HALLOWEEN was not one of the holidays Japan had adopted, like Christmas—at least their Japan. The idea of dressing up in costume was appealing, though. Usagi and Chibi-Usa decided to do it. There was a Halloween party/dance being held at Chibi-Usa's middle school, and Usagi volunteered to help, so she could be with Chibi-Usa and have some fun, too. What had happened with the social worker lady seemed to have been a long time ago, and only Dr. Watanabe had come back to ask about it. It seemed to be all right. They were overdue for some real fun! So, Usagi made up a couple of costumes for them. Sailor Soldier costumes, from old leotards and ends scrounged at fabric stores, and cheap, second-hand costume jewelry. Not really much like any of the ones she manifested when she had transformed so long ago, but pretty close to the anime she had seen here, given what she had to work with. It felt good to wear their odongo again . . . she even persuaded Jimmy to rent a tuxedo to play his part.
They didn't know anything about police detective Arteminski dropping by—he had made a second visit by that Halloween.
Before the party, but in their costumes, they went with Jimmy, two of his younger half-siblings and a stepsister, and some neighborhood kids in his family's van trick-or-treating, before it was very late. That was very nice. But it also made Usagi mist y-eyed, because she had missed out on so much of this with Chibi-Usa when she was small. How was she going to even have Chibi-Usa? Maybe having Jimmy wear the costume was not such a good idea, because it made her memories of Mamo-chan start to ache . . . so long . . . so long ago, now.
It started out well at the party. Chibi-Usa had always been "Sarah" at this school, and no one remembered her or her "sister" as being crazy—they were just unusual, half-Japanese "sisters" who had trouble with their English. Most people liked their costumes a lot, although there was a "sophisticated" crowd even at this Middle School who made a point of telling them how childish they were being. Usagi was very proud of Chibi-Usa. She only used her powers once, to trip the snottiest of the "sophisticates" into a fall into a punchbowl. No one was the wiser, and the mop-and-bucket work afterward was well worth it.
As they finished cleaning up, Usagi had a thought. In Japanese, she said to Chibi-Usa, "You did that without transforming? You must be learning to do as I can."
"You still can't transform."
"No . . ." But that reminded her of what she had done without transforming. All the laughter left Usagi.
"Okasan, what . . . You're remembering it again, aren't you?"
"Yes . . . Not your fault, I brought it up."
"I shouldn't have done that to that girl."
"It was all right . . . she deserved it."
"Chibi-Usa, don't call me that here. Remember—"
They had been speaking Japanese, of course, but one didn't have to understand that language to notice that they were disturbed. Jimmy was looking concerned—he knew something about what they were talking about, after all—but there were also some others standing close with concern in their eyes.
Usagi put them off with a performance. She held out her mop like a sceptor, and went through one of the ridiculously long battle sequences she had seen in the anime, complete with a long, silly soliloquy. Chibi-Usa joined in. By the time they were finished clowning, nearly everyone at the party was gathered around, laughing. Except for the drenched girl and her crowd. And Jimmy, though he was trying to fake it.
The drenched girl soon left with one of her friends. Chibi-Usa said she hadn't come to school the next Monday—Halloween had been on a Saturday that year. The snobby girl didn't come the day after, or the next. Then some police came . . . the snobby girl was missing, along with her friend.
Chibi-Usa hadn't really done anything bad, but she felt guilty. Even if she not liked the girl, he hadn't wanted to do her real harm. The girl had run away. Or worse . . . Usagi and Chibi-Usa volunteered to help put out the missing person flyers. But the girls did not turn up. And, in two weeks, another girl vanished, quite close by.
Vera-san began to drive all the other girls to school and back. She didn't explain why, but she became very angry if anyone did not show up when they were expected.
Usagi and Chibi-Usa then knew there was a monster in their little part of this world. It didn't seem to be armed with black magic, but it would able to destroy with false words, silky promises, leaving behind families forever grieving, perhaps never knowing if their missing one was alive or not. It could be anyone . . . and that is what made this monster more terrible than any they had encountered.
The old Japanese gentleman came by for his Saturday lunch as usual. But he was disturbed. "Where is your sister?" he asked Usagi.
