Legal Theft Project: Water Under the Bridge

The hard holder arrived first, long dark coat stark against the grey of the day. Calistoga nodded to him, and Allison nodded back. Utah, the news, arrived last, unhurried, her long dark hair bound back under a lavender scarf. Her eyes met Allison’s and one could hear the social blades unsheath and stand at the ready. But Calistoga had not called them here for a duel.

“You’re here to settle things, not start them again,” Calistoga said. He leaned back on his heels and eyed the two personalities in front of him. “You both know things cannot continue as they are,” he paused. Neither of them nodded. Utah lifted her chin, not in acknowledgement but in stubbornness, and Allison’s glance could cut stone. Calistoga let out a slow quiet breath and shook out his shaggy hair. “So what are you going to do about it.”

Allison spoke first, he’d barely moved at all since Utah arrived and he did not do so now. “Keel is dead and she’s harboring known enemies of my holding.” His voice flattened as he continued. “I’ll forget this happened once she cuts all ties with the man known as Rhyme.”

Utah’s eyes flashed. “You’ll forget this happened? You didn’t win this, Allison. You don’t get to dictate terms to me.”

“My holding, my terms,” Allison replied, leaning forward ever so slightly.

“I’m not in your holding-” Utah started.

“You certainly act like you are,” Allison interrupted. “And you’ve been undercutting me as long as-”

“You can’t stop people from coming to the market, Allison-”

Calistoga sighed. “This, this right here; this is why no one likes you.” The escalating accusations cut off and Calistoga continued. “Either of you.” Utah and Allison both looked at Calistoga. “You’re both powerful, you’re both important to Sure Wood, and you both spit like cats in mating season whenever you think your pride’s been dinged.” And like cats, Calistoga could almost feel the growls and the claws waiting to rend him. “And this whole fiasco never would have happened if someone hadn’t taken advantage of that.”

Finally, he had their attention, their stances had shifted, angled toward him, and their eyes weren’t constantly cutting to each other. “Utah, if you had actually been in town, you would have known there was some kind of con running, that’s what you do. And Allison, you would have seen her, known her people weren’t mobilizing, and maybe, just maybe gone to actually talk.” He held up his hands. “I know, fat chance anyone telling either of you what you would do. But can we at least agree that the two of you having constant fights is bad for Sure Wood? Each of you tell me one grievance, just one, that you have and want the other to address.”

Allison and Utah looked at each other.

“Options for fuck ups other than at the end of the gun. In Sure Wood, it’s Allison’s way or facing down the barrel.” Utah crossed her arms, daring him to contradict her.

“Stop tearing me down,” Allison said, half in reply and half as his request. “If I don’t have a hold on Sure Wood, it tears itself apart, and every time you speak you make people question me and test the limits. Of course I lead with a gun.”

The silence drew out for just a moment before Calistoga spoke up. “You both want what’s best for Sure Wood.”

The pair settled stubbornly in their stances. Damn straight they did.

“Then you’re both going to have to compromise.” He didn’t trust them to say anything without snapping, and he had an idea anyway so Calistoga continued. “Allison, you don’t trust Utah, so you don’t talk to her. But that means you aren’t getting heard on the air. Go on for a space of air. Talk.”

Utah had a sharp short victory smile. Allison’s face was still clouded.

“And Utah, you need to move into Sure Wood proper. You deliberately set yourself outside yet you want the protection and the access of being part of the holding. You want Allison to change, be in a position where it matters.”

Allison and Utah took each other’s measure and seemed reassured that neither of them liked this plan. But neither could they walk away from it. As for Calistoga, he was tired, and cold, and needed to put a damn shirt on.


I am a thief. I stole the line, “This, this right here; this is why no one likes you.” from a cute critter. Keep an eye out for the original and any other thief who made off with the loot….

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Legal Theft Project: Hard

After Saint’s Hain, the market closed down. Brisk trade in essentials, offloading of extra stock, and the hoarding of food, warm clothes, and those luxuries that made the dark months more palatable were bartered for and bundled away. Allison checked on the factory, made sure there was enough stockpiled for the holding, and wandered between the shops being seen, and seeing what was settling in under the snow. He’d need to keep an eye on Tumbler and Jeeves, they’d been snappish and nothing brought out tempers better than long weeks with little to do. He shot them a look and they settled down for the moment. He passed a narrow alley and glanced down at the tray pushed at him. The hands holding the tray were rangy and thin. The teen pushed the tray at him while huddling in a coat that wasn’t going to do squat in the snows. Fabric scraps, metal bits and pieces, twine, and a number of other bits and bobs. Allison took a step back and pushed his coat back. At the glimpse of the gun he wore, the teen reeled back, eyes that hadn’t risen to his dropped and retreated. Allison managed not to swear as he pulled out his purse.

