After disposing of the corpse, Rue, Father Sebastian, and I walked through the woods back toward Saint Helens. Our path was illuminated only by what little bit of moonlight forced itself through the trees. Accompanying the darkness was an overwhelming silence. There were crickets and the sound of leaves crunching beneath our feet, of course, but that was it. Somehow it only seemed right after everything that had happened that evening.
Normally we didn’t have to worry about hiding bodies. Father Sebastian had taught Rue and I how to kill without making a target’s death look like a hit. Given how Father Vincent had mutilated the man, however, that wasn’t a possibility. Even so, Father Sebastian, like always, knew exactly what to do.
“What’s wrong with you,” Rue abruptly asked as she glared at me and shattered the silence all around us.
I took a deep breath and stared straight ahead, wishing she would leave me alone. “What?”
“You know what I’m talking about. You’re so weird. You kiss your necklace whenever we’re on a job and say freaky shit—”
“Watch your language, Rue,” Father Sebastian interrupted.
Rue rolled her eyes, but pushed forward, “You say freaky stuff like request a possum or whatever it was back in the shed.”
“It’s not freaky or weird,” I said. “It’s smart. My amulet helps me call on Saint Michael to keep me safe.”
Rue scoffed, but I ignored her and continued. “And it’s not request a possum. It’s ‘requiescat in pace’, which means rest in peace. Come on, you’ve taken Latin, too.”
“Whatever. That doesn’t mean I remember it. My point is why do you do any of that?”
“So the people we kill don’t haunt me, obviously.”
Rue let out a disgusted huff. “Seriously? Don’t tell me you still believe in ghosts.”
“Well, yeah, why wouldn’t I?”
“Because you’re not five?”
“What does that have to do with anything? I’ve seen them, Rue. I—”
“Oh whatever. You’ve never gotten a picture or any proof, have you?” Before I could answer, she continued on. “Of course not. That’s because ghosts aren’t real, idiot.”
“Yes they are. Don’t pretend like they’ve never bothered you. We both kill people. There’s no way I’m the only one they target.”
“Rue,” Father Sebastian broke in before either of us could say anything else. “We all have our own way of dealing with what haunts us at night. Just because Drake’s way is different from yours doesn’t make it wrong.”
Rue looked at both of us with disdain. “Nothing haunts me at night.”
I didn’t believe her for even a second.
Father Sebastian stared at her and sighed. “It’s fine if you don’t want to admit it. You don’t need to look down on Drake just because he can. In fact—”
“No, you don’t get it,” she snapped. “I like doing this. I enjoy killing whoever Vinc—Father Vincent tells me to. Ghosts aren’t real and these people are worthless. Why would it bother me?”
Father Sebastian just shook his head.
“Be honest. Both of you like it, too,” Rue said. “I know you do.”
I shrugged, “It’s what we were born to do. I guess I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it.”
Father Sebastian abruptly stopped and looked at both of us with sadness in his eyes. “I hate it. I despise killing. I only do it when there’s no other choice, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy it. I tried to train you both to be proficient at it, not to take pleasure in it. Obviously, I failed with the latter.”
I looked away, not willing to meet Father Sebastian’s gaze. Disappointing him stung. He was the closest thing to a real father I’d ever had. Still, I couldn’t understand him. If killing was our purpose in life, why should we hate it?
After a moment, when neither Rue nor I said anything, Father Sebastian started walking once more. I studied the ground and followed him. Rue came, too, although she looked more annoyed than repentant.
The silence that followed was even heavier than it had been before Rue opened her mouth to chastise me. I squirmed and searched for the right words to say, but nothing seemed appropriate. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I looked up and took a deep breath. “We should warn the scientists,” I blurted.
“What?” Father Sebastian asked before Rue could chime in with a smart remark.
“The scientists that these people are targeting. We need to warn them. They don’t deserve to die, do they?”
Father Sebastian was silent as he seemed to consider my question. “No. They probably don’t.”
“This alternative energy that they’re working on sounds like it could do some good in the world. If we warn them, we’ll not only save their lives, we’ll stop the assassins’ plan, too.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Drake.”
“Why not? If the scientists can protect themselves, we won’t have to keep killing the people we’ve been after, will we?”
