We were still only children. We didn’t know what to do. We were afraid-Cassis perhaps more than the rest of us, because he was older and he understood rather better than we did what would happen if we were linked with Tomas’s death. It was Cassis who dived under and found Tomas under the banking, freeing his ankle from behind the root that had snagged him and pulling his body out. Cassis too who removed the remainder of his clothes and bundled them together, tying them with his belt. He was crying, but there was something hard in him that day, something that we had never seen before. Perhaps he used up his lifetime’s reserve of bravery that day, I thought afterward. Perhaps that was why he fled later into the soft forgetfulness of drink. Reine was useless. She sat on the bank throughout, crying, her face mottled and almost ugly. It was only when Cassis shook her and said she had to promise-to promise!-that she showed any reaction, nodding dimly through her tears and sobbing, Tomas, oh, Tomas! Perhaps that was why in spite of everything I never really managed to hate Cassis. He stood by me that day, after all, and that was more than anyone else did. Until now, that is.
“You have to understand this.” His boy’s voice, unsteadied by fear, still sounded oddly like an echo of Tomas’s. “If they find out about us, they’ll think we killed him. They’ll shoot us.” Reine watched him with huge terrified eyes. I looked over the river, feeling strangely indifferent, strangely unaffected. No one would shoot me. I’d caught Old Mother. Cassis slapped me sharply on the arm. He looked sick, but dogged.
“Boise! Are you listening?”
“We have to make it look as if someone else did it,” said Cassis. “The Resistance or someone. If they think he drowned…” He paused to glance superstitiously at the river. “If they find out he went swimming with us…they might talk to the others, Hauer and the rest…and…” Cassis gave a convulsive swallow. There was no need to say more. We looked at one another.
“We have to make it look like…” He looked at me, almost pleading. “You know. An execution.”
I nodded. “I’ll do it,” I said.
It took us a while to understand how to fire the gun. There was a safety catch. We took it off. The gun was heavy, greasy-smelling. Then came the question of where to shoot. I said the heart, Cassis the head. A single shot should do it, he said, just there at the temple, to make it look like a Resistance job. We tied his hands with string to make it look more authentic. We muffled the sound of the shot with his jacket, but even so the noise-flat and yet with a peculiar resonance that went on and on-seemed to fill the whole world.
My grief had gone deep, too deep for me to feel anything but an enduring numbness. My mind was like the river, smooth and shiny on the surface, filled with cold beneath it. We dragged Tomas to the edge and tipped him into the water. Without his clothes or identity tags, we knew, he would be virtually unidentifiable. By tomorrow, we told ourselves, the current might have rolled him all the way to Angers.
“But what about his clothes?” There was a bluish tinge around Cassis’s mouth, though his voice was still strong. “We can’t risk just tipping them into the river. Someone might find them. And know…”
“We could burn them,” I suggested.
Cassis shook his head. “Too much smoke,” he said shortly. “Besides, you can’t burn the gun, or the belt, or the tags.” I shrugged disinterestedly. In my mind I saw Tomas roll softly into the water, like a tired child into bed, again and again. Then I had the idea.
“The Morlock hole,” I said.
“All right,” he said.