PHILLIPA LOWENSTEIN of course first assumed that Nancy was the one with the real problem, but she changed her mind not too far into the interview. The girl had a normal range of resentments for a child in a blended family, and in fact seemed better-adjusted than most, at least from the first interview. Phillipa arranged for a second, of course, but she already had a casebook on Kimberly. Given the girl's history—and what wasn't in the records she could access—she decided it would be best to consult with her last primary mental health caregiver before proceeding any further. The person she needed to see was Dr. Harold Watanabe.
"So, this girl thinks she is Sailor Moon?"
"No, she thinks some other girl she knows is . . . at least according to her friend. I decided to see you before confronting her. This could all be a prank, but I doubt it. The girl is very stressed. I'd rather she not be placed in a group home, but—"
"But who is going to take a thirteen-year-old girl with problems like hers." He smiled grimly. "Almost no one. I used to know—"
"Used to know?"
He remembered something behind that blind spot. Adoption. That had been Chilicothe's specialty. She could place some of the toughest cases . . . why couldn't he remember?
"Oh . . . sorry, lost in thought there for a minute . . . I used to know someone who could place a case like her, but she's gone now."
"Actually, I don't know. She vanished . . . the police were looking for her, but I think they've given up."
"Was she a victim of—"
"The Ghost Killer? God, I hate the names the reporters make up for these sociopaths . . . I think it romanticizes them, makes a few more of them take the plunge."
"Perhaps." This was not the same Dr. Watanabe she had met last year. She waited for him to continue, wondering why he was wandering off-topic for no good reason.
"No, I'm fairly certain she wasn't a victim of our latest serial killer. She hardly fits into the pattern . . . ah, about this girl." He thumbed through his paper file folders. "Kimberly C., Kimberly D . . . Kimberly J., that's her. Hmmm . . . She's definitely got problems, but she was never delusional . . I think the other girl must be trying to get her. See her again before you confront Kimberly."
"That's not how I read it, but I'll take your advice." Lowenstein began to rise, but stopped when she sensed Dr. Watanabe might be ready to reveal more. "Is there anything else?"
Dr. Watanabe held up his hand for a long moment. He looked to Ms. Lowenstein as if he was straining to remember something. "If you don't mind . . . I've changed my mind. I would like to see this girl myself. I'm afraid my records are a little out of date . . . do you know where she is staying now?"
"With the Gant family. It's in the copy of the report I gave you."
"Oh . . . Oh, it is . . . " <How could I have missed it?> "Well, thank you, Ms. Lowenstein. Oh, don't talk to either one of the girls until you hear from me, will you? I should be able to see them both by the end of the week." He showed her out.
Driving back to her office, Philippa Lowenstein thought about Dr. Watanabe. He was far above her on the pecking order in the mental health community. But she wondered if all those years dealing with criminal sociopaths had begun to twist him. Then again, who would she tell?
She recorded what she remembered of the interview, and transcribed it herself at home that evening. She chased her husband and her own daughter out of her study while she was doing it, and didn't explain. Since she didn't do things like that very often, they let it pass. She filed the report in her safe, deleting all copies of it in her computer. For now, it didn't exist. But if Dr. Watanabe fell from grace, she would have something to keep her from being dragged down with him.
By now Dr. Watanabe had figured out something: Every time he visited the Gant home, he experienced memory lapses. In fact, just thinking about going there again was difficult. Buried in his subconscious was something that he didn't want to remember, and it was associated with the Gant home.
He decided not to fight what seemed to be a losing battle. Instead, he would investigate outside the Gant home. Since Ms. Lowenstein had jogged his memory where months of his own efforts had failed, he was sure this had something to do with the mystery of the Gant home, the missing records, and the missing Ms. Chilicothe. And something to do with a crazy Japanese cartoon: Sailor Moon. His older daughters had moved on to other crazes (and boys, unfortunately), but the youngest still was a "moonie." Now here was a girl who might think she had "really" seen Sailor Moon. Somehow, there was a connection . . .
Visiting the school where the girl who was supposed to have the delusion was certain to attract attention. He'd have to do it. But first . . . visit the girl who reported it. Nancy Uer might be the one with the real problem here, despite Lowenstein's assurances.
Nancy Uer, the girl who had made the report on Kimberly Johannson, lived in a large house in an upscale neighborhood, though very far from the top of the scale. Dr. Watanabe found that the house was just big enough for the large blended family that lived there: the girl had seven siblings, half-siblings, or step-siblings. Her mother and stepfather were surprised to have Dr. Watanabe dropping in and more than a little edgy, but they accepted his presence, as did the girl. Before leaving him alone with the girl, her mother apologized. "I'm sorry. This Ghost Killer has got everyone on edge. We don't let our kids out of our sight for a second now."
