The world was never quiet
Lie 9 : I hate you.
I have no idea whether it's symbolic or simply awfully depressing that the worst moments of my life are so close in time. I almost want to lie and write something else before this one. But it would be useless and stupid – my goal is to make my point of view understandable. And distorting it more than it already is…
Anyway. We hid somewhere else and we'd taken Jacques' new best friend, Quigley Quagmire. I never talked to him, to be honest. The Baudelaire told me everything I know about it – and the files I read about their relationships. He was one of the Quagmire triplets, saved by his mother before guess what? Their house burnt to the ground. Since then, the two others were under Esme Squalor's tyranny and Quigley tried to survive the best he could. Jacques'd found him when he investigated Montgomery Montgomery's house, the Baudelaire's second guardian. And he brought him home like a stray dog.
Don't get me wrong, I don't hate the kid. He was a skilled mapmaker and the sketches he left saved me a couple times. It's just something in him… Anyway. Not the point. Now that my father's issue was settled, Jacques wanted to find Violet, Klaus and Sunny as soon as possible, and preferably before Olaf found them. Vain, you'd say. Well, yes, but we're speaking of Jacques, aren't we? As for me, I didn't mind helping them. I had promised them to find them, after all.
The problem was that we needed to go back to the beginning, to retrace their journey, followed them from their house to where they were now. Everything went relatively smoothly until we reached their last guardians – the Squalor. I tried to get myself out of this mess to make sure I wouldn't say anything wrong. Jacques worked alone on the fire reports and the police statements about the bodies found in the building. I don't even know how many people died in this damned fire.
I just came back from groceries – survival more than groceries, really, when I found out something was off. Quigley wasn't there. His maps, usually littering the floor and every flat furniture were mostly gone. I put my bag in the entrance, made sure I had my knife, Olaf's knife I mean. I walked to the room Jacques and I shared and found him sitting on the bed, deep in his reading of what looked like a file. Sighing in relief, I took out my coat and threw it on a chair with a smile.
"You scared me, where is Quigley?
- I sent him away," he let out. "I needed space.
- Oh alright, I'm leaving you then.
- No, stay. I need your help."
That too was off. The way he gazed at me didn't look like anything I'd already seen from him. Or rather… Yes, it did look like something. It seems obvious now, but it was almost the same gaze as my father's when he understood I was Andrea. The thought sounded so ludicrous that it never crossed my mind. I thought he was tired, or stuck with some clues. So I sat next to him and looked at his file.
I didn't lose my smile when I realized it was the police file on the 667 Dark Avenue. Not just yet - after all, I was still free. No one knew about the two matches. I read what was written and my smile froze at this very moment. It turned into a grimace. It was written that the fire probably originated from the lift shaft and spread around in an unexplained way. It went up the rope, I guessed. And… Woosh. Of course he noticed. He was waiting for something, anything. But at this point, I just looked up the papers and raised an eyebrow.
"You need my help with that? It's rather clear.
- Yes but, you see, there're one or two dark spots and I can't get to… Shed some light on them, if you will." He paused and took the file back. And put it next to him, far from me. "You got out via the underground passage. You were in the lift shaft. And it's written that the fire started there.
- I know how to read. What are you implying?"
I was tensed. That also he noticed. Don't worry, I learnt how to hide my physical reactions – and it's for the better. His green eyes stared at me without the slightest bit of understanding or forgiveness… Without any feeling, in fact. I'd already lost him. But you know the song: even when we know we've lost, we always try to find a way. Maybe I would have found one if I hadn't been this oblivious.
He stood up and paced back and forth. I stayed on the bed, motionless. It felt like my father's episode over again. And yes, the resemblance already stroke me. I took the file and read again this part of the file to try to find this way. If I'm there, writing you those words, you know I didn't.
"I don't know. What do you understand?
- You're blaming me for the fire," I said cautiously. "But you're the investigator, not me.
- It's always been a possibility. I thought about it but obviously forgot it right away. Why would you have set a building full of people and full of your father in fire? It didn't make any sense.
- Does it make any now?
- No. But everything's against you Cassandre."
He never used my name. How did he called me, then? He didn't. He didn't need to. When he used it, he always had something to blame me for. Or something important to tell me. Here, both. I stood up and walked closer. He didn't move, didn't step back, but his attitude didn't get any warmer. Quite the contrary, actually. It felt like the temperature just dropped. His green eyes were frozen – icy.
