Halfway to my Heart

by Brigid Doyle


Copyright - July 1999


"Miss McAllister!" The name was said as the book slammed loudly against the desk. "Am I boring you?"

Reagan McAllister blinked her eyes quickly and looked up at the woman towering over her. She pushed a stray hair from her face and tucked it neatly behind her ear while bringing herself up into a 'proper sitting position'. She could not believe it, somewhere between the mathematical theories and the sum of the angles of an isosceles triangle she had fallen asleep. Now, Miss Shea was livid. This was the third time this week she had nodded off in Geometry class. Miss Shea was taking it very personally.

"No…no ma'am…" she stuttered leafing through her text in a lost effort to look interested. She blinked again trying to focus on the blackboard, perhaps to see something familiar, a focal point, a place to start or at least search for an answer.

"Do you sleep through every class, young lady, or do you make it a point to take a nap only in mine?" The tight-lipped woman glared at her over the top of her spectacles.

"No, no I don't sleep in my other classes…" the strawberry blonde began to explain, shaking herself awake.

"Ah, then it is just MY class!?" Miss Shea interrupted.

"Yes…NO…I mean, yes…but, no…I…I…" the girl tried to explain again.

"This is getting to be a regular routine with you, Miss!! Maybe you would be happier if we rescheduled the class to accommodate your needs?" The girl squirmed in her seat feeling the stares of the other students as they waited for her answer. NO ONE, absolutely NO ONE, ever dared to cross Miss Evelyn Shea. Word across campus was that she actually was taught by, or was it that she taught Euclid himself! "I'm waiting…" She informed Reagan, crossing her arms over her well-endowed chest and tapping her shiny black shoe on the tile floor. It was like a metronome timing the girl's answer.

"Well…" Reagan thought for a moment, trying to hold on to the anger brewing within her. Heck she hadn't disturbed anyone and all of her work was up to date, she was carrying a B+ average in this class despite the outdated methods of this god awful boring teacher. She hated to get up early and hated any form of mathematics even more. They had been reviewing the same dumb page for the past three days and she was just fed up with the whole mess. She thought for only a moment before her mouth engaged. "As a matter of fact…. I've already covered this material. It was part of my course last semester. I guess I get a bit sleepy because of that and because this room is awfully hot. Do you think we could open a window in here? She answered as sweetly as possible, but thought, 'The fact really is that the whole course needs a bit of freshening.'

The class gasped as a whole. Miss Shea's jaw hung open for a few seconds before she let out something that could have been a sigh but was more like the sound a tea kettle makes as it boils. She marched down the aisle and stood directly in front of the small girl, slamming a long pointer on the student's desk as she approached. Reagan jumped back and scratched her right ear (something she always did when she was very nervous). She bit her bottom lip and looked up at the woman before her, who suddenly looked much bigger than she had a few moments ago. She smiled weakly. "Well you did ask…and well if it were a bit more interesting…well, then a lot more people would be…interested."

"OUT!" Miss Shea pointed toward the door. "OUT OF MY CLASSROOM RIGHT NOW!!" She stepped closer to the girl leaning over so that Reagan could actually feel the words coming out of her.

The girl stood quickly, in an attempt to distance herself from the incensed teacher, tangling her feet in the legs of the chair and the desk and almost tumbling to the floor. Three other girls also stood in an effort to get out of the way.

"WE will just take that smart mouth of yours to see Mistress Thorne!!!" Miss Shea caught the girl's upper arm preventing her fall. She draggged her to her feet and shook her just enough to make a point. "I'm sure she would love a visit from a McAllister!! Jennifer!! You will take over the class until I return. I want pages 47 through 51 done, all problems written in full by tomorrow morning!!" A dark-haired girl with thick glasses jumped to attention and quickly picked up her text, turning to the assigned page and nodding quickly. Miss Shea pushed a stray hair away from her flushed face and marched her charge out of the room slamming the door with such force that two of her teaching award plaques crashed to the floor.


Miss Shea made quite a scene dragging the girl from the Mathematics building across campus to the Administration building. She vented her anger continuously during the short journey, repeating over and over again just what she thought of young upstarts with smart mouths and just what part of their anatomy should be warmed in order to correct that personality flaw. By the time she threw the young girl into a large antique chair outside of the headmistress' office, she was quite out of breath as well. She took several deep breaths, pushed her wild gray hair back against the sides of her head and adjusted her disheveled clothing before presenting herself to the very surprised secretary. Mrs. Lynn stared wide-eyed at the livid woman in front of her desk then at the girl she had tossed into the chair across the room.

