is going about their daily life, just as any other human would!”

It sounds bizarre and ridiculous, doesn’t it? It should. He could have been doing any number of things, heading to class, returning to work, enjoying the weather, or secretly storing his Furry costume in that backpack for all I care.

The Point Is, He’s Not There To Be Your Inspirational Exhibit.

If this happened to any other minority group, people would be losing their shit. Calling racism, discrimination and other such words all over the damn place. And rightfully so. Yet, if it’s wrong to patronize – or in other words, single someone out for [presumed] unwanted exposure – based on their skin color, sexuality or mental illness, why aren’t disabled people granted the same courtesy and respect?

I think it’s because, in general, people with disabilities are viewed as “less than”. Less than physically able, less than mentally competent, less than emotionally stable. And because disability is typically considered to be about loss. Case in point, people often ask how I function without the use of my legs. They also assume – particularly when I was a child – that because I use a chair I’m also automatically deaf, dumb, blind and asexual.

Surprise! I have better vision than two-out-of-three of my able-bodied siblings, I graduated with a 3.4 in high school [math was always the killer, and senior year Spanish, Dios mío! I hated Spanish], I’ve been reading classical lit since I was preteen, I’ve done solo travels to Alaska and Nevada, written several novels, had a relationship that lasted nearly a decade [with sex!], and can outsmart the techies at your local Genius Bar.

Now, I know, this sounds like a massive humble brag – and it is – but it’s a humble brag with a point.  People assume based on what they see, that because I’m in a wheelchair I must be somehow lacking. They are making [bad] estimated guesses based on what they perceive as negative, without bothering to get to know me on an individual level.

This is where Inspiration Porn goes very, very wrong for me. Because rather than get to know me, and learn that I generally enjoy my life, it only sees the picture from the outside. Making the person secondary to their disability. Making them an exhibit for pity, pats on the head and empathetic “atta girl/boy”s from random strangers.

Now, I’m fully aware the the OP did not mean offense by the post, he’s just one person pointing to something he found uplifting. He conversed with me politely and [I believe] read the article on Inspiration Porn that I shared in the thread. The individual Tweeter is not the problem here.

The problem as I see it, is the way abled-bodied society views people with disabilities. We get extra points for going to college, learning to drive, having sex [did I mention I have sex and I like it? Because I do, just FYI], having social lives and even just being outdoors.

I wish I was being hyperbolic about that last one. I’m not.

While traveling solo to visit a dear friend in Nevada several years back, an older gentleman walked past and – I shit you not – said: “It’s good to see you out and about!” Now, the man had to be in his 70s, maybe older. Maybe he still thought all the cripples were hiding in the back bedroom of the Family Estate like it’s 19-bloody-12.

url

[The Back Bedroom: Like a speakeasy for those pesky crips you want to keep out of sight. So they don’t ruin your dinner parties and carefully coordinated family photos.]

I’m being sarcastic here, which I hope is obvious. Yes, you may laugh. I won’t be offended. But where the hell else should I have been? At home knitting? Painting watercolors? At the nearest sanitarium in a fancy white coat? [No offense intended towards knitters, water colorists or people who like fancy white coats.]

Now, I smiled and joyfully replied that it was an excellent day for travel [or something like that, this was in 2006ish]. I’m used to older generations not being aware of people like me leading active lives. Because back in their day, I probably wouldn’t have. Unless my family had money, and sometimes not even that could save you. To a degree, they are a product of their era, so I try to take any colorful remarks in stride. But I do not get an extra cookie for walking across the street. I do not want the participation ribbon of life. I want to earn what I get, and that includes your misplaced “inspirational” label.

I’m A Person. Not A Hero And Certainly Not A Saint.

I’m in a wheelchair. I have depression, anxiety and PMDD. Guess what I still do? Bitch. Whine. Moan and groan about life, just like everybody else. Because I’m a person and sharing our collective pity parties about the Human Condition is one of the best parts of being alive. Especially on social media. Ooh boy, is that some good times! Admit it, we all love a good vent, a long whinge, a therapeutic whine. Or a double scoop of Schadenfreude. [cue evil giggle]

I don’t tumble out of bed and float through my day on a cloud of Sparkling Saintliness. Everyone who’s ever known me for more than for a few hours can attest: I’m not an inspiration or a hero merely because I do the things that society already views as standard procedure for the able-bodied populace. I’m a pain in the ass, a night owl, a dork, a brat, a gamer, a weirdo and more.

