Kennedy looks more like a jail than our actual jail; at least it has some windows on the street. Orinda High looks like a college, buildings draped over a hill with grass, trees, and even some flowers in between. Pleione started showing us around, but Deja got her own idea of where she wanted to go and she managed to talk Maia into following her. That left me, Plieone, and Betty. But we weren't by our three selves for very long.
Johnny Brown came bounding up to us, hair still damp from his shower. He'd just come from morning football practice. He didn't come alone, either, he brought his special friend Henriette. Johnny had worked at a country club over the summer, and Henriette was the new golf pro's daughter. They had had ever so much fun together over the summer, and Henriette was eager to meet Johnny's other friends, of course.
Henriette did almost all the talking, if you haven't guessed. She wasn't nearly as pretty as Sylveen LaRue, but she was ten times as well-organized and maybe twenty times smarter, IMHO. Not up there with Pleione and Maia, or Al, etc, but at least as smart as me. I saw Johnny's future, maybe, and it looked like Pleione wasn't going to be in it.
While I was sizing up Henriette, a couple of freshthings came up and started talking with Betty. I didn't pay much attetnion until I caught this phrase: "Turn your back on Jesus too?"
Their names were Kathy and Lindie, and they were both extremely-well-scrubbed. They were also not much taller than me (All right, so I'm really short) and that maybe gave Betty, who is far from short, an extra reason to go easy on them. She said: "You don't understand what's going on between me and my father. You don't have to. It isn't your problem."
Kathy started to say something, but Lindie spoke instead. Lindie was the smarter one; I could see that already. She was wearing just a little silver "fish" pin instead of the big "Come Back to Jesus" button Kathy had on her shirt. Lindie asked, "What did you have? Boys? Girls? One of each?"
"Girls," said Betty, softening a bit. "I didn't think you believed those stories. My father's never said anything in public about them."
"Was it hard?" asked Kathy. "I mean, how much did it hurt?"
"I had a C-section. It wasn't bad," said Betty. She could read minds, too. "That's what you wanted to know?"
Kathy blushed more than I've ever seen anyone blush, ever. Lindie wasn't phased, though. "Why didn't you bring them? We have day care here."
"They are very small," said Betty. "Anyway, if I brought them, I'd be going to see them all the time. There wouldn't be much point in coming at all, would there?"
"Then who is watching them?" asked Kathy. "Mrs. Urawa?"
"Yes," I said, "And my mom, too. Is that all right with both of you?"
They fluttered away. Usami, who had just come up to see what was going on, said to me, "Usagi-hime, I think you can scare people even better than Mother."
"Thanks," I said, "But don't call me that here, please. Not even in Japanese."
I could stand "Usagi" well enough, but "-hime" means "Princess." Someone else might catch that.
Some time after we started our first period, a backhoe started up. I didn't hear it. No one at our school heard this particular backhoe. Why should we? It was two time zones east of us, west of Kansas City.
They were supposed to hold cheerleader tryouts after school, but the girl's athletic director had to be somewhere, so they got moved up to noon, during our lunch hour. I guess it wasn't a bad thing for me to have eaten two breakfasts (or maybe three or four, according to Deja.) Usami decided she would like to see if she could make the squad (Gee, ya think so?) I had my doubts, but Pleione was right, I fit right in.
Cheerleading isn't quite as high-prestige at Orinda. Oh, parents like it, and a lot of the girls coming to tryouts were just there because mom or dad or both wanted them to. But none of the real style-setters at school were there except for Henriette Wilkerson, and she wasn't one of the people, really. Cheerleaders came mostly from the same kind of people who had boys on the football or the basketball teams.
After that, it was time for American History, and Coach teaches it. I'm going to call him "Coach" from now on; I don't think I've ever heard anyone call him Mr. Murfrees, not even our principal. He makes a lot more than the principal. Alcyone looked that up for me; I guess she hacked into his tax records. Anyway, Coach doesn't have to teach any class; he teaches American History because he wants to, and because he wants it taught the way he thinks it should be taught.