"I need to see Miss Thorne! And I need to see her NOW!" the teacher demanded, still trying to catch her breath. "NOW!!" she repeated when the well-starched secretary did not move fast enough.

The younger woman picked up the shiny black telephone from her desk and pushed an intercom button. She waited only a few seconds, "Miss Shea is here to see you, ma'am. I think it is important." She paused for a moment staring at the teacher who glared back. "Yes, ma'am I'll send her right in." She hung up the phone and rose to escort the fuming teacher into the larger office.

Before she could, Miss Shea had her hand on the large brass doorknob. "I'll see myself in, thank you! And you!" She turned toward Reagan, her eyes flashing. "You stay right where you are until I send for you!!" She pushed the large door open and disappeared behind it.

Reagan swallowed hard and scratched her right ear. 'Great!' She thought to herself, 'another wonderful mess I got myself into.'

The last three months had not been easy for Reagan McAllister. Up until that time, she had attended public school in the city, a far cry from the rigors and regiment of Brisbey Private School. McAllister endowments had benefited Brisbey since 1897. In fact, McAllister Hall was named for her great-great-great grandfather who had donated quite a fortune to build the fine arts building and set up a thespian organization as well as a music department for the school. Reagan however, was a stranger to private education. Her mother arranged for her to attend public schools arguing that at least one person in the family should experience the average citizen's education. Her father had laughed at her mother's argument but in the he end gave in to it. Then her parents were killed in a freak boating accident and her whole world changed. Suddenly she was an orphan, placed in the custody of her older half-sister, Payton. Payton was more of a part time guardian since she had very little time for a young girl, in addition to running the family business. Brisbey was the answer. It had been good enough for Payton. It would help to mold the mind of young Reagan as well. That September, the younger McAllister was packed off bag and baggage to the hallowed halls of Brisbey. She had seen Payton twice since then. Actually, she saw her on special occasions and even then she didn't really see her, only heard the household servants talk about her. She had seen her at the funeral and the reception later. They had been distant. While she always admired her big sister, she knew enough to stay well out of her way.

Payton was everything Reagan wished she could be. Payton was tall, what you would call statuesque. Her skin was like alabaster and her eyes the color of sapphire. They sparkled like it too, although she rarely smiled enough to let it show. She was tough as nails. No one pushed Payton McAllister around. In Reagan's eyes Payton was probably the most beautiful, bravest person in the world. Payton ran the McAllister Shipping Company, or MAC as it was called, now that father was gone and she did it even better than he had. Payton was smart, brave, cunning, popular, and successful. At least in Reagan's eyes.

Reagan swung her feet nervously. The sounds coming from behind the large oak doors were muffled, but even so they were definitely not hopeful sounds. She scratched her ear again and looked down at her feet, noticing how far they were from the floor. The chair she was seated in seemed to be larger than life. It was like one of those thrones Santa sits on in the department store she thought, then chided herself, 'what a silly thought'. Reagan McAllister was the opposite of her sister. At twelve she could easily slip past the box office girl at the picture show with a child's admittance ticket. People in stores often called her sweetie and asked if she had lost her mommy. Cursed! That's what she was, cursed! Her straw colored hair and sea green eyes were no blessing as far as she was concerned, and the light spray of freckles across her nose made it even worse. She was cursed to look like a baby for the rest of her life!!! And on top of it she was short, the shortest girl in the class. And while her classmates were happily experiencing the wonders of puberty, she was still shopping in the children's department at Bergen's.

She looked across at the secretary who had glanced toward her. They exchanged small smiles. She'd spent a bit too much time visiting the headmistress since her arrival at Brisbey. It seemed she had started off on the wrong foot and gotten farther on Miss Thorne's wrong side ever since. First, it was that scene in the cafeteria, what a mess. Balancing a lunch tray was not one of the girl's fortes. That combined with an untied shoelace was a recipe for disaster. She'd spent a whole week helping to do dishes and haul trash as restitution for toppling a whole table and wrecking havoc with several upperclassmen's uniforms. Then there was that incident with the mouse in the laundry basket. She'd rescued the little thing from the Biology lab and had fully intended to set it free in the field right after classes were over for the day. Somehow it managed to gnaw a whole in the shoebox she had rigged as a temporary home and found a cozy retreat in the laundry hamper. Reagan had never heard anyone scream so loud in all her life. Once again she was marched off to the headmistress' office and spent another week dragging laundry bags and folding towels with the housekeeping staff. Although she had made some wonderful friends among the staff she had also managed to make a not so pleasant reputation for herself. She didn't know her sister at all, but somehow she was sure Payton would not be pleased. She let out a long sigh and tapped her fingers on the arm of the chair. Reagan swallowed again, wishing this was over, wishing it never happened.

