Black Heart – Chapter VII Part VII
by Steppen Sawicki
A name I never did figure out: Renella is Ruggeri. I just keep switching back and forth, unable to decide. Today it’s Renella.
Bryan went to Andrade, and she noticed him approaching almost immediately. Had probably been keeping an eye on him all along. But she didn’t balk at his approach, even if the other two Spotters with her did.
“Can I talk to you?” Bryan said. It wasn’t a rhetorical question. She might very well say no, that she couldn’t handle being in such close proximity to him.
But she said “Sure,” as if nothing was amiss and stepped away from the others.
“I’m glad you’re here,” Bryan said feebly, grasping for something to say.
“I have to be here. If there might be any way I can help…” She bit her lip in that charming way, but Bryan was dismayed to find it did nothing for him. “I’m sorry for how I treated you before, in the cafeteria.”
“No, don’t be. I’m – ”
“Still the same person. I shouldn’t have freaked out.”
“But I’m not the same person. You can see that. It’s understandable – ”
“It was mean and I – ”
“ – that you would – ”
They both stopped and Andrade took a deep breath and looked at the ground.
“What’s important is you’re here,” Bryan finished.
She gave a thin smile and nodded, looking up at him, half coy, half melancholy.
“I wanted to ask you,” he went on, “since Renella is gone, if you might look after the Spotters. I don’t think I can… handle both groups.”
“I think it’s really something that you’re even handling the Possesseds,” she said. “I know it’s not what you ever wanted.”
“Ain’t that the truth. I’m still not sure I’m doing it.”
“Of course you are. Everyone knows it. That’s why they all went to you to hand in their notice. And I know that wasn’t easy either.”
“You don’t think they left because of me, do you?”
He was looking away from her, at the Possesseds. Mouse was throwing a fit over a splinter he had gotten from a pew, kicking it while the others tried to get it out of his palm.
Andrade didn’t touch him, but instead ducked her head into his line of vision. “They left for their own reasons. Because they needed to see their parents or their children or because they didn’t sign on to prevent the end of the world. Nothing to do with you. But those that are here believe you can do something to change what’s happening.”
“That makes me feel worse. How would I do that?”
“We don’t know yet. We’re all here to figure it out. So to answer your question: yes. I’ll look after the Spotters.”
“Thank you.” He put a smile on his face, but it felt fake. “Would you take over the Possesseds too?”
“Hell no.” She shook her head emphatically. “No one wants that job.”
That should have been funny, but Bryan didn’t laugh, and the good-natured smile fell from Andrade’s face. Suddenly Bryan didn’t now what to say or do to fix the awkwardness. Just in time, Harper appeared.
“They’re about to bring the Eternal in,” she said.
“Right. Ah, Andrade here has agreed to head the Spotters. In case you need anything.”
“Well I suppose they need somebody. But what is she going to be heading? The Spotters don’t have much to do.”
“Harper…” Bryan warned.
“No,” Andrade said. “She’s right. But we need to find something to do. That’s why we’re here. I’ll help however I can.”
“I apologize,” Harper said, looking Andrade in the eyes. “I didn’t mean to be rude.”
Andrade shrugged, the smile back on her lips. “You’re Possessed.”
“A poor excuse. Please let me know if I can be any help to you in a Spotter capacity.”
Andrade blinked at her as if confused. “Thank you. I will.”
Harper gave a little node of her head – a semi-bow – and she and Bryan left Andrade.
“Way to make my apologies look inadequate,” Bryan said.
“I can’t help it,” Harper said. “I really do feel awful when I do things like that.”
“And I don’t?” He meant it as a joke, however poor, but she stopped abruptly.
“I didn’t say you didn’t.” She said, her voice suddenly harsh.
“You’re doing it again,” Bryan said. “I’m afraid I’m no longer a good sparring partner.”
“I’m not – ” Anger flashed in her eyes, then subsided. “Right. I’m sorry. I’m tired. Not that that’s any excuse either.”
“Forget it. I shouldn’t have brought it up. Anyway, your reaction back there made me wonder – did you not work much with the Spotters in Tokyo?”
“I was officially part of the Possessed contingent. For all my overlap, the Spotters really didn’t have much use for me.”
“I find that hard to believe. I would have welcomed someone like you in Chicago.”
“You say that, but…” She cut off and started walking again, towards the entrance, where the containers of bits of Eternal were being wheeled in on a dolly.
Bryan stopped her. “But what?”
Harper turned her eyes away and shifted her shoulders. It was very un-Harper of her. “It’s not something you can easily put into words. But… in our job, we’re part of our respective groups. But I’m not part of either group. I’m part of one group and part of the other group. I’m not really a Possessed and I’m not really a Spotter. People want all or nothing, and I’m neither.”
“I know what you mean,” Bryan said.
She looked into his eyes, her own expressionless and unreadable, but maybe not entirely. “I suppose you do.”
Bryan turned with a groan. Connors was there, breathing heavy as if he had just run a marathon instead of a few feet across a synagogue.
“Connors,” Bryan said, “I believe I said no panicking.”
“Ivers,” Connors hissed, leaning in close to him. “There’s nothing in those containers.”