“June, are you listening to me?”
I concentrate on scratching Ollie behind his ears. Metias’s old journals are still strewn on the coffee table, along with our parents’ photo albums. “You’re wasting your time,” I call back to him.
“Please. Just let me in. I want to see you.”
“I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“I won’t be long, I promise. I’m really sorry.”
“Thomas, I’ll see you tomorrow.”
I raise my voice. “I said I’ll see you tomorrow.”
I wait another minute, trying to distract myself by petting Ollie. After a while I get up and look through the peephole. The hallway’s empty.
When I’m finally convinced he’s gone, I lie awake on the couch for another hour. My mind races from the events in the square, to Day’s appearance on the rooftop, to Day’s outrageous claims about the plague and the Trial, and then back to Thomas. The Thomas that follows Commander Jameson’s orders without question is a different Thomas from the one who worried about my safety in the Lake sector. Growing up, Thomas was awkward but always polite, especially to me. Or maybe it’s me who’s changed. When I tracked Day’s family down and watched Thomas shoot his mother, when I looked on today as the crowd in the square was gunned down . . . I stood by both times and did nothing. Does that make me the same as Thomas? Are we doing the right thing by following our orders? Surely the Republic knows best?
And as for what Day told me . . . my temper rises at the thought of it. My father had worked behind those double doors—Metias had mentored under Chian in overseeing the Trials. Why would we poison and kill our own people?
I sigh, sit up, and grab one of Metias’s journals off the coffee table.
This one is about an exhausting week of cleanup duty after Hurricane Elijah tore through Los Angeles. Another spells out his first week in Commander Jameson’s patrol. A third one is short, only a paragraph long, and complains about working two night shifts in a row. This makes me smile. I can still remember his words. “I can barely stay awake,” Metias had told me after his first night shift. “Does she honestly think we can guard anything after pulling an all-nighter? I was so out of it today that the Colonies’ Chancellor himself could’ve walked into Batalla Hall and I wouldn’t have known it.”
I feel a tear on my cheek and quickly wipe it away. Ollie whines next to me. I reach out and let my hand sink into the thick white fur around his neck, and he drops his head into my lap with a sigh.
Metias had fretted over such small things.
My eyes grow heavy as I continue to read. The words start to blur together on the page, until I can’t quite understand what each entry means anymore. Finally I put the journal aside and drift off into sleep.
Day appears in my dreams. He holds my hands in his own, and my heart pounds at the touch. His hair falls around his shoulders like a silk drape, one streak of it scarlet with blood, and his eyes look pained. “I didn’t kill your brother.” He pulls me close. “I promise you, I couldn’t have.”
When I wake up, I lie still for a while and let Day’s words run through my head. My eyes wander over to the computer desk. How had that fateful night played out? If Day hit Metias’s shoulder, then how did the knife end up in my brother’s chest? This brief thought makes my heart ache. I look at Ollie.
“Who would want to hurt Metias?” I ask him. Ollie looks back at me with mournful eyes. “And why?”
I push myself off the couch several minutes later, then wander over to my desk and turn on my computer.
I go back to the crime report from the Central Hospital. Four pages of text, one page of photos. It’s the photos that I decide to take a closer look at. After all, Commander Jameson had given me only a few minutes to analyze Metias’s body, and I’d used the time poorly—but how could I have concentrated? I’d never doubted that the murderer was anyone but Day. I hadn’t studied the photos as closely as I should have.
Now I double-click on the first photos and enlarge them to full screen. The sight makes me light-headed. Metias’s cold, lifeless face tilts up to the sky, and his hair fans out in a small circle under his head. Blood stains his shirt. I take a deep breath, close my eyes, and tell myself to concentrate this time. I’d always managed to get through reading the text of the report, but I could never bring myself to study the photos. Now I have to. I open my eyes and focus back on my brother’s body. I wish I’d studied the wounds more closely in person when I had the chance.
First I make sure the knife in the photo is indeed buried in his chest. Bits of blood stain the hilt. I can’t see any of the blade. Then I look at Metias’s shoulder.
Although it’s covered up by his sleeve, I can see that a sizable circle of blood stains the cloth there. It couldn’t all be spillover from the chest—there must be another wound. I enlarge the photo again. Nope, too blurry. Even if there is a knifelike slice in the sleeve over his shoulder, I can’t see it at this angle.
I close the photo and click on another one.
That’s when I realize something. All the photos on this page are taken at an angle. I can barely make out the details on his shoulder and even on the knife. I frown. Poor crime scene photography. Why weren’t there close-up photos of the actual wounds? I scroll through the report again, searching for pages I might have missed. But that was it. I go back to the same page, then try to make sense of it.
Maybe the other photos are classified. What if Commander Jameson took them out to spare me the pain? I shake my head. No, that’s stupid. Then she wouldn’t have sent any photos with this report at all. I stare at the screen, then dare to imagine the alternative.