The Secret Carriers

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Chapter 20

“Re-test him!” Eleanor shouted. She was echoed by Trevan, his voice low and booming. Anise saw the glint of a thick knife pulled from his waist band.

“We’re sorry,” the Consortium said, with no amount of sorrow in its voice. “We cannot allow that. It is our rules.”

“Screw your rules!” Anise screamed. “He was chosen, by his best friend. By someone who trusted him. Doesn’t that count for anything?”

“We have our rules.” The voice held no emotion.

“Well your rules are flawed!” Anise said.

The Consortium were silent, waiting with collective breath. “How so?”

“Your Watchers, not allowed to do anything except observe. They don’t stop the Secret Carriers from doing the wrong thing, using their gift for the wrong purpose. They just let them use their power, no matter what the consequence!”

“What are you speaking about?”

Silas looked at her with fear in his eyes once more.

“The village! The village run by children. How can that be? Children can’t take care of themselves, without guardians!”

“What are you talking about?” Silas grabbed Anise by the arm.

Shock flitted across her face. “Don’t you know? The village, it’s a couple miles away from yours.”

Silas shook his head. “I’ve never left Cranbook. I’ve had no need. My family is there, my friends…”

Anise’s jaw dropped. I can’t imagine never leaving home! And my home is far bigger than your small town. “Well, if you had you wouldn’t be able to forget it. It’s entirely children, now. No adults, no one to be the voice of reason, the one to show them right from wrong.” Then again, adults don’t always know everything, they don’t always know what’s best. But, she argued with herself, they do have more experience. She shivered. “It’s disturbing. It’s wrong. And someone should have stopped William before he had done it.”

There was whispering inside the darkness.

“William’s Watcher informs me that the inhabitants of the village asked William to do it. They were old; they didn’t want to be that way. They didn’t want to be frail, to be helpless. So he did what was asked of him. He fulfilled his job as Secret Carrier.”

“I don’t want to be glared at and made fun of for wearing trousers!” Anise countered. “I know people whisper behind my back when I pass. I wish they wouldn’t, but they do. There’s nothing I can do about it. I have to live with it. I have to turn a blind eye. Yes, it’s not fair, but that’s the way it is. The same with getting old. It’s not fair, and I’m sure it’s not fun, not a walk in the park, but it’s life. Everyone has to do it.”

“But we don’t.” Anise wasn’t sure who spoke, it was so quiet. She turned and looked around her, at the people standing in the light: Trevan, Eleanor, Silas. She wondered if maybe it was her Watcher instead and wondered where he was – somewhere out in that amorphous darkness that surrounded them like a cage. “What?”

“We don’t. We don’t have to do it.” It was Eleanor. She had taken a step back, looking small and frightened and Anise was reminded of her King Charles spaniel Bailey back home, how he always tried to squeeze under the worn armchair in the living room when he thought he had done something bad. But like Anise, he ate too many treats and could never quite fit under the low stubby legs.

“What are you talking about?”

“We’re exempt. I can make people exempt. And so can Silas. Us two, anyways.”

“And the fifth one, the girl, whatever she does, maybe she has a cheat too,” Trevan said.

“A cheat?”

“A way around the problems of life. The problems of humanity. That’s what we are, us Carriers. Eleanor here, she can make people live forever.”

Anise saw out of the corner of her eye Eleanor’s head drop. And I can go back and forth through time, to an extent. It’s somewhat finicky sometimes, but it works. To people’s benefit.” He scuffed a large booted toe across the ground, “except mine, of course.”

“To the wrong people’s benefit!” Anise said. “Gideon’s. People like him shouldn’t be allowed to have access to power like that.”

“But should anyone?” Eleanor’s ghost-like voice wafted towards them. She seemed to have moved to the far edge of the pool of light. “Should we? Sometimes…” she fiddled with the hem of her nurse’s apron. “Well, ever since I used it on that man, that patient…I felt some sort of connection with him. I couldn’t have him die on me. Not like all the others, not like everyone else-”

Trevan jumped in. “Why was he any different?” He was thinking about the Captain standing with his back to him, facing a blazing fire in the hearth. He could see him as if he were standing in his office right then, could picture the Captain smiling, even though he couldn’t see his face, just based on the position of his pipe that stuck from the side of his mouth. “Why wouldn’t any of your other patients qualify? It’s your job isn’t it? Saving people?”

