An Unexpected Delivery


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Scene Title An Unexpected Delivery
Synopsis Morning brings Des and Squeaks to Gillian's house.
Date August 20, 2018

Elmhurst Childs' Residence

The ferry ride from Staten Island to the docks of the Safe Zone were thankfully uneventful. After a slightly delayed start to the trip up the Hudson River — Jac had finally fallen asleep just as the sky was beginning to take on a pink hue and was slow and sore on waking — there was nothing but open water and the skeletal remains of buildings to keep her and Des company. If not for the war-torn look of the city, it would almost be a nice trip with the late morning sky promising a pleasantly sunny day.

Once away from the river and in the Safe Zone again, it took a bus ride and some hiking to finally get to the street that led to Gillian Childs’ front door. For Jac’s part, she stayed mostly quiet and observant during the journey, watching everything including Des when she thought she might get away with it. And even when she probably wouldn’t.

The girl brightens a tiny bit when the door to the librarian’s house comes into view. “There! It’s there,” she points out with words and a finger with a look up at Des. When she looks again at the house, relief floods over worry in a bore tide of emotion that has Jac half run a couple of steps and one-footed hop several more.

Des has been quiet for the majority of their journey, but willing to talk when Jac is. Once they’ve crossed into the Safe Zone, she pulls her hood up, letting it shroud her face. Her glasses are exchanged for a pair of sunglasses with dark lenses. She smiles reassuringly at her companion and gives her arm a small squeeze.

When they arrive at Gillian’s door, she watches Jac bound up the steps with a hint of amusement. She moves to join her and lifts her hand to knock on the door sharply. While she waits for the lady of the house to come to the door, Des looks over her shoulder and down the street casually. One side, then the other.

The brownstone is in one of the nicer neighborhoods of Elmhurst. The streets are clean, the buildings lit up. At least most of them. This street probably even has running water, which not all of them do. The front door has a small glowing low powered lamp, on even late morning, as the shadows cast down the street with the three story brownstones shading things. The front has been restored, but even then— it’s not as nice as where another her had lived, in another place.

Not long after the youngster reaches the door does it open, after a customary peek through the curtains covering the slightly frosted glass in the door. The woman who answers looks much like the one in another world. Only her hair is dyed blonde, rather than nature dark locks. And something else is different about her eyes, too. “Squeaks,” she exclaimed in surprise, using the girl’s nickname, and the only one she knew. Gillian’s eyes slide past her, expecting to see one of her former charges— only to see someone else who only has the vaguest familiarity.

From the opening day of the library. She remembered cause while she had been hugged many times that day, almost all of them had been from people she knew. The ones who she hadn’t, she remembered.

What started off as a grin when it’s Gillian who opens the door, slowly turns into something a bit more distressed. She tries to keep the grin in place, but succeeds more in just keeping her teeth showing until she folds her lips in and squishes them with her teeth. Squeaks’ arms wrap around her middle and she edges a couple of steps forward.

“I got lost,” she explains in a small voice, even though they all would know it’s not exactly what happened. Squeaks isn't someone who normally gets lost. The girl pauses to take a shaking breath and swallow against a lump rising in her throat. “She helped me get back home.” She is Des, who’s given a quick look, if not actually introduced.

Des offers a small smile as she’s indicated by Jac as her guardian angel in this situation. “Hello, G— Miss Childs.” She isn’t supposed to be familiar with this woman. She had come to know her in the other world, been fond of her. That the one of this world honors Eric Doyle’s memory means she’ll always have Des’ respect.

“I wanted to make sure Jac made it back to you safely. She wandered a little far afield, but she’ll be okay.” Des briefly rests a hand between the girl’s shoulders. “She has a cut on her leg. It’s been stitched up, but you may want to take her to Elmhurst so she can get some antibiotics as a precaution.” After all, she was fished out of the river.

That the young girl got lost isn’t so much a surprise that it is that she chose here to go to when she came home. Maybe she had worried more about the other kids being mad than she had been about an adult. Gillian wanted to ask, but instead she opened the door wider and motioned them both inside. “Come in out of the heat. Do you need a phone to text the kids with?” She asks, knowing that, depending on how long she’d been afield, the kids might be worried.

Even if they likely wouldn’t get the text immediately, it would probably relieve some worries if they got one. “It is a good idea to take her by the hospital.” She might need to pull aside an old friend or two to help with the paper work, considering… …Jac? It took a few moments for her to realize the girl had been called something other than Squeaks.

“Thank you so much for bringing Jac back.” She doesn’t say the girl should not have been out and about, because frankly she had been that way too at fourteen. However the world was a lot different these days than it had been back then, when drugs and sex had been her parents main worries. “I’m very grateful.”

All three of them know it could have ended much differently, depending on where she had been running about.

As the door is opened and the invitation to go inside is given, Squeaks shuffles into the house. Even though she's only been to the house once, there's definite relief in being inside that's not all to do with the heat outside. The question gets a belated nod, following a long second of watching the grown-ups. She isn't entirely sure how long she was gone, some parts are hazy or sort of missing, but she should tell them in case they're worried.