"At home. Our foster mother wouldn't let her come with me today."
"Is she in trouble?"
"No. Vera-san is just worried about the missing girls. She said she didn't want Ch—want my sister to wander off and get snatched."
The old gentleman shook his head. "That is terrible. Terrible . . . sometimes I want to take my family all back to Japan."
"Things like this happen in Japan."
"Not often." He shook his head. "I like her. I'll miss her." Usagi saw that he wanted to say more, but wasn't. But she almost heard—
Usagi said, "I'm sure I can bring her along next week, or the next. We can't just lock ourselves away and hide from this man forever, whoever he is."
"No. I hope they catch him soon, the police."
"Yes . . . We spoke with the police about it."
"You did?" said the old gentleman.
"Yes. The first two girls, we we knew them. Sarah knew them; they were from her school."
"No, not really, but we we saw them the night they disappeared."
"How much did you tell the police?" asked the old man.
"What we could . . ." <He's very concerned about the police.> "Are you in some sort of trouble?"
"No! What makes you think?"
She could hear his thoughts. Not very much, but . . . "You! You paid the social worker lady!"
The man grew ashen.
"Why?" Usagi demanded.
"Please . . . I only wanted to help. I know how terrible those foster homes can be."
"You paid to take Chibi-Usa away from me?"
"I wanted to help! They wouldn't let me take you; you are too old. I wouldn't have kept her from you."
"No, you wouldn't . . ." He was telling the truth. That terrible day, he had started it all by wanting to help.
"Excuse?" said the old man.
"Yes?" She couldn't hear his thoughts; she couldn't seem do that for long, and was glad of it, actually . . . "Yes, what?"
"You called her Chibi-Usa? I thought her name was Sarah."
"That is her American name. She is named Usagi, after—mother . . . but we don't use that name much."
"Reminds you of your mother?"
"Yes . . . Yes, it is hard to think of her. Sad to think of her." Now Usagi decided she would have to perform at least a little. Trying to sound as if she didn't know, she asked, "Did the social worker lady give you back your money."
"No . . . How did you know I paid her?"
"I guessed what she was doing, and she admitted it—I can fight pretty good sometimes. But I haven't seen her for a long time . . . you should have asked us first."
The old man said, "Ms. Chilicothe said that wasn't allowed."
"I think she must have made a lot of money doing things like that . . . maybe thought she should run off before the police caught her. She was pretty scared when I found out what she was doing."
The old man shrugged. "I am sorry. I only wanted to help . . . Will you tell the police?
Usagi said, "I will try not to. But you should not be in much trouble if they find out. You just wanted to help."
The old man took her hand. "Thank you. Thank you." Then he left. Watching him disappear into the mall, Usagi knew she wouldn't see him again. Despite knowing the trouble he had caused, she was sad about that.
When Usagi came home, she found Vera-san and Vic-san talking with a man in a rather well-worn suit. Chibi-Usa whispered to her, "He is a policeman."
"Here to talk about the missing girls?"
"No. He is asking about the social worker lady."
"I don't know. Can you hear what he is thinking?"
"No, not now . . . careful, he might know some Japanese."
"Yes . . . He seems smart to me," said Chibi-usa.
"What can he do?" She hugged her daughter. "Did he ask you much?"
"Nothing, yet. But he—"
The policeman in the old suit came up to them, and they both stopped talking. Perhaps he did not understand Japanese, but he did notice that they had stopped talking. Usagi knew it was going to be harder talking to him than the foolish old man. His "warm" smile didn't comfort her. It was like he had walled off his true feelings behind his unblinking eyes.
"Sarah tell me you are policeman." She wasn't fracturing her English on purpose.
"Yes. Detective Sergeant Arteminski. We haven't met before. Maybe you can help me."
"How? About the missing girls?"
"No, I'm working on something else. I'm trying to find this woman." He pulled out a picture from the little vinyl folder he was carrying. It was one of the social worker lady. "Do you remember her?"
"I remember some. I did not know her very well."
"Do you remember her coming here with Dr. Watanabe?" asked the policeman.
"She came with him sometimes. Is she missing like the girls?"
"Not like the girls, I think," said the policeman.