He took half the tray, scooped it into the extra bag he carried. “Doc’s stall is still open. Get a damn coat. And if you have trouble, go to Outlast. They’ll keep you a spell – it’s too cold for grave-digging.” Allison shouldered his bag, took a handful of jingle and tossed it on the tray. Then walked away. He paid more than he should have for that collection of scrap. He wasn’t sure what to do with it, maybe his wife would have an idea, make decorations for the great hall or something. But it had to be good for something, and damn what that harpy over at Outlast had to say. Allison walked home, purse lighter, heart…. something.


There is a thefted line in here… I know another thief or two that nicked it as well….

Legal Theft Project: In the Dark

The sputtering fire barely kept the night at bay. It did nothing against inner demons. Old habits warred against the new world, and it was like shrapnel pulling against her skin. She was two days away from Surewood and each one dug the shards deeper as she drove in her stolen and oh so familiar military issue jeep. She wished she still believed in God. She wished the fire would die and something she could fight and defeat would- NO. No she didn’t. That was the …. That was what they were doing. Oh god. The woman the new world called Bloom stared into the fire and realized the added component to what she’d left behind a week ago. The base, the people who could quote the Princess Bride back at her, who knew what genres of music were, who knew what it was like to walk in step and swear an oath to something bigger…. Were doing the same damn thing as the rest of this post traumatic world. They were fighting the dangers that came out of the dark. They were using violence. It had all of the trappings of what she loved and lost, but it was trapping. It was the shield, the rhetoric. It was a tool that had been channelled by a country that had crumbled. Memories rose unbidden, memories of brass avoiding her unit, and dim thoughts about the … the information that had to be… kept… from them….

She stared at the fire until her eyes were too dry to tear up and went to gather more firewood. Log after log she brought back. Log by log, she built up the fire until it was blazing. Dried out more wood. The world had ended. She didn’t know how, but the fire and ice had turned into water and soaked everything that remained. The fire challenged the night and Bloom challenged the darkness. Old world or new, she was what she had always been even if the words had changed. So her honor was no longer tangled up in oath to powers that no longer existed. And now she knew what she was in the dark.


I stole this first line from a machete wielding diplomat with criminal connections…I may have had an accomplice or two. Check out the original piece to see.

Legal Theft Project: Tantalizing Danger

The library beckoned. Dove tugged his shirt on before untangling himself from the nest of blankets. Proper barely grumbled as he burrowed into the warm spot he’d left. Dove grinned at him, but could no longer resist the lure of the open door. He’d been sharing Proper’s bed for a few months, and had never seen more than the sliver of tumbled papers and pile of clothes and blankets on the chair. For all he was careless with belongings, Proper was careful of his secrets. But… it had been months, and he trusted that any good secret was decently hidden, so what could be the harm in taking a look?

Dove padded over to the door and pushed his way in, the door only groaned a little and Proper turned over but did not emerge from the blankets. The walls were held up by shelves containing books and loose leaf papers, sheet music, containers of things Dove did not want to touch or breath near, a photograph of an unknown place, scattered statues and photographs, and a few needles close to rolling off shelves.

A window looked out over the frosted grass outside, just now letting enough of the dawn in to read by. A desk was shoved under the window. It was piled with battered paperbacks, scraps of paper with handwritten notes, a few journals, several knives with flash handles, and pouches of the snuff available downstairs. Tucked into a corner was a partially open case containing a carefully polished violin.

Dove extracted a journal from the pile and ran a finger over the embossed letters. It was heavier than the one he wrote in and he unwound the leather cord so he could take a look. The writing was messy, but legible. Dove knew most of the people mentioned though it took him longer than he would have liked to realize he was holding poison in his hand. The secrets in that journal could hurt people and he closed it quickly and wrapped it back up. He shoved it further into the jumble than it had been. Some of the notes scattered around were the same. One of the maps he looked at had markings that indicated camps, maybe men, maybe supplies. Dove looked back into the other room at the lump of Proper completely buried now under the blankets. His stomach clenched a little. The pretty, the dangerous, the illicit, and the romantic all blended into each other in this room, and some of them looked like others. Dove was suddenly certain that he had some of them wrong. He slipped back into the sleeping room and looked down at the person he’d been keeping warm. He shivered a little and went to make breakfast.


