Lilly wandered aimlessly for a long time, not really knowing where to go, or what to do. She was way out of her league, and she knew it. Horace was the only person she could really trust, but she had no idea where he was. He hadn’t been back to the park in a long time, and she was scared to go back there.
Wandering gave her time to think, though. It allowed her to start clearing her mind, and the beginning of some ideas. She had some abilities that could help her, but she wasn’t completely sure how.
As she walked, she pulled out her iPod and after unwrapping the earbud cable, stuck them in her ears. Pressing the button to start the music brought nothing. She stopped and looked at it. The screen was blank. What a time for the battery to be dead, and she’d left the charger at her foster home.
On a whim, she headed in that direction, hoping her earlier attack had gotten them to leave. When she got near, she scanned the area, but saw nothing. Either they were hiding better, or they’d decided she wasn’t going back there. She hoped it was the second choice.
Carefully, she made her way to her foster home, walking in with no problem, the door normally being unlocked. Inside, she headed straight to her room, where she found her stuff right where she’d left it, which actually surprised her a little. Once she had her charger, along with some fresh clothes, she went through the house, wanting to see if anyone was home. The house was empty.
With a shrug of her shoulders, she decided to grab a quick shower. Although she’d much prefer a bath, she knew not to press her luck too much. The shower was dangerous enough. She plugged in the iPod before she did anything else. Once it was charging, she brushed her teeth, beginning what was normally a morning ritual.
It still took her half an hour, as she felt compelled to shave, something that had also been neglected for too long. When she finally emerged from the bathroom, carefully drying her long black hair, she felt human again. She pulled up short as she saw her foster mother sitting in the den, along with a man she’d never seen before. He wasn’t very young, but he definitely wasn’t old, either. His hair was dark brown and short cropped. There was a feeling of superiority coming from him.
Having everything she needed in her hands, she let the towel fall. Just before she ran, the man said, “Priscilla Pimlott, please wait.” She turned back to him, her eyes piercing.
“What?” she replied, making no effort to hide her distrust.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” he said.
“Yeah. I’ve heard that before,” she said. Actually, she wasn’t sure she had, but he didn’t know that. His brow furrowed at her words, though, as if he really meant it and didn’t like the possibility that she might have been.
“Read my mind if you don’t believe me,” he told her.
“You’re as nuts as those other guys,” she exclaimed, and was about to turn around and leave.
“We know you can read minds. You’re a telepath, and we want to understand what it is you have. That’s all we want, I promise,” he said.
“Then why have you been trying to shoot me?” she asked. “No, I don’t give a shit. You’re absolutely nuts if you honestly believe I can read your mind, and even if I could, why the hell would I help you, after everything you’ve done to me?” she asked.
“I’ll answer your first question, even though you said you didn’t care,” he said, and paused to watch her for a moment. Seeing he had her attention, he continued, “We were only using tranquilizers, thinking it might be easier. We were wrong,” he said. Seeing the look on her face, he put a hand out in a pleading manner. “Listen, if you come with us, you’ll have everything you could possibly want, while we study what it is you’re able to do. Electronic...things, TVs, food, new clothes, drugs, whatever you want, it’s yours. Just let us study you for a little while. Once we’re done, you’re free to go,” he promised. His offer of drugs infuriated her, but she held her anger back, barely.
“And if I don’t want to?” she asked. He seemed to pause, not immediately sure how to answer her question. That was all she needed.
“Yeah. That’s what I thought,” she said, this time turning to leave, regardless of what he said. There was something about him she didn’t trust, and she couldn’t figure out what it was.
Angry, frustrated, and more than a little scared, she turned away, heading for the door. She was pretty sure they were watching outside, but how could she get past them? That was all her mind was really focused on.
“You won’t get far. We can track you, and all of the weight of the United States intelligence community is working to get control of you,” he said. That was the wrong thing to say, at that moment. Not only did it completely catch her attention, it thoroughly pissed her off, even more than she already was. She spun around, her anger so evident he actually flinched.
“You’ll never control me, you bastard,” she said. As she made her way to the doorway, she spun back around one last time, again making him flinch.
“Leave me the hell alone, or I’ll show you what I can really do,” she threatened, then turned and left. She was fuming, ready to explode. With her mind so worked up, she let everything else relax, very deliberately tuning everything out. That anger also gave her an idea, though.
