Moses Sagas The Matchbook Diaries


Moses Sagas Serialized Pop Fiction Book Part 3

Chapter 3: Hsű – Nourishment: “The height of wisdom is to allow people enough recreation to quicken pleasure in their work until the task is completed.” – from I Ching the 5th gua

RENO

Reno Hobbes moved into the space Moses arranged for her in Venice Beach, but she spent most of her time wandering the streets of the beach village, scavenging. Accustomed to homelessness and poverty, she contemplated her new situation with a mixture of wonder and fear. Reno wasn’t reflective, but she had been the past seven days, jumping impulsively to her feet, her fingers constantly reaching to find the amulet on her neck, those thin fingers dropping back down after she’d redetermined that it was still there.

Four years earlier, when she was 21, she’d been rolling a tobacco cigarette when Moses found her crouched in the stacks in a remote Oxford archive one day in early September. She had purposely chosen a hidden place, secret and empty, and suddenly, like light, he’d shown up.

“I’m Moses,” he’d said with a slight bow.

She knew not to act startled from her many years on the streets. She remained on her haunches in the darkness, engaged with her cigarette. She feigned disinterest in the highbrow student from the school where she’d been lucky enough to get a job as a janitor three days before, a job that kept her off the street, though it was only a matter of time.

She’d stopped bathing five days before but didn’t know why, and suddenly, with this man here, she worried about her smell. He didn’t seem to notice.

“I see,” said Moses, smiling at her, his eyes calm, untroubled.

Her head jerked up. “See what?” She looked around, terrified.

“You,” he’d said, quietly, “you, Reno Hobbes, hiding here. A nestless mouse.”

She did not ask how he knew her name. She was too strange herself to worry about others’ strangeness; she did not try to reconcile reality and madness. Reno divorced the world long ago.
Reno never knew her mother, but she knew her father and she wished she didn’t. She ran away from home, and rape, at the age of 12 to make art in a secret basement hideout until the building was condemned and torn down. Then she lived in the street, or in empty buildings, until any one spot became too dangerous. She had never been to school, but learnt enough to know she liked to read, and the library was warm, and quiet.

She’d gotten this janitorial job, her ethereal beauty giving her a little edge to secure what she needed – a place off the street, a place with libraries full of very old manuscripts, her favourite thing. The man who hired her had the oddest feeling he was hiring a lonely angel. Reno was always alone, but alone was safe, alone meant no one would hurt her. Her frequent bouts of paranoia and psychosis drove her to drink and would probably cost her this job. While other people thought about the next year or five years, Reno thought about the next few hours, a perpetual combat soldier.

She peered at him silently. Reno rarely spoke. If she had nothing to say it did not occur to her to speak. Normally no one was listening. But he was, he was listening with terrifying precision. She was alarmed.

He pointed to a tiny figurine she’d made from an aluminum can, the figure dangling from her boot buckle. It was a horse’s body with a female torso.

“No. And did you make that?”

“Yeah. What do you mean, ‘No’?”

“No, I won’t hurt you, that’s your worry. Don’t worry. You talk to it?”

“Because it talks to me.” Her life straddled so many realities his perception did not seem weird.

“I understand,” he said, from far above her. He was maybe 2 and a third meters tall with a sort of American accent, but he seemed infinitely taller from her perspective. “So what does she say?”

“Who?” Why was he still speaking to her? Reno shook her head to try to clear it.

“Cheyenne, the doll you made.”

“I wish I knew; she speaks in riddles,” shrugged Reno. Cheyenne was her mother’s name, the woman who fled a violent marriage and left an infant child defenseless. How this man knew the name of her doll Reno did not know, but this specific knowledge did seem strange even to her. Even if he’d gone through her hiring papers he couldn’t have known. She routinely lied on documents to keep herself hidden from the violent man she was sure was still alive not too far from here.

“He’s not close,” said Moses, “Your father is far away, and alive for a moment more.” He smiled at her and she realized that she’d never seen anyone or anything as beautiful as he was. If he was looking for sex, she might consider it for the first time in adulthood.

“I’m not,” he said, still smiling widely.

“Not what?”

“Looking for sex.”

“Oh, yeah, OK.” Reno stared at him, blinking.

