STAR FINDER

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Chapter 37: Dig Deeper

Lilly closed her eyes and anticipated Skye’s presence. Her toes curled and uncurled as the vibes and tingles that foreshadowed their linking began to build.

She welcomed Skye, the sole surviving fragment of her old life with open arms, or in this case, mind. In fact, never having had grandparents she had often secretly considered Skye extended family, the white-haired granny knitting in a rocking chair member. Excited and ready for a reunion Lilly relaxed back into the passenger seat as Skye plugged in.

It was clear from the beginning that this method of communication was tricky. Her headband would have been better, but all she had was the moonstone and it was strained to its limit. The link was choppy. Good for one session, but her bond to Skye held fast. They didn’t converse in the traditional sense but exchanged information at the cellular level. This expansion freed her mind to see beyond normal limits. You might say, Skye lit the match and then it was all up to Lilly to keep the fire burning bright.

The electrical network between clusters of neurons in the weighty cerebrum region of Lilly’s brain sparkled at the cellular level. She soared.

Cannons firing on a small fort, a war with men riding horses, maps yellowed with age, construction, and men digging. It unfolded slowly as if time-lapse photography. A slumped bearded man caught Lilly’s interest.

She sorted and searched. Let her finder’s mind reveal the common denominator hidden in the information. Apparel was a huge clue to the time period. Blue and gray were the colors in the action shots of battles. Concentrating, she memorized the details on a map she deemed important, but as usual not knowing why. Cosmo’s cartography lessons paid off. Lilly understood the symbols and identified the topography as that of an earlier version of Washington, D. C., specifically, the area surrounding Zilla’s apartment building.

“Shots Fired on Fort Sumter” was the banner headline on an April 12, 1861, newspaper. On that same page was a picture of the capitol dome being raised. Lilly quickly identified the dying man as President Abraham Lincoln and the time period as the mid eighteen hundreds. Any ten-year-old could have figured that out. She thought of Tem and recanted—well, maybe not every ten-year-old.

Why was her electrified mind exploring reruns of history?

Not understanding the significance, but trusting her own ability, she continued to concentrate. During other recoveries of lost items, her examinations began with the client’s question. ‘I lost a gold necklace’ and so on. She analyzed the provided information.

But this finding was different. She was starting in the middle. Why? Without a question, these snapshots meant nothing. And yet during their first reconnection, she felt Skye’s influence. Had she nudged Lilly’s powerful brain in a specific direction? Skye had never interfered before. There had to be a purpose.

Then it came together, a light bulb moment for Lilly. It’s what I have lost. She thought of her father. Even with Skye’s help, there were no miracles. What else had she lost and longed to reclaim?

Freedom. That is what she had lost. Nautilus, Zilla, and Tem, they all wanted to imprison and use her for their purposes. Would she allow them to determine the course of her life? No!

Now that she knew it was her emancipation that she needed to seek, her unconventional mind hunted for substance and meaning where none had existed.

It was exhilarating to shift back into finding. Almost like her old self. Regaining a piece of her past life gave her a sense of power. No one else could see, touch, or steal her gift. It was hers alone, to do with as she decided and she was going to use it, but not as Zilla “prophesied.”

As she had predicted the question was in the answer. It was so simple. Tunnels! In her mind’s eye, she saw long forgotten tunnels. D. C. was honeycombed with them and spurs ran beneath Zilla’s apartment building. During the Civil War, tunnels were dug as a means of escape if the Confederates attacked Washington. The Underground Railroad had used the same tunnels. Lilly was surprised to also see that more tunnels constructed by suspected German spies during WWII era were intact.

Now all she had to do was discover the entrance and once again these tunnels would serve their fundamental purpose. Escape. Hers. She’d disappear and never worry about Nautilus, Zilla, or Tem again.

Clear-headed and reunited with her virtual powerhouse companion, an unexpected cheerfulness spread over Lilly. She pictured herself in front of the full-length mirror in her old bedroom, her dad playing one of his CDs as she gyrated to “Hit Me with Your Best Shot.”

Rough hands tore her away. They lifted her up and dropped her. The potent smell of grease announced she was back in Zilla’s kitchen.

Lilly squirmed. “No. Not now!” Her connection to Skye was severed. Her eyes adjusted.

Zilla’s plumpish form blocked the teapot-shaped wall clock. How long had she been down there?

“Easy, Tem.”

“Get out of my way, Daj.” He rolled Lilly across the floor with a booted foot and slammed the trapdoor.

“She’s confused, dehydrated. Dear are you all right?” Zilla circled, wringing her hands. “Forgive me. She’s soaked through. JB, water!”

Lilly rubbed her throat.

“Five hours was too long.” Zilla smacked Tem’s arm. “She was weak to begin with.”

“Don’t blame me. I had to make sure that guy Leo and his men didn’t come back.”

“Yes. But Bavol that lazy good for nothin’ stopped off for a beer before he phoned that the coast was clear.”

“Daj, he’s family. See, I told you the brainiac is a troublemaker. We’re fighting. She’s to blame.”

“No, no. Please, Tem.” Zilla’s stroked his arm.

“Then if you want to keep her, we do this my way.”

Keep her? “What am I, a puppy?”

“Yes,” countered Tem. “One that better learn obedience.”

“Hang on, kid.” Bobby held a glass to Lilly’s lips and she sipped.

“Back off, stumpy!” Tem went down on one knee next to Lilly. “Tomorrow you start work and we’ll see how it goes.

“Don’t challenge him,” Bobby mouthed.

“Get her up and out of my sight,” said Tem.

“Can you stand? Let me help you.” Bobby’s forearms slipped under Lilly’s armpits and lifted her onto her feet.

As she stood, something fell off her shoulder and onto the floor. “Oh.”

“What’s that?” growled Tem.

“A mouse dropped that on my shoulder. He dragged it over from the box next to mine.”

“Bobby throw it in the garbage. It could carry disease.” Zilla’s eyes shifted to Tem and back to the floor. They shared a look. “Get rid of it.”

“I’ll get it. Lean on the table.” Bobby left Lilly, snatched it up, and headed for the garbage.

“What is it?” asked Lilly.

“A chicken bone, maybe.” Bobby held it between his fingers.

“Give it to me.”

He dumped it into her open hand. A second passed.

“Oh my god! It’s the distal, middle, and proximal phalanges.” Lilly dropped the object, scrubbed both hands hard and fast on her thighs, and backed up, falling into a chair.

“English, brainiac,” demanded Tem.

“It’s…it’s a pinky finger.” Her eyes blazed and landed on Tem. “Murderer!”

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