Julian Files is a book set in the past of In the Company of Shadows. DO NOT READ JULIAN FILES IF YOU HAVE NOT FINISHED THROUGH FADE!
MAJOR SPOILERS FOR ICOS!
Julian Files by Ais
Friday May 13, 2005
Carlisle Windsor School, All Saints neighborhood
“That child is there again.”
The man said it flatly, and Boyd got nervous. He ducked back into the hallway, wondering if he was in trouble now.
He hadn’t meant to see the man again, but the man and his friend always went to one of the back classrooms in the unused building on the corner of campus. Since Austin put Boyd’s backpacks in weird places like that, Boyd always had to go there before he left. He’d done his best to stay quiet and unseen like always but he must have done something wrong.
Boyd was just debating if it was worse to go home without his backpack and have his mother angry with him or to interrupt the man and his friend, when he realized a third, very tall man had come up behind him.
Boyd’s heart clenched. He looked up and up and up, into angry eyes.
“I’m sorry,” Boyd said, not knowing yet what he’d done wrong but thinking it was probably good to let them know right away he knew it was his fault.
“Bring her in,” said the man inside.
The tall man grabbed Boyd’s shoulder—it hurt—and pushed him ahead of him into the room. Once inside, Boyd saw the man’s friend was looking surprised.
And now that he was closer, Boyd realized he knew who the man was. It was Mr. Cole, Austin’s father. Boyd had seen him pick Austin up from school sometimes but it was always far away. Mr. Cole wore a hat and different kind of clothing here in the back room than he ever did in public, so Boyd hadn’t recognized him until he was close.
“Are you sure about this?” asked the friend, but Mr. Cole was peering at Boyd.
“Who is she?” he demanded.
“I don’t know.” The very tall man shook Boyd. “Who are you?”
Boyd twisted the hem of his shirt between his fingers, and shyly, guiltily, looked up at Mr. Cole through his eyebrows. “I’m Boyd Beaulieu, sir. I’m sorry to bother you. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Mr. Cole’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “Beaulieu? I know that name. As in that woman Vivienne?”
“That’s my mother, sir.”
Mr. Cole’s friend swore, which made Mr. Cole frown at him.
“It’s fine,” Mr. Cole said.
“No, it isn’t!” hissed the friend, and moved closer to Mr. Cole. He and Mr. Cole got into a quiet conversation but even though they may have thought Boyd couldn’t hear, he could.
“That bitch doesn’t know when to hold her tongue,” the friend growled under his breath. “And she’s too astute. For a damn spy, she reports everything. You know how much trouble she’s caused some of the parents already? If she finds out—”
“What will she do?” Mr. Cole watched his friend closely. “Whine about her inferiority?”
“But what if she—”
“You think I fear that harpy? You think she’s more powerful than I am?” Mr. Cole’s voice dropped dangerously. He leaned closer to the friend.
The friend leaned back. “Of course not.”
Mr. Cole relaxed a little. “That’s the right answer. She is nothing. She is no one.”
“But between her and the father—”
“I know of him. I research all the players and find their weak points. He’s a hack reporter no one listens to at a pathetic local rag in in Crandall Park. Crandall Park. They couldn’t afford an office in Financial, or at least Lincoln Square, and you’re worried about them? I have ways of suppressing the media. Their voice will be silenced, like the rest.”
“But his specialty—”
“If either of the Beaulieus try anything, they will learn their place.”
The friend didn’t look convinced but he stepped away anyway, his arms crossed. He glowered, looking upset, at the wall.
Mr. Cole turned back to Boyd and frowned, staring at him intently. For a moment, all he did was look Boyd up and down, and Boyd stared back, wide-eyed. Then Mr. Cole leaned back with a shake of his head.
“You said your name is Boyd, right?”
“Which means you’re a boy?”
Mr. Cole laughed but it sounded harsh to Boyd, like he didn’t mean it as a nice thing. “That French devil can’t do anything right, can she? Look at this.” He looked at the friend as he gestured at Boyd. “She couldn’t even give birth to a normal boy. What an embarrassment. You honestly fear a failure like that?”
