House Of Leaves

Participants:

robyn3_icon.gif squeaks_icon.gif

Scene Title House of Leaves
Synopsis Robyn comes looking for Gillian, but finds Squeaks instead. Curiosities ensue.
Date November 1, 2018

Elmhurst

Gillian's brickfront house.


It's rare that Robyn Quinn makes much in the way of social calls these days. The closest she tends to get is nights spent at Cat's Cradle with Eve and whomever else she may see there. Really, that's part of why she's decided to make the trip out today, standing in front of the brownstone owned by Gillian Childs.

Gillian's always a place that, for some reason, helps her anxiety and worries about her job and her world melt away, enabling her to laugh and have a good time with her and other friends in a manner reflective of many years ago, but more mature and restrained - brunches with her and Eve come to mind most fondly. It also gives her a chance to see Jolene, an opportunity she's endeavored to never pass up after the many years of not seeing her.

But it's been a while now since she came by. As she stares at the door, she briefly wonders why she hasn't bought a place like this. She'd even still let Dirk stay with her.

Something to think about.

Tucking the book she carries into her purse, she sighs and knocks on the door. Hard as calling is, she tends to prefer to simply show up and hope for the best. Today is one of those days, and hopefully Gillian is in the mood for helping Robyn cope with her stress in a more productive way than she does at Cat's Cradle when it was open.

It's probably a minute that passes, give or take some seconds, before there's noise at the door. Someone inside heard the knock. The sound click of a lock turning answers Robyn’s call before the door is pulled open just far enough for a single blue eye to peek out. It's definitely not one that belongs to either Jolene or Gillian, and it stares for a long second without revealing anything more.

“Hi.” There's a girl's voice to go with the eyeball at least, shy perhaps or unsure about answering the door on her own. Another long second passes, and the door opens wide enough for Squeaks’ face to show. Her eyes both remain on Robyn, watching and wondering.

Robyn is just as quiet as cautious when she sees the single eye watching her, blinking and waiting for a moment after the door opens. "Hello," is offered back in a bit of a slow, confused drawl. Her head tilts slightly to the side and she furrows her brow. "I- I'm here to see Gillian Childs? I-" Leaning back, she looks up and down the street. "I do have the right home, yes?"

Of course she does. She's been here enough times to know that. Slowly, she looks back to Squeaks and offers her a small smile. "Robyn Quinn," she offers by way of identification. "Is Gillian in today? Or Jolene?"

“Yes.” This is the right home. Squeaks stays watching Robyn quietly, like maybe she’s waiting for something more. Robyn Quinn is puzzled over for a couple of seconds, unsure if she’s heard that name before. She pulls the door open a little bit wider to stand in the opening. Her gaze finally leaves Robyn, but only for half a minute so she can look down the street.

“I think Jolene’s at school,” the teenager explains. She looks up at the stranger again and offers a teeny shrug. “She’s usually there a lot. And Mm— Gillian is out but she should be home.” Maybe soon, even though she doesn’t say. She swings the door a few inches closed then pulls it open again, closed and opened, thinking. “Did you want to come wait inside?”

Well, this is very strange; certainly unexpected. Robyn nods slowly to Squeaks' inquiry, though she waits for the young girl to step aside rather than pushing her way in. "Of course, if you think she won't mind." She doesn't think Gillian will. Tilting her head at the young girl, she offers a more genuine smile. "Are you…" Eyes flick inside, past Squeaks, "staying here?" A beat passes, and Robyn offers the girl her hand. "Miss…?"

“I think it's okay.” Squeaks steps out of the way so Robyn can enter the house. And then, once she is, the door is closed again and latched. It's one of the better streets and neighborhoods, but it's still a good idea to keep the doors locked. Just in case.

“Yes.” The teenager’s answer is a simple one. “I live here too.” She watches Robyn for a second longer, then leads the way to the living room. “Everyone usually calls me Squeaks.” And she doesn't offer anything else to call her by.

