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30. On My Honor

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I had been sleeping on and off for ages. I got up, went to work, did my job, went home, slept…I slept a lot. I dealt with the family very little. I had a lot on my mind, a lot to consider. I had just woken up from a late afternoon nap when I saw her standing there. She was leaning casually against the wall, blowing smoke idly. She turned her head to see me, then gazed off into space. I thought for a while about what I was seeing, considering if it was merely a delusion or if it truly was real. I crawled off the couch shakily.

“Welcome to the waking, sleeping beauty.”

“Welcome home, Requiem. Or should I say – Mrs. Ransom?”

She looked away from me, smoke sneaking out of her mouth. “You know what the most powerful thing is, the most influential thing you can do to someone?”

“What’s that?”

“Make them believe you don’t exist. Why do you think the Devil is such a trend?”

“You believe in the Devil?”

She looked at me curiously. “If I didn’t, who gave me the ticket back from Hell?”

I crept over to her, she handed a smoke to me before I was close enough to bring myself to ask. She held out her lighter as well. I took a few pulls and leaned on a doorway nearby. She was nonchalant overall.

“So what brings you here?”

“Figured I’d say hello, you know, proper courtesy and all.”

“Well…hello.”

She smiled a wicked little grin as she stared intently at me. “All the sleep you’re getting and you still look tired. And don’t bother bringing me up to date – I know all the highlights.”

She smoked in silence for a while, and I with her. We looked around idly. I got up my nerve or as much of it as I could muster.

“You knew them, didn’t you, the others, the Ransoms? You met them?”

She shrugged. “Yeah. Once upon a time. That was a long time ago. Longer than it seems. But yeah, I was around.”

“So what’s Vagrant’s plan?”

“He’ll set up shop. Clean up loose ends, establish ranks where he wants them. Possibly import some of the contacts he’s acquired over the years. Good people. Loyal to the bone.”

“And you?”

She smiled at me, smoke sneaking between her lips. “Me? I’m Mrs. Vagrant Ransom. I think that’s fairly self-explanatory.”

“No. You’re Mrs. Requiem Ransom. You’d never refer to yourself as his. And you know it. No matter what, you’ll always be Serkis’ baby sister.”

“We’ll see. I’m a Ransom. Something she could never be. She’ll always be as she is. If anything, she’ll be a Solace. I’ll be a legend – I’m carrying on a nearly extinct line. Serkis will never have this. She’ll never be me.”

“Would she want to be?”

Requiem looked away for a moment to hold her anger, to house her emotion. She looked back at me. “No. There’s nobody to be me when I’m gone. It doesn’t matter.”

“So why the big comeback, why all covert?”

She smiled, stepping away from the wall, out toward me. “Because I can. And because there are amends not yet made. Prices not yet paid.” She blew a thin stream of smoke at me; I coughed from the shock. She was too close – I was uncomfortable. And she knew it. She was screaming her challenge to me, here, in my own home, at the top of her lungs and I took it and made it silent and kept it in my heart. I was Serkis’ right hand. Not Requiem’s. And I would never be as close to her as I was with Serkis. And it bothered her.

“Get out,” I whispered. Requiem merely smiled wider.

“You’re throwing me out? You?”

“Get. Out. I don’t think there’s anything to misunderstand. Now.”

Requiem exhaled the last of the smoke from her cigarette before throwing it down and pushing it into the carpet with the heel of her shoe. I watched silently. She smiled wider at me and crept closer. I was against a wall, in a corner. Nowhere to go. She slammed her palm next to my head, closer still. I could feel her breathing on me. I wanted to scream. Too close…too close. She pressed her head to mine.

“Listen to me, real well, because I’m only going through this once. Okay? You don’t ask the questions, I do. I’m the illusionist and I’ll do as I please. My name is Requiem Ransom. And you can scream it at the top of your lungs forever until there’s nothing left in you. But even then, it wouldn’t change the inevitable. I will be something. You’re just another name and face on the line. Just like my darling sister. Don’t ever forget your place. Understand?”

I couldn’t move. She had a hand next to my head and the other under my chin, nodding my head for me as I gritted my teeth to stop the pain. She was getting to me, I had a migraine, and this madness just would not…stop. I wanted to take a swing at her, put her back in her place.

She was trying to take over. Serkis set this all up. And now what? Who’d pay the price for this? I couldn’t pull away. Just make this go away. Make her go away.

She pulled back a little bit, kissed me on the cheek, and shoved me sideways so that I hit the floor. I looked up at her and all she could do was lock her jaw. She looked at me in a mix of contempt and…betrayal. It didn’t add up. I wasn’t hers in the first place. I never was. I got up on hands and knees, looking up at her. She was enjoying her seat of superiority. It was evident in

everything she did, how she conducted herself…everything. I wanted to tear her throat out. She just smiled down at me, laughing wickedly.

“That’s where you’ll always be, kid. At the bottom. Might as well get used to it down there; nowhere else to go but six feet deeper.” And she turned on a heel and walked out, leaving me on the floor, still gasping for breath from the shock of it. What the fuck just happened?

She truly was Serkis’ baby sister. If we ever doubted it before, it was set into stone now. No two ways about it, what so ever. Nope.

* * *

            I went to work the next day like nothing ever happened. There was no point in running scared to the rest of the family – they set this up, they had to know what was going on. I don’t know if they completely realized that Requiem had gone insane. She wasn’t just…insane…she was completely homicidal. She killed Doyle – that much was obvious. She sold herself off as the good, loyal servant, and when he least expected it, she killed him. How do you guard yourself against a ghost? Remember – she’s already dead. How was Doyle supposed to know? I can imagine the look of sheer shock on his face when he saw her.

