A Time of Trials

A 美少女戦士 Sailor Moon fan fiction by Thomas Sewell.

Chapter Seven: Hills of Beans

THE TWO MASSACHUSETTS POLICE OFFICERS sent to California had to take a cab from their hotel to the Kinmoku Compound as the Alvarson estate in Kensington was now generally known. Both were lieutenants, both were Catholic, both were still married to their first wives and each had four children, all of those by their respective wives. One was a fourth-generation Irish cop named Michael Laughlin, currently serving as a detective in Exmouth. The other was an African-American, Thomas Edwards, a state policeman. Neither man had been near the scene of the incident before the senshi and their friends teleported away, but Laughlin had actually discovered the forgotten identification cards in the remains of Senior Corporal Edward Axely's uniform.

On their ride to the Compound Edwards asked their driver, "Do you know where Marvell Jones lived? Will we pass it on our way?" The driver, a turbaned Sikh, said he did not know of such a person. Edwards asked, "How long have you been here?"

"In your country, nearly six years, but in this area, only two." He spoke English with an accent polished from listening to the BBC. "Who was this Jones person?"

"He was a gang leader," said Edwards.

"Oh, gangs. They are all around, I am afraid. They shoot at each other, and even if someone is killed, it is seldom a big story in the news. This Jones fellow was particularly notorious, I gather?"

"In a way," said Edwards.

"I take it that he has been dead for some time? Or is he actually in prison?" asked the driver.

"Dead." This time it was Laughlin who responded, his first word for many minutes.

"No doubt some Hollywood people will make a movie glamorizing his life. Perhaps Denzel Washington will play Mr. Jones," speculated the driver.

"Mr. Washington is too old to play Mr. Jones," said Edwards.

"Yeah. He never got nearly that old," murmered Laughlin.

"Do any of them," posed the driver. "Here we are, Leftenents. Shall I wait for you?"

"With the meter running?" said Laughlin sourly. "Weíll manage without you, somehow."

After the driver was paid off and gone, Edwards asked Laughlin, "Why did you come down on that guy? We arenít picking up the tab here."

"Just watching out for Mr. Taxpayer," said Laughlin. As soon as they stepped inside the gatehouse, a guard asked them to surrender their weapons. Laughlin said, "Iím a police officer on duty, Sonny. Iím required to be armed."

"In your own demesnes, perhaps," said the guard, "But you are entering Kinmoku territory. Here our laws apply. You shall surrender all your weapons, or you will leave our territory."

"So youíre an alien?" said Laughlin.

"I am from Kinmoku. Now, surrender your weapons. They will be returned you when you leave."

The lieutenants surrendered their service pistols, Laughlin second. Lt. Laughlin after a pause also surrendered a smaller pistol concealed in an ankle holster. After another pause, the guard in charge assigned another to lead them into the compound.

The main building in the compound, the mansion, was cocooned in a giant pressure tent. This was no surprise to the Bay City cops; big pressure tents were getting fairly common around Boston, and theyíd both seen news reports shot as near to the compound as camera crews were allowed. But inside, they found almost total darkness. The guard lead them on using a flashlight, ordinary enough except, not particularly bright. The guard shined the light behind himself, not in front. He seemed to have no trouble finding his own way. Maybe it was the goggles he wore concealing his eyes.

"Forget to pay the light bill?" cracked Laughlin.

"I am soldier, not manager of energy or finance," said the guard. "It is joke you make?"

"I guess it isnít," said Laughlin.

Inside the mansion another guard led them past curtained-off areas to an elevator. They went down, far enough down for a bomb shelter, thought Edwards. Another guard took them through newish-looking impersonal corridors to a room where two people waited at an oval table big enough to seat a dozen. The guard closed the door behind them. Edwards and Laughlin were now with a man in a dark suit and much darker skin than Edwardsí and a red-haired woman dressed in an Air Force uniform, silver oak-leaves on her collar, gold wings pinned to her shirt, and "Madsen" etched white-in-black on her nameplate. "Iím Major Madsen," said the major, "and this is Special Agent Tiggs." The FBI man showed his badge and picture ID.