“You work here.” He had his hands in his pockets but his black gold eyes and the riveting intensity blazing from them kept her rooted in place.

“Yeah, anyhow,” she stood up and tucked the cigarette behind her ear. She looked at him nervously, she was never this nervous because she was always alone.

“You working now?” He raised his eyebrows along with the question.

“Now? No, now, now, now I’m going to drink,” she said, “a lot,” she added, pressing off the stutter on her lips and patting her leather jacket with the cheap bottle of gin inside. Her hands were shaking, like usual. Both of her wrists had handcuffs tattooed on them.

“Can I join you?”

“You got something to drink?” She looked around.

“Keep yours for later. Let me treat you.” He’d been almost backing up as he spoke and she realized that she had taken a step towards him without knowing.

That was the beginning. Then, weirdly, he’d been able to get her a better job, a job working on manuscripts, a job she loved. And from that first night out together, she’d never had another break with reality. She didn’t stop drinking, or roaming, and her mind leapt from image to image without any real connection to the external environment, but her hands did not shake the same way ever again, and she lived much more freely, without the customary, terrifying madness. Moses seemed always to have time for her, and for the first time in her life she was not drifting and disenfranchised.

They talked, some, but mostly he just let her be with him.

There had been other moments, extreme ones, during those four years, and every time he’d been there, calm, absolute. That time with her wrist when she’d cut off the cuffs. She looked at the scar and ignored it again. He found her and healed her.

During the spring of his second Oxford year, Moses gave Reno a fantastic old Olympus OM1.

“Take pictures,” he said, handing it to her in the alley where she’d slept for three days after an argument with her landlady.

“Of what?” She looked at the camera but did not take it.

“What you see.” He placed it into her hands.

And she did, developing in black and white, film, old -fashioned film, mainly, though sometimes she did grainy videos on the machine he’d given her later. She photographed everything in the margins, everything like herself. He built her a small dark room in his own enormous flat, and she spent hours alone there when Moses was in class and she wasn’t working, swishing her probing fingers through chemicals, hanging dripping images on a clothesline.

“Come home to LA with me,” he said one night, four years later, after losing to her in poker again.

“To America? No. What, say, and do – do what exactly?” she took a defensive drag from her cigarette and slapped down her trembling hands, irritated by her own stuttering. “No,” she added, quickly, saying it again.

“No,” she stood without waiting for his answer, and then she practically threw him out of his own house before she realized she needed to leave. She’d stood outside his door, only for a moment, turned the handle, walked back in again, confused. He was still standing there, that clear light surrounding him as it always did.

She did not want anyone to have any kind of power over her. Moses, though, wasn’t that kind of man. He never used his power, except to serve her. Despite her utter suspicion of everyone, she’d grown to trust him; for four years she’d perched in his crown, a very slight bird. She reentered his apartment and sat on the floor.

“Welcome back,” he’d said, softly, and then he said something she did not understand, “‘The wound is the place where the light enters you. You’ve a crown of thorns, Reno.’” The words confounded and distracted her. He reached into his pocket pulled out a small velvet box. It was colored blue, her favorite. She touched it timidly. She took it, sniffed the cover, and handed it back. No one gave her things. Except Moses.

He began thinking of profanity so that when he took her hands, he would not shock her too much. He picked up her hands, wrapped them around the box. She looked him in the eyes trying to find the courage. Cautious, she lifted the lid, and held up the little charm: a five fingered hand. The diamond studded charm glittered in the shifting shadows of Moses’ home. The chain, made of platinum, was terribly thin and had tiny diamonds embedded in it. Moses had the piece made for Reno based on what he knew her needs were. It was infinitesimally thin and feather light, studded with twinkling gems. It was strong, but it would not bind her.

“Mitten?” She remained down on the floor where she was, dropped it out of the air with one hand into her other hand.

“Hamsa,” he said, gently, smiling at her.

Her hands were trembling too much to open the clasp. He crouched down and undid it and put it around her neck. She knew that it would never come off, not even in her own grave would she allow this amulet to leave her. He stayed there, on her level, his arms resting on his knees. He was so terribly beautiful, so terrible and so thoroughly beautiful.

