In case you missed it, it turns out I finished Alice and Finch, but didn’t publish the end of it. So, here’s the beginning of the end.
Finch unceremoniously slipped away in the morning. He had a lot to do now that Alice was back. In fact, he had already thought of a plan to finally, finally make everything right for her. Finally.
Alice awoke to the sound of her friends milling about. Some went home, others had returned with potatoes to throw into the coals. Others still were playing touch tag or seek the hidden inside and around the temple.
“It would be nice if there was another doorway.” Jutt said.
Alice turned and looked at the tall Riley girl.
“Why?” She said.
“So that they have another exit. Right now, if someone gets trapped inside, they’ll hop out of a window to avoid getting tagged. Two. That’s how many kids’ hands I’ve had to bandage from broken glass.” Jutt shook her head, “The responsibilities of the eldest I suppose.”
Alice twisted onto her stomach and rested her face in her hands. “How old are you?”
“I’m nineteen. I will be twenty soon.” Jutt said.
“I just turned nineteen two days ago!” Alice beamed.
“So, he likes older girls, huh?” Jutt mused.
Alice gave her a confused look. Jutt just closed her eyes and in minutes had gone back to sleep.
The temple was full of spotted sunlight and running children. Alice watched Artus fish a potato out of what had once been a bonfire. He dropped it, it was too hot. He turned to Alice.
“Oh, hey! It’s been morning for about an hour.” He told her.
“Where… where’s my boyfriend.”
“What in the name of mobile moose!” Artus jumped up and almost squashed his breakfast, “You’re finally dating Finch then?”
“Finally?” Alice cocked her head.
“Come on! Even you should have been able to tell that it was only a matter of time. I know about his plan to become Captain and waive your whole assault thing on his dad. He’s been completely obsessed with the guard since you left!”
Alice blushed. She absently opened her mouth and began fiddling with one of six her finger-long canine teeth.
“I thought he forgot about me.” Her words were flat.
Alice figured that she would see what her friends thought of that first, and then face Finch once she was armed with weapons of knowledge.
“Alice…” Artus had become very serious, “Don’t you know about him? About his mother?”
Alice shook her head.
“She didn’t leave right away. That’s just what he tells people.”
“Leave? I thought she was dead?”
Artus’s eyes opened wide, “Oh man! Listen up, okay, you’re way behind!”
As Artus began to tell the story of Finch’s past, a handful of kids gave up on their games to join him. Jutt opened one eye and both ears.
“Okay, so Finch’s mom was another Riley. They say her father came from the north, they say he was 100%!” He noticed that Alice and a few of the Solune children had missed the significance. “They’re the pureblood Riley from the northern wilderness. People like Jutt and Finch’s father, and Gina there are only about five percent. The 100% Riley are really dangerous! They’re crazy, and they kill people,” He paused for effect, “and then eat them!”
There were assorted gasps. By now Jutt was sitting up.
She added, “They find the Solune to be very delicious. That’s why the King added so much alkaline food to our diet. It makes us bitter to the taste.”
Alice found it odd that Jutt was grouping herself in with the Solune, but she let Artus continue.
“Right. So Finch’s grandfather was one of those. He had two children with Finch’s grandmother.”
“Artus, what are you telling them?” Finch had entered.
Artus turned, horrified. “Uh…” He stammered, his brain stumbling over itself.
Jutt took his baton, “About our grandparents.”
Both Finch and Artus gave her the strangest look.
Finch sat down in what had become a small circle next to the bonfire. Jutt continued where Artus had stopped, and Artus just ate his potato, splitting it with Alice and giving her some of the salt that he just happened to have in his pocket.
“My grandparents were in a very violent relationship. I wouldn’t call it abuse, because it was quite mutual. They loved each other in a very violent way, which is completely normal for the 100% Riley. They were called Finch and Aretha” Jutt sighed, “They had two children, two girls. My mother, and Finch’s mother. My mother came first. Her name is Hail, and right now she’s off as part of a Riley gang. Finch’s mother came eight years later, after about one stillbirth every two years.