Boyd didn’t know what to say to that so he stayed quiet. The friend must have had the same thought because he only shook his head with tightened lips.
“What are you doing here?” Mr. Cole’s voice had an edge.
Boyd hesitantly pointed past them to the corner. “My backpack is in here, sir. I would like to get it and leave, please.”
“You aren’t going anywhere.” Mr. Cole stood and the tall man let go of Boyd. Mr. Cole walked closer to Boyd, dropping his hands on Boyd’s shoulders. He crouched in front of him and smiled, but it didn’t look like a smile to Boyd. It looked like a threat. “Not until we have a chance to talk.”
“Okay,” Boyd said quietly.
“Good boy.” Mr. Cole shook Boyd lightly. “You see this friend behind me?”
Boyd looked over Mr. Cole’s shoulder to the friend, who did not look very happy. Boyd nodded.
“Have you seen my friend and me together before?”
Boyd hesitated, not knowing what the right answer was. Mr. Cole’s grip grew painful.
“It’s important you tell the truth, Boyd. I need you to do that, for me.”
Instantly, Boyd wondered if he shouldn’t have said that. Mr. Cole’s expression grew very dark. The friend behind him stepped back quickly and looked sick.
“Have you, now?” Mr. Cole said nicely. He did not look nice, though, nor did the smile he gave Boyd. “When?”
“Um.” Boyd didn’t want to answer, but then the very tall man crowded Boyd from behind, cutting him off from the open door. Mr. Cole’s stare drilled into him.
“Remember,” said Mr. Cole, “you’ll be in trouble if you don’t tell the truth.”
Boyd tangled his hands in his shirt even harder. “I se—I’ve seen you a lot of times. You come into rooms back here.”
Mr. Cole’s smile grew sharper. The friend turned away and bowed his head. His hands went up to his face, but Boyd didn’t understand why.
“And what did you see us do in those times, Boyd?”
“I don’t know,” Boyd hedged, and Mr. Cole shook him once. Boyd rocked back against the tall man’s legs.
“Are you sure you don’t know, Boyd? I will be very angry if I find out you didn’t tell me the truth. You won’t be in trouble if you are honest. Your provincial parents have taught you that much at least, have they not? How to tell the truth?”
Boyd nodded quickly, because they had. His dad always said it was better to be honest about being wrong than it was to lie and pretend to be right. And his mother always said only the weak lied to cover their mistakes. She said a truly strong person would accept responsibility for their actions instead of blaming everyone else.
“Alright. Then tell the truth.”
“Well.” Boyd snuck a glance at the friend. He had dropped back down to sit, turned away. “Well, you mostly talk about things I don’t understand. But you give each other things, sometimes. Papers you sometimes destroy before you leave and packages and other presents. And you talk a lot about the money you made since last time you met, because of what you traded.”
Mr. Cole’s smile froze in place and then fell. A nerve ticked in his jaw. He turned very dark and sharp eyes up to the tall man.
The friend slumped forward with a low groan. “I told you this was a bad place to meet,” he whispered.
“This is the perfect place,” Mr. Cole said sharply to the friend without turning his eyes to him. “No one questions our presence. No one uses this building. My plan was the right one. The child is at fault.”
Boyd thought he was now in very big trouble, even though he had never understood what they said when they met. But he was used to being told things were his fault, so even though he didn’t understand what was happening now or when he overheard them, at least there was some relief in knowing that this much wasn’t different.
If it was his fault, it was easy. Apologize and disappear.
That always worked.
“I’m sorry.” Boyd looked down at the floor.
“You should be,” said Mr. Cole.
The tall man pressed even harder against Boyd’s back, making him feel trapped. Mr. Cole dug his fingers deep into Boyd’s skin, and it hurt. The nice smile and friendly voice was gone; now he glared and sounded scary.
“Do you know who I am?”
