Four years ago today, Gigi's iconic story, Life After Lies (LAL) debuted on the wiki. Almost two years later, Gigi posted what in retrospect turned out to be the final chapter. Some six months after that, she abruptly pulled the plug and cancelled the last two chapters, citing the nasty tendency of life to get in the way. Chapter 18, with its climactic duel, thus became the final chapter.
Chapter 18 gets Heather and Noah out of immediate danger, but provides no real closure--in effect, ending the story with an industrial-grade sequel hook. Realizing this, and having no plans for a sequel, Gigi invited her readers to imagine their own ending to LAL. I did.
Gigi had been debating whether LAL should have a tragic ending or a bittersweet one. (A happy ending was apparently never an option.) I elected to go the bittersweet route, which was the one that she had been leaning toward and which seemed to be the type that most of her readers wanted.
About 6 weeks after she officially ended Life After Lies, I contacted Gigi (I've had her e-mail address for quite some time) and gave her my ending, which I had done my best to write in her style instead of mine. The reason I did this privately instead of here on the wiki is because I wanted to make a proposal: If she liked my ending, I told her, then she could edithammer it into a better match for her writing style and pass it off as her own work, in which case no one would ever have heard the truth from me. (Well, my wife probably would have, but you know what I mean.)
Gigi loved my ending, but felt that it wouldn't be right to pass my work off as her own, so she declined my offer with thanks. She did, however, say that she now regards my ending as the official one, at least on this wiki. LAL appears on other websites, but my ending is a wiki exclusive.
Having agreed that she would give credit where it was due, we eventually decided that she would post my (attributed) ending on her blog page for LAL's third anniversary. For reasons that are not important here, we missed that date and Gigi left the wiki pretty much for good at about the same time, so proper closure on the story languished for another year.
Because Gigi has no plans to become active here again, I have now determined to post the ending myself. Gigi has agreed to stop by, however briefly, to give her official endorsement and probably to say a formal goodbye. And so, without further ado, here is proper closure for Life After Lies.
Life After Lies
Story by Fadingsilverstar16, chapter by Gideoncrawle
Noah’s and my wounds were ugly and painful, but they weren’t life-threatening in and of themselves. We still needed medical attention, though. Not only did I have a bullet hole in my shoulder, but Titiana had also flayed Noah pretty well while he was chained up. Noah’s whole ordeal with the organization had weakened him quite a bit, so I was afraid of what might happen if his wounds got infected. And so, before we left the warehouse, I looked up the nearest urgent care clinic on my PDA.
When we got to the clinic, the receptionist took one look at us and her eyes looked like they were about to pop right out of their sockets. “What on earth happened to you?” she gasped.
“You don’t want to know,” I said, staring her down. She took the hint and didn’t ask any more questions beyond what she needed to process new patients. Even then, I told her as little as I could. I still had my skull card, and I could have flashed it to keep her from asking any questions at all, but I knew now what DeMiller really thought of me. Showing my skull card could have created more problems than it solved. Luckily, the receptionist didn’t object when I told her that we didn’t want to give our real names, and she just called us “John Doe” and “Jane Doe” on the forms.
Charlie had tailed us to the clinic, and he was waiting for us when we came out. All he said was, “Come with me.”
“It’s OK,” I told Noah, who was looking at me uncertainly. “I trust him.”
Charlie got us to a safehouse in his underground railroad without any trouble. The organization is powerful, but it’s not like it has agents on every street corner, and I’d learned a lot about its limitations in the last few days. I decided to trust Charlie’s splinter group implicitly.
“I have to go back to Vancouver and give DeMiller my report,” Charlie told me. “I’ll stick as close to the truth as I can, but of course I’ll change a few details… things like the fact that you’re still alive and the fact that your friend was the one who shot Titiana.”
Charlie then turned to Noah and said, “As for you, the only reason the organization ever cared about you was because Rhoades paid it to care. With Rhoades dead, it should have no further interest in you as long as you don’t tell anyone what really happened in that warehouse.”
That made sense to me. The organization is cold and ruthless, but it’s not vindictive. It’s motivated by money, and there’s no profit in revenge unless you’re being paid to do the dirty work for someone else’s revenge. The organization preaches indifference to the problems of others, and Charlie’s assurances reminded me that its indifference cuts both ways.