"FBI and USAF," said Laughlin. "I thought this was supposed to belong to the aliens."

"Weíre part of a special liaison team," said the major.

"How wonderful for you," said Laughlin. "Why are you talking to us now?"

"To make sure you sign these," said the FBI man, producing two forms from his attachť case.

"Some of what you may see and hear is classified," said the Major. "You need toó"

"We need to see Sarah Uer, Kimberly Chiba, Kendra Darmajian, Darnell Freedman, Evan Maxwell, Besu Verhofen and Juno Asatara," said Laughlin. "We have good reason to believe all these people are here, now, and the FBI and the Air Force and the Good Fairy canít wave their magic wands, say Ďclassifiedí and make us go away."

"Youíll be going away right now if you donít sign," said the FBI man. "Pull in your head."

Laughlin gave in, after Edwards complied, and after he handed his signed form over, said, "There. The USA is safe once more. Now do we get to do the job we came here for, or do you have more hoops for us to jump through?"

As Tiggs put the forms away, the Major used her phone, punching in some code. The opposite door opened. Four diminutive women came in, each dressed in a very short skirt and a tight-fitting top with a sailor-type collar. Each had a bow over one arm, a quiver with arrows at her waste, and the hilt of a sword protruding over her opposite shoulder. They took station in the middle of each of the four walls, which also meant that two of them also guarded the doors. Two were quite obviously pregnant.

After the exotic little women had taken position, an even more diminutive female entered. Laughlin beat Edwards to take the initiative once more. "Are you Sarah A. U. Uer?"

"I am, Lt. Laughlin," said the girl, dressed in a yukata, although neither cop recognized it as more than a fancy bathrobe.

"Your identificationó"

"Was found in Axelyís uniform," said Sarah Uer. "Senior Corporal Edward Axely, of your department."

"You read my mind," said Laughlin.

"Not yet," came back the girl before Laughlin could finish his quip.

Laughlin finished it anyway. "It was in the papers, I think. I donít remember seeing any picture of you with a tan like that. Thatís quite a tan, and itís December."

"Iím a California girl, Laughlin-san. We donít get much snow here so close to the coast."

Edwards, increasingly worried about the Exmouth copís attitude, asked the next question. "Why did Corporal Axely have your identification?"

"He asked for it. I gave it to him."

"Interesting that you should be asking that question, officers," said a new voice. "Shouldnít you already know what Corporal Axely was doing that night? He was on duty, wanít he?"

"And you are?" asked Laughlin.

"Reuben Fine. Iím an attorney."

"A lawyer," said Laughlin. "Her lawyer?"

"If he wants to be, for now," said Sarah Uer.

"Fine," said Laughlin, keeping the floor he had seized from Edwards. "Why did Corporal Axely ask for you identification?"

"I said something that upset him."

"Oh? And what was that?"

"Something about harassing my boyfriend who happens to be African American. And telling him who I am. That upset his plans. Suddenly he knew he could be in real trouble, trouble he might not be able to get fixed. He covered by asking for my ID, and Kimiís, and Kendraís, and the Asataras who were with me."

"Is that what he thought?" challenged Laughlin. "Did you read his mind too?"

Edwards reasserted himself with a question: "When you say your boyfriend, who do you mean?"

"Evan Maxwell. Heís a student at Harvard now."

"He doesnít seem to be on campus," said Laughlin. "You wouldnít know where to find him, I suppose?"

"I do, but I wonít tell you,í said Sarah Uer.

"You can be subpoenaed, you know," said Lt. Edwards more reasonably. "Why not save time and answer our questions now?"

"I may not tell you everything you want to know, officers, but what I tell you will be true."