I'm not stupid. Despite everything he could say, I knew it had made sense of the fire. He just didn't want to say it. And it wasn't a trap, or not just that: he was scared to be right. Scared to see his theories being right. Scared to see that I was the monster he imagines those last couples of hours, when he read and reread every reports and connected every dark spots to me.
"By all mean, go ahead," I provoked him, hoping he would give up. "Tell me what you have.
- I thought maybe someone had thrown a match or a lighter. But the elevator shaft was too deep for it to reach the ground still alighted." He talked coldly, calmly, just like he did every time we spoke of a case. Mine. "I then thought someone would have set the rope you used on fire. But if it'd been the case, it would have broken and the fire wouldn't have spread to the rest of the building. Then I thought someone was with you, but only one body was found and it was your father's. He had a knife stuck in his stomach.
- A new charge, then. Arson and parricide?
- This is not a game."
I got quiet. Just like my father, Jacques never screamed. He didn't get angry. He made himself very clear and it was enough to quiet the most arrogant enemy. Me included. I kept quiet and watched him paced back and forth around me with the horrible feeling to be a lion's prey. He didn't look at me – he stared at the ground or the walls around us. But not me.
My heart beat slowly in my chest. Very slowly, too slowly given the circumstances. I was so terribly calm. I knew what was going to happen, I already lived through it – what could I do about it? I closed my eyes for a while and took a deep breath. When I opened them again, Jacques had stopped and he was staring at me. At last. And his gaze was both icy, pleading, furious, terrified and terrifying. As if he'd seen something and didn't want to believe it, but it was so obvious that he knew it was madness or stupidity to doubt it.
"Defend yourself," he suddenly ordered me. "Say something, defend yourself!
- What do you want me to say? You already judged me.
- Tell me I'm wrong, give me another side of this story!
- Why?" I was signing the death warrant of what we had, his death warrant at this moment. "You always told me not to lie."
Silence lingered and echoed more violently than his screams. The way he looked at me broke my heart, or what remains of it. He wasn't angry anymore. Wasn't icy either. Wasn't terrifying. Just sad. Disappointed. Incredulous. I gritted my teeth not to cry. I wonder what would've happened if I'd thrown myself at his feet and beg for forgiveness. Would have he forgiven me? Would have I being able to convince him that despite everything he thought, I was still innocent? Honestly, I have no idea. Maybe, maybe not. Maybe he would still be dead – what's the use then? At least I didn't lie to me. Not on this, anyway.
"You killed your father," he slowly uttered, as if he still hoped I would contradict him. "You set an inhabited building on fire.
- I put an end to his suffering. He was dying.
- Why?" He was going to explode. I could feel it. And I was terrified. "How could you…
- He wasn't my father anymore. That's what he told me. He didn't want me as a daughter," I cut him. If he had to explode, I had to do it before him. But my voice refused to follow. It was weak. "He didn't want a daughter ready to do anything to find him, including covering her hands with blood and ashes. He didn't want a daughter ready to join the Arsonists. He didn't want a daughter like her mother."
I had let out the last part with looking at him, distantly. He blinked. I walked to the window and looked outside. It was raining. How adequate. I smiled before I turned to Jacques. As tall and strong as he was, he suddenly looked small, so small, ludicrous with his shocked wide eyes and his hangdog look. And I, small, so small, ludicrous with my oversize clothes and oversize dark circles, I felt tall and strong, as if spreading my conscience's demise in front of him gave me power. My innocence's demise, too. And my nobility's. Shit, that's a lot of demises, you bet he didn't know what to say.
"You didn't do it," he decreed. But he was lying. Jacques was a terrible liar, I know I already said it. "Not you.
- Why not me? I know what you saw in me, Jacques. You deluded yourself. I was never a Volunteer. My heart was never noble.
- You didn't kill your father and all those innocents people, it doesn't…
- Make sense?" I sighed. "I'm sure it does.
- No. The girl I saved wasn't a murderer."
There we are. I said and repeated it, Cassandre Dupin was some sort of an barely corporeal entity used as a reason for everyone to tell me I became a monster. Because you don't picture a girl of twenty as a murderer. You picture her as a naïve, innocent, smiley kid, perhaps a bit arrogant for good measure.
