Friday, November 4, 2011

Vengeance: Chapter 2

I don’t remember how long I ran for. Night fell and still I continued deep in the woods. Deeper in fact than I had ever been before. Finally I found that I could just not continue on any longer. I heard a noise up ahead of me that sounded like the roar of water. I slowly made my way to it. Collapsing on the ground, I began to recall what the…agents had said to me.

My father, my very own flesh and blood had once been a member of this crime ring and had urged and persuaded both the local authorities and my husband that they needed to be stopped. He said he had “retired”; his words, not mine, because of something to do with my mother. My entire life, and my marriage had been a lie. My father a thug, my husband an agent, me, a pawn? Had Henry ever really loved me? After thinking on it, agonizing over it, I came to the conclusion that he had. He had loved me, I knew he had. At least that was something I was certain of.  

I fell asleep among the logs and brush, not really caring enough to move or wondering if animals may try to gnaw at me in the night, perhaps thinking I was dead. I felt dead, at least on the inside.

I awoke to some noises, about halfway through the day. Part of me couldn’t believe that I had slept that long, but another part realized that, between the physical exhaustion of running through woods and the emotional toll from Henry’s death, it was a wonder I hadn’t slept longer. I hunkered in a ball, willing the noises not to come any closer. I had no such luck. I looked up to see a man towering over me. 

“Mrs. Ridgefield,” the question sounded like more of a statement from him. How he had found me, I had no idea but, suddenly, I was worried.
“What do you want,” I stood defiantly, trying to convey anger without fear, but I was afraid I was failing miserably. 

“We need to talk,” he stated, again without question and headed over to a nearby felled log.
As I cautiously sat, he began talking. Almost immediately, I wished he had never found me.

“My name is Jude Campbell. I…worked with Henry. You met his “partner” but I was the one who really knew Henry and knew what he was going through. He felt like he had to protect you which is why he was so easily convinced to take part in the undercover op. Your father had been involved with some really bad guys, all your life. Before even. Your father was one of the right hand men of the leader. They were tasked with building lives all through the country, and then, when everything was in place, they were going to cause mass destruction from one coast to the other. Environmentalist terrorists you could call them. Real nutcases. Your mother was a part as well. Ole pops got cold feet when the last of you kids were born. Sweet mom threatened his life and you kids if he ever breathed a word of the cell’s existence. To her, the cause was more important; the kids just another layer in her cover. She walked, he stayed. Your dear dad kept his important science career though, hoping to atone for the crimes he had already committed.”

“Sorry to interrupt, Mr. Campbell,” I said, trying to sneer, to show my disgust, “but what does this have to do with Henry? And me?” He stood and faced me, presumably to explain more. Though, as I thought of it, I presumed I had a pretty good idea.

“She came back,” I whispered. I remembered a blonde woman visiting my father, a woman I had never seen before. He had told me they were dating and, indeed, I had seen them laughing together and one morning, had awoken to find them together at the breakfast table in robes. I had thought he was happy with her…Lilianna. I sank onto the log that Jude had so recently vacated.

“Yes. Your father actually loved her and, when she came back, she convinced him that she needed help. She seduced him and managed to get the materials the cell needed at that same time. Materials only a scientist would have access to. Well, you and Henry had just started dating. He overheard an argument between her and your father. Your dad had discovered her true intentions but she was threatening that the four of you would die if he told. Same threat, different decade. And it would have worked. Except, Henry didn’t know enough to keep it to himself. After she left, he went to your father and demanded an explanation. Scared out of his mind and worried for you girls, your father spilled his guts. Henry, being the law-abiding, country-loving man that he was, went to the police and offered himself as an agent. Even though he had no experience, he knew enough to be helpful and knew what Lilianna looked like now, which was more than the police had ever had. So they swore him in.”

“So Henry kept courting me. He knew that I was a target. He knew that my father was a target. He knew that he needed a good reason to stay close. Oh what a fool I’ve been,” I closed my eyes in despair. Jude said nothing; neither confirmation or denial and I could feel the tears build up behind my eyelids.

My father had betrayed his country and then, when he had finally made a good choice, he betrayed it again and his family by letting my mother back into our lives. And my mother! I could barely contain the bile that rose in my throat as I thought of her. Henry. Even the thought of him came with such conflicted feelings. The love I had been sure was real yet the betrayal knowing that it had all been a ruse. I heard a strangled cry and realized it was me.

“When is the funeral,” I heard myself asking in a tortured voice, barely above a whisper. Gone was my false bravado, gone was the strong woman I had pretended to be when Jude first approached. Now all that was left was a tortured, haunted shell who had lost her faith and ability to trust that anything was, or had been, real.

“There won’t be a funeral,” he answered.
“What? What about his family, his mother,” I asked. I wanted to spit on the man’s grave for using me, no matter his intentions but he had at least been a good person and his family deserved better. I stood and jabbed a finger at Jude, as though it was his fault Henry was dead and his fault there wouldn’t be a funeral. My anger seemed to ignite his own but almost as soon as I saw it, he calmed down.

“They were told that he died in a fire. Indeed, the cell set a fire after his murder, buying them some time and making identification difficult. If we hadn’t known who he was really working for, it all would have been chalked up to an accident. And that’s what his family will still think. The department doesn’t want anyone knowing that he was undercover. His family was given ashes and they held their own private memorial yesterday. Your…disappearance caused you to miss it.”

“I brought a change of clothes for you.” He suddenly was holding a bag in his hand. I hadn’t noticed it before and realized that he had probably been by me while I was sleeping longer than I had realized. 

“What are you talking about, I’ve got to go home,” I snapped, suddenly wary of his intentions and mysterious arrival to where I had finally collapsed, exhausted.
“You think that Lilianna won’t know about your connection to Henry? His entire gimmick was that he was tricking all of you. Someone found out something, or they wouldn’t have killed him. You’re not safe. And, I knew him well enough to know that he would want you protected. We’re staying out here.”

I looked around at our surroundings; trees, wildlife, and more trees. How were we to live out here? How could I be sure Jude was even telling the truth? I reflected on this and realized that I didn’t even care.

Some say it was better to know the worst than to wonder but I think they are fools. Twenty four hours ago, I was happy. I was loved and in love. I had a quaint, honeymooner’s cottage with a picket fence and patterns picked out for curtains. I had dreams and beautiful memories. Now, I had nothing except the truth which certainly wouldn’t keep me warm at night. The truth dashed all of my memories to sharp slivers that I didn’t even want to examine any more. No, it was certainly not better to know. 

1 comment:

  1. I'm kinda glad I'm not competing against you, lol. Can't wait to see the next installment :)