“I have a small collection of books, manuscripts – and – other projects. You’d have your own place, a decent salary, freedom,” he smiled the way he always did, with that lone dimple surfacing vaguely near the right edge of his peach lips. He was still squatting down, near her, his black solemn eyes irresistibly calm.

She reached across the space between them and traced his face with one thin finger, touching him for the first time in four years. “A place?” She ignored the pain that came from touching him.

“I’ll be there with you, living nearby. And if I ever go, I will take you with me.”

“Yes. Ok. Yes, then. I will.” She smiled a completely open smile, something she rarely did, and only for him. It was as big a commitment to her as an oath. She’d withdrawn her stinging arm and shuffled to her feet, staring at her long thin fingers as they ricocheted pain. Reno has thin hands, those long tobacco’d fingers ending in nails bitten to the nub. She forced her hands into her pockets. By this time she was sporting a Mohawk and a feathered earring in her nostril.

That was a month ago. Now she was earning a lot of money, she knew, courtesy of Moses Jinn, as they seemed to call him here. Every day she got a small bag of cash delivered. She wandered through LA, taking buses, sitting beside homeless people, naming them when they wouldn’t name themselves, giving away her money in wads, sharing tobacco. There was a woman who fed pigeons and talked to herself near the beach by Reno’s new house. She called the woman Velvet.

The money she was giving away was very little of what she was truly earning. Reno did not know that someone named Sian was directing the investment of three-fourths of her salary, using the rest to pay her modest bills. Other parts of her income were used to pay her new taxes, taxes she didn’t know she had. The cash was meant for Reno to give away, because Moses knew she would. A stack of 100 one dollar bills was delivered daily per Moses’ direction. Reno always re-divided it up into piles, a little stack for each hour, though she was often gone for hours at a time. She had no notion of how complex it was for Moses to guard her, to render her essentially immune from people who would otherwise quickly discern that Reno was a cash source. But no one would ever be able to remember how they got money, or from whom, and no one could quite place the inhabitant of the fabulous upper loft home in Venice. Their recognition of Reno would simply slip from their minds.

Her new American photographs were already dangling from the cord she’d made out of used fishing line and hung from the rafters. There was a pile of rusted roofing tin in the corner she’d salvaged that morning. She planned to do something with that tin, animals, maybe, or – – but thoughts such as these merely floated through the landscape of Reno’s mind, unattached, until she acted upon them.

Her Moses had arrived in LA a few days ago. She’d called him hers for years now. She did not think of him romantically, but her feelings for Moses were utterly possessive.

Moses was coming home. Reno didn’t spend a lot of time in contemplation but she knew she loved Moses. Her feelings for him were simple facts, like stones she carried in her pocket. Reno’s possessions were always temporary, until she met Moses. He was hers, Moses was the only thing that she knew she owned. She did not feel proprietary, only certain that the connection between them was permanent. Reno grabbed her gin bottle, a couple of cigarettes, took a look up and down the main drag of Venice Beach, and hurled herself into the darkness, searching for the rubbish she used for making art and for the people she used for making one-sided conversation. He’d visit her; he’d come.

He finally stopped in late, after James Dean party and some business on the La Brea building. Reno was now home for the night, safe in her new cavernous industrial space on Venice Beach. Reno’s diet consisted mainly of caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol, with the occasional cracker thrown in for variety. Her dwellings never smelt like cooking or cleaning. They smelled of art, smoke, and alcohol. Moses smelled the Woodbine smoke before he touched the door.

He knocked and the door swung open on its own. He set down some boxes in the doorway. He knew she would not lock the door, she never did at Oxford, which was a far less dangerous place. His animals were watching over her, so she was under his care, though he knew if she were robbed she’d not likely notice.

“All right?” said Reno, watching him from below where she crouched on the floor, a cigarette hanging out of her mouth. She glanced carefully at Moses and even smiled at him. She stood, scooted his boxes into her place with her boot. She wore overalls, a red lace bra, a tight black tank top, and a very tall pair of combat boots that laced above the ankle. Reno’d been shopping on Melrose with Moses’ little sister, and though it had been a delight for Twink and scary for Reno, Reno now felt strangely, abnormally happy with her new wardrobe.

