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A Single Bright Candle’s Flame (Criminal Intentions Season One #9)
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ABOUT THIS EPISODE
Detective Malcolm Khalaji is at a loss.
For the second time in his life, he wasn’t there when his lover needed him. And with Seong-Jae Yoon on leave pending an internal investigation, Malcolm doesn’t know what to do with a shattered partner and boyfriend who’s retreated from him into a dark and broken place. It’s Gabrielle all over again…yet this time, Malcolm is determined to do this right. This time he’s determined to be there no matter what Seong-Jae needs, even if it means taking time off from the pressures of their job to hold Seong-Jae through every moment of trauma, of guilt, of self-recrimination.
Until a frantic phone call from Seong-Jae’s parents destroys any hope of peace.
Because Seong-Jae’s younger sister is missing—and there’s only one place she would go.
Yet even if the desperate search breaks Seong-Jae’s numbness, it’s the warmth of family that brings him back from a black and dangerous edge—and shows Malcolm a side to Seong-Jae he never could have imagined. But not even these idyllic moments of calm are safe, as the twisted machinations surrounding them continue. If each player in this game is a chess piece, then none other than Edmund Bishop is a pawn, sacrificed to save his queen. Yet is Lillienne Wellington really the one pulling the strings?
Or is someone else trying to eliminate Bishop for their own dire ends?
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[0: GIVE ME A BOOST]
EDMUND BISHOP HAS LIVED A life in slow motion.
Prison has not changed that.
Prison has only attached a price tag to that slow-motion life, to that dreamlike endlessness of days stringing together one after another after another after another into a single long unbroken day where the only difference is the color of the light from one hour to the next. In prison, the light is always the same color, institutional white and sterile.
But he has checked into a hotel he cannot check out of. Not without three point five million dollars.
That is the price placed on Edmund Bishop’s life, and his freedom.
That is the amount that would serve as a key to the bars that keep him locked away, imprisoned in remand and confined to a single-room cell with a steel bowl for a toilet—and a cellmate named Stanton, who sleeps in the bunk above him. Stanton is a small man, a reedy man, with a fuzz of oddly lumpy gray-and-sand mustache and round, reflective gold-rimmed spectacles. Edmund does not know what Stanton’s crime was, or when he will stand trial and be moved to a long-term facility. He does not speak to Edmund unless he has to, and during meals in the cafeteria of the Baltimore City Detention Center, Stanton isolates himself to a far corner, keeps his head down, and reads his dog-eared science fiction novels with their spines so creased they have turned white in narrow, fuzzy lines. Edmund finds this acceptable, albeit a touch lonely.
He has learned, as he has learned many hard lessons, that nothing good comes from speaking.
Mr. Garvey taught him that. Mr. Garvey taught him that a lie was better than the truth, but silence was better than a lie. Edmund does not particularly enjoy lying, yet for him the truth is a forbidden thing.
And so, when the time comes to bring him to trial, he will say nothing.
The judge, the jurors, the prosecutors will draw what opinions they will.
While Edmund simply…will not speak.
Trial, for him, is months away. He supposes if he had three point five million dollars, he would at least be free on bail and could, for some time longer, grasp on to the illusion of a normal life. A good life, even, when he will never receive those soundless texts with names, addresses, instructions ever again, and at the very least his last days will be quiet without the ominous, muted whine-thwp of the silencer.
But he does not have the funds for bail, and no one will come to pay that money for him. Not Garvey’s woman. Not the tall Chinese man who sends him the boxes. He does not think even Garvey himself would have paid that much for Edmund, were his former employer still alive.
He wonders, then, as he lies in his bunk and stares up at the faint depression of Stanton’s weight pushing the mattress down against the bars overhead, if his parents would have made the effort. He does not know if they are alive. That was one of the rules of working for Garvey—that he sever all ties, abandon all contact. At the time he had wished to forget the people who had bought him and paid for him because the color of his skin somehow made their choice to adopt more noble. He had wished to erase all trace of the people who had shaped him, who had taught him to forget the words he knew, whether he spoke in Southern brown sugar or tiếng Việt. He does not think, if they were to find him now, that they would think him worth the cost.
He is a criminal, in defiance of their design—and helping him would yield no dividends.
Did they ever love him? He dismisses the thought. Perhaps they felt some fondness, as one feels for a pet or an object one has assigned a personality to through a modern form of animism. He was purchased to fulfill a purpose much like any tool, and used to the extent of his utility. Their poster child, small and crisp in his narrow suits, playing the violin so that they might say look, see, at this polished idol we’ve created from the mud we dug him from.
He remembers, though, a name. Two names. Chau, and Ambrose. He wonders why he remembers those names, and not mother and father, mama and daddy; why he imprinted those two specific words so young. Their faces are a haze in his memory, as though someone had dragged their thumb over a chalk drawing. He remembers dark eyes, pale golden skin. Remembers a face with a broad flat nose like his, the same weathered softness to the leather-brown shade, the same dark dotted freckles of melanin across nose and cheeks. The smell of warm flesh, the almost cloudy sensation of being held, enfolded, swaddled. These are all distant things, but they always raise the question of why. How.