By now you are probably expecting that I will be telling you of how I got into trouble with Coach. But I didn't get into any trouble, not for awhile. No, it was Dexter who got into trouble.
I had thought maybe Dexter was off to college. I hadn't seen him for a long time. He'd stopped visiting the house just after summer began. Actually, he was taking college courses, at Cal Berkeley (as Deja would explain to me that evening) but he was still coming to Orinda for a couple of classes in the afternoon, this one and Phys Ed (for boys.)
Anyway, Coach started giving us some highlights of the course, and Dexter corrected him about something. Coach thanked him for that, sort of, and went on. A little while later, Dexter corrected him about something else. This time Coach walked up to dexter, looked at his notepad, and said, loud enough so he was sure that everyone else could hear, "That's some very nice drawing, Mister Pay-troe-knee-oos, but this ain't art class." He took it and went to the front row. "Pass this along. I want everyone in here to look at Mister Pay-troe-knee-oos-says work. Any other artists, any other people writing love notes or some such, you can expect to do the same. And anyone who thinks they have so much extra time on their hands needs something to do, so they can expect to be doing an extra paper."
Dexter wasn't sitting close enough for me to read him easily, but I could tell he was horribly embarrassed. It didn't help that there was a lot of whispering as the notepad went around the room. Coach didn't stop that whispering. When the pad got to me, I saw that Dexter had doodled a fish, a tiger, a hawk, a winged unicorn, and me. He had done me well enough so that other people could tell it was me.
He had also shown me wearing an earring with a skull and a crescent hanging down. The skull was tiny, so I don't think a lot of people guessed what it was.
Dexter ran out of the room as soon as class was over. I was going to look for him after school, but Betty wanted to get home to her babies. So I found us a closet and teleported. She wasn't confident about her teleporting yet.
I'm the best teleporter. There are some things that the Ayakashi can do better, and I think Atlas will be the best ever when he grows up, but right now I'm the best all-round teleporter, able to carry more and jump more often. That's why I get involved in nearly every mission: I bring along the best people for the job.
No one told us, but about the time I was helping Betty come home, the man running the backhoe two hours east of us stopped working. He saw something falling out of the bucket. He got off his machine to look closer. In a little while, everyone working with him came to look closer.
Friday morning I was riding to school, sitting next to Evan. He was reading a paper someone had left. As he flipped through the back pages I saw something. I asked if I could see it. It was a small headline, over a short item, one of a collection of minor stories from around the nation: "Sixth body found."
"Since when are you into crime news?" asked Evan.
"Sometimes I am.
I called Mom as soon as I could get away from everyone. She told me not to mention it to anyone else. "If we are needed, we will be called." I can't read minds over the phone, but I didn't need to to tell okasan was not happy that no one had called her.
Since the government found out about us last year, we aren't supposed to go out hunting on our own. Well, we weren't before, but now Mom has promised we will be good girls. All right, so we aren't perfect but Mr. Fortescu is the only one we've terminated more or less on our own since we fought the guys who took over the White House.
Working with the government has some advantages. For one thing, we get help in keeping ourselves secret. For another, the government actually does do some things better, or some things we don't have to use up our own time on. Sometimes, we get called to an emergency in time to actually do better.
But sometimes, maybe too often, we don't get called soon enough. It took two days for the FBI to get called in. I didn't think it would take very long before we would be in on it, and I was right. When I got home that night, Mom told me to go to bed right after my homework.
Okasan got me up a little before one. She got Kimi up too. Auntie Naru was ready to go, in her grey robes and with her bag of reagents, fetishes and other magical what-have-yous packed. Auntie Karabarasu was also dressed for work, in sort of a gray uniform, though as usual the skirt was very short. Like me, she likes to let people know she has nice legs. Or like me before that fall.
Anyway, Karabarasu had come to guide us. One of the tricks she has learned is how to jump to a GCA coordinate. I can jump anywhere I've been before, but finding my way to a new place is something else. This way we could make just one jump to right where we wanted to be, more or less. Less, as it turned out.