Eleanor nodded, slowly. “Yes, saving people yes…”

“But it isn’t saving people, it doesn’t sound like,” Silas added. He sounded unsure. “It changes people. Saving people means giving them their life back. But you’re not just giving them their life back, you’re giving them their life and more. You’re giving them unlimited lives. You’re changing their life, changing who they are. If you could live forever…” he whistled long and low, and shook his head. “I don’t know if I could handle that.”

“See?” Eleanor raised a hand toward Silas. “That’s what I’m talking about. I’m not sure if I should do this. Is it right? Should we be doing this in the first place?

“I’m not sure.” Anise said honestly. “But it is what it is. These things exist and it’s up to us to use them responsibly. To not make mistakes like William did. And the only way to do that would be-”

“To have someone to step in,” Trevan said suddenly. “To make sure we really want to do what we’re about to do. To make sure it would really benefit people. If someone had told me about Gideon-”

“You wouldn’t have believed them in the first place!” Anise turned on Trevan, her hand went instinctively to the flap of her bag where her energy gun lay comfortingly a foot or two away from her fingers. “You were too willing to jump to his side, to help him out at the first snap of his fingers!”

Trevan cringed. Her words hit him like arrows, too close to home. “I was, but not because I wanted to help him. I had no choice!”

“We all have choices!”

“Yes, but sometimes they get taken away from us, leaving us no option but to do something we don’t want to do.”

Anise remembered Ophelia. When Gideon had held the knife to Ophelia’s throat…she could see the trickle of blood running down her neck. Anise had to listen to Gideon, or let Ophelia die. In the end it hadn’t mattered. Gideon had got his way and that same fate befell Ophelia anyway, but at least it hadn’t been due to Anise ignoring Gideon. At least Ophelia’s death hadn’t been on her shoulders. She realized that Gideon had had something hanging over Trevan’s shoulders. He had been a puppet lead by strings, something that Gideon controlled.

“What did he have over you? Not your brother…”

Trevan’s eyes narrowed. “No, not my brother, thanks to you.”

Anise bristled. “I was only trying to save myself! I had no choice-” She stopped, realizing her hypocrisy, and then continued, her voice dropping. “I had no choice. You had kidnapped me, your brother and you. I didn’t mean for your brother to be shot…I didn’t-”

“No you didn’t shoot him, but it was as if you did. It wasn’t your gun, but it was down to you.”

Anise willed herself to look Trevan in the eye and not turn away – they were dark with sorrow. “I’m sorry. I really am. If I could take it back…” Then it would mean most likely I would be dead. And we wouldn’t be here having this conversation in the first place!

Trevan’s eyes narrowed and he shook his head but remained silent.

“What does Gideon have on you?” Anise asked again, her courage returning with the help of her anger bolstering her.

“My parents. Well, my mother. My father is long since gone now, but my mother…it’s where a lot of the money I earn-”

“Steal,” Anise spat, anger still being pushed through her on the heels of her courage.

“It’s where a lot of my money goes. To look after her. Gideon told me if I don’t help him, if I don’t help him get all the secrets that he will kill my mother. And not just kill but…” he swallowed loudly…Silence fell. There was no need to continue. They could all picture what Gideon was capable of, even if Eleanor and Silas had never met or seen the man.

“I can help your mother,” Eleanor said, brightening. “If we can get to her, I can use my secret to help her so Gideon can’t use her as a weapon against you.”

Trevan smiled, a large, genuine smile, and Anise saw for the first time that Trevan used to be good looking when he was younger. “Thank you, girl-, Eleanor.” He bent his knee and made an awkward bow.

Eleanor blushed.

Anise turned to the Consortium. Or where she thought the main people were, if there really was anyone actually in charge. “So you’re not going to give Silas another chance? What harm would it do? Maybe he wasn’t ready, maybe he was too nervous, maybe-”

“Maybe doing that would compromise who The Consortium are,” the voice answered sternly.

“But, he was chosen! You gave me his photo!”

“They did?’ Silas turned narrowed, suspicious eyes toward her.

She stuck her chin out defiantly, meeting his brown eyes with her own.

“Yes, they did. I needed to know who I was looking for when…I was looking for all of you. I still have them all here,” she patted her bag.

“Even the last one of us? The one you haven’t found yet?” Eleanor stepped forward, curious.

“Yes, even her. Abigail. Abigail Hendry.” She removed the photo from her bag and held it out.

“Hendry?” Trevan’s thick, meaty hand snatched the photo from her own.

“Ye-,” Anise began but her question froze in her throat. She suddenly realized why Trevan was so shocked. She leaned over his shoulder. “Why didn’t I think of it before!” she cried, stabbing at the photograph with a finger. “Hendry! But…” she scrutinized the photo…her eyes are darker than his. They don’t look gold…” They stared at the black and white photo. It was hard to tell what colour her eyes were. They could be gold, like his.

