Chapter 6 of The Imagined Ones – The World Upside Down is the last chapter currently translated so I’m afraid it’s gonna be the last one posted for a while.
If you’re not scared of french, the book can be found on here on Amazon.
I went back to my obsession at fifty-five.
To be honest, it was never really gone. It had just remained stagnant for lack of leads. Four years of searching, investigating only to have the doors slammed in our face, begging and threatening in the darkest corners, and it was as if the kid had never existed.
It had been more than a week since the Imagined Collective improvised themselves filmmakers on the facade of one of La Défense’s largest buildings, and my husband was in a foul mood, complaining about everything to me like he was deeply convinced I gave a shit.
“I really need to file for divorce.”
I looked up from the report I was reviewing. The old desk I sat behind was crumbling under the weight of medical books and essays, and I could barely see the rest of the room over the stacks of crumpled papers. The shelves were pretty much the same, as was the coffee table and the worn leather sofa David had more or less succeeded in sprawling onto.
He was elegantly dressed in old paint-stained jeans and a stretched out sweater proudly sporting the Starfleet logo, barefoot, the required formal attire for a whole Saturday of doing nothing at home. The glassy sheen in his emerald green eyes told me he was halfway through his second beer and his brown hair was, I was ashamed to say it, the unspeakable mess they were no matter what the occasion was, at home, at work or for evening nights out (where I obviously had to take him with me).
“Why did I marry you, again?”
“My sexual prowess.”
“No, that was definitely not it,” I countered thoughtfully, crossing my legs.
“Because you took pity on me? I have amazing puppy eyes.”
“Yeah, that’s already more plausible. What were you complaining about, again?”
“My stagnant career, my asshole superiors, my investigation going nowhere, and the Imagined Collective, of which not a single member has the decency to let themselves be captured. I’m going to kill them.”
“The Imagined Ones?”
“My bosses. I was telling you about how I was going to slip cyanide in Wagner’s thermos. Keep up, Claire!”
“Yeah well, every Saturday, it’s the same thing. It’s getting old. Shouldn’t you have new things to talk about, what with what happened in the last few weeks?”
“Are you kidding? They already weren’t happy with me after the Volques Bridge, when I vetoed their request for reinforcements even though they expected an attack on the Elysée or some bullshit of the kind! They’re even worse now that it turns out they were wrong and I was right. It’s good for my ego, not so much for my popularity.”
“An attack on the Elysée,” I repeated, puzzled.
“Yeah! They do something a bit impressive on the anniversary of an event important to them, and of course, they’re gonna blow up the seats of power next! Seats of power, don’t make me laugh! Guys, the week before, they grew four-leafs clovers on the entire ring road and signed ‘Because we’ll be too busy getting hammered on St. Patrick’s Day’. Fuck, between the level of crazy they have and the one we give them, we have got to find a middle ground. Just the other day, the girl I pursued gave me the finger before jumping in the Seine. So evil! They’re gonna kill us all, I can feel it! »
He added an overdramatic expression to his sarcastic tone. March 12th made an impression with those disturbing images the Imagined Ones had broadcasted. It wasn’t long before David discovered that the girl, Rose, was the daughter of one of the traders working in the building used as a screen, who’d died of illness at fourteen. March 12th was her birthday. She was a year younger than my own daughter.
David was quick to send the father packing when the latter, who’d been screaming for all the world to hear about the ‘desecration of his daughter’s memory’, began to get angry about my husband questioning his daughter’s illness and subsequent death, demanding he focused on the real problem that was those ‘fucking criminals of Imagined Ones’. Such a delightful persona. And rich. Which was why Wagner had been leaving threatening messages on David’s voicemail for a few days now, ordering him to apologize and finally do his job right, damn it, Soen, that’s what we pay you for! But the few clues left by the Collective were always dead ends, and David preferred to concentrate on the statues’ moans, seen as direct words from the Imagined Ones.
“‘The girl’? You sure she was one?”