"Maybe the same man take her. Maybe you should look for that man."
"I am looking—" he stopped talking, and the smiling mask he had put on fell away.
Usagi realized she had put him off balance. That pleased her, scared as she was inside. Maybe there was something of the Neo-Queen in her, to stand up as she must to this man, and surprise him with her strength. She said, "Why would I know where to find her? Maybe you should look somewhere else."
Arteminski the policeman looked at her—and at Chibi-Usa squeezing tighter and closer to her. Then, after a silence that even the Gants noticed, he began speaking again. "I have been investigating this woman for a long time. I am sure she has been taking money to arrange illegal adoptions. But in this country, it takes a lot of evidence to catch someone for something like this. She has been careful."
"Maybe she ran away," said Usagi.
He shook his head. "I don't think so. She didn't take anything from her apartment. There were no withdrawals from her accounts. We found her passport . . . I think that her partner may have made her disappear."
"You mean, kill her?" asked Usagi.
"Yes," said the policeman.
"Who is partner?" asked Usagi.
Chibi-Usa chimed in. "Do you think it was Dr. Watanabe?" It was what Usagi thought. She made to shush her daughter, but before she could, Chibi Usa blurted out—fortunately in Japanese—"Oh, kaasan, we have got him in terrible trouble!" She was very upset.
Since only one thing was likely to make things worse, Usagi hugged Chibi-Usa and said, in Japanese, "It will be all right . . . somehow . . . please, just don't transform now." But as she bent down to kiss the crown of her daughter's head, she caught a tiny glint in her hair. Her own sigil—it must be glowing!
<The policeman will notice any second now . . .>
And then, the door bell rang. Everyone jumped.
Usagi was the first to recover. She swept Chibi-Usa along to the door—and away from the policeman—and hoped her sigil had stopped glowing by the time she began opening the door. It wasn't until she had opened it all the way that she began to take in the person there. It took her a moment to remember.
"Yes. Can we come in?" She had her baby in a carrier.
Usagi didn't really answer. She just backed up a little as the woman came in. She walked past the policeman, who seemed to be dumbfounded for the moment, and introduced herself to Vera-san and Vic-san. "Dr. Goodman. I'm an acquaintance of Sue's. Sorry to come so suddenly, but I have such an uncertain schedule and this opportunity opened up. Sue's told me quite a bit about you."
Vera-san, who was always much quicker to recover from surprise than Vic-san, said, "I'm afraid you picked a bad time. We have a po—"
"You have Sergeant Arteminski here. We're also acquainted. I didn't expect to find him here, though. I can wait until the Sergeant finishes his business . . . ?" The woman set the baby carrier down on one of couches, and sat down next to it, looking out at the policeman.
Usagi saw that the woman was telling a truth; the policeman recognized her. She had yet to read a thought of his, but she could read his face well enough, now that he was off-balance again. The policeman said, "I think I'm finished here for now." He left—but on the way out, he paused to give Usagi what seemed to be a long last look. She shuddered, but not until after he was gone.
Usagi turned back to see that her foster parents were quite off, unable to do anything. She knew them well enough to know they would bully anyone they could, but Dr. Goodman, no. She was wearing a different outfit, but with a lot of gray again—and the colored feathers, peaking out from under the scarf she had tied about her head, rather like a gypsy woman, although Usagi had never seen a real gypsy . . . the Doctor had taken her baby out, still very tiny, and was giving it some water, and playing with it, as if she was familiar with this house as her own home. Wherever that was . . .
The last time I saw her, Chibi-Usa came the next day . . . But she wasn't a youma or a witch, just an eccentric lady with a baby . . . or was she more?
Chibi-Usa went over to the lady in gray, and she handed her baby over. The baby liked Chibi-Usa—no surprise there—but why was Chibi-Usa getting so close to this strange woman so quickly . . .
Whatever spell was over the living room that held Vera-san and Vic-san was broken by an all-too-familiar sound from upstairs. A screaming fight had erupted, with thumps and bumps. The foster parents rushed upstairs, screaming themselves.