Some thieves also found libraries tempting. See who stole my line “The library beckoned.” I think some Kid and a Diplomat may have run off with it….

Legal Theft Project: Rest in the Rain

Rain drowned the world in white noise.

Shedding his black coat and hat in the entryway to his home, the hard holder shivers. He is not immune to the cold and the damp, he only pretends it away when his people can see him. He sits down on the bench and removes his boots, placing them carefully in the tray just for them. He can hear the radio from the living room and sees the warm glow of a fire. Before giving in to the warmth, he drifts into the bedroom. His wife’s clothes are jumbled on the end of the bed as if she could not decide what to wear and so tried everything before she settled on something. It makes him smile as he picks them up and puts them away before taking out a sweater and slipping it on. He pulls the curtains closed on the grey grey day and goes back to the beckoning warmth of the fire. His wife smiles when he comes in and he lets the iron in his spine relax. He pours them both a drink and sits down with her in front of the fire.

Rain drowned the world in white noise.

The soldier, still lost, lets it wash all other thoughts from her head. She has not had peace since she woke up from the ice and the rain makes it easier to pretend. She sits back and takes care of her guns, watching the mechanic tinker with things she used to know the names of, now made strange and ethereal by the light and the man who twists them to do impossible tasks. She misses sitting in the barracks, playing cards with her fellows, bickering about assignments on similar rainy days. Back when the world was ordered. Back before storms and white noise were similar. Back when wolves only had one name. Rain at least, rain is the same. So she protects the items from her past and meditates on her place in the future, now that there is no army, no city, no country, to claim her.

Rain drowned the world in white noise.

Under the miraculous clear roof, the dedicate watches the rain. He’s met the springs, the sea, the fog, and the rain. While the springs may have his heart, the rains are a flirt, at times dangerous, at others delightful, and only time will tell which is which. Dry under the greenhouse roof, he tends to the flowers and vegetables, singing. His voice accompanies the scattered rushes of raindrops and rises and falls in time. When his work is complete, he walks out into the rain, letting it wash over him in chill sheets. It blinds him, but he knows the ways of his domain well and he makes it to the springs. He wades into the steam and the warm water with a smile. Water takes and water gives. And he is content to follow where it flows.

Rain drowned the world in white noise.

For the first time in a long time, the driver is not waiting out the rain in her car. Her car is safe under her custom tarp, though it does not keep the driver from the occasional worry when she glances out the window at the sheets of rain. The room is smoky and close with people lounging and dicing, playing cards and chatting. The radio plays lowly in the background, something moody and slow. Her brother is on a stool at the bar, flirting with the bartender. For his part, the bartender smiles and puts the finishing touches on something warm and steaming that smells of apples and better days. She walks over and takes a seat next to her brother and earns her own flash of a smile. They talk and the driver forgets to worry about her car. They are not talking of much, but it has been too long since she spent a day out of the rain. A day safe with other people, and not worried about what would happen when the rain lifts. At least while it rains, tomorrow and its roads will wait. At least for now, she can pretend she has a home.

Rain drowned the world in white noise. And the world slowed. And the wolves went home. And all, for now, was quiet, was well. For now.


Thieves abound! and stole this rainy first line to write their own pieces. Take a look! Completely independently that machete happy diplomat and I ended up with eerily similar pieces.

Legal Theft Project: The Harlequin’s Day

He capered across the wall and those rising to start their tasks looked away from him. Some mornings he was more of a spectacle than others, yet everyone pretended not to notice. When he came to the corner of the wall, the man in a harlequin mask ceased his capering and draped himself into the crenelation. A thin knife flicked around his knuckles as he idled and watched the goings on in the square.

Time passed, and a merchant got into an altercation with a buyer. Voices raised, faces red, and blows imminent, until the harlequin dropped lazily from the wall and strolled by them. Knife sheathed, he tapped his fingers against the hilt. Silence followed him. He paused and tilted his head back at the arguers. The conversation resumed, much subdued.

So went the morning, the man wandered, and in his wake, people banded together. A woman and her daughter were tending their vegetable garden and they froze when he passed them by. The hand on his knife stopped tapping and he gave them a clumsy bow. The woman put an arm in front of her daughter, and shook her head at the man. He made a negative sign with his hand and stumbled back a few paces. He bowed more deeply and more sincerely, before turning and striding briskly away.

