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Chapter 20

“Elyse, what do you have in mind?” Jake asked.

“I’m not sure, but we need to isolate the signal from the birds. If we can do that, maybe we can filter the birds out,” she suggested.

“You know, there’s been a small contact nearby for the last 15 minutes,” Steve said.

“Could it be her?” Elyse asked, her face hopeful.

“I think it’s that cardinal,” he said, and started pointing, “Right there.”

There was suddenly a thud on the top of the van, as the bird flew away. A moment later, there were a few more thuds, along with a husked out pine cone falling through the open window.

“Damn squirrels,” Jake exclaimed.

As another pine cone fell into the van, a squirrel unexpectedly jumped in with it. Chaos broke out, the three technicians trying to find the small rodent, and remove it. They were completely unaware that the monitor had finally picked up a solid signal.

Their mistake became evident when all three of them found themselves with tranquilizer darts sticking in them, not to mention the pain of having been shot by the things. They still couldn’t see her, though.

“We’ve gotta go!” Steve exclaimed.

“Yeah, and we’ll get killed when we pass out on the road,” Jake replied.

“Lock the doors and roll the windows up,” Elyse commanded.

Fifteen minutes later, the three of them were out cold, sprawled on the floor in the back of the van. The squirrel, long forgotten, climbed up the passenger seat, and once there, put its foot on the button for the door locks.

Lilly climbed in, letting the squirrel return to its world, and relocking the doors behind her. She smiled at the sleeping adults. Moving to the computer, she started searching through the files. Thankfully, they hadn’t locked the computer before they passed out.

Most of what she found made no sense to her. It was very technical junk. However, it did look interesting, since it was about the monitors they used to track her. Beyond that, she had a rough time.

Finally, she hit the jackpot, finding a document with an address. The document itself had stuff about the need to obtain a capable subject for closer study. Most of the writing was way over her head, but she knew what the word telepathy was, and what a subject was, in this case. That subject was her, and they believed she had telepathy. What she had was probably telepathy, she supposed, but not what they envisioned it to be.

Then she found a small piece of paper, which looked like an old-timie fax slip. She’d seen one once, when she was really little, but she didn’t think they still used that junk.












Stapled to the sheet were several pieces of paper, containing everything there was to know about her, and her mother. The amount of details in it were scary, including the fact that she’d been staying in the park. How the hell did they know so much about her, and her mother?

That settled it for her. She’d wanted to believe that they didn’t want to hurt her, and although the slip of paper said that as well, they didn’t have any problem hurting anyone else. Once they had her, they could easily change their minds, and think nothing of it. No, she was not going to let them have her, if there was any way for her to avoid it.

Folding up the piece of paper, she stuck one of their thumb drives in the computer, ready to copy the files that seemed to be about her. Just to be certain, though, she copied all of the files in the folders that had anything about her. There were probably files and folders she hadn’t seen, but what she had was a decent start...she hoped.

After locking the computer, she looked at the unconscious adults, and stuck her tongue out, “That sure was stupid. Anyone can get into your computer, if you don’t lock it.”

Looking at the key ring, she saw they had an extra key, so she took it. Done with her task, she left the van, locking it back up.

Just after she left the van, she came to an abrupt stop, and began smiling. Turning on her heal, she went back to the van and grabbed one of their monitors. They had plenty of them, so she figured they wouldn’t miss one.

When she finally left the van for good, she made her way back to the Northlake Mall area, and went straight to Best Buy. She needed a computer.

Almost an hour later, computer in hand, she sat in the food court of Northlake Mall, and opened the first folder. The files were filled with technical junk, which she had no hope of understanding. But there was one file, almost the last in that particular folder that caught her eye.

The file was titled, TelepathyAssumptionProjectNotes.docx. Although most of it was full of scientific mumbo jumbo, there were certain sections describing the testing of potential telepaths, which absolutely convinced her that she couldn’t let them have her. She wasn’t certain they would hurt her, but they had every intention of hurting others to try and make telepaths. Of course, they might hurt her if they felt it was needed. She was almost certain, they’d never let her be free again, if they got her.

Closing her laptop, she sat back, putting her face in her hands, trying to keep the tears from coming. Why her? Why did her life suck, so much?

As she slipped the laptop into her backpack, a male voice said, “Hey.”

She almost jumped out of her skin. Turning around, expecting to see one of the goons, she was surprised to see an older teenage boy. He was dressed in mostly black, with a couple of odd looking piercings, and a few small tattoos visible.