"You donít seem to know much about Corporal Axelyís actions that night," said the lawyer. "According to the log, he was taking his meal break the whole time he was actually detaining Mr. Maxwell and Mr. Freedman, as nearly as Iíve been able to reconstruct what happened."

Edwards spoke before Laughlin this time. "Maybe he saw something just after he checked out, and thought he could take care of it quickly and without writing up anybody. Itís not by-the-book procedure, but itís not a felony, either. We donít know what happened. Weíre trying to find out. May we continue?" Edwards did not give either the old lawyer or Laughlin time to say anything before asking, "Ms. Uer, do you mean Evan Maxwell when you say Ďyour boyfriend?í"


"Were you with him when he was detained? And was he with Mr. Freedman?" asked Edwards.

"No. I was talking with Kendra, upstairs, when Axely pulled Mr. Freedman over. It was just below Kendraís apartment. Kendra knew it was his car. I went down with Kendra."

"And was Mr. Maxwell with Mr. Freedman then, or with you?" asked Edwards.

"Neither," said Sarah Uer. "Evan came later. None of us knew he was coming. As soon as he got there, Officer Axely started on him. There were eight policemen there when Evan came. Two of them were state police."

"That does fit with other testimony weíve heard, Ms. Uer," said Edwards. "But did you know any of this at the time? And how did you know, or think you knew? Who told you what was happening?"

"Kendra kept me up on things," said Sarah Uer. "And I heard everything Corporal Axely said. Everything, from when I came down with Kendra."

"And you found him talking to your boyfriend, right?" asked Laughlin.

"My boyfriend wasnít there at first, like I just told you," said Sarah Uer.

"You sure about that? I mean, maybe he didnít speak up so you could hear him until later," said Laughlin.

"Evan didnít come until later, after the other policemen came."

"Why did he show up just then?" asked Laughlin.

"He just wanted to talk to Kendra, like Freedman-san wanted to talk to Kendra. Evan didnít know I was even there until he showed up."

The old lawyer said, "Eight police officers, four patrol cars, and yet there doesnít seem to be any official record of all that. Arenít you curious why there was nothing from your two state troopers, Lt. Edwards?"

"Weíre not clear on just when they arrived," said Edwards, caught off-balance when he was trying to come up with a way to reign in Laughlin without embarrassing him in front of the civilians. Laughlin jumped back in. "Weíre talking about a whole bunch of dead police officers here, not about getting a little sloppy about a traffic stop. Why donít you save that stuff for court, counselor?"

Fine showed teeth like an old lion roused from torpor. "I think this is about two unwarranted detentions. About harassing two young black men because they were black and in Exmouth. About eight police officers who made sure there wasnít radio monitoring of all this in case Mr. Maxwell or Mr. Freedman took them to court."

"Oh, their civil rights got violated?" Laughlin sneered. "Are they dead, these poor, mistreated black youths? Our guys got violated to death, Mr. Champion-of-Civil-Rights."

Reuben Fine of course came back even harder: "Your guys are dead because of good old Ed Axely, Lieutenant. Good old Ed, with his bank account in the Cayman Islands. You want that to come out in court?"

"Reuben-sanó" began Sarah Uer. But vefore she finished, Laughlin flushed and exploded from his seat, catching Edwards flatfooted. The younger cop had assumed nothing but more fat lay under Laughlinís gross corpulence, which would never be tolerated in the Commonwealth force and had forced Laughlin to take retirement from the Boston PD.

Laughlin did not get very far, though. The four tiny women converged on him cat-quick, before Edwards was halfway out of his own chair. Major Madsen had her pistol jammed under Laughlinís jaw, which was working but producing no coherent words. Laughlin was held almost still by the women who did not seem to be exerting any kind of unusual effort. It would have been comical, in a movie, perhaps, especially the way Laughlinís eyes were actually bulging.

Then Sarah Uer got up, moved to Axely, opened his jacket, reached into his empty shoulder holster, and pulled out an object about half the size of a package of cigarettes. Handing it to the major, she said, "Laughlin-san, the Asatara are my bodyguards and their swords are not for show. Any of them would have cut you in half before you could use this. It was very unwise of you to bring it in here."