Boyd pulled hard at his shirt’s hem. “You’re—You’re Mr. Cole, Austin’s father.”
“Yes,” said Mr. Cole very darkly. “And I’m also someone important. Very, very important in this country. Unlike your worthless mother, unlike your drudge father, I am someone who this country needs.”
Boyd nodded, not knowing what else to do.
“And as someone very important, I can make important decisions.” Mr. Cole’s eyes felt like they were going to pull Boyd in and never let him leave. “Do you know what ‘deportation’ means?”
Boyd shook his head.
“It means there are people living in this country who don’t deserve the right to be here. They came here even though no one wants them. Do you know where your mother is from?”
“France,” Boyd said quietly.
“France.” Mr. Cole’s fingers felt like they were going to break through Boyd’s skin and maybe go down to his bones. “Your mother is a dirty traitor to this country. Her people are our enemies. She is an enemy. But she is allowed to stay right now because this great country gives even backstabbers like her a second chance. But that can change if I want it to.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean,” said Mr. Cole as he drew closer, “that if I tell them to, someone will come for your mother. They will take her away and you will never see her again.”
Boyd sucked in a breath. His mother could disappear, just like that?
“They will send her back to France,” said Mr. Cole, “and the French are heathens. They might kill her for having lived in an enemy country in the middle of a war. Do you want that?”
Boyd felt like maybe he couldn’t breathe properly with the idea of this new, horrible reality spanning before him. He shook his head quickly.
“And your hack father, do you know where he is from?” Mr. Cole didn’t wait for Boyd to answer. “He is from Canada. If I get very angry, I can send him back there, too. He doesn’t deserve the right to be in this great country for the sin of marrying your mother alone. If I tell the same people who take your mom, you will never see him again, either. You’ll be left all alone here with no one to care for you and no one to love you. Is that what you want?”
“No.” Boyd watched Mr. Cole with very wide eyes. “They would—they would leave me instead of bringing me?”
“You wouldn’t belong with them. You wouldn’t belong anywhere. No one would want the leftovers of traitors like them.”
Boyd , and struggled not to rip his shirt in his fear. “I don’t want that.”
Mr. Cole’s smile was back. He released his hands and looped one arm around Boyd’s upper back. “I don’t want that, either. I want to leave your family alone. But I need you to help me.”
“By not telling anyone—anyone, not any of your little friends, especially not your parents—about my friend and me.” He gestured to the friend who was still not looking over. “We come to these rooms because we have important things to discuss and we need them to stay a secret to everyone. You know what a secret is, right? You aren’t that dense?”
“I know what a secret is.”
“Good.” Mr. Cole was very close. “And you can keep one, right?”
Boyd perked up. “I’m good at keeping secrets.”
And he was. He was very good at being quiet and not saying any of the things that would upset others. Even if that meant not telling about something that had happened.
“You had better be. Because if I hear you’ve told anyone about this, about us, I will have them take your mother away immediately. She will be gone before you even get home. And if you tell your father, you’ll never see him again, either. If you don’t tell anyone, you get to keep your family. It’s so simple even someone like you should understand. Do you?”
“Do you believe me when I say I will take away your family?”
“I do, sir.”
Mr. Cole’s smile was a little less frightening this time. “Good.” He rocked Boyd lightly, maybe it was supposed to be friendly?, and then stood. He brushed off the knees of his nice pants. “Then I expect to never see you in these rooms again.”
Mr. Cole stared down at him, and the tall man was very close, and Boyd stared back up, and they all stood there for a long moment.
Mr. Cole’s eyes narrowed. “Leave.”
Boyd felt the tall man drop a hand onto his head, felt himself start to be pulled backward. “Um.”
Mr. Cole did not look friendly anymore. “What.”
“I’m sorry, Mr. Cole, but I need my backpack?”
The storm on Mr. Cole’s face lessened. “Ah. Yes.” He looked at the tall man and said nothing, but the tall man seemed to understand. The tall man walked to the corner where Boyd’s backpack was shoved under an old table, and he pulled it out and brought it back. When he handed it to Boyd, maybe he didn’t realize his own strength because he almost knocked Boyd over from the power of pushing it against his chest.
