Friday, November 26, 2010

The Meeting

The tunnel was completely silent except for the soft sound of my sneakers against the concrete. In one hand I held onto a small flashlight as my other hand rested on the small communication device clipped to my hip.

Wiley hadn’t wanted me to come, but as I saw it I had no choice. The core of our little organization was Wiley and me, and of the two of us, Wiley was the one who was most important. He knew things that couldn't easily be taught even though he had tried his best to start teaching me. There were still plenty of things I didn't know.

I caught sight of the room from far away. An old light bulb shined dimly, but in the darkness of the tunnels it was a welcome sight. Wiley had said he’d throw some power to the tunnels we were on in case there were any lights working still, so having the light and the device clipped to my hip was almost like having Wiley directly there to support me despite his objections to the entire plan.

I didn’t have to wait long before I heard him. His shoes made loud thuds that echoed loudly in the silence until it was almost unbearable. My heart beat hard in my chest for what I was about to do.

“Sorry Wiley,” I said one moment before I flipped the switch that would turn off the device. I was on my own except for the small light bulb burning dimly beside me.

It had to be because I was meeting him on my own in the lifeless, abandoned tunnel, but as Henri stepped into the small room he appeared larger than I remembered him. There was no surprise on his face at seeing me.

“Cheryl, right?”

He didn’t smile. His gaze seemed to take in new details about me as we stood there in front of each other. Momentarily I wondered if he was thinking that I looked smaller than he remembered me, but a more pressing concern was his knowledge of my name. We hadn’t bothered sharing our names that night. “Yes.”

I saw his gaze fall down to the device on my hip. I’d had my hand resting on it without thinking even though it was still off. His eyes narrowed slightly at the sight of it, possibly weary of it as I had worried he might be. “Communication devices usually work better when they’re on.”

My hand slid down to my side. “I thought I’d give us some time alone first.” The situation was not ideal. I was alone with him, and though I had read his file, it had lacked one key piece of information. “I asked you here because we need your help. And you need ours.”

A dubious look crossed Henri’s face, but he pushed it away as if he were intent to hear me out. “Why would I need your help?”

“You don’t trust any of them, and you can’t always watch them. But we can. With regular people placed in ordinary positions, we could have them report back to us and create a network of people gathering information. They wouldn’t expect it and they wouldn’t know how to combat that.”

Henri scoffed at the idea. “And who would even think of doing anything like that? People don’t care about anyone other than themselves.”

I bit my tongue at his cynical remark while reminding myself that he would know. After all, according to his file, his parents had been the ones to give him away so they wouldn’t have to deal with him anymore. “There are people who aren’t happy with the things they know are going on. They would help. Things aren’t perfect here the way they try to make it seem. There is something very wrong, and if we don’t start standing up for ourselves now we will end up losing in the long run.”

Something in Henri shifted. I knew my words weren’t going to be enough to convince him. He did not come across as a man who was easy to impress. Folding his arms in front of him, he looked down at me as the corners of his mouth drew down. “Cheryl, this isn’t the sort of game you should be playing.”

In his eyes I could see the hardened will that had probably helped him start the Revolution that released him over ten years prior. “This isn’t a game for any of us.”

His expression didn’t change. “And your mother?”

I paused at the mention of my mother. It was a simple question, but it was clear what he meant. My mother was my only close relative and my weakness if I went down this path. Not only was I at risk, but she was being put at risk as well from my own actions, and if Henri knew about her, it would be easy for others to learn of her as well. I swallowed carefully, the lump of spit working its way down my throat. “That’s my concern, not yours.”

Henri rolled his eyes with a hefty sigh that shot out from his chest before he leveled his gaze on me, his eyes stern and hard. He was clearly not convinced. “I want to meet the others in your group then.”

My lips parted as my stomach churned. Although incomplete, it was something of a victory. A compromise suggested by the man himself, proof that he was considering it and he was listening to me. I bit my lip as I thought of how to approach the next part. “No.”

That surprised him. Whereas before, it’d almost felt as if he were trying not to look directly at me in order to avoid intimidating me in my small form, now he seemed to lean in with surprise, all of his attention focused on me. “I’m trying to give you a chance and you’re refusing?”