We materialized in the middle of a big, smelly puddle of something too thin to be mud but too thick to be water. A few yards can sometimes make a big difference. None of the people on the site actually saw us pop in, and I guess we lost any chance of impressing them as we glomped out of the puddle to join them.
The scene was a truck stop. In 1986, it had been just a big gas station that sold a lot of diesel, but the owners had decided to think bigger. They added a restaurant, a motel, and maybe most importantly acres and acres of parking for big trucks.
Twenty-five years, development had put a town around the truck stop, and the town presented the truck stop with an ultimatum: Either take out the septic tanks and connect up to the sewer system, or get shut down by court order. That was why the backhoe had been punching through the pavement on Monday. That was also why there was a big smelly puddle for us to land in.
The two guys in charge at the site were an older FBI guy out of Kansas City and the town's chief of police. The FBI guy wasn't exactly thrilled to see us but introduced himself and the chief after Auntie Naru gave him the password she'd gotten from Mom (I guess she got it from Washington.) The chief broke out laughing, saying, "Isn't this a little early for trick or treat?" He turned to the FBI supervisor and said, "What's next, a circus?"
The supervisor ignored him and said to us, "We've been ordered to cooperate. Within reason."
Naru nodded and asked to be shown the graves. She worked a spell, which started the chief laughing again. Then Naru asked Kimi to look for more bodies. Kimi opened her third eye and flew up to get a better viewpoint. She already knew a lot about how to look for bones. The chief stopped laughing.
Auntie Naru sent me back for Zoë to get the bones out quickly (she can do it without digging; she can phase out like Lily or Lily's mom could.) Later I brought Betty. Sailor Earth found another site, this one closer to St. Louis. We took an FBI guy there; Kimi showed him where the bones were by lending him her sight. Then we left him there and went home; it would be light soon.
It wasn't a bad night's work. Naru identified the three we found at the first site; she stayed and went to the local morgue to see what she could get from the others. The Gray Lady could have done better, I suppose, but Naru identified four of them.
Both sites were under parking lots. When I first started going on missions, we caught a guy who liked to hide his victims where he knew paving would be laid down soon. But that guy had been five years old in 1987.
Saturday we went to Japanese school. Early Sunday morning, we went to the second site. Sailor Earth found another one from there. Two nights later, another. Then, another. Then . . . well, we kept on finding more. Auntie Ami noticed that the sites seemed to follow one after the other in time, about one or two per year, each one a little newer. We took off a few days while Mercury and Pluto (the Senshi of Time) worked with Betty to find a way to search backward, since it wasn't likely we had started with the killer's first site. We were still working back when October began. Then Sailor Earth led us to a spot in the woods in Washington State.
By then few of the people we were working with were willing to believe that all the bodies we had found could be the work of one killer. The FBI agent with us this time, a woman who had worked with us at some other sites, said, "This one can't be as old as you are saying. A grave this shallow, bears, wolves, coyotes, badgers, something would have dug it up and scattered the remains by now. It doesn't fit the pattern, anyway; none of the others were in wooded areas."
She had good reasons for believing what she was saying, but she couldn't see the ghost. That was why the bones were all there. The ghost had guarded the bones it had once owned. She had once owned; I could tell that much.
Auntie Naru could see the ghost, of course. She tells me it's more of a willingness to see ghosts than all the necromantic arts she has learned. But I could always see ghosts other people couldn't or wouldn't see. All those skulls on my costume's jewelry aren't there just for looks, I guess.
The ghost was faint, very weak after her long vigil. Naru was not able to get the ghost or the bones to give her even the name they had once had. All her energies had been spent in that long vigil.
Or maybe not quite all . . .
I had a dream.
I woke up in a house that smelled of wood and pine needles. I went outside and got on my red bicycle. It had a big basket on the handlebars. I peddled hard up a hill, coasted down, and then started up another hill. I heard a car.
Then I was on the ground. A man was standing over me. He had a hat with a wide brim, and his face was in the dark under it. Something gleamed on his belt, and clinked when he began to move.
