Aldric grunted as he looked at the two men leaning against his desk. They were staring at him intensely as they silently demanded he give them an answer. He huffed and leaned back in his seat. His feet refused to touch the floor, even when his butt was on the very edge. After a long time, he spoke up. His coarse voice was filled with uncertainty. “So, you want me to do what?”
The man on the left sighed and ran a hand through his pretty hair. If Aldric recalled right, his name was Ollie. “We just need you to pick one of us to be your daughter’s legal guardian. Nothing weird or unsafe. You see, we were sent by the state.” He grinned readily, and the other spoke up.
“You see, when a parent has such a limited lifespan, there really isn’t much choice about what to do. Little Rachel needs a parent who isn’t going to die when she’s twelve.” Nick nodded seriously as he looked Aldric in the eye.
Aldric sighed. “I have arrangements made.”
Ollie objected quickly. “We need to see those before they will be considered.”
Aldric frowned. “Not without my lawyer present.”
Nick held an arm in front of Ollie, then looked at Aldric. “Aren’t you a lawyer?”
The deformed man grinned. “Just because I have the degree doesn’t mean I am. Besides, I find two eyes are better at spotting trouble before it arrives.” He pushed against his desk to get some distance, then slid from his chair and limped around it. “Please leave.” His smile faded quickly as his single eye gave the two men a stare that told stories of the suffering he would visit onto them.
Their cheer faded quickly. “Shall we send you a court order?”
Aldric looked up at them. “Go ahead.” He limped to the door, one leg shorter and more stiff than the other, and held it open. “This way.” He grabbed a cane from a bin next to the door and leaned against it. He took a step, looked back, and once the men started to walk, he began to lead them out. He didn’t trust them in his bathroom, let alone to wander freely inside his home and rifle through his office. Often, he stopped again to look back and ensure both men followed. Aldric inwardly became giddy with sadistic pleasure as their irritation grew.
When they finally arrived at the door, he, with his half-gnarled hands, opened the door. “Bye bye, now.” As they walked out, he waved good-bye with a lopsided, demented smile, then closed the door and turned to face the inside of his office’s building.
An Indian woman peered from her office nearby and looked at Aldric. “I don’t like those two.” She scowled.
“I don’t either, Jasmine.” Aldric grunted and leaned back against the door with a groan. “My back hurts.”
She walked out and wrapped an arm around his back. “Come on. You can sit on my sofa. I just have paperwork today. No clients.”
“Thanks.” He nodded and looked up at her. “And thanks for letting me borrow my old office.”
She grinned. “Not a problem for my favorite creep. You should probably take your canes home, though. I had to pry three away from a client already.”
Aldric chuckled. “You can give him this one after I leave.”
Jasmine placed her hands on her hips. “Typical. You want to mooch a ride.” She tried to make a stern face, but gave up and laughed. “Yes, I’ll give you a ride.” A thought bubbled up in her head. “Wait, why did you ask to have that meeting here, anyway?”
Aldric smirked. “I don’t want them at my house. Those two are creepy, and Rachel is scared of men who wear suits.” He frowned. “Even when I wore one, she screamed and hid until I took it off.” The man looked down and shook his head, then noticed that they arrived at the couch. He flopped onto it with a grunt. “Much better.” He scratched his side and shifted until his twisted back was comfortable. “You have the best shitty couch ever.”
The ride home an hour later was uneventful, and Aldric waved as Jasmine pulled away. Once she was gone, he turned to look at his apartment building, then leaned heavily on his cane as he made his way inside. The ride up the elevator was just as boring as the ride in Jasmine’s car, and he soon arrived on his floor. With staggered steps, he walked down the hall to his own apartment and reached for the door knob. It was locked. He frowned. “Rachel?” he called as he knocked.
He clenched his hand on the knob and tried to turn it. “Rachel?” He reached for his keys and clumsily shoved his apartment key into the lock. He turned and opened the door, cane forgotten, and entered. In front of him, there was a barricade of tables and chairs, with a four year old redhead’s face peeking over. With her freckles and bucked teeth, she looked rather silly. “Rachel, did someone try coming in?” he asked as he closed and locked the door. His cane was left outside, but he had spares by the door.
Aldric grabbed a spare and limped towards his little daughter as she answered with a tiny voice. “Yes. Scary men in suits. They said they were going to take me away.” She looked up at her father. “They aren’t, are they?”
“Of course not.” He smiled at her and bent down to kiss the child, then wrapped his gnarled arms around her gently as she jumped over the toppled table. “They can’t unless they break the law, and then I’ll get you right back.” He kissed her head gently.
“Good.” Rachel clung tightly to her father and sniffled. “I was so scared, Daddy. They banged on the door and kept yelling for me to let them in, then said they’d just come back tomorrow with a lock-picker when you were at work. They thought I couldn’t hear.”
“Did they? I’ll just have to call in sick tomorrow. Nothing important is happening there, anyway.” He smiled at her. “Don’t worry, Daddy will keep you safe.” A dangerous gleam entered his eye as he glanced toward the door. Daddy would keep her safe, for certain.