The door opened suddenly expelling Miss Shea. She was much calmer. Her hair was once again neatly pulled back into a tight knot at the back of her neck. She wore a very catlike grin and seemed smugly satisfied. She stopped in front of Reagan, narrowing her eyes and widening her grin. "Now, little Miss Smart Mouth, we will see who has the last word!" She turned and walked calmly out of the office, nodding at Miss Lynn as she passed.

The buzzer on the desk squawked loudly. Reagan jumped at the sound, watching as Miss Lynn also jumped a bit then picked up the black receiver. She listened for only a second. "Yes ma'am." She put it back down into its cradle without a sound and looked up at the nervous child in the large chair. She rose slowly, smoothing her woolen skirt as she did. She walked the short distance to the large double doors and placed her hand on the same knob Miss Shea had used a short while before. "She'll see you now," she informed Reagan, with a bit of regret in her voice.

Reagan slid to the edge of the chair and stood. She pushed her hair behind both ears, straightened her dark gray uniform, pulled her crisply starched white collar into a neater appearance, and brushed the wrinkles from her skirt. Walking slowly she stopped twice to pull up each stocking, yes she was stalling and yes she knew it wasn't going to help but somehow she just needed to do it. Miss Lynn opened the door when Reagan approached and closed it quietly after the girl entered the large office.

The young secretary shook her head as the girl disappeared behind the door. She'd seen her here several times since the term began and every time the headmistress seemed to be more aggressive. This could not be good. For once she was glad the thick doors blocked out the sounds of the inner office. She certainly did not want to be privy to whatever conversation or confrontation came of today's situation. She picked up a pile of documents that needed to be filed and decided it might even be a better idea to put a bit more distance between herself and whatever was about to occur behind that large double door. A trip to the filing room was probably in order anyway so the girl tucked the forms under one arm and quickly exited the room leaving Reagan McAllister to her fate.


Reagan froze on the other side of the door, backing against it as it closed. The room was large, and everything in it seemed as large as the chair in the outer office. The dark floor was polished to a glasslike appearance. Two massive black leather chairs faced each other like solemn guards in front of the monstrous black wooden desk. It looked more like an altar, Reagan thought as she grasped the doorknob for some sort of security. Thick velvet curtains resembling marble columns covered the two floor-to-ceiling windows. They were parted a mere crack allowing just a drizzle of sunlight into the temple. The huge shiny black chair behind the desk was facing away from her and Reagan squeezed her eyes shut pushing away the vision of just what might be in store for her this time.

"McALLISTER." The voice was clear and crisp. The sound of it echoed in the large room. It almost sounded glad to see her. The large chair squealed a tiny squeal as it turned. "Reagan McAllister." This time it was a bit more quiet, the echo just a small whisper.

Reagan opened her eyes just enough to see the form seated behind the desk. The woman seated there could have easily been mistaken for a kindly grandma. Her gray hair was cut short and curled neatly around her head. She wore a dark sweater over a white blouse with a filigree collar, held in place by a gold chain. Her hands were folded gracefully in front of her and she smiled an almost warm smile. Reagan opened her eyes wider, suddenly and temporarily relieved. The woman's eyes were neither kindly nor understanding. They were cold, dull, steel-gray eyes that betrayed any benevolence the smile was trying to put forth. Reagan shuddered as the woman stood and walked slowly around the desk, her thick black heels tapping a slow rhythm as she went. She stopped in front of the desk and leaned back against it, placing her arms across her chest and staring at the girl.

Reagan found she could not look the cold woman in the eye and quickly cast her glance to the floor. She looked then to the tall shelves of books on either side of the room, to the portrait that hung over the large dark fireplace, and back to the toes of her shoes -- anywhere she did not have to look at Miss Alexis Thorne.

"Come here," Miss Thorne demanded in a voice barely above a whisper.