Coach was pretty good when he was lecturing about stuff he liked, but when he had to cover things like the Era of Good Feeling he didn't feel so good and he tended to talk about other stuff in the middle of his lectures. Having him right after lunch is double-deadly if you want to stay awake. Fighting evil by moonlight makes that hard enough as it is. I guess I dozed off in the middle of one of his "When I Played The Game" stories.
Coach. He was bent down and talking about a inch from my ear. "It's Uer, like wear," I managed to say. Coach made me pick a slip, and I got to do 3,000 words on John C. Calhoun.
The girl on the bike was the first one; we were pretty sure. That gave us some hope, even if it was so old. Like other first timers, serial killers tend to make more mistakes when they start out.
The girl was identified soon enough. She'd disappeared the year my mother was born. The police suspected her family, and her stepfather was actually prosecuted. He was acquitted, but he was dead now, and so was his mother. She'd been her only child.
Meanwhile we went to the other end of the trail in time and started working forward again. 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998 . . . and then the next one was ten years later, in 2008. What had happened? Was the killer in jail? Whether they believed it or not, the FBI worked through their files to find possible matches.
I tanked Coach's first test. Coach's philosophy: just like football. If they don't perform, work 'em harder. I got socked with another extra paper and a makeup test. I wasn't the only one to suffer, but I was the only one who had do the extra work and try to catch a killer at the same time.
With October halfway through, the trail ended. The last victim had been alive in August. Kag and Usami, who had been wanting to help somehow, finally got to do something with me. They joined me in the circle supporting Auntie Naru when she tried to bring back the victim. It almost worked.
I dreamed a dream.
I left my baby with a neighbor. I went out. I felt a hunger. I felt cheap, but it didn't matter, nothing mattered but that hunger.
A car. A big car, plain, but big. The engine rumbled. A big engine.
The driver wore a hat with a broad brim. I couldn't really see his face. When I got in the car, I noticed something bright on his belt. The doors all locked at once—
Evan was borrowing my computer a log; that, or one of the other computers in our house. I don't think I can count all the ones Alcyone has, counting the ones her dad left. His dad was using his family's one computer for some "work at home" scheme. He was working on commission, and he wasn't really making any money after charges were deducted, but Evan's mother was putting up with it.Anyway, one Saturday night while he was over doing some homework, he found out Keisha was all excited about going to a movie the next day. It was one of those extemely cute movies for kids, but she wanted to go, so I was taking her the next day, even though we'd have to go way out to the east side of the county to see it. That wouldn't be a problem for me, though, right? Well, it wouldn't have been if Keisha hadn't told Evan.
Evan asked me, "Do you think you could take Tiffany and Jennifer?" Those were his little sisters.
"Sure, OK, but why haven't you taken them?"
"I have to work tomorrow, remember?"
"Oh, that's right," I said, trying to act smooth, because I had made a mistake and hurt him. You see, what he wasn't saying was that he couldn't afford to take them. "Sure, no problem. You live pretty close to the station. Mom can pick them up, or we could just, you know, walk to the station. Could your mom come?"
"She's working too."
"You going to church first?"
"I'll check with moms."
I knew he was lying about working Sunday, but it would kill him to beg to go with Jen and Tiff, or his mother if she didn't get a temp job call.
Mom didn't drop me off; Auntie Minako did. Maybe General Venus would be a better way of putting it. Anyway, we rode the trains way out to East Contra Costa, to the newest terminus, Antioch East, and walked three blocks to the mall the multiplex was in--30 screens, or 18 and up to six IMax venues (they combine two theaters by lowering the partition between them). Our movie was on the itty-bittiest screen about a thousand miles from the restrooms. Why is the Mercado 20 the only multiplex with lots of little bathrooms instead of two gymnasium-sized ones past the candy counter? (Stops, slaps head.)
After the movie, and sneaking a few others and seeing it again, I went out into the mall and into The Great Big Important Department Store, or TGBIDS (this might be an alias). Anyway, in the cosmetics section, I kind of got brain-freeze snagging those itty-bitty lipstick samples, looking for something close to my color in the barrel, when I heard something go THUD(tinkle, tinkle.) I turned around and saw neither Jennifer, nor Tiffany, nor Keisha for whom I should nuke China if necessary to keep from having a really bad day. Well, I didn't see any Chinese tanks around (for once) so I cranked up the Patented Chibi Moon Plan B: I yelled at the top of my lungs, "Keisha! Was that you?" and homed in on the guilt.
