Lilly left the mall as fast as she could make her legs move. She knew Stuart would try and catch her, and she didn’t want to talk to him anymore. She needed space, and time, to think.
“Gotcha,” she heard, as strong hands grabbed her, and something was put over her head, blocking out all light. She’d let the birds go, and hadn’t realized it until that moment. Stuart had completely distracted her, yet another reason she needed to avoid him.
“Bastards!” she screamed. “Let me go!” she yelled, trying to fight her captors.
Her mind called out, as she felt the pinch of a needle going into her arm. She jerked hard, not sure if it made a difference or not. As she resumed her call, she put real thought into the call, knowing she needed dogs. She still wanted to hide what she could do, and they definitely hadn’t figured it out, yet.
At first, there was no sign that her call had been heard, and she hadn’t tried to touch the animal’s minds, just call out to them. Then, she started hearing it, as the men were carrying her, somewhere. There was a growing roar that started becoming recognizable as lots and lots of barks and yelps. It wasn’t long before the roar of the dogs was all around them.
“Get away, mutt,” one of the men said.
“What the hell!” another voice said.
There were yelps, probably from the men kicking dogs, then she heard grunts from the men, and curses, and lots of growling. The one holding her loosened his grip, and she slipped to the ground and out of his reach, yanking the hood off her head as she did.
“Get her,” one of the men yelled, but she was running through an oval opening in the sea of dogs, an opening that closed as soon as she passed. Her pursuers didn’t have that opening, and the dogs were actively trying to stop them. Cars were also being stopped by the mass of dogs swarming the area.
Stuart came out just in time to see Lilly running away from the two men, but he hadn’t seen them grab her. What he did witness was the space that opened around her as she ran. He didn’t know what to make of it. What he did know, though, was that for some reason he couldn’t explain, he was drawn to her like no girl he’d ever seen before.
However, as he watched her, there was something about her walk that looked...off. Just as he was worrying about how she was ambling along, his phone rang. “Hello,” he answered, not even looking at the number.
“Help me,” that voice pleaded, the voice he equated with angels.
“I can’t get through all the dogs,” he said.
“They won’t bother you,” she assured him, but looking at the massive tide of dogs, he couldn’t see anyway he could avoid them, and some looked mean. But he saw her stumble, and knew something was bad wrong, so he started walking, first slowly, but as the sea of dogs parted for him, he picked up the pace. When he saw her fall, he started running, yet not a single dog interfered with him. Just like he’d seen with her, a small ellipse of space formed around him.
If he didn’t know better, he’d think the dogs were acting with deliberate thought, but that wasn’t possible. When he got to her, she was struggling to lift herself on her elbows.
“Get...way,” she mumbled. Her phone was on the ground, slipped from her hand.
He grabbed the phone, and shoved it in her pack. Then he took the pack from her shoulders and slung it on his, and lifter her up in his arms, like a baby. She weighed nothing, her pack seeming heavier than her.
“What’s wrong?” he asked.
“Drugged,” she said, but she was struggling, her words slurred. “Get...away,” she said and he realized she was telling him to get away. Then he remembered seeing the two men, and knew what she was telling him. Thankfully, this was the side of the mall he’d parked on. Looking around for only a moment, he found his car and walked as fast as he could, carrying his load.
Carefully, he placed her in the passenger seat, buckling her seatbelt, and then got in the driver side. As he was pulling away, the sea of dogs was beginning to disperse
“That was weird,” he said to himself, but aloud.
Taking a quick glance at her, she was completely out. Knowing she’d fuss at him for doing it, he called his mother as he was driving.
“Mom,” Stuart began, cutting his Mom off, as she answered, “some men did something to Lilly. She’s knocked out, or something. She said she was drugged,” he told her.
“Does she seem alright?” she asked.
“Yeah, I think so,” he replied.
“Is she breathing fine?” she asked.
“Yeah,” he said.
“You probably need to get her to the hospital, but I don’t think you need to rush,” she said.
“Mom, the CIA is trying to get her, and some doctor wants to do experiments on her,” he said.
“Did she tell you that?” she asked.
“Yeah, but I also saw it in some files on a computer she got from them,” he said. There was a long pause. Before she could say anything else, he said, “I saw two men try and grab her. They were dressed in those black outfits, with all of the equipment on, and stuff. I think one of them injected her with something, but she got away, somehow. That’s when I went outside and saw her running, and she fell, and I went and got her,” he said.