Reagan forced herself away from the door and walked slowly across the room never taking her eyes off the floor. She stopped at the edge of an antique Oriental rug that provided an island of quiet in the echoing chamber.

"Do you have anything to say?" The voice did not change. It was neither angry at the girl's indiscretion nor pleased with the girl's obedience. Reagan shook her head slowly. "Ah, not such a glib tongue after all my dear?" Miss Thorne almost laughed, an evil laugh, an almost 'I'm so happy you are in trouble laugh'. "Apparently you take some perverse pleasure in disrupting Miss Shea's geometry class. Apparently you feel you know more than she does about the proper teaching of the subject."

"No ma'am, I…I just…thought…" Reagan mumbled still staring at the pattern on the rug.

"What? Speak up, girl!!! Stand up straight and take your hands from behind you, and for heaven's sake, girl, LOOK at me! Have you no manners whatsoever?!" Miss Thorne's voice had lost any hint of kindness. It dripped with the sarcasm of a strict authoritarian.

Reagan stood at attention, straight back with her arms at her sides. For the first time she dared look directly into the headmistress' eyes.

"So, Payton McAllister's little sister," The principal began, slowly stepping in a circle around the girl, almost in an inspection sort of way. "I must say you bear very little resemblance to her physically, however, Payton never seemed to know her place in the grand scheme of things either. I suspect that fine trait is a gift from your father, then. Am I right?" The well-muscled woman stopped in front of the child leaning down to see eye to eye. She waited for an answer. "WELL?" She stood back and folded her arms over her chest again. "I'm waiting for an answer, Miss McAllister. You seem to have many of them. I'd like to hear one. Now!"

"We…we have different mothers…" Reagan whispered in response. "I don't know…"

"I'm not interested in your parentage little girl! I know where you came from. McAllister is a name well known in this institution, especially Jack McAllister!" Miss Thorne raised her voice a bit higher, the veins in her neck began to stick out just a bit. "Apparently you are just another in a long line of McAllisters who don't seem to know their place. Apparently your father was severely lacking in teaching you and your sister proper discipline. Payton always seemed to find her way out of trouble. You my dear, will not be so lucky and do you know why?"

Reagan shook her head then remembering quickly said, "No, I don't."

"Simply because I intend to keep a very tight rein on you my dear. I intend to make sure your need for strict discipline is met. I intend to make quite an impression on your tender little McAllister hide." As she spoke, Miss Thorne picked up a long flat paddle from the desk. It was inscribed with strange letters Reagan recognized as from the Greek Alphabet. Phi, Delta, Mu -- Reagan had seen those letters before. "Do you know what this is?" the headmistress smiled as she tapped the object against the palm of her hand.

"Yes." Reagan answered quickly.

"No, no I don't think you do, Reagan McAllister. You see this belonged to my father. A symbol of his success, a symbol of the great society he was once a part of, the same one Jack McAllister made a mockery of." She ran her hand along the length of the object, glaring at Reagan as her fingers slipped off the end. "And do you know the best part of that my smart-mouthed little charge?" She grabbed the girl's chin roughly as she asked, making it almost impossible for Reagan to answer. "The best part is that I will use this symbol to teach you the value of knowing your place! It is almost too much of an irony to be true." She let go just as roughly, snapping the girl's head to the side as she released her.

Miss Thorne took a deep breath and stepped back. "Now, my dear, shall we finish this?"

Reagan could hear her heart pounding, she was never as scared as she was at that moment. There was no way out, no restitution she could offer to this woman. She stood still, her feet almost frozen to the floor.

"I don't have all day, Miss McAllister!" Miss Thorne announced. "Step forward, to here," she pointed to the spot in front of her, "and rest your hands on the edge of my desk. I do hope they are clean, I don't want any grimy fingerprints left behind." The woman waited only a few seconds before commanding, "NOW, McALLISTER!"

The girl did as she was instructed, watching as her own knuckles turned white gripping the end of the dark wooden desk. She noticed the meticulous appearance. Pen in place, perfectly parallel to the blotter. No scrap paper, no doodles, no clutter, no pictures, no trinkets, nothing personal except the brass nameplate displaying ALEXIS THORNE, HEADMISTRESS. It was polished to a shine, not even a fingerprint. Reagan tried to concentrate on anything other than what was about to take place. She heard the soft swish of air, closed her eyes and gritted her teeth.


