II: The Gentleman's Code

I grew up in a place called 'Ruckland Heights', located in Sangeles City's southern quarter.

It's really no place for a family to settle down, but when money is tight you take whatever you can get.

And as kids, we made the best of it.

"Lookit this!"

Claudia exclaimed, as she rummaged through a series of old boxes. Sven blinked as she pulled out a dusty, black fedora; his brown eyes wide,

"Wow, it's just like Frankie's!"

"You would say that," she said, blowing the dust from it's brim as she let out a longing sigh,

"I was thinkin' more like Michael."

"You would say that," he grumbled in reply as she put it on and ran to the mirror.

She made a few poses and giggled, the tiny boy groaning with boredom. With a pout, she turned and marched back over to him, slamming it down on his head,

"Fine, you try it on!"

Quickly, he took the hat off and carefully punched out the dents she had created; proceeding to coddle and fuss over it as though it were a baby. Claudia rolled her eyes at this; murmuring softly,

"Get on with it, weirdo..."

"Fine!"

He stood and trotted over to the mirror, first slicking back his hair in a rather choreographed manner. Claudia let out a loud snicker as he put it on and tugged at his shirt as though it were a fine jacket,

"You're such a dork!"

"Shut up! I am not!"

THUMP THUMP.

The children jumped as they heard a knocking at the floor boards and Sven swallowed hard, quickly taking the hat off and handing it back to her,

"I gotta go."

The tiny girl nodded as she stood up and gave him a hug; a worried look on her face,

"See you tomorrow, Sven."

"Yeah..."

He headed back down the stairs, resembling a puppy with his tail between his legs as he met his father at the bottom. Claudia peeked over the stairs, biting her lip as she watched the older man grab the boy roughly by his arm and shove him out the door. Her father stepped up behind her, placing a hand on her shoulder in comfort as she let out a whimper.

~ø~

"What have I told you about hanging around that girl!?"

The boy whimpered as he fell to the ground; his face already beginning to bruise. He wiped at the blood trickling from his nose, but could not get it to stop. The slate-haired man glared down at him with disgust,

"Who knows what you'll catch playing with that little monkey."

Sanngriðr Vollfied. My father. A.K.A; the most hateful man in the world. He hated everyone he'd ever come into contact with; Claudia, my mother, -even me.

"Stop calling her names," the tiny boy spat back, narrowing his eyes,

"It isn't nice!"

He grunted, receiving a swift sock to the jaw.

"I'll call her what I like," Sann quipped; pulling the boy up by the collar of his shirt. He dragged him across the floor, throwing him inside his bedroom,

"Now, get out of my sight! You're filthy!"

I don't think there was a single compassionate bone in his body.

The boy gasped as he heard the door slam and groaned softly; pushing himself up off the ground. Dusting off his pants, he winced as he gingerly brushed his fingertips against the swelling sections of his face. It was already beginning to bruise. Good. Just what he needed.

Letting out a deep sigh, he trotted over to the small television set that sat on his dresser and picked up a small cassette. He placed it into the player and hurried back over to his bed as the tape began to play. Grabbing a tissue from his nightstand, he put it to his nose and let it soak up whatever fresh blood was still leaking from it.

I used to worship old movies as though they were a religion. Classic noir made for the perfect escape to a boy as trapped as I was; especially the detective dramas. Bogart's films were personal favourites.

'"When a man's partner is killed, he's supposed to do something about it. It doesn't make any difference what you thought of him. He was your partner and you're supposed to do something about it. And it happens we're in the detective business. Well, when one of your organization gets killed, it's-it's bad business to let the killer get away with it, bad all around, bad for every detective everywhere..."'

The boy smiled at the flickering images on his television and pulled his pillow closer.

The films I watched; the books I read. They raised me.

They were my parents-my role models.

From them, I drew up a series of guidelines for myself- a set of rules to live by.

A code.

MY code.

The Gentleman's Code.

Sven kept his eyes fixed on the screen; silently studying the actor's movements. Plucking a crayon off of his desk, he mimicked the actor's long draws of his cigarette. The boy frowned as his tooth accidently brushed the waxy coating and quickly spit it out. There had to be a better way of doing this. He then remembered. His father normally kept his cigarettes in the kitchen. Quietly and cautiously, the tiny boy opened his door a crack and glanced out into the dark living space.

He didn't seem to be around.

Sven tip-toed to the kitchen and carefully began rummaging through each drawer. It only took him three tries to find them. He grabbed a book of matches as well and scampered back to his room.

I was ten when I first started. I kept it to a minimum; just one here and there. I didn't want dear old dad finding out I was siphoning his smokes, after all.

The boy swallowed hard as he carefully lit the cigarette between his lips; glancing back and forth between the flame and the screen.

When it finally lit, he smiled triumphantly and took a long drag. He paused.

And I have to admit...

His face turned a shade greener than his hair.

It was probably the worst decision I've ever made.

The boy sputtered, smoke billowing from his lips and nostrils as he quickly ran and opened his window.

'"BLEGGH!"'

But in order to be a gentleman, I had to look the part-no matter what that entailed.

Aesthetics were key.

Placing the cigarette on the windowsill, he stumbled over to his closet; still feeling a little sick. He rifled through his clothes, a deep scowl on his face. Nothing in here would do. He frowned and stepped back from his closet; a look of disappointement on his face.

The sound of a slam drew his attention and he straightened. Trotting to his door, he opened it a crack and peeked out into the living room again. No one was there. He tip-toed out and glanced around, noting that the car keys were missing from the table. His father had gone out for the evening.

Swallowing hard, he hurried to the man's bedroom and smiled as he peered into his closet. His father owned a vast collection of suit jackets-surely one of them was suitable enough for a gentleman. The boy quickly went to work, checking each one for the appropriate look. He finally found one, in the form of a slick, black jacket. Picking it from the hangar, he grinned as he turned to leave. He frowned as he caught something out of the corner of his eye. Turning back to the closet, Sven raised an eyebrow; kneeling down beside a cardboard box. The box seemed ordinary, it's only oddity being that of the white lace that peeked out of it. Upon opening it, he found the contents to be that of a pure, white wedding veil. Next to it lay a picture of a woman with sage-green hair. The boy sighed deeply as he picked up the picture and held it for a moment. It was hard to believe that it had already been two years since she left. Shaking his head, he set the picture back down on the veil and closed the box up.

Looking back on that day, I wish I had paid more attention.

Because life, the way I had known it, was about to change forever...


A/N: I don't really have anything to put here. It just felt wrong not having an author's note. ;D