"What is that?" blurted Edwards.

"Itís a gun," said the major, holstering her weapon and buttoning the object into a uniform pocket. "The XM147 to the DOD. Itís made of carbon fiber, plastics and ceramics, so it doesnít set off metal detectors. Itís very difficult to detect with X-ray equipment. The weapon is sealed, so chemical detectors wonít pick it up before it fires. However, itís expensive as hell, canít be aimed, and has a nasty habit of blowing up in your hand."

Sarah Uer said a few quiet Japanese words, and the women released Laughlin. Edwards said, "Excuse me, can Lt. Laughlin and I have a word alone?"

"You can use the next room," said Sarah Uer. "Besu?"

One of the bodyguards, one of the pregnant ones, with cherry-red hair and cherry-red eyes, opened the door, and closed it behind them once they were through. Edwards was afraid that Laughlin was going to balk, but he went. Not that he was cooperative; as soon as the door closed, the fat old cop growled, "Whose side are you on, college boy?"

"Can it, Laughlin. You got your fat ass shoved out of the Boston PD two decades ago. You may be a lieutenant, but youíre not a lieutenant like me. Youíre from a piss-ant suburban department that took in most of the the other rejects from Boston, including your pal Axely. Iíve got the Commonwealth AG right behind me on this. Iíve got the authority to send you back right now. Or maybe I should turn you over to the Kinmoku? Assuming they let you leave?"

Laughlin hesitated. "All right, that lawyer really got to me for a second. But I wasnít going to shoot anybody."

"Then why the hell did you bring that gun? You could probably go away on Federal charges just for having that thing."

"Ooooh, Federal charges. Iím shakiní in me boots," said Laughlin, forcing laughter. "Listen, what are you here for, Commonwealth? Iím here to find out how nineteen cops got killed. Three of them were your guys. That girl knows something about it. You ainít gonna get anything out of her by being all nice-nice."

"You arenít going to get anything but more trouble if you keep going on the way youíve gone so far. That girl is a minor, sheís blind, and sheís a VIP. We canít really lean on her, and she knows it."

"Sheís not blind," said Laughlin.

"What planet have you been on since June?"

"What planet are you on now, Commonwealth?" said Laughlin. "You saw how she came up to me. She ainít blind."

A moment of doubt came to Edwards, but he dismissed it. "Sheís blind, sheís young, sheís pretty, sheís got a lawyer that could give us six kinds of trouble before breakfast. And in case you missed it, sheís been pretty cooperative considering what Axely and his cronies and you have done so far. Fine is right. He could kill your department even without hard evidence. Personally Iíd love to see him do it, but unfortunately some of our guys got mixed up in this. Now, are you going to pull your head in, or do I send you back right now?"

"Iíll be nice-nice," said Laughlin. "But you just may find out Iíve got some guys in back of me, Commonwealth. I may not be pretty enough for the Commonwealth or the Boston PD these days, but Iíve put away more perps than any of you morning-jog college boys and I was doing it when you were shitting your diapers and sucking on mamaís titties."

Edwards was debating whether to give the fat old man the last word when Laughlin surprised him again. Laughlin held one hand up, and put another to his lips, and then to his ear. After a moment, he said in a low register, "Theyíre having their own argument in there."

"Probably about what to do with you," said Edwards uncharitably.

"You speakee da Japonee?" Laughlin asked in mock pidgen. Edwards now noted all the anger had gone from Laughlinís voice.

"No. Well, a few words, but I canít follow that."

Tiggs the FBI man and Fine the famous old defense lawyer didnít seem to speak Japanese, and they had voices that carried even if they were making efforts to speak softly. They wanted Sarah Uer to end the interview. Uer ended the matter by sending them away. Then unexpectedly the red-eyed little bodyguard opened the door and said, "You come back now."