“Yeah, pretty sure.” He took a sip of his beer. “I think that all this time spent chasing them made me immune to an extent. I won’t recognize her in the street, that’s for sure, but I have the distinct impression she was a girl. And since our daughter gave me the finger last time I asked her where the rest of her jeans was, I might be projecting a little, but I think she was in her twenties.”
I laughed unhappily before falling deep in thoughts.
“That’s the big problem, here,” I mumbled. “This inability to remember them. I just don’t understand how they do that.”
“You didn’t see the latest news? It’s actually a cult of evil witches hell bent on starting the Apocalypse. Astaroth worshipers, apparently.”
“Ah, not you too! There’s enough of that crap on the Internet,” I snapped.
“I’ve been chasing them for four years, I haven’t caught a single one. I’ve seen tons of them but can’t remember their face.” he told me, listing on his fingers. “There isn’t a single speculation that is not valid. Disappearing statues, moaning ones, clovers on the ring road – I even saw a leprechaun or two. I am ready to believe everything! Shamans from Shangri-La, Spock sending aliens to test us, Chuck Norris preparing his next film, descendants of Quetzalcóatl – which would actually explain their unhealthy obsession with the Jardin des Plantes’ birds: feather fetish – you name it, I take it!”
I burst out laughing.
“Find an Imagined One and ask them. That way, you’ll stop saying stupid things.”
“Easier to say than done, sweetheart,” he said, rolling his eyes. “We have an Imagined One at hand, he’s stuck in a madhouse and he hasn’t talked in years.
“We have another Imagined One,” I remarked, raising an eyebrow.
“Oh yes, 226! A long lost dead body whose identity we can’t find! The kid’s a ghost, Claire. We can’t even be sure she really was part of the Imagined Collective.”
« You kidding me, » I shot back, not amused. “With the amount of tests you made me do on this fucking tattoo, she is part of the Collective, angel, don’t tell me otherwise.”
He conceded with a pout. Another reason for the crazy theories being thrown about the Imagined phenomenon was that it was completely impossible to replicate their symbol; on paper, on screen, or on skin, alive or dead. I’d used enough of my corpses to know: the bee distorted itself without us even noticing, and we only realized it was nothing like the original once the drawing was done.
“She exists,” I said, opening the last drawer of my desk.
I opened the large box inside, containing all the things I had of the kid, pictures and jewelry. I still hadn’t said anything about the jewels when the whole thing started to get fishy. So I kept my mouth shut and kept her belongings with me. I took the sphere out and opened the magnetic flap, looking for what seemed like the thousandth time at the picture there.
“I know she exists. But without her body as proof, and without being able to find any trace of her, we cannot consider her as a tangible lead, Claire. You’ve seen what happened, when we tried; we failed, they sent us packing.”
“Yeah, because someone wants to keep it quiet,” I pointed out, annoyed.
I watched for a moment the two girls hugging on the tiny portrait. The youngest was already almost her eldest’s size, already had more curves, still stuck in this strange and alien phase we called adolescence, but clearly in the process of becoming the beauty put on my autopsy table four years earlier.
“Varga destroys a first bridge,” I started, lost in thoughts. “Nothing happens. There is no suspect, no one’s taking credit, and we don’t have even a glimpse of the idea that something as crazy as the Imagined Collective exists. Five years later, another bridge goes down. We have a body shot dead, then stolen and somehow, we end up with a culprit apprehended and tried in less than a year and a group of magicians, for lack of a better word, who decides to turn Paris into their playground. We’re missing something here, David.”
“Of course we’re missing something, sweetheart,” he agreed. “We’re old farts, we lose half our neurons each time we sneeze too hard. There is clearly a crucial part of this eluding us.”
That’s when we heard the deafening heavy footsteps that should not belong to our twig of a daughter. We exchanged an fond look.
“So really, we should take advantage of the fact we can still go to the bathroom by ourselves to realize all our fantasies,” he continued, voice subtly louder.
The door opened as I nodded sagely, rolling the pendant between my fingers:
“We should start with the threesome. Is your colleague Marc still single?”
She closed the door as delicately (sarcasm) as she’d opened it.
“Ok, I’m leaving! I’m going to live at Grandma’s, don’t call me, I’m changing my number!”