“Yes. You’ve settled in Miss Hobbes?” he asked grandly, handing her a slim case from his back pocket.

“Pencils?” she asked. She rarely reached out, and did not do so now. But he sometimes gave her glorious art supplies, so it was a good guess.

“Mezuzah. Do you have a hammer?”

“No. Want a drink?” she rattled her empty glass at him.

“Not tonight. ” He began looking for a hammer substitute.

She walked over and dug through a paper bag, handed him a rock.

He spoke in Hebrew, and she turned away, lit a cigarette.

When she heard the banging stop a while later she asked him, “The boxes?”

“Drawings from a vendor in Rome.”

“Yeah, OK,” she said. She nudged the bundles gently towards a massive table made from restored shipping planks. She considered the table, decided. The table was already splattered with white and blue maritime paint. Reno was strong; she lifted both boxes and put them off to the side.

Moses wandered over to the bank of windows where she’d hung something she’d worked on for a week – a large doll constructed from fishing lures, old buoys, and floats from large ocean nets. Moses pointed at the doll, whose head was a coconut salvaged from the beach.

“Consuela,” said Reno, mixing herself a simple cocktail of straight gin, adding, “LA has lousy buses.”

“Yes. I bought you a motorcycle, but you have to pass the driving test.”

“I’m – yeah – I’ll think about it.” She was scared about being in a police station.

“I’ll go with you,” he said, his face full of light as the moonshadows framed the mass of black curls. “Reno, please go, with me, and get a license.” She wasn’t listening. She did not know how rare it was for Moses to say please.

Moses picked up a small plastic head from the windowsill. On it was a smiling Asian face, half obliterated. He set it down and stood there, hands in his pockets, looking down at the bustling night scene of Venice beach: drugs, muscles, sex.

“I ,” she stopped, tongue tied as usual.

“I know you did. I missed you too.”

Reno preferred solitude to anyone’s company, except Moses’. She let him love her. No one had ever loved her. But this man loved her.

“Mo-Jinn, did you ever take a test?”

“Once.”

“Did you pass?”

“Barely, but that was before I met you,” he said, smiling at her.

“I haven’t been to school – I – “ She looked out of the room, through her glass as it reached her lips. She set down the glass, pulled her pierced lip through the edge of her teeth. She paced a few times and abruptly sat down on the floor. A cricket leapt onto Moses’ chest, crawled onto his bare neck and began to sing. Moses made a mental note to have a few leather bean bag chairs made for Reno.

“I have to go,” he said, backing up. “Come see me next week, Manna will get you.”

He turned to go and stopped.

“Have you turned on the refrigerator Manna delivered?”

“I don’t know.”

“That’d be a no.” He walked into the kitchen, aware of the layout of the place since he’d approved its purchase. He unwrapped the plastic from her new appliance. Turning it on, he texted a new staff member from his company to buy Reno some food.

After, he stood in the kitchen looking at a paperback book; he picked it up, drifting his gaze over the page marked by an old playing card.

“You’re reading Don Quixote?

“Used bookstore,” she pointed to someplace outside where she’d presumably purchased the book.

He smiled at her; Reno was full of surprises.

“I’m fine,” she said, firmly, taking the book and rechecking to see if he’d lost her place. He had not.

“Yes. You are. However, you’re sleeping on the floor, the plastic is still on your mattress and the sheets are still in the package. Use the bed. You’ll be covered with bruises in a few weeks if you sleep on concrete floors like these.”

Moses unwrapped the sheets, undid the mattress, made her bed. He found the feather pillow he’d ordered for her, and stuffed it gingerly into her new pillowcase, and then, awkwardly, dumped it onto the bed.

“Don’t, don’t, don’t buy anything,” she said, jerking her hands through her newly black hair. No Mohawk, just a tiny fringe of hair now.

“I’ll go. It’s good to have you here.”

“Moses?”

“Yes?”

“There’s a bird on my roof. He’s, he’s watching me.” She poked her right thumb at the window.

“That’s Friday. You’re not imagining it. He is watching you. He’s a friend.”

“Words of the prophets are written on the subway walls, tenement stalls,” she said, suddenly, and without consciousness.