Lilly left the house, walking sedately as she brushed her long black hair. There were several cars with men in them watching her as she walked away. Their orders had been clear. If the source of the signal left the house without Dr. Pascoe, subdue. With her mind so focused on her seething anger, they weren’t getting any signal from her. As with her outward appearance, she looked like any other teenage girl to their monitors, although there were a few anomalies here and there, and they could tell the girl they watched was very angry.
“Glad I’m not the boy that pissed her off,” one of them said.
“Yeah, me too,” another agreed. A couple others laughed, but that was the last of the attention they devoted to her.
She continued walking, again not sure where to go. She had no one she could count on that had a place for her where she’d be safe. In fact, there was only one person she thought she could count on, and she hadn’t seen him in quite a while. She missed Horace, badly.
Thinking of him, she returned to the park. This time, she didn’t go to her camp, or the place she always saw him. Instead, she searched for one of the homeless people that often hung out there. It didn’t take her long to find them.
“Excuse me,” she said, as she approached a very dirty, nasty looking man. He smiled at her, and for the first time, she realized that Horace really didn’t fit in with these homeless people. His teeth were always clean, and they were perfectly straight. Although he was dirty, he didn’t have a stench, like these people did.
“What you want, girlie?” the man asked, his voice very raspy.
“Do you know where I can find Horace?” she asked.
“He’s gone,” the man said.
“I know, but I was hoping you’d know where I might find him,” she replied.
“He got an office near Northlake mall,” the man said. Horace had an office? Why would a homeless man have an office? She was totally confused.
“Thank you,” she said, and turned to leave.
Just as she was about to walk away, her wrist was grabbed very tightly by the man. “Those people whats after you. They ain’t gettin you,” he said. “We’s watching you, for Horace,” he told her.
“Thank you,” she repeated, not sure what else to say. He looked at her a moment, then nodded and finally released her.
As she was walking away, the homeless man called out, “Horace Wetherby.”
Once out of the park, she began walking toward the mall. It was a bit of a walk, but she’d walked further before. It did take her almost 45 minutes, though, as she had to cross Lavista Rd, which was very busy. Once she was in the right area, she realized she had no idea where the office might be. What she did see was something she rarely got to have, but loved.
Chick-Fil-A was the last place she’d gone with her mother, so aside from just loving the food, it held a special place in her heart. Unfortunately, she didn’t have any money, so she looked at the restaurant, longingly.
“Are you alright?” a voice asked her. The woman she saw when she turned was slightly heavy set, but not horribly so. She had long hair that, although streaked with grey, still showed the black it had once been. What really caught Lilly was how kind the woman looked, and concerned. She didn’t realize she looked that lost, or whatever the woman was seeing in her.
“Yes, ma’am,” she replied, not sure why she wasn’t being her normal self, to a complete stranger.
“Can I buy you lunch?” she asked. “I promise, I won’t ask you to go anywhere with me, or get in my car or anything like that. We’ll just go inside, get a sandwich, and enjoy each other’s company for lunch. When we’re done, we’ll go our separate ways. What do you say?” she asked.
Hungry, and still recalling the thoughts she’d only a moment ago been thinking, she found herself nodding. It sounded perfectly safe, even if a little weird.
“Now, what would you like to have? You can order anything you want, and don’t worry about how much it costs,” the woman told her, smiling.
“I’d like a chicken sandwich with waffle fries and a frosted lemonade,” she replied, then added, “Please.” The woman smiled at her, then repeated her order to the woman behind the counter, and ordered the same for herself. She fumbled in her purse for a bit, seemingly unable to find what she was looking for. Finally, she reached in a pocket, apparently remembering where her money was.
“May I ask your name?” the woman asked, once they were seated. Lilly was hesitant, not knowing who she was, or why she’d come to her. With her recent ordeal, she was even less trusting than she usually was, which meant she didn’t trust anyone, at all.
“I don’t want enough to be able to identify you. Just something to be able to address you as we talk,” she said. The woman’s kind manner, and genuine looking smile finally broke through her hesitance.
She almost gave her first name, but in an odd moment of something she wasn’t sure of, she said, “Lilly.”
“That’s a very pretty name. My name’s Lucie. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Lilly,” she said, and offered her hand. Lilly reached across and shook.