“Hello?” she almost asked.

“What’s your name?” he asked her, sitting down.

“Nunya,” she replied.

“Interesting name,” he said, with a smirk. “So, Nunya, whaddaya like to do?” he asked.

“Is this for real?” she asked the sky. Visions of Layton Kirk surfaced, unbidden. She couldn’t force them away, either.

“Yes, it’s for real. I’m interested in you,” he said.

“,” she said.

“Who’s your friend, Stuart?” a woman said, walking up with a food filled tray. She looked familiar, but Lilly couldn’t place her.

“Mom,”he said, and Lilly couldn’t help but laugh. That was the end of any visions of Layton. This situation had suddenly become entertaining.

“My name’s Stacy,” Lilly said.

“Did Stuart join you, or are you joining us?” the woman asked.

“Actually, I was about to leave,” Lilly replied. As Lilly looked back to Stuart, rather amused by what was happening to the boy, she realized the piercings weren’t real. She wondered about the tattoos, but didn’t know enough about them to be sure.

“Please, don’t leave on our account,” the woman said. “If you’re a friend of Stuart’s, I’d be happy to buy you lunch,” she then said.

“I just met Stu, and I already had lunch, but thank you,” Lilly said. In a moment of sadistic humor, Lilly said, “But I’d be happy to sit with you, if you’re alright with that.”

“We’d love to have you, Stacy,” the woman said, and sat down.

“Would you mind if we say the blessing for the meal?” the woman asked. Rather than reply, Lilly put her hands together, closed her eyes and bowed her head.

“I’m a little surprised you know what a prayer is,” the woman stated, once the blessing was done.

“One of my foster homes taught me about God, and praying and all that stuff,” Lilly said, and then realized what she’d said. Although there were a lot of kids in foster care, she couldn’t give up anything that could have any chance of leading them to her.

“So, you’re in a foster home?” the woman asked.

“I’m sorry, but who are you,” Lilly asked, and the woman smiled at her.

“I’m Meredith Rafferty, and you’ve already met Stuart,” she said, extending her hand. Lilly took it, after a very short pause. Now she knew why this woman seemed so familiar.

“Are you okay?” the woman asked.

“Yes, ma’am,” Lilly replied.

“Sorry if I made you uncomfortable asking if you’re a foster kid, but I used to be a social worker,” she said. “The stress got to be too much,” she added.

“We’re hard kids,” Lilly said.

“Some are harder than others, but all of them need help, and especially, love,” Mrs. Rafferty told her. That was an odd statement, considering what this woman had tried to do to her. Although her anger wanted to rise up, there was something holding it down.

“Why don’t you become a foster parent, then?” Lilly asked, curious how she’d respond.

“We did. That’s how we found Stuart,” she replied.

“Mom, you don’t have to tell my life story,” Stuart said. Lilly knew he was ready to move to other topics, but she was hooked, now.

“Actually, this is very interesting,” Lilly said, unable to hide her humor.

“You seem familiar,” Mrs. Rafferty said.

“You probably met me while you were a caseworker,” Lilly replied.

Meredith Rafferty looked intently at Lilly. She knew Mrs. Rafferty was about to figure out who she really was, and she didn’t like that.

“Gotta go,” Lilly said, as she stood up.

“Priscilla?” Mrs. Rafferty asked.

“I told you. My name’s Stacy,” Lilly said.

“Did you know you were the reason I quit social work?” Mrs. Rafferty said, as Lilly turned to walk away. She stopped dead, though, looking at a spot on the floor directly in front of her.

“You quit because of me?” Lilly asked, unmoving, her anger boiling up.

“It’s not like that, Priscilla,” she replied, tears threatening to run out of her eyes.

“Then tell me what it’s like, for you. I’d really like to know, because I know what it was like for me, and has been ever since I became a ‘drug using ward of the state’,” Lilly said, providing air quotes to aid her.

“You aren’t an American citizen, and we didn’t want to cause you any more stress after your mother died, so we hid your past,” she told Lilly.

“Is that why you kept sending me to rehab, and why you insisted that I was using drugs, and selling and all that other shit you accused me of?” Lilly replied, her voice rising.

“I honestly thought you were, and I wanted to help you. I’m still not sure about those things, because we had so many reports of it,” she said.

“What!” Lilly exclaimed.

“We had dozens of reports of you being a drug runner, along with using, and...other things,” she said. “I thought if I put pressure on you, maybe we could get you out of it, but we never could get through to you,” Mrs. Rafferty said.