Father Sebastian shook his head. “Don’t even suggest that around Vincent, do you understand?”
“Assuming the scientists took our warning seriously, which they wouldn’t, we’d still need to eliminate this group. They’re assassins. Unless we stop them for good, they’ll keep killing innocent people.”
“Fine, but why wouldn’t the scientists take our warning seriously?”
Father Sebastian sighed and rubbed his eyes. Normally he didn’t look his age, but he appeared haggard in the moonlight. For once, I could actually believe he was in his fifties. “They’re trying to replace our dependence on oil. Think about it. With how much is at stake for the oil industry, not to mention the very economies of a few other countries, they’ve got to get plenty of threats already.”
“This is more than a threat, though. If we hadn’t stopped this guy tonight, one of the scientists would have died.”
“Fine, for the sake of your argument, let’s say the scientists actually believed us. If we tip them off and they take steps to protect themselves, the group of assassins we’re after will know. They’re not going to let a breech like that continue to exist. Right now we’re able to hunt them because they aren’t looking for us. If that changes, we’ll be in trouble.”
“We just have to be careful, then.”
“No,” Father Sebastian said. “You don’t understand. No matter how careful we are, we’ll still leave traces of ourselves behind. There’s no helping that. When this group finds those traces – and they will – they’ll come for us.”
“Then we’ll have to be ready for them. If we can save the scientists and kill the group of assassins, isn’t that what we should do?”
Father Sebastian stopped and faced me. As he did, he put his hands on my shoulders. “Drake, it’s not a matter of being ready for them. Think about where we are – where we live.”
“Yes. We’re not the only people who live here. Your plan doesn’t just put us in danger, it puts everyone else here in danger, too, and none of them can protect themselves like we can.”
“Still, it seems wrong to let these scientists die when they’re trying to improve the world.”
“That’s how life is,” he said simply. “You always have to make choices and sacrifices. What you need to remember is that it’s your duty to protect those closest to you first. If you can help others without risking their lives, fine, that’s great. Otherwise, it’s not worth putting those you care about in harm’s way.”
I looked away as several conflicting thoughts raced through my mind. What he said made sense, but I didn’t like it. I hated the idea of letting innocent people die when I could help them. Still, he was right. I couldn’t put Meryl or anyone else at Saint Helens’ in danger.
“Do you understand?” Father Sebastian asked.
I stared at him for a moment and slowly nodded. “Yeah.”
Father Sebastian glanced at Rue, “How about you?”
She shrugged, “I couldn’t care less about the scientists or whoever he’s talking about. All that matters is moving on to whatever job Father Vincent has for us next.”
Father Sebastian closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Without saying another word, he turned around and began to walk once more. Rue and I followed in silence, each of us lost in our own thoughts.
No one spoke again until we made it to Saint Helens’ back door and Father Sebastian turned to face us. “All right,” he said, “make sure you’re both quiet as you go to your rooms. Everybody else is asleep by now, so you don’t want to wake them. Besides, the last thing either of you want is for one of the Sisters to catch you wondering around at this hour.”
We both nodded and he unlocked the door. Rue disappeared inside without another word.
I lingered until she was out of earshot. “The only way for us to save them is to kill the assassins quickly, isn’t it?”
Father Sebastian nodded, “Yes, but we’re not going to put ourselves at risk to do that. We’re going to do this the smart, safe way.”
“I know, but—”
“You’ve got a good heart, Drake,” he said with a gentle smile. “Don’t lose that, but don’t throw your life away, either. We’ll help them if we can, but I don’t want anything to happen to you or Rue. Think about it this way: if you get hurt or die you won’t be able to help anyone else, will you?”
“Trust me – and Vincent, too, OK?”
“I do,” I told him honestly.
“Good. We’re going to find out as much as we can about these scientists and who the most likely targets are. No matter what we learn, though, we can’t rush into anything. Innocent people will die, but that’s not our fault. Our job isn’t to protect them. It’s to eliminate those who harm them. The only people we have to protect are here in this building.”
I wasn’t sure I completely agreed with him, but I didn’t know how to argue with what he was saying. Instead, I just nodded. “Thank you, Father Sebastian.”
“Good night, Drake,” he said. “Get to bed. You’ll need your rest. I have a feeling you and Rue will be very busy soon.”
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