“I don’t know if you’re religious, but may I pray for the food?” Lucie asked. Lille inclined her head, and closed her eyes, without actually answering.
“Dear Lord, thank you for this food. Please let it nourish us, so we may do work to your glory. Please be with this young lady, Lilly, who I just met. Go with her wherever she goes, and keep her safe in your arms. In Jesus name, amen,” she said.
“Amen,” Lilly dutifully replied. She then dug into her food with a vengeance. She hadn’t eaten anything all day, and she was starving.
“Would you like another sandwich?” Lucie asked, with a friendly smile.
“No, ma’am. Thank you, though,” Lilly said. “Why did you ask me to eat with you?” Lilly asked.
“I was wondering when you’d ask me,” Lucie said, her smile widening, and showing in her eyes. “You seemed...I’m going to use the word lost, but not as if you didn’t know where you were,” she said, then seemed to think for a moment. Finally, she said, “You looked like you could use a friend, or at least someone to just give you a little companionship.”
“Thank you. I was hunting for someone, but don’t know where he is,” Lilly told her, letting her guard down, just a tiny bit.
“If it’s not more than you’re willing to share, who are you looking for?” Lucie asked.
“Horace Wetherby,” she replied. Lucie’s countenance seemed to darken for a moment, before she regained control of her expression.
“Thankfully, he closed up shop a few years ago, but I think he still has his office over off of Parklake Drive. At that second traffic light, cross the highway, and the building is on the left about a block down,” she said. Lilly was surprised that she’d met someone that knew Horace, but it bothered her that this woman obviously didn’t like him.
“Thank you,” Lilly said.
“Be careful with him. He’s a snake,” she said.
“Yes, ma’am,” Lilly replied, deciding not to ask any questions. It was clear this woman would tell a tale that was probably not very nice, given a chance. Lilly didn’t want to know bad things about Horace. He was the only solid thing she had left in her life. She was his princess, and he kept her sane.
“Thank you for getting me lunch,” Lilly said, as Lucie finished her sandwich.
“You are very welcome, dear,” she said, then with an affectionate expression, said, “You remind me of my granddaughter, who’s probably about your age.”
“I hope she has a good family,” Lilly said before she thought about it.
“She has a very good family,” Lucie said, her expression changing to one of concern. Lilly didn’t give her a chance to inquire into her slip. She grabbed her backpack and left, tossing her trash in the garbage as she did.
It didn’t take long for Lilly to find the building Lucie had directed her to. It was the only office building in the area, although there was a small building just before it, which had a hair styling shop and a couple of other things. It was obviously not the place, though.
As she approached the office building, she knew she had a problem. The door was locked, and the few people she saw going in were using some kind of ID cards to get in. However, she’d seen this kind of thing on TV, so she decided to try what they did in those situations. Waiting for the right moment, she walked as quietly as she could behind someone heading to the door. As they opened it and went through, she grabbed it just before it closed completely, then walked in.
“You don’t belong here,” the man said, having seen Lilly’s trick. That had definitely not gone like it did on TV. She wasn’t supposed to have been seen.
“I’m trying to come see my uncle, Horace Wetherby,” she said. The man’s eyes squinted a bit, as he took her in. After a moment, he said, “Come with me. If you leave my side, I’ll call security and have them deal with you.”
“Yes, sir,” she replied. This definitely hadn’t worked the way she’d thought it would.
He led her into the elevator and pressed the button for the fourth floor. When it opened, she only saw a nondescript hall, going left and right from the opening. He led her to the left, to where the hall did a sharp turn to the left. However, he stopped at the door in that corner, and pressed a button on the wall.
She saw a small gold colored placard, with black lettering. It read, Horace Wetherby, Attorney At Law, P.C. Another placard underneath read, Wetherby Venture Capital, LLC.
“How may I help you?” a female voice asked.
“I have a young lady with me that said she was trying to see her uncle, who she claims is Horace Wetherby,” the man said.
“Mr. Wetherby has no nieces. Please have security deal with her,” the voice said.
“Please, tell Horace that Lilly’s here,” she begged, before the man began leading her away. They were almost to the elevator when a voice familiar to Lilly said, “I’ll take care of her, Mr. Saxon.”
“Are you sure, Mr. Wetherby?” the man asked.