“What is it?” It was Eleanor.

Silas crowded it on the other side of Trevan and Eleanor shuffled in opposite Trevan so she was looking at the photograph upside down.

“She’s a pretty little thing,” she said.

“You wouldn’t think that if you knew who she was.”

“Who is she, then?” Silas asked, irritated.

“Yeah, who is she? What does she do?”

“Well, we don’t know what her power is, yet. The Consortium are keeping those cards close to their chest,” Anise shot a glare out into the darkness. “Though I’m not sure why that is. But if she’s anything like who she’s related to…”

“And who is that?” Silas was becoming angry, his shoulders bunching up with tension, and his jaw was pulsing.

“Gideon. Gideon Hendry. The man who wants all of our secrets. He probably wants the other secrets too, the ones the Consortium don’t trust us, us normal people, with.”

“Oh,” Eleanor’s voice dropped to a whisper again and Silas sucked in a loud breath.

“We can’t worry about that right now. We need to get Silas looked after first.” Anise took the picture back and placed it carefully in her bag.

“Look after me?” Silas’ eyes widened and he looked at her, then Trevan and finally Eleanor in fright. “What do you mean look after me?”

“Well, if the Consortium aren’t going to grant you the secret, we’ll just take it ourselves!” Anise gave a small shiver, not relishing what she was proposing. At least they had a nurse with them now. Mind you, what good will a nurse be for doing that? She realized they were all staring at her.

Instead of explaining, she just grabbed Eleanor’s hand and headed for the door. “Let’s go!”

“Where are we going?”

“Back to Silas’ farm. Well, the cemetery, really.”

A hand fell on her arm and she spun round, expecting Trevan, but came face to face with the faceless Watcher. “You can’t do this!”

“Yes, I can. And you can’t do anything to stop me,” Anise shouted, and suddenly was aware they were back outside and people were looking at them. She lowered her voice. “It’s in your rules.” The Watcher suddenly threw back his hood and she screamed.

All heads in the vicinity turning in Anise’s direction. A familiar face looked back at her, one with the same chestnut red-brown hair, but cut short, almost shaved.

“Robert?” She stepped back, and then a moment later flung herself forward, wrapping her arms around the Watcher’s neck. She pulled herself back enough to look him in the eyes. “Is it really you?”

Robert nodded, a small smile pulling his mouth awkwardly sideways.

You’re my Watcher? But how? Since when?”

Robert shrugged, almost embarrassed. “Since Ophelia. Since,” he dropped his eyes, “since she asked you to be the next one, when you were outside of New London, right before you ran from Gideon.”

Anise gripped his arms tightly, her eyes sparkling. “So you were there, you saw it! The other London! So you know that your world exists, the one that you always dreamed about, the one you were always trying to tell mother and father, and grandfather about – the city made of glass and steel, with automatic carriages.”

Her brother’s face split in a wide smile. “Yes. The Consortium brought me on board as your Watcher, because who better to watch over you than me?”

“And so you know that you aren’t soft! You aren’t crazy! You were right all along and we never believed you! Mother and father definitely didn’t, and I…well, I just thought you had too many strange dreams and that you couldn’t tell them from reality…” Anise blushed.

Her brother smiled and nodded. “I knew it all along. I just wished you could have believed me, Ani.”

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m also sorry for what we’re going to do.”

Robert shook his shaved head, his eyes widening in fear. “You don’t want to go against the Consortium’s decision.”

“Well, they won’t listen to reason. Silas is meant to be this Carrier, and we know where to find the Secret.”

“I can’t help you with this. This interferes too much with the Consortium. It goes against their decision.”

“But you will help us get to the last Carrier, won’t you?”

“I don’t need to-” Robert clapped a large hand across his mouth.

“What do you mean you don’t nee-” Anise began.

“It’s because she’s here! She’s somewhere in London, isn’t she?” Trevan pushed forward and rose up in Robert’s face. He needed to stand on the balls of his feet to look him squarely in the face. He leaned his barrel chest into Robert and Robert shrunk back, unable to hide behind the safety of the being the Watcher. Robert’s already pale skin turned an even lighter shade, and his eyes grew even wider. “I cannot-”

Trevan grabbed Robert by the neck of his cowl and pulled him forward. “Where is she?

“She’s…gone…with someone she shouldn’t.”

“You know we need to find her, don’t you?” Anise asked.

