Once There was Life

Chapter 9: Doors of Blue

Was it weakness? He didn’t understand it himself. Cecile rested his hand against the peeling blue paint of the door. Of course, this was the culprit’s place. He had wanted to come, but he was torn between personal safety and guilt. His being there may not have prevented Cathrine’s death, but perhaps it had been unfair not to offer help. Who did a person protect?

Cecile’s hand slid down the rough wood of the door to grasp the rounded bronze handle. As he turned the doorknob, he remembered the handgun the he carried in his coat and pulled it out with his free hand before he pushed the door open to reveal a kitchen area. Inside, the culprit — dressed in black denim jeans and a crimson shirt embroidered with a black skull — was seated at a kitchen table with a book open in his lap. Though this culprit had turned his chair to face the door, he was slow to react to Cecil’s intrusion, taking the time to turn another page of the story. Seeming to finish the paragraph, he lifted his head.

“Well, aren’t you going to shut the door?” Oliver inquired.

Cecile noticed the book’s title of Pride and Prejudice. His attention slid beyond to the rusted cans of soup scattered in a corner of the room, to the shattered window over the dirty sink — which suggested that the owners had met a tragic end in a violent crime — before he really looked at Oliver. Cecile felt ashamed with himself for having thought of Oliver as the vulnerable one where here Oliver was as just another stand-in for the organization he ran from.

Cecile stepped up to the kitchen counter by the sink and slid the gun over the discolored laminate surface, feeling the departure of its weight. He pulled his fingers away as the door slammed shut behind him, caught in a draft of wind. He turned as Oliver dropped his book on the kitchen table and pulled forward a glass of water that had been left there.

“You killed his daughter,” Cecile commented dryly, now facing Oliver.

Cecile may have come for a sense of forgiveness, but he was not foolish enough to believe that this was entirely his fault. If not today, she would have likely died another time. Anyone related to a man such as Mr. Odalas or C.R.A.V.E. could expect to be used and ultimately Mr. Odalas had made that choice.

The glass remained on the table.

“I thought we established that,” Oliver said.


The open question hung in the air. Oliver lifted and swirled the water in his glass, watching the liquid coat every possible curved inch.

“You know, you shouldn’t be asking,” Oliver told him.

He heard the creak on the floorboards before Cecile was beside the chair. Cecile placed a hand down over the top of the glass to stop the movement.

“I’m supposed to keep tabs on you, alright,” Oliver explained. “You and all the other curious people. Sometimes I shut people up more permanently. Dominic Odalas knew this when he told me to leave, and there was something else.”

Oliver pulled something from his pocket, and held it up. Cecile saw that it was a business card for some sort of group.

“They’ve been slipping them into people’s pocket’s lately, these so-called freedom fighters. She was a part of it too. You can take this as a warning. If you get involved, C.R.A.V.E. is going to take you back.”

Cecile felt irritated. It was one thing for them to watch him and quite another to get sympathy. He restrained himself from spilling the contents of the glass as he gazed down at Oliver’s open expression.

“What about Dominic Odalas?” Cecile asked outright.

“Perfectly safe while he accepts our conditions. You ought to come back to his place.”

Water splashed his hand as the glass pithed sideways and Cecile turned away as Oliver shoved his chair over and scrambled to catch it before it fell from the table.

Cecile heard it smash on the floor as he left the house the same way he had come, walking down the narrow lanes of a trashy and overpopulated neighborhood to retrace his steps back to the bridge. The people who noticed took in the sight of his torn and bloody coat and moved past with their heads down. As the wind picked up, Cecile pushed his hands into his empty pockets and continued onward.

He knew that going to the bridge was a futile effort. People never showed up there when you wanted them and after his meeting with Oliver it was better to disappear. Yet, some feeling had built up inside of him that pulled him blindly, shifting like chips of concrete that crunched under his boots. His boot kicked a pop can before he realized how self-engrossed he had become.

When next he lifted his head, he saw the girl who had called him shy crouched down beside the arch of the bridge. She too had been watching the ground in thought, but when she heard his approach she raised her head.

“There you are,” she said standing.

“Did my brother come by already?” Cecile asked her.

He couldn’t think of any other reason for her being there.

“No. You dropped this out of your pocket,” she said holding out the small card.

In his pocket. What was she talking about? Nobody had ever approached him and he had not put his coat down for someone to put it there. He accepted it from her, the same card that Oliver had shown him. Now he remembered being handed his coat the day he left someone’s house.

“Is something wrong?” the girl asked.

Cecile made himself meet her eyes and smile.

“No,” he lied.


Chapter 8: Follow Suit

Chapter 10: Ice and Water