I spent most of my teen years angry at a family I’d never met. I blamed Aislinn Cain for the Murder of my brother. Then the disappearance of my parents was obviously her fault as well. Her and her entire psychotic family had destroyed my family.
Trevor asked me, when Xavier and I were tasked with going to recruit her, if I could manage? He was worried I wouldn’t come home. He knew the circumstances of my brother’s death. And he knew my parents had just dropped off the face of the Earth one day. And he knew I believed it was related to the kidnapping of Aislinn Cain.
Yes, I’d been watching her from afar as part of my job, but now I was being ordered to go see her. Ordered to offer her a job. Ordered to put the new members of my family in harm’s way because of her. He was worried; would I kill her and end up in prison? Or would I attempt to kill her and end up the one with the toe tag instead?
What even I hadn’t realized yet was that I had matured. I had grown. It hadn’t been Aislinn Cain or Donnelly Clachan dressed in SCUBA gear that day at the lake. And it hadn’t been Aislinn or Donnelly that had made my parents disappear.
By the time Trevor asked if I could manage the answer was yes. Not because those things weren’t related to Aislinn and Donnelly, but I had come to realize Aislinn, Donnelly, Isabella, Eric, and Myrna were victims. Just like I was. Just like my family was. And their family hadn’t come away any less scathed than my own. Donnelly Clachan had made himself a victim by being a good man. So had my father. And as is the case in all battles there were civilian casualties. My mom Francesca had been one, just as Isabella Clachan had been.
I couldn’t even feel sorry for myself for having lost one more family member than Aislinn Cain. Eric Clachan may not be deceased like my brother is, but he still lost his life to the wrongs perpetrated against our families.
No, if I wanted to resent someone, it should be Xavier. His family was in that mess too, but unlike Ace and I, no one close to him died. Or at least, that was my thoughts for a couple of weeks and then I realized someone close to Xavier did die… the old Xavier. The boy I’d grown up, the boy that had been the son of my father’s FBI partner for close to 20 years was gone.
Even 20 years later, we don’t know why Xavier was shot in the head. It wasn’t a mass shooting, although it was designed to look that way. The shooter that shot Xaver shot three others on campus, wounding all of them. Xavier was the only one that suffered a head shot. And it should have killed him. Between his Von Willebrand’s and the fact that the bullet penetrated his brain, he should have died before the ambulance arrived. He shouldn’t havve survived surgery. That day…. I will never forget that day.
I and his parents and his siblings, biological and adopted, clustered in the ICU waiting room. A doctor came out and told us if we prayed, we should pray. Xavier had gotten one miracle, but he was going to need a second. There were blood transfusions and an emergency infusion of the protein he needs for his blood to clot, and they hadn’t even gotten to open up his scalp yet, let alone remove his skull to get to the bullet. He discussed what could and would happen if they left it in, he had been alert at that point. They could have left it in and it would have been like a time bomb in his brain, jarring it could cause it to move and rupture a major artery in his brain, he’d bleed to death and die before he hit the floor. But if they took it out, there would probably be more brain damage.
Xavier was able to make the decision himself; remove it he told all of us as he filled the room with the doctor, expecting to never see him alive again. Seven hours later a doctor came out and told us surgery was a success, they’d put Xavier into a coma though and he may or may not wake from that. And when he did, he was different. He awoke with a desire to have a sketch pad and colored pencils. We all thought maybe he’d reverted back to a child-like stage. So did the doctors. However, we hopped on the request. He didn’t draw stick figures and a smiling family, he did a portrait of my mother in profile from memory. He’d never been much of an artist before being shot in the head and now he would rival Rembrandt. During his month long stay in the hospital, his walls became covered in the artwork he was doing while in bed. Portraits, landscapes, some of real life, some of fantastic places that didn’t exist. And then he became DiVinci we were talking and he was drawing, he said it helped him think while we talked and he had trouble talking. And I realized he was drawing with both hands. It was a landscape that covered two pages. The left hand was drawing the left side of the landscape and the right hand was sketching the right side of the landscape. Holy shit.
I tried to convince him to go to art school after that. But he wanted to continue with his medical training. He said sketching was just a hobby; a way to quiet his brain. I was in jail the day he got out of the hospital, arrested because I fit a fucking profile. A terrible profile that would have made my father hang his head in shame and made Xavier’s father storm into the FBI (he was retired by then) and ask what moron had come up with it.
During my detention by the FBI under suspicion of being a serial killer, another homosexual male died. And Xavier’s father marched into the office of the head of the profiler division and demanded my release and gave them a new profile. When they finally caught the killer, the only way Xavier’s father’s profile could have been more accurate, was if he had given them the killer’s name, address, and social security number. His father returned to Quantico to teach profiling for a few years after that.
Not once during that entire time did Xavier’s parents ever ask me if I was innocent. They argued to visit me every day. They got me the best lawyer they could afford. When I was finally released, I asked “why didn’t you ever ask me if I did it?” They frowned at me. “We didn’t need to ask, we knew you weren’t killing these men in the same way all of us knew when you were twelve that you were into boys, not girls.”
I had stared at them open mouthed. I had told Xavier’s family I was gay less than a year ago. They had thrown me a party for it and said that they and my own parents had always known and they were so happy I was finally accepting who I was.
And so, yes, I could have held a grudge against Ace. I could have wanted revenge. I could have wanted to try beating the crap out of her when she opened the door. But the only person that gets hurt when you hold a grudge is yourself. And besides, Ace, Xavier, me, we were all victims of the same monster. And that was not Aislinn or Donnelly’s fault.
My only resentment these days is against Patterson Clachan. He had known where the bodies were buried. He could have given them to me to bury years and years ago. But I understand it also. If he’d tipped off the location of the bodies before he did, he would have been suspect number one and I never would have gotten justice for my parents’ murders.
And now, I’m having a baby with Aislinn Cain. As Nadine would say, “the Universe works in mysterious and dreadful ways.