Don’t believe me? Ask my sisters. I have two, I’m sure they’ll have a plethora of stories. 😉 Or better yet, my mother. She’ll gladly confirm I’ve been a stubborn little shit ever since that time I made my older brother bleed, and then played the “but Mommy I’m tiny and handicapped” card on her.

The man in that photo waiting at the crosswalk isn’t a hero because he’s a double amputee. He might be a hero for serving overseas, or a multitude of other challenges that life can throw at us. But he is not an inspiration for existing. For living his life the same way you do.

Going about my day and calling my base existence an “inspiration” means you are singling me out as “Other”. Different. Special. Less Than. In your attempt to include me by praising my actual normality, you might as well point and proclaim, “THIS PERSON IS LESS THAN THE NORM, BUT LOOK AT THEM GO! WOO! GOOD FEELS ALL AROUND!”

Please, don’t do that. It makes me feel awkward and it’s completely unnecessary. It’s even more unnecessary to tweet it, where hundreds [if not thousands] of able-bodied souls can share in the exceptional joy of my “specialness”.

Trust me, the world can tell me that I don’t fit in without a single word. When I can’t get into the bathroom because the stall is too small, or there is no handicapped stall. Or some lady who doesn’t want to use the purse hook on the back of the damn door for her giant-ass hobo bag, takes the only handicapped stall instead. [Because the purse is disabled or she is? I think it’s a toss up …]

The dicksmacks that park in handicapped spaces without the sticker – or, even better – park their motorcycle in the ramp unloading section as though it’s not connected to the space. The people who – when you do your Disability Due Diligence – on a new venue will swear on their first born that they’re no steps into the building, and then you arrive and it’s like walking into an Escher painting. Because they don’t see the barrier or can’t be bothered to check.

It’s well meant, the inspiration label. I know. And I’m not mad, truly. Yet this is something I face daily when trying to find work, go to school, get a date. So if I can steer people in a better direction by writing a massive blog, that’s what I’m going to do. By pointing out my challenges, it only serves to reinforce the segregation that I – and other disabled people – face every day.

There’s A Lack Of Respect For The Person.

From what’s offered as evidence, I can only assume the photo was taken without the man’s permission. It’s shot from the back and his face is not visible. He might as well be a mannequin, for all the say he has in the image. He’s an object to be looked at, even praised [in a weird, roundabout way] but not interacted with.

Now, extrapolating from my own life in a wheelchair, there’s a strong chance this man gets stared at … a lot. Whether it’s little kids, adults, strangers, the elderly, that darling and well-intended person at the mall who – in all their uninformed wonder – is going to pray that “the good lord heals you”, doctors, physical therapists, insurance people, family, schoolmates, co-workers. In short, most people with disabilities are used to being looked at, questioned, poked and prodded. It’s a part of my life, and for the most part? I’m good with it.

Dare I say, I’m even proud to smile back at you, when you look at me in my chair. Cruising around with my best friend, carrying my nephew on my lap and being a badass aunt [yes, even you, lady who gave me a dirty look about it] and generally being a happy ambassador for Cerebral Palsy.

But to take a photo of a stranger, focus on their disability, and then use that as a springboard for your own self-improvement? It’s actually fairly gross, the more I think about it. If you want to improve your attitude, great! But do it for yourself, do it for the people that love you, don’t use my life – which you know nothing about – for your own motivational purposes.

That’s not okay.

Now, About That Top Picture …

That image I used above is not Inspiration Porn. You want to know why? He’s an active subject in the picture. He is front and center doing what he loves. It’s even captioned: “explosive start of athlete with handicap at the stadium.” Notice the word order there.

He’s not a “disabled athlete”, he is an athlete – first and foremost – and then disabled. It’s not “athlete heroically” – or – “inspirationally” explodes from the block. He just does because it’s about what he does not what he is or the disability he happens to have.

Secondly, because I purchased the picture from Dreamstime that athlete [as well as the photographer] is being compensated for his work as a model. It’s not some random dude taking a photo of him of the street without him knowing. He’s being treated as an individual, a professional, and rewarded accordingly for his work. He’s also had a say in how he is presented.

The man on the street had none of these courtesies given to him. Not respect, not compensation for his image, not even a chance to share his story. The Tweeter could have introduced himself to the man and asked him about his disability. He could have called out, “Hey Dude, nice legs!”, shared a chuckle and opened a discussion about what brought the man there. Instead? He took a photo of an already marginalized minority, slapped a feel good thought onto it, and then posted it on Twitter. All without this person’s permission.