Boyd stumbled and caught himself on the doorway. After hesitating a moment, watching them watch him, Boyd turned and started down the hallway.
“Remember what I said,” Mr. Cole called from behind him. “Or you know what will happen. If you don’t believe me, you will regret it for the rest of your miserable little life.”
Boyd did believe him, and so Boyd knew this was serious.
The door shut. The whole time Boyd walked down the abandoned hallway toward the front door, he worried and worried about what Mr. Cole said.
Boyd knew it was true that Mr. Cole was very powerful. Austin never forgot to make sure Boyd knew that. He was someone high up in the government; the sort of person everyone listened to when he said things like, “Take that woman away.”
Everyone else’s parents at this school were much more powerful or important than Boyd’s parents. The other kids liked to remind him of it, of how much less he was than them.
Mr. Cole wasn’t the first person who told Boyd how bad his mother was for being French, either. A lot of people said a lot of bad things about her, because no one liked her. They said he was bad, too, because he was her son. Because he was half French, himself.
Did that make him half a traitor too, then?
Did that make him half an enemy of everyone else?
What would he do if Mr. Cole got mad and took away his mother and dad? What would he do if he was left all alone?
The very thought was enough to make all words dry up in his throat. It was enough to make him speed his steps so he could be home sooner; see his mother and dad and feel better making sure they were there, they were there, Mr. Cole didn’t take them away already.
Boyd stepped out into what he thought of as the ‘quiet sunlight;’ one of those days where the clouds were heavy but the sky wasn’t dark, and everywhere he looked he could see easily but everything also felt dull and hollow.
This area of Windsor Carlisle almost never had anyone around, which was why Boyd had first been confused by Mr. Cole and his friend going into the building. But now that Boyd thought about it, he may have seen Mr. Cole’s friend around other times, too. Maybe he was another kid’s father. Boyd didn’t know anyone at the school in detail, because most people didn’t want anything to do with him.
He was used to walking all the way past the other buildings and out to the front gate in silence, which was why he was surprised when he heard someone calling his name.
“Boyd! Where’d you go?”
He rounded the corner of Franklin Hall and saw Lou jogging across the green space of the courtyard. He waved when he saw Boyd, and didn’t stop running until he had slowed and stopped at Boyd’s side.
His blond hair was very curly, and his eyes were very blue. He grinned.
“Why are you here?” Boyd asked in confusion.
Lou shrugged and grabbed Boyd’s hand. “Come on. Your dad’s looking for you. You’re coming to my birthday party tomorrow, right?”
“Of course I am.”
Lou smiled brilliantly. He pulled Boyd along at his side. “You don’t have to get me anything.”
“My mother says it’s inappropriate to attend a birthday party without—”
Lou scrunched up his face. “I don’t care what she says. I say I just want you to come.”
“Is that why you waited around and found me?”
Lou rolled his eyes. “You’re dumb,” he announced, and walked faster.
As they passed the main building, they saw Austin and his friends hanging around out front. Lou scowled at him and Austin made a face back, but neither of them said anything because there were too many adults around. Boyd tried not to look at Austin because it never ended well when he did. Today he was scared he would get his parents in trouble if he even glanced at a Cole.
At the front gates, Boyd saw his dad talking very intensely to the security guards who didn’t let anyone past the gates who wasn’t supposed to be there. The guard was frowning as he looked at Boyd’s dad.
“Found him, Mr. Beaulieu!” Lou yelled triumphantly, and when Boyd’s dad turned around with big eyes, Lou lifted Boyd’s hand above their heads and waved.
Boyd’s dad rushed across the space between them, and grabbed Boyd in a hug.
“Where were you? I came early to talk to Ms. Callaway—”
Why did he talk to the principal?, Boyd wondered in alarm.
