“Your mother?” I said lurching forward as I pulled the zip just below my neck. If I’d blinked, I’d have missed her nod. “She’s not your mother,” I said, not able to hold back the laughter as I shook my head. “I’ve met her like a thousand times. Why would you say she’s your mother?” I stepped back, my surprise turning to anger at her obvious lie.
“I’m adopted,” she said through her hands, tears dripping through her fingers. The words went through me like a shock wave.
“How long have you known?” I said, not able to hold the words back, still shaking my head. How could she have known something so fundamental and not said?
“I found out eighteen months ago,” she said and my anger turned to guilt. I hadn’t seen her since she’d found out. Yes, we’d spoken on the phone, we’d talked, maybe not as much as we used to. No. Definitely not. But we’d talked, spent hours in conversation and she’d said nothing.
“You never mentioned her,” I said trying to hold back a torrent of emotion, trying to unpick what I was feeling, guilt piling on as I reminded myself of the pain she must have gone through. She let her hands drop and looked up, her eyelids low, her battered face so full of sorrow.
“She’s not someone I like to think about.” She snorted a laugh, but her lips fell flat before they could form a smile. I stepped to her side, kneeling beside her, pulling her undamaged cheek gently to mine. I didn’t know how to reply. I wanted to ask how a mother could do this to a child. I wanted to ask her if it was her fists that bruised her beautiful skin, her hand bursting her blood vessels.
“And your father?” I said without thought, but when she pushed her head into her hands, I kicked myself as I drew a deep breath and rubbed the back of her head. She pushed me away, trying to stand, falling back to the chair before trying a second time, breath sucking through her teeth as she put weight on her feet. I stood, taking a step back, watching as a brightness appeared on her face as she looked around the van, eyeing the boxes secured by cargo straps to the shelves.
“Does this stuff work?” she said, her features pointed to a frown.
“Of course it does,” I said, scowling at the question, but my annoyance disappeared as I watched the smile rise on her lips.
“Do you know what we should do?” she said, but spoke again before I could answer. “We should get this story out there, break this wide open.”
“You think?” I said, a wide smile hanging from my lips.
“Our bargain. Fill the tapes with what they don’t want anyone to see,” she said, her voice rising in tone. “Then she’d have to give us what we need. Come on, let’s get moving. I know just the shot we need.”
“One problem,” I said and she turned back raising her eyebrows. “Whose going to film it?” I replied, raising my brow to match hers. She stopped, about to speak, her mouth hanging wide open, then pursing as if words were going to come out, but didn’t. “I’m front of camera,” I said, trying to flatten out my scowl.
“You don’t,” she said stopping herself, then laughing gently before her brow furrowed again. “You don’t know how to use the equipment?” she said staring at me as if I was an uneducated ape.
“Don’t say it like that. I’m a journalist. A professional. I have qualifications, experience. This equipment,” I said looking around and repeating her waving hand gestures. “Is state-of-the-art,” I paused as their names stuck in my throat. “The crew train for years, they have special places they go to learn this stuff. It’s not like a compact camera, point and shoot.”
A lopsided smile appeared on her face. The Toni of old, the Toni who thought I was playing a joke.
“That’s what they told you, right?” she said, undoing the straps of a rugged plastic case at waist height, only just able to take its weight as it left the shelf. I watched with interest as she laid the case down, grunting with relief as it landed to the floor. With the clips either side undone, she hovered over, peering in as the lid fell back, her eyes roving over the large hulk of black plastic and metal sat on the dimpled foam, its surface covered in tiny buttons, each with a foreign symbol or minuscule white writing.
I looked back, my cheeks bunching with a closed lip smile, my brow raising as I waited.
“Go on then,” I said when she didn’t make a move.
“There must be a smaller one, right?” she said, turning but looking away frowning as she saw my expression. I shook my head, watching as she closed up the case, helping with the weight as she lifted it back to the shelf. We barely had the strap across its front before a metallic thud came from the back doors, the echo repeating somewhere inside. Our eyes locked, peeling apart, turning to the back. Her breath drew in as we saw the small hole in the door, its jagged metal pushed out towards us. I followed her head as she turned, stopping when we saw a matching hole by the director’s chair where Toni had sat.
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Reading out of sequence, here’s the rest of Season Two.
Not read Season One? Here it is.