“I am, thank you,” the new man said. “Come, Lilly,” he then said, addressing her. Rather than risk her apparent success, she quickly made her way to the office, and the familiar sounding, but unfamiliar looking man.
“Mrs. Appling, would you please hold any calls, or visitors? I think I need some time with Miss Pimlott, alone,” he told the woman sitting behind a very fancy looking desk, once they made it into the office. Lilly hadn’t been in very many offices in her life, but she had been in a few, and had seen many portrayed on TV, and in movies. This office was unlike anything she’d ever seen. It was incredibly rich looking.
“Lilly, do you need anything to eat, or drink?” the man asked.
“No, sir,” she replied. With her reply, he chuckled a little, but she couldn’t figure out why. Of course, she still couldn’t figure out who he was, although he definitely sounded familiar. There was something about him she’d seen before, but again, she couldn’t figure it out.
“You don’t recognize me,” he stated, once they were in his office. Oddly, his office didn’t look as fancy as the outside office. It was much plainer, and more to her taste. It was still very clearly a nice office.
“No sir,” she replied. “I was looking for Horace, and I guess you’re Horace, but not the Horace I know,” she said.
“Actually, I’m Horace, Lilly. I’ve shaved and put on a suit...and taken a much needed shower,” he said.
Then she remembered, “I saw you in the hospital.”
“Yes, I was there, but couldn’t stay long. I had a meeting with some people from the State Department, and I couldn’t miss it,” he said, and paused, looking at her with a curious expression. This was an expression she had definitely seen before, and recognized. It really was Horace.
“Are you rich?” she asked, and he laughed.
“Yes, I’m rich, but the money means nothing to me. It’s not worth what I sacrificed to get it,” he said.
“You did bad things, didn’t you?” she asked, and he nodded.
“I’ve done a lot of really bad things, to get where I am. I’m hoping that maybe, if I can help you, maybe I can atone for some of my sins,” he said.
“You believe in God?” she asked.
He laughed a little, but his eyes never left her, and his gaze remained steady. “That’s something I’ve never really thought about, at least not seriously. However, whether there’s a God or not, I’m guilty of a large number of sins, as men count things,” he said.
“But if you don’t believe in God, why do you care about sins? Isn’t that only something that God cares about?” she asked.
“Lilly, you ask some very deep questions, which I honestly don’t have answers for. If there is a God, I hope he makes it possible for you to have a happy life. You deserve one,” he said.
“Horace, there are people trying to get me,” she said. His eyebrows rose with her pronouncement. “A man was at my foster home and wanted me to let him study me, or something. He said I could read minds, that I was a telepath, or something crazy like that,” she said.
“Can you?” Horace asked.
“No!” she replied instantly, appalled that he even asked.
“I had to ask. I keep a lot of secrets that I’d prefer remain secret,” he said.
“Like what?” she asked, and he smiled.
“I’m better than that,” he said, his smile remaining.
“Now that you know that I’m not truly homeless, I’ll tell you a little about who I am,” he said, and reclined back in his chair. “I’m a lawyer, specializing in an area of corporate law, which allowed me access to information about how different companies are organized and what their financial situation is. With that information, I figured out how to take over different companies, and then sell them off in pieces. I made a very large amount of money over several years doing that, but there was a cost. I made many people very poor, ruining them, in the process. At first, I didn’t really know what I was doing to them, or maybe I didn’t care, but in time, I began realizing what I had done to a lot of good people. It was impossible not to. At first, I believed they did it to themselves, but after a while, it started weighing on my conscience,” he said, and trailed off, remembering things he obviously didn’t want to.
“Anyway, it finally became too much for me, so I set my company up in trust. It continued to function, but it was unable to continue what I had begun, basically sitting idle in my absence. Now that I’m back, we’ve already acquired a couple of companies,” he said, but she cut him off.
“I thought you didn’t do that anymore?” she asked.
“I acquired a couple of companies, but I’m not dismantling them, like I did in the past. Now, I’m taking them over, so I can rehabilitate them, and maybe the people that work for them can begin to make them profitable, thus keeping their jobs,” he explained.
“There are a lot of details, which you’d care nothing about. In all honesty, this is probably what I should’ve done all along. Everyone benefits, with this new approach,” he said.
“Why did you decide to go back to it?” she asked.
He answered her with a single word, “You.”