“The song?” he asked her. He knew to check himself if she told him anything.

“The bridge,” she said, pointing.

She took a huge drink and walked away from him, ignored his farewell, and began to open his packages carefully, balancing the cigarette and drink as she did so. Reno’s heart and mind were fiercely devoted to her passion for garbage and manuscripts, almost equally divided between them. Moses was the only human being she’d ever met who valued her attachments. She loved Moses as much or more than both of those things, but expressing emotion was something Reno was incapable of doing.

Outside, Moses had a brief conversation with Friday who told him where to go. Moses headed for the bridge, the underpass, where Reno had been. His car hummed softly in the summer night. He scanned his perceptions, allowing himself a glimpse of her day until he saw the bridge she’d been beneath. In a half an hour, he was there.

There were the normal tags, names of forgotten children who wanted to be on a magical Schindler’s List but didn’t know how to get there, and in the middle of the underpass, there it was. A strange drawing of an upside down Christmas tree with a hand rising underneath it, about to topple it. On it, instead of decorations, there were logos of 12 of the largest corporations on the planet, companies that employed a thousand million human beings. The logos were hanging from the inverted tree from chains, vile, festering chains that were shaking as the hand began to topple the tree. The whole image looked like it was in motion, so skilled was the artist who made it – the artist, of course, being Reno. Moses breathed in, moved his hand in front of the image and a living tree exploded the abandoned underpass. He stepped aside and closed his eyes. Moments later a new underpass connecting the roads above rose right beside the living tree, a spectacular one done by hand, each stone measured and fitted to the next – a bridge of stupendous beauty. Moses walked back to his car, feeling an observer but seeing none. IN the shadows, something slunk away, fury seething in its unhuman teeth.

ELIJAH

The rumors about jinn are true, although most human beings think jinns are evil. True jinns are extremely rare. In the history of the world there have only been 8. Moses is the 9th and final jinn. It was the rise of the anti-jinn that pushed Moses to make the break, and to head out into the mortal realm. In his first few moments on earth, he’s certainly done an excellent job. But while he took those decades to create a team, the anti-jinn was at work too. Evidence of Shayatin’s masterful demonic presence saturates more and more of the earth. There was always a possibility of an arch anti-jinn, and if one of us can stop that thing, it’s Moses. The risks are intolerable, but in this family we tend to like to deal in games where the stakes against us are high and the margin for error slim.

There are strange similarities and differences between the last jinn and the arch anti-jinn. Both are spiritually suited to manhood rather than womanhood. Both can walk between the physical and the spiritual realm at will. While we fight from the heart, our enemy fights from the mind. The benefit to us in that dichotomy is enormous. It’s far easier to predict and plan for thoughts than to predict the reckless, irrational compass of the heart. The arch anti jinn herds his staggeringly large army by whatever weakness is most effective to exploit in each soul that he enslaves. Moses relies on the voluntary assistance of 8, now 9, others, and the paid assistance of a handful of staff who are free to leave at any time. In terms of resources, we are outgunned a million to one. The enemy army binds itself to nothing but the permanent destruction of love and hope and the perpetuation of hatred and despair. We have to obey the rules of our family, which prevent us from any method other than romancing the soul. We can’t wage war, not directly, and we can’t overpower. The minute we head at them in a game of might, we’ve lost. It’s going to have to be a game of great luck, exemplary courage, and marvelous finesse. So Moses has to dance his way through this. If he perceived the demon at the underpass, he did a heck of a job disguising his knowledge. Rules prohibit my direct interference; but my brother will know all I know soon enough. I’ll use the muse; she’s marvelously porous for a human.

________

SIAN

Most people hate my father. He’s the head of the most powerful law firm in Los Angeles. He’s not actually a bad guy or I probably wouldn’t have followed him into the business. Even so, I had misgivings all the way through law school. Law is almost never about saving good people but rather about defending rich ones from shit they likely do to less rich people. But every once in a while something magical happens. My father told me a long time ago that 60 rich pricks pay him so that he can defend a true victim one time. Moses is no one’s victim. But his mother was. I don’t know who killed her. But her son knows.