Once they were alone, he asked the girl why she had reported her friend. "I'm scared for her. If she believes something like this, she could do something stupid, like run away."
"You didn't tell her what you felt?"
"No. She really believes it. I'm not a shrink. I just wanted to make sure she gets help."
"I read Dr. Lowenstein's report. You said you resented your friend for ignoring you and spending all her time with other girls."
"With Sarah and Sue. Sue is the one who Kimberly thinks is this Sailor Moonie."
"Sailor Moon . . . One of my daughters is a big fan."
"That's nice . . . I didn't do this to get back at Kimberly for ignoring me. She really believes this crap."
He turned to a fresh page in his notebook, and took out a pen. "You said these other girls were Sarah and . . . Sue?"
"Sarah and Sue Kino. Real oddballs. They don't look like it, but they're Japanese. They grew up in Japan, and they speak Japanese all the time to each other. Their English is pretty bad . . . sometimes, especially when they get excited."
<Sue Kino . . . Tsuki-no, "of the moon." Another look behind that blind spot . . . >"I see . . . where did your friend meet these girls?"
"They live with her. You said Kimberly was your patient, why didn't you know that?"
"Why?" The challenge caught him off guard for a moment. "Your friend was my patient, but I haven't seen her for a long time. But from what you are telling me, I need to see her again . . . where does she live now?" He had forgotten already.
"With the Gants. They run this creepy group home for foster kids."
"Yes . . . I've had occasion to visit there more than once . . . I'm sorry I doubted you, but Kimberly's mental health is vulnerable. I had to be sure."
"Are you going to lock her up? I don't want that."
"No, not for now." <It might be for the best, but if I order it . . . > "I'll talk to her school counsellor again. Maybe—"
There had been a growing bustle in the meantime from the front of the house. Some people had entered. There had been words, louder and louder. Nancy was about to get up and see what was happening; the doctor had been too absorbed to notice.
Jimmy burst into the study and found the doctor and Nancy. He grabbed Nancy by the shoulders, and said, "Did he ask you to come with him?"
"No. What is—"
Jimmy embraced her, crushingly. Then he pushed her back with one hand and with the other, pointed to the doctor. "You can't trust him!"
The doctor said, "Who are you? What are you—"
"I'm her brother, doctor."
Nancy was speechless. Now her brother had completely flipped out. Her mother and her stepfather came in, and everyone else in the house began crowding in. There was rattling at the back door to the study, but it was locked. Nancy didn't think about opening it long enough to do it; she was too dumfounded by what she heard next.
Her stepfather asked, "Jimmy, what has got into you?"
"You want to know who the police think is the Ghost Killer? HIM!" He stabbed his finger toward Dr. Watanabe.
"That is nonsense! The police—"
Then Nancy saw Sue Kino and her sister push gently past her father and stepfather. Sue said something in Japanese, and then—
"You are lying, Watanabe-sama," said someone, in Japanese.
Dr Watanabe recognized that voice. He turned his head and there she was: Sue Kino. Tsukino Usagi. The crazy girl they had asked him to talk to more than a year ago—a year and a half. Speaking perfect, colloquial Japanese. A crazy girl with an obsession about a Japanese cartoon.
And beside her, a strawberry blond girl who had come a half-year ago, with the same delusion. Speaking Japanese. He'd put her in with the first girl for awhile, to see what would happen.
And he remembered Ms. Chilicothe, who'd arranged a permanent adoption for the younger girl—he'd had reservations, but it was such a rare opportunity to get a good kid out of the foster care system.
And he remembered the last time he had seen the crescent glowing on the forehead of the first girl. As it was now . . . on both the girls . . .
Usagi remembered . . .
Dr. Watanabe came to see Usagi and Chibi-Usa a month into summer. He showed up unexpectedly, along with a social worker, a woman Usagi vaguely remembered. They spent a long time talking to their foster parents. Then Dr. Watanabe spent a few minutes with Usagi, and asked to speak with Chibi-Usa alone. The social worker led Usagi away, and then went back into the room, where they were doing their interviews.
The interview went on for a long time. Her foster parents started to tell her to go outside, but she shushed them without thinking much about it—it was Chibi-Usa on her mind. Again, she could hear no more than a word here and there, but she could tell that Chibi-Usa was getting more and more upset . . . as Usagi was herself.
Dr. Watanabe came out of their room and closed the door. Usagi could see that Chibi-Usa was crying; the social worker was bent over her, telling her that crying wouldn't help.
"What's going on? Why is she crying?"
"I just need to go to the bathroom—"
"You came to take her away, didn't you?"
He was surprised, but not that much. "We found a family that might be interested in a permanent adoption. That's very rare for someone as old as—ah—Sarah. Did you pick out that name for her?"
