“What will we do with it?”
“Hide it somewhere.” My father paused for a second, then looked at John and me. “Best place might be somewhere obvious to everyone. Give it to one of the boys, maybe as a locket. People will think it’s just a child’s ornament. But if soldiers find it in the house in a raid, hidden under some floorboard, they’ll know for sure that it’s important.”
I stayed silent. Even at that age, I understood my father’s concern. Our house had been searched on routine inspections by troops before, just like every other house on our street. If Dad hid it somewhere, they’d find it.
Our father left early the next morning, before the sun even rose. We would see him only one more time after that. Then he never came home again.
This memory flashes through my mind in an instant. I look up at June. “Thank you for finding this.” I wonder if she can hear the sadness in my voice. “Thank you for giving it back to me.”
I CAN’T STOP THINKING ABOUT DAY.
When I lie down in my apartment for a brief rest later in the afternoon, I dream of him. I dream that Day has his arms wrapped around me and is kissing me again and again, his hands running up my arms and through my hair and around my waist, his chest pressed against mine, his breath against my cheeks and neck and ears. His long hair brushes against me, and his eyes drown me in their depths. When I wake up and find myself alone again, I can hardly breathe.
His words run through my mind until I can’t even understand them anymore. That someone else has killed Metias. That the Republic is intentionally spreading the plague in the poor sectors. I think back to how we were on the streets of Lake, when he would risk his safety because I needed to rest. Then today, wiping the tears from my cheek.
I can’t find the anger I used to have toward him. And if I discover proof that someone else killed Metias, for whatever reason, then I have no reason to hate him at all. I’d once been fascinated by his legend—all the stories I’d heard before I met him. Now I can feel that same sense of fascination returning. I picture his face, so beautiful even after pain and torture and grief, his blue eyes bright and sincere. I’m ashamed to admit that I enjoyed my brief time with him in his prison cell. His voice can make me forget about all the details running through my mind, bringing with it emotions of desire or fear instead, sometimes even anger, but always triggering something. Something that wasn’t there before.
1912 HOURS. TANAGASHI SECTOR.
“I heard you had a private conversation with Day this afternoon,” Thomas says to me as we sit together, eating bowls of edame in a café. The café is the same one that we visited when Metias was alive. Thomas’s choice of location doesn’t ease my thoughts. I can’t forget the rifle grease smeared on the hilt of the knife that killed my brother.
Maybe he’s testing me. Maybe he knows what I suspect.
I take a bite of pork so I don’t have to answer. I’m glad that the two of us are sitting a good distance apart. Thomas had spent a great deal of effort convincing me to “forgive” him, to let him take me out to dinner. Why he did this, I can’t be sure. To draw me out? To get me to say something by accident? To see if I would refuse, and then take this information to Commander Jameson? It doesn’t take much evidence to start an investigation against someone. Maybe this whole evening is just bait.
But then again, maybe he’s really trying to make up with me.
I don’t know. So I tread carefully.
Thomas watches me eat. “What did you say to him?”
There’s jealousy in his voice. My words come out cool and detached. “Don’t bother, Thomas.” I reach out and touch his arm, to distract him. “If a boy killed someone you loved, wouldn’t you keep trying to figure out why he’d done it? I thought he might talk to me if the guards weren’t around. But I’ve given up on him. I’ll be happier when he’s dead.”
Thomas relaxes a little, but he still studies my face. “Maybe you should stop seeing him,” he suggests after another long silence. “It doesn’t seem to be helping you. I can ask Commander Jameson to send someone else to give Day his water rations. I hate to think of you having to interact so much with your brother’s murderer.”
I nod in agreement and take another bite of edame. To stay silent now would look bad. What if I’m eating dinner with my brother’s murderer? Logic. Caution and logic. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Thomas’s hands. What if those are the hands that stabbed Metias straight through the heart?
“You’re right,” I say without missing a beat. I make myself sound grateful, thoughtful. “I haven’t gotten anything useful out of him yet. He’ll be dead soon, anyway.”
Thomas shrugs. “I’m glad you think so.” He drops fifty Notes on our table as the waiter comes by. “Day is just a criminal on death row. His words shouldn’t matter to a girl of your standing.”
I take another bite before answering. “They don’t,” I reply. “I might as well be talking to a dog.” But to myself I think, Day’s words will matter if he’s telling the truth.
Long after Thomas has escorted me back to my apartment and left, and long after midnight has passed, I sit awake at my computer and study Metias’s crime report. I’ve looked at the photos enough times now to keep myself from turning away, but it still leaves a queasy feeling in my stomach. Every photo is taken from an angle facing away from his wounds. The longer I stare at the black smears on the knife hilt, the more convinced I am that they’re remnants of rifle grease.