Mike climbed up the stairs with Jessie in his arms. He could tell she was nervous because her head was buried in his neck and her hands were clasped tightly onto a piece of his shirt. He figured she was probably still worked up about seeing the photos too.
When they got to her new bedroom, Mike knocked twice on the door before slowly opening it.
Charlie was making the bed. The room had a full size bed in it from when Lauren was there, but Mike smiled when he saw the pink and purple bedding.
"Hey, Mikey," Charlie said when she saw him.
"Mikey, Mike!" Mike turned around to see Johnny sitting in an over-sized beanbag chair in the corner. He was organizing books and some toys onto one of the shelves in the room.
Mike felt Jessie's grip get a bit stronger. "Shhh," he whispered down to her, "you're ok. Do you want to see your new room?" Jessie kept her head down. "Come on," Mike said bouncing her a little, "we have to set up the surprise for Paige!"
Jessie opened her eyes and looked up at him, still keeping her body small in his arms. "A surprise?!" Johnny said, trying to be excited. "Yep," Mike said, "when Paige gets home she's going to be so happy to see your room all finished... and then we're going to bake her favorite cookies." He whispered the last part.
Jessie smiled at Mike and started to look around the room. She saw some shopping bags and liked the bright colors on the walls. Mike noticed that she seemed to be most interested in Johnny, or rather, what Johnny had in his hands.
"Do you want to go read a book?" Mike whispered to her. Jessie nodded and let Mike put her down. She cautiously walked over to Johnny, who was holding three of the books. They were picture books, but they had a decent amount of text as well.
Johnny scooted over on the beanbag and tapped the space next to him. Jessie gently sat on the chair and took one of the books that Johnny held out in front of her.
"Do you wanna read it together?" Johnny asked her. Jessie looked over at him for a few seconds before nodding her head.
Johnny took a risk and slid a little bit closer to her; he put one hand on the book and they opened it together. "So do you want me to read, or do you wanna read?" he asked her. Jessie pointed to herself. "Ok then," Johnny said leaning back, "take it away smarty..."
Jessie turned to the first page of the book. She looked over the spread, reading it to herself, and then went to turn the page. "Whoa, whoa, whoa," Johnny said stopping her, "you said you were gonna read it to me!"
Jessie smiled at him.
"You're not gonna read it?" Johnny said with a pout on his face.
Jessie softly laughed to herself. Johnny crossed his arms in front of his chest, "Are you laughing at me because I can't read?!"
He thought he heard the girl whisper something.
"What did you say about me?" Johnny said, trying to sound tough. She smiled at him and went back to reading.
"Oh nuh uh... no way, girlfriend. What did you say?" Johnny was laughing now too. He reached out and started tickling her sides and her belly, "what did you say?"
Jessie was squirming with a huge smile. She didn't let go of the book and tucked her elbows in, trying to keep his hands away from her. Her laughter was getting louder until she finally caved. "You can read!" she said laughing.
Mike and Charlie had stopped what they were doing and were sitting next to each other on the bed to watch the scene unfold.
"Ok ok, you caught me," Johnny said throwing his hands up, "how about we take turns reading?" Jessie contemplated the idea for a moment before nodding. "Ok," she said to him.
Johnny started to read the first page out loud and Jessie rested her head up against his shoulder. Johnny couldn't wipe the grin off his face if he tried.
Charlie gestured to Mike for them to head back over to the closet, where she handed him a small stack of shirts and told him to start hanging them up. "Briggs is on the phone with downtown trying to get IDs on the men she recognized," Charlie said to him quietly, "and Jakes went with Paige as backup."
Mike wasn't paying attention to Charlie because he heard a little voice behind him. He turned around to see Jessie reading to Johnny. Her voice was barely audible, but he could tell that her confidence in the house had soared since she first got there earlier that day. He couldn't help to think that his success with Jessie might score him some points with Paige too.
"Do you know where they were going?" Mike asked Charlie.
"Interrogating somebody who owned a massage shop; they think one of the girls may have worked there for a short time."
Mike nodded, "Do you think any of the girls would have been brought to that address?" He gestured with his head towards Jessie.
Charlie shrugged her shoulders. "We can ask her... maybe draw a picture of a pink backpack and see how she reacts...? I don't want to scare her again."
Mike agreed. "We'll wait for Paige," he said.
Johnny was clapping his hands; they had finished the book. "Yo, Mikey, jokes aside, I think she reads better than me," Johnny said playfully.
Mike looked down at the girl and got her attention, "Do you want to put more medicine on your back before you read another?" He spoke with a calm, steady voice.
Jessie nodded, but kept her head up against the side of Johnny's shoulder.
"Ok, I'll be right back." Mike quickly made his way down the two flights of stairs for the burn cream and the other supplies. When he got back to the room, he saw that Jessie had arranged the pile of books by height on the shelf. Johnny was still enjoying the comfort of the beanbag and shook his head with a smirk on his face while he watched the girl organize.
When Jessie saw that Mike had come back she went over to him and wrapped her arms around his leg. He walked over to the bed and she tailed him.
Mike sat down on the edge of the bed. "Do you want Johnny to hold you or do you want to sit by yourself?" he asked her.
"Johnny," she whispered up to him. Mike put the supplies on the bed and squatted down in front of her to help her remove the t-shirt.
Johnny walked over to them. Jessie scrunched her eyes tight when Mike picked her up and handed her to Johnny. "Oooh that's a good hug," Johnny said with a laugh when he felt her little grip tighten around his neck. He sat facing Mike on the bed and tried to see for himself what those shitheads had done to this kid.
When she heard Mike tear open the gauze pad pack, her whole body tensed. "Hey shhh," he said soothingly, "no stinging this time." He put the burn cream on one of the marks to show her that it wasn't going to hurt. She relaxed almost instantly, just like last time.
Even Johnny could feel the drop in her stress level. He ran his hand across the back of her head a few times.
Mike finished applying the cream and covering the spots with the new gauze and tape. Charlie moved herself so that she was sitting with them on the bed too. Mike pointed out the bruising to her and she took a breath.
Charlie reached out and gingerly pressed two of her fingers up against one of the bruises near her ribs, "Does this hurt, sweetheart?" Jessie didn't respond, but Mike assumed that her grip on Johnny tightened because Johnny was nodding his head as if to say "yes" for her.
"Does it hurt when you breathe?" Charlie asked her. Jessie shook her head into Johnny's shoulder. "No? Ok," Charlie said to her, "but let us know if your chest or tummy hurts."
Charlie took Mike's hand and showed him that the four small bruises by her ribcage matched the spacing of a person's handprint. It appeared as if someone had pressed their fingertips into her when they grabbed her side.
Mike gently pulled her away from Johnny a bit and saw one small bruise on the front of her ribcage. "That would be the guy's thumb," Charlie said to him.
Johnny gently wrapped his hand around Jessie's side and sure enough, his five fingers lined up almost perfectly with the five bruises.
Johnny leaned back to make eye contact with the girl, "So I have a really important question for you..." he said with a serious tone. She looked up at him. "What kind of cookies do you want to go make?"