Authors: J.D. Chase
Tags: #PART TWO OF THE PASSION NOIRE SERIES
‘Without the blond hair and light blue eyes, I doubt I look much like him at all,’ he says.
I have an odd, fizzy sensation in my chest ... like butterflies but lighter ... much lighter.
He waves his finger at me accusingly. ‘And before you say it, no I don’t plan on wearing sunglasses constantly. I’d look a complete dick. I’ve ordered some coloured contact lenses but they won’t be ready until tomorrow so, for now, I’m going for the rock star look.’
That feeling in my chest grows ... akin to champagne bubbles popping but it’s not cold. It’s warm and it’s spreading, the bubbles growing. I feel it bubbling up towards my mouth until at last, it pours out of my mouth.
I laugh. Almost hysterically.
Poor Jones: he looks both confused and bemused.
I think it’s relief ... that he’s not as hurt as I thought, that he didn’t just walk out on me and The Kid.
But it’s also disbelief ... that he likes being around me enough to shave his head and wear coloured contacts so that he doesn’t remind me of a certain someone.
‘You’re mad.’ I giggle. He’s looking at me like I’m the mad one.
He nods and rolls his eyes. ‘I fucking must be.’
I CANNOT BELIEVE HOW relieved I am that it wasn’t me, as in the person I am, that was making Veuve so prickly. It was what I looked like. I understood her predicament immediately. I can’t believe I hadn’t put two and two together myself. I don’t give a shit about hair colour or eye colour. My eyes have been commented on before. Being such a cold blue colour, they can look harsh and unforgiving sometimes.
It’s much cooler, not having hair, during this heatwave. I should have done it sooner. I always used to have a grade one or two all over. I grew it when I left the Corps, probably a subconscious effort to shed the uniform. Wearing sunglasses inside is going to be weird. Anyone who does that looks a complete tit. But I’d rather look like a tit to her than the devil incarnate.
The best bit about my new image? Veuve’s attitude towards me. She’s on the back foot for differing reasons now. I have no problem persuading her to stay at mine until the door is replaced—two or three days at least thanks to the insurance company’s stupid conditions. I’ve had to screw it to the frame to keep it secure. A fire risk if ever there was one.
We have fish and chips for tea. She says that soon we’ll be running out of takeaways—I always eat them. I can’t see the problem. But she says that The Kid likes to cook so we’ve agreed that we’ll go grocery shopping tomorrow—with him if he feels up to it. I think he’ll have more physical difficulties than mental in the morning—he was stiff this morning after lurching around in front of the Xbox and he’s been on it all day, on and off. I know he’s going to ache like a pair of blue balls in the morning. Then he’ll cook tomorrow. My kitchen won’t know what’s hit it. I can’t actually remember using the oven ... the hob, yes, rarely.
I’m more of a microwave and toaster man. I can cook a variety of dishes but, when it’s usually just me, what’s the point? Shopping, preparing, cooking, and then washing up ... it takes a couple of hours when I can just pick up the phone and have a meal in front of me in minutes. It’s a no brainer.
I’ve managed to set the ball rolling with my enquiries into Thierri and the nursing company. I’ll know more in the next day or two. Veuve has given me Paul’s full name and date of birth. I’m waiting for a call that could come any time to tell me exactly where he is. It’s been a busy day.
Right now, it’s time to find out more about The Kid, especially whether he really is my nephew and where his mother and his sister are, at least to the best of his knowledge. The more information I have, the easier it will be for me to begin to track them down. I’ve already promised him that I’ll track his sister down if I can. I feel much happier about it now that Veuve is in the loop. I didn’t like the prospect of going behind her back.
They’re on the sofa and I’m sitting cross-legged on the floor. The Kid is fascinated with my shaven head; he’s already nagging Veuve to agree to let him lose his hair. He’s nineteen but doesn’t realise that he doesn’t need permission. Veuve’s been trying to get me to lose the shades—she says I look a complete twat. I told her that’s okay, they’re useful—who wants a partial twat? That earned me a clip around the ear.
There’s a different atmosphere between us now. She’s much more relaxed. Still cool and commanding but less edgy. I’m glad. I feel calmer too ... even if I do look a knob.
Veuve catches my eye and I nod. It’s time. We’ve agreed that she will take the lead—no surprise there—but she knows him best.
‘Kid,’ she begins, ‘Jones and I need to talk to you. I understand that you asked him to find your sister for you.’
He looks to me with big eyes. I give him that helpless face that men do so well when steamrollered by a woman and shrug. He let the cat out of the bag last night; there’s not a lot I can do about it.
‘It’s okay,’ she says, giving his leg a squeeze. ‘I’m glad it’s not a secret anymore. I’d like to help you to find her too. If there’s three of us looking for her, she might be easier to find, don’t you think?’
