WFOL 2024





by Samantha Coleman and Rebecca Gibson


So may the outward shows be least themselves;
The world is still deceived with ornament.

~ Bassiano, The Merchant of Venice (3.2.75-76)


Samuel tucked his left arm gently around Rebecca, and held his other hand out to his son. “Iain, I know it’s been –”

Iain’s face was pale. “’Fellow, I know thee…’” he whispered.

Michael’s eyes darted from Eli to Iain.

“‘…a knave, a rascal,’” Iain said under his breath. He stepped slightly in front of Michael, unconsciously protective. He looked at his father’s outstretched hand with obvious disgust.

“… it’s been such a very long time,” Samuel said, quickly taking the measure of the little group. Iain’s simmering rage, Michael’s frightened recognition, Rebecca’s innocent concern.

Rebecca leaned toward Michael, trying to warm the chill. “Michael, you were wonderful, both of you were wonderful – and how wonderful that you know each other already! Eli and Iain haven’t seen each other in a long time.”  She looked hopefully at each of them in turn.

“He’s not who he says he is,” Michael whispered fearfully.

“So much has changed, son,” Samuel tried again.  “Maybe if we can talk for a…”

“‘…filthy, worsted-stocking knave, lily-livered whoreson,’” Iain said, his voice rising. 

Michael gently put his hand on Rebecca’s shoulder, hoping to draw her away, but Samuel tightened his arm around her waist. “Enough,” he growled. “It’s time for you to listen, Iain.  There are things you need to – ”


Still halfway across the room, Catherine froze. “That’s him,” she whispered.

“Who, Michael?” Peter asked, confused.

“No – the man with them – it’s Samuel Alonzo.” 

Peter looked at her quizzically.

“He’s dangerous,” Catherine said grimly. “Very dangerous.” What on earth was he doing here?  How had he found – attached himself to – Rebecca?  Her heart froze because the answer was so obvious. He’d been Below then, not just in the upper passages, but…. he’d been in the Tunnels. “Make sure Rebecca gets Below.” 

Peter’s eyebrows climbed into his hairline but he was right behind Catherine as she sprinted across the theater. 


The Duke of Venice – played by the woman Eli had thought of as much older than the rest of the cast on the playbill – ducked around a corner into a stairwell. A man in a specifically nondescript dark suit stepped down out of the shadows to meet her. “We were right,” she said.  “This kid Iain, it’s his kid. He’s here.” She opened her backpack and retrieved a vest with “FBI” on the back. 


Iain stepped forward and put one fingertip against Samuel’s chest. “‘Thou art nothing,’” he said, in full stage voice, “‘but the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pandar, and —’” He hissed suddenly as he felt a blunt pressure against his ribs. 

Samuel’s eyes glistened. “Not here,” he said. “Walk.” He took Rebecca’s elbow, keeping her close on one side, and made a small gesture with the gun he’d taken from inside his jacket. “Both of you boys, walk.”

They all moved back behind the stage.


The Suit made his way past the last of the happy citizens of Venice as they filed down the stairwell toward an exit.  A few had glanced backward as they heard Iain’s voice rising. The Suit touched his earpiece. “He’s hot,” he said. “Go.” 


Was that really… a gun? Michael felt his heart freeze and skip a beat. Was this happening? Could this man really…. But he was from Below, he loved Rebecca, he was trusted as a guard. The same man, a dangerous criminal, holding a gun on them now? Michael’s fingertips brushed against Iain’s, and in the small private space between them they clasped hands for a moment. “‘Our doubts are traitors,’” Vincent’s voice echoed in his memory, “and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.’”


The Duke of Venice, now in a different role, pulled out her gun. “I can’t get a clear shot, there are too many people around him.” She kept her shoulder against the doorway of the stairwell, peering around. The Suit edged over to the side of the stage. 


Catherine reached the front of the theater, and steadied herself with one hand on the edge of the stage. With her other hand she reached down and, lifting her foot a bit, took off her kitten heel. She balanced it in her hand a moment, and said a tiny prayer to Helene Arpels, Goddess of Shoes.


The mop was within reach. “‘Blow wind,’” Michael said aloud, looking into Iain’s eyes. 

“‘Come wrack,’” Ian responded. 