Edwards saw that Uer had apparently sent the Major away as well.

Resisting the urge to ask why, Edwards said, "Sorry about that. Feelings are running high, you know."

"I know. Corporal Axely was loved by many who knew him," said Sarah Uer. "But not many of them were black, Iím afraid."

Edwards managed to continue before Laughlin could question that remark. "You said you were with Ms. Darjamian when she came down? Who else was with you?"

"My sister Kimi."

"Thatís Kimberly Chiba?" asked Laughlin.

"Yes, weíve always called her ĎKimi.í"

"And who else was with you? Other witnesses have said there were four others with Ms. Darjamian."

"Two of my bodyguard were outside. They joined us when the policemen came up to us."

"And those two were?"

"Parapara and Junjun. Pallas and Juno."

"The names match the IDs," said Laughlin. "That would be you, and you?" he asked, pointing.

The women acknowledged. Edwards flushed. He had noticed that two of the people he was supposed to seek out had been with him. Laughlin flashed a look that he understood. Edwards did recover his composure quickly and went on, relieved that Laughlin hadn't twisted the knife further, or, worse, seized control of the interrogation again. "Were you with Ms. Darjamian all this time?"

"I was close to Kendra the whole time, before the shooting began. I donít remember anything at all about the fighting."

"Nothing at all?" said Edwards.

"My body was there, but I wasnít running it for awhile," said Sarah Uer. "Maybe I might remember things later. But I do remember what happened before that. I knew Axely was dangerous right away. I concentrated on him. I heard everything he said, and I remember all of it."

Now Laughlin spoke again. "How did you know Corporal Axely was dangerous?"

"I knew. His hand was close to his gun or on it every time he was close to either Evan or Freedman-san. Sometimes he put his hand on his gun just when he thought of them."

"How could you know that?" posed Laughlin. "You couldnít see him, right? I donít think you could have heard him all the time, either. Thatís a pretty wide street in front of your friendís building. According to every witness weíve talked to, at least one officer was keeping back Ms. Darjamian on her side, and the detainees were either on the other sidewalk or inside a patrol car." Laughlinís speech had shifted to a skeptical but sympathetic combination of tone and meter. Maybe Edwards had underestimated the obese older man; maybe he had actually been in control, except for that exchange with Reuben Fine.

"I heard everything your friend said that night," said Sarah Uer. "I heard it, and I remember it. I can hear things most other people canít."

"But you didnít see Corporal Axely put his hand on his gun," said Edwards. "Not yourself. Who told you he did that?"

"I knew before anyone told me," said Sarah Uer. "I could feel his hand on his gun as soon as I read his thoughts."

"Excuse me," said Edwards, "Read his thoughts?"

"Yes, Lieutenant. I read his thoughts. I can do that."

Laughlin said, "And because you could read his mind, you knew Corporal Axely was dangerous. Do I have that part right?"

"Yes," said Sarah Uer, "You donít believe I did it, but you do have that right. I knew Corporal Axely was dangerous because I knew what he was thinking. He was remembering the first time he was shot. It was not too hard for him to control himself when it was only Mr. Freedman. Freedman-san is small, and that night, he was not as annoying as he can be. My boyfriend made it harder. Evan looks like he could fight. Heís good-looking, too, and young, and heís in Harvard. That made Axely jealous. But the important thing was that Evan reminded him of the boy who shot him. And Kendra reminded him of the girlfriend who shot him when he was arresting another young black man. Plus, he was attracted to Kendra."

"Youíve done some homework," said Laughlin. "But you canít believe you knew what Ed Axely was thinking. Not then."

"I knew," said Sarah Uer, sighing. "Now comes the part where I have to put on a show, I guess. Both of you, think about something only you would know about."

"Ió" Laughlin began to say.

"Sex with Father Campezi that one time," said Sarah Uer. "And the boy who really didnít have a gun."

"How did youó" began Edwards.

