- “They died in heroes, Miss Barcquange. You can be proud of your parents.” He was insisting on 'heroes' but the only thing she heard was 'dead'. It resonated in her head long after the communication ended. Flows of memories were rushing through her head but she shook it to send them away. Her mom used to say: Good ideas don't appear when the head is upset, and only bad decisions take birth in those states of mind. She needed to focus. Find a solution. Quickly. The plane landed in LAX at 4 p.m., crowded with passengers looking for the Californian sun after a month of dullness in Paris and two stops somewhere on the way. She was so tired: they had boarded at 9 a.m., it was now 4 p.m. but more than a day had elapsed since they departed and she hadn't slept one second. Charlotte on the contrary, had slept during the whole flights and in between each of them, just waking up for the meals. Now, she was running all around her, speaking baby-french, a wide smile plated on her face. She didn't know. Emily hadn't been able to tell her. Once again she shook her head: no time for sad thoughts she needed to be efficient. She pushed her hair back and exited the airport, holding their suitcase in one hand and Charlotte in the other. Both of them were also carrying a bag, the rest had had to stay at home.
They were now standing in a wide open office crowded with people doing all sorts of things but mostly things you don't expect to see while in an office: a group of people were looking at a wide range of electronic screens and listening to a tall dark man, who pointed at it from time to time; in a corner, two people seemed to be fighting; on their right, a chemist lab was apparent; and everywhere computers, electronic devices whose use she could only imagine, weapons... - “What are you doing here? “ The dark man doing his conference had spotted them and was now rushing in their direction. Drawing near, he repeated: “What are you...” - “I'm here to see Mr Carson, please”, she cut. The man stared at her for a minute in amazement, then collected himself: “And for what business Missie?” - “It is a very personal and delicate matter that I will only discuss with him if you please.” - “Look little lady, if you don't tell me why you are here and how you got in, you are seeing no one, understood?” - “ You must be Jaiden Smith and without your respect I will see Mr Carson with your consent or without. By the way you might want to do something with that purple tie; it's terrible with those brown trousers.” The receptionist's face reddened and he walked towards her, an ominous look on his face. She stood still and watched him approach with indifference. - “I will teach you how to behave...” he mumbled, his face red as a tomato. He raised his hand to hit her, but she was faster and grabbed his wrist, planted her nails in his skin. Her eyes fixed at his she articulated slowly: “I advise you to manage your anger with me Mister Smith or you might regret it”. Her pupils were ice-cold and he felt the cold spreading into his body; he couldn't see the others anymore, just her eyes; he wanted to shake arm so she would let go but he couldn't move an inch, he was as hypnotized by her. - “Enough!” Suddenly the warmth returned to his body and he realized she had let go of his wrist. He watched dully the tall man walking towards them. - “ You wanted to see me, I believe, so let's go.” He starting walking away then returned: 'And Jaiden, next time I have a visitor, introduce him directly”. The two girls followed him through the corridors, to his office. He opened the door and stepped aside to let them in. He waved towards the seats and sat in front of his desk. Then he raised his eyes and detailed them for the first time, trying to hide his interest. They were two: a teenage girl and a baby girl; one must have been in her fifteenth, the other one about three; both dark haired. The little one was looking at him with curiosity, but her teenage partner was much more serious and he felt her glance scanning him as he was detailing them. - “So who have I the honor of speaking to?” he started. - “ I am Emilie Barcquange. And here is Charlotte, my little sister. You are Mr Mark Carson?” At the mention of their names, he gasped imperceptibly. He knew Marine and Liam Barcquange, but the Emilie he remembered holding on his lap was much more little, and had brown hair. The Barcquange had been reported dead two days ago but when the feds had reached their apartment in the suburbs of Paris, the two girls had disappeared. Since then, they hadn't been able to locate them. And now, a young girl was coming to the department Bureau, asking for him and pretending to be Emilie? He looked at her again; she was obviously waiting, he hadn't answered her question. He resumed: - “ I am Mark Carson. But you are certainly not Mademoiselle Barcquange, because you see I happen to now this young lady and she looks nothing like you. So once again can you please decline your identity?” - “I am Emilie Barcquange, Sir. But last time we met I was three, if I remember well. Pretty logical you find me changed...”She smiled. Her English pronunciation, especially of names, betrayed a faint French accent. - “How did you get here then, Miss Barcquange? You do know that the French police is looking for you and Miss Charlotte everywhere?” It was the moment she was waiting for, she took a deep breath and asked: “can someone take care of Charlotte? It's adult talk and I don't want to put her through that. But...nobody should know...who she is”, she added quickly. She raised her eyes to look at his and see if he would agree to her conditions. He took his phone: “Margaret, can you come here for a minute please?” A few second later, a cheerful lady in her mid-forties appeared and she was given custody of Charlotte for the time of the interview. After they left, Emilie felt suddenly uneasy, like out of place but Carson encouraged her and started her story: “The Chairman called to announce our parents' death. It was Thursday morning. After I hung up, I looked at Charlotte and I realized that we would be sent to host families. But you see, I am already old and nobody is going to adopt a girl that old.... But a baby like Charlotte, it's an opportunity. I knew if we remained in France we would be separated, so I decided to fly here with her. “ - “How did you do that? You are not 18, you can't fly with another kid like that...” - “Mom had planned it: she had fake passports made for us in case... well, in case something happened. My passport states I am 18. Mom had left a notice in case of emergency: it states that we should go to the beach house in LA, using the American passports she had made for us and once there my mission was to contact you.” He looked at her for a while, silent. He could feel the pain through the story but also an unshakable resolution. He remembered how she had silenced Jaiden. - “The Feds will find you here; it won't take them long to look through the airports 'cameras. As you've seen we have technological means.” She answered calmly: - “Not if they can't recognize us: we dyed our hair so that nobody could trace us here and the house is not in our name so they have virtually no way to find us. Unless you tell them...” - “You know I am a fed and you are clever enough to know it is my job to hand you to the French police, so why did you come to me anyway?” - “Because my mother trusted you, and because I had no one else to turn to. My parents died working for you, there must be a way you can help us out now, there must be!” Although he wasn't saying it, he was impressed by this little teenage girl who had bravely crossed the Atlantic Ocean and the United States with a three year old for a chance to stay with her sister. He shook his head: -“And what can I do for you, Miss Barcquange?” - “I don't need a lot: we have the house and the passports, but both Charlotte and I were going to school before the...events... I want you to help me find a school that will accept me and a kindergarten for Charlotte. That's all we need. Please, Mr Carson, help us out.”, she added as he started shaking his head. Her eyes met his and he felt mesmerized for a moment. Until then, he had only seen the woman in her, sure of herself, knowing what she wanted, but now, he could feel the lost little girl in her coming to the surface and begging for protection. He knew he had to turn her in but at this very moment, he felt his resolution weakening. -“ I'll do what I can but I can't promise you anything. And if you prove to be unable to take care of your sister, I'll immediately turn you in, is that clear?” A smile appeared on her face: - “You know Sir, I have practically raised Charlotte. My parents were in mission most of the time so I had to learn to clean, to prepare dinner and to take care of a baby. At first it was hard, but now I am pretty good at it!”