There I was looking through the tiny peephole I had been observing this meeting through. I had located this hide out under the staircase a year before now, it seeming very discreet I had linked it to a chain of underground tunnels I very much use and now visited quite often, knowing that something would happen and I would be needed.
And this was it.
I was lucky I had seen the man walking briskly towards the block of flash apartments that I very well knew, I slid down the closest drain into a wet and reeking sourage system; obviously it wasn’t the entrance to my burrows, luck just couldn’t be on my side for once. I saw everything; him entering the house, shooting Ma and the hat wafting to the ground as he walked hi brisk walk out of the house as his coat tails flapped behind him. I saw her there in the growing pool of crimson and knew I had to do something.
But I couldn’t. I was sworn to secrecy and I knew exactly what would happen but I couldn’t let her wait there for her own life to end. Before I knew it the door had burst open to reveal me standing in front of her gleaming eyes as tears still struggled to fall from her eyes and roll down her blotchy cheeks. What had I done? The warning I had been giving myself as I sat in the cupboard seemed not to have worked. No matter how many times I repeated the words ‘Do not go out there, you know what will happen!’ sharply under my breath, it didn’t work; I had shown myself to the one who mustn’t know my existence, I Knew what would come next, and as if she could read my thoughts...
Marietta questioned, “Who are you?” she stood up, the front of her white skirt was covered in her mother’s blood.
“That isn’t important. What is, though, is that you get outta here as fast as you can.”
“Questions, questions, questions. There isn’t much time; we need to go before they… you, and then me.” And I went to grab her hand but she pulled it out of my reach before I got to it, “-just- give me-your-hand-I-won’t-hurt-you-aha” I said, blindly grappling for her hand as she moved it just out of reach each time until I finally won.
I yanked her into the cupboard and she ducked only just missing the top of the small door which I shut after, submerging the two of us in complete darkness while I searched the ground for the iron ring to pull open my secret trapdoor. We stayed there for some while as I continued looking for the discreet entrance to my home for the past six months. I had run away from ‘Butler & CO.’ who had recruited me at birth without my mother’s knowing, my father, though, did know, he was in fact a major role in the organisation. I grunted under my breath, why did everything make me think about him now, he was a horrible man and I loathed him with passion and I was happy he died, but Marietta had begun to weep about the loss of both parents and I almost felt sorry for her loss but I couldn’t.
“Stop moaning.” I had said but it did nothing to stop her
“You don’t get it,” she started
“Oh, but I get it more than you think. All hope is lost and you feel like there’s no reason that grim old reaper shouldn’t just take you in his cold grasp and there would be no feelings felt,” She gave a feeble nod and I finished, “but trust me; life gets better, well, in most circumstances. And trusting me isn’t the best idea for the future.”
I had started to crawl on my hands and knees searching for the ring. A sharp pain in my left knee stopped me and I automatically grasped the metal object from under my knee, took a step back and yanked it and it opened the same as it always did with that faint creak to reveal a square metre of drop with metal bars creating a ladder that we could barely see. I began the decent.
“Come on the faster the better!” I shouted up at her and she too began following my moves as I skipped every second bar until I reached the last and jumped the last metre, landing crouched on the damp floor as the familiar smell of mould filled my nose. Standing up I reached for my old windup torch and flicked the switch and watched as the tunnel was enveloped in the dim blue-white of the flickering torchlight. I quickly wound it up before it had the time to run out and the room got ever so slightly brighter as my winding went on and on and significantly slower.
A hard thump was heard next to me as Marietta finally landed.
“Ouch, my derrière!” she let out a wail and I couldn’t stop the urge to let out my stifled giggle. Marietta never spoke French unless in the rare circumstances when she had to salute or introduce herself to someone; she took her English heritage as though it made her better than others.
Again, I pulled her arm as I ran down the circular corridors I had resorted to calling home. The corridor split multiple times, but I knew exactly where we needed to go-turn left at the first opening and you would end up under the small decoy sourage grate in front of Marietta’s house. We climbed up the ladder leading out of the darkness, but this opening was the most difficult to prise open from the outside and especially the inside. Yet with the both of our small amounts of strength we managed to lift it up a few inches and slide it across the scratchy bitumen and I climbed out with Marietta seconds after, her face showed confusion, and a lot of it-she wasn’t exactly bright.
“Why didn’t we just walk out of the front door? It would have been a lot easier.”
“We couldn’t be sure no one was still out there watching,”
“There could still be someone out there.”
“Yes, see that’s the thing; there’s always someone watching, whether you like it or not.” I replied, it was true; anyone could have been watching us, there was most definitely someone out there watching us.
“Oh,” and that was all she said tome until we stepped through the threshold of the once peaceful house she had lived in seconds before.
“Do you have any coats?” I questioned, breaking the stiffening silence
“Yeah...” she said, fresh tears welling in her miserable eyes
“Well, we’ll need them, so go on,” I urged, “and do you perhaps have a pocketknife or two; we’ll need them too and anything too precious to perish in a fire.”
She just looked at me quizzically, breaking her trance, then turned to look up the marbled staircase and replied, “The coats are in my room, I’ll go get them, and the knives are in the kitchen; which is in that room over there.” She pointed to the open door that her mother had rushed out of to greet her death.
The kitchen was surprisingly big and modern but regardless of that I found the knife draw with all its expensive stainless steel blades. I picked out two exceptionally sharp ones and slipped them into my old black boots where I had made some small adjustments to by making long pockets acting as a sheath just the right size to fit most knives, one of the hilts sticking out. I looked down in approval and walked out of the room clutching a bottle of Monsieur Floret’s Organic Sunflower Seed Oil-a very expensive label, although I never saw why. I stepped over the corpse and walked into the middle of the room, opening the flip-top lid and raising the bottle above my head, tilting it slightly to one side and spun around letting the thick yellow liquid flow around me, splattering across the floor and the cooling body, as I span growing ever so slightly dizzy; which was when I stopped. I then pulled out a packet of safety matches from my left boot-the safest place to hide any small to miniscule object that might need a safe home for a short period of time.
As if I had called her, Marietta ran down the stairs as fast as her Mary Janes could take her, slipping slightly on the last step. Two neat coats folded over her left arm and a photo album clutched tightly in right and her bloodstained white dress had changed into a pristine pale pink with a dainty, white, lace collar.
“What are you doing?” she almost shouted her question at me, although she delicately handed me one of the coats
“You know what I mean.” she demanded, “Why do you need the matches?” but then she spied the empty bottle of Monsieur Floret’s and the slippery floorboards, she knew what I was going to do.
“I really, really must.” I pleaded and she sloped her head in sad approval
I pulled out the matches I had failed to quickly hide behind my back and struck one against the rough side of the old box. The head quickly ignited and the flame quickly grew larger, letting out tiny sparks as it did, and placed it on the floor as I pulled out a scrap of yellowed paper and an old tissue from the pocket at the waist of my royal blue dress. First I put the tissue knowing it would burn easier and then let the paper waft down on top. We stood there for seconds staring at its beauty as it slowly grew filling us with warmth until the corpse caught fire and I had to pull her out as she began crying. I quickly nipped the hat from the floor at the door and let it fall over my brown eyes.
We stood at the door step for another few seconds until either of us had the sense to walk away. We must have looked very strange to whoever happened to be looking; two thirteen year-old girls one in a blue dress and a peculiarly tall top hat and big boots with a strange object poking out from one of them, and another in pink with her brown hair falling down her well poised back. Then we skulked along towards the centre of Paris.