After lingering for that second or two, she moves away from the entry. Memory of the night with the demon tape has her finding her way to the living room, even though she doesn't quite go that far yet. She has to give a nervous side-eyeing to the grown-ups at the talk of hospitals.

“I got cut when I jumped off the bad boat and into the river,” Squeaks supplies for how she ended up with stitches. Because maybe that means she can just skip the hospital thing. It's worth a shot. She doesn't offer more than that, but slinks a few steps so she's in the living room and peeking back at Gillian and Des.

Des hesitates in the doorway. She should just accept her good deed as complete, turn around, and head back for Staten Island. She almost does just that. Instead, she gently guides Jac through the door with a hand on her shoulder and follows her inside. “Thank you,” she murmurs gratefully to Gillian. It would be nice to rest for a while.

“It’s my pleasure,” she offers in reply to Gillian’s own thanks. Taking off her sunglasses, Des looks around the brownstone. “Your home is lovely,” she says softly, feeling about as timid as Jac looks.

The brownstone is well furnished, that’s for sure. It does have some odd railings in various places that most homes don’t have, but they are something Des had been used to seeing in her time at Raytech. Having one of the Board of Directors being in a wheelchair had meant certain places had been set up for various handicaps. This house has some similar designs. Though it also has three stories. They are visible along most of the stairs, and the first floor is setup to accommodate easy movement.

Except for the big fluffy ginger cat who appears out from under a piece of furniture, does the big stretch and yawn that cats often do and then starts to rub up against various legs. That leg is mine, that one too— the shoes are definitely his, if his chin rubbing against it has anything to say about it.

Chandra is not shy with strangers. Helped with spending years in the Lighthouse.

“Thank you,” the Councilwoman responds with a smile that seems grateful and not too proud. There are some things that need to be cleaned up, thanks to some of the residents of the house. But besides a few stray things it’s kept clean. And vacuum and dusted and all the various things needed for general upkeep.

She doesn’t immediately offer food or water this time, instead looking over at Squeaks as the cat rubs against her and asks, “What’s this about a bad boat? Did you get on the wrong ferry?” Cause there’s really few good ferries these days, honestly.

As Chandra appears, Squeaks finds herself a small patch of floor to sit on and offer scritching fingers to the cat. It’s a good excuse to not answer right away, because cats need to know they’re more important than everything else. Or so she’s decided right then.

“The Arrowood boat,” she eventually, quietly explains. The hand that had been wiggling fingers at the ginger cat is drawn back and she pulls a knee in to hug it instead of herself. “He was going to take me somewhere else because… because he was going to get money for it… for se… elling me.” She presses her cheek against her knee, lifting her gaze from the cat to Des and Gillian, with tears welling in her eyes. “So I jumped off his boat.”

Des is angry, but not with Squeaks. The fact that someone would hurt a child like that… Well, it’s not a new concept to her. Des has been aware of the existence of monsters in this world for as long as she can remember. It doesn’t make it any easier to hear about, though.

“That was very brave,” Des commends. Even if it’s very likely she would have drowned had Etienne not come along when he did. “I’m glad you’re safe, Jac.”

Selling her.

Gillian can’t even hide the way that she feels about that, even if she’d wish to. Her mouth goes dry, her stomach turns and she looks at the young girl as if she wanted to grab a blanket and wrap her up in it and never let her do anything like whatever it was she must have been doing again! Sure, human trafficking had existed before the war, she knew that, but it seemed smaller back then. Like it only happened to other people. And now it was happening to Hailey, to Squeaks. And who knows how many others.

“You did good, escaping.” She’s just grateful that someone had helped her, got her back. “Where did this happen?” She wondered if she could talk to SESA again, report the location of wherever she got abducted. Report the one involved. Maybe the information would be enough to do things.

Hailey had not been able to give them that much when it had been her. She hadn’t known names. Arrowood. She recognizes that name, even.

“In the Underneath, near the river.” Squeaks turns her head to rub her face against her knee, then settles for watching the cat do cat things. “I was trying to find another way to the tank, where I found the tape. I was close too but all the tunnels were sealed. And I heard singing.” Sometimes other people living below sang or whistled, it seemed like nothing to worry about.

“But there was a dog, and barrels. Then… He said his name was Eugene.” Reaching toward the cat, the girl runs light fingers over his head. “His gun fired and… then I was on the boat in a cage. He… he tried to make me do the test for slice. He was going to cut me if I didn’t and started taking chains off, but… but I wouldn’t and he got angry at this other guy. I kicked the cage door open and ran.”

After another light scritching for Chandra, Squeaks turns her head and looks up at Gillian and Des. She didn’t mean to say so much about it, but the words just kept falling out as she spoke. Now, out of words, she bites her lower lip, then looks away after a second.