But even then I wasn't precisely innocent, smiley naïve and a bit arrogant. I was already selfish, I already lied, manipulated and caused more death than most innocent, smiley, naïve and a bit arrogant kid of twenty. Even before Jacques found me. But can I really blame him for believing in this fantasy? It's way easier to love a noble person than to love a pyromaniac murderer. You can testify, Lemony.
I put on airs and graces, I'm theorizing, but all I felt back then was distress. When my father more or less told me the same thing, I clung onto Jacques. I told myself at least he was there. Now he blamed me for betraying who I should have been, what, whom could I cling onto? No one, because I had no one else than this stupid noble heart and his disgusted look.
"I should have never let you go with Olaf," he spat out. "I should have never taken you for what you've never been.
- I didn't…
- No, it's my fault. I let you go, I believed your lies, I thought you were able to resist his manipulations. And now…" He shook his head. I wanted to throw myself on his mercy. I wanted to cry. I didn't. "Now you're one of them.
- You can't say that, Jacques.
- I can. And I will. You're a murderer, Cassandre. You killed your father and all these people because you were angry. How is it different from Olaf?"
It wasn't. Still isn't. Frankly, even now, after everything I did after the fire, I don't think I did anything worse than that. I killed many people because I couldn't stand the hollow eyes of my father, and I couldn't stand the sight of his body next to me. But I didn't have the choice. I wasn't given any choice.
I've been driven in this nightmare without any chance of leaving, or choosing. My father chained me to the sugar bowl. Jacques chained me to my father's pursuit. Olaf chained me to the idea that everything was possible and if everything could be done, then everything had to be done. Later on, Lemony would chain me to the idea there is still something to save from VFD. Even later, he would chain me to the idea there is still something to save in me. It's hypocritical, I know. And partially wrong. I could have resisted. But I was a child. I was given responsibilities, I was told I could save my father, that I had to save him, that I had to protect the sugar bowl, the Baudelaire and I was given every weapons to do it. How was I supposed to use them without hurting myself, or hurting others?
"You're right," I whispered. "You're right.
- Of course I'm…
- It's your fault." My voice had turned colder, crueller than I thought possible. But I couldn't be the only one wounded. If I had to bleed, he would bleed too. "You led me into your world. You wanted to make a Volunteer out of me. You threw me into these schemes, you used me to find the sugar bowl. Don't deny it. It's what you wanted from the beginning. Then you let me destroy myself. You found me pretty, you found me sweet, so you kept me. But you couldn't accept to see what you created. You destroyed me.
- I never…
- You did, Jacques. You promised me the earth whilst I lost myself. You didn't stop me from becoming… This. I am a murderer, indeed. Because you didn't have the balls to be one."
He didn't hit me. I would have done it. But he didn't. Instead, he stared at him for a while with his sad look. He took his bag, always ready. He took my coat – his coat, in fact, and put it on. He buttoned his coat and put the bag's strap on his shoulder. He walked to the door. I followed. He stopped in front of the door and stared at the grocery bag I left there. He smiled. This smile… It's a struggle for me to write these words and not burst into tears. Lemony doesn't know about this. Never had the strength to tell him why his brother left alone, without me, to the Village of Fowl Devotees and why exactly I arrived there too late to do anything and why he forbids me the only thing I could've done for him. But now you know. Now, you know.
"I thought I saw something in you." He stared at the door. "I thought I perceived something. But it was already dead when I saw it. I loved you, Cassandre. I loved this something, but it never existed.
- I hate you," I spat out. The worst lie of my life. "You told me you'd protect me. I trusted you.
- I trusted you too. I believed in you. I was wrong."
I closed my eyes. Didn't want to see him go. When the door closed, I fell on my knees in the living room. My kneecaps hit the floor with a dull noise and screamed in pain. I didn't scream. I stayed there, eyes closed, tears running on my cheeks and soaking my oversize shirt. And suddenly I felt small, so small, so tiny, lost in the middle of the living room like an abandoned doll.
What did I do then? I took my bag, my notebook, my father's and all the papers I and Jacques had gathered and I left too. What else could I do? God, I should have followed him. I could have followed him. But I went in the opposite direction, and wasted the time I had left. The time he had left. The time we had left.