When I got there, however, I found that the Waffen SS had made a comeback. Three guys in black uniforms (with silver trim) were holding Jenn, Tiff and Keisha a foot off the floor by one arm each while investigating their underpants for hidden contraband, of which there was only some of the pee they brought in with them.
Rejecting (regretfully) the option of giving these three wise men my patented Down to the Shoulders Haircut (the Last Haircut You'll Ever Need!) I began to recite my Emergency Mantra #5: "Stop what you are doing or your sorry butts have dates in San Quentin!" Or rather, started to.
Out of the backfield came the Fourth Horseman, pouncing on the loudmouthed interloper, bringing a large, hairy hand with a snake tattoo down over my soldier toward my left boob (and why do they always go for the left boob?) Wittwe me scrunched down ewen wittwer, Horseface followed down and lost his balance, and I started him on a 270-degree direct flight to I Couldn't Care Less. He took out nine stands. Damn, I never bowl a strike, even at TGBIDS with the stands so close together you need to take off your underwear to squeeze between them.
Well, the other three guys dropped Keisha, Jennifer and Tiffany, all right. Then they pulled out guns, not an item I saw anywhere on those uniforms before. "We don' need no steenkin' concealed carry permits," I guess. So, I blasted them, right?
No, I surrendured, and they took all of us somewhere in the store for body cavity searches. Then I got put in a room, about the size of closet, and I cried for about a thousand years because I knew that I had screwed up so bad, so bad. I should have been watching them every second.
Larry, Curly and Shemp traded jokes for a long time while Moe their boss worked up a confession for me using the Confidential Security Measures Suite, which had a handy selection of boilerplate text. "Make a custom frame in minutes!" it should have said, and actually did, but in a duller, longer way. That I didn't know until quite a lot later. What I knew then was that the four nazi stooges were watching me and Keisha, Tiffany and Jennifer on hidden cameras and enjoying it immensely. Looking back on it, it is truly amazing I held off. Still, I guess it was worth it, mostly. All I could do was mindspeak to Keisha and tell her to comfort the other girls. They had their underwear back, but nothing else. I had the rest of my clothes. Well, maybe I shouldn't have bothered to wear underwear that day; I've already explained why it isn't so nice for TGBIDS.
Eventually, Moe came in with a blank sheet and a "fatherly" demeanor and lied: "I don't know why I'm doing this, but sign this and I'll fix this. Just don't ever come onto TGBIDS property again."
"Can I call home? It's a group home, but . . ." Not that much of a lie on my part; Casa Alvarson is more like a commune than a palace.
Moe put a fatherly hand on my thigh without thinking—really; I was reading his mind and he wasn't thinking of it at all with his big head, though his little head was clearly in on it. He said, "Miss, I don't think you understand. You can sign this and maybe I can get you and your little friends out of this, just this one time. But not if you call anyone who could hurt the company. I need this job, I have a family to support. So, are you going to sign? Now?"
"Look, I get a call. I've been in the system," I said, truthfully if you count the time before I died for good in my last life. I "broke down" a little and added, "I know you've got me, but, please, let me make one call? Do I look like anyone who has ever known a good lawyer?" I amplified his image of a stupid Amerasian, drifting through foster care and Juvie. I added a mere hint that I might be grateful later, and Mr. Happy liked that idea a lot. "Please? Just one call?"
Moe bought into my act. He handed me my own phone, only now it was "PROPERTY OF TGBIDS INC." according to a fresh sticker. I punched in a lot of numbers, pleading, "Sorry, sorry . . . I'm just so . . . Hello? Auntie Sue? This is Chibi Usa . . ."