“How did you get to her before these men did?” she asked.
“There were lots of dogs and they were surrounding the two men, and they couldn’t get through them, but the dogs didn’t bother me, or her,” he said.
“Alright...I can’t believe I’m saying this, but bring her to the house. We’ll have your Dad take a look at her,” she said.
“She’s unconscious, but there doesn’t appear to be any distress,” James Rafferty said, as he was examining Lilly a short while later. “Stuart, you said she was drugged?” he asked.
“Yes, sir, but I didn’t actually see it. She said she was just before she passed out,” he replied.
“And you said the CIA is trying to get her, and do experiments on her?” his Dad asked.
“That’s what the files said,” Stuart said.
“Let me make sure she’s alright, and then I want to see these files,” James said, and followed his words with action. His wife assisted in undressing her, Stuart having been made to leave. Finding no serious cuts, he applied antibiotic ointment to them, and put bandaids on the worst cuts.
“Let me see these files,” his Dad told him, coming out of the guest room a little while later.
“The CIA isn’t supposed to spy on its own people. At least that’s what I always understood, and Mascoe Pharmaceuticals is part of this?” he asked, seeing the stuff Stuart had told him about. The question was rhetorical, of course.
“Who are they?” Stuart asked.
“They make lots of commonly used drugs, both prescription and over the counter. It’s almost impossible to find a house without something made by them. They also make many, if not most, of the more rare drugs on the market,” he said. “I just find it hard to believe that they actually believe a person can read minds, and I have to assume the purpose of this project is to try and manufacture this ability in others,” he continued.
“She said she can’t,” Stuart told him.
“I would believe her in this, no matter who was saying she could,” he said. “But for them to believe it, there has to be at least some proof that it can be done, or they wouldn’t invest the kind of money this has to be taking, and they also have some reason to believe she can, and I have no idea what that could be,” he said.
“What else is on this computer, and how did you get it?” his Dad asked.
“She got it from them, but I’m not sure how she got it, and I only just started looking at it before she left, and all of this happened,” he said.
“Let’s hope they didn’t see you, or your car, if any of what you’re telling me is true,” his Dad said, and sighed. “God, I can’t believe I’m actually believing any of this crap. If it wasn’t for this computer, and this file, I probably wouldn’t, no matter how much I trust you,” his Dad said.
“What about her being unconscious? Doesn’t that mean anything?” Stuart asked.
“Son, people can become unconscious a lot of different ways, and some aren’t necessarily legal. I know of this girl, and her drug problem,” he started.
“She doesn’t have a drug problem, and I don’t think she ever has,” Stuart said, and his Dad truly looked at him.
“You like her,” his Dad realized.
“Yeah,” he said, looking down, “I like her a lot. I know it’s crazy, and I just met her, but there’s something about her that just...I don’t know. I can’t explain it,” Stuart said.
“James, I’m not sure she ever did, either,” Meredith said.
“But you’re the one that sent her to rehab, several times, and also added those things to her file, if this is the same girl I remember you telling me about, all those times,” he said.
“She is, and back then I didn’t really listen to her, or pay attention to the signs, even though she kept trying to tell me, even trying to get me to do a drug test on her. Besides that, you know better than me, that there are clear signs when someone is abusing drugs. She never had any of them, and I was too stupid to really pay attention. I let those reports cloud my judgement,” she said.
“So, this girl went through hell, because she was wrongly accused of abusing drugs, sent to rehab multiple times for a problem she never had?” he asked.
“Yeah,” she replied, almost whispering.
“God, the poor girl,” he said, and turned to look down at her. “Stuart, you chose well, if she’s not too screwed up inside,” he told his son.
“What do you mean?” Stuart asked.
“She’s beautiful, if tiny, but she’s suffered things you thankfully never had a chance to, probably experienced bad homes, and who knows what kind of abuse,” he said. “You’ll have to protect her,” his Dad said. Stuart actually laughed at that, his Dad becoming very curious at his reaction.
“I think she’ll protect me,” Stuart said.
“As little as she is?” he asked.
“Yeah. She beat the crap out of the star football player for Lakeside, and she’s shot several of the men that are after her,” he said.