It was the boys who were fighting; the girls who were upstairs came down to get away from it all. Usagi had never gotten close with any of the other girls who passed through this place—none of the ones who had been at the Gant home when Usagi had first come were still here, and even Chibi-Usa had seen most of the ones she had first found here had gone by now. But two of the three girls stopped in the living room. The third—the toughest, oldest girl now, besides Usagi—went to the door.
"Michelle, you'd better ask before you go." Usagi stepped in front of her.
"If I ask, they won't let me. Since when is what I do your business, Jap?"
"Don't go. That man is out there somewhere."
"I'm not stupid enough to get—" The girl started to shove her out of the way, but thought better of it—Usagi had given her a scare once, when she had been foolish enough to try to hit her. "Just get out of my way. I can take care of myself."
The lady in gray called out. "I'm sure that's what the others thought. Stay awhile. There's nothing better to do out there right now."
The tough girl got a different look. Usagi wasn't sure exactly what it was, and she wasn't even trying to read her thoughts, but she was certain Michelle was feeling something disturbing, no matter how hard she was trying to hide it. Michelle said, "This is bullshit." But she turned around, walked back to a chair, and sat down. She grabbed a magazine Usagi was sure she must have read many times before, but she at least acted like she was reading it.
Kimberly knelt down next to Chibi-Usa, and made faces at the baby. "Cute . . . I had a baby, but they took her away."
Usagi hadn't known that, and she was suddenly ashamed she hadn't. But she saw that Chibi-Usa was not surprised . . . there were still many things Chibi-Usa didn't tell her.
Usagi introduced everyone else to Ms. Goodman, even Chibi-Usa, although she was sure that the gray lady knew who Chibi-Usa was . . . but not a thought could she read. She had trouble introducing the newest girl. "Carla?"
"Kara." She touched her fingers lightly on the feathers. "I've never seen anything like these. Where'd you get them?"
Dr. Goodman said, "An old gift from the family. They're odd, but they've grown on me over the years."
"Cool . . . do you know where I can get some?"
"No, I've never seen them on anyone else," said Dr. Goodman. "Not yet."
Dr. Goodman talked with Kara and then Kimberly for quite a long time, long enough for Vera-san to come downstairs, leaving Vic-san to do all the yelling. She looked like she wanted to yell at the girls, too, but instead, after a moment, disappeared into the kitchen.
Finally Dr. Goodman started talking to Michelle.
"What are you, some kind of shrink? Doctor?" sneered Michelle.
"No, I'm a paleontologist."
"She studies old fossils," said Usagi.
"I know what that means, Jap. I'm not an old fossil. Study someone else. Hey, I thought you came here to visit the Jap? You haven't said much to her." Michelle went back to hiding behind her magazine.
"Well . . . Perhaps I've overstayed my welcome."
"Do you have to go?" asked Usagi, not exactly sure why she wanted her to stay. Whatever she read from this woman, she felt it was just what the woman wanted her to read.
"Yes, do you have to go?" asked Chibi-Usa, taking the baby from Kimberly and putting it in its carrier again.
"I think so . . . Here, you should be able to reach me at one of these numbers, if you keep trying. Or I might call you . . . can either of you sit? Baby-sit?" She handed Usagi a business card; there was a lot of handwriting on the back. "Oh, before I forget, I think you left this behind." She dug out a tiny package from her gray slacks: tissue, tied up with string, and handed that to Usagi as well. And in moments, she was gone.
Before anyone could wonder what the lady in gray was about, Vera-san came back from the kitchen and found a reason to yell at each and every one of them. Usagi put the card and the little package into her pocket and forgot about them for the rest of what was a very long evening. All the pleasantness of the day was finished.
Jimmy-chan came by to take them to the library in the afternoon of the next day. He noticed immediately. "Where did you get that?" he said, pointing to her left hand.
"The gray lady."
"The gray lady. Dr. Goodman, that woman who gave the lecture."
"She gave you that?" asked Jimmy.
Usagi said, "She returned it. I didn't know . . ."
Chibi-Usa whispered to her, "Okasan, Vic-san and Vera-san are watching. Get in the car." Usagi obeyed, without protest. Chibi-Usa guided Jimmy back to his side of the car, squeezing into the back herself and immediately tugging at him to finish getting in. He had trouble inserting the key. But after what seemed like a long, long time, he started the car, and drove them all away. Just in time, because the Gants were beginning to come out to the car, ready to ask all sorts of questions that shouldn't be answered.
