Chapter 12 - Part 1

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“Why are you in such a rush?” Olivia asked, lagging behind a hurrying Nole.

“What are you talking about? The press conference was over, and besides, I didn’t want any of the Enforcers to see me.” They made it to the side alley he normally used to get to and from the Square and the library. “We’re almost there.”

“Were you satisfied with the news?”

Nole paused, going over the information that was just presented to them. The only part that really bugged him was the Chief claiming that the witness was not part of a gang. Nole had been certain that the Pents were these witnesses, as they were the only ones present and had appeared to know him. He tuned around and saw Olivia stepping along behind him. The only other possibilities are Olivia or, more likely, Zane.

“I’m disappointed,” he responded. “You guys may not realize it, but people rely on that fountain’s water to survive.”

“Did you used to use that water as well?”

“We had our own supply, but still, the citizens shouldn’t have to make sacrifices for such a silly excuse for crime. Really, there’s no need to close the fountain.”

“Why do you care so much?”

He mulled over the question. Why did he care? Even though water was a scarce resource, he’d never had trouble getting some for himself and his siblings. The fountain didn’t mean anything to him, so why was the issue bothering him so much?

“I don’t know,” he answered finally.

They continued in silence until they came upon the City Library. He led her around the side of the building to the rickety fire escape ladder. It feels like it’s been so long since I’ve climbed this ladder. Creaks echoed against the brick walls surrounding them as Olivia noisily climbed after him. As he ascended, he was reminded of his back pain with each rung.

At the top, he gently hopped over the ledge and stood in shock as he witnessed the mess around him. If he didn’t know any better, he could’ve assumed they were on the wrong rooftop. The entire area was in shambles. The futons were thrown into one corner and clothes were untidily tossed about. Even the makeshift bathroom was a wreck - the wall struck down and the pipe crushed, spurting a slow trickle of water. What happened here?

The shuffling of Olivia’s footsteps didn’t interrupt his gawking. Who could have done this? Caden? No, why would he? Were they looking for something, or someone? He strolled around his former home, poking at formerly tact objects, like the porcelain of the toilet or the shreds of the blankets. He got to the area where he and Caden had sat only days before, where they discussed their mother. Caden’s neat stack of newspapers had become a scattered array of loose-leaf, covering the floor like in a birdcage.

Kneeling in place, Nole brought his hands to his face in frustration. Were they looking for me? What if Caden were here and they settled on him instead? The terrifying possibilities filled his mind and unrelenting visuals followed. Is he…

“Is everything okay?” came Olivia’s voice from behind him.

“It’s a mess,” he replied, removing his hands from his face. There was no reason to hide the situation. “This place has been ransacked. I thought I’d find Caden here, or at least a clue to where he might be, but there’s nothing.” His knees touched the floor and he brushed the paper-lined surface with his fingertips. 

“Is anything missing?”

A hysteric, almost maniacal snicker escaped him. Olivia had posed a legitimate question, one that should have been answered properly, but at that moment, the futility of his search and the seriousness of his own situation with the Enforcers sunk in. Everything was going south: his relationship with Suri, the hope of finding Caden, the possibility of clearing his name, finding Murphy’s killer.

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