He thinks about it for a second and then nods. He looks wary. I think he’s expecting there to be a ‘but’ coming next.
‘To be able to find her, we need to know as much as you do. So we’re going to have to ask you a lot of questions. Some of them might be difficult for you to answer—either because you don’t know the answer, or maybe think you don’t or because it’s painful to talk about. I’m going to ask you to be brave and tell us all that you can. We can stop any time, just ask. Then we’ll have a break until you’re ready to carry on. Okay?’
He looks nervous. He’s not stupid. He’s been given the ‘but’ that he’d predicted. I know that this is going to be uncomfortable to witness. I’m glad I popped into an off licence and stocked up when Veuve dropped her curtains off to be dry cleaned. I’ve poured myself a glass of beer and Veuve a glass of wine. The Kid has orange juice but I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t request an alcoholic drink before the night’s out.
It must be hell to relive the nightmare. I saw the state of him last night after his bad dream. And look at the state that Veuve gets herself into. She’s agreed to sleep in my bed with me again tonight—I think she feels guilty for my baldness and I’m taking full advantage. I missed her last night when I crawled back into bed. But I’m taking the precaution of getting the fuck out of there if she has a nightmare. A haircut and a pair of sunglasses can’t be guaranteed to do the trick, not until she gets used to having me around.
she gets used to it.
‘Let’s talk about your mum first,’ she says, giving him a tight smile.
He shakes his head, vehemently.
Okay, so he doesn’t want to talk about her. Maybe he misses her too much. Or maybe there’s another reason. I know Veuve won’t push him too far. She’ll switch tack and get him to talk about something else. It might work, he might drop clues that we can piece together.
I take a sip of my drink. I think it’s going to be a long night.
I KNOW THAT VEUVE’S going to want me to talk about
place. I can tell because she’s giving me those little smiles. The ones that say ‘this is going to be painful but I’m going to ask you to do it anyway.’ She keeps patting my leg. It’s kind of nice but it makes me feel like a baby. She doesn’t treat Jones the same way. I want her to treat me the same as she’s treating him now. She seems to like him more today. It was like she was cross with him before.
I’m preparing myself to have to tell them all the awful things that I try not to think about. When I don’t have to think about them, it helps me because I don’t dream about it as much. The dreams are worse when I do have them though. It’s like I have to think about it and if I don’t do it when I’m awake, the thoughts come into my brain when I’m asleep instead. It sucks arse, as Veuve would say.
But instead, Veuve asks me about my mum. I can’t even think about her, never mind talk about her. I had a horrible dream last night ... it was what happened before they took me and mum and ... I can’t. I just can’t talk about her.
Veuve looks disappointed. I see her look across to Jones. I wonder if they want to talk about her because Jones has a sister called Sandy. He says a bad man took her a long time ago. It’s very sad. I wonder if he had to talk to someone about it, like they’re trying to get me to do. I bet Jones was brave enough to tell them everything. It’s weird how my mum is called Sandy and a bad man kept her locked up. Maybe it happens to girls called Sandy. People should stop calling their daughters Sandy, then bad men can’t get them.
I wonder if my sister’s name is Sandy too. I don’t think it is. She had a name but I can’t remember it. I hardly ever heard her get called by her name and then it stopped. Or I can’t remember. Those injections made me feel funny and I couldn’t remember a lot when they started doing that all the time.
Veuve distracts me.
‘What is your earliest memory of being in the bad place?’ she asks. ‘What’s the first thing you can remember about being there?’
She often does this. She’ll ask a question and then change the words around. I think she gets it wrong the first time sometimes, although it sounds right. She does a lot of the same stuff. I watch her a lot. I can tell how she’s feeling without asking her now. She does lots of little things that give it away. She’s nervous now. Those little smiles. The leg patting. She doesn’t want to be having this talk. So why are we?
Grown-ups are weird. Veuve says I’m one but because of being in that place, I still feel and act more like a child. I didn’t like that but she says it’s amazing because being a grown-up is a load of crap. She says I’ll turn into a grown-up when I’m ready and then I’ll wish I was still a child. I’m ready now but she still treats me like a child.
She’s looking at me with one of those little smiles on her face. I force myself to concentrate. I try to think of the first thing I can remember. I can’t think ... but then one thing jumps into my mind. I don’t know if it’s right, but it’s the first thing I can remember right now.
‘I was in a room with my mum. It was dark. There were no lights in there so at night it was completely dark—you couldn’t see anything. You would know when they were coming because of the light that they shone inside. They’d sometimes shine it in your eyes and then laugh. When I was really little, they used to take my mum away and lock the door. I’d cry. It was cold and dark. I used to cuddle up to my mum to keep warm. We slept on a blanket on the floor with another one on top.