“Eugene,” Des repeats thoughtfully. “You did really great, Jac. That’s a lot of good information you remembered. Maybe we’ll be able to use it to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”

Well, not we. Des is going to be staying far from this mess, because it’s a place where law enforcement should be involved. Heavily. That would defeat the purpose of the whole laying low thing that she’s doing. But she gives a glance to Gillian, expecting she’ll make good use of the information Squeaks has provided.

In the underground, attracted by singing and a dog and what could have been a nice man. But no. There were always those who could not be trusted. “The Underneath inside the safe zone?” Gillian asks for that clarification, looking at the girl as she feels the urge to hug her again, wrap her in something and tell her to never go off on her own again. But she doesn’t.

What happened is not the fault of anything the girl did, really. She should live in a world where she could trust that a man singing at the fire won’t shoot at her and take her away. “What did he shoot you with?” Since that detail might be important. If it had been a dart gun, it might affect the hospital visit later, due to the likely presence of drugs that could be in her system. If it had been something even more high-tech, well… that could indicate information that SESA definitely would need to know about.

After all she knew they had access to negation drugs, after what happened with Hailey.

“We certainly will try to make sure this never happens again.” She’d said the same thing when it happened to Hailey, when it nearly happened to Jolene. She had trusted that SESA would take care of it. Maybe she needed to stop trusting that.

With a look at Des, Squeaks nods slowly. She doesn’t know if any of it will be useful, of what she remembers. But maybe it helps them to know what happened? She isn’t sure, but in some strange way at least saying it out loud is kind of better than not. It’s not something she really wants to go over again and again, but it does help a little, just one time.

“Yes,” she answers for Gillian’s question. “Near the tank, and where I found the tape.” She could easily point it out on a map. The next question is harder to answer, she isn’t sure she was shot, but definitely something hit her. “There’s no holes,” the girl explains. And she tugs at her collar some, to show a little of the angry bruise she found.

Grimly, Des continues to listen, though she’s beginning to get restless. Has she been here too long already? She’s sure Jac felt similarly when she was with her on Staten Island, so far from her home.

“They should know about that at Elmhurst. They’ll want to make sure there was no internal damage, but she hasn’t had any complaints that make me suspect anything.” Des’ expression softens as she looks back at the girl. She’s not trying to talk about her as if she isn’t here, after all. “But you’ll tell Gillian about any aches and pains that might be lingering, won’t you? She’ll want to make sure you’re going to recover fully. Don’t try to push through pain. Pain is your body telling you something isn’t right.”

Inside the Safe Zone. With Hailey it had happened outside. With Jolene it had not.

“I’ll see if I can contact anyone. If they do need to interview, I won’t let them do it without someone you feel comfortable with present.” Even as Gillian says that, she presses her lips together. She’s not even sure they legally could question her without a guardian, and she doesn’t have one. That’s something she’d been thinking about for a while, since she she met the girl. But it was not a subject for this exact moment. Not really.

“Alright. I’ll make sure that they do a check, but I think you’re right. Hopefully all she’ll need is some antibiotics, to stave off any bacteria that might have been in the water.” Those waters were not exactly safe for swimming in, after all. They weren’t even safe for fish in most places, due to pollution and other contaminants. And she doubted that had changed for the better with everything going on in the area. She would not doubt if people from Staten dump their waste right into it, with the lack of running sewage.

“And yes, listen to our friend. If you have any hurts, say so. I can take you to the hospital now, if you’re ready.”

With a sigh, the girl’s head bobbles in a nod to answer everything all the same. The feeling of everything happening so fast has fled and now is the feeling of confusion and not understanding. It’s a different sort of overwhelming than she’d experienced coming into Des’ care on Staten Island where she wanted everything to stop so she could figure it out. Now Squeaks is finding herself trying to understand and guess what’s going to happen next, with hospitals and interviews. So she just nods, because that seems easiest right now while she works on deciding what it all means now.

Des stands and starts to move toward the door. She stops next to Squeaks and rests a hand on her shoulder, giving her a gentle reassuring squeeze. “You’re going to do great. And Gillian’s going to look out for you. Just be honest with her about what you’re thinking and feeling and things will be just fine.”

She looks to the other woman and gives her a grateful nod. “Take care,” she says, knowing Gillian is one of the best people to take care of someone in need. Then, Des lets herself out of the brownstone to retrace her steps back to Staten Island.

As the woman leaves, Gillian realizes she never asked for her name and she had never given it, even when they briefly met before in the Library. With a shake of her head, she decides it didn’t matter. Anyone who would help a young teenager get back to safety and sew her up was good in her mind. Even if she did kind of look familiar. She just couldn’t figure out where. Maybe she’d been with the Ferry at one point, or maybe they’d ran into each other during the war, or the years after. It could be anything.

As she leaves, she goes to retrieve her purse, with all the important things were kept, including her money, identification, phone and other things. As she returns to the young teen, she hands over her phone so she can send any text messages she wants to. They might not send fully until they reach the hospital, or get recieved right away, but it would at least make her feel like she did something. “Let’s go get you looked over one more time, then you can come back and rest as much as you need.”

She imagines that the girl had, what most would consider, a very long day.

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