“Yes.” I looked him squarely in the eye refusing to back down as the details of his file sat in the foreground of my thoughts. Henri was no innocent when he was sent away. He’d been considered dangerous even when he was a teen living here on this side of the fence though he was nothing more than a trouble maker when compared to what he was by the time I met him. He stood before me with a power I didn’t know as the leader of a large group of angry and unfriendly criminals that had been used in experiments. “I can risk my own life, but I won’t risk anyone else’s.”

Henri didn’t move his arms from their position crossed in front of his chest. “So then what the hell do you want?”

I let my eyes drift away as I let the words out, the ones I hadn’t wanted to say or even ask, but standing in front of him, even thinking about the night I had spent with him, I feared it was possible. And if it was possible, I wasn’t sure that I did want to work with him. “Supposedly you were convicted of raping a girl. That’s why they sent you away. And I want to know if it’s true.”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

Henri still stood in front of me with arms folded, but when I looked up, his eyes were looking elsewhere. I stared at him, searching his face for the answer that I was afraid to find, but he wasn't giving much away. His eyes met mine and he sighed. "No."

I wasn't sure what I was expecting, and I wasn't sure what I was needing then either. Henri wasn't going to offer any more information unless I asked-- that seemed clear to me. He stood watching me, waiting for me to make the decision on whether I would trust him or not.

I bit at the inside of my cheek. He knew my name and he knew about my mother. No doubt he knew how to find me. In a way it was already too late for the both of us to back out by then. Perhaps that was why he'd been so patient with me.

Unclipping the radio on my waist, I turned it on catching the tail end of Wiley calmly calling my name even as his voice shook. “—eryl? You there? You better turn this thing on soon or I’m going out there.”

“Sorry, I’m here, and I’m fine though meeting us out here is not a bad idea.”

The Intruder Part 1 -->


  1. Hmmm... given your post at the Junk Shop blog, I was thinking something like this would come up, but I didn't think it would be so soon. I wonder what went down there :S

    There is definitely some sort of connection between Henri and Cheryl--not some cheesy "OMG I met you once and it's love at first sight" connection, but something darker and more interesting. Some sort of understanding, a kind of solidarity maybe. In any case, it's a fascinating relationship.

    Also curious about Cheryl's mother.

    Great update, Lunar :)

  2. To be honest, I wasn't expecting to bring it up so soon. But your comment to that post made me think about it and I realized that I was going about it the wrong way. It wasn't what the readers would think of him, it was about what Cheryl would think of him. She's the only one who matters. (Sorry readers!)

    Oh thank you, there relationship is admittedly difficult for me to get into sometimes. From the outside I don't understand how they could work, and yet I find that they do. Despite being so different in ages and outlooks, there's something of a connection. I don't know if I could call it love or just fascination.

  3. Another wonderful chapter!

    Cheryl and Henri's dynamic is really interesting. I don't know if I'd call what they have a bond, exactly - at least at this point - but there's something there. I'm so keen to see more of how their relationship developed.

    Was Henri denying that the rape conviction happened at all, was he claiming innocence or was he merely saying that's not why he was sent away? "No" is such a possibly ambiguous answer, which seems so like Henri, really. But I am curious!

  4. Hmmm....

    I'm really liking this look into the past, and how it adds yet another layer to this whole story. I love how she describes the way he seems to avoid intimidating her, but forgets when he's surprised.

    A rape charge! Wow. I'm surprised he said anything in response...very surprised he didn't tell her to take a flying leap. I can't wait to see how this develops! Wonderful!

  5. Is she only this fearless (reckless?) when she is dealing with Henri or is that just Cheryl? I think out of Cheryl and Wiley, only Cheryl could have pulled off the meeting. I don't know Wiley that well, of course, but I just don't see him standing up to Henri the way Cheryl does.

    Cheryl isn't the only one who did her homework before coming to the meeting. I wouldn't be surprised if Henri knew what she had for breakfast. Still, she did manage to surprise him a little when she refused him access to her group and I can't imagine that is an easy feat.