But why? What was her true motivation? I thought about it for ages. What would make her risk what she did? First off, it emptied the throne for Vagrant to take his place at the top. And second, it ended the Merrick line. It ended the legendary line of madness. But she was too late. The wheel had been put into motion yet again. But did she know it yet?

If she did know, Pandora would be at risk. But how would she? We didn’t announce anything big, she just quietly came out of work. They probably had people keeping watch anyway, just in case. My mind was fighting with the chances though – I took a walk to Pandora’s. I hadn’t been there in ages; she spent so much time at Doyle’s. Doyle’s…which was now Vagrant and Requiem’s. Aren’t they sweet? Don’t you want to just…die?

I entered the building, feeling eyes watching me the whole way. I could hear steps echo my own as I moved. They were following me. I walked evenly, without looking back, without trying to catch them watching me. I just kept going. Reaching her door, I found a familiar face standing guard nonchalantly.

“Hello, Officer Bishop.”

“Hey kid, what’s doing?”

His voice was neutral, as if he’d just met me; I could have been anyone. Anybody. And it wouldn’t have made any difference to him. Eyes that saw nothing – no distinction. I wasn’t Harley. I wasn’t. I was Hadley somewhere deep down. Somewhere. I’d just forgotten where. His eyes traveled to mine for half a second before looking away. I forgot I was there for a moment. It didn’t really matter. I wasn’t significant to him. I tried not to let it bother me, I tried to lock it out but it played over and over in my mind. Repeating until the sound was deafening; I held the scream in my chest, suppressing the madness and sense of…betrayal in my heart. He smiled the usual fake smile that all the cops have in their inventory.

“Is she in? I kind of wanted to say hello.”

He nodded at me again, simple, uniform. He took a step aside and opened the door for me, ushering me in. “Don’t get her too upset, okay?”

“Sure thing, sir.” I made a mock salute toward him and sauntered in, listening for the door to click shut quietly behind me. I moved a few steps in and looked around. Pandora was sitting at a table, a camera in pieces in front of her, cleaning the parts delicately.

“Hey,” I whispered. She looked up at me awkwardly.

“You’re out of place.”

“Don’t you mean – out of line?”

She thought about it for a moment then shook her head resolutely. “No, out of place. You’re not out of line; there is no line. You are out of place because you don’t belong here.”

I looked around. The place was flooded with light from all directions, flawless, perfect…it was…protected. She was safe here. And I was dark, brooding, dressed all in black, my eyes wild and misplaced…no, I didn’t belong here. My standing here was impossible to hide. I was attempting to be inconspicuous. I failed miserably. There was no way I could lay down and lose myself in the brightness. There was no way that the shadows would bend to the influence of the garish sun. She was right. I just nodded to her after considering it.

“How are you doing?”

She looked around, contemplating her response. “Fine.”

“Are you really?”

She shot me a look. “What do you think?”

“I don’t. I’m asking you to tell me. Now, again, how are you?”

She got up from where she was sitting and crept over to me, arching her back into a straight line as she got up. I watched her creep closer, stepping back a little as she approached. She got close enough so I could understand her whispers.

“The father of my child is dead. The family he founded is slowly deteriorating. I am not being permitted to work because my life could be at risk since Requiem’s homicidal rebirth. So I get to stay locked away up here, alone, no, with child. And that’s a whole other world of sickness. So you tell me, how do you think I am?”

I stepped back from her. “I’m sorry. I was…worried.”

She raised a brow in question, looking around her apartment. “Worried? What in the hell for? Or about? You saw what’s it like getting in here. Worried. You’re the child. You’re not allowed to worry about the adults. It’s our job to worry over you.”

I found myself sitting, even though I didn’t remember finding a chair. I wanted to curl up and cry. No matter what I did, no matter how hard I tried, I’d always be the child. They’d never see me as the equal that they claimed I was. I would always be smaller, weaker, slower – I’d never be on the same level that they were. They were smarter, bigger, stronger – they’d been through more and survived to tell the tale. I was ignorant. And I would always be ignorant.

Pandora came over and put a hand on my shoulder. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. Come on kid, I didn’t mean it. I’m just irritable. Come on, I’m sorry. Harley, please?”

“My name is Hadley.”

Pandora looked away to collect her thoughts before coming back to me. “Of course it is, Hun. But come on – listen to me. We love you and we care and I’m sorry. I’m just…there’s a lot going on. I’m sorry. Okay? You can come by whenever you want, okay? I’d like that. There’s nothing for me here. Is that all right?”

She’d come down to the ground, crouching so she could jump back up. I nodded at her and she smiled. She started to get up, kissing me on the forehead as she did. I got up when she was standing and moved to walk away.

“I should get home,” I muttered. She moved away from me for a moment and called out to me when I was at the door.

“Hey! Smile!”

Click.

The disassembled camera was together, I heard the click echo in my mind. I closed my eyes for a moment, trying to blank it out. Pandora laughed a little bit.

“You okay? You don’t do pictures much, do you?”

I shook my head apprehensively, my hand still firmly planted on the doorknob. I turned it with the intent to leave.

“Why the hesitation with cameras?” she called after me. I turned to her.

“They steal your soul.”

She smiled a wicked little grin and I left. Anyone who’d seen the picture would have seen it. My hand on the door, the light creeping out into the dark hall. Sylum’s form standing straight and tall right next to the doorway. And me. With my eyes to the ground, not looking at what I was doing. I just knew I had to be gone. And if you look really close, and think about it really hard, you could find the tear on my cheek.

My soul had been stolen. As I started the walk home, I began to wonder if I even had one anymore. It’s a topic that I try to stay away from. Can you steal what’s already been sold?

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