Charlie continued, “It won’t worry about you knowing too much, because it has the government in its hip pocket. Even if you wanted to report what you knew, who would you report it to? The organization releases hostages all the time, once its clients get what they want.”
So Charlie went back to Vancouver, and Noah and I stayed at his safehouse for a few days. Funny thing, I knew from the beginning that Charlie’s not the one in charge of the splinter group, but I have no idea who is, so I just call it Charlie’s.
In spite of everything he had been through, Noah at least had a life to go back to. When he had recovered enough to go back to that life, Charlie’s underground railroad took him home, and out of my life, warning him only to never tell anyone about them, what had happened in the warehouse--or me.
“Take care of yourself, Heather,” Noah said, as we shared one last hug before he left. “I’m glad that I can remember you for something better than that lame reality show.”
“Likewise,” I said, fighting down a lump in my throat. We both knew that we would probably never see each other again.
Noah may have had a life to go back to, but I didn’t. I couldn’t go back to Vancouver, at least not for a long time, and trying to retrieve any of my belongings from my apartment might tip off the organization that I was still alive. No matter what I decided to do going forward, I would have to leave behind everything I had ever known. Again.
Naturally, Charlie’s cohorts offered me a place with them. When they made their recruiting pitch, they made it clear that I was free to build a new life on my own if that was what I wanted. They also told me that, whether I stayed or left, they would set up a new identity for me, because I would need one if I wanted to live more than a few weeks. Believe me, it was tempting to wash my hands of the whole cloak and dagger thing and go back to a normal life.
Go back? That’s rich. When had my life ever been “normal” in the first place? Whatever, there was a time when I would have jumped at the chance, but now I felt that I would be leaving too much unfinished business. How many other Noahs were out there for the organization to use as pawns, or to coldly slaughter if that was what some client wanted?
Time was when I wouldn’t even have considered that. I’ve come a long way since my days on that reality show that must never be named.
So I stayed with Charlie’s splinter group. When they asked me what name I wanted for my new identity—not the code name I would use on the group’s business, but the name I would use in daily life—I told them that I wanted to sleep on it. Heather Martison was dead, and I say good riddance to her—again—but who would live on in her place?
That evening, inspiration came to me, from that horrid reality show, of all places. True, I’d been coerced into joining DeMiller’s organization in the first place, but that was beside the point. The horrors I had seen, and been a part of, when I was with the organization… madness, all madness. And so, when my new employer asked me again what name I wanted to be called for the rest of my life, I said, “Call me ‘Izzy’.”
It’s funny how some things can burn themselves into your memory and stay with you forever, no matter how much you might like to forget some of the details. My adventure with Noah was… what, 19 years ago? Twenty? Yet I can remember it all as if it happened yesterday.
I’ve never tried to contact Noah, because that would risk blowing my cover and making him a target besides, but I’ve occasionally done Internet searches to see how life’s been treating him. Apparently, it’s been treating him pretty well. Near-death experiences have a way of making you want to do something with your life, and Noah got his act together. He’s an investment banker in Saskatoon, now, with a nice house, a pretty nerdette of a wife, and three kids. His oldest child starts middle school this fall. He seems basically happy.
I eventually went back to Vancouver, because my job is to help undermine the organization’s activities, especially by offering a way out for disillusioned agents like I had once been, and Vancouver is where the action is. I see Charlie once in a while, when the needs of our “resistance cell” call for it. He’s still a mole at organization HQ, too ordinary to be suspected. DeMiller is gone, retired to the Bahamas or something, but his successor’s no better. Different face, same mindset.
As for me, I’ve been living right under the organization’s nose, under the name of Isabel “Izzy” Martinez. My lifestyle is more modest than I had envisioned for myself at this stage of my life, but I have to be careful not to draw too much attention to myself. I’ve had a few boyfriends over the years, but I never let any of them move in with me because that would have put them in harm’s way if the organization ever found me out. The life of a freedom fighter is morally rewarding, but those rewards come at a price, just like anything else worth having.
“Freedom fighter”? I never really thought of it that way before, but I guess it fits. It has a nice ring to it. Who’d have thought that a stuck-up, self-centered teen queen would end up in such a selfless role? It just goes to show that there’s hope for everybody.