Michael grabbed the mop and pivoted, adrenaline rushing his brain. “‘At least we’ll die with harness on our back.’” 

Iain stepped back as Michael swung the mop down hard toward Samuel’s right arm.

Samuel blocked the swinging stick with his left hand and thrust the end back against Michael’s chest, hitting him hard in the solar plexus. Michael staggered. Rebecca, released from Samuel’s grip, pushed away, half falling against a stack of folded chairs. Peter appeared at her elbow as if by magic, and helped her to her feet.

“This way,” he whispered. “The stairs… there’s an exit.”

 “No,” she said, turning to look back at the confused scene. She took another step toward Eli. Who was not Eli. 

Samuel straightened, the gun still in his hand. He turned to Rebecca. “He thinks he knows me,” he said. “He’s wrong. This has all gone wrong.” He pointed the gun at her.

“Freeze, Alonzo,” the Duke of Venice shouted. She and the Suit both aimed their guns.

Rebecca backed up against the prop table. Her hand found something – Portia’s casket. The silver one. “‘He shall get as much as he deserves,’ she whispered.  She threw it right at his face.

Samuel ducked, dodging whatever Rebecca had thrown at him. As he turned his head, Catherine’s shoe hit him right between the eyes. 


He fell to one knee, arm up across his face, cursing. The mop and gun both fell to the ground. 

Iain picked up the gun. “‘Draw, you rogue!’” he shouted at the man on the floor. “‘I’ll make a sop of you!’” 

“Drop it!” yelled the Suit, pivoting to aim his weapon at Iain.

Michael, still winded, stepped between them. 

Iain’s hands gripped his father’s gun, shaking. Michael put his hand on Iain’s shoulder. Iain lowered the gun, and turned into Michael’s embrace.  Catherine, rushing up behind them, put her arms around them both for a moment, and carefully took the gun out of Iain’s hand. 

In an instant, Agent Johnson and the Suit – Dammit, where did Johnson come from? Catherine thought – took Alonzo away with them.  She leaned against the stage. They still won’t be able to hold him. Where will this end?  If the Feds have him, and he has the whole world Below to bargain with…  She closed her eyes, tears pricking her eyelids.

The Duke of Venice approached her with an evidence bag and, wordlessly, Catherine handed over Alonzo’s gun. 

“Thank you, Miss Chandler. And I think this is yours. Nice shot, by the way.” She handed Catherine her shoe. “Any idea where the woman has gone? The one with Alonzo? We’ll need to bring her in, you know.” 

Catherine looked around the room. Almost empty, except for a handful of theatergoers who’d huddled, frightened, at the other end of the theater, watching this final scene play out. Rebecca – and Peter – were gone. She shook her head.

“Your boss says a new witness has come forward.” 

Catherine nodded.

“Do you know who it is?” 

“Joe didn’t say.” She did not add that the witness had seen Alonzo shoot Owens.  Do the Feds know that yet? 

“We’ll find out soon enough.”

Catherine sighed and straightened up, slipping her foot back into its shoe. “I suppose all this means…”

“We’ll reopen our investigation into you, as well, Miss Chandler.” The Duke of Venice raised an eyebrow at her, turned, and vanished.

* * *

Catherine called Joe from the theater to find that their meeting was set for 11pm that night, and now included a cadre from the FBI. Plans that had been made were scrapped. She no longer had time to visit those Below before rushing to the office. She suspected that Peter had not abandoned her to bring Rebecca Below, but was waiting for her in his car in the parking garage, knowing how urgent her meeting with Joe was. So she quickly slipped away from the milling crowd.

As she suspected, his car was idling where he had parked. He pulled out as soon as she had settled herself inside. 

Rebecca was sitting in stunned silence in the back seat. Catherine had no time to comfort her, though, as she had to impart a message for Peter to take Below.

“Peter, let Father and Vincent know that, due to what happened tonight, the investigation into me is being reignited.” She smiled, adding, “Rebecca will, I’m sure, let them know that Michael was fantastic.” She turned to address Rebecca. “He looked as if he were born to be on stage.”

Rebecca nodded and gave her a watery smile in return.

Returning to her message, Catherine said, “Explain to them that I might not be in contact for a while, since a new witness had come forward.”

