The Problem Child

Chapter 1 from On Fractured Ground

Subject BGD

27 min.

He almost ran straight into her.

Ear against the door, she spun in what seemed like slow-motion at his sudden appearance. Blue-green eyes widened as waves of ebony silk swirled around her movement. Wild tresses violated The Institute’s policy, which required a braid or bun. In a world where everything must be controlled, hair could be no exception.

Corbin’s professional barriers shattered the instant he recognized her.

Tylar.

Though she was the reason behind this visit, he came unprepared for an encounter with her. Students in the third-year sector were supposed to be studying right now. It appeared the habit of sneaking out of her quarters had not changed.

Corbin took an involuntary sharp breath as the young woman closed in, curiosity scrolled across her beautiful face. Tentative fingertips touched the center of his chest, as if to see if he were real. Heat spread through him at an alarming rate, his body tensing at the contact. Raising her gaze, he saw a distinct intensity blazing up from the tropical depths.

“You’re him, aren’t you?” The hand that had tested his authenticity flew to her mouth, indicating the words were unintentional.

They shocked him just the same. Fighting down his distress, he thought, no. She couldn’t possibly remember.

​“Get away, Child!” Mary interrupted as she came bustling around the corner. “Shoo! We are not supposed to accost the owner.”

The disruption caused Corbin to snap out of it, his composure returning in an instant. He scowled at the reference to ownership of Cellar Institute.

The gruff proctor either failed to notice his distaste for the label or ignored it. She continued chastising her assigned student, “You are in enough trouble. Go put your hair up!”

Silent, Tylar’s eyes shifted to Corbin. He thought he glimpsed disappointment. Emotional shields reinstated, he passed her to enter the classroom. The quicker he took care of business, the sooner he could leave. He hoped she would not still be in the hall when his meeting wrapped up.

Disregarding the person sitting near the window, Corbin took a seat behind the proctor’s desk. The position of power helped ease his nerves. Disdain for trafficking women aside, this place was a reminder of events he would rather forget. Until the issue of Tylar’s insubordination, Corbin had no intention of revisiting a site he loathed more with each passing year.

“That child needs to go!” Mary declared, slamming the door behind her. Short and heavyset, she had dishwater blond hair and frightening pale blue eyes.

“I don’t think that’s necessary.” Adjusting in the uncomfortable chair, he rested an ankle on the opposite knee. “Do you have a copy of her current chart?”

Mary thrust it at him.

Thumbing through, he inquired, “How is she in the classroom?”

Hesitation, then, “adequate.”

He trapped her in a honey-brown glare. “Do not lie to me.”

“She has top marks,” Mary admitted with frustration. “But book smarts are not the goal of this Institute! That girl is supposed to be performing in the bedroom. This is the second skill trainer she’s damaged. Third, if you count Lance’s obsession!”

“Lance is not an example of why Tylar should fail skills.” Not caring to read through a file he knew to be a half-truth, he set it in his lap. “Just the opposite.”

“Keeping her here is a mistake!” Shades of red escalated across her face.

Corbin wondered if she might explode.

“I disagree,” he stated, unwilling to sentence Tylar to expulsion. The Institute’s definition of the term was much more disturbing than a real school’s. “The truth is, Mary, trouble sells.”

“She’s too stubborn! Whatever your father did to fix her attitude is wearing off.”

“Didn’t you say Tylar’s seclusion a year and half ago solved the problem?”

“It took care of the violence,” She ranted, gesturing toward the kid Corbin had forgotten about, “but what about Jay?”

He glanced at Tylar’s latest victim, slumped behind a desk in the corner. Assigned as her skill trainer two weeks ago, the nineteen-year-old had allowed Tylar to intimidate him. He then refused to continue training her, prompting Mary to call Corbin. If allowed to continue, conduct such as Jay’s might give students the idea that sex could be wielded. If the realization created a ‘man-eater’, that student’s expulsion would be instant. Corbin hoped Tylar had not made the connection on a level that could land her at the feet of the men in black suits.

