Photo by Maria Lupan on Unsplash


(This was for #vssCollab, a Twitter writing challenge featuring one word a day which you must use in a Twitter post that is part of an ongoing story. The story below was posted over 31 days in May, 2022.)

“I don’t just want justice,” Caroline says. “I want judgment to rain down from heaven!”

Woodruff chuckles. “It’s lucky I’m here, then.” He pulls a flash drive from his jacket and flicks it to his ex. “This should level the playing field.”

Caroline plugs the drive into her laptop. As it boots up she eyes Woodruff’s shaggy, trendy haircut with practiced nonchalance. “New girl at the office, Rick?”

Woodruff’s grin widens. “Maddie’s a yoga instructor on the weekends!” He says gleefully.

A frown creases Caroline’s forehead. “What’s all this bull?” Charts and graphs battle for prominence as one screen after another comes to life.

“That’s just flavor,” Woodruff mumbles, leaning over her shoulder to poke a few keys. “The real stuff’s here.”

And so it was.


“What a payoff!” Tremain’s voice is hoarse from cheering on Juniper Star for the win. Cooper surveys the crowd. “I thought the kid was supposed to be here,” he says, more to himself than to his partner.

“Give him time,” says Tremain. “It’s early.”

They heard the boy before they saw him. He was proclaiming he could get anyone into the secretive Cavalry Club any time he wanted. “What’d I tell ya,” Tremain elbows Cooper. “The little creep’s still runnin’ his mouth, too.”

“That’s why we’re here,” says Cooper.

The pervasive party atmosphere actually helps the pair escort their target from the premises. Because the kid can’t hear what they’re saying, he lets them lead him to a “quiet place” to talk. Once in the stairwell, Cooper produces his gun. “Let’s beat feet, kid.”

“Aw, c’mon,” Brandon pleads. “Doony and those frat guys sent you, right? This is a joke, right?” Tremain and Cooper alternately push and pull him to their nondescript car.

“Kid,” says Tremain as he shoves the boy into the backseat, “This ain’t no game.”


Though they make progress, Caroline feels as if the pile of paperwork between Kirk and herself grows instead of diminishes. She smiles to see the young lawyer is just as invested in this case as she is. It’s almost as if her brother Brandon were by her side again.


Cooper’s mistake was making the kid sit between them in the front seat. Tremain sat with his arm around the kid’s shoulders, trying to scare the shit out of him. Apparently it worked, as the kid suddenly mashed his foot on Cooper’s and grabbed the wheel.

Instead of careening into the hillside, as the kid had hoped, the car flips multiple times and lands on its roof. It skids to the edge of a yawning cliff. Cooper is dead. Tremain is pinned beneath the kid. The car tilts and the passenger side door falls open.

Brandon jumps.


“Am I not making myself clear, Cox?” Caroline closes on the skinny lawyer, trapping him between his liquor cabinet and a fern. “We have evidence the Cavalry Club had my brother killed!”

“Oh, you’re c-clear,” Cox stutters. “You’re just too late.”

“Dissolving the Club means nothing,” says Kirk. “The members would still be responsible.”

Caroline shakes her head. “Without the Club as the umbrella organization we’d have to go after individual members.” She grabs her cell and presses Woodruff’s name in her favorites.

“You want me to do WHAT?” Woodruff is aghast. “After all you’ve told me about this Club you want ME to go public with your evidence?”

“Oh please, you’d ace this!” says Caroline. She pauses, cockiness overtaking her features. “Plus, Maddie would be so impressed!”

“I’m telling you someone is following me!” The desperation in Woodruff’s voice shocks Caroline.

“Paranoia doesn’t suit you, Rick,” she says. Her own fears grow stronger by the second, however.

“Thanks for nothing, Care,” Woodruff mumbles before disconnecting.

What a shitshow, thinks Woodruff as he powers through the lunch crowd. Screw Caroline and her drama. He ducks into the cafe, orders a coffee, and waits for the columnist to arrive.

A minute later, wheezing from the effort of following Woodruff all morning, Tremain arrives.

“It’s not a question of whether or not our friendship is superior to my ambitions,” says the columnist with disgust. Woodruff tries to look sheepish and fails. “I need time to verify and get people on the record.”