“She did that to Layton Kirk?” his father asked, astonished, then his face changed to concern, “She’s shot people?”
“With a tranquilizer dart gun, or something like that, not a real gun,” Stuart said.
“That’s better, I guess, but you might be right. This girl has guts,” his Dad said, a new admiration evident in his gaze.
“What do we do, Dad?” Stuart asked.
“For now, let her sleep, and hope it’s just a simple tranquilizer. When she wakes up, we’ll see,” he said.
Lilly slept for more than seven hours before finally waking up. When she woke up, her eyes darted everywhere, not seeing anything, though. She was terrified, her surroundings completely unfamiliar. Just as she was about to jump out of the bed, she heard something.
“It’s alright,” she heard a male voice say. Looking where it had come from, she saw a man sitting in a chair, with a book in his hand and glasses sitting on the end of his nose. Although he appeared to be dressed comfortably, his clothes told her he was well off, kind of like those guys that read literature books on the British channel, when she was a kid...well, a younger kid.
“Who are you?” she asked, cringing away from him, as he stood up.
“I’d have expected a little more spunk from someone of your accomplishments. Of course, your feats of heroism were probably in moments of necessity, weren’t they?” he asked. Then, remembering her questions, he said, “Forgive me. I’m James Rafferty, Stuart’s father, and Meredith’s husband,” with his hand extended. Wearily, and shaking a little, she took his hand, letting him lead the shaking.
“Why am I here?” she asked.
“Apparently, you were drugged, and since I’m a doctor, and I guess Stuart was worried about taking you to the hospital, he brought you here to sleep it off, which you have now done,” he explained. “By the way, I cleaned your cuts, none of which were serious. No stitches needed. Are you hungry?” he then asked.
At the mention of food, her stomach almost purged itself right there. She shook her head, her hand covering her mouth.
“Do you need to get to the toilet?” he asked, and she nodded, very carefully. He led her to the bathroom, as fast as she was able to move.
When she was done emptying her rebellious stomach, she sat back, her forehead glistening with sweat. She felt a lot better, but still not great.
Beginning to really start coming to her senses, she realized she was in a nightgown, something she hadn’t owned in a very long time. Not since she lived with the Bazemores. The thought of them brought tears to her eyes. Why was she crying, just thinking about them? She’d thought about them many times, without crying.
“What’s wrong with me?” she asked, sensing someone beside her.
“My guess is it’s the tranquilizer, or sedative, they used, but I’m not certain,” he said, gently wiping her face with a warm cloth, occasionally rinsing it under the running tap.
“Why’re you taking care of me, and who changed my clothes? Where are my clothes?” she asked, then added, “And my stuff?”
“Don’t worry, your stuff is fine, and in the room you were sleeping in. As for changing your clothes, rest easy. Meri changed you. Your tights were ruined, so she’s gone to get new ones, and I think more clothes, too,” he said.
“Where’s Stu?” she asked.
“He’s in the kitchen. I put him to work when I realized you were waking up. I didn’t think you’d appreciate having him there, when you were probably not at your best,” he said.
“Thank you,” she replied, after thinking about his statement for a moment.
“Are you feeling better now?” he asked.
“A little,” she said.
“I’ll go get your bag, and let you get cleaned up and dressed. You obviously won’t have tights, or hose, or whatever those things are, but they’re coming, I think,” he said, smiled and walked out. A moment later, he returned with her bag.
“Just so you know, Meri did look in your bag to try and find clothes for you, but she didn’t mess with any of your stuff, or search through your things, other than to find clothes for you. What you had on is being washed, and since your other change of clothes also had a lot of tears, she’s going to try and buy some new clothes, as well. Hopefully, she’ll get something you like. If you don’t like them, tell us. Don’t say you like it just to make us feel good,” he urged her.
She smiled at him, a smile he knew had meaning behind it, and she let him know the meaning in short order, “Mrs. Rafferty knows I’ll let you know if I don’t like something.” Then, getting a more contrite expression, she said, “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” he said, and left.
By the time she was done with her shower, which hadn’t been extremely long, there was a knock on the door. “Yes?” she called out.
“Lilly, I have some new clothes for you, if you want to try them on,” Mrs. Rafferty’s voice called through the door. “I also have a new pair of tights, kind of like what you had. I couldn’t get the same ones,” she said, as Lilly opened the door, wrapped in a towel. She quickly came in, closing the door back.