"She belongs with me. She is my family."
Dr Watanabe smiled, sadly. "I can see you care for her very much. But you are a ward of the court yourself. This will be best." He patted her shoulder, then started to gently shove her aside.
She threw him against the wall. He stared wide-eyed for an instant, then his eyes rolled back as he slid down the wall and onto the floor.
The social worker opened the door and gasped when she saw Dr. Watanabe. "What happened?"
"She—" some male voice said.
"I'm calling the police!" She pulled out a cellphone and began talking—
And it crumbled to dust in her hands.
The social worker stared at the dust streaming down from her hands, and then at Usagi. She held up her laptop computer like a shield, and that crumbled away too.
"It is you? You suggested this to Dr. Watanabe?"
The woman was frozen, trembling—stinking, as fright released her bowels. "It was for the best—" But what she was thinking was different.
"Five thousand American Dollars? So little . . . I hope it was worth it to you . . . In the name of the Moon, I will punish you!"
The woman held her briefcase in front of her—to no avail. It took about ten seconds, but all that was left of the briefcase, and Ms. Chilicothe was a big pile of dust.
"Kaasan . . ." Chibi-Usa winked out of her angel form, which caused the dust to scatter. But she was still naked, if normal, as on the night with Jimmy.
Usagi noticed that she was still clothed—she had halated without transforming, without even a gesture.
"Kaasan, you shouldn't have—"
"Maybe. But how many other children has she sold?" Taking her naked child into her arms, she kicked at the dust. "She left quite a mess, didn't she?"
"This can't be happening . . . what are you??!" came a voice from behind. Dr. Watanabe's voice.
And there were sirens, getting louder . . .
Tsukino Usagi looked into the eyes of the doctor, and tried to look into his heart. She could see the glimmering reflection in his eyes, but did not care just now . . . but she did not not see the evil she was looking for. It might be hiding from her, but . . .
"I cannot see what is in your heart," she said, in Japanese. And then she said it again, in English, because she realized the doctor was so terrified he might not understand. The glimmer she had seen for a moment in his eyes was gone. She turned to Jimmy and Nancy's mother. "But he is lying about the police. They have seen him. Detective Arteminski thinks he is the one. I do not know if he is right, but that is what Arteminski-sama thinks."
Jimmy's mother froze for a moment. But when Dr. Watanabe began to speak, she screamed, "GET OUT!"
A few seconds later, her husband picked up Dr. Watanabe by the back of his coat, carried him to the front door, then across the lawn, and finally threw him against his car. "I've got a shotgun, you lying sicko bastard! If I see you here after I get it, I'm gonna blow your fucking head off!" Then he spat in the doctor's face.
"Omigod!. . . Omigod!" Nancy said over and over and over in her mother's arms.
Her stepfather came in, came up to them, and put a hand on her head—the one that wasn't holding the shotgun. "He's gone now."
"Who the fu—I don't know, but he's gone."
"He'll be after Kimberly next! Omigod, what have I done . . ."
"Kimberly?" asked her mother. "Your friend?"
"I thought she was crazy, I told the school counsellor, and she told that doctor!"
"Crazy? Why on earth would you think that?"
"When she was here two nights ago, she told me Sue was Sailor Moon! Of course I thought she was crazy!"
"I don't understand, honey. What does Sue have to do with you thinking that your friend Kimberly is crazy?"
"Kim told me that she saw—"
Jimmy spoke up. "Sue dressed up as a cartoon character at Halloween. She was at the party those first two girls disappeared from. That's what she means."
"Kimberly believes that Sue is a cartoon character?"
"Yes," said Nancy, "Only . . ."
"Only she thinks it's real . . . I guess she is kinda crazy, but not as crazy as this doctor. He could be going to her place! They don't know about that doctor!"
"They will." Jimmy picked up the phone, punched in a number, and spoke. "Mrs. Gant? This is Jimmy. My Mom needs to talk to you. Here she is . . ."
After he handed the phone to his mother, Jimmy bent over further and kissed his sister on the cheek, hugging her with one arm. As he finished, he whispered, "You can't tell them."
Nancy wasn't able to follow anything of what her mother said. She was looking at Sarah and Sue—or whoever—or whatever they really were. <Jimmy must have known for a long time . . . >
Her mother set down the phone.
"What did they say?" asked Jimmy and her stepfather at the same time.
"They said Kimberly is missing. No one has seen her since dinnertime. They're calling the police now . . . omigod, do you think he . . ."
Nancy looked up through her tears to see Sue and Sarah slipping out of the back door of the study. The study had a skylight. She looked up through it, and, sure enough, in a few seconds more, two angels flew up from the back yard, and disappeared in the direction of the Gant house. She whispered, "Please, please don't be too late."
"What was that, honey?"