It was only my second year into postgraduate work that I got a call from the legendary Sarah Deasy, Jewish heiress and wife to Arthur. Now, years later, I answer to her foundling son, Moses. It’s because of Sarah, and now her son, that I actually became a lawyer. The months before that call I was losing my nerve. The bullshit is deep in law school, so many ridiculously proud people preening and pretending to wrestle with moral dilemmas when they really just want to start their meter running on a client with bottomless pockets. It was like living with a swarm of mosquitoes. I wanted to slap the shit out of everyone who sucked blood from the human soul.
And just like that, I got a call, late, on a Friday night. There is something about them both, Sarah and her son, a purity that needs guarding. I felt an instant desire to help her when I met her.

I wish I could say my other clients pay me to work for Moses, but the truth is that Moses’ fees are many times more lucrative than any of the other people I defend. I’d do it for free. I never ask him to pay me. He just does.

“Moses,” I say, thumbing on my phone. The guy in front of me, some climber whose father is friends with my dad, is going to drive me crazy before our first and last date is over. I keep thinking I ought to carry a small mallet in my handbag and just whack these fuckers on their proud little heads before they bore me senseless. Too late, though. Bored I am and bored I shall be tonight. I guess this loser thinks I can’t see him watching everyone else in this restaurant trying to figure out who is a celebrity. I don’t suppose he’s going to dash up and ask anyone for an autograph, although, come to think of it, that might be amusing. He’s probably just looking to post a good one-liner on his networking page – something along the lines of, “Out with Sian Morgan at so and so, sat beside God.” Then he will be up all night counting the number of likes, for fuck’s sake. Tic Tock you fool.

Where my father digs these scumbags up is beyond me – I keep imagining a mannequin factory inserting a goat’s brain into a man body when I look at this guy. I’m unkind. But like my coffee mug says, “This is a Giant Cup of I Don’t Give A Fuck”. I have to take Moses’ call whether I’m on a bad date or not, but his timing tends to be impeccable. Whenever I need to be reminded of the value of humanity, my phone rings and I’m accommodating another absurd request from my most valuable, and, in some ways, my most difficult client.
Sarah, his mother, insisted on paying me the retainer my father set for the wage of his entrance level associates, though I hadn’t gotten out of school or even passed the bar at the time. I haven’t ever raised the fee, but it doesn’t matter, Moses’ projects take hundreds of hours, and I have amazing people working for me now, mainly because it’s so fucking fun to do Moses’ jobs. So billable hours are never an issue with me. I make about half as much as my dad, and I’m half his age.

Moses enquires about his newest odd project. “Is Reno’s business managed?”

“Her work visa’s been arranged. Twink took her shopping; forced her to buy a few things. Manna is tutoring her for her bike license and I get her the cash, divided and delivered daily, as requested. That’s 700 a week she’s throwing away, Moses.” I know even before saying this that he’ll ignore the numbers. He is brilliant at ignoring them.

“I need to buy a house,” he says, sharply.

“OK, when?” I know not to ask why, or expect any explanation. Three years into our relationship, I’ve learnt.

“Thursday. Manna will do the prelims, and I’ll meet you late Thursday.”

“Anyplace in particular?”

“Palisades, Malibu, Manhattan Beach, the canyon, local, something open, private, with a deck on the roof. Manna will know.”

“About Reno Hobbes.”

I wait, but of course he is silent. So I walk into it knowing what he’ll say. Maybe I need to hear it, to have him affirm his insanity again, just to make myself feel better tonight.

“She puts some of the cash you give her into plastic bags and hides the bags on the beach. Plastic bags, Moses. She leaves money everywhere. We asked her about it; she said the right people would find it. Moses, Miss Hobbes doesn’t understand some very basic things.”

“She understands what matters perfectly.”

“Is she going to be a liability, Moses?” I’m watching the fool at the table with me peering around a bit more. I’d rather put a fork in my eye than finish this meal with him. He has no idea that one of the finest pianists in the world is seated right beside us. Fucking loser, my date; he’s staring at the wannabe actress behind me who has fooled him into thinking she’s famous.

“Thanks for your help, Sian.”