Five sound whacks later it was over. She had tried not to cry, somehow she knew Payton wouldn't have, but it was impossible. Miss Thorne had handed her a pass excusing her from her next two classes and admitting her back to class after lunch period. Until that time she was confined to her dormitory. Miss Thorne promised to explain the incident to her teachers and to assure Miss Shea the problem had been thoroughly thrashed. Reagan walked slowly back to her dorm, knowing by lunchtime everyone on campus would know about her trip to Thorne's office and the consequences of it, but for now she was just another student. She brushed the last of her tears from her cheek as she opened the door to Regents' Hall thankful for the empty corridor.

It was a short walk to her room on the second floor. She met no one on her way. Once inside she threw herself on her small bed and finally released her pain and her tears. Mostly she was angry, angry because she had no control over the recent events of her life. She missed the wonderful quiet times she had shared with her mother, telling stories and giggling at silliness in the cozy softness of her bedroom at home. She missed the smell of her father's pipe, that wonderful vanilla essence mixed with the spicy fragrance of his favorite cologne. She missed having someone to comfort her heartache, listen to her woes and heal her pain. Loneliness reached out and pinched the small girl with its icy fingers causing more pain than any punishment Miss Thorne and her fraternity paddle ever could.




Payton McAllister paced furiously back and forth in front of a wall of glass. She paused for a moment glaring out at the New York skyline and expelling a long exasperated sigh. She turned back to her desk and punched the intercom button. "Constance! Where are those contracts?!" she bellowed.

In answer the office door opened admitting a tall middle aged woman with short blonde hair. She tossed a manila folder on the already cluttered desk and stood with her hands on both hips. "Honestly, Payton you're going to give yourself a stroke before you reach thirty. They just came up from legal. What are you so worried about? Just put your John Hancock on them and I'll have them sent right back. It's just procedure anyway. Colin knows you're renewing, why wouldn't you?"

Payton had turned back to the view outside her office that included a perfect vantage of the harbor and most of the McAllister fleet. "That MORON! That IDIOT!" She growled through her teeth.

"Colin?" Constance Taylor replied with a quizzical scowl. She had been secretary to Jack McAllister for twenty years, and had to admit, the apple had not fallen far from the tree. The junior McAllister had not missed a beat in taking over the company last September. If anything, things were looking up. Payton had secured five new accounts herself and company stock was skyrocketing. The board of directors was eating its words after complaining that a female, a still-wet-behind-the-ears female, could never run such a large company.

"No, not him…the other idiot!" she ranted throwing her arms into the air. "That fool, Marshall. Where is he? The Willard account was due in this office three hours ago and he hasn't even had the sense to call. The damn idiot doesn't have the brains of a bowl of cat food!!" Payton tossed open the folder on top of her desk as she dropped into her chair. She scribbled her signature across the form, closed the folder and handed it back to the secretary.

"He's flying in from the West Coast, Payton. The weather hasn't been good. He can't very well call you from the sky, now can he?" Constance smiled, trying to defuse her young employer's short temper.

"Don't make excuses for him, Connie," Payton warned, raising one eyebrow. "Charles Marshall is a skirt-chasing, time-wasting, first class moron. And when he does manage to drag his sorry ass into this office I intend to drop kick it as far out of this corporation as one well placed punt can put it!" Payton was not kidding. She had warned the rather lax company rep on several occasions. He brushed her off. He was about the feel the full wrath of a McAllister scorned. Constance pursed her lips and shook her head. Well, the guy had it coming. She reached down, picking up some of the scattered papers from the desktop.

"You know," she began, changing the subject, "you might think about going through some of this stuff, or at least making neater piles."

"Yeah, yeah…sure." Payton waved a hand at her personal assistant as she swiveled the chair back toward the view. "That's what you're here for, aren't you?"

Constance smiled. Payton wasn't being condescending, just a bit of her kind of humor. She gathered the various folders, forms and envelopes on the desk and set them into small neat piles. She knew it wouldn't last long, but for the time being the desk had a bit of order to it. One odd shaped envelope caught her eye and she slid it from the others. "Payton! You didn't even open this!" She exclaimed when she recognized the seal on the upper corner of the letter.

"What? Another contract?" Payton turned back to examine the envelope in Connie's hand. The secretary waved it in front of her face. "Oh that. Just another one of those 'alumni, we need your support' letters. I never open them. In fact, " she snatched the light green envelope from the woman, "I usually just file them under 'g'!" She dropped it unceremoniously into the wastebasket.