“I don’t understand,” she said, after a long pause.
“You remember what I told you when we used to meet in the park?” he asked, and seeing her confusion, he explained, “You’re my princess. If I had been given a family, I’d have wanted a daughter just like you,” he said and just watched her for a little while. “Even if you can’t be my daughter, I can do things to your benefit, as if you were,” he finally said.
“Why can’t I be your daughter?” she asked, feeling like she was about to cry. She’d thought maybe that was what he had been doing, and she didn’t care if he was homeless, or not. Now that he wasn’t homeless, and also rich, there was no reason for him not to. Actually, there was a reason, and it was the same reason no one else would want to adopt her. She wasn’t worth adopting.
“Don’t be so sad. I can’t be your father because you need a mother, along with a father, and I’m not likely to ever get married, at this point,” he said.
“A father is better than nothing,” she told him, and he smiled at her. This time, it wasn’t with any humor, but rather it was like she would think a father would smile when explaining something to his child.
“There’s a very nice couple who want very much to adopt you, and I’m working to make that possible. That was the initial reason why I’ve come out of hiding, but it’s grown from there,” he said, and looked to be off in some other place for a moment, before returning his gaze to her. “It’s grown to something incredible, thanks to you,” he said.
“What about the people trying to get me?” she asked.
“I’m not sure about that,” he admitted. “I have a hard time believing that anyone would attempt to take a child for research, or that you could read minds,” he said.
“I can’t read minds, but he thinks I can,” she told him, “and he wants to study me. They’ve shot me twice now with darts, but I managed to get away both times.”
“Are you sure they’ve actually shot you with darts?” he asked, looking sceptical. Although his doubt did irritate her, she understood it. What she’d told him sounded like something from TV, or from a crazy person. But, she had proof.
She opened her backpack, pulled out one of the guns and tossed it to him. He juggled it for a moment, not having been prepared for her to toss a gun to him. She then set the dart she’d recovered from the first attempt on his desk.
“I have three more of those guns,” she informed him.
“How’d you get them?” he asked.
“Two guys tried to catch me, and some dogs protected me, and made them drop their guns. The other two I got when I shot two of them in their van while they were watching for me,” she said.
“You shot two guys?” he asked, astonished.
“They would’ve shot me if I didn’t and I didn’t feel like being shot again,” she replied. “It hurts,” she added, with a little whine in her voice.
“I…,” he began, but seemed unable to come up with any words.
“They said they can track me, or something, because of some kind of energy my mind gives off, or something. I think it’s what they think lets me read people’s minds, which I can’t do, but they think I can,” she said.
“They honestly think you can read minds?” he asked again. She only nodded this time, having already told him that. She didn’t tell him that she could reach into the minds of animals, though. “If they can track you, because of some kind of energy your mind gives off, how have you avoided them?” he asked.
“I stayed in the woods, and the homeless people warned me when they came, and dogs protected me, and then they were stupid and stepped into a bunch of snakes, and stuff,” she said, again avoiding telling him the truth.
“There’s something you’re leaving out, but I’m not going to force you on it, not that I could,” he said. She felt bad, not telling him everything, but she knew it’d sound too crazy, not that what she already told him wasn’t. She still wondered if she wasn’t actually crazy, and all that she’d gone through wasn’t some crazy delusion.
“Do you know who they are?” he asked.
“No, but the guy that was at my foster home said the intelligence people were all trying to get me, so he could study me,” she said.
“Mr. Wetherby, there are federal agents demanding entry. I can hold them for a few minutes, but not long,” Mrs. Appling said, through a small speaker on his desk. One of his eyebrows rose, and his eyes were riveted on Lilly.
“Thank you, Mrs. Appling,” he replied, his gaze not flinching.
After the longest second of her life, he got up. “Lilly, there’s an unmarked stairway behind the bookcase. It was a safety precaution I took a long time ago. It seems you’ll get to use it. Run,” he said, as he opened the bookcase for her.
“Where do I go?” she asked.
“I’d suggest going to the Bazemore’s,” he said, as he wrote something on a piece of paper. “Maybe you’ll be able to hide there for a little while. In the meantime, I’ll see what I can do to protect you. Now, run before they get in here,” he said, thrusting the piece of paper at her. She stuck it in her pocket and ran down the stairs as he closed the bookcase, cum door, behind her.