They didn't go to the library. Jimmy drove a long way, up into the hills. Finally they stopped at a vista point. They weren't alone there, but the other people were strangers, and there weren't many of them. They walked to a spot which wasn't close to any of the other people. Usagi sat down on a rock, careless of her dress—not like her now, when every decent bit of clothing she had was a struggle to find and pay for and resize.
Jimmy want to ask her a thousand questions, but he didn't ask her any. He accepted Chibi-Usa's tug, and they walked off, leaving Usagi staring at the ground, fingering her ring.
"What is that ring?" he asked Chibi-Usa when they were far enough away.
Chibi-usa said, "It is ring otousan give her. She always wear it."
"Mamo-chan. My father."
They walked a little more. "I sorry okasan break your heart. She not mean to."
Jimmy said, "That's old news. But why is she so torn up? I'd think she'd be glad to have it back."
"She very glad. But she cry when she find it is ring gray lady gave her. She cry very hard. Like you see me cry?"
"She turned into an angel?"
"Not—how you say—not same form, but she change. First time since she come here."
"Well," said Jimmy, with a great stone on his heart, "She must miss your father very much."
"Yes. Very much, Jimmy-chan."
"Well . . . I guess that's it. I keep wanting this all to be a dream, but it is all true? Just like the cartoons?"
"No, not just like . . . real. It is different. But something like it. Rearry is Sairrormoon." Chibi-Usa was managing a gentle joke. Her grasp of English grammer was still loose, especially when she was excited, but her pronunciation was good; she didn't have much trouble with her "L"s or even the two different forms of "th." "Maybe you rearn Japanese. Many prerry Japanese girr." She made eyes at him.
"Not you, little Usagi. If I had what I really want, I would be your father." He patted her on her head, and then hugged her.
"You will make a good otousan. Maybe I find someone for you?"
"I think your friends are a little young for me." He turned back toward Usagi. She was looking at him, at them. She waved, without great enthusiasm, but she had to be at least a little better.
As they drove back down from the hills, Jimmy thought to ask something. "Usagi, no one saw you change last night, did they?"
"I don't know."
Chibi-Usa leaned forward and said, "I think no one saw. No one said anything. It was late; we were in our room. I made them forget social worker lady. I think that they pay no attention to us now, most of the time, because of that."
"Most of the time, they don't notice what you are doing?"
Usagi said, "Yes. As long as we do not make trouble and do all the work, they do not yell at us much."
"What about the other foster kids?"
"Not them. We do not know them well. I do not; Chibi-Usa knows some better. Kimberly. But I stay away from them. Too much, I think, now. I think I have been mean to some of them who weren't mean to us . . . but they do not think much about us. We are, how you say, squares?"
"That's about forty years out of date, but you're right. You're not like the others, and not just because you are—what you are. Not even because you are Japanese. You haven't been in any real trouble with the law. And your parents haven't . . . well . . ."
Chibi-Usa spoke up again. "I know the bad things some parents and step-parents do."
"I mean . . . I mean . . ."
"You talk about sex," said Chibi-usa. "I know. I am not little child, Jimmy-chan."
Usagi said, "You are not grown up yet, Small Lady."
"But I am not little . . . not like I was."
"No, not like you were. Just don't get too big too fast . . ." She reached back to squeeze her daughter's hands, and then switched back to English. "No, we are not like the others. But they aren't all bad people. I felt bad yesterday because I did look at them to see if they were bad or not."
"You can't reform them all. They aren't monsters you can do that thing you do—is that real?"
"Yes, it is real."
"Well, they aren't monsters. You can't change them into different people, can you?"
"I don't know."
Chibi-Usa said something unexpected. "You said it was better not to do that."
"I did?" asked Usagi.
"Yes . . . when you were the Queen."
"What was that?" asked Jimmy, left out because they had slipped into Japanese again.
Usagi said, "It was . . . never mind. I just think I have hurt people I should not have hurt."
"Are you feeling guilty about the social worker?"
