Noah was still gone.
I was doing something wrong. I flipped through memories, mine and not mine, searching desperately for a way to fix this. Noah’s father and Dr. Kells had given Jude an ability but hadn’t been able to control him. They’d tried to take mine away, and I’d lost the ability to control myself. Until now.
I wiped Noah’s blood from the knife, looked at the sliver of my reflection in it, hoping it would speak to me, tell me how to fix this. But it was silent.
Jude was begging now, shivering. I got that he wanted me to kill him for his sake, so he wouldn’t have to become the thing he was ever again. But I didn’t care. I wanted him to suffer. He should suffer every day for what he’d done. That was what he deserved.
But I knew I wouldn’t make him.
Noah’s body was warm in my hands. The weight of him filled my lap. I didn’t want to think about Jude. But unless I wished him gone, he wouldn’t go.
So I thought about his corrupted heart stopping, his blunted nerves dying, his pointless lungs drowning in fluid. I thought those things and more, but he was still alive. He was hunched over himself. I thought I saw a drop of blood drip from his nose, but I wasn’t sure.
“Please,” he whispered again. “Please.”
I could kill him without touching him, but I didn’t know when he would actually, finally die. That was always the part I couldn’t seem to predict, couldn’t control. Or if I did, I didn’t know how yet.
So I said to him, “Come here.”
Jude looked at me. Something hateful and sly flashed behind his eyes. How had I missed it, all those months ago? How could I have looked at that blond head and those dimples and missed what an empty, nothing, shell of a thing he was? How had I ever let him get close enough to hurt me?
Whatever. I wouldn’t make that mistake again.
It physically hurt to rest Noah’s head on the floor, to empty my arms of him and stand up to face his murderer. Jude was kneeling, but he was straining to do it. He was at war with himself; his muscles were corded and the veins stood out on his forehead and neck.
Maybe I should have taken the opportunity to make him recount his sins before he died, to force some grand confession of regret from his lips, to make him own all of the pain he was responsible for. But that felt like more than he deserved. Jude was no better than an animal really, so in the end, I slaughtered him like one. I slashed the knife across his throat and he fell to his side. I watched as he bled out.
I was vaguely aware of bodies, living ones, rushing into the room, shouting things as red and blue lights flashed through the grime-clouded windows. I glanced briefly at the laptop, watched as police broke into the room where Jamie was being held. Something moved at the corner of my vision.
“Drop the weapon,” a female voice shouted. I hadn’t realized I was still holding the knife. I opened my fist. It clattered to the dusty floor.
“Put your arms above your head and turn around slowly.”
I did. About a dozen NYPD officers stood among the mannequins, holding guns, pointing them at me.
I looked down at Jude’s body, and at Noah’s. Then back up, at the female officer. I wondered what she saw when she looked at me. A grieving girl? A murderer?
I realized I didn’t care. I’d told Noah he wasn’t going to die. The last words I ever spoke to him were lies. I was a liar. He did die, and even though I’d tried, I hadn’t brought him back.
I wasn’t crying anymore. Instead there was just the sob that wouldn’t come, the sting of tears that wouldn’t fall, the ache in my throat that was dying to become a scream. Crying would have been a relief, but I wasn’t filled with sadness. I was filled with rage.
Rage because he’d died, for no reason, for bullshit, while everyone else got to live. If people heard about what had happened, their faces would turn into masks of horror for a moment, but then it would become just a story to them. They would go on living, and laughing, and I would be alone with my grief.
“He tried to kill her,” Jamie shouted from the crappy laptop speakers as an officer on screen untied him. It drew the attention of one of the cops in the room with me, but the other pairs of eyes didn’t waver in their focus.
If they’d known me, what I’d been through, what I’d lost, they might have said they were sorry for me, sorry for my loss. They might even have meant it. But beneath that would have been relief—that death hadn’t happened to them.
All I wanted in the world right then was for Noah to live. That was what he deserved. But thinking something does not make it true. Wanting something does not make it real.
Except that when I want it, it should. That was supposed to be my gift. My affliction.
I closed my eyes, squeezed them shut. Saw writing in my mind, in handwriting that wasn’t mine.
You can choose to end life or choose to give it, but punishment will follow every reward.
I wanted to give Noah life. To reward him with it. But it wouldn’t be free. Nothing was. If I wanted something, I would have to trade for it.
I wanted Noah. What would I trade for him?
Who would I trade for him, was the question I needed to be asking.
“The people we care about are always worth more to us than the people we don’t. No matter what anyone pretends.”
They’d been Noah’s words once. But they were mine now. Who wouldn’t I trade for him? I would not trade my family. Never them.
But there were other people. The world was full of them. How many would have to be punished so I could reward? What was Noah’s life worth?
His father, David, needed to be punished for what he’d done, no question. But a million of him wouldn’t equal one Noah. He was worthless. Less than.
But not all people were worthless. I looked around me, at the men and women who filled the room, rushing into danger in the hope of saving someone’s life. They were good people. Brave. Selfless. Heroes, really.
Would I trade one of them to have Noah back?
Would I trade all of them to have him back?
I was stripped of all illusions, about this and myself. I knew without thinking that the answer was yes.
I KNEW WHAT WOULD HAPPEN next. As the police approached, the woman said, “Are you holding anything that could hurt me?”
Ask the wrong questions, get the wrong answers. I shook my head as she reached for my hands and cuffed me.
“What happened here?”
I didn’t respond. How could I?
Besides, I had the right to remain silent, so that was what I did.