inhisshadow: (headstand)
She sat through the memorial service, numb, gazing at nothing. Chin up. Never let them see you cry. But she didn't even feel like crying. She felt like she was watching a movie. She didn't know who that girl was, in the navy blue dress (she hadn't felt like putting up a fight when her aunt picked it out), black curls tamed and framing her face. The new bra itched. It was distracting. Who got distracted by itchy clothing when their parents were laying dead in coffins in front of them? Maybe it was just a dream, because that couldn't be real.

Her brother Sam seemed surprised she hadn't made a fuss over the dress. Neither of them cried, at the funeral. While Sam made arrangements to be her legal guardian, their aunt took charge of Chaz. She was, the woman insisted, obviously past due for being taken charge of. At fifteen Chaz was a late bloomer, but definitely starting to become a woman. She wore mostly t-shirts and jeans, played with boys, and was obsessed with skateboarding. Sam had resigned himself to the idea his sister was a die-hard tomboy a long time ago, and their parents had, with some reluctance, learned to accept the same. She preferred 'Chaz' to Chelsea, she could only be argued into a skirt of dress on rare occasions, and her interest in boys remained platonic so far.

Their aunt took one look at the band t-shirt, frayed jeans, and baseball cap and declared Chaz unacceptable. As a child, it might have been permissible, but now that she was fifteen Chaz was 'a young lady', according to their aunt, and it was time she learned to act like one. She was willing to let Sam take legal custody, but he was only nineteen, and looking after his wild child of a sister would be too much to take on alone. Packing up and selling the house was supposed to be a fresh start. A way to get over the death of their parents. They moved to Brooklyn, to a flat in the same building with their aunt, and Chaz started at a new school while Same looked for work. Mechanically inclined, he was able to work his way into a job at a garage, then another part-time at a gas station. It was enough to pay the bills. It also kept him busy, and Chaz was left to her own devices. At every effort their aunt made to mold her into a young woman, Chaz ground her heels in all the deeper. In school, her grades dropped slightly, although it took a minimum of effort to keep them at an acceptable C+/B- average. Outside school, Chaz made no close friends, but her skills on a skateboard earned her respect, and the right to hang out with the local thrasher punks. Brooklyn was bigger than Schenectady, with more things to do and places to go. Chaz wasn't happy, but she adjusted, and kept moving and doing to avoid thinking about the hollow space left by the death of her parents. Sam was rarely home, working two jobs to make ends meet. He saw that her grades were okay, she had a social group, and she wasn't in trouble. Their aunt, ostensibly, was looking after Chaz. At least she tried. Chaz lingered after school every day, hanging out at the park or wherever the other thrashers went, exploring the city, or even the public library. As little fondness as she held for school, Chaz liked to learn. She'd always been interested in how everything worked, in other places and other lives. Home was a last resort, the place to go at curfew, eat dinner, and sleep. In the mornings she was out the door on time, waving off her aunt's farewell, and in the evenings she scraped in at curfew, keeping track of her brother's schedule to be home when expected. Her new friends, such as they were, made a very subtle bad influence. A few times, at their urging, she snuck back out after bed to join them.

That was when they first offered her pills. Chaz, both eager to keep her reputation, and smart enough not to take an unknown substance, faked downing one, then mimicked the effects when she saw them kick in for other people. When they parted ways for the night, she laid in bed thinking about it a long time, while a pit in her stomach yawned open. In the light from the open window, she studied the pill she'd pocketed, and she thought.

After that she learned to fake the effects even better, and worked on her sleight-of-hand to stash whatever she was given unseen. When the group of people was big enough, she also learned to pilfer more, replacing whatever drugs they had with homemade lookalikes of baking powder, food coloring, and other kitchen basics. Her stash of genuine drugs grew, fast. She could have sold it, but the idea sat very wrong in her mind. She bought latex gloves, from a drugstore away from home, and found a cardboard box in a dumpster. The box that arrived at the police station was from a drop box, had no return address, and postage purchased by an unidentified teenage boy. More boxes followed, every month or so.

It was a game, a challenge, and a worthy one. Chaz never dreamed her own small efforts were enough to sabotage a very elaborate and careful sting by a much older and more experienced crimefighter. When she was caught, it wasn't by another teenager, but by a tall figure all in black who loomed out of the alley one night as she was returning home. Why he approached her, she slowly pieced together later, but she would never know just how close she came to jabbing him in the groin with her skateboard. The way he melted away from the move was scarily impressive.

At sixteen years old, Chaz became the youngest agent of The Shadow. Twice in two years her life had been turned upside down, but sometimes two wrongs do make a right, and working for The Shadow was the first thing that felt Right since her parents had died.
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inhisshadow: (Default)
Chaz Walters

January 2015

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