When I finished my call, I signed the blank form. Moe left to add my confes- sion, already planning his own apology to me after I was really arrested: "I'm sorry, the Manager came back and she insisted on calling the police. Is there anything I can do? Anything?" I could read him and Larry, Curly and Shemp easily; their office was right behind one of the walls to my windowless but extensively bugged and (hidden) cameraed cell. Between thoughts about how he might have a little fun with me afterward, and the other three stooge's remarks on how much they'd like to give me more penetrating body cavity searches, and the exciting overtime NFL game on one screen, they didn't notice that GNN began to show video from their own store, first of my illegal apprehension (private cops can only make citizen's arrests and are fully liable for assault charges if they so much as touch the person they are arresting without permission) then of the body cavity searches, and finally live video from our cells and thier own office. Even when the game ended and they put GNN on the main screen, the three untarstooges did not notice for maybe three more minutes. Moe wasn't paying attention at all to the screen; he was working up the final details on my confession. I sneaked in a little suggestion that he should check his email and forget about closing down the Confidential Security Procedures Suite. It all came together when Auntie Rei came in with the real cops, and there was the officially non-existent CSPS there peeking around Moe's email window.
In a way, I kept Moe's bargain; I'm never going in any branch of TGBIDS again.
But I still felt like dirt. What made it worse, even scary, was that neither okasan, nor Auntie Rei, nor Evan, nor even Evan's and Tiffany's and Jennifer's mother would yell at me.
What if it had been "Merlin" instead of the four rentastooges?
One of the nicer things at Orinda High is the library: instead of Kennedy's one very crowded room, an entire building. I came in looking to see if I could find something for one of my papers, and I found Evan reading a newspaper. I hadn't talked to him, really, for a few days, so I went over, but before I said "hello" I saw Jack Crawford's column on one of the sections Evan had laid aside. I bent over and started reading the column: "A Disposable Woman." It was about the woman we had almost brought back.
Evan asked, "Why are you so interested in that?"
"I just am," I said, I think. I know I asked him: "Did you read it?"
Evan said, "Crawford's good, but he's . . . well, he just doesn't get African Americans. But he thinks he does."
"So you think you have to be an African American to write about African Americans?""To do it right, yes," Evan said, "You have to be one of us to know what it feels like, what it's really like. Any white guy just won't ever know. Even if Crawford could read this woman's mind, he just wouldn't have gotten enough. What an African American goes through, it's just so different." That was a big load he dumped on me. I knew he meant every word of it. This was Evan Maxwell being as nice as he knew how. "You should write a book, maybe." "Maybe." I could have left it there. Pretty good place to stop for an Amerasian girl with definite attraction to an African American . . . guy. Shouldn't use the "b" word here, should I? I could have left it there. You know me better than that, don't you? "Are you saying we shouldn't be raising Keisha?"
He hesitated, a little. "I guess I am. She's going to grow up confused. She won't fit in with us, really, but to most white people, she'll be just another ni—person of color." I was pretty close to socking him right then, but he went on: "I know you guys love her, but that's not all she needs. She should be raised by African Americans."
"Well," I said, without thinking about anything but not socking him, "What if I had your kid, Evan Maxwell? Do you think I would be okay to raise it?"
"No chance of that."
"No, there's no chance of that!" And I stalked out of the library, forgetting why I'd come in for a long time.
Later on, I realized I might be more serious about Evan than I thought. So, I talked to my mom about it, right? Of course not, I talked to Pleione, my bud since diaper days. She said, "Everyone knows about that."
"About you and Evan."
"Since about a minute after I first saw you with him."
So then I talked to my mom. Now, since my mom reads minds like me, you might think I wouldn't be surprised that she "knew" about me and Evan. But since I hadn't known about me and Evan, it meant that Mom knew me well enough to read me without reading me. Anyway, Mom told me, "What Evan-san says is true; Keisha will have some problems when she grows up and goes out into the world. But she will also have learned our ways. She will be of both worlds. I think that is more of a good thing."
"So what should I do? I've got him avoiding me. He's too proud to say he might have made a mistake."
"He will come for Halloween and your birthday, Chibi-usa. He will come with his mother and his sisters."
"I thought we might do something that night."
"After the sun's nadir and the gate to the Grey Lady's world opens, perhaps. But perhaps not. And they would be hurt if they were not invited."