Hey, everyone! Below is the first of my 12 chapter novella, "Alexis", which centers around the lead female character, Alexis Kearns, in my debut novel "The Messengers": which can be found here.
This is a stand-alone novel that takes place in-between "The Messengers" and it's sequel, "The Black Athame" , which will be released on May 21 of this year. While characters that appear in "The Messengers" series will play a role in this novella, you do not have to read "The Messengers" in order to understand the plot line to "Alexis" (though it is recommended :D )
Alexis, a novella
Chapter 1: The Interview
“This is Alexis Kearns interviewing State Senator Margaret Thomas,” she said into the recorder before placing it on the table. “Good afternoon, Senator. Thank you for agreeing to speak with me.”
Senator Thomas smiled pleasantly from behind her desk. Her teeth were an off-white color that reminded Alexis of the dentures her grandmother wore. They were nearly the same shade as the senator’s short wispy hair, reminding her of one of the actresses from the Ovaltine commercials that she was barely old enough to remember.
“Thank you, Miss Kearns,” the senator replied. “I was very happy to hear that you wanted to speak with me about the Next Generation Heroes Foundation. I was hoping that the Chronicle would report on it, but I didn’t expect to get you!”
“Oh, well, you know,” Alexis said, half-expecting herself to do a hair flip that she would’ve smacked herself for doing later. She acquired quite a bit fame after the medium suicides case—primarily from the story she broke about James Hawthorne when he fell to his death and she did a whole piece on her Android. Without Justin around any longer, she had become the top dog at the Seattle Chronicle, and given free reign over the stories she chose to report on. “The Next Gen Heroes Foundation means a lot to me personally. It was one of the scholarships from your foundation that paid for most of my first year at U-Dub.”
“Really,” Senator Thomas said with a sense of self-gratification. “Then I guess you are the right person for the article. You know first-hand the good work we do.”
“Exactly,” Alexis replied, eying the tape recorder. “That said, why don’t you tell me a little background information about the foundation?”
Senator Thomas clasped her hands over the table and leaned forward so that her every word could be picked up. “The Next Generation Heroes Foundation was founded in 1992 by my ex-husband, Henry, and I. Before becoming a senator for Seattle area I worked as a Critical Theory professor at the University of Washington and then Seattle University. During my time at Seattle U I had a girl in my class, Deshana Lambert. Miss Lambert was clearly one of the brightest students in my class that year, but she was always getting there late and sometimes nodded off during my lectures. She approached me during visiting hours one afternoon to apologize for falling asleep in class, and mentioned she had just worked a double-shift at a twenty-four hour diner before getting to class. In fact, Miss Lambert was sometimes working fifty-hour weeks between her two jobs while attending Seattle U full-time. She was working so hard to afford her education that she didn’t give herself enough time to absorb the material so that she could keep up with students that came from wealthier families.
“Well, that didn’t resonate so well with me. While Miss Lambert made it work, graduated, and went on to become a project manager at Microsoft, so many others just like her were dropping out or putting their education on hold until they could afford it. I sat down with my husband, who was worked as a grant writing consultant, and told him that I wanted to create a scholarship fund to further help our young people get an education. Between his grant writing skills and my connections through the schools and the students that became successful after leaving my classroom, we’ve managed to raise more than twelve million dollars in the last twenty-three years. Fifty-thousand of that has come from Miss Lambert herself! She always gives us a generous donation at the end of the year.”
“The Seattle Chronicle has made multiple donations to your scholarship fund as well, has it not?”
“Indeed,” Senator Thomas nodded. “We are very grateful for the donations from the Seattle Chronicle and the Bauer family.”
“And in turn, the foundation has benefitted you as well.”
The senator cocked her head. “I’m sorry?”
Alexis paused, but then smiled sweetly was brushed her black bangs from her eyes. “My apologies. I mean, when you first ran from a senate seat in 2002, you were able to use the Next Gen Heroes Foundation as part of your platform.”
“Oh!” Senator Thomas replied. Color returned to her face. “Of course. It’s important to note that using the foundation as a means of acquiring a senate seat was never my intent. A Seattle Times reporter commented on it, and from then on I was known as the ‘scholarship lady’ during the rest of my campaign.”
“Politicians have certainly been called worse things during their campaigns,” Alexis said, sharing a laugh with the senator, who softened again after Alexis’ interpretable approach.
“Since I’ve been a state senator, our scholarship funds have nearly doubled. Of the twelve million that has been raised in our twenty-three years, eight million of it has come in the last ten.”
“Yes,” Alexis’ ‘s’ lingered. “As of last month, the Next Gen Heroes Foundation has raised $12,486,354.25.”
Senator Thomas pondered the number for a moment. “That sounds about right.”
“And in the last seven years, roughly $392,403 of that has found its way into one of your off-shore accounts. Does that number also sound about right?”
The senator’s face soured to that of a rotten tomato. Alexis thought it wise that she went into education and not professional poker. Senator Thomas took a moment before replying and glanced at the tape recorder as if it were a cockroach taking a nap on her desk. “Excuse me?”
“Is it, or is it not true that, starting in July of 2008, you have been cutting yourself a portion of the donations that should be going to your foundation?” Alexis asked, fixated on the senator’s inability to look her in the eye. “I can put in to you in other terms. The cost for tuition for an undergraduate student to attend the University of Washington in Seattle during fall quarter of the 2014-2015 school year was $4132 after fees. The amount of money that you embezzled could have paid for ninety-five of those students—some just like Deshana Lambert. Instead, that money went straight from Miss Lambert’s checkbook, the Seattle Chronicle account, and so many others, right into your pocket. Is that correct?”
