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Oh, I wish I had a river

I could skate away on.

I wish I had a river so long

I would teach my feet to fly...

-Joni Mitchell, "River"

Chapter Two: No Noise

Claude's eyes are opened wide, forgetting completely that he's dripping bits of blood and water all over the plain tile floor, the furry bath rug. He sort of stands there, amazed, dripping, bewildered, staring.

They're not even people. They're bloody children.

And he realizes, with more of a sick, guilty tug than usual, that he just shot their mum in the back of the head.

She has glasses, and she used to hate them, but now she doesn't care. She peers over the rims of them, staring over wire determinedly at a Where's Waldo? fold out book. She clucks her tongue, a little bored. She shuts the book, puts it away, and takes out Animalia.

The colors swish and swoop over pages, holding the shapes of lions and frogs and flamingos, and everything she's ever loved, loved to look at or feel. She has a secret in this book, a secret she won't tell anyone, not even herself. It makes her smile when she thinks of it. She has this one droplet, this little star that's hers and no one else's. She can't describe how it feels.

This is Alice, and she is nine and a half, thank you very much.

Claude swallows. He turns around quickly and resumes washing the blood and the scum off his hands and arms. He splashes indulgent amounts of cold water onto his face, blinking rapidly. He's pretty sure this is just the result of too much stress, too many hours put in, not enough sleep, not enough light in his house. The culimation of little puzzle pieces of guilt, all coming together in the form of some kind of judgemental manifestation. It's all in his mind.

He turns back around, and sighs.

It isn't.

She's not even through the first semester of her senior year, but she is already twitching, aching to get out of Brussels. It's not as though she's the only one with this feeling, not at all, but primarily it is the reason that she is made to stay home on Saturday.

The only class she's got an A in is her Computer Science class, though she's got a B+ in math. She's the only girl in comp-sci, but she doesn't mind. It's easy. It's what she'll study at Augusta Technical College, and, well...she's not excited, not really, but it's far away from home and she'll meet a boy and it'll be nice.


That's what you get when you grow up in a neighborhood that's okay, go to a school that's average, live in a town that's not too bad. Better take it. Something more lustrous may not ever come along.

She's up in her room at two-thirty that afternoon, trying to digest Of Mice and Men. Laying down on her plaid comforter, she holds up the book an inch away from her face, squinting at the words. Outside the air is cold, blustery, the sky is so heavily laden with clouds that it groans.

This is Silvia, and she is seventeen.

Two girls, curled up together with fear in their eyes, looking at him as though he's a monster. The blood might be off his hands and face, but it's still littered in spatters all over his coat, his shirt. They stare. There is a younger one, a little one who's maybe ten, staring at him in such opaque horror through her wire-rimmed spectacled eyes that he wants to look away. An older girl is holding her, a hand clamped firmly over what must be her little sister's mouth. She regards him steadily, shaking, but knowing. There is a disgusting scent of knowledge.

The little one makes that squeaking noise again. The older girl removes her hand from her mouth, whispering a word or two quickly into her ear. The girl gives a very small nod.

Claude leans back against the counter. He regards them for a moment.

"Stay here," he commands, and then leaves the room.

Their mother tromps up the stairs, practically galloping. Alice's room is next to Silvia's. She wrenches open her older daughter's door.

"Silvia," she hisses, not out of anger but fear, "Get up. Get up." Silvia stares at her mother and gets up off the bed, leaving Of Mice and Men behind on the blue plaid comforter. "Be quiet. Don't make any noise." She leads her older daughter out into the hall way.

Silvia stands there a moment, and soon her mother brings Alice out of her room. She places her daughters' hands together.

"Silvia." There is a tone of urgency in her mother's voice that she's never heard before. "Take Alice into the bathroom and hide. Don't make any noise. No noise. Don't come out until I come get you, or Dad comes and gets you." Her mother is pleading now, pushing them towards the bathroom.