“Mako, come back, we’re kidding!”
She reopened the door, watching us suspiciously with almond-shaped black eyes.
“Careful,” she warned. “No more sex talk, you’re too old for that.”
She came behind the desk and sat on my chair’s armrest.
“Wait until you’re old,” her father replied as he finished his beer. “You’ll talk about it too, you’ll see. It runs in the family.”
“I’m adopted,” Mako snapped.
“No you’re not. Your mother and I just have Chinese recessive genes.”
“I’m Laotian! With a Japanese name. Thank you for that load of crap, by the way.”
“Oh Honey, it was our pleasure.”
She glared at us before settling more comfortably next to me. The bun on top of her head barely held back her long, silky black hair, and her usually caramel-colored skin was the healthy pink of exercise. If that wasn’t enough to convince us, her sports gear clearly showed she was coming back from the basketball court.
“What were you talking about?” She asked, grabbing the tic-tac box on my desk.
“Women’s emancipation,” David exclaimed. “It is time for that nonsense to stop! Go get me a beer.”
« Sure, » Mako said, shrugging, “but I know where you put the Cayenne pepper, so it might be risky for you.”
My stupid husband cried out, offended. The reaction seemed exaggerated, but Mako’d already done it with wasabi, and she would not hesitate to do it again. David stood up, sighing dramatically.
“You have to do everything yourself, in this house. You’re on thin ice, young lady,” he jokingly threatened, heading for the door. “Today, I’m feeling generous, but next time, I’m sending you back to Thailand UPS style, got it?”
“For the last time, Dad, I’m La-o-tian!” Mako shouted at the now closed door. “DAAAAAAD!!!!”
She turned to me, exasperated, popping three more tic-tacs in her mouth.
“Why did you marry him anyway?”
“Believe me, it was not for his sexual prowess.” I replied, absently playing with the necklace.
“Ew, Mom!” she was indignant. “I didn’t need to know that!”
I just smiled when she glared at me.
“Hey, I didn’t know you had one of those necklaces!”
I stopped rolling the sphere between my fingers.
“What do you mean, ‘one of those necklaces’,” I asked, turning my head toward her. “What necklace?”
“A magnetic one with compartments,” she replied slowly, like it was obvious. “It’s called a heartbreaker. Bit morbid, but after all, the point is to keep secrets close to the heart.”
I dropped the jewel in her palm and turned to her completely when she left the armrest to sit directly on the desk.
“ It’s no longer for sale,” she said, turning the flapper to reveal the picture. “Who’s that?”
“I don’t know. What I do know is that the little girl you see here was murdered.”
She watched me for a moment, not saying anything, before she started undoing the necklace chain.
“When I was in secondary school,” she started, “heartbreakers were a big hit. All the girls wanted one, but only one shop in Paris sold them. The owner made everything he was selling by hand, apparently, so there weren’t a lot of them. They weren’t sold for very long, I couldn’t get one.”
“This shop, where is it?”
“It was in the Marais, I’ll give you the address, but it closed down four years ago. Last I checked, it was a tea salon.”
Four years, huh? She finally disengaged the pendant from the chain and dropped it to hold the sphere in front of me between her thumb and forefinger.
“Once you take the chain off, you can move the valve all over the sphere and find the other compartments. They’re not all in the same place, no necklace is the same.”
She inspected the pendant for a moment, and when she found what she was looking for, she removed the flapper completely to put it next to her.
”Magnetic,” she mumbled, fiddling with the sphere. “You can put it back.”
She finally took off an entire panel, like one would remove an apple quarter. She then did it twice more and something fell in her palm. She passed it to me and I stared dumbly at the USB drive while she put the pendant back together.
“Your father was right,” I gasped, “we really are old farts.”
“Yeah… yeah, you are.”
I ignored the disparaging remark and grabbed my laptop, resting on the trash bin beside the desk. I turned it on and inserted the USB drive, while Mako sat on the armrest again. Several hundred files appeared on the screen before disappearing again, replaced by a video file that started playing on its own.