“Verify then,” says Woodruff. “But hurry.”

Woodruff is positive he lost his tail in the transit system. He takes the train to his condo in the suburbs, exiting one stop early to be safe. It’s the feeling of menace that makes him look back to the train as it leaves. He sees his tail in a window, glaring at him.

This is freakin’ brilliant, thinks Woodruff. Not only does he recognize a tail, he knows the bastard. It’s Tremain, of all people.

The Uber back into the city will go on her damn bill, he decides, as he exits the car in front of Caroline’s office.

“How can you be sure he was following you?” Caroline is incredulous. Woodruff, lit by the glow of afternoon sun, peers surreptitiously out the window at the street below.

“I knew him, alright?” Woodruff sputters. “We have history. I can’t go into it, but he’s dangerous!”

“You have history?” says Caroline. “What the hell does that mean?”

“It means…uh…” Caroline is shocked to see Woodruff at such a loss for words. “He was…a friend of my dad’s.” He looks almost sheepish.

“Your dad who died in a car accident when you were a kid?” Woodruff nods. “Or step-monster Doug?” One look told her he did not mean Doug.

“Come on!” says Caroline, exasperated. “I need context so we know how to handle this!”

Woodruff pauses as he shakily runs his hands through his hair. “He’s volatile. He knows how to hurt people and get away with it.”

“Jesus, Rick.”

“Plus he works for a mobster.”

“Okay, then follow him right back. Find out who hired him.” Woodruff scoffs at this suggestion. Caroline is incensed. “Do you know how many YEARS I’ve devoted to making that damn Club pay for what it did to my family?”

“You’re not the only one with family!” Woodruff retorts before he storms out.

He does it, of course. For Care. Follows Tremain in Kirk’s car to a north side warehouse then waits for his mark to make another move.

Suddenly, the passenger door opens and Tremain gets in. His voice booms in the tiny vehicle.

“Looky here, it’s Coop Jr, all growed up!”

“Don’t call me that!” Woodruff is terrified.

Tremain leans in. “Yer dad was my partner! I’ll call ya what I want!” He sits back. “Why not ‘Rick Cooper’ anymore? Did that elite school The Boss paid for rename you?”

“No, my mom did when she found out dad’s real job.” After Tremain finishes laughing, Woodruff continues, “Is that why you’re following me? The Boss wants his investment back?”

“You and your lady friend are pissing off a lot of people,” Tremain says, surprising Woodruff. Before he can continue, a projectile flies through the open passenger window and sticks in Tremain’s neck. He reaches up and pulls out a dart. As he looks back to Woodruff his facial muscles sag and his eyes close.

An older man limps up to the car. “Hey, Rick,” he says. The man looks…familiar?

“The Boss got lucky when Tremain took a side job and found YOU,” the man says. Woodruff is trying to keep the car’s speed down. They’d left Tremain’s unconscious body at a different warehouse. Since then the man had been monologuing while Woodruff tried not to freak out. “Didn’t you notice Maddie always wanted to go to the casino?”

Shit, thought Woodruff. He’s right. He should have know Maddie was too good to be true. “And once I owed The Boss big money he was going to recruit me?”

“That’s right.”

Woodruff felt sick. “So who are you?” He asks. “How do you fit in?”

“Funny story…”

The man who looks like an older version of her brother produces a photo of their family. It’s the one Brandon always carried.

“I’m so sorry I didn’t contact you after the accident,” he says in her brother’s voice. “But I was very hurt and still in danger.”


“I couldn’t have done it without you, sis,” Brandon stands before her. “If you hadn’t gone after the Cavalry Club, I couldn’t have dismantled it from the inside.” Caroline feels a pressure building behind her eyes.

“Have a seat,” he limps forward. “I’ll explain it all.” Caroline’s mind reels. She grasps at the first thought that pops into her head. “Why follow Woodruff?”

“I didn’t,” he says. “But I fixed that.”

“Rick will be thrilled,” Caroline counters instinctively.

“He is,” laughs Brandon. “He drove me here.” He motions to her chair. “Now let’s catch up.”

Copyright 2022 by Melani Weber