Quirky Acuity
Thursday, February 1, 2007
Category: me
Time: 03:42 PM

Do you ever think about how your life turns on just a few crucial decisions? What your life might have been if you hadn't gone to that party, met that person who became your dearest friend, whose thoughts and ideas became as close to you as your own? If that picnic hadn't been moved from the Saturday afternoon to the Sunday, you'd never have gone, and never heard about that job that ended up changing your life? If you'd gone home when you intended instead of staying at work that extra hour, you'd never have seen that accident that made you rethink the way you were living? Do you ever think about those things?

My key, which Kurt has souped up to cross-reference every note I ever make, every random audio thought-catch, every book I read, informs me that two nights ago was a year to the day since I decided, on a whim, entirely by myself, to invite Caine along to a Hesh Records party to help me out with some investigating. At least, it felt like I made that decision all by myself. Things that have happened recently have caused me to wonder how much I was being influenced. Was it a coincidence that he's a musician and I needed to investigate a record label? Was it a coincidence that Kurt was otherwise engaged with Miranda? Why did I even think of inviting him in the first place? I can't remember quite why I suddenly 'got the idea'. I'm starting to distrust myself.

So this is how it went. We saved Scarlett. You know all about that, you were there. Thank you. It's not even enough to say that. If I could tell each and every one of you individually how grateful I am, it wouldn't be enough. Scarlett is alive and that's all the win there could ever be. Thank you.

And, I'm alive, Kurt's alive. Helena Frye's alive but injured. Several of her people have been killed, though. The police liaison who's been assigned to me tells me not to blame myself or Scarlett for this, that this was a dangerous operation but they think they've broken the lines of the Third Power and that all the sacrifices are worth it for that. And he's right. I don't blame myself, and I certainly don't blame Scarlett. I blame Caine.

I keep asking myself when I should have spotted the truth, what I should have done differently. I should have wondered why he was hanging around at Ascendancy Point station so conveniently. Of course, he said he'd been looking for me, for Scarlett, had been wandering between his apartment and the Milamont house. The Point is halfway between. It made a sort of sense. And I was so hyped up and nervous I didn't stop to think. Didn't ask who he'd been trying to call on his key when Kurt and I spotted him, and one of Frye's watchdogs smashed it to smithereens. And when I heard that he'd launched himself at some guards, I thought, well, maybe he was just trying to be brave. And when I saw he'd been captured, I thought... well, I didn't think much of anything really. I saw what they'd done to Lettie and I couldn't think of anything at all. Kurt keeps telling me that fingernails grow back but I can't think too much about it or I think I'll start screaming.

Lettie was rambling and woozy when we found her. She kept saying: "I don't know, I don't know where it is." And my heart broke into a million separate pieces. The medics arrived faster than I would have imagined - I guess they had them waiting. And when they'd given her shots and strapped her to a gurney, she reached out and grabbed my arm. All I could see was her fingers, I couldn't stop looking at them, but her grip was really strong, surprisingly so, and she pulled me down and said: "Caine, Caine kept asking me where the Cube is. But I don't know." And even then, I didn't really think. Because, it appears, for all my alleged people-reading skills I am a 24-carat moron.

I got back home around 4am on Wednesday morning and slept for about 17 hours. When I woke up it was dark and my key was flashing its "urgent messages waiting" light, illuminating my bedroom in milisecond-long bursts of red. I picked it up and held it between my palms, remembering everything that had happened over the previous few days. Outside my window, the mosaic of city lights demonstrated beyond doubt that the world hadn't ended, that despite everything that had happened, the city still proves indestructible. This thought made me smile, just a little.

"How many messages?" I said.

My key responded in its usual calm, level tone "You have 1,754 messages."


"How many voice messages?"

"You have 58 voice messages."

"How many unique message-leavers?"

"You have messages from 17 unique sources."

"List the top three message-leavers."

"You have 5 messages from: Caine Johannsen. You have 7 messages from: Kurt McAllister. You have 12 messages from: Fleming Heath."

Twelve messages from Fleming?

"Play messages from Fleming Heath."

He'd left a lot of messages. His voice, usually so strong and humorous has cracked since Anna died. Sometimes he was barely audible, but I got the idea. "It's Faberling," he said, over and over, "Caine Johannsen called a song Faberling. It's not, it can't be a coincidence. It's not a real word. It's a made-up word, Anna and I.... She used to call me Faberling. It was our secret and she swore, she swore never to tell a living soul. She wouldn't... You have to ask him why he called the song Faberling. She wouldn't have told him."

Fleming's hoarse voice died away. My room was still dark. I didn't want to turn the lights on. I watched the cars racing along the coast road outside.

"Call Caine Johannsen," I said.

