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{part 2 of 2} NOT KNOWING JUST HOW FRAGILE
IP: 73.169.141.32


Hook
[ A L L W E A R E I S B R O K E N G L A S S ]


SAMPLE

"Mr. Hooker?" Hook jolted out of his reverie, shifting away and hunching his shoulders as the guard reached a tentative hand towards him. The man gave him a small, patient smile, but Hook couldn't miss the slight impatience in his expression. "Shall we get going?"

Hook studied the corrections officer for a moment or two longer, then inclined his head and started down the walkway. Some shouted their farewells as he limped past their cells, a few more remarked over what a lucky sonofabitch he was, and others sat in thin-lipped silence, gazes narrowed and arms crossed in stony, envious silence. As the guard in the lead paused to unlock the door, Hook sent a final glance over his shoulder at the stark environment he'd called home for the last four and a half years. His gut clenched, a faint buzzing in his ears, and then the door clanked open and the three stepped inside. The door was locked again behind them, and then they were through a second set of doors. So many doors, so many locks. Down the hall they went, then down a narrow stairwell, then at last, only one interior door remained.

"Your belongings, Mr. Hooker," said the woman at the desk from behind her thick glass window. Her smile was softer, more genuine as she listed off his items and had him sign for them. Some things were missing, which came as no surprise. He was 25 years early for pickup, after all. What 55-year-old with a brain injury could possibly remember - or care about - the belongings he'd had as a young man? Hook looked expectantly at the woman, who hesitated a second before smiling again. "That's everything, Mr. Hooker. You're... free to go." Hook glanced at the door uncertainly, swallowed hard, and shuffled towards it.

"Ah!" the woman added, and Hook froze. The butterflies in his stomach turned to lumps of ice, his body going tense as he looked back at her. The woman beamed, giving a little awkward wave. "Happy birthday, Mr. Hooker!"

Hook inclined his head and slipped out the door in silence. The wide-open courtyard made his heart thunder in his chest and his mouth go dry. A guard waved him over, pushing a button so the exterior door, wrapped in barbed wire along with the rest of the facility, opened. Hook watched it slide slowly open, trying to ignore the way the unfamiliar suit grated on his skin.

"Don't come back, ya hear?" the man joked, popping his gum obnoxiously. "You won't get so lucky twice!"

He was still chortling as Hook shuffled away. A tidy black Mercedes waited in the parking lot, the lean young man leaning against it hurried to shove his cell back in his pocket and rushed over.

"Nate!" The man called, a wide grin on his handsome, familiar features. Gabe caught Hook in a big hug, ignoring the way his older brother went stiff and still in his grip. He pulled back, keeping his hands on Hook's upper arms, and smiled into his eyes. "I came to get you! Nance and I were thinking you could stay with us for awhile, until you're back on your feet. How's that sound?"

Hook inclined his head, trying to banish the way Gabe had looked at the trial. He'd always wanted to think Hook was innocent, had always said he did, but... Gabe's gaze flickered away, unable to hide his slight disappointment, and Hook shifted uncomfortably. Regardless of what had happened at the trial, Gabe had been making a real effort. He'd visited every weekend with updates while they worked to get him released, and now he was here to pick him up. Hook cleared his throat.

"Yes, that would be nice," Hook replied, trying to ignore how foreign the sound of his voice and the monotone, slightly slurred words were to his own ears.

Gabe beamed again, slapping his brother on the shoulder. Hook fought the urge to flinch away, pasting on a rather poor imitation of Gabe's smile. "Let's get going, then!" He gently took the small bundle from Hook's arms, moving to set them in the trunk.

The trunk slammed shut and Hook winced, his heart thundering in his chest as his palms went dry. Gabe moved to the driver's side, grinning at Hook over the car as he carefully drew open the passenger door. The brothers entered the car at the same time, doors closing almost in unison. Hook carefully belted his seatbelt and rolled the window down to disguise his unsteady breathing. Were car interiors always so small?

"About Anna and Matthew..." Hook hunched in his seat as Gabe put the car into drive and gently accelerated. Gabe shot an anxious look in his direction and quickly changed subjects. "We're putting on a barbeque on Sunday for you. We invited a few of your old friends from the force. I talked to the Maples about getting the kids too but... they've got stuff going on that day, I guess."