Robert nodded as if he were being chastised. She almost laughed at his look. He was her older brother. She had always been the assertive one of the both of them. Always the one that took charge, to the chagrin of their father. Her grandfather had entrusted her with his energy gun after all, not Robert. That was when they had all thought there was something wrong with him. She felt bad about that now, how they had treated him but…she had no time to think about that.

“Where is she? Where is Abigail? We’re here in London, and so is she. We need to help her, save her from Gideon. For all we know he’s already got her and we’re too late.”

“You’re not. You almost are, but not about Gideon.” Robert blanched. “I’ve already said too much.”

Silas stepped forward. “We can go ourselves, back to my home.”

“I can take them,” said Trevan. “I can take them back, Eleanor can help. I know what you want to do. You want to get the secret from William. He still has it, on him. As part of him. We just need to…get it from him.”

“Okay. You can do that and then come back here. I can’t leave here when we’re so close to her.”

Trevan nodded and gave a quick bow. “Your wish is my command, my dear,” he said theatrically with a smile that made him look equal parts frightening and comical.

Anise nodded and smiled back. “Good, it’s decided.” She gave Silas a quick hug. “When I see you next, you’ll be the Carrier of the Fountain of Youth!”

He gave a hesitant, shaky smile.

She turned to Robert. “Tell me where she is!” And then she did something unexpected, that shocked her, Robert, and everyone else. She removed her grandfather’s energy gun from her satchel and held it at her brother. It was shaking. She held it tightly with both hands, arms outstretched, and planted her feet sideways like a boxer. “You know this is important! You know that if Gideon gets her secret, whatever it is, he won’t be using it to grow crops and help the homeless!”

“I know,” Robert looked dejected, and held up his hands. “But I can’t ruin this. The Consortium have given me a chance, which is more than any of you ever did.” He spat his words out. They were bitter and stinging. “They believe in me. Even though I’ve made some mistakes. They think I’m capable. I am. And I don’t want to betray that.”

“But you know where she is!” The gun shook more, and Anise wasn’t sure if it was due to anger at her brother’s obstinance, or herself, or if it was due to sadness, and the tears that threatened to fall. She felt a lump grow large in her throat. “I don’t want to hurt you Robert, you know I don’t, but this is bigger than you. Bigger than us. Bigger than all of us. If Gideon gets even one of us, it could mean the end of the world as we know it!” She let go of the gun with one hand to swipe an arm across her eyes. Tears were blurring her vision, making her brother turn into a double of himself and she wasn’t sure which one was real and which was a tear stained vision.

Robert sighed loudly and dragged her away from the doorway, and the other three, to a small dark alcove of the building next door. The stink of opium rose strongly from it, causing her eyes to water more, but not with tears. He pulled his hood back over his head, disappearing in its shadows once more and lowered his voice. “She’s outside of London now. I’m not sure exactly where, I’m not her Watcher. But we all have a vague idea where each of you are at any time. It’s only the Carriers personal Watcher that knows exactly where they are. I know she’s north east of here, moving along the coast. She was watching the Festival of the Wolf not long ago.”

“The Festival of the Wolf?”

“It’s the Roman Emperor’s birthday. Each year on his birthday they have a festival to celebrate the Roman conquering of England. The wolf represents the Romans, and the roses, England. It’s a symbolic thing and they release a bunch of balloons shaped like roses that the wolf then chases and swallows up. Which symbolises-”

Anise waved a hand dismissively. “I get it, I get it. But you mentioned she was with someone she shouldn’t be?”

“Yes. She’s in trouble but she doesn’t know it yet. The gypsies have found her.”

Gypsies? “And what is so bad about that?”

Robert laughed. Anise couldn’t understand why she didn’t recognize his voice before now. It had been a few years since she had last seen him, mind you but…

“You don’t really know anything at all, do you, Anise? I thought you were supposed to be the smart one!”

She had lowered the gun but used another weapon at her disposal. She kicked out with her boot, connecting heavily with his shin – or knee- she couldn’t tell exactly what was where within the folds of his robes. She wasn’t that cruel to have kicked any higher than that. He wouldn’t be able to tell her what he knew for a good few minutes if she had done that.

“Tell me where she is!” Anise repeated, readying herself to strike again.

Robert flinched and raised his hands in the air. “Okay!” He pulled a map from out of the folds of his robe. He pointed to it. “We’re here right now.” He pointed to another area, a little further away. “And she’s there. At least she was last I know. That’s all I can tell you Ani, I’m sorry.”

Anise nodded and pressed her lips together grimly and tried to commit the image to memory.

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