Squeaks rings a dully familiar cord. Had she heard the nickname mentioned before? Maybe she'd be able to rattle it loose, but she doesn't pay the thought much mind for now. "You-" That hadn't quite been what Robyn had meant when she asked if Squeaks was staying here - staying and living hold very different connotations for the SESA agent.

"Well, if it's not? I'll simply be on my way," Robyn offers somewhat nonchalantly. She's slowly trying to piece some things together in her mind, and it shows on her face. "Squeaks," she repeats with a smile. "It's nice to meet you, Squeaks."

She steps past the door, waiting for it to be closed behind her as she follows Squeaks to the living room. She lets out a small chuckle, shaking her head. "This is how I know it's been too long since I came by. I didn't know anyone else had come to stay," she offers amusedly, watching Squeaks.

“I think it's okay,” Squeaks says again. And even with her vague caution toward strangers, she sounds sure that it would be okay. In the living room, she lets Robyn have her choice of seats while taking a familiar place on the floor. There's already a blanket and book there, so it's probably normal.

“It's for reals,” the girl goes on. Her legs fold so she's sitting criss-cross and the book is set aside for later. “I live here. Since… I'm not sure. Not real long. But I do, and Gillian is doing all this paperwork stuff.”

Looking up at Robyn again, Squeaks shrugs a little bit. “What do you do?”

"Huh." That's really ass Robyn can offering at the new that, yes, this is for real and Squeaks lives her now. It doesn't surprise her, though - in fact… "That sounds like Gillian," she remarks quietly, more for herself than for Squeaks. Settling down into one of the seats, she relaxes, watching Squeaks for a moment.

"I work for SESA." A pause. "The government." She saves any further explanation for the event that Squeaks asks, rather than offering it on her own - she assumes the young girl doesn't care about the details. "And sometimes, I sing," she offers after a moments hesitation. It's not a lie, it's just that she doesn't sing in public anymore.

After a moment, she motions to the book. "What're you reading?"

“I know what that is.” Simply honest, it's like she's remembering more than explaining it to Robyn. But the next statement is directed at the woman. “Lance wants to do that. He's said so a bunch. He doesn't sing though.” At least she's never heard him sing.

Twisting a teeny bit, she picks up the book again. After staring at the cover, it's handed over to Robyn. The Invisible Man is printed across the front between a floating hat and three-piece suit. “I just started. I don't know if I like it yet.”

"Has he?" That brings a noticeable smile to Robyn's face. "I told him he should, I hope he still does." There's another pause as she leans forward and looks at Squeak's book. "You'd think he does. With that hair of his."

Yes, Lance may be 14 or 15 years younger than the SESA agent, and may also not be present, but that doesn't prevent a small joke at his expense. She's so happy Rhys told her about that particular colour palette.

"Interesting choice for a book," Robyn notes, quirking an eyebrow, taking the book as it's proffered to her. "Haven't read it myself. Don't get to read much anymore. Used to work in bookstores though." A fond memory of Ichihara drifts through her mind, of Delia and Lydia and Gabriel the Cat, before she returns to Squeaks. "Why this one?"

Whatever the joke is, Squeaks misses it and instead she just stares at Robyn. What hair might have to do with singing is a little bit of a mystery. After a couple of seconds she slowly shrugs. “I think he does still want to be in SESA. But I haven’t asked him about it.”

The book is given a look, and the teenager’s head tilts toward one shoulder. She’s looking at it upside down so that might be kind of why. “I haven’t read it before, so I decided I should.” That’s reasonable enough. Her eyes lift and she looks at Robyn again. “I read lots of things. All kinds of things. I like stories best, especially adventure ones. But I read about real things, too. Like the Bermuda Triangle and ghosts and space exploring.” Just to name a few.