Silvia doesn't even get to ask What the hell is going on? or What's happening? or even...why? before the door is shut in her face. There isn't a lock on the bathroom door.

They have a very small house. It's not hard to hear something from any bit of it. There's a tussle going on downstairs. Alice stands, holding onto the counter. Silvia kneels by the door, pressing her ear to it. She can hear two men, voices unfamiliar, and then her father's...panicked. She furrows her brow.

"Silvie, what's going---" asks Alice, looking a bit panicked herself. Silvia interrupts her with a shhhh, holding up her hand. She can't tell anything what's being said. But the voices are growing louder. Now Mom's voice was in the fray, yelling, louder, and then some man was screaming and then---

A shot.

Silvia falls back on her backside and hands, staring at the door. Alice gasps. Without thinking, Silvia picks up her sister and jumps into the bathtub, drawing the mint green curtain across the white porcelain, hiding them from view. She sits down, pulling Alice into her lap. She squeaks, and Silvia clamps her hand over Alice's mouth, staring at the green. Green. Green.

Footsteps travel up the stairs. The front door opens and closes.

It's Dad, thinks Silvia, breathing. It's Dad. He made them leave and now he's coming upstairs to tell us it's okay. It's okay. And then we'll go downstairs and have the chicken that Mom made this morning for dinner. We're fine. Just a mishap. Just a mishap.

The bathroom door opens.

The heavy sound of boots on tile. Their father never wore shoes in the house. Silvia's eyes widen. Water runs. The sound of human skin and hydrogen dioxide. Silvia thinks that if they're quiet enough, he won't pull back the curtain. She doesn't breathe. She holds her hand over Alice's mouth tighter, can feel the breathe from her nose on her fingers.

The person in front of the curtain knocks something over. Alice squeaks.

In flurry of motion, the green shower curtiain is yanked aside. There stands a tall man, covered in blood, who is not their father.

Silvia knows instantly that they are about to die.

Claude is in the master bedroom, rifling through a desk full of papers in the corner. He shoves them into an old briefcase he found under a chair. He piles the papers in, but with every file he thinks: There are two orphans in the bathroom. It hurts. It hurts to think about.

When Claude kills, he never sees the aftermath. Bennet and him don't kill too often, but when they do, it's always quick. It's always brief, take the evidence, leave. They never see the husband come home to find his wife dead on the sofa, or the dog whimpering sadly, waiting to be fed from his now-deceased, mutant master. They never see that. And that's why it's easy.

After five full minutes of looking into the eyes of two girls who have nowhere to go, Claude is at a loss. He doesn't know what to do. What can he do, anyway? Leave them money? He's already leaving them with their lives. If it had been Bennet instead of him...he doesn't know. Bennet is a good man. But when pushed, is not so compliant.

Claude doesn't think anymore. He just...does.

He grabs the handle of the briefcase and strides back to the bathroom.

"Get up. Hurry. We don't have much time." He speaks quickly and firmly. The older girl stands shakily. When he offers her his hand as she gets out of the tub, she flinches and does not accept, quickly pulling out her sister next to her.

"This is going to feel odd. You cannot make a noise. You cannot make a single noise. If you do, you...will not be safe," says Claude tersely, euphemizing death. The two sisters are holding hands. He reaches over and grabs the older girl's forearm. "Do not let go of her," he commands, and then all three of them disappear. The little one gasps, but then makes no more noise.

He practically drags them out as fast as he can. He thanks God that he and Bennet stowed the bodies away in the kitchen. But there's still blood on the floor in the foyer. They stride outside, Claude pulling and tugging.

Bennet is asleep in the front seat. Claude knows that he's lucky. He opens the trunk, tosses the briefcase in and then helps the two girls inside. He releases them, and they fade back into view. So does he.

"No noise," he whispers, and he is wracked with nervousness. "No noise, or we'll be caught. No noise."

And he shuts the trunk.

He goes up to the passenger's seat, opens the door and sits inside. "You feeling all right, Bennet?" he asks.