15: The Shift
I looked at Syrus in shock.
“You did? You found it?” I asked, in disbelief. I had hoped that they would find it, whatever it was, but I didn’t expect them to, not with how much ground they would have to cover, how many books and letters there were in the archives. It was a stroke of luck, a damn wonderful stroke of luck.
“Yeah, we did…” Nylah trailed off.
“You aren’t screwing with me?” I had to double-check to make sure.
“Why would I lie about it?” Syrus asked before Nylah shoved her notebook into my hands, opened to a page with a scribe job of a letter and a loose piece of paper. My hands were shaking as I tried to read the scribe job, it was in Latin, but I could figure out a few words, Latin wasn’t a language I knew well, so I focused more on the loose piece of paper. It was in English, and I could feel my smile growing as I made my way through the letter.
“You found it,” I whispered to myself, confirmation I didn’t really need. I felt like a child, but I didn’t care.
“Do you know what we’re going after yet?” Vince asked, a cigar in his mouth while he was driving us back to the hotel.
“You won’t believe me…” I trailed off, Sinclair tilted his head to the side.
“Try me, kid.” He stated, he could see the smile on my face, the expression slowly reflected on his own features.
“Paititi,” I said, but he didn’t believe me.
“You’re shitting me, Caeli,” Vince replied, but when I kept smiling with no hint of laughter, the man seemed to realise that I wasn’t lying.
“The Incan lost city of gold,” I said, turning to look at the Dawson siblings. “This will be the biggest thing that we ever lay our hands on. The letter from Fawcett says that the city is real, that he completed his mission to find the Lost City of Z and wanted others to see it, for people to know of its real history and not the…” I trailed off as I reread the part I was talking about.
“The what?” Nylah asked, impatient like me, but I shook my head in confusion.
“He wrote ‘the history that you forced upon them’. The Pope tasked him to find Paititi, he saw something there and wanted to share it with the world.” I explained, Syrus didn’t seem surprised by my statement. He had probably read the letter before giving it to Nylah to put in the notebook. He was curious about it like I was, but it confused the other two.
“What does he mean?” Nylah asked next, and Syrus answered for me.
“The conquest; history is written by the winners of the war, not the losers. Whatever the Christians have said about it, about the City of Gold or Incan history some part of it isn’t true. Whatever Fawcett found, it’s something that the Pope didn’t want known. Somehow it threatens their history, their telling of history.” Syrus said, I raised an eyebrow but didn’t argue with him. I had no opposing thoughts, he said exactly what I had thought. Since when did he have a brain? One that worked similarly to mine?
“We need to connect dots, to figure out where to go and what we need to look for, why it’s so dangerous. And I would like to have a rough idea of what Fawcett found, why it changes everything.” I said with my voice barely above a whisper. I handed the notebook back to Nylah, the letter from Fawcett folded in between the pages. “And I need the original letter translated, I know little Latin.”
“I can do that, give me an hour once we get back, I’ll write an English copy for you,” Syrus stated, I nodded.
“Much appreciated, and preferably with your best handwriting.” I replied, a smile on my face as he nodded. Maybe he was smarter than I gave him credit for…
“Well, we have a general idea of where we’re headed at least.” Vince pointed out, and I nodded in agreement.
“You know, I don’t think I’ve been to Peru before.”
Syrus had worked hard and fast on getting that translation to me, we had been back at the hotel for less than an hour, and he had already given me a translated copy. In the time he had done that I had been studying Fawcett’s letter and taking the information I could from it. I had just finished noting the similarities between the letters, the references to the same landmarks…
“Find anything yet?” Vincent asked after he walked into our room, I stood up from my chair and looked to him as he sat down on the bed.
“Landmarks to follow, aside from that, there isn’t much to decipher. Both of the letters are barely a page long, neither have a map, and any clues in Fawcett’s letter will be harder to find. I’ll do that on the flight over to Peru.” I answered, sitting down on my bed, facing him.
