Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Chapter 7

Without saying a word, Lucas put the car in gear and cautiously drove around the trees heading in what I hoped, was the direction of the highway. Looking out through the plastic windows at the back of the jeep, my thoughts wandered as I watched the trees pass by.

I had spent an entire night with both these boys, and was still no closer to finding out who they were or any closer to understanding their involvement with me or my gramps.

My thoughts flicked back to earlier and the conversation I overheard.  Trying to put the puzzle together with so many pieces missing was difficult, but not impossible. From what I’d gathered, my gramps asked Daniel out here to Troian with the sole purpose of following me, to keep me safe.

But why? Gramps thought me how to protect and defend myself. What was he involved in that was so dangerous that he felt merited a bodyguard? And what did Daniel mean when he said I didn’t exist, that I was a secret?

I asked myself question after question, wrapped up in my own thoughts I almost missed Lucas’ question.

“Excuse me?” I asked him, coming back to the present.

With a quick glance in my direction before looking back to the dirt trail, we’d now began to follow he said “I asked, why your house? What is it that you have to do?”

“Gramps gave me specific instructions, things he made me promise to do in case of his………passing.”  I answered looking up and meeting Daniel’s intent gaze in the rearview mirror.

“Things like what?” Daniel asked.

Holding his hard gaze, I recalled aloud the things gramps had me memorize since I was old enough to understand what he was asking of me.

“He said, when he was…gone, he was gone. Not to come back for him, I mean……..his body.” I whispered as I took in a staggered breath, “And to-” I began again but was abruptly cut off.

“It’s okay, October.” Lucas said glaring daggers at Daniel as he took his eyes off the road “You don’t have to tell us if you don’t want to.”

Taking a shaky breath I looked straight ahead and watched as the Troian main highway came into view as Lucas took us into the midday traffic heading south. I was about to tell Lucas, to take the next turn off that led to the outskirts of the city, when Daniel stole the words from me.

“Take the next right and just follow the road from there.” Daniel said to him.

Before I had time to be startled by the fact that Daniel, who was basically a stranger, was giving directions to my house, I remembered that he was the one who pulled me out of the fire and who had been apparently following me for the last couple of days.

                                          Of course he knew where I lived.

I thought. Not saying a word as he continued to give Lucas directions, we turned into my street.

“Pull over here.” Daniel instructed Lucas as we broke the corner into Rosen Street.    
“Why are we stopping here? My house is at the bottom of the street.” I said to them both, leaning forward between the front seats as they began unbuckling their seatbelts. 

“Just being cautious” Lucas answered, opening his door and stepping out, allowing me to do the same.

“Cautious? About what?” I asked as I stood beside him, watching as Daniel handed him the duffel he fished out the back.

“Let’s just get this over with.” I heard Daniel growl as he shouldered his way past us to cross the street, not waiting for Lucas or me to follow.

“What the hell is his problem?” I asked in frustration looking over at Daniel, watching as his long legs made short work of the distance to my house.

Heaving a heavy sigh, “He has…….issues.” Lucas answered, throwing his duffel over his shoulder again as we walked down towards my house or what was left of it.

Standing there, staring at the decrepit and burnt structure, now cornered off by yellow caution tape, it was hard to believe this was the same place I called home. That I’d laughed and lived for so many years under the now non-existent roof as the entire second story was gone, leaving behind only a few blackened remnants. 

Clenching my hand in a tight fist, my short nails digging into my palm as a mental reminder to keep it together, I ducked under the police tape, crossing the small lawn to the huge opening on the left side of the house. I barely noticed the boys as they followed me in, stepping over pieces of my home as we entered. Pieces that were either burnt beyond recognition from the fire or dripping and water logged from the firefighters efforts. 

Looking around from corner to corner in a feeble attempt to get some kind of bearings, I began walking down what used to be a narrow hallway where off white walls once stood. Carefully making my way through fallen and seared fragments of my home, I slowly found my way to my grandfather’s study. 

As twilight approached, its faint sunlight spilled in from every direction, illuminating the room as it lay in ruins. Where my gramp's wide old, oak desk once stood, ash and debris now took its place in the middle of the floor surrounded by the charred walls of books he cherished so much.  

When I was younger and couldn’t sleep or when the nightmares would keep me awake at night, gramps would let me choose a book from his array of classics. Reading to me until I fell asleep with thoughts of great white whales and princesses no bigger than my thumb.

 Stifling the memory for now, I walked over to the remains of the desk as both boys ambled into the room behind me. Kneeling, I began digging through the rubble with my bare hands, pushing away as much as I could. Hands black and covered with sot, I brushed back the fallen strands of my hair from my forehead, finally reaching the wooden floor boards that covered the entire floor of the study.

            Unable to get a proper grip on any of the floorboards to pry them free, or even get them to budge, I scanned the pile around me looking for something to use. Without a word Daniel dropped to his knees beside me, brushing me aside he took out a small pocket knife and began working on the boards. Digging the tip of his knife between the boards and jimmying until they finally came loose.

Gazing down at the small door of the black safe hidden beneath the floor of my grandfather’s study, just as unscathed as it was 12 years ago, when my gramps first showed it to me. Laying my hand on the cool metal, I sighed in relief. Knowing that the safe was practically indestructible didn’t seem real until I saw it for myself. 

“Tobi, if anything should happen to me, anything at all, you make sure, no matter what, that you find your way back here. That you keep what you find in there safe and with you at all times!” my grandfather said to me as he showed me his safe beneath the floor of his study for the first time, only a few days before my 7th birthday.

 I was young but mature enough to understand the seriousness of his tone as he spoke, that I shouldn’t ask questions but instead listen.

“Now, you remember the code I told you?” he asked, his voice gentling.

Nodding a yes, I continued to answer “It’s my birthday.”

“And when’s your birthday?” he asked, that same softness in his voice as he let go of my hand and turned, stooping down in front of me so we were eye level.

 “October 1st 1993.” We both said in unison. A broad smile stretched across my gramps face, the kind that touched his eyes and made them crinkle at the corners. Touching his face, I smiled back at him happy that I’d made him proud.

Smiling to myself as the memory played in my head, I looked down at the small keypad. Entering the seven digit code, I wrapped my hand around the short shiny handle and turned. I didn’t realize I was holding my breath until I heard the click of the safe door opening.