Registered as Cellar Institute, this awful fortress posed as a reformatory for troubled girls. In truth, its purpose was to train and sell young women as high-end sex slaves. The horrors of traditional human trafficking mentally broke its victims, reducing them to an emotional mess. Corbin’s grandfather, Michael Manning, sought to corner the black-market by creating a ‘drama-free’ product. Meticulous indoctrinations kept students naïve, submissive and dependent without causing trauma.

Drama-free, my ass. Corbin thought, acid curdling in his stomach. This damned place brings nothing but chaos.

Turning back to Mary, “If I have this straight, Tylar saw an opportunity to take advantage of her trainer and acted on it. Now you think she’s no longer controllable?”

Mary almost nodded but thought better of it.

“Unacceptable,” Corbin’s patience slipped. His voice devoid of reaction, he announced, “Tylar stays. Go through the usual steps of reprogramming. Isolate her from her peers and replace her routines with a stricter schedule. Instead of assigning a couple of months in seclusion, leave her in there with a trainer until she submits and completes the curriculum. Prepare her for graduation.”

Finished, Corbin grabbed the file in his lap and stood to leave.

“She’s so stubborn!” Mary repeated, stalling his escape. “She’s a predator, Corbin. Not the prey! Look at how bold she was with you.”

God, he hated that she knew his full name. The headmaster should be the only one with such knowledge. If only his father, William Manning, had not been so careless.

“That’s what will make her appealing,” he responded, straining to reestablish indifference.

“As a Manning, I’d think you wouldn’t tolerate such a thing!”

“Enough!” Anger flared at the comparison to the rest of his bloodline. “Tylar continues her education. End of discussion!”

Closing the door before Mary argued further, he saw their topic of conversation leaning against the opposite wall. Pale golden skin accented delicate features as her watercolor eyes cut into him. A haphazard bun of raven waves looked on the verge of collapse. Tylar’s expression exhibited undeniable intuitiveness. A rare trait for someone raised within an establishment that worked to destroy insightfulness and complexity.

Once again under the force of Tylar’s penetrating inspection, Corbin felt his defenses start to crack. Self-directed fury surfaced at his stalled reaction before the meeting. How he had allowed the mere sight of her to take down his thick shields. It would not happen this time. Steeling himself, Corbin met her stare with potency.

“You run this place,” Tylar concluded with disillusionment.

“Does that change your mind about who you thought I was?” Corbin burdened his voice with condescension. Meanwhile, his temperature elevated at their proximity.

Tylar tore her eyes away, cheeks flushing bright pink.

He interpreted her disinclination as a yes. Not that it mattered. To Corbin, the show of deference suggested she may be salvageable.

“Good.” He stated.

Appearing startled at his change of attitude, Tylar searched him for answers to unknown questions.

A flash of arousal almost overwhelmed him at the dominance her behavior offered. This woman sent fire right though him. Recalling the consequences of the last few times his carnal need overrode better judgment, Corbin suppressed his excitement. A challenging task. Built like a ballerina, the only exposed flesh was her face, smooth neck, and dainty hands. He could see the rise and fall of breasts under the crisp white blouse, buttoned to the base of her throat. Her hourglass shape indicated a pair of long legs hidden beneath the black uniform skirt that fell to her ankles.

Needing an escape before his desire could get the best of him, Corbin moved to exit. A hesitant hand rested on his shoulder, but the abrupt spin on his heel caused its withdrawal. Taking an aggressive stride, his arousal intensified at her two-step retreat. The part of him still capable of civilized thought was amazed to notice Tylar acted out of shyness instead of fear.

“Do not touch me.” He advised. Met with her timidity, Corbin fought against placing his hands all over her in ways he doubted her skill trainers ever attempted. “Did they neglect part of your lesson plan? Never touch a man unless he initiates or gives you permission.”

“Men aren’t the center of the universe,” Tylar declared.