“Alright, a work in progress then?” I nodded as my response. After I had gone through Fawcett’s letter and was waiting for the translation of Lopez’s, I had been left alone with my thoughts. I hated being left alone with my thoughts.
“Where were you?” I asked. He had been gone from almost the minute we got back to the hotel without explanation.
“I was finding a place that sells half-decent cigars, wound up not finding one.” He answered, and I nodded.
“Did you do your exercises today?” I asked next. He sighed as if he could feel where I was going with this conversation.
“Kid, you know I don’t do them, I don’t see why you keep giving them to me. My physical health is fine.” He told me, but I said nothing. Did nothing. I just sat still, staring at the floor between us. Why did I bother?
Because it wasn’t fair, that’s why.
“What is it?” he asked me seeing there was something wrong.
“I just… why do I have to do everything?” I whispered.
“What do you mean?” he asked next, he knew that what I said wasn’t entirely what I had meant.
“Why do you think you don’t have to do these exercises I give you when I have to them and more? Why do you think it’s different?” I asked, he looked like he was going to say something but stopped himself. “Because I’m a girl and you’re not, that’s it, isn’t it?” his lack of response was answer enough. “It’s not fair on me, or Nylah. I give her and Syrus exercises, they do them… why do you find it so hard? I just want you to be healthy and ready for whatever is going to be thrown at us at any point in the future, we all need to be strong so that none of us gets hurt or killed.”
“Look, kid, I-”
“Are you going to give me an excuse?” I asked before he could do precisely that, he stopped himself from speaking once more. “I’m sick of asking you, I’m sick of having to explain all of this to you. I’m not asking you to cut off a leg for me, I’m asking you to do some fucking push-ups.” I yelled unintentionally.
“You know that’s not-”
“I don’t care. You need to do this, and I know you would do it if I was a boy asking you. Because there’s a lot less difference there, a boy asking his mentor to improve his physical health because of the danger they’re in. You would do it because you need to be a wonderful father figure, male mentor whatever to that boy, why is it different for me?” I asked him.
“I don’t know, kid. I really don’t, but you’re right…” he rubbed his face as he spoke, and silence fell into the room. “I’ve tried my best, doing my part of raising you… obviously I’ve still made some mistakes.”
“Vince… that’s not what I mean at all. You’ve taught me so much, my self-worth comes from what you’ve taught me. I guess I’ve just always wondered how things would be different if I was like you.” He said nothing in response. “I’m just sick of not being taken seriously by our competitors, that people don’t believe the stories about me even though those stories don’t even live up to what I can do, live up to what I did. I’m still underestimated, still questioned… but people like Dallas, who aren’t as good as me, somehow have a reputation that is far better than mine.”
“I know it’s not what you want to hear, but being underestimated is a good thing. For us, at least.” Vince told me, but I shook my head.
“I know but… do you know what Hansen did when I pulled a knife on him?” I asked.
“You haven’t told me anything about that,” Vince stated, he had a point. I didn’t tell him much about things that weren’t necessary anymore, I just didn’t feel the need to.
“I pulled one of my daggers out, and he laughed at me. He actually laughed.” I told Vince, who seemed to have a shocked look on his face. “And when I told him who I was, that I am the Shadow he didn’t believe me, he didn’t take me seriously, said that my reputation wasn’t something he trusted. Before that, being underestimated didn’t really bother me. It was annoying, but I could use it. I have never been laughed at before… it was part of why I killed him. I was so angry, especially since I knew he was a piece of shit. But being laughed at, it was demeaning and…” I didn’t know how else to say it. The pure anger and shame I had felt, while the anger had been warranted at the time I should never have felt shameful, I know my worth and know that I’m better than what Hansen saw.
But it stung.