“How are you feeling?” she asked.
“Hungry,” Lilly replied.
“James thought you might be, especially if your upset stomach was a reaction to whatever they gave you,” Mrs. Rafferty replied. “Here’s some clothes I bought. I tried to get stuff kind of like what you had. I got the girl to help me, so hopefully you’ll like them. There’s also tights in there for you,” she said.
“Thank you, Mrs. Rafferty,” Lilly said, as the older woman left the bathroom. Lilly quickly got dressed, the clothes being very much to Lilly’s taste, her new taste. She had been afraid it would be the hardcore goth stuff, but thankfully it wasn’t. Mrs Rafferty had even bought her boots that matched, and white tights with purple and black patterns on them.
“Mrs Rafferty?” Lilly called, opening the bathroom door.
“I really wasn’t sure about that, but it looks beautiful on you,” she said, coming into the bathroom. “What do you need, Lilly?” Mrs. Rafferty asked.
“Would you do my hair, please?” she asked.
“What would you like?” Mrs. Rafferty asked.
“I’d like two kind of loose braids, I think, and I’ll tie them off and put some ribbons about midways up. I saw this once and thought it might look good,” she said. Mrs. Rafferty wasn’t exactly picturing what Lilly had in mind, but Lilly knew it’d look good.
Mrs. Rafferty, though slow, did a wonderful job braiding her hair. With a little more help from her, Lilly tied the ends off with black hair bands, and then tied the fat purple ribbons about mid ways up the braids, laying both over her shoulders. Looking in the mirror, she had one thing left to do. Very carefully and slowly, she did her makeup, not that she used much.
“My God, you’re beautiful,” Mr. Rafferty said, when she finally emerged from the bathroom. Not used to compliments, especially like that, she lowered her eyes. “I see why Stuart likes you,” he then said.
“Dad,” Stuart exclaimed.
“What? You do, don’t you?” he asked.
“Yeah, but…,” Stuart started.
“But what?” his father asked. Lilly was on the verge of laughing very loudly at their banter.
“Lilly, I’ve been looking through this computer you gave to Stuart. There’s some interesting stuff on this, and I’m betting they won’t be happy if they discover it’s missing. Aside from some top-secret stuff, which I shouldn’t have even seen, there’s all kinds of details on the experiments they intend on performing, I would guess, on you,” he said.
She sat down, harder than she’d intended. Not knowing what to do, and tired of running, she was out of ideas. She’d thought she could find a way to fight them, but she was just a kid, and they were the CIA. Realistically, she didn’t stand a chance. She couldn’t.
“To be honest, I’m amazed you’ve managed to avoid capture as long as you have, but I suspect that’s only because they’ve been trying to minimize civilian involvement, but according to this stuff, that’s not as important as capturing you,” he said.
“My guess is, they’re going to start getting more serious, pretty soon,” he informed her.
He stared at her for quite a while, and when she didn’t say anything, he continued, “What I don’t understand is why they think you can read minds. What gave them that idea? Surely it wasn’t just random chance, like they drew your name from a hat, or something,” he said.
She knew he was leading her to answer, and he needed to know, but she didn’t want to tell him. She figured, the more they knew, the more danger they’d be in.
With him still looking at her, with a knowing look, she pulled the device out of her backpack, and turned it on. It made a few beeps as it booted up.
“This somehow measures a certain type of energy the brain gives off when using telepathy. At least, that’s what the crazy doctor told me,” she said, showing him the screen, which just had a pale red blur on it. “They found me because my brain makes that type of energy, I guess, but I can’t read minds,” she said.
“I read about these things in some of those files,” he said, and paused, looking at the device. “Why is it just a red blur?” he asked.
“It seems to also pick up birds, or something like that,” she said. Knowing she needed to show him, she released the birds, and pointed to the screen.
“There’s just a red dot now,” he said.
“Yeah. That’s me,” she said. “Move it around and it’ll stay centered on me,” she told him. Following her instructions, his face became more and more curious the more he moved around, and the dot didn’t move. Scared of the ‘bad’ guys finding her, she called the birds back, and the screen returned to a pale red blur.
“It’s gone,” he said.
“The birds must be back,” she said.