Mako and I saw the decor of a large office appear, bright and clear, and at the center sat, on what seemed to be the dormeuse of the photograph, the older of the two girls. Her body was only visible down to the top of her legs. She sat straight, hands on her knees. Her long black hair was pulled back in a high ponytail, she wore a high-waisted dark blue dress, a lab coat and a sweet smile. She looked even younger than in the picture, not even twenty, I thought. She was a clear contrast to the one I suspected was her younger sister.
“Hello,” she spoke with a calm and clear voice. “My name is Saskia Moriarty, and the files you’re about to access are the conclusions of my work and my thesis. Each file is the result of heavy research and several years of reflection, please don’t be fooled by my age.”
She paused a moment, discreetly watching something outside the frame, before smiling softly. She didn’t turn around, but behind her entered a little girl, eleven years old at most, wild black curls, dark tee-shirt falling off her shoulder and jeans torn at the knees. The plastic beads on her wrists proved she already liked piling up bracelets. Convinced that the other girl – Saskia – hadn’t seen her, she hurriedly grabbed an small bottle of apple juice on the credenza against the wall before getting out of camera-sight just as quickly. Saskia spoke again:
“So, I sincerely hope that you will take as much pleasure reading it as I did making the discovery.”
It seemed like she was about to say more, but the image faltered before the screen went black and came back to a completely different atmosphere. It was clearly night out, the only lights a few lamps off-camera. And the furniture in the background was completely destroyed, the marks embedded in the wood seemed to come from a sledgehammer. The only piece of furniture still intact was the dormeuse, where the kid was sitting, barely older than in the picture. Left foot burrowed under her right thigh, her back straight despite the fact she was swimming in a leather jacket way too big for her, her hands were interlaced, she was fully dressed in black and her still visible wild curls were pulled back into a ponytail.
The camera frame shook then, she looked up at something behind it, and I understood she wasn’t alone in the room. She focused on the camera again:
“Hello,” she said, her voice harder than the first. “My name is Iria Moriarty. And now that my sister’s dead, her research belongs to me. For those of you who wanted to read it, I’m sorry, but the contents of this USB drive are private. To the fuckers who killed my sister…”
The cold smile she gave the camera should have never been painted on the lips of a fourteen years-old girl.
“I see you with those files and I will be happy to explain at length and in vivid details why you’re right to be scared of me. If you open them, it’s a declaration of war. I leave the ball in your court. Anything that happens next will be entirely your fault. You have been warned.”
The video stopped abruptly, and a window popped up asking for the password. I stared at the screen, trying to make sense of the insane amount of information I’d just been bombarded with. Mako took a deep breath:
“I don’t think the password will be easy to find… just a feeling.”
I decided to deal with it one detail at a time.
“There’s something that’s going to be easy to find,” I replied. “DAVID!!!!”
His own office’s door, opposite to mine, opened, and my husband came into the room, new bottle of beer in his hand, leaning against the doorframe.
“First of all,” I said, showing him the necklace in my hand, “our daughter is a genius.”
“She better be, she’s Asian. If she’d been stupid, I would have felt ripped off.”
Mako threw the tic-tac box at him, which he caught in extremis after it hit him in the chest. I cut their nonsense short:
“Secondly, why does the name Saskia Moriarty sound familiar?”
“Because Elias and Willa Moriarty created an association to support the families of victims,” David explained, coming closer and setting his beer on the desk, “The Broken Links. Saskia was their daughter; she died during the Volques Bridge explosion. Her car fell into the river, she couldn’t get out and she drowned. They set up psychological support cells, that sort of thing. Now, we see them mostly involved in all matters of national security, attacks, terrorists or not, campaigning for or against certain laws. The dad gave a speech during the reopening ceremony, in Montpellier, before the statues decided to join the party. Why are you asking?”
I unplugged the USB drive and showed it to him.
“Mako found this inside the necklace. The kid.”
“The kid what?”
“Her name was Iria Moriarty, she was Saskia’s little sister.”
David stared at me for a moment before he nodded. He glanced at his beer.
“Yeah, I’m switching to whiskey. Want one?”
Here are the links to the other chapters :