For all the OP knows that man doesn’t see his amputee status as a challenge, something to be overcome, praised or glorified. For all any of us know, he could be happier now then he was before. Or maybe he’s like me, born with a disability and that is his normal. We don’t know anything about him, because no one bothered to ask him. A person. An individual. A human soul. Because “Inspiration Porn” isn’t about the individual. It’s about how the disabled object makes other people feel about themselves.

Gaming Is My (Other) Drug

PS4 Controllers

Doing a bit of late-night blogging this evening. I’m about to talk about gaming a lot, so brace yourselves. I’ve been gaming since January 2012 and in those three – almost four – years I’ve become a big fan of RPGs like Skyrim, Mass Effect and Dragon Age. Last year I ventured into FPS after buying Borderlands on a whim – because I’d heard Mikey Neumann’s Storytime at PAX 2014 – and I continue to expand my gaming catalogue Borderlands, Bioshock Infinite, The Last of Us, Deus Ex: Human Revolution; I love them all. Even if TLoU emotionally gutted me like a fish, and I’m stuck on the final boss fight with the airships in Infinite.

My whole gaming history is a bit of a jumble – I may be repeating myself, if so, skim for a bit – I didn’t grow up lusting after an Atari or playing Zelda. I have vague memories of watching my brother play Zelda and Mario, he’s six year older than me and thus was in the perfect age bracket when I was 6-8 for all things Nintendo. I still have fond memories of playing Duck Hunt because Mom let me play the “little sister with the disability” card, and I would shoot while sitting about two inches from the television.

Ah, the perks of childhood. 😀

giphy-1

[Hums “Memories”]

After that I remember getting a Game Gear in the early 90s with Tetris, Sonic the Hedgehog and (I believe) Aladdin, but once that died I stopped gaming for a long time. The original Playstation came out in the mid nineties and I remember my sister using it (mostly) for movies and music. I wasn’t yet the technological demigod I am now, and I stayed away. I also lived through the mass rise of all things X-Box towards the end of high-school and my twenties, and frankly, everyone I knew on the “X-Bone” were dicks. It wasn’t an environment I was keen to jump into and I didn’t give a shit about Halo or online gaming. Still don’t, truth be told.

But then … I started reading Penny Arcade and somehow or other, I heard about this game called Skyrim. I knew as soon as I started the trailer that this was a game I wanted to play. Badly. It was everything I wanted in WoW. Great art and music, intriguing stories and absolutely no social interaction with strangers required. I’d been playing WoW for a while and tried my hand at EVE, but ultimately MMOs simply aren’t my cup of tea. I have no desire to game with strangers which, especially strangers with shitty attitudes and an even shittier approach to new blood. I play games to have fun, not get shit-talked by some rando.

So I quit WoW and found something that made me much happier. Console gaming. For the record, in case you’re curious, I don’t do PC gaming. For one, I have a Mac and I like it. For two, I absolutely cannot stand using AWSD or arrows to move, so that’s just not gonna happen. Ultimately I don’t give a shit about PC vs. Mac, or X-Box vs PS vs Whatever. Find the tech that makes you happy and then don’t be a dick about it. End of lecture.

But I’ve fangirled about video games for nearly 600 words to say: I finally figured out one of the main reasons why I treasure games. Let’s be frank: I’m disabled, it’s a part of my life. And while I’ll punch you if you call me an “inspiration”, there’s some shit in life that I probably won’t be able to do. Climb a mountain, fight a dragon, drive a Ferrari through scenic Scotland at incredibly illegal speeds, romance an emotionally broken warrior with a wicked beard. I mean … look at that gorgeous beast! (Yes, I crush on fictional men. I’d also marry Joel from TLoU in a heartbeat.)

blackwall

[Blackwall: Came for the Beard. Stayed for the Accent and Tragic Backstory.]

Yet more than that, gaming chills out my brain. As an introvert I live in my brain at least 80% of them time. I constantly have a narrator running through my thoughts, sometimes it’s just mundane daily stuff, but all too often it’s negativity, anxiety and criticism. Mind you, it’s toned down a lot since I started on Lexapro, but that internal negativity is still something I have to deal with. It’s just there, it gets in the way of writing, friendships, personal hygiene. It affects my life on every level.

Gaming, along with reading and writing, shuts that voice down. Though writing can often take longer to push it into a box, and reading requires focus that I sometimes don’t have. But gaming is instant relief, especially something like Drive Club, which pulls me out of my head and puts me squarely inside my body almost instantly. As someone who is distinctly not athletic, I often don’t feel connected to my body, unless I’m running or – you know – in pain.