Taking another step forward, he noticed this time she held her ground. Close enough to smell her clean scent, Corbin watched an obsidian lock free itself from the messy bun. Reaching out, he swept it from her eyes. The pads of his fingers brushed Tylar’s brow, turning her cheeks a deeper red. Arrogant temper was the only thing keeping the burning unrest in check. He clung to it.

“They’re the center of yours,” the retort flowed with a smoothness that defied the impending threat it commanded, “Especially when they hold your life in their hands.”

That got her attention. “Are you saying Mary wants me dead? Do you expect me to be grateful to you for being my savior?”

“Mary just wants you out of here,” Corbin answered, surprised by her bravado. Before she got smug he added, “However, we don’t let failed students wander the streets. I doubt you would survive, even if we did. I see potential, so I gave the order for you to remain.” He paused, taking in the sight of her. Saturating his words with earnest warning, “do not make me regret my decision.”

This time Corbin stalked out of the enormous prison-like building without interruption. As he approached the limousine idling in the driveway, his chauffeur bodyguard opened the back. Chase, his head of staff, took a seat across from him as Jimmy got behind the wheel. Corbin watched as they passed through two sets of gates, turning down the dirt alley and away from Cellar Institute.

Staring at his reflection in the window, he tried to collect himself. His black hair in slight disarray, a few rogue curls dangled over his dark, heavy brow. The tanned complexion of his cheeks and chin showed signs of a five o’clock shadow. Corbin’s caramel eyes were full of intent, though his target was no longer present.

The limo exited the thick of trees, taking a right on a wider unpaved road. The nearest neighbor to The Institute came into view a mile later. Letting out a sigh of relief, Corbin’s arousal began to subside.

“Rough meeting?” Chase broke the silence.

“You have no idea,” Corbin muttered, then requested of the driver, “Jimmy, please roll up the privacy window.”

The tinted soundproof glass in place, Corbin placed the file from the Institute into his briefcase. He then pulled out a similar manila folder, which was the second version of Tylar’s student chart. All evidence of Tylar’s original file had been destroyed by his father two years ago. It was replaced with records that omitted her first seclusion, as well as what led to it. Months prior to William’s murder, the false chart underwent an amendment to conceal an act of rebellion and a second stint in isolation. Corbin handed over the file.

At twenty-eight, Chase was three-years Corbin’s senior. At six feet tall, he sported dark blond hair and ocean blue eyes. As a teenager, he had responded to an ad for a labor position that turned out to be a lure for a skill trainer. William often bragged that he was the best The Institute had seen. Corbin recognized the perceptiveness that made Chase an effective trainer also contributed to his success as a bodyguard. With a knack for reading body language and dealing with difficult personalities, he shined during touchy situations.

Why William pulled Chase to join the security team at nineteen remained vague. What he did know was that a week later, his father assigned him as Corbin’s full-time bodyguard. William bribed officials at the high school to allow Chase to enroll in his classes. The trend of having Chase at his side everyday continued through college and into the world of business. Constant exposure to the laid-back personality during the later years of adolescence led to Corbin’s first and only friendship. At twenty-five, Corbin also saw him as his most valuable adviser.

“What’s this?” Taking the chart Corbin extended, Chase read the name, “Tylar Daislea. Is this one of your skill trainers?”

“The only trainers involved in this mess,” Corbin motioned toward the file, “are Adam, Lance and Jay.”

“Then who is this guy?”

Corbin’s smile came across as more of a grimace, “Tylar is a girl.”

“A student?” Chase complained with utter distaste. “Damn it, Corbin. Please tell me you don’t want her killed for failing The Institute’s sugar-coated tortures.”

Offended he would jump to such a conclusion, Corbin demanded, “when have I ever asked you to kill anyone?”

“Yeah, well, when’s the last time you came out here? I figured it must be something serious to get you to return to a place you hate more than anything.”

“I don’t want her killed,” Corbin clarified in a sour tone. “Would you just read the damn file?”

“Alright,” Chase relented with a sigh as he flipped open the folder.