"That's not a good idea."

Gabe tsked. "You're an innocent man, Nate. Everyone knows that now. It'll be awkward for awhile, I'm sure, but the only way to get over it is to move through it. And they're your kids, Jenna's parents can't keep them away from you forever."

Hook studied his brother's profile for a moment, the stubborn firming of his mouth and scrunched brows. They'd always had each other's backs as kids - as military brats, they hadn't really had a choice. It seemed some things hadn't changed as much as he'd feared they would.



The subscriber you are trying to reach is currently unavailable, please leave a message after the beep.

"Anna, it's..." the words died on his lips. He cleared his throat and tried again. "It's... your d-father. Um, Nathaniel Hooker. I mean..." He sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. She knows who you are, idiot! "I'm staying at Uncle Gabe's and I was thinking maybe... you and Matthew could come visit sometime. Just for a minute, even. I just want to see you both. It's been-"

The receiver picked up and Hook held his breath. It slammed down a second later, making him wince. The dial tone sang obnoxiously in his ears, making him fiddle with the smartphone for a long moment as he tried to find the button to hang it up.

"Nate?" Gabe called up the stairs. The smartphone tumbled from Hook's trembling hands and thunked quietly on to the thick carpet. "We're going out now, you sure you don't want to come?"

"No, thanks," Hook called back, hoping he sounded as natural as was possible for him. He scooped his phone up from the carpet and stepped into the hall outside his bedroom. Gabe frowned up at him from the bottom of the stairs, a concerned look on his face.

"Okay, well, call if you need us..."

"He's not a child, Gabe," Nancy whispered, rolling her eyes. Her discomfort with Hook, and irritation at having him in her house, had already begun to ooze through the cracks in her friendly hostess persona. Hook's stomach clenched. He had to get a job and get out of their hair quick.

"He's right-" Gabe started to snap back.

"Enjoy your movie," Hook interrupted, forcing a smile.

"Thank you," Nancy said a bit stiffly, clomping out the door and towards the car.

"You're sure you don't-"

"Yeah... Anna... might call me back."

"Right! Of course," Gabe smiled. "Well, like I said, just call-"

"I'll be fine," Hook replied. "Don't leave your date waiting."

"She's just my wife," Gabe rolled his eyes. Meeting Hook's impassive face, he winced. His wife might exasperate him, but at least she wasn't dead, and at least he hadn't been unfairly imprisoned for her murder. Guilt flickered on his features, try as he might to hide it. "Alright, bye then."

Hook stood at the window, waiting until their headlights disappeared. Then he took his keys, wallet, the blasted phone he still had yet to fully figure out, and a flashlight before locking up and heading out into the night himself. His nightly wanderings had become something of a habit, usually taking place long after Gabe and Nancy had turned in for the night - he rarely went out before, knowing how Gabe would stand at the window and worry the whole time. His goal was always the greenbelt stretching behind the housing complex, about a block or two from where Gabe and Nancy's house sat, and his feet set off in that direction without him really thinking about it. He paused at the intersection, popping the button for the crosswalk and putting one earphone in as he tried to figure out Gabe's iPod once again. Except for one car idling in one of the parking spaces outside of one of the offices, the street was empty. The signal changed, WALK flashing at him, and he started across.

It all happened so fast. The car's lights came on abruptly, blinding him. He paused, throwing up his arms to shield his eyes, and then...

Birds sang merrily above him, dappled sunlight spilling down through the boughs of tree above. His head rang and his mouth tasted of copper. Had he fallen asleep again? Gabe was going to be pissed. Hook rubbed at his eyes and sat up slowly, already dreading Nancy's stiff, angry silence and Gabe's shaky lecture. He really hadn't meant to stay out all night this time, he'd really...

His thoughts ground to a halt. Through the trees something brilliant and blue sparkled. The waterfall? But... no... Hook got to his feet, pausing to suck in a pained breath and lean against a tree trunk while his bad leg throbbed in protest. The agony dulled after a moment, and he continued on.

An ocean pooled before him, lapping gently where it butted against white beaches. His guts twisted, a sick feeling rising up in his throat as his heart started to thunder in his ears. He sank to his knees in the sand, clinging desperately to consciousness even as the darkness rose up to strangle him.


photo by toa heftiba @ unsplash.com


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