Fiction, Life

Albertus Rockwell – The Man In the Shadows (2)

“ONE : NO QUESTIONS ASKED. “

Flustered by those words, I clatter a bit before accepting the special circumstances. I get ready absentmindedly as I usually do, before leaving with my luggage to go to the car that is waiting for me.

It is a long road from Paris to Calais. I normally take this time to organize my week but since I do not know what is “coming my way” I resolve to cancel my future appointments as soon as I reach London in a few days. Until I hear, see or feel – this thought makes me quiver – more from the voice, that is. My car rides slowly towards our destination.

Halfway through, we take the common break in the forest. I get out of the car to take a promenade through the woodland. I like those times in the woods. I am alone with my thoughts, able to conquer the deepest part of my mind clearly, freely. The driver’s call makes me split from my inner self. I won’t find any answer there anyway.

We arrive in Lille at 4pm. My boat leaves from Calais at 8pm but I have to change cars. I like to make the crossing in the evening… The sea feels safer. I guess it is because I cannot really measure its terrifying immensity while we are in the dark.

I decide to nap during the last hour of ride because I am familiar with this driver. Once in Calais, I take a drink in the café I typically go to. Everyone appears friendly and some fellow travelers recognize me. No one has heard of an altercation – let alone a death – in Paris last night. I am kind of relieved by the news: if my old acquaintances do not see the change in me, maybe I am simply hallucinating because of last night’s tension.

Hopefully, I did make the rich man leave without any trouble. This conception lingers in my mind for a while. As the clock reaches 8pm, I am convinced that nothing extraordinary happened. Except from this morning’s fright, I did not receive any sign nor instructions. Given my state of mind at that time, I may have imagined the whole situation. I take out the newspaper to corroborate my belief before boarding.

As I was expecting, nothing is written about me. I breathe deeply and enter the boat with quietude.

However, at dinner, something is a bit off : a complete stranger hands me an essay that he wants me to read. Since he obviously mistakes me for someone else, I suggest that he tries another table. He thoroughly insists and I understand that there had not been any hallucinations about last night. It was very real. I take the essay, thank him and return to my room immediately. The subject of the essay – Chicken or the Egg – is completely irrelevant, however, the author circled a couple of letters throughout the argumentation. Brought together, they form the following sentence :

“TWO : NO ESCAPE WAY. NO BACKING-OUT.“

Shivers spread down my spine as I read this line over and over. Collecting my thoughts, I note the two instructions I received down in my journal, knowing that there will be more of those. After my final point – right before I close the notebook – a sentence appears on its own :

“THREE : WHAT, WHERE AND WHEN IS UP TO US.”

I look around me, very concerned… I feel surrounded, watched over, and I am beginning to think that this pact was a terrible idea.

(to be continued)