Cleaner has been hauled off outside to be interrogated by the intruders. The rest of us have been placed in one of the glass walled-offices along the side of the building. I sit on the floor in the corner, my head buried in my hands. I dare not look up, or look the team in the eye.
I can hear them now, whispering amongst themselves. Bellinger is telling my mom all that happened over the past twenty-four hours. Blaming me. Mocking me. I can feel their gazes of disdain, their looks of anger and resentment. And how can I blame them?
If there is an opposite of the Golden Touch, I have it. Everything I touch turns to crap. I can’t help but see my life as one disaster after the next.
First, I lose my dad and spend the rest of my life hating him. Then my mother abandons me emotionally. I struggle through college, having professors tell me over and over again that I’m not living up to my potential. A promising marriage ends in disaster but lasts long enough for me to handicap my only child, destroying her life as well.
I get held back in a job that I am more than qualified for, and my one chance at advancement goes as quick as it comes. In an effort to prove my savvy and problem-solving skills I set in motion the very events that led to my dad being taken away from me in the first place.
And just as I get a chance to put the past behind me and start fresh; to have a real relationship with my father and enjoy the love that was stolen from me as a child, he is once again taken from me. Right along with another man I respect—who’s presence is critical if we were ever going to find a way to survive.
I hesitate to ask what more could go wrong, fearing that even the thought will bring it to pass. We have nowhere to escape to, and we certainly don’t have the means to stand up against Mayze and his band of armed mercenaries.
I have little reason to believe that any of us will survive long. Certainly not my mother. But eventually the rest of us will be killed, one by one. Who knows? Maybe it’ll work. Maybe eventually, kill the right person will change the future.
But no matter what happens, I am ultimately to blame. I am responsible for this team and, right now, that is more responsibility than I can bear. I don’t know if I can live with the burden of another life ruined because of me.
I’ve got nothing left to give.
Someone says my name, but I don’t look up. Instead, I bury my head deeper into my arms which are folded across my knees. I can only imagine what they’ll have to say, the blame they will lay on me. I know. I get it. I don’t need to be reminded.
Go away. Just leave me alone.
A hand is on my shoulder. I shrug it away.
I feel like a pouting child, but I don’t care. They don’t know what it’s like to be in my position.
The hand grabs me more firmly, but I push it off. Perhaps a bit too violently, but I don’t care. I just want to crawl into a hole.
I feel arms surround me. Holding me. Hugging me. In my ear, I hear my mom sob. Suddenly a dam bursts and I’m sobbing too. Just a few hours ago I was crying tears of joy with my dad. That seems so long ago now. And now those tears are gone these new ones have taken their place.
But what are they? Tears of fear? Bitterness? Hatred? I search myself, struggling to understand what these tears mean.
My mother holds me tighter, and the tears come even harder. I try to stop but can’t. I can’t remember the last time she hugged me. Wait. Yes, I can. It was the night my dad was kidnapped. The night I kidnapped him. And now, again, twenty years later the night I got him killed.
“I’m sorry,” mom whispers in my ear. “I’m so sorry.”
I unfold my arms from around my head and wrap them around mom. “It’s me, mom. It’s me who’s sorry. I did all of this. It’s my fault.”
“No, Camden, you didn’t do anything wrong. You didn’t cause this. What you have done is more than could be expected of anyone. I wish I had told you this years ago, but I’m so proud of you. I have always been proud of you. But all these things I didn’t even know about… these things that Director Bellinger just told me. I couldn’t be more proud of you than I am right now.”
Ten minutes go by without another word between us. Just tears.
Finally, mom breaks the silence, “Trevor.”
I don’t respond, still not wanting to face the team.
“Trevor,” she says again, but I still won’t look up. “Camden!” She says sternly, “Look at me this instant.”
Like a kid in trouble, I do as I am commanded.
“We need you,” she says.
I look her in the eye but say nothing.
“Your team needs you,” she repeats. “They need a leader, and that leader is you.”
I shake my head. I don’t want this.
“They need you to protect them. They need you to lead them.”
“I can’t,” I say weakly. “I can’t protect them. I don’t know how.”
“You do. You must. Everything that has happened in your life has brought you to this moment.”
Thanks, mom, as if I needed the reminder.
She continues, “Everything you have gone through has been preparing you for today, for right now, for what comes next. I need you to be strong. They need you to be strong. We need you to be the man you spent your life becoming. For good or for bad, everything has molded you for this very moment. It’s time for you to take it. To seize it. To overcome it. I believe in you.”
I close my eyes as more tears fall.
“Look at them,” she says gently. “Open your eyes. Look.”
Brooklyn and GoPro have found their own places in the room to cry. Both so young to have to have watched two people murdered right in front of them.
Bellinger is maintaining her composure, but I can see the fear in her eyes. Darwin has found his own corner to sit in, his head resting on his arms crossed over his knees. He’s mumbling to himself. No, he’s praying.
“Do you see?” Mom says to me. “They’re scared. They don’t know what to do. But you do.”
“I don’t,” I argue.
“You do. You always have. We all make bad decisions in life, and things don’t always work out as we hope. But I know your heart. You never wanted to hurt anyone. You never had malice in your heart. You’ve made mistakes, and you’ve suffered for them, but your intentions have always been good. You have always wanted what’s best for people whether you knew how to provide it or not.
“Camden, you can’t change the past. But you can direct the future. Everyone here is relying on you. I know you won’t let them down.”