This story at Fictionpress.
The previous chapter of this story, if you didn't catch the link in last week's fiction updates.
Also included this week:
Secret Life: Chapters five and six. Sci-fi horror. "He is afraid. Afraid that he knows why he is here."
A Story Across Years
Chapter four: Another Bedtime Story
Another Bedtime Story
"And now, it's time for you to close those eyes, and go to sleep."
"But mom, you haven't read me my story yet."
"Oh, of course. How could I forget?" Marilyn grinned and picked up a book, but her daughter frowned when she saw the cover.
"You read The Prince all last week!"
Marilyn blinked. "Really? What about Crito?"
"Socrates wants to die and won't listen to anyone else. That's the whole thing."
"Thus Spake Zarathustra?"
"I'm tired of Nietzche."
Marilyn was silent, thinking. "Have I ever told you the story of Skeleton Scott?"
"That... sounds rather like an actual story someone might tell at bedtime," her daughter said. "So I'm pretty sure you haven't." She stared at her mother. "You're still trying to work lessons into bedtime, aren't you?"
Marilyn smiled. "Yes, but not the one you think. He may be real, but I'm not trying to give you a history lesson. Now, let's see... Oh, I know. Here's a story you won't hear in read in any history book. If you know Skeleton Scott, you know, then, that the whole city was afraid of him. The coppers couldn't track him down, the costumed vigilantes died more often than they managed to crawl away bleeding, and the masked criminals just kept an eye out for him and broke group like rats at the first sign of him."
Her daughter snorted.
"But there was one man who stood up to Skeleton Scott. An officer of the law, and one of the few people Scott could respect. Understand, now, that Scott owned the city. He owned little, but when he wanted something, he took it, whether life, limb, or property, and nobody could stop him."
"But he was able to do it, right? What?" she asked, as Marilyn stared at her. "That's how these stories go, right?"
"Officer Alejandro Edgar Hess and his wife both ended up with two bullets in the heart and another in the head," Marilyn answered flatly.
"Oh." Her daughter sounded, quite understandably, disappointed at this news.
"How many stories have I told you with happy endings?"
The young girl thought about it. "Er... Two?"
"Just that? But what about-"
"Julius Caesar got assassinated, mom. By Brutus. His friend!"
"But he kicked off the Roman Empire. That was good, while it lasted. Okay, what ab-"
Her daughter groaned. "How about Job? I'd settle for Job, okay?"
"So you want a different story?" Marilyn asked.
"No, it's fine. Just, tomorrow, could you tell me a story that ends happily?"
"Guy Fawkes was killed."
"Which is a very happy ending," Marilyn said, smiling, "if you're rooting for the Protestants." She paused. "Alejandro had a daughter. Like you."
"And the daughter was kil-"
"And Skeleton Scott took her."
"Close enough. And what horribleness did he do to her?"
"He would run her till she threw up, and then run her farther. He would lock her in her room for days, sometimes, letting her out only for the bathroom, and giving her rather tasteless, if nutritious, food. He beat her... twenty-six times," she said, taking a moment to think back and double-check the number. It was hard to forget, though. "These were punishments, of course. He made her torture and kill a man in cold blood. The other man had tried to rape her, true, but she was twelve. Very young, for wetwork.
"It could be argued that the cruelest thing of all which he did was cause her to love him. By the time she realized that she should hate him, she had thought of him as 'Father' for far too long, and had spent far too much time listening to him tell her stories at night, and doing nothing but things which would get her a hug, or even a simple 'Well done, girl.'"
"Why did he..." The young girl yawned. "Why did he do it?"
"Look at The Face," Marilyn said. "Skeleton Scott, if he'd spent twenty years in the asylum first. But he killed some people for no reason at all, and some orphan becomes his nemesis, decades later. Oh, Scott wasn't going to make the same mistake. Usually, he just killed the kids. But this girl..." She closed her eyes, thinking. "I don't know why he did it. But he took her in, thinking that if she could be taught to love him, then he wouldn't have an enemy in the future. Maybe he also wanted an heir. But take her in he did, and then, against all reason, especially his own, he grew to love the girl, too; there wasn't anything he wouldn't do for her, in the end.
"He didn't skimp on her education. He taught her everything she could possibly learn. Sometimes I think that she could have done very well, had she been forced to take his mantle up even at fifteen. But for everything he ever did for and, yes, to her, he still surprised her, sometimes. The little gifts he'd give her, after a job exceptionally well done. Or..." Marilyn smiled. "Or when she said that what she wanted was a normal life, and he gave her his blessing. Most surprising of all, though, was when he showed up, quite unexpectedly, for his grandchildren. He retired soon after. He claimed he was getting slow, but... I think he wanted to be able to focus on his daughter."
"What happened after that?"
"They... They didn't live happily ever after, but things were as happy as one could expect."
Her daughter looked at her, sleepily, skeptically. "Wow. A happy ending, with only the basic qualifier. Wow." She hugged her mother. "Good story. Maybe you can improvise another, tomorrow night?"
Marilyn grinned. "Of course. G'night," she said, and she closed the door behind her, and walked to the kitchen. She had a call to make.
One couldn't say "Thank you, Father," enough. All things considered, he deserved it.