[previous chapter] [start from the beginning] It had not yet been 24 hours since Martina Labrecque had roused herself from her easy chair, still in tears. She needed to do something. She was seized by a powerful urge to tell the world that Jeff Toussignant wasn’t the only one who’d suffered. That the desire to kill the parents who should have loved you but didn’t was something she’d had to struggle with as well.

Her struggle had been successful, of course. Otherwise she would never have gotten the nice job working for the ministry of Culture right out of university. It was rare for English majors with a minor in Communications to land such high-paying, secure jobs with a pension, but Martina had got lucky. A friend of her mother’s already worked in that department and knew they were looking for exceptional young people to help revamp how the government communicates with emerging artists about the programs made available to help them develop professionally. The bureaucrats were concerned that they were increasingly seen as irrelevant by the new crop of independent-minded artists, and if there’s one thing bureaucrats hate, it’s when people think they’re irrelevant. Truth hurts.

Anyway, the point was that this friend of her mother’s, who was fairly senior in that department and had the ear of everyone that mattered, suggested finding a few young communications experts to help them out, and she’d remembered about Martina. She discreetly asked her one day while having dinner with her mother at her house how her studies were going and what she was hoping to do with her career.

“She’s hoping to be a writer, which is completely silly,” her mother answered for her. “I mean, you can’t make a living with your pen, you need a real job!”

Martina had winced hard. “Actually, I would like to write novels but apparently the bills need to be paid so I guess I’ll look for work soon. I still have another year of school so I haven’t started looking all that seriously yet, but I will.”

“You should have started looking last summer when they had the jobs fair,” her mother was so good at knowing what should have been done. Not so great at encouraging others to move in a positive direction, however.

Her friend ignored that remark. “What interests you, Martina?”

“I like philosophy. Kierkegaard, especially. His essays on boredom and creativity are fascinating. Have you ever read his “Either/Or”?”

“I have, actually,” the friend had said. “A long time ago, mind you, but I still remember some of it… I think. I’ve been so busy reading funding proposals and all manner of bureaucratic policy material these past few years I hardly have time to open a book for pleasure.”

“Oh, Martina has all kinds of time to read useless stuff, I assure you! Always her nose in a book!” Her mother had rolled her eyes all the way to her shoulder blades, but Martina plowed on.

“Kierkegaard thought all human beings were boring. But he made a distinction between those who bore others, and those who bore themselves. He thought those who bore themselves were the entertainers. At least, I think that’s what he said. Sometimes I have trouble understanding him. But I like that idea – that those who bore themselves entertain others. If I had the time, I would love to explore this concept.”

“What would you say if someone offered you a job where you could do just that?”

“Eh?”

“She’s not even finished with school,” her mother objected.

“I know, I know. But sometimes, one has to be willing to be lucky.”

This bizarre encounter with her mother’s friend had led to an interview and a job offer, a full eight months before graduation. She had asked to be allowed to finish her degree and the department granted her that wish, but asked that she move to a part-time course load. They wanted her to start working pretty much full-time right off the bat.

Her mother proclaimed herself astounded. “Honestly I don’t know what they see in you that they’re willing to get you before you finish school like that. But what are you going to do when they get tired of you and send you back?”

“Why would they do that? They made me answer all kinds of questions, they made me fill out I don’t know how many questionnaires, they made me go through four different interviews; it’s not like they don’t know who I am by now. And they decided to hire me, so why would they change their minds?”

“Because nobody knows you better than I do, that’s why. They don’t know how you quit things easily…”

“I don’t!”

“Sure you do, you quit ballet.”

“I didn’t like it.”

“You also quit trumpet.”

“So? I tried a few things I didn’t like. That doesn’t make me a quitter!”

Her mother had snorted.

Well, Martina thought now, sitting at her computer with Facebook open in front of her, I guess I got the last snort. She had been with the same department ever since, rising steadily through the ranks, introducing some ground-breaking communications strategies to engage the younger audiences all politicians were after. She was also a published novelist, under a pseudonym since the stuff she wrote was about people who were either violent or sexually deviant (you have to keep up appearances, when you’re a bureaucrat…), and she was reasonably successful at it, having sold a few thousand copies of every novel. There were wikis about her books, for crying out loud, and she made a steady income from publishing those stories. Not a big income, maybe $50,000 a year, but when you added it to the six-figure salary she was pulling down at the department, she had a good, comfortable life. Materially speaking, at any rate. She had no husband or kids and very few realistic prospects of getting either, but hey, she had her cat and very few needs. She lived in a small cozy apartment downtown, travelled a little bit in Europe and the Caribbean, and otherwise put her money in an investment portfolio that was doing quite well, thank you very much.

Yeah, those appearances you had to keep up as a bureaucrat. This is what had occupied her mind the whole time since watching that TV special about Jeff Toussignant. Did she dare get out there with her story? Did she dare express sympathy for someone accused of murdering his parents? What if he really was a monster? What would she look like then? What if this made her lose her job? She could live without the income. She would continue to write her novels and that would keep her comfortable in her current lifestyle, for sure. But she would miss her job; it wasn’t just the money that was keeping her there. She really did enjoy applying her creative skills to the communications needs of a ministry she considered vital to the public life of a nation.

Her fingers were hovering above her keyboard. The Facebook page had been created, but not made public yet. There was just one post written…

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