But I noticed when I was playing Drive Club earlier tonight, that The Voice was almost nonexistent. I was too focused on not crashing, staying on course and generally concentrating on what was in front of me, to worry about The Voice or to even give it room to speak. My brain was wholly and completely zoned in on the task in front of me. And it felt awesome.

That is why I love gaming; it’s a way for me to enjoy a great story (in the case of games like TLoU and Infinite) or a fun adventure, while completely clearing out the detritus in my brain. It’s a mental and emotional palette cleanser like few others I have found. When I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed, gaming helps me relax and flush the negativity out of my brain. Plus there’s pretty scenery, tortured men and lots of things that go boom.

[Hunt the Shadows] Tea and Whisky

T&W (framed)

Tea and Whisky

Walt was the first to get his bearings, ushering their small guest in through the door and helping him remove his coat with ease, before sitting him in a plush chair. When he waltzed into the kitchen and returned with the tea trolley laden with everything from sweets to savories, Eve finally found her words again.

“What’s next, slippers and my good whisky?”

“He’s a bit young, don’t you think?” he said, always the straight man. “Though apple juice might achieve a similar aesthetic.”

“Oh, piss off with your ‘aesthetics’ Walter!” She shot a quick look in Hubert’s direction, he was busy trying to fit an entire biscuit in his mouth in one go, and save for a raised brow seemed unfazed by her cursing.

Walter’s blue eyes narrowed at her, while he effortless poured three cups of tea. He was hardly a prude, but he was an profoundly good man who believed in honor, compassion and manners above all. She often cursed around him, but he detested fowl language around children.

“He’s a child,” she softened her voice, hoping it would do for a temporary apology. “What case could he possibly have; an AWOL teddy bear, a lost sock?”

“My brother is missing.”

Hubert spoke up so clearly in the midst of their adult bickering, his cheek no longer stuffed with biscuit. In the warm safety of their office, his determination and cheek gave way to sadness and desperation. She sat on the arm of the sofa across from him, gratefully taking her own tea and scone from Walter’s hands.

“Auntie Frank thinks he ran away, that I made everything up,” he continued, voice soft but sturdy. “But I didn’t. It took him.”

“What took him?” she asked, forgetting his age, his (assumed) lack of finances and the fact that a terrified family somewhere in the city was probably looking for a wayward boy.

“The Darkness.”

His gaze never left her face, cool and true. The fear on his face was genuine, not a child’s fear of the dark or of unknown villains laying in wait under the bed, but a true nightmare that had stalked men on the battlefield for almost six years without ceasing. The Monochrome War had claimed thousands of fighters – men and women known as Lightrunners – from around the globe, and though conflict had slowed to a crawl, some believed The Darkness had only shifted target.

That it had started taking the defenseless. One by one, children slipped into the night, falling through the cracks in the light, and then into nonexistence.

Most believed it was a myth, cooked up by coddled children and drug-addled cast offs of war. But Eve knew better. While she hadn’t served on the frontline herself she’d worked in cryptology for most of her tour, and heard plenty of tales from the front. Phantoms, sweeping waves of Darkness that thought and moved and hunted like predators without compassion.

“When was he taken?” Walt’s voice was rough, and she could hear the faintest scritch of his tea cup scraping against his saucer. Kind, brave Walter was remembering his own time on the battlefield in deep, dark clarity.

“Three weeks ago.” He toyed with the second biscuit on his plate. “I think I’ll have that apple juice now. On the rocks.”

Without another word Walter rose to fetch a tumbler from their kitchenette. Eve followed him, noticing how his hand shook as he plunked the ice in the glass. Her hand going over his as he tried to keep steady and pour.

“Are you all right?” she whispered, stroking her thumb over the back of his palm.

He stopped, not meeting her eyes and taking a slow breath. “Just a little close to home, is all.”

“We don’t have to do this, Walt …”

“Of course we do.” His blue eyes swept up to meet her gaze, disbelief mingled with passion. “He’s a little boy, losing his family piece by piece -” He stopped, swallowing hard to pull back his composure. “He needs us.”

“As long as you’re sure?”

Walt nodded, squeezing her hand in return. There was a brief moment where he considered lacing their fingers together, but in the last second he stopped himself. Evelyn was a colleague and dear friend, someone he admired greatly, and he wasn’t going to let his affections tarnish what they’d built together these last three years.

“As long as I have you?” He smiled, clear and sweet. “I’m sure.”