My key brought up a holographic display of Caine's face - a goofy pic I'd taken one day when we'd gone out to the Marina together and I'd managed to catch him without a scowl on his face.

"Hi Vi, how's tricks?"

From the sound of his voice, I'd woken him up.

"Yeah," I said, "just woke up. Knackered."

"Add a side order of 'in pain' and you've described me too. You want me to come over?"

"Maybe in a bit? Anyway..." I tried to work out the most natural way to draw the conversation round. "You can hardly leave your house without bodyguards, can you? Now that you're a rock star."

He chuckled, a low rumble in his throat.

"Oh yeah. Nearly forgot about my mega-stardom."

"I heard about the concert. Sounds like it went well. Especially that song you wrote... Faberling?"

I tried to make my voice sound casual. My heart was beating so loudly I thought he must hear it.

"Oh that old thing. Just something I threw together."

"Cool word, though. Where did it come from?"

A pause. A breath. My heartbeat in the hollow centre of my throat and fear constricting my vocal cords.

"Actually, it was Anna. It was the name she called me."

"Really? What kind of name is that?"

Another pause.

"I dunno. From Earth, maybe. Belgian or something. Why do you ask?"

"Nothing. I just keep humming it. It's catchy."

"Sure you don't want me to come over."

"No," I said, "don't do that just yet. I'm just... I want to be by myself just now, OK?"

"Well that's typical," he said, laughing.

"Yeah. Just, typical me. Bye."

And I sat in the dark, thinking. Either Caine and Anna had had the most unlikely torrid office romance known to man - in which case, why would Caine have made the mistake of revealing anything she'd told him secretly? - or Anna had told him the word for another reason. In a desperate moment, when all hope was gone and she'd known she wouldn't survive. She'd given him a message for us. I felt fear like acid in my stomach. Every part of it made sense. Every single thing. From the fact that Caine and I got together just as Kurt was being preyed on by Miranda, to his helpful curiosity about everything we do. And the way that he was so near to Anna when she vanished. And that I'd left Scarlett with him, so he'd know just where she was, just when she could be snatched. I didn't have a lot of mental energy left over for self-loathing about that, but when I get a moment there'll be quite a quantity to get through.

The police, who are better at this stuff than I would have given them credit for, have appointed a liaison officer for me and Kurt, whilst Frye's out of action. He's called Ranjit, Detective Ranjit and frankly he looks like Frye could eat him for breakfast and still find room for extra crispy bacon, but since Frye told me I could trust him I know he's a good guy. He'd given me all his details at the hospital, told me to call if I needed anything, given me a meaningful look in the eye and told me we'd "talk again very soon". It was 10pm at night by this point, but he answered his key after just one ring.

"Ms Kiteway," he said, "I hope you're feeling a little better?"

"Yup. How's Scarlett?"

"She's resting comfortably. We have a 24-person team guarding her at all times."

That sounded good. I wondered if I could persuade them to keep a 24-person team guarding her forever. With particular reference to any man I ever sleep with.

"Listen," I said, "I have something to tell you."

And I told him, and he listened. And at the end I said: "Do you think I'm crazy? Is it just the effects of trauma, shock, whatever?"

And he said: "No, Ms Kiteway. You're not crazy. We've suspected for some time that there must be a mole in the CRT, or close to it. We thought Solitano might be it but some things still don't make sense. What you've told me... that makes sense."

I hadn't realised until then how much I'd been wishing that he'd tell me I was being ridiculous. But I'm not being ridiculous. I've been dating a murderer for the past year. I guess that's just one more thing Kurt and I have in common.

Things moved quickly, while I sat in my darkened apartment, watching the traffic from my window seat. I drank some coffee. After a while I put on some clothes. In the meantime, things happened. Detective Ranjit called to fill me in. I called Kurt. He offered to come over but I said no. I didn't cry, because that's not what I do. I thought a lot, and drank more coffee.

Caine was in police custody within an hour. Which is a good thing. Because otherwise I'd kill him. People say that kind of thing all the time, don't they? "I'm so angry I could kill you." "I wish you were dead." But I find that, whatever I'm doing, wherever I am, a part of my brain is thinking it through perfectly logically. Who do I know who knows people in prison? He's likely to end up in Fletcher or Stanwood. How could I get to him there? I find that I'm making plans. I know I won't carry them out, don't worry. I wouldn't want to risk myself or my family, not even a whisker, for that piece of scum. But, I guess this means we're definitively over.

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I'm Violet, so you don't have to be. I'm a history geek. I neither cook nor sing. I love my city to the point of obsession. I do not suffer fools gladly. I have a soft spot for Alejo, even though I know he's sold out. You don't want to play poker with me. I'm fond of words, the more unusual the better.
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