<<This is how I kept warning Evan,>> formed in Edwardsí mind. <<I didnít do this with Kendra. I should have. But she didnít know about me then.>> Uer resumed normal speech. "Corporal Axely was no fool. Once he found out who I was, he was going to let Evan and Mr. Freedman go. He had nothing to hold them on, really. But Kendraís landlord wanted to get her out, and he told Axely she might have a gun. He came over to search her."

"And she resisted?" asked Edwards. "She fought?"

"She didnít fight Axely," said Sarah Uer. "When I started listening, Axely was talking to Freeman-san. He said ĎWeíve got a few things to work check out. You wonít mind if we take a look in the trunk, do you?í Of course, Mr. Freedman minded . . ."

Sarah Uer went on with her story for a long time, recounting every word Edward Axely had said, often illuminated by what he was thinking at the time. She wasnít nearly so clear on anyone else, even her boyfriend. When Laughlin asked a question about someone else, quite often Sarah Uer said she wasnít sure, or sometimes that she didnít notice at all, because she was concentrating on Corporal Axely.

Sarah Uer seemed to end narration with the landlordís suggestion to Axely that Kendra Darjamian, the angry friend of the two detainees, might have a gun. Edwards prompted, "You said earlier that she didnít resist the search."

"I told you Axely wanted to search her. But he didnít."

"Why not?" asked Laughlin.

"I told Kendra to go back inside, to get away from Axely. I thought maybe if she went inside before Axely got there, Axely wouldnít stop her to search her."

"And is that how it worked out?" asked Laughlin.

"No," said Sarah Uer.

"What did happen?" asked Edwards. "Do you know what set off the shooting?"

"What happened was that Kendra yelled at me. I yelled back. Shockley must have thought we were going to fight, I guess. He grabbed at us, from behind. Well, Kendraís her fatherís daughter. She took him down. Juno kept him down, but Kendra was faster."

One of the bodyguards said, "Much good fighter Kendra is."

"Do you know what happened after that?" asked Edwards.

"Do you know who killed Ed Axely?"

"I know," said Sarah Uer. "Axely saw Kendra take down his partner. He drew his gun. He was going to shoot Kendra. You know his gun was fired."

"Yeah, we know that," said Laughlin. "Are you saying Ed missed because one of you got him first?"

"Six months ago I was inside Michael Grandvilleís mind just like I was in your friendís at that moment. So far in he could see into me. That time, I couldnít make up my mind to kill Michael Grandville. Nine people died because I didnít kill him when I could have."

"So youíre saying," said Laughlin slowly, "you killed Ed Axely?"

Sarah Uer took off her dark glasses. Instead of empty sockets, or some kind of prosthesis, Uer revealed a pair of blood-red, slitted, reptilian-looking eyes. "I had these when I came back from wherever I was. I saw FBI guys and Coast Guard guys and lots of my guys. And I saw there had been a battle. But I donít remember any of that."

"But you remember killing Ed," said Laughlin.

"This is what I remember from that moment," said Sarah Uer, reaching out with snakestrike speed to touch each man on his temple. And then—

Kendra Darjamian laughed. Her father was dressed and made up as a woman, her mother as a man. "Who thought of this?"

"Drusie," said her father. Ken Darjamianís current wife was named "Drusilla" but no one except her mother and some very mean people used that dreadful moniker.

"Did you tell her Iím here?" asked Kendra.

"Not here, but I bet she guessed," said Ken. "She said if we ever needed to sneak through a lot of reporters, this might work. I think it did."

"Who made you up, Daddy?"

"I did," said Kendraís mother.

Then Kendra stopped laughing, and huggled her mother, and then Ken. "Oh, Daddy. I really, really, really screwed up."

"No you didn’t, Hime-chan," said Ken Darmajian. "I don’t understand what’s happening here. But I do know you didn’t do anything I wouldn’t have done."

Kendra laughed again. "That’s right. I slept with someone I shouldn’t have. That’s how this all started."

