I closed my eyes and let the cold air blow against my skin as it pumped out of the AC at full blast. The radio was playing softly through the SUV speakers as we sat across the street from Sarah Dean’s house. She lived in a small neighbourhood, it was quiet. Only a few cars had passed us at a slow pace. It was the type of neighbourhood that left me feeling that Sarah Dean already knew she had people sitting outside of her house even though she wasn’t home.
She lived in a small two-story house. Her gardens were full of lush, bright flowers and shrubs. Her lawn was well kept. Everything looked like it was in order at first glance, but when you looked closer you could see the peeling paint on the window shutters, and the years of caked-on dirt against the white siding of her house.
“Peeping Polly is making a call.” Felix’s voice breaks the comfortable silence. I snap my eyes open and glance at the large bay window that sat in the front of Sarah’s next-door neighbour’s house.
The woman was standing in the window, her lower body covered by the curtains but from her chest up we could see her in plain view.
“Think she’s calling Sarah or the cops?” I asked as I surveyed her.
“She seems like the type that would call the cops.” I nodded my head in agreement.
“I mean we have been sitting out here for over an hour waiting for Sarah to come back. It does seem a little suspicious.” I shrugged my shoulders.
“Well, the good news is, if it was the cops we won’t have to deal with them.” Felix’s eyes were studying the side mirror as he watched a white crossover roll down the street before it pulled into the driveway of Sarah Dean’s house.
He turned the key and pulled it from the ignition as he escaped from the cool confinement of the SUV and into the blazing heat that had made its dreadful appearance this morning. I followed suit and stepped in line with him as we crossed the quiet street.
I pulled my hair back from my face, pinning it back in a tight bun as we walked up Sarah’s drive. Three kids exited the car ranging from late teens to early tween stages. The oldest had their nose in their phone, oblivious of our approach, but the smallest one that looked around eleven or twelve was quick to notice two strangers walking up to them. She turned and called back to her mother. Sarah Dean popped out of the car, purse over her shoulder, sunglasses covering her eyes.
“Sarah Dean?” I asked as we slowed our pace. Her attention moved from her daughter to us. I could see her eyebrows frown as she took in who was speaking to her.
“Yes?” She stepped in front of her daughter. At this point all three kids were watching us with peaked interest.
“Hey, Sarah.” Felix said. She snapped her attention to him, she studied him for a long moment before recognition clicked in her brain.
“Felix?” She smiled. “My goodness, it’s been ages. How are you?” She moved towards him and wrapped her arms around him in a tight motherly hug.
“I’m fine.” He cleared his throat as he stepped back. “This is my friend, Ella.” I waved my hand, in an awkward hi as she looked at me. “We were hoping to get your help.”
She sighed. “Well I’m not sure what kind of help that you’re looking for but I can try my best.” She turned back towards her vehicle and opened the trunk. “Come on in, just need to get these bags inside and then we can talk.” She loaded up a few bags in her arms, Felix right beside her taking the rest.
“I’ll get it.” I pulled the trunk door down before following Sarah and her kids towards the house.
Felix helped Sarah unload her bags in her kitchen before she ushered us into the living room, telling her kids to find something else to do that was away from us. They all rolled their eyes in response and happily helped themselves to the snacks left on the kitchen table before they disappeared to their own rooms.
“So,” She poured each of us a glass of water. “What can I help you two with?” She glanced up at me, before looking over at Felix.
“Are you aware of arrests of White Valley employees?” I asked. She looked at me in surprise. She put the pitcher of water back down on the coffee table before she put the glass to her lips. She took a long healthy drink before she cradled the glass between her two hands on her lap.
“Yes.” She finally said. “I’ve noticed it in the news.”
“I’m a private investigator. I’ve been investigating the White Valley employees in hopes to get more information on Dr. Isodene - Clyde, and anyone else that helped keep the institution operational.” I explained. “In my investigation your name came up and Felix was able to fill in the blanks.” I watched as her eyes grew wide, her face paled.
“There wasn’t anything bad that came up. You’re a saint, you did what you could in order to protect us.” Felix quickly added. “That’s why we came here. We were hoping you would be able to share any information that you can remember, or share anything that you may still have from all those years ago.”
“Well, I don’t have much.” She admitted. “I have a few boxes in the basement of my own journals, notes and files that I created while I worked there and even after. I tried to get the institution shut down all those years ago, but no one would listen to me. I was just a disgruntled employee, pissed that I got fired in their eyes.” She shook her head in disappointment. “I should have tried harder, kept pushing, maybe that would have made a difference. Gotten it shut down sooner than it did.”