I sigh. “Are you OK?” I ask this compulsively. I’m still unnerved by the abrupt manner of my richest, youngest, most handsome, and by far least predictable client, a man who never spends money except on the most flagrantly romantic objectives, like the complicated legal hiring of 12 previously illegal immigrants, last Spring, and now this mental patient.

There is silence. I mutter into my phone, “Forget I asked, again. See you next week.”

“Yes,” says Moses. He’s a man of very, very few words, which is one of his most endearing qualities. I get paid to listen to spoiled, wealthy people talk about themselves and their anxieties about material possessions, children, and marriage. But not Moses. He’s never anxious. He’s always busy. And I’ve got to give it to him; his projects aren’t boring.

When I hang up the face across from me starts talking. I nod at him, knowing he doesn’t require a reply, while I reflect on my last conversation with Sarah Deasy. After bequeathing 35 billion dollars to her adopted son, a fortune that has doubled in the past three years due to Moses’ preternatural luck in securities and his general disinterest in spending; he literally can’t spend it fast enough. His mother stunned me with her plans for her will. She sent all of it, all she had, to just one place. Her son’s luck works in brilliant combination with his absolute disinterest in consumption. At last count, his portfolio with the business manager I hired and manage for him is in the neighborhood of 90 billion. Even his most recent spending leaves him a gigantic surplus and a gigantic tax bill he insists on paying. How many clients insist on paying taxes? Not so many.

Four years ago, Sarah Deasy paused, the pen still in her hand. I had been holding my breath, I realized as she paused. We are sitting in the UCLA college library. I have a class to go to, but

I’m riveted. Fuck the class, this woman has already given me what I need to fight for: people like her. At the time, I figure her son is probably a jerk. I’m wrong.

“Sian, after you become a lawyer, and this paperwork is actually valid, do one more thing for me.”

“What’s that, Mrs. Deasy?”

Sarah was a tiny woman with glossy dark hair and olive skin. She always dressed so that her arms and neck were covered. I was surprised Sarah needed anything. The woman said, in a whisper, “He won’t defend himself, Sian. You must defend him when the time comes.”

“Against whom?” I asked.

“The man who will kill me very soon will then come after my son. It’s too late for me. If I stop him I’ll accelerate his plans. But I implore you, Sian, save my boy; he’s an unusual child.” Sarah said these words, signed the papers, and quietly pushed back from our meeting without saying goodbye. I was trembling when I scooped up the signed documents.

Sarah Deasy was found dead in her car, the result of an atrocious accident and drug overdose, a week later. She was only two miles from her favorite home, the house that now belongs to my client – a palatial cabin in Yosemite. Moses was immediately implicated, as the sole inheritor, but he was quickly ruled out. Though there was scant evidence that he’d been present at the time, there was nothing hard and fast against him. The real perpetrator was never located, and the case grew cold.

That conversation is haunting me lately. I realize the guy I’m with has just stopped speaking. It’s brilliant that he’s so selfish-slash-stupid that he has no idea at all that I have not one clue what he’s said. I blather something, delve back into my mind and suddenly realize that the missing word in the crossword puzzle I was doing is bloviate.

My sense is that Moses is going to do things now, now that his degree from Oxford is behind him. Those best friends of his appear to be lining up to be a force, some kind of army. I’m terrified. So I continually ask him if he is OK, a question Moses never answers. But tonight, sitting there amongst the privileged few, I think, not for the first time, that maybe I’m the only guard on a gigantic piece of land that houses the one remaining member of an otherwise extinct species. I’m barely old enough to handle the legal tools I’ve so recently procured. God help this Moses if something goes wrong, and yes, yes I feel something is going to go very wrong. Will I even know how to help him? Will I be good enough? So help me God I’ll do whatever it takes, and I imagine his friends feel the same. But the lawyer’s daughter in me knows that as romantic as it is to be Simon challenging Goliath, Goliath always wins.
_____

ELIJAH

At least he has the attorney on his side. He’s always been careless, too in love with his animals. If he falls for Asherah, there is no way to see where it leads. Choice, our family’s big fuck-all. Our boy’s in the game now, and the love surrounding him will need to be enough. The Unjinn hasn’t surfaced again. Like the virus it is, it slips into the dark, waiting for room, for one big mistake.