His steps brought him to the keep where a bearded man in fine clothes was talking with merchants. The harlequin man stayed within view, but at a distance, and leaned against the wall. Flipping his knife. Swish, flick, flash. Swish, flick, flash. The business was soon concluded and the bearded man nodded to him. The harlequin man fell in at his shoulder, a pace of so behind, and shadowed him through his walks and meetings. Close to dusk, the bearded man gave a quiet order. The man in the harlequin mask saluted him and jogged off into the dusk. For once, his knife was silent.


Some literary thieves have run off with this first line. See what they did with their capering gentlemen here.

Legal Theft Project: What To Call a Girl

Sammy slipped out of the van, keeping the door from slamming so as not to wake her brother or father. The relative silence when the rainstorm stopped had woken her from sleep. As it was going to be morning relatively soon, she figured she’d see if anyone was willing to barter for help that morning in exchange for some breakfast. Eating the same fish bowl at every meal for a week was beyond boring. She made her way from their van at the edge of camp toward the central fire around which all the vehicles were arranged. Passed Echo and Lemon’s trailer, noting who had a lamp or a light on this early, and made her way to Code’s kitchen truck. Code’s assistant had skipped off at the last town and he was more than happy to have a hand with the morning prep. Sammy scrambled the eggs and passed completed bowls to Code so he could make them into burritos. She’d get three of her own and an offer to help with the lunch rush which she declined. The sun was peeking through the crowds as she gathered up her haul and headed off to the rain barrel. More people were out and about by now and Sammy nodded to those who greeted her. She washed her hands in the rain barrel and was picking up her breakfast when she noticed Echo and Lemon, walking by arm in arm, were looking at her. She kept a watch out of the corner of her eye.

“And girls who look like that–they are noticed.” Echo was keeping her voice low, but Sammy had good ears.

“Snicket’s paying attention to her, not serious or anything, but anyone could see. Not to mention Tommy and Yellow. Randa’s getting sour about it,” Lemon replied. Both of them nodded and glanced at Sammy as she walked past.

“Girl’s gonna be Trouble,” Echo declared.

Sammy hurried off, stomach soured. Troubles didn’t last long in caravan life. You needed to make friends, supply jingle, keep people happy to make it in the mobile life. Her dad may not have skills, but he wasn’t Trouble. Trouble’s caused fights, got too much attention, were a risk. She arrived back at her dad’s van and hesitated before she opened the door. They could handle it. She would handle it. She liked being Sammy, she didn’t want to be Trouble.


Stole the line, “And girls who look like that–they are noticed.”  from Beks awhile back. Finally got around to fencing my stolen goods.

Legal Theft Project: Envy in Blue

Blue as skies in summer, pouring out exhaust, and attracting a small crowd, he’d never seen anything like it. He already wanted it gone. His garage didn’t have anything as would come close to those wheels and everyone knew it. The rest of the caravan wasn’t much to look at and the caravan master, Dixon, was the first to pop out of his battered van and head Allison’s way. For his part, Allison kept his arms folded and his face cold as Dixon tromped over.

“Allison.” Dixon bobbed his head respectfully to the man whose domain he’d entered. Allison didn’t acknowledge the greeting, keeping his eyes on the dapper wheels and the crowd swelling around it as the exhaust wisped away.

Dixon soldiered on. “Ah, Sammy’s girl. Elvira. Heck of a car. Heck of a lady.”

Allison turned his head slightly and raised his eyebrow a mere fraction. Dixon swallowed and nodded back toward the car. A mile of leg ending in denim cut offs and hello gorgeous, swung out of the driver side door like sugar in sweet. Her hip pushed the door closed and she leaned against it, pushing her sunglasses on top of her head. He hadn’t figured trouble in a blue jumpsuit into his plans. Oh he wanted her and her car out of his holding and back on the road something fierce. “You brought me trouble, Dixon,” Allison finally said.

Dixon looped his thumbs in his belt. “Got here fastest and safest I’ve ever done. Girl knows her wheels and don’t hesitate on the road. Brought plenty through.”

Allison unfolded his arms. “Any trouble she causes, you cause.”

“No no no. She’s good, but she ain’t mine.” Dixon shook his head. They looked at the woman by the car, answering some of the crowd’s questions, cool as snow in shade. “Sammy handles herself.”

Allison brushed the comment aside, letting Dixon shed the blame and accepting the tacit promise to stay out of the way. “Let’s see what else you brought.”


I’m a thief! I stole this first line from M.D. – take a look at other unique blues at the Legal Theft Project site.