“I don’t think that it would have made a difference.” I said sadly. “It took Clyde running out of funding from his investors to shut his doors. Any flack that came up over the years was quickly shoved under the rug, out of sight so no one would know what he was really doing.”
“But you’ve made a difference outside of the institution. You’ve helped a lot of kids. Fostering those like us, even adopting three of them to raise as your own.” I glanced over at the large family photo that hung over the fireplace mantel. “You protected as many of us as you could.” I looked back at her.
She gave me a soft smile before she set her glass down on the table. “Let me get those boxes. Hopefully you’ll be able to do more with it than I did.” Felix and I sat in the living room while Sarah escaped down the hallway.
We sat in silence for a few moments before her youngest child hesitantly walked into the room.
“Hello.” I said as she stood there staring at us. “I’m Ella, this is Felix.”
“My name’s Claudia.” She said after a small moment. “I heard you talking with my mom…”She looked down at her feet as she thought about what to say next. “Are you mutants too?”
I studied her, she was small for her age. Slender, awkward. She hunched her shoulders in as if she was trying to hide within herself, make herself smaller, as if trying not to touch anything. She reminded me so much of myself at her age.
“We are.” Felix answered. “I’m an inferno, so I can make fire with my hands and if I try really really hard I can put my whole body on fire.”
Claudia looked up at him with wide eyes, completely mesmerized with the idea of him being able to manipulate fire.
“That’s really cool. I’ve never met anyone that can do that. My two brothers, Jack, he’s a Watcher and Porter’s a Seeker.”
I thought about each of those abilities, and the many kids that were able to harness those powers at White Valley. A Watcher was someone that could catch glimpses of the past and future by touching objects that were connected to the person or thing they wanted answers for. Seekers were able to create a white orb in their hands to guide them to any person or object that they seek. They were in the top mutant powers that were the easiest to control. With those two powers, a Healer, like Ryker would also be on that list.
“I’ve met quite a few people that are like your brothers.” Felix nodded his head. “What about you? What’s your power?” He asked.
I watched as Claudia shifted uncomfortably, she was playing with her fingers before she fisted her hands and hid them beneath the sleeves of her hoodie.
“I’ve never met anyone like me.” She said quietly.
I watched her, her mannerisms so much like mine. She was so withdrawn, hesitant, and nervous. I felt my stomach twist as my mind screamed at me.
She’s like me. I thought, my body buzzed as if agreeing with my thought.
“Are you a Stitch?” I asked, leaning forward. Her eyes snapped to mine, she watched me, cautious, unsure if she should tell me.
“How did you know?” She frowned. “My mom told me to never tell.” She whispered, looking down at her feet.
“Look at me.” I reached out and touched the side of her arm. She flinched away from me, something I knew all to well. Her eyes looked at mine, wide with fear. “Look at me, really look.”
We stared at each other in silence. I could feel the buzz through my body grow stronger, her eyes went wide with shock, as if her own body was buzzing with recognition.
“You’re like me too.” She whispered.
I nodded, and held out my hand. “You can’t hurt me.” I said. “Stitches can’t use their powers on other Stitches.”
“Really?” She looked at me in surprise.
“Really.” I smiled as she reached out to touch my hand. Her fingers were warm, clammy with sweat.
“This is all -” Sarah moved into the room, two dusty file boxes stacked in her arms. “Claud, what are you doing?” She stared at our touching hands in shock.
“It’s okay,” I reassured her. “We are the same. We can’t hurt each other.”
Sarah stared at me in shock, she set the boxes down. “Oh, wow.” She let out a deep breath. “Do-Do you mind if I give you my number and we can talk some more later? I don’t know much about the Stitch power, and it would be really great if Claudia could learn from someone just like her. I’m not really that helpful.”
I stared back at Claudia, a look of hope filled her eyes as she thought about learning more about herself and her power of control with another person like her. I smiled and looked back at Sarah.
“Sure, call or text me anytime. I think the both of us could learn a lot from each other.”
After a little while longer, Sarah walked us out to our vehicle. Felix put the two boxes in the trunk and came around to the side of the car.
“Thanks for all your help, Sarah.” Felix gave her a small hug.
“Of course, anything I can do.” She shook her head. “If you have any questions please call me.”
“We will.” I smiled. “And please don’t hesitate to call me if you have questions or need help with Claudia. Being a Stitch is difficult, doing it alone is even harder.”
“Oh, I will be in touch.” She stepped back from our car as we moved towards the front doors. “Safe travels back home.” She crossed her arms over her chest as Felix and I piled into the car.
“Talk to you later, Sarah. Thanks again.” Felix said through his open window before he started the SUV and pulled away from the curb.