At first, he picked through the biography of the troublesome student with an expression bordering on general disinterest. Several minutes into skimming through the paperwork, Corbin noticed something catch his attention. With a creased brow, Chase appeared to focus on every documented word. The analysis lasted for the remainder of the hour-long ride to Manning Estate, located on the outskirts of SeaTac.

Finished reading, he held up the snapshot of a four-year-old Tylar. Unbeknownst to Chase, the photo had been taken around the time Sam Cranson delivered her to William. The longest standing member of Manning Security, Sam was sole bodyguard to Corbin’s grandfather, Michael. Aside from the immature facial features of a child, Tylar retained the same stunning looks as an adult.

“You mean this cute little button caused all this ruckus?”

“Let’s finish in my study,” Corbin requested as the limo closed in on the entrance to his property.

The original portion of Manning Estate had boasted a five-bedroom, three bath upstairs and a one-bedroom downstairs apartment. When Michael died and William ascended to patriarch, he doubled its size. Self-containing studios were added for household and guard staff. Despite the magnitude of the renovation, the building looked well-balanced. Of course, William had erected a huge concrete wall that helped break up the view.

Rolling down the window, Corbin punched his six-digit pin into the comm box. His driver’s employee code could also grant them access to the property, but Corbin preferred to key his own. A red light switched to green, signaling the opening of huge, heavy gates. They made their way up the curving driveway to the cul-de-sac with its gaudy fountain gurgling in the center. Coming to a halt, Jimmy climbed out and opened the door for Corbin and Chase.

Crossing the marble veranda, they entered a stained oak foyer through large double doors. Gold carpet and off-white paint accented most of the estate. Passing through an archway into a corridor, the faint scent of chlorine emitted from the closed door of the pool room on his left. Corbin saw Chase pause between the basement stairs and his apartment on the right.

The security setup in this room pointed a guilty finger at William’s maddened paranoia. Monitors overwhelmed an entire wall, broadcasting every inch of the exterior grounds. Keypads near every door facilitated estate-wide communication and controlled all access. No one came or went without a code unless Corbin or Chase permitted it.

Overall, Manning Estate's lock-down was not dissimilar from that of The Institute. Chase often ranted about how both systems must be black-market. Corbin dismissed these tirades as an overreaction. A technician performed upgrades and annual maintenance. No underground seller in their right mind would offer a service contract on illegal products.

A substantial living room sprawled before him as he topped the stairs. 70-inches of dormant flat screen hung across from the entrance, with a bedroom off to the right. Front and center sat a suede sectional the color of coffee with matching recliners and dark-stained tables. Artwork on the walls absorbed ambient sound and kept the place from echoing. A hallway on the right led to four additional bedrooms and a guest bathroom.

French doors to the left sequestered his beloved study. Thousands of books lined built-in shelves. A sign of prestige, some were more than three-hundred years old. Corbin took a seat behind an enormous mahogany desk that brooded in front of a wall of windows. Two smaller chairs sat before his throne as a set of beige couches faced-off in the background.

A degree from the University of Washington hung above a bronze fireplace to the side of the desk, a dozen pictures surrounding. Corbin had obtained his master’s at twenty-two. First in his family to achieve past the bachelor’s program, the accomplishment meant nothing to him or his father. They both knew he took on the added class load as a desperate attempt to avoid William’s hateful fury. The spread around his diploma were site photos of some of Manning, Inc.’s subsidiaries. Images of Corner Street Drugstores, Wandering Industries, Runners Northwest and a lone snap of an old Stop-n-Gas.

Of all seven current subsidiaries, Corbin favored the drugstores. When he first came to work at corporate at fifteen, he began making plans for restructuring the chain. He had never expected to be able to take control until death passed it down. To his surprise, William handed Corner Street over after Corbin’s twenty-first birthday.

Pulling the business out of the gutter, he anticipated the acquisition of Manning, Inc as part of his birthright. He knew the parent company would capsize inside of five years if something was not done to save it. Lucky for Corbin, his father’s murder took place less than three years later. Corbin wasted no time implementing massive changes similar to what was done for Corner Street. Over the past year, he had managed to buoy Manning, Inc up from the deep red William let it sink into.