“No! Absolutely not—and I’m offended by the mere implication that I could be stealing from my own non-profit.”
Alexis leaned to the side and unzipped the messenger bag she carried with her (all the while keeping an eye on the tape recorder in case Senator Thomas did something stupid). She grabbed a tan folder and slid it onto the table towards the senator. The senator opened it and examined the documents inside as if she was reading someone else’s draft of her last will and testament.
Alexis explained as the senator sifted through the documents. “Those first few pages are account statements given to me by another member of your foundation. On it are your accounts payable and receivable, salaries for yourself and your employees, miscellaneous expenses, the grant money distributions—everything that should be there.”
The senator nodded as she combed through every line like a Calculus teacher waiting to find a line in a math problem where the numbers didn’t add up.
“The final page contains a number that is just under four-hundred thousand dollars short of what it should be.”
“There are a number of reasons for why that could be,” the senator said. “For instance—”
“For instance, you can scroll through the rest of that document and put your foot in your mouth,” Alexis replied swiftly. “I wouldn’t have approached you with this allegation without it being truthful. It’s all there. The list of accounts that you’ve created, the credit report that was run on you two months ago, a printed spreadsheet of every small funds transfer you’ve made between your non-profit’s account and your personal account, the tax information that clearly states that your reported is less than what you’re claiming as your salary—shall I go on?”
“You were a recipient of this scholarship,” the senator hissed. “Why are you of all people trying to take it down?”
“I’m not,” Alexis replied. “I’m just presenting information that proves that you are no longer the best person to run it. I also don’t think that your constituents will approve of your siphoning of funds come re-election.”
Senator Thomas launched her hand out toward the tape recorder like a snake trying to swallow its prey, but Alexis was just as fast and grabbed the senator’s wrist before she could swipe it. “I strongly suggest that you let go of my property, ma’am,” she said in the more derogatory tone she could muster. “Also that’s not the only recording device I brought with me today. I figured you might have this reaction.”
The senator loosened her grip on the recorder, so Alexis let released her wrist. When she did, the senator raised an eyebrow and turned Alexis’ wrist around, revealing the kanji tattoo that she’d gotten when she first turned eighteen.
“It means ‘family’,” Alexis said. “I got it when—”
“I studied Chinese in high school and Japanese in college. This tattoo doesn’t mean ‘family’,” the senator glanced from the tattoo straight into Alexis’ eyes. “It means ‘don’t forget’.”
“‘Never forget’,” Alexis corrected her though clenched teeth.
“Hmm,” Senator Thomas muttered. The wheels turned in her head as she shed her skin to reveal herself as the viper Alexis knew that she was before starting the interview. This was not a kind old lady that meant to do nothing but good work with her non-profit. Something changed several years ago when her husband left her for someone younger and she realized that she could dip into the scholarship pool that she’d been filling for the last two decades. Her jaws were unhinged and she was threatening to swallow Alexis whole. “What kind of young woman would get a tattoo and lie about its meaning? Something very personal must have happened to you, if you’re willing to engrave the words ‘never forget’ on a part of your body that you can almost always see. If you’re going to lie about it, it must be something that you don’t tell anyone—something that you’ve possibly never told anyone before.”
“You don’t know me.”
Senator Thomas clasped Alexis’ wrist between her two clammy hands and ran her thumb down the tattoo that Alexis was caught lying about. “You’re the older of two girls brought up in a middle-class Christian home. Your parents are do-gooders and your younger sister frequently joins them on bake sales and retreats to build wells in third world countries and houses and other shit. You are nothing like them. You were an angry child in grade school, frequently dying your hair shades of black, red, and pink, and grew up on punk music while wearing clothes that made you look like a street rat. When you got into journalism, you were dead-set on going after other people like a prosecutor with a chip on their shoulder, and like an angry prosecutor you often went above and beyond to ensure that your subjects paid for their wrong-doings—sometimes very publicly.”
Alexis could feel the senator’s thumbnail threatening to dig into her tattoo, as if to slice it clear off of her skin. She did nothing to stop her, though. Their conversation was still being recorded, and there was no telling what else the senator would say while on the record. “You’ve done your research on me, then. You knew that I was a recipient of your scholarship, but you chose to bullshit me.”
“I was playing nice. Judging by this tattoo, I don’t think that people often play nice with you.” A smirk crept across the senator’s face. “You got this tattoo as a reminder that you need to play hero. You want to play hero for those that have been wronged, because when you needed a hero, no one came to you aid. Someone wronged at a young age, didn’t they. And whatever they did… it’s something that you never got over.”
Alexis glared at the senator and replied through a pair of tight lips. “Is there anything else that you’d like to admit to while you’re still on the record?”
“He still haunts you, doesn’t me,” the senator scathed. “Jack Calderan, I mean. When he attacked you, it must have reminded you of what happened before.”
Alexis clutched onto the tape recorder and yanked her arm out from between the senator’s scaly palms. “We’re done here, bitch. And you’re just done in general. ‘Senator and Scholarship Founder Grants Herself Ninety-Five Quarter’s Worth of Student’s Dreams.’ It’ll have to be the subhead, since it runs a bit wordy. I think the headline ‘FRAUD’ in all caps with your picture underneath will grab the public’s attention though.” She placed her tape recorder back in her pocket and zipped up her messenger bag before slinging it around her shoulder. “Thank you for paying for part of my education, senator. I’m glad I put it to good use.”
“You can take me down, Alexis,” the senator crossed her arms over her chest. “But you’ll never be able to outrun what really haunts you.”
Alexis turned away and walked toward the door. “I already did,” she replied, shutting it behind her.