“Kid, I know it sucks for you, but-”
“There should be no excuse for it, Vince.” I stood up slowly. “If I was a fucking boy, are you telling me that Hansen would have laughed when I drew a weapon?!” I shouted. I could barely believe that I had just yelled at Vince about this. “I am sick of being underestimated! Sick of having to put in more work! Because of my gender! If it was because of my past performance I would understand, but it’s not!” I shouted, I stopped myself and took a deep breathe. “The only people who know what I am capable of and estimate what I can do correctly are the people I have fucked over, and even then…” Leopold and the Temple continued to underestimate me.
“I hear you,” Vince stated.
“Then why aren’t you angry?” I whispered before I walked out of the room, I didn’t want to hear what his response would be. I walked into the hallway and found Syrus, who looked like he had been about to walk into the room I was sharing with Vince.
“What is it?” I asked, beginning to walk down the hallway to get outside.
“Are you okay?” He asked me, I tilted my head to the side. “I could hear you through the door…” He trailed off, I sighed.
“I guess I’m okay, it got some things off my chest.” I answered, I didn’t know why but I felt awkward around him. Something wasn’t sitting right…
“I can’t say that I understand what you’re going through, but if you want someone to talk to about it, I can try to understand. I mean, Nylah is going to go through this too so I should probably understand it.” He said, I turned to look at him, there was something in his eyes that I couldn’t understand.
“This isn’t something you can fix,” I told him, he nodded.
“I know. I don’t want to fix it, Caeli, like I want to but I know I can’t. It’s a much larger issue than what I’m capable of fixing myself, I mean misogyny sucks… but I understand racism, being Afro-Latino.” He pointed out, I understood.
“Half-Asian, which is definitely obvious, I can’t pass…” I pointed half-heartedly to my eyes, I got the colour from my mother, but the shape was from my father. I guess that helped nothing either, I looked in no way threatening, combining everything else with my short stature.
“And Nylah has that problem as well.” Syrus pointed out, I nodded slowly. “I can’t fix any of that, I can’t do anything to change how people think about you or me or Ny, but… like I said before I will always listen if you need it, and I will be an ally for you and Ny. I’ve had to think about what I used to do and say, I will not do that again and I will make sure no one around me does. Saying you fight for justice doesn’t mean shit if you do nothing about it.” He told me, and he wasn’t wrong.
“I’ll do the same, I mean being Asian is a minority but I’m usually not hated for that… you are hated for what you are. I won’t let it stand around me, if anyone tries to do or say anything about you or Nylah around me, they will end up severely hurt. We have to protect and fight for each other.” I responded, he nodded.
“And what about Vince?”
“He’s still learning, about how to be a good ally. He grew up in a small country town, then went into the military, the air force… it’s ingrained in him, but he’s almost there. He’s never been horrible, sometimes he slips up, but he listens when he does. He’s willing to change, he apologises when necessary and genuinely means it when he does. He’ll get there.” I responded, my hands in the pockets of my jeans.
“I get that,” Syrus responded, he seemed to think about everything he had done in the past. All of it. Everything he had ever said to me, everything he had done to other women and girls. He must feel horrible, especially with a sister he was trying to raise right.
“You know I forgive you, right?” I asked him, he looked a little confused. “For everything you’ve said in the past, to me. I forgive you, I’m sure I’ve never actually said it. But I do. I can see how you’ve been trying to change, trying to understand… and I forgive you.” I told him, he took a deep breath and nodded.
“Thank you, but I’m not sure I forgive myself yet,” he replied, I bit my lip. We were still standing in the hallway, we hadn’t reached outside or moved since I had looked at him at the start of the conversation. I didn’t know what to say, so I left it in silence. “I was going to ask when we were leaving tomorrow, before all of this…” He trailed off.
“Um, let me get back to you on that one, Vince and I haven’t worked it out yet,” I answered him, he nodded.
“I’ll be waiting.” He said before turning away and walking back to the room that he and Ny were sharing. I took a deep breath once I was by myself in the hallway.
Something had shifted.
I didn’t know what it was exactly, but I knew from that moment on I would do anything for the Dawson’s. And if they got hurt, God have mercy on my enemies.