In contradiction to William’s obsession, Corbin abandoned The Institute to run itself, not caring if the damned place broke even.

“Are you planning more expansion for Corner Street, or are you going to take a break and eat up the profits?” Chase inquired, noticing what held his attention as he crossed the room. He took the usual chair to the left.

The question seized Corbin from thoughts of his father, bringing forth a more pleasant topic.

“Didn’t you listen at the board meeting last month?” Corbin questioned, “We won the bid on another piece of land. An empty lot off Military Road, not far from I-5.”

Chase looked surprised, indicating he had snoozed through that part of Corbin’s summary. “That’s a couple miles down the street. I take it you wanted one close by, so you can reap the benefits of owning a pharmacy?”

Not in the mood for bad jokes, Corbin narrowed his eyes. “What do you think?”

Taking the hint, Chase slapped the folder on the desk, ready to talk business. “Looks like Tylar’s problems started fifteen months ago with Adam, her original third-year skill trainer. You know what happened to him is a trainer’s worst nightmare, right?” Chase shuddered at the thought of a student throwing a knee hard enough to rupture a testicle.

“The first several weeks went fine. After the fact, Adam contradicted this by saying Tylar was uncooperative leading up to the incident.” Corbin continued from memory, “Adam claims he decided to wait it out, instead of reporting her behavior so she could be reprimanded or reassigned. He insisted he was just trying to get her to comply with the day’s lesson when she racked his nuts. Proctor Teri was teaching class down the hall when he screamed. She found him on the floor in the fetal position, vomiting uncontrollably. Tylar was sitting up with a couple buttons popped and her skirt ripped off.”

An involuntary mental picture of Tylar half-naked on a bed caught Corbin off-guard. He pushed the image from his mind before it re-invoked his arousal.

“How long was he out of commission?” Chase asked.

“Five weeks. Dr Kale had to bring in a surgeon. The kid is lucky he didn’t lose a ball.”

“Wow, she nailed him.” He thought for a moment before adding, “Adam’s story doesn’t line up. The student Tylar’s chart describes is the epitome of cooperation. I mean, she excelled through first and second-year skills in the course of a year. A year!”

“Students sometimes finish their courses early.” Corbin reasoned.

“Yeah, by a couple months! But satisfying a years’ worth of skills in six?” Chase shook his head, “No way. That would mean both syllabuses were cut in half, which is not up to the skill trainers. They have handlers, Corbin. I’ve told you about this.”

“So they noticed she was advancing.” He tried to play it off.

“You don’t understand. Her first two trainers must have been bragging about her sexual abilities way more than usual. Even then, the handlers would have to be impressed enough to think she didn’t need to learn the entire curriculum! It’s unheard of, which makes her a goddamn unicorn. Something catastrophic must have happened during one of the training sessions to screw things up like this.”

“Adam and Mary both claim he stuck to the authorized training schedule.” Corbin leaned back, unwilling to enlighten Chase on what he suspected the real problem might be. His father had wiped that particular issue from Tylar’s history. “As far as I know, the handlers never intervened. She was the one punished.”

“Trainer intervention or not, Adam has to be hiding something,” Chase asserted. “She never did it before and it hasn’t happened since. The skill trainer they assigned after her two-month seclusion escaped without injury.”

Corbin grunted, “That’s a gross understatement. When it came time for her to transfer to the fourth-year sector earlier this month, Lance begged to continue as her final trainer. The Institute denied his request, so he tried to fail her. That didn’t work either, so he quit.”

“Maybe what happened to Adam combined with whatever power she held over Lance led to the issue with Jay,” Chase suggested. “Word spreads fast among the skill trainers. Hearing about the other two must have scared the shit out of that kid. My unicorn reference is not an exaggeration. What happened with Lance is also unheard of. Assigning each trainer up to three girls at a time reduces the risk of the boys attaching to one student. The chances of one as young as him becoming obsessed like that should be next to nil.”