As nice as this family was being to her, the deception was hard, and reminded her of Sarah’s family, and what she did to them. Unable to stop it, tears started forming in her eyes.
“What’s wrong?” Mrs. Rafferty asked, seeing her distress.
“I don’t like lying to you, but I have to,” she said.
“Don’t tell me you can read minds,” Mr. Rafferty asked, and she shook her head.
“No, but I can control animals,” she said. “The birds come because I call them. They shield me from being found by the goons,” she explained.
“That can’t be for real,” he said.
Barely thinking about it, she sensed outward, finding the family dog locked in a small kennel. She knew it was in a kennel as she very briefly looked through its eyes.
“Can you let your dog out of its little cage?” she asked.
“How did you know Dot was in a kennel?” Mrs. Rafferty asked.
Stuart asked a different question, though, “How did you know we had a dog?”
“I can sense her, and if I want, I can look through her eyes,” she said. “And hear through her ears and smell and taste. Everything,” she almost whispered. “I’m a freak,” she said so softly, they could barely hear her.
“You’re not a freak,” Mr. Rafferty said.
“How can I do this and not be a freak?” she almost screamed. “I need to go away, get away from normal people so I can’t infect them, or something,” she said.
“Even if you can do what you say, it’s not something you can catch. It’s probably some kind of mutation,” Mr. Rafferty said.
“Meri, let Dot out,” he instructed his wife. She looked skeptical, but left to do as he instructed.
A moment later, a small fluffy dog ran into the room and straight to Lilly. Lilly immediately began loving the dog, scratching in that special place that gives the dog the most pleasure.
“Ask me to have Dot do something that she wouldn’t normally do, but she’s capable of doing,” Lilly told them, still loving the dog.
They all thought for a little while, and finally, Stuart said, “Have her go get my keys from my desk.”
Dropping into a cross legged position on the floor, she closed her eyes, and took control. As Dot, she moved through the house, eventually coming to the room that had to be Stuart’s. There were dirty clothes on the floor, and she knew they were dirty from the smell, along with other various junk and debris. Looking over the room, she saw a chair that was placed perfectly to get the little dog onto the desk.
Dot came running back into the room, the keys hanging in her mouth. Lilly opened her eyes, looking unusually tired, and stood up.
“You need to clean your room,” she said to Stuart, her legs suddenly becoming rubbery. “I need to sit down,” she said, and her knees buckled.
“Are you alright?” Mr. Rafferty asked, kneeling beside her and checking her pulse.
“Yeah,” she said, pausing to breathe, then saying, “I’ve never gotten that tired from doing that before.”
“How did you do that?” Mrs. Rafferty asked.
“I don’t know. I’ve always kind of been able to, but didn’t start really doing it until these guys started chasing me,” she said. Then she thought about it, the Rafferty family letting her have the time she needed as she thought. Finally, she said, “Actually, I think I started using it when the Fangs tried to make me join them. I used their dogs against them. They mistreated those poor dogs.”
“Lilly, I think you should go to the press with this. I’m not sure how else you’re ever going to get them to stop chasing you,” Mr. Rafferty said.
“But they’ll deport me, and the British will probably do the same stuff,” she said. “I want Horace, or Sherri and Leonard,” she said, sounding pathetic.
“Who’s Horace?” Mrs. Rafferty asked.
“He’s the homeless guy I always went to the park to see. He’s my friend,” she said.
“I remember the reports of you spending time in the park with some homeless man. Lilly, what kind of friend is he?” Mrs. Rafferty asked, her caseworker persona taking over.
“He’s nice. He helped me get through all those rough times, when I had really bad homes and the times I got out of rehab and all,” she said. “He was always there for me,” she continued.
“Lilly, did he ever touch you, or anything like that?” Mrs. Rafferty asked. Suddenly, Lilly understood her questions, and was speechless for a moment. That passed, though, and she was becoming angry.
“Hell no! He’s nice, unlike most of the people that have tried to ‘take care of me’,” she said, unable to stop herself. The barb was too easy and Mrs. Rafferty’s questions brought her anger up very easily.
“Lilly, if he touched you, or did other things to you, we can help you,” she continued.
“Go to hell, and for your information, I’m still a virgin, no thanks to you, so leave me the hell alone,” she yelled, grabbed her pack and ran out.