The first instinct Robyn has is to note that that those aren't real things. But the world is an upside down place, and this isn't… Magnes or Kendall or someone that she might have once had to say that to. So instead she chuckles and nods. "Have you ever read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland? Or Anne of Green Gables? Less… adventure. But fun. Loved them when I was young."

She taps a finger on the arm of her chair, and grins. "How do you feel about music?" is a question that was probably inevitable.

While asking all those questions, Robyn may not notice that her purse seems to be… leaking. A trail of black draining down from the side of it, sluggish in movement, but moving.

“I read about Alice. Her journey through Wonderland sounds really primal. And Through the Looking Glass, too. I like the Jabberwocky poem best.” Scooting a little bit, the girl turns herself so she’s facing Robyn more. “Not Anne of Green Gables. Not yet.” So she’s probably heard of it at least.

Resting her chin against one hand, Squeaks looks thoughtful. “I guess music is okay. But I never heard a lot except the really long, loud sort of screechy kinds where they’re singing in another language.” Her tone says she’s not really a fan of that kind of music. Her mouth twists to one side as she wonders about that music, going quiet for a short second.

Then a longer second when movement catches her attention and she looks at the oozy black stuff leaking out of Robyn’s purse. The teenager’s eyebrows pop up and she looks up at Robyn. “What …what kinds of music do you do,” she asks, her gaze darting once to the leaking then back up again. Then her eyes slide slowly down to it to watch a second longer.

A low chuckle comes from Robyn. "I don't, anymore," she says in a low voice. "I used to have a band. Piano and keys… mostly softer stuff." She glances over towards the direction of the garden. "Jolene has my record. Get her to play it for you sometime." Not self promotion this time, not in years. Just a small statement of fact.

"If I ever do more, I'll have to nix doing a song in French, though," is a joking statement, though she does notice the way Squeaks look down to her bag. It takes her a moment to follow the teen's eyes, but once she does eyes wide. "Bordel de merde!" she suddenly shouts, before offering an apologetic look to Squeaks. "Can you fetch me a towel, please?"

The pitch black liquid continues to move uninterrupted, sliding down the purse and onto the floor panels. It isn’t like what one might expect of something so black— it leaves no residue behind on the purse or the floor as it moves, as if drawn toward the young teen. The splotch is about the size of a large handprint, though without regular shape. Almost like one might expect to see on a Rorschach test.

Even if Squeaks wasn't distracted, she would probably still miss the intended joke. As it goes, the shouted French words startle her. She flinches, face turning aside and shoulders shrugging in vague expectation of something more to come. When it's only a request for a towel, she chances a faintly nervous look up at Robyn.

“It's okay.” While said as much as for herself, it's also directed at the woman. The girl’s eyes drop to find the splotchy thing and stretches a hand to it. “It's okay. It's… this happens. Sometimes?”

With her hand palm up for the ink — because this is a totally normal thing — she looks up again. “Is… in there… you have a book?” More nervous now, she forces a fake grin. See, it's okay! But how do you explain this to a grown-up?

Robyn is already up on her feet by the time Squeak's reassurance come and stop her dead in her tracks. She blinks, looking down at her, and then back to her purse. "Pardon," she remarks in a low voice. "I didn't mean to startle you. But…" She blinks, moving down to the floor by her purse, watching the strange, black… thing.

"A book?" There is, indeed, one sticking out of the corner of her purse. "A book. Even the books are evolved now," she mutters as she reaches over and pulls it out, holding it up for Squeaks to see. "Wolves of Valhalla," Robyn recites the title to Squeaks. "I plan on reading it for… research, but…" she frowns. "This, it's okay?" This time, it's her asking for reassurance. It wouldn't the strangest thing she's ever seen in her life, at least.

There’s a moment where it stays where it is, small tendrils of ink stretching out toward the hand. Then half of it breaks off and slides up Squeaks’ hand and wrist, up her arm, until it joins another set of small marks, adding to it. Two small brush strokes added onto the character, which looks closer to completion.

themark5.gif

The ink left behind forms into on the floor: Orsber lbh, nabgure unq sbhaq zr.