“—and when I came out they said you’d already left class and were nowhere to be seen. I’ve been worried sick! Are you okay? What happened?”
When Boyd’s dad held him by the shoulders and moved him backward, it wasn’t scary or painful like when Mr. Cole did it. It felt good, because it was always accompanied by his dad looking him right in the eyes and saying things like Boyd mattered to him.
“I’m sorry.” Boyd peered up at his dad, trying to figure out how he was supposed to tell the truth like his parents wanted without making his parents go away. “I had to get my bag.”
Boyd’s dad’s eyebrows moved all around and his eyes looked kind of wet, but then he hugged Boyd close again. Boyd’s cheek was pressed against his dad’s stomach. He felt and even heard the rise and fall of his breath and it was very comforting. In front of him, he saw Lou standing close, blocking his view of Austin and the others.
He wished he could live the rest of his life like this.
“Okay, but next time tell someone where you’re going.” Boyd’s dad did not sound angry, which was good. “I was scared.”
Boyd looked up as best he could. “You were scared?”
“Yes, of course.” Boyd’s dad’s eyes were very warm and brown as they looked down at Boyd. His arms were also warm around Boyd, and gentle. “I’m scared any time I think something happened to you.”
Boyd considered that as he stretched his hands as much as he could around his dad’s back.
“Are you scared I’ll go away and never come back?”
“Yes. I don’t want to think about it. I would be devastated, Boyd. I would be very, very sad.”
So that meant his dad also would be scared and sad if he was taken from Boyd, and Boyd knew they would both be scared and sad if his mother was taken. That meant Boyd had made the right choice by not saying anything about Mr. Cole, just like Mr. Cole said.
It wasn’t a lie if he didn’t say anything, then. It was being a good son.
Boyd’s dad shifted his arms so one looped behind Boyd’s head and held him by his other shoulder, and he started to lead Boyd out the front gates. Lou trotted along at his side.
“Are you coming over?” Boyd asked him.
Lou flashed a grin. “Yeah! I brought a toy I think you’ll like.” He waited until Boyd’s dad was looking away to talk to the guard before he leaned in with a mischievous smirk. “It makes a really loud noise. I think it’ll make your mom mad.”
“Then shouldn’t we not bring it?”
“Bring what?” Boyd’s dad asked as they walked away from the guard.
Lou looked up with wide, innocent eyes. “Nothing, Mr. Beaulieu. Just some candy I have from home. Boyd’s weird about candy and doesn’t want it.”
Boyd made a face.
Boyd’s dad lit up. He beamed at Lou as he leaned over Boyd’s head. “Lou, my child, my long lost son, that candy will be lost on my son and his horrible taste buds, but I am definitely interested. In fact! I’ll buy us a whole bunch of candy on the way home if you help me eat it!”
This time it was Lou who lit up. He straightened his back and got a jump in his step.
“Yes, really. I can’t have anything sweet at home most of the time because the rest of my family is boring.”
“I’m not boring,” Boyd said indignantly.
“You don’t like sweets.” Boyd’s dad looked down at him and shook his head, rocking Boyd against him as they walked. “It’s a very sad state of affairs. I never thought my child would betray me this way, but it’s true.”
“Yeah, who doesn’t like sweets?” Lou asked with a laugh. He bounced along at Boyd’s side, and rocked against his arm. “Boyd is so weird!”
“So weird,” Boyd’s dad agreed sadly. “I don’t know what to do.”
“I know,” Lou enthused. “Let’s get a cake too!”
“A cake!” Boyd’s dad grinned. “A whole cake for just you and me? Should I make it an early birthday present for you?”
“Yeah and a pie too! And also some donuts!”
“If we’re going that far, let’s get ice cream, too!”
Boyd’s dad and Boyd’s only friend continued to talk excitedly about all the different sweet things they would eat. Caught between the two of them and their enthusiasm, Boyd tried to focus on their grins and laughter, but all he could think about was Mr. Cole with his dark eyes and his dark words, telling Boyd how easy it would be for him to lose everyone he loved.