"It was like a war," said Ken Darmajian. "There is no way anything that you could have done which could justify all the police did. I’ve been there. They still haven’t picked up all their damned shell casings!"

"Your father’s right," said Kendra’s mother. "This is about racist cops running out of control, not about your love life."

"What do you want to talk about? What happened? What we do now? About . . . this Maxwell guy?" He’s the one, right?"

"Yeah, he’s the one," said Kendra. "How much do you know from Mom?"

I know you like him, and that he’s involved with Sarah Uer, too"

"Before me, Daddy. I’m the other woman here."

"You’re just out of high school, both of you. Hormone City! You were with him, she wasn’t. How mad is she?"

"She’s not mad at me at all," said Kendra. "And I’m twenty now, a year and a half out of high school. I’m twenty, Daddy, not fifteen."

"Your father is right again," said her mother. "Do you want to talk about that night? If you don’t, that’s all right, too."

Kendra looked from one parent to another and back for a moment or two. "First let’s get your make-up off, Daddy."

After the makeup was off and Ken was dressed in a borrowed yukata, his daughtrer began to explain how the night of the incident began, with the visit by Sarah and her sister. "She had two of her bodyguards, but they stayed outside. I didn’t know about them until we went outside." She explained how they saw first Freedman and then Maxwell be detained by police and finally locked inside a police car. "Sarah kept telling me I was making that fat-ass old cop madder and madder, but I stayed. I thought I was being a hero, standing up to him, making sure he saw me watching him all the time."

"You did the right thing," said her mother. "Not maybe the safe thing, but I’m proud you did what you did."

"I am too," said Ken. "Unless—you didn’t hit that fat cop, did you?"

"Not him," said Kendra.

"You hit a cop?" asked her mother.

"Yeah, the young one," said Kendra. "Funny, he was the nicest one." She explained how she’d been arguing with Sarah when Officer Shockley grabbed her. "He was just trying to keep us apart, maybe, but I didn’t see him. He was behind me. I used a combination, I don’t even remember which one. Whatever, I took him down. And then . . . "

"What?" rasped her mother, dry-throated.

"He was going to kill me," said Kendra. "The fat cop. Sarah . . . "

"Sarah? Sarah Uer?" probed Ken.

"Sarah saved me. I’d be dead if she . . ."

Kendra Darjamian could not go on. She cried for a very long time, her parents holding her, one, the other, or both.

Kendra spoke no more of the incident that night, but she revealed something else that shook her father. When she fell asleep, he left Kendra with her mother and asked to see two other people, Maxwell and Sarah Uer. To his surprise, he got to see Uer almost immediately. He found her nursing a child in a dimly lit room. The chair he was offered placed him so the only light was behind her, so her face was a blank shadow. "You already have a kid?"

"Two," said Sarah Uer. "But not by Evan, so you don’t have to beat him up twice. Not that he’s much of a fighter."

"Sorry it’s so late," said Ken Darjamian. "I didn’t think—"

"I’d be up now? Neither did I, but I had some other business that ran late, and then my little chowhound here had his own ideas. He’s supposed to be past two o’clock feedings."

"You’ll have two in diapers," said Darmajian.

"Three. He’s a twin. His brother’s asleep in the next room."

"Who is their father? Not that—"

"—it’s any of your business?"


"Apology accepted. I can tell you, the tabloids would really go nuts if they found out . . . Didn’t expect to be a grandfather so soon?"

"No," said Darmajian. "Well, I guess I should have. Kendra’s mine, after all."

"She’s not really that mad, Darmajian-san," said Sarah Uer. "It is that Evan-san is so devastatingly sexy."

"I kind of think you’re joking about that."

"I am, kind of. But he’s a good find, and Kendra’s smart enough to see that. I thought Evan would meet someone in college. Same old story." She paused a moment, shifting, but not revealing her shadowed face. "I think Kendra’s better for Evan, anyway."

"Because she has some black genes and you don’t?"