“That could be it,” Corbin agreed. “In any case, I have instructed Teri to stop taking in girls. The underage sector will no longer graduate into skills.”

“Really?” Chase appeared startled by Corbin’s declaration.

“Why are you surprised?” Corbin’s irritation rose. They discussed closing The Institute every time he sat down to review bids for the purchasing sector.

“I just never thought you would do it,” Chase replied. “I mean, it was your father’s favorite business. Your grandfather’s, too, for that matter. In a dysfunctional sort of way, that place is your heritage.”

“A heritage I would rather have buried, I don’t care who was invested.” Corbin’s voice dripped with bitterness. “I don’t need the income and treating women like this is fucked up. I may womanize, that much is no secret to the general public. But those women are aware of what we are doing. And if they don’t want to sleep with me, all they have to do is say no. The Institute makes sure those girls have no concept of consent.”

“Yeah, well, judging by what this Tylar girl did to Adam, I’d say she figured out what consent is and how to withdraw it.”

“She made Jay obsolete in the process of asserting herself.” Corbin changed the subject with a subtlety he hoped Chase wouldn’t pick up on. “He’s no longer useful to The Institute. Can you contact Tristan and get Jay licensed as an unarmed security officer?”

“Sure. But I do not want to be asked to kill that girl. You need to come up with a plan to get her to cooperate.” He looked contemplative for a moment before asking, “why not let me try?”

“What?”

“You know I was an effective skill trainer, even with the difficult students. Let me try to bring her inline.”

“Why?” Corbin did not want Chase anywhere near Tylar. Not caring to say this aloud, he deflected with, “You’ve never been interested in going back to being a skill trainer.”

“I am not interested in going back,” Chase corrected, “and unicorn or not, I’m well aware her reprogramming will be distasteful. She’ll have to relearn submission, which means rougher aggression lessons. With the way this girl has been acting, you throw her in with the wrong guy and she’ll end up beyond repair.” He grimaced before adding with an unenthusiastic mutter, “If she isn’t already.”

“No,” Corbin denied, unwilling to accept the solution though he did see his point.

“What else are you going to do?” Chase insisted, frustration surfacing at the inflexibility, “We both know those horror stories about men in black suits abducting failed students is a fabricated scare tactic. But I can only think of one outcome if a girl flunks out of that shitshow. I have never harmed a woman and I sure as hell don’t plan to start by killing this eighteen-year-old girl. There’s a good chance whatever started all this wasn’t even her fault!”

Corbin stewed in silence. He threatened Tylar today with the consequence of death if she failed, though he left out the mention of the men in black suits. The act of ordering a young woman’s murder horrified him. He did not want to be responsible for demanding Chase or Jimmy carry out such an atrocity.

“Look, by sacrificing a year of my time, we have a better chance of coming out on the winning end of this. You won’t have to make the decision to end her life. And I won’t be faced with the choice to quit or live the rest of mine with the memory of killing a teenager.”

“You’re twenty-eight,” Corbin argued, still reluctant to agree. “That's too old to be a skill trainer.”

“At least she’s a legal adult! If you don’t agree to this, you’re going to have to give her to one of those boys. And you better believe every last one of them knows she’s been the downfall of three of their buddies. That’s a bad idea.”

“I’ll think about it,” Corbin conceded with reluctance. “Until then, Teri will be hiring a new skill trainer to replace Jay with a girl like Tylar in mind. There are students who need their training completed before I can walk away from that dumpster fire. I don’t ever want to be faced with a mess like this again.”

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About Subject BGD

I am Subject BGD. I have conceived an elaborate mythos revolving around the horrors wrought by a fictional bloodline through decades of brutality, madness and corruption. Book 1 focuses on a facility that traffics young women and the 3 broken lives it continues to shatter.  Though I created a dark universe involving the subjugation of women, I do not condone or believe in any form of misogynistic, chauvinistic or sexist ideology. This story does not intend to represent or downplay the horrifying reality of human trafficking. For more information about me or my series, please visit www.shatteredlivesbooks.com.

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