His smile made warmth bloom behind her sternum. Ever since the first day they’d met, a seed of affection and hope had seated itself in the center of her heart, and refused to be moved. While Eve wasn’t in a hurry to call it love, she knew it stretched far beyond the limits of friendship. One of these days she might find the right words for it, the words to identify what it was and how to tell him what he meant to her.

“Let’s go see what young Mister Jones can tell us, then.”

Before sitting on the arm of the sofa – across from Hubert and within reach of Walter – Eve fetched a pen and yellow legal pad off the desk. She knew the office security feed was already running, capturing everything from traditional audio and video to voice pitch and body language, but the old-fashion pen and paper grounded her. Giving her something to hold onto, when she didn’t have Walt’s hand to reach for.

“Why don’t you start from the beginning Hubert?”

“Hughie,” he whispered.

He met her eyes, suddenly so very young and she nodded in understanding. Hughie, it was then. With one last fortifying slug juice, he held the icy tumbler between his small hands, feet dangling off the floor even as he sat on the edge of his seat, and began to unwind his tale.

“It started with a light under the crawlspace door …”

 

[Hunt the Shadows] The Littlest Lightrunner

TLLframed

  The Littlest Lightrunner

Eve Rogers walked through the front door of her office, fully prepared for another exciting day of Tumblr bingeing and coffee swilling. It had been a slow month for Rogers Investigations with the rainy weather currently plaguing Chicago, and it didn’t look to be getting better any time soon.

As always, her faithful assistant – and secret dreamboat – Walter Carter was waiting for her as she hung her favorite peacoat on the nearby hook. He had a cup of coffee and Chicago Sun-Times waiting for her. She couldn’t help but smile, even on a Tuesday afternoon he was impeccably dressed in a pair of charcoal slacks and a crisp pale blue button-down.

“Any calls, Walt?” she asked, checking her curls in the mirror by the door. Eve might be a modern woman of 2945, but she wasn’t about to go around with hat hair. Not even from her beloved trilby.

“Nothing yet, Miss Rogers.”

She nodded idly, heading over to her desk and turning on her iScreen with a tap of one manicured finger. The vintage wood paneling came to life with everything a detective could need. News, weather, police feeds and – of course – the obligatory GoogleBook harassment from her sister. Something about late bills and withering ovaries. With a hearty swig of her coffee – perfectly prepared by Walt – Eve pushed it aside without an ounce of guilt. Her baby sister would surely get another shot at layering on the shame next Sunday, when they had their bi-monthly Family Dinner.

She was never worried about finances, Walter would never let them miss a bill. It simply wasn’t in his constitution to be late, unpressed or make subpar java. Her social life, however, was rather much like their current workload. Dismal and sparse.

“Hey Walt, you still single?” she called, as he was engrossed in paperwork.

“Yes. Is it time for Sunday supper again?” He looked up from his stack of papers, a sympathetic smile on his handsome face.

If it weren’t barely eleven in the morning, she would’ve tipped some whisky into her mug from her secret stash. She was still considering it. Early hour be damned.

“Am I that predictable?”

Walt’s answer was thwarted by a knock on their front door. For a beat they stared at one another, Eve with her mug half way to her mouth and Walt with his pen poised over a check. Clients rarely came directly to their office, preferring video calls and teleconferencing above all else. They both stood there, mentally volleying over who should answer. With a mental sigh, she called forfeit and headed back to the foyer, smoothing down her plaid skirt as she went.

As she swung the door open, Eve was shocked by the sight on her front stoop. A small boy, no more than five, with crystal blue eyes, a determined expression and a navy raincoat with orange and yellow sharks on it.

“Is this Rogers Investigations?”

“Yes,” she answered hesitantly. Surely this chap was destined for the kindergarten two blocks over. She frantically eyed the SolCab that was already zipping away. “Are you lost?”

“Are you Miss Eve Elizabeth Rogers?”

“I … am.” Her words seemed to tumble around her head like shoes in a dryer. She could feel the warm press of Walt at her back, equally confused and curious.

“Good.” He stepped inside, pushing back the hood to reveal a downright adorable mini manbun of dark blond hair, before thoughtfully shaking his umbrella out over the doormat. “Name’s Hubert Jones, I’ll be requiring your services forthwith.”

To Be Continued …

Private Investigator Eve Rogers is a tough cookie, but she’s about to get in over her head thanks to a small champion, a wounded Monochrome Campaign veteran – who might’ve missed his meds this morning – and the young magnate of the Jones Family Dynasty with her fair share of secrets.