"Because I don’t think I can be the kind of wife Evan needs. He’ll go far. Kendra can go there with him. I’ve got too much baggage."

"You mean your kids?"

"No, I don’t mean my kids. It’s because of what I am." Sarah Uer paused again. Ken Darjamian wished he could see her face. "Anyway, if Evan marries your daughter, he’ll be a good husband. A good son-in-law. So, don’t spay him or something like that when you see him."

"He’s here?"

"Yes, he’s here."

"There’s something else I have to ask you," said Ken Darmajian.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes. I want to ask . . . Kendra said you saved her life."

"No charge. This time."

The girl’s jocularity was forced. "How did you do it? What exactly happened?"

Sarah Uer paused quite a long time before saying, "You may be better off not knowing. If Kendra wants to tell you, she can."

"She’s too upset to talk about it. I need to know."

"Then her mother needs to know too," said Sarah Uer.

Sensing that he would get no further if he pressed now, Darmajian looked for a segue subject. "There’s not much light in here," he said, "But I guess more light might really wake up your kid."

"And of course, I don't need light at all?" said Sarah Uer.

She had finished his thought. Again, come to think of it. "I didn’t mean—"

"I know," said Sarah Uer. "I have sight again."

"You do? How? The aliens?" They were supposed to have some fantastic technologies, though they hadn’t been able to bring everything, since they were refugees.

"I don’t know how, exactly," said Sarah Uer, not sounding very happy. "My eyes, my new ones, are sensitive to bright light."

"I guess they don’t look exactly normal?"

"Not for humans, no," said Sarah Uer with the suggestion of bitter laughter. "But they work, I can see my boys, so I shouldn’t bitch . . . I suppose."

A moment of quiet extended into a minute or more. Ken Darjamian prompted, "Ms. Uer?"

The too-young mother shifted, as if perhaps startled. "Sorry, I haven’t been getting enough sleep lately. Did I . . . Did I say anything strange?"

"No, not really," said Darjamian. "You weren’t out very long." Remembering the concern in her voice, he added, "Do you talk in your sleep?"

"Talk, walk, everything, sometimes . . . Listen, we’ll talk more when Kendra’s mom comes, okay?" The girl said something that sounded like Japanese but wasn’t. A guard appeared, and led him back to his daughter and his ex-wife. But they both were asleep, or seemed to be, when he returned to them. He did not attempt to wake them.

"Is Lt. Laughlin with you?" asked Dinwiddy, the head for this special investigation. Over the phone, he sounded even more shrill than in person.

"No, sir," said Lt. Edwards.

"He isnít still with the subjects, is he?"

"No. Heís been hospitalized."

"Hospitalized? For what?"

"Stress," said Edwards. "Do you want me to return to report to the Governor?"

"The Governor?" Dinwiddy paused. "What did you find out?"

"I think I should report to the Governor before anyone else, Mr. Dinwiddy."

Dinwiddy paused again. "So youíve got all you can get?"

"All I can get."

"You sound like . . . never mind. Iíll arrange a briefing. Have you talked to anyone who would talk to the AG?"

"Not since I met with the subject."

"Good. Come back as quick as you can. And keep on making your calls to my personal number."

After the call was finished, Edwards wondered if Dinwiddy already knew that Lt. Laughlin was in one of the more secluded psychiatric wards the region had to offer. He didnít wonder why Dinwiddy was leaving the Massachusetts Attorney General out of the loop, for now. The AG would see nothing but opportunity once he learned even a part of the secret now residing in Edwardsí memory.

He also wondered why it was Laughlin who had broken. The one thing he had admired about the fat Irish anachronism was his toughness. But it was hard to say the man was too weak, even now.

Edwards also wondered if he would live to see the Governor. Now he really knew what it was to know more than he wanted to know. Much more.

He went online and booked his return flight to Boston.

Working file. Not too pretty, but sometimes I can get more up sooner this way.

More to Come

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