“I think so,” is probably not much of a reassuring answer. But at least Squeaks doesn’t sound or seem too worried about letting some strange ink with a life of its own climb onto her arm. She even pulls back her sleeve to see where it joins up with the others, even though none of the lines really make much sense to her yet. She’s probably going to need another trip to the library soon. “It isn’t hurting and I don’t feel weird. And I pinky-promised my brother and sister I’d tell if it did.”

Letting her eyes wander from the ink joining the rest of the marks on her arm, the teenager looks at that spot still on the floor that turn into letters. “Someone with a… like ink-kinetics or something, had an accident. And it happened maybe when that book was printed.” She looks up at Robyn. “It started with this journal I found. It started talking in Morse code asking for help and to look in the Wolves of Valhalla. And then I started getting these marks that we figured out was coming from the books.” So it all sounds pretty normal, like it’s an everyday thing.

She lays a finger under each of the letters as they finish forming. “And every time there’s more parts she’s able to talk more. But code is easiest for her. There’s eight parts and…” Squeaks pauses to count on her fingers, mouth forming words without actually speaking out loud. “I think this makes five?”

"Even the books are evolved," Robyn repeats with a bit more wonderment than before. Or it could be Squeaks, utilizing some ability she's never heard of before, but that doesn't seem to be the case in this stance. She leans forward, looking down at Squeaks' arm, and then the floor.

Thoughts in her brain start churning. "The journal asked you for help?" She looks down at her book, tilting her head. She would question his if it hadn't been for what she just saw. Eyes slowly drift to the seeming nonsense on the floor. "This certainly isn't English," she remarks. "How long ago did this start? Have you told Gillian?" The latter is the more important question here.

“These are Chinese,” Squeaks says of the marks on her arm. She remembers that, from when Emily helped her look for them. But it’s been a while since then, and they learned more about what’s happening. “The journal used dots and dashes, and it… she said that she had to hide because she was followed and she got scattered. Now she’s lost and can’t get back and she asked for help.”

She looks at the letters on the floor, and adds as an afterthought. “She says it’s easiest to speak in code.” Which might explain the random letters.

Tugging her sleeve down over her arm, the girl shrugs slowly. “I think a couple weeks ago. First at the bookstore, then the library and that’s where we thought we should test it out if it really for reals was the book or something else. Because Emily has that book too.” Squeaks scoots backward a little bit, maybe thinking she should get the journal for proof. “I didn’t tell Gillian yet. It’s weird but… doesn’t seem dangerous yet?”

Robyn eyes Squeaks for a moment, pursing her lips. Her instinct is to tell Gillian, because- well. This certainly is something out of the ordinary. "Dots and dashes. Morse code?" She tilts her head to the side, looking at the jumble of letters. She's never been particularly good at codebreaking, ciphers were decidedly not her forte. Still, she studies them for a long moment.

"I won't tell Gillian," she finally decides on, glancing back at her copy of Wolves of Valhalla and opening it. "So long as this remains… innocuous. The moment you feel unease, please. Tell her." She begins flipping through pages in the book both of curiosity and to check it's condition. A strange ink blob ad seemingly crawled out of it after all.

"What else has it told you before? That may help figure this out."

“I’ll tell,” Squeaks says, quietly serious but also honest. She pinky-promised. “I promise. I swear. If bad things happen. Or if it starts hurting or being more weird than how it’s weird now. I’ll tell.” When Robyn says it’ll stay secret, she grins in an anxious, kind of toothy way. She hopes it’ll stay secret until she’s ready to tell Gillian herself.

A glance darts to the ink on the floor, then lifts to Robyn again. “It did codes. First the Morse code.” She holds out a finger to count. “Then it… it was like a poem in a letter cipher. We needed a word to figure out how the cipher shifted.” Another finger, before she explains. “The word was wolves. And the poem was about gathering the pieces and bringing her home and making her whole. Then wondering about her daughter missing her.”