“Do you know who?” Peter asked.

“Joe didn’t say.” She did not add that the witness had seen Alonzo shoot Owens.

Peter kept quiet, too. He figured medicine was his ball of wax, and the law was hers. She probably had a good reason to keep that information to herself.

“And let them know that we can’t use Thomas’s deposition in the case against Miller, since the judge will throw out the testimony because there’s no possibility for the defense to cross-examine him.”

As he drove, Peter said, “I’ll get the message to them. And if you need to send a message Below, do it through me, since we’ve already established a minor medical treatment plan for you.”

She nodded. “But only in an extreme emergency. I don’t want to give Johnson more ammunition when he’s poking into my life again.”

* * *

When Catherine arrived at the office, sure enough, Agent Johnson was sitting down, looking quite satisfied with himself. Catherine felt a knot in her stomach tighten.

“So, we meet again, Miss Chandler.”

“Let’s go meet this mystery witness,” Catherine replied, trying to be cordial.

Opening Joe’s office door, Catherine found herself face to face with a woman only identified as Kady.




CABB logo: crystal and rose




CABB logo: crystal and rose







by AM

“Local temperature is 89 degrees with a heat index of 102. Stay inside if you can. Drink plenty of water and remember, don’t overdo it. It’s a scorcher out there today, folks”.

Catherine cursed the weatherman as she wiped the sweat off her forehead.  “Great. What a perfect time for the air to go out.”

The thought of going outside made her cringe. It was Sunday, so her office would be locked.

“I need to get out of this heat. I’ve got it!” Catherine giggled as she had a wonderful idea.

She went through recycling looking for something she could use.

“Nothing,” she said, frustrated.

She hurriedly changed into a comfortable t-shirt and jeans and hurried to the nearest store. She would’ve run if it hadn’t been so hot.

She sighed with relief when she stepped foot into the cool store.

She picked up some water guns.

No, too violent, and would be frowned upon, she thought as she put the guns down.

She went searching for safer things.

Balloons? No, leaves a mess to clean up.

Her eyes lit up when she saw them. “Spray bottles!!! Perfect!! Hmmm. There’s 50. That should be plenty.”

She grabbed up all the bottles and headed to pay.

It seemed like forever before she headed back to her apartment with her treasures. Instead of going directly to her apartment, she headed to the tunnels. It wasn’t long before she ran into Eric.

“What’s in the bags?” he asked

“It’s a surprise, and I need you to do me a favor. Could you gather all the kids and bring them here?”


“Oh, and Eric?”

Eric turned to look at her.

“Bring as many buckets of water as you can.” She winked at him.

He returned in record time with all the tunnel kids, each carrying two buckets full of water. Catherine passed out the spray bottles and helped fill them up. Once all the bottles were filled, boundary lines were drawn, and safe places declared, they were ready.

“On your mark, get set, GO!” Catherine yelled.

The fight began in full force. Laughter, shrieks, and happy screams echoed through the tunnels as the children chased and sprayed each other. Catherine found herself in the crossfire several times, but laughed as hard as the children. When bottles emptied they were quickly refilled, and the fun continued. Soon adults came to find out where the happy noises were coming from. Some smiled, shook their heads and went back to their previous activity. Some helped by refilling empty buckets. Others just couldn’t help joining in the fun. Catherine noticed Vincent walking towards them.

“I need to borrow that,” she said to Kipper.

He smiled and handed her his full bottle. She placed the bottle behind her back, walked calmly up to Vincent, and sprayed him in the face.

His look of shock made Catherine laugh. Vincent calmly watched the children play for a few minutes before casually picking up a bucket that was a quarter full. He turned to Catherine.

“Vincent, you wouldn’t dare.”

“Perhaps, but then how would I return the favor?”

With that, he dumped the bucket over her head. The children erupted with laughter to see Catherine soaked.

A tapping on the pipes made them all stop. Dinner.

Groans quickly spread among the children. They reluctantly started handing the bottles to Catherine.

“Vincent, why don’t you keep them for the next time?”

The children’s eyes danced with glee. Vincent put the bottles in the buckets and handed them to the children to carry.

“Would you join us, Catherine?” Vincent asked.

“I would love to.”

Vincent took her hand and they followed the children to dinner.