“Maybe you should’ve believed me, instead, or maybe done a drug test like I asked, multiple times. Did you ever think of that?” Lilly asked.

“I always wanted to believe you, and you always seemed so determined to convince us, which made it seem like...maybe it wasn’t true...but the harder someone denies something...typically they’re guilty when they deny it that hard,” she said.

“God! You’re so stupid!” she exclaimed. Lilly closed her eyes, and breathed deeply, then, “I deny it because I’ve never done it, but because I denied it so passionately, you believed I was doing it. That’s just stupid!”

“Maybe,” Mrs. Rafferty said.

“Maybe?” Lilly asked, her face one of astonishment. “You cost me a chance to have a family...a real family, who loved me,” she said, after another pause. Tears were in her eyes, now, and she had to work to keep them from ruining her makeup.

After another round of deep breathing, Lilly opened her eyes, “I watched my Momma die from heroin, strung out, sleeping with different men, and so screwed up she abandoned me long before she died. Why would I ever touch any of that...stuff!” she exclaimed, then turned and started walking away.

“Lilly, I’m really sorry,” she said.

“Go to hell!” Lilly replied, over her shoulder.

“Lilly?” a voice asked.

She stopped, but didn’t look back at him, instead staring at a spot on the floor. “What?” she asked, with not a small amount of heat.

“I didn’t know anything about all of that, but I’m sorry,” he said, and she knew he was scared of her reply. She could almost feel him trembling. They’d only just met, yet he was worried about her feelings. She had no idea what to think about that. It was weird...and new.

Rather than be mean, which she was normally more than willing to do, she said, “Thank you,” and resumed walking.

“Listen, is there anyway I might one day get to see you again?” he asked, working to keep up with her. Although she was small, she was fast.

“You just saw me for the first time in your life, odds are, for the last, your mother thoroughly pissed me off, and you’re still trying to seduce me? Why’re you bothering me?” she asked, stopping dead, and turning to face him. He flinched from the look she gave him, not to mention what she’d said. After a moment, she began walking again.

“I’m sorry,” he said, and abruptly stopped, letting her go.

Realizing she might’ve gone a little too far, she also stopped. “No, I’m sorry. None of this is your fault, and I’m beating you up for it. It’s just my life sucks so bad, right now,” she said, sighing, fighting the tears again.

“Listen, I have no idea where I’m going to be tomorrow, or even the day after that, so I don’t know if we’ll ever see each other again,” she said.

“Would you call me if you’re ever interested in maybe getting an ice cream, or something,” he said, his face scrunching up, knowing his attempt was pathetic.

She smiled at him, in spite of her anger. His feeble attempt to ‘woo’ her actually touched her.

“I’ll see what I can do,” she said, lifted onto her tiptoes and kissed him on the cheek.

“Wait!” he said, as she started to walk away again, “You don’t have my number.”

“Do you have a pen?” she asked.

“No,” he replied.

Seeing the letdown on his face, she took her pack from her shoulders, and opened it up. Quickly pulling out a pen, she handed it to him, along with her left arm.

It took him a moment to realize what her intention was. When he did, he almost grabbed her too hard, and began writing.

“Now I’ll have your number forever,” she said, turned and then added, “Or at least until the ink washes off.”

“Where’re you going,” he asked.

“To have some fun, I think,” she replied, and the smile on her face scared him. If he was watching a movie, he would be certain someone was about to die.

“Next time I see you, don’t have those fake piercings or tattoos,” she said, and walked away.

Stuart watched her walk away, and laughed. There was something about that girl that drew him to her, but there was also something about her that scared him, the smile only a symptom of whatever that was. He already knew if he ever managed to get to know her, he’d have to be very careful, or he’d face her anger, which she’d already given him a small hint of.

“Stu, be careful of her,” his mother said, when he returned. She thought the nickname Priscilla had given him was funny, and knew she’d been playing with him.

“Of what?” he asked.

“She’s been reported to be involved with...,” she began.

“Yeah, I know what she’s been reported to be involved with,” he said. After a pause, he said, “I don’t believe any of it.”

“I don’t think I do, either,” she said. After a sigh, she continued, “But there were so many reports.”

“Mom, you’ve been around druggies. Do druggies talk, or act, like that?” he asked. “I’m just a kid and I can tell she’s smart, and her mind is sharp,” he said.

His mother stared at him for a little while, before returning to her unfinished lunch.

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