    I'm not exactly sure what he meant by "no", although I'm inclined to think it meant the charge was bogus. I'm not saying that Henri isn't capable, I just don't think he would. But it would be the perfect charge if the authorities were wanting to turn public sympathy against him. "How could you defend a monster who does that to young girls?"

  6. Henri's remark: people don't care about anyone other than themselves.

    Well. Really? And seeing where he's taken that particular sentiment, ripping away every personal bond he can destroy except some kind of tribal allegiance, I am dumbstruck.

    But since this is supposed to be about Cheryl, I'll say she is either reckless or smitten. Or both. Or perhaps sees something in him that she believes she can use. Power comes to mind. Hope that she can harness that power?

    Looking forward, it seems heartbreakingly naive.

  7. Thank you, Carla. These two continue to surprise me. I had this whole thing written out ahead of time, and now I'm still winging it! So, uhm, I'm really interested to see how their relationship developed too.

    This is very true. I really think he was expecting her to ask more, and she didn't. There's definitely some things going on in her head though (if that last picture is any indication), and I hope to tease them out of her.

    Illandrya, that's a good question. I think there are clues to that. In the last part, Wiley was pretty miffed at her and her recklessness. It was an early "in the field" type exercise for her, and he threatened to pull her from doing it again. So I think in a way she's just starting out, and in her own way Henri was like her first assignment. So it's hard to know if she's behaving this recklessly because of Henri or because this is her first assignment that she's decided on her own to take on. If that makes any sense.

    Haha, what she had for breakfast. True. Henri isn't the sort of man to go into anything without knowing something first. Best to be prepared. I think that's just something he's taught himself over the course of his life. And yes, she did surprise him.

    True, and I am seeing the possibility that it is just that.

    SB, I think it's important to see his world view. He is very cynical. I can see him drawing others together by appealing to the more selfish side of them and saying that they'll be safer and live longer being together rather than on their own.

    I think despite his selfishness, Henri does have an understanding of people for the most part, but even then, I think he doesn't understand people as well as he thinks he does.

    As for Cheryl, I think reckless is definitely the word. She has something she does believe in though, and at the moment she'll do anything she can to push forward.

  8. Interesting, Cheryl seems a lot different to her daughter, I could never imagine Paula doing something like this.

    But having parents like that, you have to wonder if she's stronger than she seems to appear...

    Great chapter mate.

  9. What I would give to have a peek at Henri's file myself, *snort* I would imagine it would be riveting reading, his parents gave him away? A rape charge? Henri may be a lot of things, but a violator of women? I can't see it myself.

    It seems to have hardened him into the man he is.
    Cheryl is all kinds of guts to stand up to Henri, I am impressed.

    Henri, who does not come to a meeting unless armed...with information. Fascinating study, that 'something' between them, is so apparent. Subtle, but there.

  10. Hmmm, also wondering if the "no" is not true he was convicted, or not true it was why he was sent away. I wonder what Cheryl assumed of that answer?

    I love the gestures you worked into that conversation - the sigh, the folded arms, his eyes looking elsewhere - they're very telling. He seems defensive of it, maybe guilty, but he's also not taking it lightly. I'm very curious to find out the truth behind it all.

    She's very brave with him. I'm scared for her because of that, but at the same time, I like it. And he was surprisingly open with her, which I wasn't expecting! I wish she had asked him more questions! These two are fascinating together!

    Love it! More please! :)

  11. Poida, true. I am having so much fun writing Cheryl, lol!

    Also a good question.

    Thank you!

    Drew, you're killing me with the pervy jokes. I approve, lol.

    Yes to all of that. It has definitely made him the man he is now.

    And yes, Cheryl is gutsy. She's a lot of fun to write about. I'm glad that people other than me are seeing something subtle between them.

    Laura, It's a good question. And honestly, I don't even know the answer to that at the moment.

    Thank you. Yes, exactly how I see him in my head. Defensive about it, possibly guilty, uncomfortable, but not taking it lightly.

    I think the key with Henri is being direct. If you're direct, he'll be direct. Usually. If he wants to be. But I think she also realized that from his behavior, pushing for more answers wasn't a good idea. She'll discover more in time I think.

    Aww, thanks, Laura.