“When Diesel, my aunt who is also Finch’s mother, was finally born, she took Aretha’s life with her. Finch, the older one, went berserk and lashed out at Hail. Hail fended him off of course, leaving him with a large scar across his abdomen. Since then, Hail has become very adept with the rapier.”
Finch was staring at her in awe. He hadn’t heard any of this.
“So, they both ended up becoming parts of Venus gangs. Diesel runs her own at this point, and I think Hail is in a decently high position in another.” Jutt shrugged, “Anyway, Hail met my father, a Solune. There was an issue with her gang because he was a poet, a threat. Hail was ordered to execute him. To capture and behead her husband, or I would be killed. This is the sort of sick game Dezallldwin plays. One day, I will kill that man.”
Finch wasn’t very interested in hearing more about this Dezallldwin, so he said, “And my mother? What do you know of my family?”
“Hmm? Oh well, Diesel didn’t really like Ilias. She actually left him when you were young. But she did like you, a lot. She would have stayed just for that, I heard from my mum that you two were close. I can sort of remember it.”
Finch nodded, tearing up. Alice watched him longingly.
Artus noticed Alice’s hopeless gaze and whispered, “Grab his hand. Gently!”
Alice slipped her hand into Finch’s. He looked at her, surprised, but then pulled himself closer. They leaned on each other.
Finch, now bolstered by his bondsman, said, “Right. You’d be surprised what you can remember from such a young age. I remember we did a lot together. She tried to go to the university, but failed almost every class. We used to go together. She taught me how to make paper gliders, and paper spinners,” he was lost in memory by now, “We would drop them over the edge of staircases and watch them spin to the ground. The bigger ones were better, you know?”
“Well, she ended up having to leave. She told me she didn’t want to. She told me never to become involved with Venus, and that my father was a good man, even though she thought he was an awful bore. She…” Finch choked a bit, and added feebly, “Well, Lex can continue.”
He and Alice embraced at the side, and the conversation was once again passed to Jutt.
“I’m surprised you used my real name.”
Artus said, “Alexandre. I’ve heard Finch call you that before.”
Jutt nodded, “Jutt is just a nickname. It was weird, I got my fang teeth first, and they often jutted out of my mouth. Finch gives… uncreative nicknames.”
Finch felt Alice heave slightly, probably a silent chuckle.
“I think that’s it though. Now that I have an excuse, I’m going to go find my mom. She went mad after the whole ordeal with our grandparents. She couldn’t cope, I was basically independent since the age of eight. She couldn’t even work, I have no idea how she manages in a gang. In fact, I don’t even know if she’s still alive.”
Finch looked at her, horrified, “And what about my mom?”
Alice said, “A gang leader? Called Diesel Dirge? Raids, well, used to raid Baracus?”
Jutt looked at her suspiciously, “Yeah that sounds about right.”
“And is not nice? And is telling her friends they have to kill me!” Alice stood, leaving Finch suddenly lonely, “And then is fighting Alice and her militia!”
Finch was shocked, “Alice and her militia? What?”
Alice crossed her arms. She told the group all about her battle.
“The Plainkind are fearsome enemies. I didn’t know about the muscle shifting, but it explains a lot,” Jutt said.
Finch couldn’t believe that Alice had taken out a whole gang. Jutt was very happy to hear it.
She said, “It’s good to know they aren’t all that strong, actually, since I’ll be invading one of them to find my mum. Anyway, weren’t you going to tell us where you went?”
“Yeah!” Alice said, “You abandoned me in the night!” She sang. Finch wasn’t sure if she was joking.
“Right, actually, it was about you.” He said, pulling Alice back down to the ground. Their faces were very close together. “I talked to Chloe about you. We have a plan. You’ll be safe now, and free soon.”
Alice looked at him, perplexed, but overjoyed. She hugged him and almost literally broke most of his ribs.
In the end, she stopped after hearing only four or five snaps. For the second time in two days, she had caused him a major injury.
Finch was bedridden on the floor of the temple for the next few hours, following Jutt’s instructions to take large breaths to keep mucus out. Alice ran around frantically, and ended up shooing out all the kids except Jutt, Artus, and of course Finch.
Jutt looked at Alice, “He’ll have to tell you tomorrow.”
Sorry for the mix up!