"No. She was doing many bad things. Her heart was full of nothing but greed. I have felt more sorry for monster I kill than her . . . What you think, policeman guess?"
"POLICEMAN?" He pulled the car over.
"Policeman—The policeman who came before the gray lady yesterday. He ask—asked—questions about social worker lady. Ms. Chi-Ri-Coat."
"Chilicothe," corrected Chibi-Usa. And while Jimmy tried to swallow his heart again, the two sometime-angel girls explained how Mr. Arteminski seemed to think Dr. Watanabe might have murdered the social worker. Usagi went on to explain about the old man who had started the whole thing.
"Why did that cop tell you all that?"
"Maybe I did it," said Chibi-Usa. "I can put things in people's minds sometimes. Or maybe okasan. Sometimes she can make people do what she wants."
"I can?" asked Usagi.
"Yes. When you were Queen, and I have seen you do it to Vic-San and Vera-san and some other people."
Jimmy reached into the glove compartment and pulled out his cigarettes, which surprised the girls—and put them back. "Picked it up in boot camp. Trying to quit."
"Please, quit," said both of the girls at about the same time.
That made Jimmy laugh in spite of all the tension, or maybe because of it. When he was finished, he said, "Well, the cops don't suspect you."
"But they think Watanabe-sama did it," said Chibi-Usa.
"At least Arteminski-san thinks so," said Usagi.
"But they don't have a body. You turned her into dust. And you did that hypnotism thing to everyone. Nobody remembers seeing it."
"I do not think they will forget forever, Jimmy-chan," said Chibi-Usa. "I can put thoughts in, but people forget after I am gone. Some others who saw it are not in our house now."
"Where are they?" asked Jimmy.
Both girls shrugged. "Vic-san and Vera-san do not know. They do not care. Not much."
Jimmy pulled out his cigarettes again, got out of the car, and lit up. After a few drags, he put out his butt, field-stripped it—and then threw the pack across the road. He turned back, leaned inside, and said, "If anyone remembers, would they tell anyone? What do you think would happen if anyone told? They'd be locked up. They locked you up—your Watanabe-sama you are so worried about—he put you in the looney bin because he just suspected you thought you were Sailor Moon. You never actually claimed you were. What do you think they'd do with anyone who says they actually saw you doing your stuff?"
"I cannot let them put Watanabe-sama in jail. He is wrong about some things, but he is not a bad man. If he really was partner like Arteminski-san think, I make him into dust too. But I cannot let him go to jail for what I do."
Jimmy said, "Even if you tell them what you did, they would just put you away and go right on thinking he did it."
"Yes . . . Yes, that is true. But I cannot let this happen."
"Is that what has been on your mind? Not your Mamo-chan?"
"Mamo-chan is always an ache in my heart. And now I hurt to see you hurt. But I will find a way to help Watanabe-sama. I must. It is my fault he is in trouble."
Jimmy wanted to kiss her deeply. But he kissed her on the forehead, feeling a strange tingling for a moment. Then he drove them back home. They didn't talk about anything else of importance—in fact, Usagi didn't talk at all, and Chibi-Usa soon fell asleep, something she was always liable to do—as was Usagi, normally, but she was always awake when Jimmy glanced at her, looking out at what he couldn't guess. At the end of it, he said, "Pick you up for school tomorrow?"
"Yes, thank you, Jimmy-chan." She roused Chibi-Usa, and they started back to their foster home, where the voices of both Gants were railing away.
But Jimmy called out something. "What about Dr. Goodman?"
They turned back, and walked back to the car. "What do you mean?" asked Usagi.
"She brought you your ring. And the last time she came, you two got together. Maybe she can help you with Watanabe."
"Why?" asked Usagi.
"Why did she help you before?"
They thought a long time about what Jimmy had brought up, and talked about it, lowly, quite afraid to wake up anyone because Vic-san and Vera-san were so very quick to start yelling. But they decided nothing. All they knew was that the gray lady knew who they were. Was she a friend? An enemy just playing with them? The thought of fighting an enemy who was the mother of a tiny baby made them almost sick. They fell asleep holding each other.
Chibi-Usa had been wrong about no one seeing . . .