A third finger follows and wiggles as she thinks about what to call the next one. “First there was all these letters all lined up, telling us code was easier with her missing pieces. But all the letters on one side said there are eight and I think that means pieces.”

That third finger wiggles some more, still not labeled with a code that was used, before Squeaks remembers. “Binary. That one uses ones and zeros and I don’t know what it says. And now this one too.” She points at the letters on the floor. “That’s another letter cipher. But it also understands sign language. She just doesn’t have hands to talk with yet.”

As Robyn listens to Squeaks, she smiles more and more. "You're really on top of this," she remarks, clearly impressed. The temptation to play up SESA passes quickly - it would be years before anything like that mattered, so for now she just gives a small nod. "Alright. I'll follow your lead then."

She turns her eyes to the text on the floor, leaning forward a slight bit. "A letter cipher. Have you already figured it out?" Because she certainly hasn't.

The story she tells to accompany the strange book centric phenomenon is a sad one, one that turns over in Robyn's head as she thinks about it more and more. "All the letters to one side. An acrostic, I think? No… that's the first letter of each sentence." She shakes her head, focusing back on the code in front of them. "I used to read books with those as a kid, but… it's never been something I was much good at.

"What sorts of ciphers have these… books used before? Have they ever repeated?" There's about to be a lot of questions for Squeaks, if she's up for it.

“The letters were set up like a grid, all even spaced down and across.” Squeaks traces her fingers on the carpet to show what she means. “First it was like a letter, a space, a letter a space, a letter, a space, for maybe ten or something letters. Then down it was the same way so it made a box out of letters. And that’s how we found out that answering questions was hard for her because of the missing pieces, but she’s trying to help and talking in code was easier.”

She smoothes out the carpet, then makes a new grid but with the left column separate from the rest. “Then it moved after Brynn asked about the books and what books. So these letters.” She taps the side that’s apart from the rest. “Said there are eight. And I think she means eight pieces more.”

She does stand now, because her journal is going to make it easier to show. Hopefully. And there’s that ink she doesn’t want staying on the floor, if it’s like the ink that was on Lance’s wall. “It repeated in Morse code. We were doing yes and no questions and that was easiest for her to answer with.” Squeaks turns after that answer, to run up the stairs. “I’ll be right back. I’m going to get my journal.”

It takes just a few minutes, after her footsteps have retreated up the stairs, for that same light thumping to return but this time coming down the stairs. In the teenager’s hands is not one but three books, one is bound in leather and probably the journal in question and the other two are references on ciphers.

Robyn spends most of the time Squeaks is there taking pictures of the ink on the floor with her camera, examining it, and after a moment pulling a pad out of per purse and beginning to try and work out letter replacements and possible ciphers.

She doesn't get far though, tapping her pen against her cheek as Squeaks returns. "So it can communicate in a variety of ways, and understand communication from others. Definitely alive and not acting on any sort of instinct…" She looks down at the ink again. "This is a fascinating discovery, Squeaks. I have never seen anything like it at SESA."

The girl’s feet slow as they reach the living room again, and her head tilts a little. She watches Robyn while taking slow steps now to return to her spot on the floor. “It’s primal. She’s …an ink-morph or something? We think. But we have to find the rest to know, and plus then she’d be all back together again.” Which is really more important than just solving the codes.

Sitting criss-cross again, beside the ink, Squeaks sets the cipher books aside and opens up the journal. “You said you wouldn’t tell,” she points out as she turns through a few pages, and hopefully she sounds casual about it. “That means you’re not telling at SESA either, are you?” It’s a fair question, right?

A page following the binary code is chosen, and the journal is set on the floor beside the scrambly letters.

The ink letters on the floor shudder, becoming slick looking again and slither toward the journal until it settles on the blank page offered. It returns to the same pattern of letters that it had before.

