Days later, we arrived in New York City. The city was white. People covered half their faces in their scarf. Everyone walked head down, staring at the sidewalk. As soon as we got out of the bus, we walked toward the address on the back of Ethan’s picture. After few buses, subways and minutes of walk, we found ourselves on Claflin boulevard. The street was clear. Calm. Only our footsteps in the snow broke the silence of the neighborhood. We stopped in front of a house with a little garden on the front. ‘144 Claflin Boulevard’ I whispered. Ethan held my hand tight. I looked at him. He seemed scared. A noise coming from the house took my attention away. I scanned the front of it. Lights illuminated its shape. Flowers and grass were surrounded by snow. I looked at the window. The curtain was moving: someone was watching us. I put my eyes on Ethan again and smiled to reassure him. We walked toward the main door, climbed the three steps that led to it and knocked. I looked behind us: a car drove by. Then the silence returned. We waited a minute before hearing any noises from the inside. The door unlocked. Behind it, there was a man in a black suit with round glasses on his nose. His hair was semi-long, touching the top of his shoulders. He scanned me from head to toe then his focus stopped on Ethan. The late one stepped back behind me. The man stared at me again. ‘Come in.’ he said. As we entered, a smell of a cooking meal invaded our nostrils. He showed us the way to his living room where we took seats. He left us alone for few minutes. The inside was basic: there was a chimney centered in the room, a couch faced it with a low table in between. A desk was settled in front of the window on the left, facing an armchair. Walls were beige. Basic. The man came back with a tray in his hands. He offered me a beer and a glass of Coke for Ethan. A silence passed by. ‘Who send you?’ he finally asked. I was surprise. ‘No one.’ He seemed suspicious. He stared at Ethan like he was a threat. I asked him if he knew the boy. He didn’t answer right away. He let a pause pass. He took a deep breath, took of his glasses off and closed his eyes. ‘No.’ I didn’t understand. ‘But I know someone who looks like him.’ He returned in silence. ‘Is his name: Eden?’ I asked. The man froze. The sound of that name seemed to terrify him. After a minute, he stood up. He walked toward the chimney and took the only picture in the room. He stared at it for a moment then handed up to me. It was a picture of him, but younger, with a woman. They both looked happy on that sunny day. He sat back in his chair. ‘Eden. It’s been a while since I didn’t hear that name. My wife, the woman on this picture, loved him like her son. I did too. He came in our lives so abruptly. In a cold night of winter. Someone knocked and left a baby on our doorstep. We raised him the best we could but coming to a certain age, he drifted away, made decisions that didn’t make sense for an eleven-year-old boy. He matured very fast. He learnt karate by himself within a day. One time, he brought a gun out of nowhere and started to shoot in our backyard. We tried to prevent him to do such things. But we obviously failed. He disappeared as suddenly as he came, leaving a note on his pillow: ‘Thank you for your hospitality’, like we became strangers over a night… After that, we didn’t hear from him for four years. When he started to kill all of those people, he sent us a postcard: ‘You might not remember him yet, but I found him. I hope I’ll make you proud.’ Once again, it made no sense to us. Few months after that, my wife died from a heart attack, reading about all of those murders. She couldn’t handle it anymore. After her death, I stopped wishing for him to come back to the little boy I knew. He’s far gone…’ He paused. The man looked down, his hair covering half his face. He tried to hide a tear. I looked at the picture one more time. Suddenly, Ethan stood up. He walked over the man and put a hand on his shoulder. They shared a look. ‘He looked just like you.’ He continued. ‘Innocent eyes on his face. Watching the world in its details. Searching for its magic. I cherished him like no one else.’ He broke down. His sobs resonated in the house. After a moment, he put himself together and aimed for something in his back. I instinctively knew he had a gun. I pulled Ethan behind me. The man stood up and pointed his Glock at us. I stepped back: I thought it was the end. He pointed the gun at his head. ‘I remember!’ He screamed in between tears. ‘I remember everything! Where he came from! Who he is! And why he came back! I remember it all! All of it! All of this! THIS is my fault! I created him! I made him this way!!…it shouldn’t have happened…’ BANG!!
He shot himself.
I stood in disbelief.
I covered Ethan’s face behind my back. I felt his hands trembling as they held my shirt tight.
We stayed still for a moment. I tried to process the image of the bullet going through the man’s brain. The blood splashed all over the beige wall. As my senses came back to me slowly, I looked down at the body. He looked like he was sleeping. Tears still dropped on his face. The gun didn’t leave his hand. Silence floated around him.
I turned back. He was shaking. I looked at the body again then realized we needed to leave before anyone noticed there was a gunshot.
I took Ethan away from that scene. We walked to the closest subway and blended in the crowd.
To be continued