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~Chapter 2B- Eugenio Jr~

The next day, Melissa and I went to Arturo’s house. Melissa had been to his house before, but I hadn’t. It was a few kilometers away, so we had to take the tram line to get there like we would to go to school. There were tram lines and railroads all across Rhivera that allowed people to travel. Very few had vehicles of their own, usually only large businesses or government institutions possessed any. The tram carried us from our rural area into the city where Arturo lived.

We arrived at Arturo’s house, the Montoya estate. There was a metal gate and red brick wall around its perimeter. Only after seeing us in a camera at the gate could Arturo let us in. There were ornate gardens and a three story manor. I knew Arturo’s stepdad was rich, but not this rich. Looking at him you’d never guess, he always dressed so modestly.

Arturo let us inside. The walls appeared to be made of some ornate marble, all very beautiful. The house could easily fit both Melissa and my own family inside with room for more. But despite its size, it looked as if only Arturo occupied to manor.

Even Arturo’s room was massive, with an over-sized bed and a door that led out to the manor’s balcony. There were books lining his wall, many on the history of our country of Rhivera.

“They’re going to fake his death?” Arturo clarified.

“If his condition doesn’t clear up soon. Population Control will take him otherwise.” Melissa explained, “Its a secret though.”

“You know I won’t tell anyone.” Arturo promised. He was happy to do anything to defy the PCC.

A knock came at the door, followed soon by a woman wearing a maid’s uniform. “Mr. Montoya, I’ve made you and your friends a meal.”

“Thanks. You can head home now.” Arturo hastily told her.

“Oh, okay. Thank you Mr. Montoya.” She said in a submissive manner.

Arturo waited until she was out of earshot to speak, “My step-dad hired a maid after the PCC killed my mom. He thought it would help since he’s always out doing business in Illesto. She’s just annoying though. I can take care of myself.”

“Why exactly did the PCC take your mom?” I asked. I had been wondering that for a while.

“They killed my mom because they thought she was holding me back.” Arturo said, unafraid of saying kill instead of taken, “My mom couldn’t hold a job for a long time. But she was the only one to take care of me when I was little, so they left her alone. As soon as I had a step-dad to look after me, I guess the government didn’t see a reason to keep her around.”

“Everything would be better if Population Control was gone.” Melissa said surprisingly scornfully. I wanted to agree, but the thought of my dad still being bedridden bothered me. I couldn’t imagine him being happy like that. Even as he died he was still supportive of the PCC.

“It looks like you’re not going to be able to come over anymore because Eugenio is supposed to be a secret.” I said. “They don’t want anyone outside of our families to know he’s alive.”

“That’s okay. You can always come over here.” Arturo reassured me.

Melissa smiled deviously, “When our parents aren’t home we could sneak you into our place.”

Arturo stood promptly, “Melissa, did you tell Juaquin about the tunnels?” Melissa shook her head. Arturo smirked and beckoned to me, “Let me show you something.”

We followed him down a flight of stairs to the storage room in his basement. Arturo went to a wall covered with boards and we began to pull them away. A tunnel opening was revealed behind them.

“Even my stepdad doesn’t know about this.” Arturo grabbed a flashlight he set there prior and shone it into the path which extended beyond our sight. Wooden scaffolding supported the tunnel and its structure.

“How far does it go?” I asked.

“A few kilometers away there’s an exit point, but it keeps going way past that.” Arturo said, “I did some research, apparently there are tunnels like this all across Rhivera. There are so many that no one knows about all of them. I haven’t figured out why they were made yet though. There’s some old tale about an ‘ultimate power’ lying beneath the earth that our ancestors hunted for. Its just superstitious folklore though.”

I wanted to explore the tunnel, but Arturo told me it would take hours before we came to a fork in the path. Soon Melissa and I headed home, prepared to tell the lie that Eugenio had died.

We waited to see if Eugenio’s condition would clear up, but his legs remained frail. Finally, Raul and Yolanda decided it was time.

Raul and Yolanda saw to it that all records indicated that Eugenio Jr. died of an illness. Mom couldn’t even tell her brothers that Eugenio was alive. Knowing them, they would spread the secret around until everyone knew.

So we carried on the lie. Everyone seemed to accept it, and we received many unwarranted condolences. But Eugenio was safe.

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