The question gives Robyn a moment of pause, forcing her to consider her answer. Telling SESA wasn't even something that has occured to her yet, though it certainly would at some point. Without this careful consideration she, she would be inclined to mention it someone - while not a crime, it is a fascinating phenomenon the likes of which she'd never seen before.

"Between you and me," she settles on after a moment. "The moment something seems suspicious, though…" she's telling, just like with Gillian. But for now? There's no need to be telling anyone else about this. Not unless the inkmorph or the puzzles start to become dark or violent.

"I worry what being separated from one's self for so long may do to a metamorph," she confides. "May explain why codes are best. I can't figure out this one," she remarks disdainfully. "Not yet anyway." She looks to Squeak's journal, and her head tilts to the side. She seems fascinated by both this ink morph and Squeak's wonderment over it.

After watching Robyn for a few seconds longer, probably looking for something that maybe hints at the agent being more agent-like. But she nods after, deciding there’s nothing sneaky right now, and says, “Okay.” She shoots a look over to the journal and the ink that’s moved onto the open page.

“Probably codes are best because she’s scattered everywhere.” Or half-scattered anyway. The girl rubs a hand against the carpet where the ink was before. “I bet Emily can figure it out. She figured out the poem. But we need internet for the ones and zeros.” She pauses to look at the letter jumbles. “Maybe that one too. I hope the ink-lady is okay after we get her back together.”

Robyn looks at Squeaks for a moment, before reaching into her purse. "I could have someone run it at Fort Jay. The ones and zeroes." The government is one of few places to still have internet. Yamagato to. "Or… a friend." She pulls her phone out of her purse, setting aside - regretting there's not good enough service here to just look it up on her phone.

Still eyeing her purse, Robyn reaches back into it for her copy of Wolves of Valhalla, and begins flipping through pages. "If it - she - came from this book, maybe the answer is in here…"

“The library has internet.” Squeaks sounds casual about it, since that’s how they started looking up the marks on her arm before. It’s slow, but it works. Still, Fort Jay sounds interesting, and maybe there’s neat things to see or learn there. “Maybe I could go with? To your fort for looking at ones and zeros. If it’s allowed and Gillian says I can?”

The teenager picks up one of the other books she brought, a text on codebreaking, and flips through a bunch of pages. “I think that… maybe being in the books is in the books. Not written in them?” She looks up for a second, at the book Robyn is flipping through. “Like she’s ink so her ink-self got put into the books?” With her shoulders bobbing out a shrug, she looks at her own code-breaking book.

Upon examination, the book’s printing doesn’t seem to have any apparent flaws. No letters or pages missing, the numbers are all in the right order. It looks as if one might expect any book to look. Had it looked different before? Maybe there had been printing errors, letters that were thicker than others, but that was common in books printed these days. The printing presses often had flaws, but it seemed like it should. Maybe Gillian had a copy to compare with it somewhere in the house—

That thought comes to halt as Robyn looks up at Squeaks. "You mean… as if someone used her to print the books?" Well that's a rather horrifying thought, one that Robyn recoils from slightly. She takes a breath, snapping the book shut. "Yes. You'd have to stay with me. Fort Jay is a Government facility. And… it might not be for a few weeks. But if you still need it then, I'm moer than willing to take you."

Slowly Robyn rises back up to her feet, looking around the room. "I'm going to see if Gillian has a copy of this. See if there's anything… left from the ink in mine I can't properly pick out." She slips away, hoping to just be gone for a few moments.

“Like she was trying to hide by being ink and somehow got into the ink-ink.” Which is how the ink-lady got into the book. “Not on purpose used to print books, but…” The teenager trails off when Robyn gets up to leave. Her eyes follow, but she stays seated, mouth partly opened in an unspoken protest. Hopefully Gillian won’t mind someone wandering through the house and poking at things. The agent did say she knew those who lived here. But maybe just in case she should follow.