Connie quickly retrieved it along with a silver letter opener from the desk. "You should never throw anything away without at least looking at it. Payton, sometimes I just can't believe you!" She slid the opener through the fold at the top of the envelope and pulled out the form within. She paused for a moment reading it.

"See, I told you…just looking for donations AGAIN." Payton frowned as she checked her watch against the clock on the wall.

"Hmmm." Constance replied, looking at the dark-haired executive over the edge of the form. "Oh, they were looking for something, that's a certain, but it wasn't money."

"Well, that's a switch!" Payton laughed.

"Uh huh," Constance nodded. "Actually it is, or rather was, an invitation to parent's weekend at the Brisbey School…two weekends ago." She held the form out to her boss.

For a moment Payton just stared at it, then took it quickly and glanced at the raised gold letters across the top. "Yeah, well, I'm no one's parent!" she grumbled, crushing the form into a wrinkled ball and once more tossing it into the wastebasket, "and I don't intend to be." She informed the secretary before any comment could be made.

The two women stared at each other for a heartbeat, each silently daring the other to speak first.

"No, no you're not." Connie began softly, "but you are the only family she has…and she is all you've got."

Payton thought for a moment. She remembered how mortified she had been when at fourteen she found that her father and his young wife were planning on having a baby. A baby! It was bad enough he had met this Jordan Ross, author extrordinaire in London and within weeks took her as his second wife, but now to have a child!? Payton was beside herself. She didn't remember much about her own mother, only what nannies and other servants had told her. She knew her mother was strong and wild, with a taste for the great outdoors. She had loved horses and had raised Arabians on her family's ranch in Colorado. Payton had seen pictures of her mother and was proud to bear a striking resemblance to that fine woman. She was three when her own mother died of some dreadful disease no one ever wished to discuss with the young girl. Jack McAllister knew little about raising children and turned his small daughter over to nannies and private schools. Payton had everything a girl could want, everything except her father. Jack threw himself into his business until he met Jordan. Payton was twelve when her father brought home his new bride. Jordan tried her best to be friendly, to make Payton comfortable with the new arrangement, but Payton distanced herself from any of the woman's efforts. She was glad to be away at school, glad to be away from her father and his new family. When Reagan came along three years later, it was even worse. She watched as this small intruder monopolized the attentions of the father that she had always wished to have. Jack doted on Reagan, bounced her on his knee, gave her piggyback rides, tucked her into bed at night, held her hand, kissed her brow, told her stories, and even allowed her to play in this massive office. He gave her everything, every bit of the attention Payton never had. She resented Reagan then; she tolerated her now. Three months ago, just last summer, Jack and Jordan had gone off to celebrate their anniversary, a romantic weekend aboard the family yacht on the Hudson. The investigators said it was a malfunction in the engine that caused the explosion. 'Malfunction.' Payton thought, 'that's for sure.' Jack left the sole controlling interest in McAllister Shipping to his eldest daughter; his only stipulation was that she care for her sister until the child was of age. Jordan McAllister left her entire fortune to her only daughter. The kid would never want for anything, at least not anything money could buy. Following in her father's footsteps, in an example set by him, Payton had packed her young ward off to boarding school with the start of the new term and threw herself into the company her father had built.

"I am not her mother," Payton stated flatly. "I don't know her and she doesn't know me."

"Maybe it's time you did something about that," Constance replied simply.

"I didn't ask for this responsibility and I have no time for it. Brisbey is as good a school as any. No one ever came running out to see how I was doing and it didn't harm me at all, did it? I learned to take care of myself and it's high time she did the same. No more coddling the little brat," Payton stated, with a tone so bitter she could almost taste it.

Constance shook her head. "You certainly are your father's daughter, Payton McAllister. " She turned and walked toward the door. "Didn't harm you? No, not harm, Payton, hard…it hardened you, hardened you to the point that you don't feel much of anything. Even Jack McAllister managed to at least feel something before he died. I hope it doesn't take you that long." She pulled the door open, revealing a weary looking Charles Marshall standing on the other side. "Nice timing," she mumbled to the man as she stepped out and he stepped in.

"Close the door," Payton purred maliciously. The man gulped as the door slowly clicked shut.

Continued in Part 2

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