Trading the code breaking book for the journal, Squeaks stands and slinks after Robyn. She moves quietly, like sneaking without actually sneaking. And staying just far enough behind that she can’t easily be grabbed.

In the library of the house there are a bunch of shelves along one side of the walls, and upon a quick scan of the shelf Gillian does indeed have a copy of The Wolves of Valhalla. After all she’s technically in part of it, as she had been involved in many of the events leading up to the downfall of Vanguard. She’d been involved with Phoenix when they helped stop the release of the virus, she had been in Operation Apollo, among the group that began in Argentina and went on to Antarctica. It should be no surprise she has a copy.

Flipping through the pages to compare, the copies look pretty similar, with no major changes between the two. At least not anymore.

Robyn's brow creases as she looks at the book, closing it gently. With a heavy sigh, she tucks the book under her arm. She would be studying them more closely before she leaves, but for now it looks like she's out of luck.

Turning back, she finds Squeaks has followed her and smiles at the young woman. "Sorry. I guess I should have asked first. Not the first time I've gone through Gillian's books though." Not that she makes much a habit of it. "Tell you what. Do you want to come with me soon, do some research? Fort Jay may have… better resources for investigating this." She'd be doing it on her own if she finds the time, but she wants to keep the one with the most investment in this as plugged in as she can. "Check the registries, at least See what I can find."

Wide, faintly nervous eyes meet the smile that’s turned on her. Squeaks hugs her journal against her chest like a younger child might hug a favorite bear. “Yes,” she answers, with a hint of a question in her tone. Going the the SESA place sounds like an adventure, but also maybe it has more places to find answers. Like the kind of answers that the ink-lady isn’t able to give yet. It’s probably got better internets at least. “But I have to ask Gillian first if I can go. I think.” She looks down at the journal, arms sagging a little bit as she does. “Also I need to tell Lance and Brynn and Emily that there’s more now.” Because she’s going to keep her friends well in the loop, no matter what.

"I don't think she'll mind if you're with me," Robyn remarks with a small smile. "But yes. Make sure she's fine with it. If she asks why, tell her I saw fit to bring a curious young girl with me. She'll be fine." Maybe. The matter of will her work be fine with it is a different matter entirely. The mention of Lance and two names she's unfamiliar with earns Squeaks a sidelong glance. "Do all the Lighthouse kids know about this?"

“I only told Lance, Brynn, and Emily,” Squeaks answers. After a short pause she adds, “And you. Since you saw it happen.” Her marked arm lifts a teeny bit and she makes a small wave with it. “They're helping me with it. And they'll tell if something bad happens too. We pinky sweared on it.” Her arm hugs against the journal again.

“That sounds like them,” Robyn remarks somewhat absentmindedly as she stares down again at her copy of Wolves of Valhalla. With a moment's pause, she sets it aside and turns back to Squeaks. Leaning a bit closer to the young girl’s height, she smiles, and raises one hand.

“Pinkie swear, then,” she asserts with all seriousness, brandishing out her own pinkie, “that I will do the same, and that I will keep this between us. Unless something dangerous happens.” She offers the pinkie to Squeaks, nodding once.

Her eyes go a little squinty and she eases backward, but Squeaks doesn’t run away. She squeezes the journal hard against her chest as Robyn leans closer. And the pinky finger that the agent offers is eyeballed like maybe it’s not for reals. But pinky swears are really big things, not something that’s just for fun.

“Okay,” the teenager states. Her head nods and she raises her hand to hook her pinky to Robyn’s. “Pinky swear.”

It's for reals. Robyn takes seriously the promises she makes to those she considers children, even more seriously than she takes just about anything else in her life. "Alright, then." Her smile grows a bit more, lasting a moment longer before it wavers and fades. She withdraws her hand, and turns to look out over the gathered books.

"Time to make arrangements, then."


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